Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cranbrook Institute of Science

We didn't make any plans to go out of town for my kids Spring Break from school this year so as part of our family's stay-cation we spent some time exploring the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Located within the National Historic Landmark recognized campus of the Cranbrook Educational Community along Woodward Avenue in the suburban Detroit city of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan this science center and museum houses a collection of more than 150,000 historically and scientifically relevant items ranging from meteoroids to mastodon tusks.  It features a state-of-the-art planetarium, a space observatory, and over a dozen galleries that cover topics including archeology, anthropology, astronomy, biology, geology, and physics.

Three of the most popular displays at the Cranbook Institute of Science are a fossil cast of the "Black Beauty" T-Rex, its "Hezy" mastodon recreation & the "Steggy" statue that welcomes visitors near the entrance of the museum.

During prehistoric times following the extinction of the dinosaurs, Michigan was home to pachyderms known as Mastodons.  Compared to the more popularly known Woolly Mammoths, mastodons had shorter legs, longer bodies and were more muscular.  They had bodies similar to today's Asian elephants but with huge tusks. The remains of 300 mastodons have been found in Michigan, including 17 in Oakland County where the Cranbrook Institute of Science is located.  The facility has developed a reputation as a source of expertise on mastodons from its experience studying many of the locally discovered remnants and has several bones and tusks on display at the museum.  From examining these mastodon remains they have created a life size replica nicknamed Hezy; in tribute to Professor Jeheskel "Hezy" Shoshani, an evolutionary biologist and one of the world's leading elephant experts, who was killed by a terrorist incident while in Ethiopia in 2008. 

Walking up to this huge reproduction is impressive and makes you wonder if at some point in history may one of these beasts tromped through where your backyard is now. Hezy catches the attention of every visitor to the Cranbrook Institute of Science but it especially puts smiles on all the kids faces.  Check out the display cases surrounding Hezy which contain locally found mastodon bones and tusks which provide additional insight into these prehistoric creatures.

One of the most well preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils ever found called Black Beauty is on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada near where it was excavated in 1980.  It was given this name because during fossilisation the minerals in the ground where it was found transformed the dinosaur's bones a shiny dark color.  Black Beauty is considered one of the most complete T Rex skeletons ever found.  From castings made of the original Black Beauty fossils, visitors to Cranbrook Institute of Science can get a close up view of an accurate replica of this amazing dinosaur skeleton rather than having to venture to Canada to get a peek at it.

Knowing that a multitude of local school districts were going to be off for Spring Break the same week as our visit, the museum brought in a variety of partners to provide interactive, informational activities for kids that were provided at no additional  charge to the Cranbrook Institute of Science's regular admission price.  Activities taking place during this "Spring Into Science" special event ranged from learning about bird watching to checking out a Chevy Volt.  My kids really enjoyed making some jewelry from recycled materials and learning how to paddle a kayak during our visit.

They also got a close up look at a live Sea Lamprey, called the vampire of the Great Lakes, which feeds by attaching a mouth full of teeth to a fish and draining it of its blood.  As part of this presentation by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, my kids learned how invasive plants and animals are damaging our local environment.

Additionally, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services had a nice setup that let kids pretend to fish with a pole that had a magnet at the end of its line.  Kids could compare the laminated cardboard fish they caught to a chart listing species found in local lakes and rivers.  Plus they provided information on which fish were the safest to eat and how often it is appropriate for people to consume local fish based upon the pollution of our waterways.

Before leaving we also toured the museum's traveling exhibit gallery that is currently featuring, TUTANKHAMUN: "Wonderful Things" from the Pharaoh's Tomb, which will be on display through September 3, 2017.  It features more than 100 detailed replicas of items that archeologist Howard Carter found during his 1922 discovery and exploration of Egyptian Pharaoh King Tut's tomb.  The exhibition provided my kids with an eye opening look at how life was before way before the technological conveniences they enjoy today.  They were also spooked out a bit by some of the mummies and statues being exhibited so you may want to be conscious about the "scary factor" when considering taking children to this special exhibit.  The TUTANKHAMUN display will be replaced by one focused on CHOCOLATE in September. It promises to explore the plant, products, history, and culture of chocolate through the lenses of botany, ecology, anthropology, economics, conservation, and popular culture.

The Cranbrook Institute of Science is open Tuesday - Thursday (10 am - 5 pm) Friday/Saturday (10 am - 10 pm) and Sunday (Noon - 4 pm).  Admission until 5 pm is $13 adults/teens and children/seniors $9.50.  Friday/Saturday admission after 5 pm is $6.50 teens/adults and $5.50 seniors/children.  There is an additional charge to visit the traveling exhibit gallery (TUTANKAMUN / CHOCOLATE) and to take in a planetarium show.

My kids and I really enjoyed our visit to the Cranbrook Institute of Science. For more information about planning your own visit, please visit

No comments:

Post a Comment