Wednesday, November 28, 2007 ;
12:48 PM
Nov 26
Mon

Some of the museums in Chicago have free admission on 26th and 27th of Nov because it is right after the Thanksgiving weekend.

My card does not have free admission to Shedd Aquarium, so we used 26th to visit Shedd, and gain free admission anyway. We planned to visit the Museum of Science and Industry and Adler Planetarium after this, and for both of them, we had free admission because of the card.

We didn't bargain for Shedd being as fantastic as Field though. It is also my favorite. Many people will be able to relate to this. Some people may not appreciate the dead stuffed animals in the Natural History Museum, or the historical artefacts.

But an Aquarium, and such a huge and well-organised one, who can resist? Even babies love to watch fish swim around. I was simply mesmerised by the huge circular tank that meets you once you enter the aquarium. It is similar to the one in Underwater World, but several times bigger in radius. I think, just observing that tank alone, with all the diverse species within, can take one hour! Even the kids had to be peeled away from the tank to move on to other exhibits, each one better than the last.

Exterior of Shedd above.

I wish Singapore can have something like that, or like Field. Just like the Esplanade, at one time, we thought, the concert-going population is too small to support something like that. But it materialised. Hmmm, last I heard, it was still in the red, but at least, we went out and built that. We should have more world-class museums too. I'd buy membership and go all the time. I promise. When I go back to Spore, I am going to buy the zoo and Science center membership and go as often as possible.

The Raffles Biodiversity Museum (called sth like that?) was the closest I saw in Spore that is like Field. Sigh. One day, perhaps.

The Underwater World in Sentosa. That needs renovation. I've been there so many times. Everytime there was a such a crowd. Not spacious enough and always squeezy. Not handicap-friendly too. I remember carrying my stroller up and down countless flights of stairs. And it was a nightmare for my stroller in there. Even lost the kids' water bottle inside, still recall vividly, cos the crowd was pushing so much.

Not at Shedd. There was also a huge crowd cos of the free admission that day. There were so many tourists too, but I had enough space for stroller and all, plus at least a meter radius of comfort zone. Elevators to move to different levels, and no stairs to negotiate at all. Huge cafeteria to rest and snack with a super view of Lake Michigan through the all-glass windows.

I can go on... the exhibits are organised by habitat, oceans, seas, Amazon, freshwater lakes, tidepools etc. Very comprehensive. Didn't take many pics, cos there were signs saying we should not disturb the animals with flash. With or without flash, the glass and the dark interior made it difficult for good pics anyway.

Besides aquatic species, they also tried to reproduce every habitat accurately, so there were many plant species and amphibians, reptiles to gawk at too.

They also have kids' activities. Very educational and fun. We all know that different aquatic animals have differing mouthparts to suit their feeding habits and prey type right? They could have just taught the kids, but that would not stick in their minds for too long.

They allowed the kids to learn that themselves. How?

I'll try to recap as much as possible.
1st: bottom of the sea. a lot of sand and leaves in a tub provided to the kids. chesnuts are mixed amongst the fine sand and leaves. kids were told, the chesnuts are food. They were given several tools: a ladle scoop with slit holes, pincers, larger tongs, etc. They were then asked to try to get as much food as possible in a fixed period of time. But just food! No leaves or sand!

Hmmm, who had the most chesnuts? Oh! The one using the ladle scoop with holes? Why?
Not surprisingly, the facilitator need not teach, the kids had the answers. They need not be exceptionally smart! It was obvious. The pincers kept slipping against the chesnuts' smooth exterior. The scoop without holes took too many leaves and a lot of sand, it couldn't separate the sand and leaves from the chesnuts very well. The ladle scoop with holes scooped up the chesnuts, sand filtered down the slits at once, and by some slight shaking, all the leaves fell off too.

The facilitator then pointed to several posters of aquatic animals and asked which could possibly dwell and feed at the bottom of the sea. The kids could tell that it was the ray (see below right). The facilitator will hold up the tool to the mouthpart and asked if it was similar. So the kids learnt about adaptation, habitat, mouthparts and different species names all at once. Neat.



After that, there was a huge coral reef, and scattered in between the coral reef were coarse colored grains. Kids had to try and pick up the grains as food. Which worked best? The pincers. What kind of animal then? Something like the butterfly fish. The ladle can't even fit in between the coral to get at the grains!

My poor memory cannot recall the other habitats! I think there was one other or 2 more? Anyway ds1 had so much fun scooping and pinching with the other kids. The classes keep running, so any kid would have the chance to try.

Took a pic of this, just a little nostalgic. A level Bio students will know the African lakes pretty well, esp the Lake Tanganyika (2nd largest lake in the world), Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria. This appeared in one of the past exam Qs. haha, every year I discuss that TYS Q with students, class after class, until I can recite answers from memory. Surprisingly, just a year on no pay leave has erased that! I used to be able to recall the Q just like that, now I can't remember what the Q is about, only know it refers to the lakes and the cichlids' speciation. haha. I think my brain is filled with parenting stuff now. I hope, at least, that it is not a void instead.

This section of the aquarium focused on those lakes, the species in them, esp the diverse species of cichlids (250 spp just in Tanganyika?). Many endemic species too, not found anywhere else in the world.

Wish when we discuss textbook examples, we can have the live specimens to look at. The students would be able to relate so much better and understand the Q, the answers... the concept.

The Amazon Rising section was very interesting too. It was full of weird and fascinating creatures. Saw lots of piranha, a large anaconda, mangrove trees...

Also saw the Beluga whales, and caught a dolphin show.

It was getting really late though, so we left reluctantly. We rushed over to the Adler Planetarium and caught the last 15min of its exhibits before it closed.



Above left: adler exterior.
Above right: how the first spacecraft and men landed on the moon.
films and recordings on how the astronauts lived in the spacecraft and what they spoke to family and friends back on earth.

Too bad the museums all close at 4.30pm. We had no time left for the Museum of Science and Industry, which had the Stars Wars exhibition right then.

Drove around downtown, saw the financial district, the commercial area, Millenium Park, the concert hall and so on. Then drove to see Northwestern University just for fun, and also because our dinner appointment at Kamal's was 7pm.

Finally went to Kamal's. Many households started decorating for Xmas already. Here's one of them in the Evanston neighborhood.


Our recent stay at Park City over Xmas also saw so many beautiful houses, all decked out in lights, inflatable snowmen, Santa, reindeer and all.

Stayed very late at Kamal's then happily went back to motel. Wondered how the kids can take it, so many late nights and touring. Remember hoping they won't fall sick till at least when we reach home.

Next morning, we flew home. No delays this time. :-)



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