FAMILIES PARTY ON DARWIN DAY.
Kids sure do love monkeys.
On Sunday, during a program called "Darwin Family Day: Monkeying Around" at the University of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History, people of all ages experienced interactive exhibits, created Valentine's Day crafts, enjoyed a puppet show and discovered whether they were more similar to a monkey or an ape.
Rose Kempton of Springfield brought her two grandsons, Armando, 10, and Antonio, 7. They had never visited the museum before but saw something on television about it, she said.
The boys approached a table and had their thumbs wrapped to their palms with blue, bandagelike tape to simulate not having opposable thumbs, something primates experience daily.
"You see, now, what I'm going through," Kempton said to the boys, her own thumb wrapped to help with a medical condition.
The boys struggled to tie shoes and button buttons without their thumbs, but they managed to zip a zipper. They really enjoyed an "I Spy" game in which they looked for hidden miniature creatures all around the museum, guided by photos in a little booklet.
Jules Abbott, the museum's education coordinator who also wrote and directed the puppet show, said the museum is working hard to have interactive elements for people of all ages as part of each display.
Each year there is a family day close to Charles Darwin's birthday on Feb. 12. He would have been 204 on Tuesday if he had discovered the fountain of youth instead of coming up with the idea of natural selection.
Abbott's puppet show was not about Darwin, but one of the productions that museum staff put on during Family Day. She said they hope to take the show on the road to schools one day.
"Puppets break down all kinds of barriers to learning," Abbott said. "The kids really get the story line with the puppets."
Cami and the Wonder Crew performed "The Case of the Missing Shoe" about Sassy, the orohippus, a small prehistoric relative to the modern horse. They lived between 30 and 52 million years ago, and instead of one hoof, they had three or four toes at the end of each leg. In the show, Sassy decided to steal the world's oldest shoe because she wanted to be like her modern relatives and don footwear.
The 10,000-year-old shoe is actually one of the museum's prized possessions, discovered in Eastern Oregon in 1938 by the late Luther Cressman, the museum's founder.
Explaining to children that 10,000 years is twice as old as the pyramids in Egypt helps them grasp the significance of the woven sandal, Abbott said.
Another interactive display helped youngsters to connect themselves to the natural world, this one about learning the difference between a monkey and an ape.
The activity included characteristics such as "long nose," "walks on four legs" and "large and heavy," along with photos that correspond with images arranged on a felt board.
Children placed the different characteristics under "monkey" or "ape."
"The tails usually get it for the little kids," said student volunteer Ruth Grenke, 19.
"They realize they don't have a tail, so they're apes."
Eight-year-old Parker Nagy of Eugene fell into that pattern and learned that he's closer to an ape than a monkey. Parker said he is also learning about "mag-a-nets" in science class at his school.
Lectures each Wednesday in February
When: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: 110 Knight Law Center
Speakers: Feb. 13, Frances White; Feb. 20, Barry Albright; Feb. 27, Nelson Ting