Photo: Tiffany Tompkins, AP
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Stepping into the newly completed Mosaic Backyard Universe is more like stepping off a back porch with a direct view of the solar system and the inner workings of a tree all while digging up fossils, and it was designed to feel just that way.
Built for “early learners,” children about 2 to 8 years old, the Mosaic Backyard Universe at the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature aims to provide a safe, fun and familiar learning environment to foster curiosity and exploration in science and nature.
“The museum has been around for 70 years but it wasn’t built with the early-learning audience in mind. And when Mosaic came to us in 2011 and said they’d like to help us with building a new exhibit for children we knew had an age range that we thought could benefit from a more immersive environment built just for them,” said Brynne Anne Besio, CEO of the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.
The long-awaited 3,290-square-foot addition opened to the public on Oct. 1 at the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, 201 10th St. W. in downtown Bradenton.
Work on the exhibit began in January.
Matt Woodside, chief curator and director of exhibits at the museum, said the Backyard helps introduce basic concepts of natural history and science.
Now, guests can turn their heads in different directions and see scaled-down versions of the planets (Pluto included), a cardboard spaceship, a hand-painted mural, a pond with live turtles, science shed, a dig pit and a treehouse (complete with an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant elevator).
“We’ve created what we know is a familiar space to children and to adults and that’s the outside — your backyard or a park. And we are excited to be able to bring this to our region and community as a unique resource for learning,” Besio said.
A replica of a Southern Live Oak tree includes interactive features that show guests what the inside of a tree looks like. The tree, created by NatureMaker Steel Art Trees, is made from steel and clad with an artificial bark. Eventually, model animals will be added to the tree.
Backpacks available inside aim to enhance the Backyard experience and provide tools and activities such as scavenger hunts and matching games centered around paleontology, geology, biology, astronomy and engineering.
“This is being built as a parent and child engagement space or an adult and child engagement space. So when a parent comes in, they’re the leader, they’re the guide. They’ll be able to check out a backpack on astronomy or biology or paleontology and work with their child to learn about those sciences. This is about them working together to learn,” Besio said.
In a continued partnership with local schools, the museum will offer more school field trip opportunities. Four new themed field trips for pre-kindergarten through third grade students include life science, earth and space science, physical science and connections of the different sciences. Field trips are scheduled to begin in November.
The cost of admission to the museum has increased as of Oct. 1. Admission includes the Mosaic Backyard Universe.
Admission for adults ages 18 to 64 increased to $23.95, seniors 65 and older to $21.95, college students and children ages 12-17 to $17.95, children ages 5-11 to $14.95, children ages 2-4 to $8.95 and children under 2 are free with a paying adult.
The Mosaic Backyard Universe is part of an expansion to the museum that includes the North Education Center, which is set to open alongside the Mosaic Backyard Universe.
Mosaic and the Mosaic Company Foundation provided the museum with a $1.3 million grant for the expansion.
For the general expansion and other capital projects, the museum has raised nearly $15 million. The Backyard cost $9 million to construct.
The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature changed its name and re-branded in April to bring the what was once South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium under one umbrella and name the entire space for the Bishop family.
The local family was instrumental in getting the museum off the ground and has continued to support it.
Information from: The Bradenton (Fla.) Herald , http://www.bradenton.com
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