SoCal Families | Western Science Center
By: Megan McClain
Every time we dig in our garden, my kids are hopeful we will pull up a dinosaur bone. Finding a fossil in our backyard is pretty far-fetched, but in creating Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet, some major discoveries were made.
The Western Science Center was formed after the discovery of artifacts and fossils at Diamond Valley Lake, including the largest mastodon skeleton ever found, nicknamed "Max.” Also discovered were prehistoric creatures such as the saber-toothed cat, dire wolves and ground sloths. The fossils are found throughout the museum, as well as fossils found in other digs.
We walked into the museum through a large display of the geologic time periods on Earth, each with a couple of silhouettes that give a hint as to the changed in life the Earth had made. My eldest loved the one with the shark. (We are currently in the Quartenary, which began 1.8 million years ago.)
My favorite room was where dear Max is hanging out with ground sloths and two other mastodons are represented—Xena, a Colombian mammoth, and Lil Stevie, who is displayed as he was found, sill unearthed. Surrounding the room were tools and exhibits pertaining to paleontology and excavation.
We were there just after the opening of the Smithsonian affiliated museum’s latest exhibit, “X Marks the Spot: Understanding Maps.” The exhibit tours you through some of the museum, using measured paces and the cardinal directions to explore maps and displays. Just grab a sheet and a pencil, and use the directions (and clues) to find your way around to solving a missing letter puzzle. It’s a fun way to make sure the kids aren’t missing anything on their trip around the center.
Here’s a hint for the first one so you know you’re starting off right . . .
The museum, which has a LEED Platinum Certification, has exhibits of an 1880s home in the Diamond Valley region, and a set of maps exploring what people and animals habited the region, as well as how they were discovered.
The center also offers a range of lectures, varying from discussions on dinosaur discoveries and theories to local history and artifacts. I loved the theater seating, which included fake boulders for some seats and a corner with books for the wiggly ones. I perched with my son and learned about how a paleontologist had discovered what kind of baby dinosaur a discovered skull belonged to.
There are a lot of reasons to get a membership for the museum besides free admission and access to lectures. Annual memberships to the museum get you discounts to events, activities, camps, and 50% off at The Living Desert. Memberships range from $15 for a student to $60 for a family of five.
For kids, The Western Science Center offers monthly "Science Saturdays" for deeper exploration into subjects, they host the Inland Empire Science Festival yearly. The center also has a Twitter account for Max Mastadon, (@MaxMastadon) where they share fossil and mastodon news and images and encourage tweeting of science questions. (The science center has their own account for news.)
The Western Science Center, 2345 Searl Parkway, Hemet CA, 92543. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10a.m.-5p.m. Admission to the Western Science Center is $6-8, with children 4 and under and active military with ID admitted free. For more information visit this website or call (951)791-0033.