Outside In is the Academy’s children’s discovery center. Designed for children ages 3–8 and their parents, Outside In is a warm, welcoming place where inquisitive youngsters can investigate a forest, visit the seashore, see and touch live animals, and much more. Comfy seats allow parents to relax and help children explore science—up close and hands-on.
We asked our Outside In coordinator, Amy Hoyt (pictured below, at right), a few questions so you can get to know her!
ANS: What is your role in Outside In, and how long have you worked at the Academy?
AH: As Outside In Coordinator, I run the space day to day, train volunteers on how to teach using live animals or specimens as a talking point, and train the animals how to be presented to and touched by the public. I have been at the Academy 10 years in September, six full time in Outside In, and four as a part-time exhibit manager in all the public spaces of the museum and teaching our school programs.
ANS: What’s your favorite thing about being an Academy educator?
AH: My favorite thing is the look on the face of a visitor who has never seen an animal up close and helping that person work through the anxiety of touching something that they may find truly repulsive, like the roaches. Before I started working with the vertebrate collection in 2008, I had a pretty severe aversion to snakes. With the help of a truly compassionate reptile keeper, I was able to overcome that enough to be able to handle them for the public. Being that person for the visitor, the person who really and truly understands what it is like to stand in those shoes and be sympathetic to those fears, I am able to encourage them and cheer them on. Even being in the same room, even if that animal remains behind the glass, is a huge step. If they actually get around to touching the animal that’s huge.
ANS: What is most challenging for you about working in Outside In?
AH: It’s being able to figure out quickly what a visitor wants to see and know without overwhelming them with too much information. I want to answer every question they have in their head, but sometimes their schedule doesn’t allow for that.
ANS: What is your favorite animal in Outside In?
AH: Turtles, hands down, all the time. People never realize just how long they have been around on the planet or just how many different kinds there are. They have some really amazing features, and I love pointing out other places in the museum where you can find turtles.
ANS: If visitors spot you in Outside In, what questions should they ask you?
AH: Literally any question they have. I love to talk about dinosaurs and fossils! People assume since you work with live things that you are not interested in the dead stuff, but I got my start in Dino Hall and I hardly ever get to talk about fossils anymore.
ANS: What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened in Outside In?
One day I walk out into the exhibit and a father and son are talking about the bees, specifically about how they leave and always come back. The son says, “So the bees are like hotel California.” Father, clearly bewildered, says, “hotel California?” Son matter-of-factly says, “Yeah, they can check out anytime they like but they can never leave.”