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November 11, 2010 3:34 am

Sleepover at the museum

Written by Tribune Staff

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Pausing in the darkened Draper Museum of Natural History, Mia Baxter (left) and Makenna Branstetter use their flashlights to fill out scavenger hunt details during the Powell Girl Scouts' sleepover at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Tribune photo by Kara Bacon

Girl Scouts sleep over at BBHC with nocturnal animals

Clutching a glowing flashlight and clad in fuzzy slippers, Sabrina Shoopman declares, “I'm nocturnal!”

Nocturnal indeed.

Having just met a real-life nocturnal owl, young Sabrina and 11 fellow Powell Girl Scouts are practicing their own night-hunting skills as they embark on a scavenger hunt in the darkened Draper Museum of Natural History at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

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Museum visitors and staff went home hours ago. The girls have the entire museum all to themselves, aside from a few adults supervising, of course, and the dozens of animals on display. It's after dark and nearing their bedtimes, but they have nocturnal duties to keep them busy — locating a wolverine and mountain lion, for instance.

“Ooh, I see it, I see it, I see it,” whispers Lexus Franko, wearing strawberry slippers and walking toward a dark corner of the Draper, where various animals await.

The girls search for owls, mountain lions, wolves and other creatures that roam Wyoming's mountains at nighttime. Animal displays fill the dark Draper museum, and the girls' flashlights illuminate bears, badgers and birds, casting eerie shadows.

Above their heads, a huge saber-toothed cat skeletal cast looms in the darkness.

“That skeleton is creepy,” says Addy Moretti, who is wearing monkey slippers.

But these Girl Scouts aren't scared — well, not really.

“At first, it was scary,” says Natalie Ostermiller.

“Well, at first we thought that a bear would be right by our face,” adds Hartly Thorington.

Now that they're at the museum, armed with flashlights and insight into nocturnal animals, the girls are no longer frightened. Just giggly and giddy — this is a slumber party, after all.

The Powell Girl Scouts spent the entire night at the historical center, from dinner on a recent Friday evening to breakfast the following morning. Organized by Jennifer McDonald, Draper Museum program manager, and Girl Scout troop leaders Cheri Franko and Dana Thorington, the museum sleepover highlighted nocturnal animals while also throwing in the traditional staples of slumber parties.

Pajamas and pillows? Check. Snacks? Check. Educational exhibits on nocturnal species? Check.

“They're learning, but they don't even know it. They're just having fun,” McDonald said. “And they'll never forget it.”

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