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Kids get eye-level view in new paleontology exhibit at Burpee

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A new children’s learning exhibit opens Saturday at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford.

The Sprouts Learning Lab is designed for kids ranging in age from one to twelve years old. Many of the exhibits are placed on the floor (eye level for a toddler). There are animal furs and skulls for the future paleontologist to handle, and a variety of mounted mammals, birds and reptiles hanging from the ceiling. Live exhibits will also be on display, including a white frog and a Madagascar cockroach.

Burpee Executive Director Anne Weerda says that one of the great things about the Sprouts Learning Lab is children have a chance to see not just the traditional “warm and fuzzy” animals like deer and badgers, but also the “not so fluffy” ones such as bats and buzzards. Participants learn about the vital role all creatures play in the ecosystem.

“We’re trying to get a lot of different kind of species, from owls to bats, and some of the scarier and kind of exciting animals like spiders, and yet some of the more cuddly and fun species like deer or owls or bears, so the kids are seeing a wide variety,” said Weerda.

You won’t see a tortoise in the Sprouts Learning Lab, but a 200 pound African Sulcata tortoise will make his public debut at the Burpee Museum June 9. His name is “Rockford Mountain”, but everyone at the museum calls him “Rocky”. Rocky is 15 years old and enjoys interacting with children of all ages and munching on a variety of vegetables.

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