If the giant volcanoes of Hawaii or the giant mountains of Colorado just aren’t in the cards for your family this spring break, here’s an idea: go microscopic and take your kids to see the new Xtreme BUGS exhibit at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science.
Normally, special exhibits are confined to the museum’s Special Exhibits Hall, but they’ve made an exception for Xtreme BUGS. You’ll see the first giant bug displays as soon as you walk into the main hall; more Xtreme BUGS displays are scattered throughout the upper floor corridors and the Outdoor Science Park. Once you enter the Special Exhibits Hall, you’ll feel like you’ve shrunk down to microscopic size, like Alice in Wonderland. The hall is filled with lifelike — no, larger-than-lifelike — replicas of over 100 insects in their natural habitat. As you walk through the exhibit, you’ll see ants, spiders, scorpions, beetles, butterflies, and more, perched on giant blades of grass or hiding under huge leaves. Many of them have animatronic elements, with feelers that wiggle and wings that flap and antennae that swing from side to side. Speakers are strategically hidden beside each figure, so you’ll be able to hear a symphony of buzzing chirping, clicking and grinding. When you’re looking at cicadas the size of a 10 year-old and Japanese hornets the size of cars, you’ll notice all the details that are easy to miss, like multifaceted eyes and intricately patterned wings and hairy legs. As my son put it, “All you need is a bunch of cars on rails moving along the aisles, and it’s like you’re riding a Disneyland attraction.”
The level of detail on each insect is remarkable — but unfortunately, so is the lack of hands-on activities. Most of the exhibit consists of looking at animatronic displays (there are a few live bugs on display like tarantulas and Madagascar hissing cockroaches) and reading fun facts about each bug. A few of the animatronics do have a couple of iPads attached to nearby podiums; kids can point the iPads at the bugs and an educational game comes up for them to play. Other than that, Xtreme BUGS lacks the interactivity and hands-on fun that characterize most of the Hall’s exhibits — and keep many children engaged for hours on end. Even so, the exhibit is impressive enough to get most kids, especially budding young entomologists, buzzing with excitement.
The Xtreme BUGS exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science runs through Sept. 1. Admission prices to the Lawrence Hall of Science will be slightly higher than usual ($17 for adults, $14 for students ages 7-18, $11 for children ages 3-6, versus $12/$9/$6) for the duration of the exhibit. You can save a few bucks by reserving a Discover & Go pass at your local library, good for one free student or child ticket with one paid adult ticket. Parking costs $1 per hour.
Read about more cool places that Bonggamom and her kids have been to over Spring Break! Bonggamom blogs about her personal, parenting, crafting, culinary, and travel adventures on her personal blog, Finding Bonggamom.