The Academy of Natural Science and other Science Museums

Last night I attended the members only preview for the new exhibit at Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Science “Frogs, a Chorus of Colors”. The Academy has a very long history and for the past five years it has been associated with my Alma Mater Drexel University and I’ve been a member for a very long time.

Frogs, a Chorus of Colors at the Academy of Natural Science

The exhibit itself was a good one, the variety of sizes, shapes and especially colours of amphibians is remarkable. Also, as we all know many species of frogs are an important indicator of the health of the environment in which they live, more so than reptiles, birds or mammals. This is because frogs breath and drink in large part through their permeable skin and this makes them more susceptible to pollutants in the water or soil. And because of this many frog species are endangered due to the mess we’ve made of this planet. While they’re still here let’s celebrate their beauty. A sample of which is in the pictures below.

Giant Monkey Frog
Poison Dart Frog

Most of the attendees at the preview were families with young children. City dwelling parents trying to give their kids a little feeling for the natural world they don’t experience in their daily lives. In addition to the new exhibit the Academy has permanent displays of butterflies and other insects, mammals of North America, fish and best of all Dinosaurs. In fact the Academy boasts the first dinosaur skeleton ever to be mounted and publically displayed The famous Hadrosaurus foulkii, which is also the skeleton that taught paleontologists that some dinosaurs walked on two legs!

We all know that taking to children to science museums is a great way to generate an interest in science that could lead to a career in one of the so-called STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) fields. Here in Philadelphia we are lucky enough to have not only the Academy but right across the street is the Franklin Institute of Science, which also houses the Fels Planetarium. Elsewhere in town we have the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, the Wagner Free Institute of Science and the Mutter Museum of Medicine. I think I went to all of them before I was five! O’k maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Our world today is built around science to an extent that even fifty years ago would have seemed impossible and an education in science and math is probably the closest thing there is to a sure-fire good career. Really, think of the millions of parents taking their kids to little league in the vain hope that maybe someday they’ll get one of the 100 jobs that Major League Baseball has open every year. Yea folks, that’s about it, MLB hires about 100 new ballplayers every year, and the other major sports are about the same. Football maybe 200 and Basketball less than 50!!! On the other hand America needs tens of thousands of new engineers ever year!

So take your kids to a museum and do it soon. Best of all museums are also cheaper than amusement parks or sporting events. But you don’t have to wait to go to a museum, you can just take your children to a park to look for the wildlife there, especially if it has a pond. Or you even just go into your backyard after sunset because right now Venus is at her brightest in the western sky and the Moon is waxing toward full.

Because after all Science just means knowledge. Literally, it’s just the Latin word for knowledge. And the more you know about this world the more you will come to appreciate it, and the better able you will be to live in it. So, if you live near Philadelphia go to the Academy and see the Frogs along with everything else. If you live elsewhere I know from personal experience that there’s a science museum somewhere near you! JUST GO!

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