By Marie Muir | Photography by John Michael Simpson
How do you explain a 4 billion-year-old story to 4-year-olds? Take them to the Museum of Life and Science’s newest outdoor exhibit, Earth Moves, where visitors of all ages and abilities can learn geoscience as they explore a cave formation made from sandstone, change the floor of a 20-foot waterfall and experiment with natural elements. Earth Moves is part of the museum’s $3.9 million capital campaign project, Climbing Higher, which also funded Hideaway Woods, a series of treehouses connected by bridges and ladders.
The museum closed to the public at the start of the pandemic, but its staff was busy tackling projects both big and small behind closed doors, according to digital marketing manager Ro Rode. “From painting and landscaping to exhibit maintenance and even washing the dinosaurs,” Ro says. “Our outdoor environment team even built a new pathway called Wander Away – a quiet and beautiful section full of native plants and flowers for pollinators near the sailboat pond.”
On July 7, 2020, after being closed for four months, the 84-acre museum reopened to members and then to the general public 10 days later. Today, returning guests must purchase tickets that correspond with a reserved timeslot to maintain safety protocols. For the museum’s most up-to-date face mask policy, click here.
Karyn Shaw Hodge recalls first visiting the museum when she was in kindergarten at Eno Valley Elementary School. Her parents, Paula Shaw and Craig Shaw, would often take her, her brother, Ryan Shaw, and her sister, Myra Shaw Yousef, to the museum as a special reward (usually for good report cards). Karyn even worked at the museum’s summer science camps for kids during her years in high school at Riverside. “That was one of my favorite summer jobs because I got to watch kids learn, experiment and enjoy a lot of the same things I loved about the museum when I was a kid,” Karyn says.
Today, Karyn takes her own son, Joey, 3, and her nieces and nephews to explore new museum exhibits like Earth Moves along with classics such as The Train, Butterfly House – one of the largest on the East Coast – and Dinosaur Trail.
“It’s a place that [ Joey] can grow up with, and I don’t think he will ever lose interest,” Karyn says. “I’m in my 30s, and it holds my interest! No two visits are the same. At least once every time we come here, it hits me how lucky we are to have such a neat place to come that’s practically in our backyard.”