Good Life Nature Activity at The Florida Museum of Natural History Spark story by: madeline bickerstaff

South Florida People & Environment: Native American display
Me in front of the previous display
South Florida People & Environment: Native American Art

1. Nature on Display: The “South Florida People & Environments” exhibit featured a variety of displays that specifically captured my attention, especially the “Today’s South Florida’s Indian People.” The first thing that caught my eye was the scene in these pictures of the Native Americans by the water. I couldn’t believe how surreal it looked. I felt as if I was literally there with the Indians, entering a new world. The scene looks like an average day for them and clearly a lot is going on, such as spear-fishing, bathing in the water, starting a fire, and more. I thought the design was beautiful and the water, clouds, huts, kayaks, sand, and trees could not have been any more realistic. It really made me appreciate nature and think deeply about what their lives must have been like in comparison to ours. Part of me wishes I could experience one day with them and see if I could survive (probably not). It makes me realize how much our world has changed and the simple things we take for granted now, like air-conditioned houses and microwaves and cars. The Native American culture fascinates me because I am actually Cherokee. Both sides of my family have Native American blood, but my great, great grandmother on my dad’s side was a full-blooded Cherokee and I have always been curious in learning more about how Native Americans lived back then and how many of them still exist. It was interesting to learn that the Calusa Indians once controlled all of South Florida, but eventually disintegrated by the mid 1700’s. I had actually never heard of the Calusa’s, so I thought it was pretty cool that they were Native Americans of Florida’s Southwest Coast. I enjoyed the exhibit because I thought all of the displays were excellent and I loved learning more about the other Native American tribes, since I previously only really knew of the Cherokee’s. The last picture of the Native American Woman also caught my eye, specifically her dress, and the two dresses on display behind her. The clothing that the Native American women wore seems to be very modest compared to the 21st century, and also the designs are very unique and colorful. Over all, I think the "South Florida People &Environment" displays were the most appealing to the eye, and it was enjoyable to learn more about their culture.

Butterfly Rain forest: Blue Morpho Butterfly eating a banana
Butterfly Rain Forest: Monarch butterfly resting on my hand
Me in front of the creek at the Butterfly Rain forest

2. Nature and Ethics: The Butterfly Rainforest allowed me to experience nature in a way I had never done before. When I first stepped into the butterfly garden I saw a beautiful Monarch butterfly and the cutest little bird I’ve ever seen in my life. The bird flew around me and then the butterfly landed on my hand and I instantly felt a deep connection to nature. I never wanted to let go of that butterfly. As I continued to walk through, I saw a variety of species of butterflies, most of them being species I have never seen or heard of before. I think my favorite was the Blue Morpho-it was one of the most beautiful butterflies I have ever seen. This might sound corny but I saw a lovely Blue Morpho that had a broken wing and it made me incredibly sad (I may or may not have teared up a little). I just sat there for a few minutes watching it and observing every intricate detail on its’ wings it and hoping it wasn’t feeling any pain with that broken wing. Also, the sweet aroma of the butterfly garden and the sounds from the waterfalls added to the peaceful and relaxing experience. I really did feel like I was in a rainforest, especially with the other animals like the fish and turtles and birds and the pretty orchids. I noticed other people reacting similarly to myself, as they were taking a lot of pictures and watching the butterflies very closely and getting WAY too excited whenever a butterfly would land on them. I’m guessing most of them were like me and had never seen butterflies that close up and actually still, where we can truly observe them and understand them better. One aspect that I was fond of was watching the butterflies feed on bananas. I assumed that they only sucked nectar from flowers so it fascinated me that butterflies also enjoy one of my favorite fruits. Once again, as I observed these gorgeous butterflies going about their daily lives in such a close proximity, I felt a deep connection and appreciation of nature. My experience did, without a doubt, instill an ethical responsibility in me to “love, respect, and admire” the land as Leopold imagined. I plan on going back to the the butterfly rainforest numerous times.

Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land

3. Nature and the Human Spririt: The “Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land exhibit” certainly causes us to step out of our ordinary lives and think of what life was like millions of years ago. It’s bizarre to think that people have roamed the earth for so long before us, and that they had a completely different experience than we did. It’s a mystery because archaeologists are trying to piece together the fossils that they have found in order to learn more about the world before our time. However, no one can be entirely sure of exactly how old our world is, so it really causes you (well, at least me) to wonder and to question the methods being used in dating the fossils, such as using the half-life of a radioactive isotope. For me, it made me wonder how accurate these methods truly are and how anyone can ever be sure of how old the world is. I know that scientists are extremely intelligent, but how can you not question such a controversial topic with no solid proof? According to many scientists, the earth is millions or billions of years old, but according to several religions (specifically Christianity), the earth is approximately six thousand years old. I almost felt like Siddhartha, in the sense that I did not know what “truth” to believe, or how to even begin to find the real truth, when I walked through this exhibit and began to really think about the beginning of life. Reading the various displays on fossil-dating/how fossils formed and seeing the dinosaur skeletons sparked my interest in science. I can certainly say that I stepped out of my "ordinary life" and ordinary thinking and better appreciated the mystery and majesty of the world in a way that I never have before. Usually I just go about my life without thinking why things are the way they are, or how they came to be, but the Natural History museum allowed me to step out of my ordinary life for a while.

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