Fly Eagles Fly

Let’s just start this post off by saying I’m not a Philadelphia Eagles fan, but this week’s adventures did take me eagle watching and to Philadelphia.

This week’s exploring started in Valley Forge for President’s Day. There was a big celebration for George Washington’s 286th birthday. I really enjoyed getting to see all of the kids and people who were at the park for the celebration. Since it’s the off season for most parks in the area, I haven’t seen too many people out at the parks so seeing all the people at Valley Forge was a really neat reminder of how much of an impact the parks can have. Activities for the celebration included colonial singers, taking pictures with reenactors, and trying some of Martha’s birthday cake. It was a lot of fun, and the cake was actually really good. I stayed at the festivities for most of the morning, and then I went exploring the park in the afternoon. Most of the houses and redoubts were largely reconstructions, but it was still neat to see the set up and the natural geography that led to Washington choosing the area for camp. I also visited Washington’s headquarters where so many important decisions and meetings happened that winter. Overall, I really enjoyed being at a park hat had a lot of activity and interest going on, and I also enjoyed getting a glimpse into the history of the Continental Army’s winter camp as well as the impact the place has had since then.

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On Wednesday, I went up to the Shepaug Dam to watch for some bald eagles. It is late in the season for eagles to be in Connecticut, so only juveniles were left in the area. I did end up seeing 3 different wild bald eagles which was really cool. Because bald eagles are so heavily protected, the viewing area was too far away to get any good pictures. The picture that looks like it is just a landscape actually has at least 2 bald eagles in it, you just can’t see them! The big surprise for the day was when an educational eagle named Aurora came for an impromptu presentation. Aurora was hit by a truck several years ago and has wing damage that couldn’t be repaired so she can’t fly anymore. She has been working with her handler to be an educational animal for 18 months, and she is almost ready for announced public presentations. Aurora had never been in front of an audience before, so she came to do a test run for the people at the Shepaug Dam. It was really neat to get to see a bald eagle so close. Even with a broken wing, Aurora was impressive in size and so beautiful. I wasn’t expecting to get to see an eagle so close, but I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to meet Aurora and to help her in her journey to being an educational ambassador.

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I finished my adventures for the week in Philadelphia, and it was a bit of a let down. I started out with the more historical tourist stops. The constitution center had a lot of information on the original signing of the constitution, and there was the signer’s hall with life size statues of all those who signed the constitution. It was really cool, but many of the interactive activities were more geared toward groups. Next I visited the liberty bell. It was smaller than I expected, and kind of tucked in the back of the building it was in. For how much significance is placed on the liberty bell, I was honestly expecting more than a bell hidden in the back of a building with no really architectural features around it or anything. My next stop was Independence Hall. There was a school group on the tour I went on of the hall, and when the park ranger got the the part in his presentation where he recited the preamble the whole school group joined in and recited it. It was really neat to see the education system interacting with history in such a powerful way; everyone who was on the tour clapped for the kids when they finished the preamble. Next to Independence Hall is Congress Hall, which is really where the United States became a long thriving democracy. It is the place where the peaceful transition of the presidency from Washington to Adams happened. I enjoyed getting to see so many places where our country became what it is today. I will say, the organization and flow of the historic parks isn’t very logical, and it was a bit frustrating having to keep backtracking and going in circles just to get to entrances and exits. When you are pressed for time, having to walk the same block 5 times just to hit the entrances and exits for the right side, it gets annoying. The security guards and park rangers were also not super helpful or nice about navigating the area.

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My next stop was the Ben Franklin Museum. It was $5 to visit, and there wasn’t a ton there. The artifacts and exhibits were okay, but I don’t think I would have missed anything if I skipped it. On the way to my next stop, I passed the Science History Institute (a chemistry museum) and decided to stop in. It was free, and there were so many old beakers and measuring tools. There were displays on how chemistry has influenced everything from medicine to textiles to agriculture. There was also a special exhibit that was about the chemistry of decay and the preservation of different works of art and historical artifacts. Overall, I really enjoyed the chemistry museum, and I’m glad that I stopped in.

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After the chemistry museum, I went to the Philly Seaport Museum. I’m not that in to boats, but I had been surprised before on what I was interested in a few times, so I decided to check out the seaport museum. It was all just boats. There was a workshop where you could watch people actually making boats and an area for watching model ship makers working, but mostly it was just models of boats that were important. It was neat to see some of the boats, but I didn’t spend a lot of time at the museum because it wasn’t what I was interested in. I skipped touring the ships they had on the water because I was a little short on time, and I headed to my next stop.

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My next stop was the Franklin Institute. I had been a little disappointed in my Philadelphia trip so far, but that all changed at the Franklin Institute and the Drexel Museum that I went to next. I have been to a decent number of science museums, and the Franklin Institute is probably my favorite science museum I have ever been to (so far). There were exhibits on the brain and optical illusions and processing. There was a giant heart that you could walk through following the path of blood complete with heart sound and breath sounds. There was a whole hall focused on sports science. There was a space exhibit with displays on everything from space suits to geology to food in space. There was a whole exhibit dedicated to 3D printing and its impact on so many fields of science. There was even an exhibit on how we all have science stories that invited visitors to record their science stories and had powerful stories of science on the walls. I really enjoyed the Franklin Institute a lot and wish I could have spent the whole day there.

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My final stop was the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University. It’s a really well done natural history museum. I really enjoyed some of the more behind the scenes exhibits they had on display. At the back of the dinosaur hall, there was a work room where fossils from Montana were actually being prepared and you could see different stages of cleaning and storage and preparation. There were also highlights of some recent important finds in different areas in the museum. There were so many realistic looking dioramas of animals in different parts of the world that I really enjoyed. There was also a display on how dioramas are made that showed how much attention to detail and artistry goes in to every single exhibit. I only had about 30 minutes to explore the museum, and I felt like I barely scratched the surface in seeing all their displays. This was another stop where I felt like I could have spent all day here. After a bit of a disappointing start to my Philly trip, I was really really impressed by my last 2 stops.

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I’ve still got so many adventures planned, and it’s hard to believe I’ve already been here for a month. I’m looking forward to lots of attractions opening back up in the coming weeks, and I know my schedule is about to get a lot more packed with adventure.

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