Learning at The Heard Museum

This week we took some friends with us to visit the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney. The Heard has over 6.5 miles of nature trails that wind though the diverse habitats of their 289-acre wildlife sanctuary. We didn't follow any of the nature trails just because it was too hot but we did spend some time outdoors looking at the wildlife.

Nicholas and Rachel both got to pet a real armadillo!

We looked at raccoons, ring-tailed lemurs, mongoose, coatis, and cavys. Rachel squealed at some of them that were running around but if they were sleeping or just still, she took no interest in them.

Then we made our way into the Butterfly Garden. What fun! There were lots of butterflies flying all around us. Rachel got all excited and kept trying to touch them. It's hard explaining to a toddler why she can't grab at the pretty wings that are fluttering around right in front of her. They just seem to be beckoning her to touch them.

Nicholas was so gentle with the butterfly that crawled onto his finger. I was really proud of how much he knows about butterflies and that he knows just how to handle them.

The keeper took out the board that holds the latest chrysalis and emerging butterflies. Nicholas thought it was neat to see all the different sizes and colors of chrysalis. And it was amazing to watch some butterflies coming out of them right there before our eyes.

Inside the museum, there are many static exhibits as well as hands-on interactive exhibits. There are snakes and spiders and birds and bugs in enclosed habitats.

But there are lots of activities that kids can do with their hands. My favorite interactive pieces are the tables full of fun things that kids are allowed to touch freely. There are shells, fossils, plant material, snake skin, feathers...all kinds of natural treasures!

Look at the giant ammonite fossil! I love those :)

Rachel discovered that there were more goodies on the shelves below the table so she was stretching her little arm as far as she could to be sure she got out all of the goodies down there.

Some of the big exhibits in the museum are only on display for a limited time. In the past we have come here for their "Dinosaurs Alive!" exhibit in which giant animatronic dinosaurs are scattered throughout the nature trails and they roar and move around as you walk past them. On this visit, the main exhibit was Ice Age mammals. Nicholas really liked it when they roared and moved around in front of him...

Rachel, on the other hand, did not like the roaring and the moving around part. She is so cautious and easily frightened by noises - a complete polar opposite of Nicholas!

She preferred to try to climb into this giant shell. You know, she has always liked to find the most unusual places to sit!

The kids always love the big dinosaur fossil pit where they can dig in the sand to find pretend fossils. This is such a great idea for hands-on learning. Every kid loves to play in sand and this way they can experience the fun of discovering "fossils" while they play.

Rachel was attracted to the butterfly exhibit. She even tried to say "butterfly" when she saw them.

And after a fun time learning about nature and wildlife, the boys had to let off some steam chasing each other around. Boys will be boys, you know!

The Heard Museum is located at 1 Nature Place in McKinney, Texas. For hours and exhibit information, please call them at 972-562-5566 or check out their website: www.heardmuseum.org.

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