The Stavros Niarchos Discovery Center in the Natural History Museum of Crete is specially designed for children up to the age of 15.
It is where cutting edge technology is combined with more traditional educational methods, in order to make the learning process more appealing to children. All educational activities are taking place in a set designed to the detail, to imitate the natural environment of east Mediterranean, with emphasis on the island of Crete.
What a child can experience in the Discovery Center?
In the center of the hall there is a Plane tree of impressive dimensions. There, thoroughly hidden among its branches are 15 different kinds of birds, for which you have to look really carefully in order to spot them. An unexpected sight waits for the visitor as he enters the hollow of the Plane tree. Inside the hollow, there is “The Plane tree Cinema” showing a film referred to the wild life that lives in and around the Plane tree.
Opposite to the Plane tree is located “The cave of mystery”. There the visitor can experience at first hand the feeling of entering into a natural cave, with stalactites coming down from the ceiling and stalagmites emerging from the floor. All the above are beautifully marked out, by the soft illumination of the cave and the evocative sound of silence, only to be broken by the sibilant noise of bats.
If you are interested in fossils and paleontology in general, then a visit to “The secrets of the earth” is more than required. There, with the help of specialized equipment, you can dig up and bring to light, the skeletal remains of a prehistoric ancestor of today’s elephant, the Dinotherium. The Dinotherium was the largest mammal ever lived, on the island of Crete.
Nocturnal animals such as the owls, the weasel, the badger and many more representative species of the Cretan countryside, are “coming to life” at “The night camp” of the Natural History Museum. There, underneath a starlight sky, around the burning fire, the campers are made witnesses of a rare and most peculiar spectacle; the nocturnal animals talking to each other and telling their own unique stories.
You can reach the upper level of the children's department by climbing on “The Mountain” of the discovery center. While ascending the mountain, you will come to meet with the Cretan goat, the griffon vulture, the lammergeir and many more typical animal species, of the Cretan highlands. On the top of the mountain, the game of “The shrubland” represents a true challenge for the eyes. There, among rocks and shrub land vegetation are thoroughly hidden all the small animals usually found on a shrub land and you will need to look really carefully, in order to detect them. The aromatic plants and the indigenous herbs of Crete are the main theme of the next game. Here, you are asked to recognize the herbs only by their scent.
After having seen most of the children’s department, you can relax and do some reading in the library of the discovery center in a place of leisure with an unhindered view to the open sea.
Climbing down the mountain and returning to the lower level of the discovery center, the sight of a waterfall captivates the eye. The small river created by the waters rushing down from a mountain, hosts living forms of aquatic animals, while in its estuary one can see water turtles swimming and splashing around. Next to the estuary are “The animals of the coast”, with sea anemones, starfishes, sea mollusks and many other small animals of the coast. If boats are your cup of tea, then a real surprise awaits for you. “Tythys”, a wooden boat of real dimensions is inviting you to be her captain.
Your tour at the Discovery Center of Natural History Museum of Crete, comes to an end at
“The Nature's Lab”, where you can initiate into the wonderful world of plants, birds, spiders and serpents with the aid of special scientific equipment and notes.