Explore Natural History in Norman
The winter chill may limit outdoor activities causing kids to get a little squirmy. Use the opportunity to take kids on an indoor educational adventure instead. The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History located at the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman is a great sensory experience for kids and parents.
The Museum is a research division of the University of Oklahoma, housing over seven million objects and specimens in 12 collections. Permanent exhibits include specimens of archaeology, ethnology (the study of human cultures and societies) and Native American Languages.
The Hall of Ancient Life features fossils and articulated skeletons of the world's largest Apatosaurus and Saurophaganax maximus, a fearsome predator unique to Oklahoma. The Hall of the People of Oklahoma traces the 30,000-year history of the Native people of Oklahoma. Exhibits begin with the earliest archaeological evidence and travel through time to an examination of what it means to be Native American in Oklahoma today. The entry walls are covered in handprints made by representatives from 26 of Oklahoma's 39 federally recognized tribes.
New exhibits are showcased regularly. On display through January 18 are two unique exhibits:
- Drawing the Motmot: An Artist’s View of Tropical Nature takes the visitor on a journey through the tropical rainforests of South and Central America as seen through the eyes and words of nature artist, Deborah Kaspari. A Motmot, according to the exhibit, is a colorful bird with long racquet-tipped tail feathers found in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America. Kaspari’s colorful paintings are showcased along with her paper and pencil sketches. Video clips and sound effects help the visitor experience Kaspari’s time in the forest.
- Darwin at the Museum uncovers the man behind the famed and sometimes controversial author and theorist, Charles Darwin. His personal works including books, illustrations, maps, manuscripts and letters are exhibited, revealing that Darwin was a respected botanist, geologist, global traveler and thinker in addition to being considered the founder of evolutionary theory.
If you are an early planner, take note of these upcoming exhibits for spring and summer:
- Stories in Fiber and Clay: Baskets and Ceramics of the Southwest will run February 6 through May 2. Baskets and ceramics made by Southwestern Native American communities including the Navajo, Hopi, Tohono O’odam, Western Apache, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Santa Domingo and Acoma Pueblos will beexhibited. Historic pieces from the Sam Noble museum and contemporary works from the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art will be showcased in a single venue.
- Chocolate is a fun and delicious exhibit that will be showcased May 15 through September 6. Developed by the famous Field Museum in Chicago, visitors will experience the history of chocolate beginning with the discovery and use of the unique cacao seeds by the ancient Mayan civilization in Central America nearly 1,500 years ago. Chocolate lovers will continue their travel through time learning how the Aztecs used the valuable seeds as money in the 16th century until today’s current use of chocolate as a delectable, worldwide commodity.
When you are done exploring, the museum’s Redbud Café is a relaxing place to fill those grumbling tummies (closed Mondays). Souvenirs of your trip can be purchased at Excavations, the museum’s store.
The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History’s exhibits are all exceptional sensory experiences filled with hands-on learning tools, sound effects and fantastic visuals to keep even the squirmiest kid interested. The museum is located at 2401 Chautauqua Avenue in Norman. For more information about the museum, call 405-325-4712 or visit their website, snomnh.ou.edu.
Karen Mitchell, a lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, lives in Edmond with her husband, Mark, teenage son, Ryan, and one spoiled Welsh Corgi. Daughter, Megan, attends OSU in Stillwater.