Post image for Wild and Wonderful Life at the Limits

Wild and Wonderful Life at the Limits

by Amy Kraft on April 3, 2015

One of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on is Animal Genius, where I got to spend my days researching and designing games around animals. I developed a deep, deep love for weird animals. Axolotls, narwhals, Tasmanian devils … the weirder the better. It follows, then, that the American Museum of Natural History’s latest show, Life at the Limits, is my favorite exhibition they’ve ever done.

Imagine if Marvel were to create animals, giving them strange superpowers. You can really think of the animals in this exhibit as the X-Men of the animal world, or as President of the museum, Ellen Futter, more eloquently put it, “ambassadors of the great story of evolution.” At the exhibit preview I attended curators Mark Siddall and John Sparks talked about these animals that live int he most inhospitable places on Earth, adapting through the power of natural selection. For instance, they talked about two different species of blind cave-dwelling parts that developed the ability to communicate via electric pulses in different parts of the world. These tenacious creatures that have extreme physical and physiological limits may provide a window to what life on a goldilocks zone planet might look like.

Judging by the squeals of delight and horror I heard from the kids in the exhibit, kids are going to love this show. There’s a lot of reading, but it’s totally worth it to discover wild facts like these:

  • A flea can jump 200 times its body length.
  • Cockroaches can move up to 50 body lengths per second.
  • A treehopper has evolved a bizarro disguise, looking like it’s an ant from above.
  • Axolotls can regrow lost limbs. (There are live axolotls in the exhibit! I’ve never seen one in person before.)

amnh-axolotl

  • A mantis shrimp can punch clams with the force of a bullet. (There’s a live mantis shrimp in the exhibit. You can’t fully realize the coolness of this animal until you’ve seen The Oatmeal’s Mantis Shrimp comic.)

amnh-mantisshrimp

  • Bacteria in caves can form disgusting snottites. (Ew!)

amnh-snottites

  • Tardigrades can survive the radiation and vacuum of space.

amnh-tardigrade

The exhibit does a nice job, too, of talking about how humans are sometimes at the ends of the natural bell curve. How weird is it that we generally only have 1-2 babies at a time, and we take a really, really long time to care for them before they can survive on their own? Or, what’s with this walking on two legs thing?

Kids can also climb atop a Hercules Beetle or play Kinect games where you try to pet a skunk or defend yourself against a mantis shrimp.

amnh-shrimpgame

There are some videos of the animal kingdom that will delight and disgust. They even showcased one of my favorite animal defense mechanisms, the horned lizard’s ability to shoot blood out of its eyes. (Ew!)

You know how you exit into the gift shop and it’s hard to get out of there without buying anything? I was ready to spend all of my money and I didn’t even have the kids with me. Axolotl t-shirts! Tardigrade toys! Mantis shrimp plush! I want them all.

amnh-mantisshrimpplush

Life at the Limits opens tomorrow, April 4, and runs through January 3, 2016. Seriously, don’t miss this one.

{ 0 comments }

NYICFF and the Secret of the Universe

by Amy Kraft on April 2, 2015

beach-flags

I recently rounded up the short films we loved at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, and Olive and I caught one more show before the festival ended, the Girls POV shorts.

There were beautiful, thought provoking shorts that Olive and I talked about well after the show ended. Layla’s Melody provided a heartbreaking picture into Afghanistan, following an 11-year-old girl who lives in an orphanage away from her mother as a way of exploring her dreams as a musician and avoiding forced marriage in her village. Ugh. Beach Flags is an animated short of girls’ lifeguard competition in Iran, but forced marriage rears its ugly head into their tale, too. Other shorts dealt with friendship and independence and beauty. Always thought-provoking, those Girls’ POV shorts.

One perfect little gem is In the Beginning, which makes a compelling case that a little girl might have had a role in the creation of our universe.

Thanks for the beautiful curation, NYICFF!

{ 0 comments }

With Piper, Kids Make Minecraft Their Own

March 29, 2015
piper1

Last week I went to Sandbox Summit, an inspiring conference at MIT that was focused on play. There I met Shree Bose, winner of the 2011 Google Science Fair. She showed what she’s been working on with her co-founder, Mark Pavlyukovskyy. Minecraft fans, get ready to head over to Kickstarter. There are lots of different […]

Read the full article →

Bringing the NYICFF to You

March 20, 2015
anatole

The New York International Children’s Film Festival wraps up this Sunday. (HURRY! There a a couple tickets left!) Every year we try to make it to at least one of the shows. We adore the various shorts program. Last weekend, we went to Short Films One, the best short films around the world for ages […]

Read the full article →

Strongarmed into liking Transformers: Robots in Disguise

March 14, 2015
TRID-strongarm

Another day on Earth, another threat from the Decepticons, amirite? Last week, my Transformer-loving 4-year-old and I got to see a preview of the new Cartoon Network show, Transformers: Robots in Disguise. In the Transformers universe, Robots in Disguise takes place after the timeline of Transformers Prime. That doesn’t mean a lot to young watchers like Ozzie, who’s only […]

Read the full article →

The Light Princess Defies Gravity

March 4, 2015
lightprincess1

If you’re looking for something delightful to do with the kids this weekend, treat them to The Light Princess at the New Victory Theater. The Light Princess, a creation of Harvard’s A.R.T. Institute, is a classic fairy tale about a cursed princess that must find love. Of course, if you know me, that’s not all it is or […]

Read the full article →

Toy Fair: Best of the Rest

March 1, 2015
TFO-worryeaters

Let’s see… I’ve covered toys for makers, toys with girl power, cool tech toys, games, and what’s new from Lego. What about the rest of Toy Fair? There was so much other good stuff to see. Here are the rest of my Toy Fair favorites. Worry Eaters I can’t think of a more adorable way […]

Read the full article →

Toy Fair: Games

February 27, 2015
TFG-lasermaze

It’s like I’m not even close to being done with telling you about all of the cool things I saw at Toy Fair. Now it’s time for some games. Laser Maze Jr.  We love the original Laser Maze in our house. At 4, Ozzie discovered it and loves to set up the pieces just like it […]

Read the full article →

Toy Fair: Cool Tech Toys

February 25, 2015
TF-meccano

It’s cool to walk the floor of Toy Fair and see how tech is added to toys for all different age groups, and with all different play purposes. I met some of our future robot overlords, too. Legendary Yoda Spin Master only teased this new Yoda toy at Toy Fair but I can tell you […]

Read the full article →

Toy Fair: Girl Power

February 21, 2015
TF-Iamelemental2

As I’ve already shown with Lego, toymakers are happily starting to move beyond the if-it’s-for-girls-it’s-girly way of thinking. There’s nothing wrong with girly girl toys, but girls should have choices beyond them. Here are some cool finds from Toy Fair. I Am Elemental I not only want these for the kids, I want these action […]

Read the full article →