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KID STUFF

THIS ROOM IS BUGGED! : Exhibit Fits Into Children's Museum at La Habra as Snug as a You-Know-What in a Rug

July 28, 1994|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

Summer guests give you the willies? Until a few weeks ago, Carrie Wictor, curator of education for the Children's Museum at La Habra, had house guests that made your chain-smoking cousins from Poughkeepsie pale by comparison.

While preparing the museum's current exhibit, "What's Bugging You?," Wictor found herself the uneasy mistress of a bug hotel. Among the tenants: Rosie, a rose hair tarantula; a "chorus of crickets," and a pair of king-sized Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Apart from a nightly serenade by the crickets ("it was kind of like camping at home"), Wictor admits she didn't share a lot of warm moments with her multi-legged guests, who are now safely ensconced in the museum's changing gallery along with dozens of their crawling and/or flying kin.

"I'm kind of creepy around giant bugs," she said, laughing.

Judging from response to the exhibit, which opened May 23 and continues through Sept. 11, there are plenty of visitors who share Wictor's reaction. And most of them are adults.

"It's fun to watch the grown-ups go in there," Wictor observed. "They kind of hang back and peer into the cases . . . you can practically see their muscles tense. But the kids just love it."

Designed for children in the lower elementary school grades, "What's Bugging You?" features interactive stations that introduce viewers to topics such as metamorphosis (the change in an insect's body shape during maturation), beneficial versus detrimental insects and the methods used by insects to camouflage and defend themselves against predators.

Due to its nature, "What's Bugging You?" has fewer hands-on activities than this museum's shows usually offer. But there are a few. Kids can play "bug man" with jumpsuits, gloves and hand sprayer (empty, naturally) loaned from a local exterminating company, or assemble wood-and-pipe-cleaner critters at a "build your own bug" display.

On a recent visit, several young children whiled away the time by attaching bits of colored felt to a large butterfly-shaped felt board (an accompanying sign explained that designs on real butterfly wings are comprised of tiny scales). Nearby, there are insect stamps and stamp pads, bug and bug-eater hand puppets and tiny prism lenses through which kids can take an "ant's eye view" of the world.

Visuals geared to older visitors include some detailed anatomy charts and several beautifully illustrated posters that explain the life cycle of butterflies and moths. Table and wall cases display a wide range of mounted insects, ranging from tiny, iridescent beetles to an earth-toned luna moth with a seven-inch wingspan.

Wictor's former house guests greet visitors from glass terrariums at the back of the gallery. Children are not allowed to handle the insects, but if you time it right, they may be able to get a closer view of the tarantula and the crickets. Every other day, Wictor opens the former's cage and tosses in a couple of the latter as snacks.

* What: "What's Bugging You?"

* When: Exhibit continues through Sept. 11. Museum hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

* Where: Children's Museum at La Habra, 301 S. Euclid St., La Habra.

* Whereabouts: From the Orange (57) Freeway, exit at Lambert Road and drive west. Turn right on Euclid.

* Wherewithal: Gallery admission is $3.50; under 2 is free. The rate changes to $4 after Monday, Aug. 1.

* Where to call: (310) 905-9793.

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