Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dynamic Earth - Sudbury, ON

Digging for fossils at Dynamic Earth.  
Dynamic Earth is part of Science North even though they are located across town from each other.  If you will be in Sudbury for more than a day I highly recommend getting the Dynamic Duo passport that gets you into both Science North and Dynamic Earth for three days.  There isn't as much to do at Dynamic Earth as there is at Science North but there is enough that you don't want to try to tack it on to a visit to Science North and cram it all into one day.
Sudbury needs to stop being so coy.  It isn't just a big nickel, it is the biggest nickel!  
First up, the Big Nickel.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Big Nickel, it is exactly what its name would imply, a really big nickel.  Once upon a time it was out in the middle of nowhere overlooking a slag heap on the outskirts of Sudbury.  Then one day, Science North decided to build Dynamic Earth next to it overlooking the slag heap.  So now, you can visit the Big Nickel when you visit Dynamic Earth, or visit Dynamic Earth while visiting the Big Nickel, I suppose. It is right at the entrance to Dynamic Earth and once you have seen it (and had your picture taken with it) you are done with the Big Nickel and can move on to Dynamic Earth.  What people did at the Big Nickel before Dynamic Earth I don't know.  Picnic on the slag heap?
Checking out the mineral wall.  
Anyhoo.  Once inside you will find plenty to do.  Now, one thing I should mention about Dynamic Earth.  It seems like, 30 or so years ago, someone was at a Science North board meeting and they said "hey, you know what everyone loves? Mining!  We should open a big, state of the art museum devoted to mining! People will come from all around!" and everyone went along with it because the guy was such a lovable old coot and this was his dying wish  and they didn't have the heart to tell him that actually people don't generally love mining.  That or he had incriminating pictures of them.  Anyway, it turns out that lovable old coot/blackmailer was right because Dynamic Earth is mainly about the glory of mining and it is a ton of fun.

Panning for gold.
There is a theatre where they show earth related movies throughout the day.  We showed up for a viewing of a movie about Caves but the projector broke down and we didn't manage to see it.  When I mentioned this to one of the people working in another part of the gallery she expressed dismay because the movie is very good, so I take that as a sign that it would be worth checking out.  From the part we heard though, it was part of the Planet Earth series.  David Attenborough's style of narration is pretty distinctive! They also have a Dinosaur movie on at the moment that ties in with their temporary Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit.
Designing a dinosaur's skin.
There is an area similar to the Nature Exchange at Science North, where kids can look at and handle and trade fossils and rocks.  They can also examine them under the microscopes.   This area also has lots of information about rocks and plates and the earth's crust and whatnot.  I found it interesting but it is heavy on the reading which isn't that great for littler kids.
A feathered juvenile T Rex.
It leads into the dinosaur exhibit.  We arrived right when Dynamic Earth opened so we were the first people in there which actually turned out to be great since walking by the dinosaurs triggered a motion sensor that made them roar and move which my kids thought was hilarious/terrifying.  The main thing about the Dinosaur exhibit currently on display is that it features feathered dinosaurs since that is the newest theory among dinosaurologist these days.  Excuse me if I remain sceptical.  I am still not entirely over the whole brontosaurus fiasco (kidding) (sort of).
Hard at work in the mines!
Once you head downstairs you will find a three level play area for littler kids (10 and under) that is modelled on a mine. There is pretend coal, pretend drills, wagons, pulleys and other mining related things.  My kids loved this!  Chalk another one up for the old coot.  There were probably a dozen kids there playing, all shouting things like "Fire in the hole!" and "overload on level three!"  The best part was the command centre, which allows kids to see what all of the other kids are doing and to shout orders at them.  For the little bossy boots with the curly hair, this was obviously the best thing ever and oddly the other kids didn't seem to mind. You have never seen such happy miners! Also, when we got home, my kids rigged up some ropes and pulleys and buckets around the swing set/playhouse and got to work mining. Clearly, Dynamic Earth needs to get on this and come out with a line of mining toys.  Plastic pick axes and whatnot.
Canadian TV actors don't get paid as much as you might think.  Here is one working as a tour guide during his summer hiatus.
I had to drag my kids away from this area to do the underground mine tour which is at preset times. This was the highlight of Dynamic Earth for me and my kids.  You go down in a big elevator to a mine and wander around in hard hats.  It's great!  Our tour guide, Patrick, explained what we were looking at and, as an added bonus, looked exactly like George Crabtree from Murdoch! I did spend the rest of the tour hearing everything he said in George's adorable accent which may have added to the fun.
Directing drills and other large equipment.
Once you are done with the tour of the mine you can head back downstairs (the elevator from the mine tour drops you off at the gift shop).  There is an area with various joysticks and buttons and levers that control various tools and equipment, some real and some simulated. My youngest daughter couldn't work any of them but my older one, who is almost 8, could do them.
The elevator thingie that they used to rescue the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for weeks.  I am delighted/horrified that they took the time to paint the thing in the national colours.  I mean, no rush!
There is also a movie that is all about the smelting process.  Seriously!  The guy who hosts it is very enthusiastic about smelting.  There is even a song!  No doubt he is the grandson of the old coot.  My kids liked this more than I would have guessed they would like a movie about smelting.  There is another one, called Nickel City Stories which we didn't get to because it was running at the same time as the Caves movie (which we ended up missing anyway!) which is all about how Sudbury became a mining town.  Frankly, that sounds like it would be the second most boring movie ever made (after one about smelting) but I have learned not to underestimate how interesting mining is.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Parking is $5
  • There is a breastfeeding area near the kid's play area/pretend mine.  
  • There is a small cafeteria type place on the ground floor.
  • The mine shaft tour starts with an elevator ride.  If you are claustrophobic you will not enjoy this at all. The elevator is crowded and for some reason they have decided that a crowded elevator is a good place to show a movie, so the elevator actually stops and you all stand there and watch a short video.
  • Dynamic Earth is great and I would recommend it but if you only have one day in Sudbury, I would recommend Science North instead.  

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