Museum Musings

Special Holiday Drop-in Programs

New adventures offered daily! Now through Monday, January 6, enjoy a variety of special drop-in programs led by Fernbank educators. Look for the “Today at Fernbank” sign when you arrive to for each day’s schedule. Programs offered vary each day and are subject to change. 

Scheduled programs include:*
Weekday Wonders
Enjoy a variety of hands-on learning fun!

Live Animal Encounters
Meet and learn more about a member of Fernbank’s LIVE animal collection. Animals presented vary, but may include turtles, snakes, geckos and hissing cockroaches.

Tadpole Tales**
Preschoolers can enjoy story time with a Fernbank educator, along with a special activity or song.

Excellent Experiments
Explore the amazing world of chemistry through fun experiments.

Drop-in programs are included with Museum admission and are free for members. Unless noted, all programs take place in the Naturalist Center on the Upper Level.

Don’t forget to check out the special exhibitions Marco Polo: Man & Myth and Winter Wonderland, enjoy the great outdoors indoors in Fernbank NatureQuest, or choose from two films in the IMAX® Theatre.

As always, parking is free! 

*Actual programs offered vary each day and are subject to change/cancellation at any time.
**This program is available December 28 and December 29 only.
Written by Fernbank Museum at 19:45

Salamanders are a (Nature) Girl’s Best Friend


My fall semester in the Education Department as a Life Science Programs Intern, has provided a fresh appreciation of environmental conservation. Specifically, I have loved learning and sharing about the salamanders in our collection. As a Biology major it’s second nature to recite what amphibians are; they’re cold-blooded animals with vertebrae that undergo metamorphosis and have permeable skin that is not covered by fur, scales, or hair. Easy.

As an intern, salamanders have become much more than their anatomy. Throughout this semester I’ve had the opportunity to develop and plan a Science Discovery Cart activity for guests to engage in, themed “Amphibians as Bioindicators of Environmental Health”. Environmental health is especially close to my heart because I was raised in Georgia on the Flint River, and to think of a world without this place of undisturbed nature is heartbreaking. The health of the river is very important to me, and knowing that amphibians also value and depend on it instantly connected me with them.

My favorite activity as an intern has been taking salamanders out for live animal encounters to interact with guests. “Would you like to meet Goldy?” I’d say, inviting guests of the museum to observe the earthy and odd creature that was resting motionless in her special travel container. The answer is never the same. Some children are surprisingly brave and approach me with two hands stretched wide, ready to explore the unidentified creature.

There are always three questions that come immediately upon investigation from kids: “Is it real?”, “Is it a lizard?” and “Can we touch it?” The first two questions are easy to answer, and kids take their eyes off of the animal only to watch for my responses. Yes, she’s a real animal, but Goldy isn’t the spotlight kind of critter and prefers to stay hidden, so she stays extremely still while traveling in her container. No, even though she certainly is close to the shape of a lizard, she isn’t one; Goldy is the resident representative of Spotted salamanders at Fernbank. The third question however, is a difficult answer to give when children are so eager to learn: No, salamanders shouldn’t be touched by people because of their permeable skin. They take up and lose water through their skin, and touching them could dry them out or make them sick by spreading disease. Even without being touched, the remarkable character of their skin makes salamanders effective for teaching because amphibians are particularly sensitive to pollutants in their habitats, and dependent on fresh water free of toxins from toxic waste, metals, and trash.   

Now I have realized and shared the ecological importance of amphibians not only with museum guests, but with my family, friends, and roommates!  I have loved my time as an intern because I love teaching children about the significance of environmental health, the contagious cheerfulness and enthusiasm of the children, and have loved connecting with the animals at Fernbank.

You can meet Fernbank Museum’s animal ambassadors by attending a Live Animal Encounter, typically offer on weekend afternoons and school holidays. Check the “Today at Fernbank” sign the next time you visit for program listings.

—Rachel Whitmire, Life Sciences Intern Fall 2013

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:33

2014 Sneak Peek

From extremely extraordinary mammals to a dinosaur egg hunt, Fernbank’s programming in 2013 provided a year of adventure, exploration and education for all ages.

We hope you will join us again next year as we bring you new IMAX® films, new special exhibitions, unique family events and much more! See below for a sneak peek of Fernbank’s 2014 line-up.

Please note: this list is not final and all dates and programs listed are subject to change.

Special Exhibitions

Free for Members!

Whales: Giants of the Deep
Opens February 15
Plunge into the mysterious world of these majestic creatures in this immersive exhibition.

Goosebumps: The Science of Fear
Opens September 27
Explore the universal emotion of fear in a fun, safe, hands-on environment.

Winter Wonderland
Opens November 2014
Featuring a festive holiday-inspired display and other special activities.

Films in the IMAX® Theatre

Members pay just $8 for tickets—a 40% savings!

Opens January 3
Discover the heart of the world in this NEW film.

Journey to the South Pacific
Opens January 24
Travel to the remote islands of West Papua, where life flourishes above and below the sea. 

Family and Children’s Programming

Free for Members!

Pirate Day
January 18
A swashbuckling good time for families.

Whales Opening Day Celebration
February 15
A day of family fun celebrating this new special exhibition.

Adventures in Science Day
March 23
Presented as part of the Atlanta Science Festival.

Dinosaur Egg Hunt
April 12
Fernbank’s annual springtime event for families.

Superhero Day
June 15
Because super dads (and moms) deserve a SUPER day.

Reptile Day
Encounter a variety of live reptiles.
July 12

Dinosaur Birthday Bash
August 23
You're invited to a prehistoric party celebrating the world’s largest dinosaurs.

Visit Fernbank Museum for free all year long! Museum members enjoy a variety of free or discounted opportunities. Family levels start at $120.

Additional programs to be announced including additional films in the IMAX® Theatre, Fernbank’s Summer Camp, Homeschool Days, an evening for educators, additional family events and more.

Be sure to sign up for Fernbank’s e-newsletters, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates and announcements!

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:32

Celebrate National Fossil Day with Fernbank Museum

Colossal Fossils
Fernbank Museum celebrates fossils all year long, but we are really excited that Wednesday, October 16, 2013 is National Fossil Day! This annual event is part of a nationwide Earth Science Week, celebrating the importance of fossils, including clues they offer about plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. Here’s an exclusive look at some incredible, delicate fossils that are not normally on view to the public.


Eremotherium, a type of giant ground sloth, lived in North America during the latter part of the most recent Ice Age, from about 700,000 years ago to as recently as 8000 years ago. In 1992, divers found the fossilized bones of this giant ground sloth in the Frederica River. Paleontologists estimate that this specimen is 85% complete. Several bones, including the skull, are on display in A Walk Through Time in Georgia. Look for them next to the lifesized model of a closely-related type of giant ground sloth known as Megatherium.


Petrified Wood
Petrified wood literally means “stony wood”—that is, the original woody plant (often a tree) has been partially or entirely replaced by minerals that percolate through as it lies buried under layers of sediment. Under the right conditions, fine details such as tree rings and cellular structure can be preserved. Different varieties of the mineral quartz give this fossil its beauty. Although this specimen doesn’t show fine details, it is possible to discern a general tree ring pattern.


Excavated from the famous Coon Creek fossil site in western Tennessee, this fossil is approximately 70 million years old. Baculites, like its coiled relative the ammonite, is an extinct member of the cephalopod family, marine animals that include modern squid and octopus. At the time, western Tennessee had a semi-tropical climate located along the shoreline of a vast, shallow inland sea. Coon Creek is famous because of the sheer number and variety of marine fossils that have been identified—over 600—and even more astonishingly, the near original-condition of many of the fossils.


Wooly Mammoth Tooth in Jaw
Wooly mammoths roamed North America, including Georgia, toward the end of the most recent Ice Age, 80,000 to 4,000 years ago.  This fossil was excavated in Alaska and has not been dated.
Mammoths had huge molar teeth at the front of each jaw, two upper and two lower. Each tooth was made up of numerous ridges of hard enamel. Like their elephant relatives, mammoths had six sets of teeth in its lifetime.


Fossil Coral
Found near Bardstown, Kentucky, this fossil is a type of tabulate coral estimated to be 350-400 million years old. Tabulate corals look like a series of organ pipes joined together, and lived together in massive colonies, similar to modern reef-building corals. Millions of years ago, much of what is now the Central and Southeastern United States was covered by vast, shallow oceans. The evidence is found in layers of sedimentary rock, especially limestone, which contain fossils of sea creatures including brachiopods, trilobites and coral.

Learn more about fossils, paleontology and more sciences at Fernbank’s annual Science at Hand Day (November 9).

Written by Fernbank Museum at 15:15

Volunteer of the Month: October

Lynda-Taylor.jpgWe are pleased to honor Linda Taylor as our October Volunteer of the Month.

Linda Taylor loves to see smiles and help people, which is why she loves volunteering with Fernbank Museum. She came to the museum a year ago after she discovered she loved volunteering as an ambassador for the DeKalb Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In addition to continuing her work with both Fernbank and the DCVB, she juggles the rest of her full and active schedule, including regular yoga and Zumba. Prior to retirement, she worked at Delta, where she handled meetings and group conventions. Linda is looking forward to many more years of volunteering with Fernbank, where she always feels that you get out what you put in!

For information on how to become a volunteer, call 404.929.6360 or

Written by Fernbank Museum at 17:08
Welcome to the official blog of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!