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Matt Visits the Flint Hills Discovery Center

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August 19, 2012 by mtteaton

I recently wrote a brief exhibit review for one of my courses.  In this review, I focus on one area of the Flint Hills Discovery Center.  The museum has lots of cool features, especially the introductory video.  I realize that a lot of people generally skip these sorts of videos when they visit a museum, but to do so at the Flint Hills Discovery Center would be really missing out.  I don’t want to describe the video for fear of spoiling the experience.  Just check it out, you will not be disappointed.  One of my favorite areas of the museum features the root systems of different grasses found in the Flint Hills.  I describe this area below:

The Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, Kansas strives to educate visitors about the Flint Hills ecosystem and regional cultural history of the area in fun, unique, and interactive ways.  The museum is split into six main permanent exhibit areas.  All of these utilize interactive technology and hands-on materials, particularly flip panels and rolodex-style exhibit labels.  To add to the interactivity of the museum and add a human touch, docents walk through the galleries offering assistance and answers to questions.

One exhibit area within the museum is “The Underground Forest.”  This area presented information and understanding of the tallgrass prairie in a way most visitors had likely never before seen.  Visitors walk through a dark tunnel, giving the appearance they are traveling underground.  Roots dangle amongst exhibit lighting from the ceiling.  One of the best parts of this exhibit is a wall featuring several grass specimens, showing their stalks as well as their roots.  Remarkably, many of the specimens have roots over three times as long as their stalks.  Other highlights of this exhibit include a look at underground mammal life, viewing into the boroughs of skunks and prairie dogs; and enlarged representations of insects that make the tallgrass prairie their home.  These insect examples also included pull out text panels allowing for exploration of more information.  Visitors appeared to be having a fantastic experience in this exhibit and others within the Flint Hills Discovery Center.  Most text panels featured in this exhibit featured less than fifty words.  The longest introductory panels were approximately one hundred and fifty words.  Interaction with objects was the main driver in this exhibit rather than narrative text.

Throughout the exhibit, families pushed buttons, flipped panels to learn more information, and struck up conversations on some of the facts they were learning.  Overall, the museum has constructed a fully engaging experience.  Considering the fact that tallgrasses may seem pretty commonplace in Kansas, the Flint Hills Discovery Center has achieved much to involve their visitors in a plethora of ways.

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