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The Canoe Kids check out the impressive Foucault pendulum.

Photos and article by Melissa Lowrie
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It was decided that a little culture would be a good thing for the Canoe Kids on a dreary winter day. The Tellus Science Museum fit the bill: a little educational enlightenment within an hour of Big Canoe. A perfect spot to spend a few hours if you are entertaining kids (or adults) . . . there were things for small children to enjoy and exhibits that were interesting to teen-types.

Our group headed over to Cartersville on a cloudy day and the ride took about 50 minutes from the main gate to the Tellus parking lot. An easy drive through Waleska on 108, we never needed the interstate. The museum sits on beautifully maintained grounds with the dome of the planetarium peeking up through the grass.

Harrison Meyer and Miranda Lowrie follow the instructions on the “please touch” sign in the Weinman Mineral Gallery

The modern-architecture building houses three galleries, a planetarium, two theaters, banquet halls, labs and a museum store within its 120,000 square feet. Important to note, there is a huge (clean) restroom located on the outside of the building as you walk up from the parking lot. Kudos to the brain that came up with that idea.

Just inside the front doors, the lobby boasts an impressive Foucault pendulum - one of only three in the state of Georgia. There is always an expert standing nearby to answer the questions that inevitably come up as you watch this exhibit-in-motion. In case you aren’t up on your physics, according to Merriam-Webster, a Foucault pendulum is “a freely swinging pendulum that consists of a heavy weight hung by a long wire and that swings in a constant direction which appears to change showing that the earth rotates.” Trust me when I say - it was much more impressive than that.

According to the curator, Julian Gray, the ball (technically called a bob) hanging from the ceiling weighs 235 pounds. It swings back and forth, eventually knocking over the brightly colored blocks that are set up in a circle on the floor underneath the pendulum. We were told it takes 21 hours and 20 minutes to knock all the blocks down.

When I inquired how long it took to install the pendulum, Gray wrote back, “It took 10 weeks to manufacture the pendulum and about a week to build custom framing to hold the pendulum. Once all that was in place, it took only one day to install.”

Through to the Great Hall you’ll find the skeleton of a massive dinosaur. From here you’ll pick from one of the galleries or head for the planetarium for a show. We came just in time to catch “Live Tour of Tonight’s Sky,” a somewhat interactive mini-astronomy lesson. My 2nd grader said, “This is so cool.” Then halfway through said, “Can we go now?” It was only about a half-hour, so I’d suggest checking one out - there is a full schedule of different planetarium shows every day.

We then headed to the Science in Motion Gallery. There we found a replica of Sputnik and the Apollo I capsule, but more fun than that was an astronaut suit you could try on for size. All types of exhibits were on display that showed how science continues to help transportation evolve.

From there we went to the Gem Panning and Fossil Dig room. My group was six kids ranging from second to eighth grade, and my thought was the younger ones would ‘dig’ this hands-on fun, but not-so-much for the older ones. Wrong. Apparently panning for treasure is cool at any age. All enjoyed the panning, and all found tiny treasures to take home as souvenirs.

The Foucault pendulum takes about 21 hours to knock down the blocks.

Next stop was My Big Backyard. This section is full of interactive exhibits that were interesting for all ages. Experiments with magnets, light, and sound drew a good deal of attention. There was also large exhibit about weather. According to the Tellus website, “All of the activities in the gallery are designed to inspire, challenge and educate children of all ages.”

The next gallery we visited was the Weinman Mineral Gallery. The collection in this gallery was previously housed in the Weinman Mineral Museum that closed in 2007. Tellus incorporated their massive collection in an impressive gallery. There are more than 50 cases of minerals, gems and gold as well as interactive exhibits - do you know what foods contain minerals?

We stopped in the well-stocked gift shop on the way out (and honestly spent as much time there as in any of the galleries). I think every kid came away with a little something to remember the visit.

There is a café in the museum, but we opted for a lunch stop at the Chick-fil-A just up I-75. After all were fortified with a little protein and ice cream, we headed for the Etowah Indian Mounds.

The Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site sits on 54 acres just a few miles from downtown Cartersville. The site is run by Georgia State Parks and according to the website, “protects six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, borrow pits and defensive ditch. Etowah Mounds is the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast.”

This site was home to several thousand Native Americans around 1000 A.D. and it was interesting to see the mounds that have been so carefully preserved. The day we went was particularly mild, so it was a prime opportunity for the kids to get outside and explore a bit. Nothing like burning off a little energy after touring a museum.

There is also a museum at the Etowah Indian Mounds displaying artifacts that show how the Native Americans decorated themselves during the time they lived on this land.

This site is a popular destination for school field trips and is only open Wednesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The museum is likely to get crowded on busy days, but there is plenty of room to spread out and investigate on 54 grassy acres.

Overall, the day-trip to Cartersville was a winner. My tab for Tellus (open seven days a week) was $37 for one adult and two kids’ admissions plus three planetarium tickets. The Indian Mounds was cheaper - you can do that for less than $15. For a day’s worth of entertainment, it wasn’t too expensive and the kids (hopefully) learned something while enjoying themselves. Tellus Museum won out as the “more fun” of the two excursions that day, but both are worth checking out.

Whatever outing you choose to do with your kids or grands this January - enjoy and have fun!



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