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Messy Play

Play Patio

The outdoor Play Patio provides a space for messy creative fun. It represents the Museum's largest expansion since opening in Dover in 2008. The Play Patio offers opportunities for children to engage with materials that are challenging to offer inside the Museum, such as water, sand, paint, and clay.

Exhibit elements include:

  • Two sensory tables - Filled with changing materials, but currently has kinetic sand and tools for molding and creating designs in one, and water beads and hidden sea creatures in the other.

  • A water circuit wall - Use a hand pump to push water through sluices to create waterfalls, and fill cups to create a cascading circuit.

  • Oversized paint wall - Paint with washable paint on this double-sided wall.

  • Water painting - The "Evaporation Zone" is a 3-sided wall for brush painting with water.

  • Color caster sculpture - Features colorful circular lenses shading the ground in different locations throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. Designed for shadow, color and light play and encourages visitors to look through the colored lenses to see the world around them in a new light.

  • Tube Tones musical element - Series of connected PVC tubes that provide a musical element. Visitors can pound out a musical beat in the manner of the Blue Man Group.

  • Tables that can be used for picnicking or other activity stations.

There is also an outdoor sink and hand-dryer for easy cleanup before you return to the exhibits inside the museum.

Access to the Play Patio is included with museum admission.

The Play Patio might be closed if there is inclement weather on the day of your visit.

Learning Gardens


Thanks to a generous grant from the Whole Kids Foundation, the Museum's Learning Gardens have undergone lots of improvements, and our educators have been hard at work offering programming aimed at educating children about healthy food choices and the environment. When you visit the museum during growing season you may see some vegetables being offered to taste that grew from the gardens, or you may get to join a drop-in activity using something we grew or something we want to grow! The garden offers many opportunities for hands-on discovery, which is why we love having it available for our guests. The Learning Gardens are now located in the Dover Adventure Playground.

The museum’s gardens are officially part of NASA’s TEMPO Ozone Garden Network. TEMPO stands for “Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution.” The TEMPO instrument, which will launch sometime in 2019, is a geostationary ultraviolet/visible spectrometer, and will provide daylight measurements of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde and aerosols across North America, from Mexico City to Canada and from coast to coast. It will be the first space-based ultraviolet/visible light air quality spectrometer in geostationary orbit. The TEMPO mission will help scientists answer the question “how does air pollution impact global weather and climate.”

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“Being a part of the TEMPO Ozone Garden Network means we have agreed to engage our young learners with hands-on activities and develop their citizen science skills, as well as gather information about ozone impact on our garden that we then share with the TEMPO Team at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,” shared Xanthi Gray, CMNH Education Director.

Thank you to our Learning Gardens Sponsor

Dino Detective


Learn how geology affects where paleontologists dig for dinosaur remains with our Augmented Reality Sand Table. You can shape the landscape, creating rivers, mountains, dams, even making it rain or snow!

Don a pair of goggles, climb into a mountainside dig site and help unearth Triceratops fossils.

Take part in the scientific process as you compare its jaws, claws and vertebrae to those of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Which one was a carnivore and which one was an herbivore?

Measure your thigh against life-size replica femur bones to see how big these dinosaurs were.

Make rubbings of ammonite fossils to complete your scientific investigation.

Come pose next to a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex skull replica and see just how gigantic these creatures were!

See yourself as a Paleontologist, and dream about a Triceratops!

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