New exhibit at Chicago’s Notebaert Nature Museum explores struggles

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has always been a go-to source when it comes to figuring out the great state of Illinois and the natural habitat. Now its new exhibit, Nature’s Struggles, delves more into the history of our state’s nature and the ramifications of not taking care of it properly.

Born out of the 100-year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, this exhibit tells the story of the loss through the eyes of three child protagonists, Claude (1800s), Floyd (1900s) and Nadia (2000s.) The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died in 1914. This exhibit is the centerpiece of the Notebaert’s Year of the Passenger Pigeon.

An interactive timeline from the floor to the ceiling show the loss of prairie land and fowl as you walk through the exhibit. By 2050, you’ll learn, our country could see the extinction of 25 percent of its native plant species.

While the information may seem a bit heavy, it is most certainly child friendly. My children spent the most time in the reading room, which was full of felt tree stumps for sitting, and a felt wood and fire pit that children can sit around while listening to nature stories.

There also are plenty of opportunities to get your John James Audubon on and draw photos of wildlife. There are counting activities with butterflies, birds and plants.

There are definitely plenty of learning points for adults and children alike, and lots of areas that will give you pause. You can share via Post-It how an animal has changed your life, and write on a wall-sized chalkboard what you will do in order to better manage your role into nature.

My children loved it, and that lets me know that the designers of this exhibit not only wanted to share viable messages with adults, but also get the children in their lives talking about ways that they could be better stewards over the world that they live in. The fact that it focuses on how to start in your own backyard is even more valuable. Speaking in terms that children can understand is pertinent to getting the message of conservation across.

All in all, I highly recommend Nature’s Struggles, which is free with admission to the museum. It officially opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 19. Maximize your time and ability to walk through at your pace by going through during the week. It opens at 9 a.m. Bring your lunch to eat in the spacious, light-filled lunch room.

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