Visitors marvel at Academy of Sciences "Giants of the Land and Sea" By Lucie james

Once a popular field-trip destination for chaotic adventures in middle school, the Academy of Sciences has not lost its unique ability to educate through interactive activities, as demonstrated by the newly opened exhibit “Giants of the Land and Sea.”

Already well-known for its focus on the natural sciences and the environment of Northern California, the Academy goes above and beyond in this display, which opened June 15 and will be available to visitors through Dec. 31. In the “Giants of the Land and Sea Exhibit,” there is a focus on Northern California’s weather, history of its land and information on the ecosystems that surround the Bay Area.

Educating about the understory, written information accompanies realistic recreations of the forest.

Walking into the exhibit, a suspended whale hangs above, representing the “giant” aspect of the exhibit, and the nearly-overwhelming scale of the exhibit does not stop there. Recreating some of the most awe-inspiring ecosystems in the world is not easy to do within a museum setting, but the Academy of Sciences immerses visitors in beautifully interactive displays.

Towering to great heights, the skeletons of sea animals convey the majesty of the ocean.

Flowing through each aspect of the exhibit is a clear appreciation of the natural world, and specifically of Northern California. Despite having lived here for all 17 years of my life, this exhibit opened my eyes to the profound beauty and complexity of the environment that surrounds us.

Living in the Bay Area, the San Andreas fault is a fact of life, as is the imminent possibility of an earthquake. However, until I experienced the “Shake House” part of the exhibit, the severity of such a natural disaster occurring here had not come to mind.

As the Bay Area sits atop unstable tectonic plates and San Francisco has experienced two large earthquakes, one in 1906 and another in 1989, entering the “Shake House” gives visitors the opportunity to experience the feeling of an earthquake.

Detailing the coastline, an informative display includes tectonic plates.

In the “shake house,” visitors held on to railings as the room shook for 60 seconds, and through a speaker, history of the San Francisco earthquake was told in detail. Experiencing the “shake house” was a popular attraction among visitors, and was eye opening, as the shaking imitated a real earthquake.

Displays, such as the fog room, also added to the exhibit’s realistic atmosphere and provided for an eerie experience. The fog room simulates the weather in the Bay Area that locals see on a daily basis. With trees, a forest-like background wall and mist falling from the ceiling, visitors are able to feel like they are outside experiencing day-to-day Bay Area weather. Although this may not be as much of a radical experience for locals, tourists are sure to be awed by the foreboding yet unique aura of inclement weather.

Outside the fog room, plants and redwood trees give a glimpse of the interior.

A third aspect of this breathtaking exhibit offered visitors a chance to virtually ascend magnificent redwood trees. In this room, there are five videos to choose from, giving visitors background on the trees that surround the Bay Area. The information provided in the videos is engaging, as it is new and may be unknown to many visitors, including locals.

Showing a large redwood tree, a virtual ascent dazzles.

Not only does the “Giants of the Land and Sea” exhibit highlight some of the most well-known and valued natural areas of Northern California, but it gives locals a chance to educate themselves on their daily surroundings.

And there’s good news: the entry fee of $30, which may seem exorbitant, allows access to the rest of the Academy of Sciences. Despite its grandeur and ability to evoke appreciation for our surroundings, the “Giants” exhibit isn’t an all-day excursion, making a longer visit to the rest of the Academy well worth the time.

Learn about interconnected coasts, and ecosystems in the land part of the exhibit.

If you find yourself missing the fog during the warmer weeks of autumn, the Academy of Sciences can provide an uncannily realistic recreation—and an all-day experience of interactive education.

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