- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

Location:

The Smithsonian Naturalist Center is located in an office park at 741 Miller Drive SE, Suite G-2 in Leesburg.

Directions:

From the District: Take the Dulles Toll Road to the Greenway and get off at Exit 1B (Route 15 North toward Frederick). Stay in the right lane and make the first right (sign will say Leesburg Airport) onto Sycolin Road. Follow for 11/2 miles and turn right onto Miller Drive. This leads into Leesburg Airpark, an office park. The museum is in the first building on the left.

Information:

Telephone 800/729-7725 or 703/779-9712. Plans are under way for a Web site, and volunteers with expertise in this area are needed.

Parking:

The office park has ample free parking.

Hours:

The museum is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It is closed on all federal holidays. Free admission.

Age requirements:

Everyone is welcome to visit the center, but the main study gallery, which contains more than 30,000 specimens and materials, is only open to visitors 10 years old or older. A small hands-on activity area is provided for families with younger children.

Food:

No food or beverage is available in the Naturalist Center, but nearby Leesburg offers a wide variety of restaurants, fast-food eateries and other diversions.

Resources:

In addition to the myriad samples of fossils, animals, plants and minerals, the center has a wide variety of scientific equipment, including microscopes, balances, measuring tools and osteometric tools, that visitors are allowed to use.

Must see:


 •The two stuffed polar bears and huge tiger are among the most popular exhibits.
 • The center's staff has prepared a number of "Museum Mysteries" in which signs direct visitors to observe various exhibits and help solve scientific mysteries. The exercise helps children learn how to "think like a scientist," says Director Richard Efthim.

Avoid:

This museum is designed for children 10 years old or older, but families whose children span a wide age range can have a successful visit if one parent plans to stay in the activity area with the younger children while the other accompanies the older children into the main gallery. Be advised that the games and activities probably will keep younger children occupied for 30 to 45 minutes time to barely whet the appetites of older children.

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