Gainesville and the Florida Panhandle

This week’s adventures were a little bit of a mish mash and were also not necessarily worth the trip, but I still had a good time and enjoyed most of the stops individually so it wasn’t a total loss.

I started out this week in Gainesville. I was really excited for my first stop at the Florida Museum of Natural History because parts of their collection have been on display at a few other museums and I was excited to see what they had to offer. There was a touring exhibit on bats (part of which I’m pretty sure I had seen before) that was really neat and did a good job highlighting bats that are local to Florida. I really enjoyed the exhibits on native cultures and their focus on crafted items. The modern animal dioramas were definitely lacking compared to other places, but the prehistoric animal section was really good. I also really enjoyed the emphasis throughout the museum on the current research being done by the University of Florida. From active digs to DNA research, the museum did a really good job showcasing the work that is often behind the scenes. There was also a huge butterfly collection and a spot to watch butterflies emerging and being prepared to be a part of their butterfly house.

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After the Natural History Museum, I stopped by the Art Museum. The Art Museum was not a planned stop, it just happened to be right next door to the history museum and have free admission. I didn’t stay for too long, but I did enjoy getting to look at the art.

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My next stop was the newly opened Cade Museum. This is a small museum named after the inventor of Gatorade and dedicated to invention and creativity. There is a really neat exhibit on the invention of Gatorade as well as the future of sports science. There was also a cool area called the robot zoo that had several “animals” that were used to help show the challenges that robots can face and how scientists look for solutions to problems in animals. Throughout the museum, there were interactive activities and opportunities to learn by doing and creating which was really neat.

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My second day of exploring this week taught me a few things that I probably already should have known, but hadn’t realized: First, that part of Florida is in the central time zone. Second, that the Real ID law is (at least according to their website) already in effect at military bases. Neither of these ended up majorly impacting my plans, but I had thought about going to the Naval Air Museum when I realized I had a few more hours that I could have filled in the morning.

The Pensacola MESS hall ended up being my first stop on my second day. The MESS is basically a large room with different tables and interactive activities set up throughout. I was really impressed with how much actual science was included in the activities. There was DNA coding, circuit building, water cycles, and wind activities. There was also a counter where you could pick different “MESS kits” from a menu and try out different activities. There were no big exhibits, but the science was still super accessible and good science which was really cool to see. Also MESS stands for Math, Engineering, Science, and Stuff which is just a neat acronym.

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After the MESS, I went to the Emerald Coast Science Center. This is another smaller museum with a lot of interactive activities. There were several robotics and remote control exhibits about exploration in the deep sea or in space. They also had a decent sized live animal collection. All of their animals were named for different scientists and had signs explaining not only the animal, but also their namesake which was neat. It was a pretty quick stop for me, but still enjoyable.

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My last stop of the day was at the Challenger Learning Center in Tallahassee. Looking at the hours for the CLC is a little confusing because there is an IMAX theater as part of the center. As for the science part, it’s mostly planetarium shows and educational presentations or events. By the time I got there the planetarium shows were done for the day, so really there is just a small hallway with some models. It was kinda a bust which was disappointing.

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While I did enjoy the MESS and the Emerald Coast Science Center, both were pretty small museums and definitely were not worth the long trip. It’s hard to really tell what different science centers have to offer from just a quick look at their hours and website, and while I am glad to have gotten to so many of them, sometimes they just don’t make the long trips worth it.

I’m really looking forward to my last several adventures while I’m here. Hopefully the weather cooperates and I am able to do all the things I still have left.

Sarah

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