Lose your head over magic


Science and magic combine at nature museum

Photo courtesy of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Another "victim" loses his head over the magic exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Nothing like losing their heads to make kids giggle--and my kids spent half the day losing their heads during a visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

The museum, my kids' newest favorite, is the temporary home to "Magic: The Science of Illusion," an exhibit that allows kids to sit on a floating chair, attempt to fool a mind reader and lose their heads. Each trick includes a video showing how the magicians use machines, mirrors and mathematics--not to mention lots of razzle and dazzle--to pull off the seemingly impossible feats. I spent my time learning the tricks; the kids spent theirs enjoying the magic.

Their favorite, the old lose-your-head trick, allows kids to step behind the scenes, kneel behind a mirrored wall and--voila--be transformed into a head without a body. Every new "victim" brought a giggle from the audience crowded around for the show, but the biggest laughs were reserved for the moms and dads who lost their heads.

The magic exhibit runs through Sept. 1, but it is hardly the only reason to go to the nature museum. Among the permanent exhibits are the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, a 28-foot-tall greenhouse aflutter with butterflies from around the world; the C. Paul Johnson Family Water Lab, which includes an interactive model of an urban river system and a huge sand table where kids can engineer their own waterway; the Wilderness Walk, which offers a glimpse of the plant and animal life that lived here before humans paved over the prairie, and the Children's Gallery, which offers a chance for the younger set to explore a wetland and a prairie the way they do best: by crawling around and on top of them.

The newest permanent exhibit, the Extreme Green House, is a full-sized bungalow in the middle of the museum that explores how our lives are connected to nature. My kids were fascinated by the rotting fruit and the gross Bacteria Bathroom. I was amazed to learn how much electricity a refrigerator consumes.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Canon Dr., Chicago, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children ages 3-12, $5 for seniors and college students; free on Thursdays. For more information, call (773) 755-5100 or visit www.naturemuseum.org.


-- Cindy Richards

Kids Eat Chicago

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