Flashback to eighth grade earth science: Mrs. Kuntz tries to explain Pangaea, tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanoes. This involves a lot of illustrations, movie clips, glossaries of terms we’ve never seen before, assurances that nobody in Michigan is likely to die from these things — not today, anyway — and the class singing the chorus of “Breaking Up is Hard To Do.” I always imagined we were imitating Little Eva, but I know now that it’s more Neil Sedaka’s thing. I’ll credit both for the education.
Still, that’s it. Every few years since then, I’ve written about homes ravaged by hurricanes, cities hit by a tornado, fault lines that threaten everything we’ve built or locals impacted by a horrific tsunami far away, but the science behind natural disasters is rarely something that comes up until the very worst moment.
A new exhibition at Fernbank Museum of Natural History brings it all flooding back. (Pun!) “Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters,” digs into the science of earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis through historic case studies, hands-on exhibits and jarring artifacts.
“Nature Unleashed” was created by The Field Museum in Chicago, but Fernbank staffers scrambled to add information that explains the recent earthquake in Haiti. (It’s a seamless and smart addition, one that should help parents and kids discuss and understand what they’ve been seeing on the news for the last few weeks.)
A few highlights:
All this ends with information on how to prepare for crazy weather and stories of human resilience. After lot of sad, crazy, shocking views, visitors will see how people survive afterward. One of the key lessons, of course, is that earth was made habitable by these types of events. After a volcano explodes, the ash leaves behind fertile ground, exactly what we need to start over again.
Among the temporary exhibitions that have passed through Fernbank in the past year, this is my favorite. It’s educational, hands-on, timely and practical, touching on the science and the societal impact of natural disasters throughout history. It includes a 20-minute video featuring meteorologists from local TV networks, who explain how Georgia is affected by earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. (Volcanoes aren’t on the list. I’m all right with that.)
This exhibition is paired up, too, with the Imax film, “Forces of Nature,” which will continue to show through May 27.
See it: Geology geeks, weather geeks, news junkies, everyone in fourth through eighth grade.
Skip it: Weather-phobes, young kids — they’ll enjoy some of the hands-on pieces, but this far more interesting for people old enough to read.
Want to go? “Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters,” runs Feb. 6-May 2. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. $13-$15, free for members and children 2 and younger. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road, N.E., Atlanta. 404-929-6300, www.fernbankmuseum.org.