Saturday, February 28, 2009

Visit Narnia at the Franklin Institute

PHILADELPHIA, PA - One of the oldest science and learning centers in the United States is still one of the best places for a field trip, with school or family. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will celebrate its 185th anniversary this year. One of the reasons for the success, and staying power, of the Franklin Institute is their ability to change with the times. Their passion for learning keeps the exhibits fresh and interesting and their expertise in a number of areas incorporates the latest technology for engaging people of all ages in learning about our world.

Currently the Institute is made up of three divisions; The Science Center, the Center for Innovations in Science Learning, and the Benjamin Franklin Center. No matter how they divide the institute, there is a lot going on all the time, everywhere you turn. We recently visited the Chronicles of Narnia exhibit, which runs through April 19, 2009.

Follow Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy through the wardrobe for a look at the science of Narnia. For those who have seen the movie this traveling exhibit looks behind the scenes at many of the props, costumes and characters that make up C. S. Lewis's famous book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Even if you haven't seen the movie, the exhibit creates a learning experience that, like the movie, goes beyond the expected. Walt Disney and Walden Media have created an educator's guide for the Narnia exhibit that highlights learning opportunities from global warming (remember the ice queen), to researching the habitat needs of four Narnia mammals. Find out if animals can communicate with humans. The free educator's guide is available through the Franklin website. One of our favorite leaning experiences and an exhibit that caught us by surprise was the working catapult that launched a boulder a few times each hour.

The Chronicles of Narnia traveling exhibit is only one of many throughout the year that are booked at the Franklin. In the past, there have been the Titanic exhibit, Star Wars, and King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. All have been a success. Many are limited in where they appear in the United States, which speaks to the quality of exhibit space and curators at the Institute.

The Giant Heart - One of the most enduring exhibits is the walk-through heart, which to my amazement has been on display since the mid-1950's. It has been upgraded and is a favorite for children and adults alike. The Giant Heart is booked as "A Healthy Interactive Experience" and is part of a large, 5,000 square foot exhibit that covers Heart Anatomy, Health and Wellness, Blood, and Diagnostics and Treatment displays.

The Franklin Air Show - If you're into flight this indoor air show has over 20 interactive devices to keep your aviator busy. There are also full size jets and stories of famous aviation pioneers. If aviation isn't enough check out Space Command with its interactive displays that let you explore space like the astronauts.

One of my favorite areas is the Train Factory where you can board a full size Baldwin 60,000 steam engine and move it forward on the indoor tracks. Granted it doesn't go very far but you hear the whistle, see the coal bin and even get a chance to operate the controls on the train's short journey.

If you need a break from all the walking, be sure to take in an IMAX film in their dome theater or gaze at the stars from the Franklin Institute's Joel N. Bloom Observatory. Here you can experience day and nighttime viewing through the 10-inch Zeiss refractor and four Meade 8-inch reflector telescopes. Another alternative is to visit the nation's second oldest planetarium, the Fel's Planetarium at the Institute; I told you this place was huge. While it is one of the oldest planetarium's in the United States, it has the newest equipment for presentations. The dome measures 60 feet across and is four stories tall with all digital projection equipment.

All in all, a trip to the Franklin will have you coming back for more.

Hours: Science Museum 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM Daily The Tuttleman IMAX Theater 10:00AM - 4:00 PM Daily

The Franklin Institute is closed annually on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Franklin Awards Day, April 23.

Science Museum exhibits, live show, and one planetarium show $14.25 Adults, $13.25 Students and Military and $11.50 for children. There are other admissions for special programs or simulators.

Chronicles of Narnia and admission to the Franklin Institute:

Daytime Tickets *
Adults $22.25 w/ID: Seniors (62+), Students (12-25) and Military $18.50
Children (4-11) $17.50

* Valid for exhibit entrances between 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, includes admission into The Franklin Exhibits and One Fels Planetarium Show. Check Theater schedule for Planetarium show times.

Evening Tickets **

Adults $10.50 w/ID: Seniors (62+), Students (12-25) and Military $10.50
Children (4-11) $9.50

** Valid for exhibit entrances between 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm, does not include admission into The Franklin Exhibits or the Fels Planetarium.

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