Teacher movie night at the Smithsonian

My sons and I went to IMAX movie night at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum this month.  Each teacher was allowed to invite one guest and William, who teaches 4th grade, invited his brother Thomas.  I invited my husband, but he was in California judging a VEX robotics competition.  So, the three of us met at East Falls Church and took the Metro to Federal Triangle and walked over to the museum.


Outside the Natural History Museum

Before the movie they had some of the mobile cart exhibits in the foyer.  One had some very neat ocean fossils which we were allowed to touch and explore and another had insects from the insect petting zoo


Fossilized vertebrae of a whale


Rows of shark teeth waiting to take the place when one falls out


Petting a hissing cockroach

Learning about the tomato cutworm/sphinx moth

Large grasshopper

Large grasshopper

The first movie was “The Ultimate Wave Tahiti”, an exciting 3D movie filmed in Tahiti showcasing two famous surfers, Kelly Slater and Raimana Van Bastolaer.  The movie skillfully embedded lots of knowledge on how and why waves form.  It would be a great film for the upper grades, especially those studying landforms or the ocean.

During an intermission we were invited into the Ocean Hall to explore the exhibits.  It was very cool to be in there after the museum has closed and we had this huge space practically to ourselves.

Looking up at the whale exhibit

Looking up at the whale exhibit

Many displays are interactive including this one with pull out drawers to show collections

Many displays are interactive including this one with pull out drawers to show collections

The next movie was my favorite and was “The Flight of the Butterflies”; also in 3D.  It felt like you could reach out and touch the butterflies as they flew about.  It highlighted the history of the Citizen Science Project and the discovery of the monarch winter hibernation grounds in Mexico through the story of Dr. Fred Urquhart who developed a monarch tagging system to discover where they migrated to each winter.

I highly recommend going to see either of these movies.  If you are a teacher, your admission is free-any time, any day, for any Smithsonian IMAX movie that is not a feature film.  Here are some places to get more information about teaching migration, ecology, biodiversity and the process of scientific discovery through the study of monarch butterflies.

Flight of the Butterflies

Maryland Science Center

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

Monarch Watch

Journey North


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