Smithsonian Naturalist Center

Smithsonian
Please note: Smithsonian Naturalist Center is no longer a part of the Going Out Guide
Smithsonian Naturalist Center photo
Bill Snead
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Editorial Review

For kids age 10 and up inspired by the assortment of artifacts at the National Museum of Natural History, a trip out to Leesburg might be in order, especially if they want to look and touch. Natural History's Naturalist Center houses a collection of preserved specimens, along with books and scientific equipment. Nearly all of it is hands-on, meaning a young naturalist can pull open a drawer filled with tiny, carefully-arranged rodent bodies or handle an eagle wing or canine skull, examining it from all angles. It's like stepping behind a door marked "Museum Staffers Only." Special programs include "Draw-Ins," where professional scientific illustrators help young artists sketch objects from the center or from their own collections; and "Identi-Days," where visitors bring in fossils, plants, seashells, bones and the like and get help determining exactly what the heck they are. This is the perfect place to fan the embers of a burgeoning interest in natural science.

-- John Kelly and Craig Stoltz