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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Sign Up Your Kids: Discover dinosaurs, explore Yellowstone with free NC Museum of Natural Sciences' virtual programs

Posted July 6, 2020 3:53 p.m. EDT

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

It's been months since kids and families have been able to pack into the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh for a few hours of exploration, education and fun.

But, soon after the museum closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly shifted to offering lots of virtual activities for the kids and families who normally would be filling its halls.

And among those virtual programs is the Natural Sciences Classroom, free 45-minute weekly live activities for kids that take place at 11 a.m., Tuesdays, via Zoom. The program, which began in mid-May, is designed for all ages, but is particularly popular with kids in kindergarten to fifth grade. Parents are asked to be in the room while kids take part, but, when my 10-year-old participated in one last month, she was entirely engaged throughout the entire program.

"It's a live program, and they can interact and chat and comment," said Martha Fisk, the museum's coordinator of off-site and virtual programs. "It's a nice break in the daily routine."

In July, the topics for the museum's virtual classroom are:

  • Dinosaur Discovery, July 7. Instructors will use real and replica fossil specimens to teach participants about the world of dinosaurs.
  • Exploring Yellowstone National Park, July 14. Learn about the wonders of the world's first national park and what makes it special.
  • The Salamander State, July 21. Learn about the life cycles of these "slimy, secretive neighbors."
  • Box Turtle Science, July 28. Get the facts on North Carolina's state reptile.

My 10-year-old took part in one of the programs last month about Invisible Ink and had an absolute blast. The program explored how spies during the American Revolution would write messages in invisible ink to George Washington.

That program had an instructor-led hands-on activity, but most offer engaging discussion about a topic and the opportunity for participants to ask questions, Fisk said. For parents like me who continue to work from home, it's a great way to add a little education into these long, weird summer days.

To take part, you'll need to pre-register to get the Zoom link. You can do that on the museum's website. Registration is open until 15 minutes before the program begins.

Fisk said the museum will continue these Tuesday morning sessions through the end of August and then evaluate what's next.

The Natural Sciences Classroom is one of many virtual offerings the museum has lined up. They also include:

  • Virtual Trivia Tuesdays, which could be fun for families with older kids.
  • Exclusive programming for members. Upcoming programs include a close-up with tropical animals for all ages and another about parasites for ages 8 and up. (You can join the museum now to take part in the programs.)
  • Regular updates to its YouTube page.

The museum also recently launched virtual Summer Adventures programs and virtual birthday parties.

"We have really enjoyed our virtual programs with individuals and families," Fisk tells me. "Helping people connect with nature and science is the highlight of our jobs, and we have missed our visitors."