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  1. Trees

    What makes a tree a tree? Explore this question by comparing tree specimens to other plant specimens. Create a forest in your classroom, make tree field guides based on observations of the specimens in this box, and examine cross-sections of tree branches to learn how their rings tell the history of its growth! Learn More
  2. Rainforests

    Explore the rainforest ecosystem by examining all of its parts. Smell spices that were once of higher value than gold, investigate the relationship between a bird's beak and the types of food it eats, and examine how the leaves in the rainforest have evolved to efficiently shed water from their surfaces. Then, collect your own leaf samples and hold a competition to see which local leaves shed water the best. Learn More
  3. Prairie Life

    A prairie is a unique ecological system that supports diverse plants and animals that depend upon each other for survival. Take a nature walk around your school to predict what plants' root systems look like underground and compare them with the prairie plant specimens in this box. Examine prairie mammals and birds up close to connect their physical characteristics with the prairie ecosystem. A few items in some of these boxes are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and may only be borrowed by educational institutions that are open to the general public and are non-profit (such as a public or charter school), but may not be borrowed by private individuals or institutions without a special permit. If you have any questions about whether you or your institution qualify to borrow this box without a permit, please contact us. Learn More
  4. Aquatic Invasives

    Plunge into Chicago's local waterways, where native aquatic species compete with non-native invasive species for a stake in their own homeland. Learn plant identification techniques, differentiating local species from their invasive lookalikes. Illustrate the importance of biodiversity, and understand why invasives are so detrimental to native ecosystems. Finally, learn how to respond when you see an invasive in your nearby ecosystem, and which resources to use to prevent invasive species' from destroying the fragile balance of flora and fauna. Learn More
  5. How Seeds Travel

    The most dominant plants reproduce using seeds. Seeds are dispersed through wind, water, and animal carriers, far from the parent plant, so that the offspring does not have to compete with the parent for light, water, and nutrients. Explore a collection of diverse seeds alongside a selection of mounts illustrating the growth and development of plants. Spanish language activity book and object cards are available upon request. Learn More
  6. Corn

    Examine the great versatility and interesting cultural history of corn. A native of Mexico, corn's usefulness goes beyond flour and cornmeal, to paper, mattress stuffing and even explosives. Learn More
  7. Life Along the Nile

    The Nile River was a source of water and life for the Ancient Egyptians. Examine a fishing net, papyrus paper, and other objects in this box to identify common themes of life along the Nile. Learn to operate a model of a shaduf, an ancient water-lifting device still in use today. Then, hold a debate about whether life in Ancient Egypt could have existed without the Nile River. Spanish language activity book and object cards are available upon request. Learn More
  8. Great Lakes Plant Diversity

    We can learn a lot about a particular environment based on the plants that exist there! The Great Lakes region is home to hundreds of different plants. Explore a large collection of plant specimens from diverse ecosystems found across the Midwest, examine herbarium sheets, and try your hand at pressing your own specimens. Learn More
  9. Vacant Lot

    One distinguishing characteristic of a biome is its soil, which varies depending on region. An urban vacant lot is its own unique ecosystem with specific plants, animals and soil types. Discover what types of soil you are likely to find in the Chicago area, and use the soil samples in this experience box to learn how to create soil profiles. Learn More
  10. DNA

    DNA


    DNA is the thread that connects all life on Earth, from microscopic bacteria, to mushrooms, to humans. Explore DNA and learn how scientists today are using DNA research to expand what we know about life on our planet. Learn More

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