We recently staged the first of our new art-and-play events in the Museum's Darwin Centre. This series of free public events is being held over peak holiday periods and invites visitors to explore nature and Museum science in unusual, playful ways. The events are designed especially for these times when the Museum's central areas can get crowded, and they offer families something fun and active to get involved in.
For those of you who missed out on the first event, or who wondered what it was all about, here's a round-up from Sarah Punshon, the curator of the Darwin Centre Arts programme.
'Over the August Bank holiday weekend, the Darwin Centre was taken over by children in colourful head-dresses; puppet birds, moths and caterpillars; competitive nut-hunting, nest-building and jigsaw-racing; crafting and art for our topically-themed Nature Games Weekend.
A family joins in the nest-building activity. Artists and scientists all helped to create about 16 different activities for our Nature Games Weekend.
'Each day more than 6,000 visitors found their way into the Darwin Centre, led through other parts of the Museum, and 100s of them joined in the games and actvities. It was a wonderful event to be involved in, free to all, and we're already planning our next extravaganza for the October half-term holidays.
Out-flapping a beetle was one of the many challenges in the weekend's Insect Sports Day.
'The nature games were specially created for us by artists and scientists. There were games which involved making things, drawing things, identifying things, or pretending to be things – plus a challenge trail linking various natural history tasks from pond-dipping to beetle-classifying.
Joining the giant caterpillars as they travel through galleries towards the Darwin Centre.
The massive moth flies around the Darwin Centre after hatching at the end of the Pests game.
A crafty young man creates his own unique beetle as part of The Ersatz Entomologist activity.
'The Orange Zone's Darwin Centre showcases the Museum’s cutting-edge science, and gives families a chance to see behind the scenes. The centre's airy atrium space, its lofty Cocoon building and outdoor Courtyard make it a perfect space to host such events. We wanted to get families interacting together and it really succeeded in doing this.
Trying your hand at identifying species: A family takes part in the Quest challenge. 112 teams completed this task over the weekend.
'It wasn't just the children who took part either, there was lots of fantastic interaction between parents and their kids. Seeing mums and dads dressed up as termites, identifying bugs and making nests, really encouraged the youngsters to get involved. It created a friendly and supportive learning atmosphere, which is what we were hoping for.
Outside in the Darwin Centre Courtyard competitors hunt down different 'samples', using their giant magnifying glasses.
'The Nature Games Weekend was the result of a creative collaboration with award-winning games design studio, Hide&Seek. Games designers were matched with scientists to help them develop their work. For example, lichenologist Holger Thues kindly spent time explaining the ways scientists use UV light to distinguish between different species of lichen – leading to an exciting game outside in the Courtyard called UV Detectives.
Energetic young players go for it in the Ants vs Termites game.
'I'd like to thank all the Museum staff and volunteers who worked so hard at making the event brilliant fun for visitors, and also our artists and games designers, Andy Field, Josh Hadley, Kai-Oi Jay Yung, Simon Watt, Caroline Gardiner, Matthew Robins, and all at Hide&Seek.
'We all learned masses from this first event, hopefully our second one will be even better! So look out for The Campsite, which will be happening over October half-term. Watch this space for more details...'