Monday, November 15, 2010

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo

The last time we were here, Noor was overwhelmed with sadness.  We walked to the top of the ramp above the dinosaur hall and she burst into tears, looking down on the giant Diplodocus.  I gathered her p in my arms while she cried because these giants, whom she loves so much, are all gone.

There was still a bit of sadness, at first, on this trip.  But the dioramas were super exciting and Noor spent a lot of time sketching them so she could recreate them at home.

Here's a bit of one of the more fantastical ones--this is a dinosaur temple (notice the great use of math manipulatives)

After Noor gave us a guided tour of the dinosaur hall (she was able to recognize most of the skeletons without reading the tags!), we ventured into the Hall of Human Origins, where we were all mesmerized by the visual record of evolution.

Evolution has been a hot topic in our home for some time now, thanks to Pokemon.  

The next morning, we headed to the National Zoo.  We were probably three of only a dozen people there! A rainy November day is a wonderful time to visit the zoo!

We were treated to a private tour of the Panda habitats and got to watch as Mei Xiang, the 237 pound, 12 year-old female panda ate massive amounts of bamboo.  We learned that all the pandas in world zoos are owned by China, and that Mei Xiang's and Tian Tian's (the male) contracts are currently expired, which means they may be sent back to China.  I'm glad we got to have such an intimate visit with them.

Next, our on-going conversation about human evolution was expanded by a trip to the Ape House, where a zoo volunteer let us hold a male Gorilla skull.  The crest on top of his skull is absent in females.  Noor asked if the crest on our male dog's head is also used to attract females.  We'll need to look at some female Greater Swiss Mountain dog skulls, but our guess is that female dogs have the crest too.

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