Utah museums provide family-centered learning experiences



The state of Utah has over 60 museums. Thanksgiving Point in Lehi recently opened pre-sale ticketing for its new live museum called the Butterfly Biosphere, according to Thanksgiving Point Communications Director Josh Berndt.

Butterfly Biosphere

According to Berndt, the Butterfly Biosphere will have three components tailored to different age groups. The main attraction will be the conservatory. There, nearly 1,000 butterflies will be kept in a 10,000 square foot glasshouse. The conservatory will be kept at a humid climate where the butterflies will live year-round. It will also feature dozens of tropical plant species to keep the butterflies fed.

The Costa Rica Climber is another feature in the Butterfly Biosphere, according to Berndt. It will be a tree house dedicated to younger visitors looking to explore. The Costa Rica Climber also has a separate play space for smaller visitors.

According to Berndt, the Discovery Zone is the third section of the Butterfly Biosphere. It will be an area where guests can explore and experience hands-on games with super-sized surroundings — making guests feel small like a bug.

“This place will have hands-on games and ‘A Bug’s Life’ section. It will be kind of cool where you’re on a playground the size of a bug,” Berndt said.

Visitors can also learn about metamorphosis in the Discovery Zone and see dozens of spineless animals, according to Berndt.

Berndt said the Butterfly Biosphere is unique to Utah as a museum with live butterflies.

“For the last year and a half, the Butterfly Biosphere has been under construction. There’s really nothing like this in Utah,” Berndt said.

According to Berndt, the conservatory is a USDA containment facility, meaning Thanksgiving Point can legally host and display butterflies from all over the world. Butterflies come from countries including Costa Rica and the Republic of the Congo.

“There are two separate doors you have to go through and the one into the conservatory cannot open until the other one is closed so no butterflies escape,” Berndt said. “And when people leave the biosphere, they have to go through a check. There are employees that make sure the leaving visitors don’t have any butterflies on them.”

Berndt said the conservatory is a great way to spread butterfly awareness.

“We are losing a lot of pollinators in Utah, and butterflies are in danger. It’s good awareness for not just these guys here, but all butterflies,” Berndt said.

To help visitors have a good experience, Berndt said Thanksgiving Point makes the conservatory a ticketed event.

“We would much rather have a fewer number of people having an awesome experience than let a whole bunch of people in here,” Berndt said.

Pre-sale ticketing for the Butterfly Biosphere opened Nov. 8, and the Biosphere is expected to open to the public Jan. 18 according to Berndt.

Berndt said he looks forward to the Butterfly Biosphere’s opening and noted that Thanksgiving Point is a nonprofit focused on providing opportunities for family learning experiences.

Tracy Aviary

Other museums in Utah strive to provide family-centered experiences, like the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City.

Toni Miller, marketing personnel at the Tracy Aviary, said the organization focuses on providing learning opportunities for every age.

“Most everything that we do is basically focused around families, but we have lots of education programs too,” Miller said.

According to Miller, the Tracy Aviary provides different learning events like the Halloween Hoot, Nature in the City, school break camps and the Christmas Bird Count. Each event is curated for a different-aged audience.

Miller said the Tracy Aviary constantly works to provide new experiences to visitors.

“There’s always something new going on. We update our website and we update our social media to keep everyone in the loop,” Miller said.

Bean Museum

The BYU Bean Life Science Museum also provides events for all ages, according to education administrator Katie Knight.

Knight said the live animal shows are the museum’s most popular program.

“We have about 20 reptiles and amphibians that we keep here in the museum. We have nine shows that we do with those live animals to teach different age groups different biological concepts,” Knight said. “Each of those shows are designed to fit with the core curriculum for the state, so it also supplements what the teachers are doing in the classroom, but it’s for families as well.”

Knight said the museum has a preschool show tailored to 3 and 4-year-olds called the Animal Discovery Show. The museum also offers a program for young visitors called Discovery Reading where staff read stories and bring out an animal.

According to Knight, the museum constantly looks to change visitors’ experiences.

“We are constantly working on new exhibits. Sometimes it’s a little slower than at other times,” Knight said. “We’re working on a new one now on evolution that will be coming this spring, and that’s pretty exciting.”

More information about the events offered at Thanksgiving PointTracy Aviary and the Bean Museum can be found on their websites.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email