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Explore Summer’s ‘Backyard Adventures’ at New ANS Exhibit

Learn about the science and math right under your feet at this hands-on exhibit, which opens June 9.

We spend a lot of time talking to kids about science, but how often do you walk outside and show them examples? That’s the idea behind “Backyard Adventures,” the summer exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University: the natural wonders happening right outside your door.


Photograph by Gwyneth K. Shaw

The exhibit, which opens June 9 and runs through September 10, is a hands-on playground for kids. Gaze into a viewer to see the ultraviolet light a bee does, so it can spot flowers more easily, or walk through the seasons on a treadmill. There’s a jump rope machine, a tiny mini golf setup, a place to throw a baseball, and a puzzle made of pavers.


Unpack each of these games, though, and the lessons come into focus. Mini golf is all about the math of angles; the jump rope highlights physics. It’s all part of the message that science, math, engineering and art are everywhere. So why not go outside and check it out?


“It proves that science is all around us, and we can participate in science,” said George W. Gephart Jr., the academy’s president and CEO. “And that’s what makes exhibits like this fun, and what makes being outdoors fun.”


Even in the heart of the city — the museum’s Logan Square home — you can find insects, birds, animals, and soil that’s teeming with microorganisms. “Backyard Adventures” should inspire kids to “take what you learn here and start to think about being investigators yourselves,” Gephart said.


The exhibit encourages digging in — literally. Kids can scoop fake soil to find the bugs underneath, ride a “nectar collector” bike to help a bee do its job, and play a game where they’re a tadpole trying to eat mosquito larvae while evading a predatory carp or kingfisher. There’s even a garden tool shed for tinkering, and visitors can walk away with a worksheet full of instructions for building a bird box or bully cart.


Children can dress up as a snail, ladybug, or spider, and try to grow a pumpkin by picking the perfect type and amount of fertilizer and how much water to use. Plus, academy educators are there to help bring it back to the local experience, with examples of local birds, insects and plants to inspire your kids to lean down and see what’s under their feet.


Photograph by Gwyneth K. Shaw

“Backyard Adventures” is $5 for non-members, in addition to the general admission fee, and $3 for museum members at the individual and family level. It’s free for family plus members and above.


The academy is hosting special activities for the opening weekend on June 10 and 11. Bring your own bottle to make a near backyard birdfeeder, or the museum will give you one. Plus, there will be shows about local animals and backyard bugs, plus carts around the museum with more fun facts. From July 5 to August 30, during the museum’s “Dino-Mite Summer” activities, some of the programming will relate to the exhibit.


The Academy of Natural Sciences is at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The museum is open from 10 am — 5 pm Monday through Saturday, and 11 am — 5 pm on Sunday.



Lead photograph by Imagine Exhibitions, courtesy of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. 



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