Perhaps you have passed by the Living Classrooms Children’s Museum on your way to a show at Glen Echo Park. I have often been curious what hides behind the woods past the bridge. On a clear day, I brought my preschooler with me to go on a nature quest.
The Children’s Museum is formerly known as The Discovery Creek Children’s Museum. While the name has changed, it is still operated by Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region.
Located at the old stables building near the park entrance, the entrance to Living Classrooms is adorned with colorful insects. While the entrance is accessible, be forewarned that the terrain is a combination of giant slate stones and mulch making it unfavorable for strollers.
Open to the public only on weekends from 10am to 3pm, this little gem is yet another great reason to visit Glen Echo Park. While the $5 per person admission fee sounds steep, remember that this is a non-profit organization. Children under age 2 are free, but I recommend the museum for ages 4 and up.
The theme of the museum is “Let’s Play.” There are plenty of opportunities both outdoors and inside to entertain children. Watch the bullfrog in the pond and say hi to the two new ducks in the Three Sisters Garden. Grab a shovel and some gardening tools to explore the outdoors. Crawl through the tunnel that leads to the oversized sand pit. Join a guided tour on a short hike in the woods to see native plants and animals.
Kids love seeing animals and there are several inside the museum including a hidden pair of tarantulas, Painted Turtle, Eastern Box Turtle, African Bullfrog, Rosy Boa Snake, Bearded Dragon Lizard and a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. The one surprise in the nature center was a domestic rabbit affectionately known as Oreo. Ask how the one-eyed goldfish took up residence at the museum. The story is a little sad, but has a happy ending. Some of the animals give a little information about where they are from and what their habitat is like. Did you know that box turtles get their name for the hinge on their shell allowing them to close tightly like a box? In addition to insects, they also like to munch on mushrooms and berries.
There are live animal encounters available throughout the day. The staff take out a different animal and let people admire them. My daughter and I got to touch one of the sixty Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches that reside at the museum. It hissed in the beginning meaning it was telling us to go away, but the cockroach warmed up to us within a minute. Hand sanitizer is nearby. If there is a particular animal you want to see up close, call to find out the schedule before your visit.
A bookcase is chock full of science and nature finds including favorites like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Aesop’s Fables. If you are a turtle fan, you will find several ceramic turtles on display as well as shells and other artifacts that you can examine closer with a magnifying glass. Underneath the tree is a dress up trunk full of animal costumes.
At one time, there were ants in a glass case built into the giant ant hill. Now it’s just a pile of dirt. However, you can live a bug’s life by crawling through the human sized ant hill. Climb the stairs, cross an authentic swinging log bridge and slide down the tree. Both my daughter and another child came flying down the slide separately. The slide was so fast the children came down sideways. It definitely scared them and me so use caution with younger children.
There is an arts and crafts room with cubbies to store coats. There are coloring pages and take home activities like creating a migration mobile. In the back of the building behind a curtain is a unisex bathroom sans changing table.
Children ages 3 to 12 can celebrate their birthday at the museum. Parties are 90-minute programs allowing children to interact with their environment at a hands-on level. As we were leaving, we saw a group who had reserved the museum for a private party.
Classes and Camps
- Drop in Toddler Playgroup classes take place Tuesdays and Thursdays for ages 18 months to 3 years. This takes place at the Historic Schoolhouse in northwest DC, which is a five minute drive from Glen Echo Park.
- Spring Camp will be held April 2 to 6, 2012. This one week program is for ages 4 to 6.
- Summer Camp will take place at The Children’s Museum at Glen Echo Park and the Historic Schoolhouse. Week-long sessions are held June 18 to August 24 and are appropriate for ages 4 to 12.
The Bottom Line
Consider purchasing a family membership which includes free admission to the museum on weekends, discounts on birthday parties, programs and early registration for camps. The $75 fee is good for one year. Living Classrooms Children’s Museum is a great way to get out and explore while having fun. A great time to visit would be the summer when the nearby carousel is open.
Photo by Kathleen Molloy.