Flint Hills Discovery Center features new Ice Age exhibit

Photo by Erin Poppe | The Collegian Mandy Malone, graduate student in curriculum and instruction, assembles a replica of a saber-toothed cat's skeleton at the Flint Hills Discovery Center on June 29, 2014. The activity was part of the discovery center's Ice Age exhibit that ran from June 14 to Sept. 14.

Though the summer is heating up, a new exhibit at the Flint Hills Discovery Center is prehistorically as cool as ice. The discovery center is hosting the temporary exhibit “Ice Age Imperials,” which provides visitors with a glimpse into Earth’s past.

The exhibit, on display until Sept. 14, features an array of artifacts and interactive pieces from the Ice Age period. In addition to full-scale dioramas, visitors are given the opportunity to touch and interact with real fossils and teeth from ancient animals. Visitors have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the woolly mammoth, saber-toothed cat, dire wolf, Ice Age bear and giant sloth – just to name a few.

The exhibit compares the bones of these extinct animals from several modern-day counterparts side-by-side, illustrating just how larger the Ice Age ancestors were.

“Everything was bigger; everything was colder,” Travis Young, education specialist at the Flint Hills Discovery Center, said of the time period.

Of particular interest to many visitors, according to Young, is the information about the Ice Age bison.

“A lot of our visitors are familiar with the modern-day bison they see on Konza Prairie and around the U.S.,” Young said. “They’re amazed at how much bigger their ancestors were.”

Though their DNA is very similar, the species Bison latifrons was up to 50 percent larger than its genetic descendants.

Along with the pieces from the traveling exhibit, artifacts and information specifically on the Flint Hills have been assembled by the discovery center in partnership with departments from both K-State and the University of Kansas.

A variety of fossils can be viewed and touched on the “History of Earth” timeline. Whether they’re less than 1 million years old or over 500 million years, these fossils bring history to life like never before. Along with the artifacts, graphic displays about glacial size and depth document the formation and movement of the giant sheets of ice that shaped our landscape.

The hands-on and interactive approach to the exhibit makes it a great place for children and adults alike.

While adults browse, there is an expansive kids’ area where they can create their own versions of their favorite Ice Age creatures, work on a variety of puzzles and even become their own paleontologists by uncovering fossils in a simulated dig site.

“It’s great space for family-building and team-building activities,” Young said.