40 Winks with the Sphinx, Penn Museum Review
by EJ on 12/06/11
This past Friday night I slept alongside the third largest Sphinx in the world. From my sleeping bag on the floor, I stared up at the dominating columns of the royal palace built for Middle Kingdom pharaoh Merenptah in Memphis, Lower Egypt. With an inherent love for Egyptian history and having studied under Donald Redford at Penn State University, I was in heaven. No, I didn't book a flight to Egypt. No, I wasn't dreaming. Along with my daughter KM, I was a guest of Penn Museum's
(The University of Pennsylvania) 40 Winks With the Sphinx
museum sleepover event.
To be clear, 40 Winks With the Sphinx is largely an event for kids between the ages of 6 and 12. However, an adult with even a sense of adventure will find this event seriously worth while. Personally, I had one of the best nights of my life. I found myself easily transported back in time and was glad to have shared the evening with my daughter and many other great people.
I decided to surprise and hide the details of the event from my daughter until we arrived. I offered her one hint ahead of time: a cartouche necklace that read "I love you" in Egyptian hieroglyphs and I hung it around her neck. She'd spent countless hours over the years exploring the pages of my college textbooks that detail the dynasties of the Egyptian pharaohs, history and the myths of the Egyptian gods and deities. I knew this hint would be just enough to excite her. When we arrived in Philadelphia and pulled up to the museum entrance off of South Street, KM still had no idea what we were doing. After carrying our sleeping bags and flashlights inside and checking in at desk in the lobby, I guided KM down the hall and up a flight of stairs to the large gallery where we would camp out during the night. Inside the gallery, KM grinned at the sight of the large granite Sphinx and surrounding columns and doors. The wheels in her head started turning. "Are we sleeping in here?" she asked. "Yes!" I exclaimed, "And guess what else you're going to see?" "What?" "Real mummies!"
At first, KM looked shocked. Real mummies. She froze and refused to go any further. I took her hand and told her to be brave - and she was. As it turned out, she grew particularly attached to the mummies at the museum and even touched one. We nicknamed the above mummy "Crazy" and KM still giggles about those teeth. I was very impressed by her appreciation for this part of the exhibit. At six years old, she managed to grasp that these were people
who had parents and possibly children, who had positions in society and jobs or roles that were important to others. Her amazement was really gratifying for me as Mom. Even cooler still, the mummified crocodile!
KM was quick to point out photo opportunities for the review she knew I would eventually write and she demanded to have her photo taken while touching the mummy, standing next to a human brain, etc. I so loved her enthusiasm!
The program as a whole was intensely educational for both kids and adults and offered hieroglyph and cuneiform instruction and activities while still allowing the kids to wander the museum if they preferred. Fortunately, I've got a kid that loves to learn and she even took it upon herself (without being asked) to take notes and sketch the hieroglyphs she saw throughout the Egyptian exhibit.
The schedule included the following: Exploration of the museum, orientation, "What in the World" game, a detailed scavenger hunt, the film a Night at the Museum,
a class teaching Egyptian hieroglyphs, an interactive mummy cart, the creation of your own Sumerian tablet written in cuneiform, Yoga, snack time, a flashlight expedition, a camp out in the Sphinx gallery, breakfast the following morning and free admission to the museum that following day. KM, along with the rest of the kids, received a one-year pass to Penn Museum as well as an adventure patch featuring the 40 Winks with the Sphinx graphic.
KM's second favorite part (coming in behind the mummies, of course) was the "What in the World?" contest that took place in the auditorium. Kids were invited on stage for various rounds inspired by the 1950s TV show of the same name, created by former Penn Museum director Froelich Rainey. I have to say that these were some seriously competitive kids - I loved it! There was screaming and yelling, howling and hooting, clapping and heavy applause for all the contestants on stage. KM made it on stage about halfway through and although she couldn't identify the leaning tower of Pisa during that round, I was so proud of her for trying.
Penn Museum's 40 Winks with the Sphinx overnight program is a seriously awesome event. I will be recommending this program to every family I know - we had that
great of a time. Best night ever, hands down. We learned so much and I loved bonding with KM over subjects I adore myself. I could hardly wait to write this review! KM spent the weekend putting together a school project based on her experience at the museum.
Penn Museum's 40 Winks with the Sphinx occurs on select Fridays of the year and costs $50 per non-museum member and $45 per museum member. Both May and June 2012 sleepovers still have space while many of the earlier dates are sold out at this time. Get yours spots now
, you will not regret it. Each sleepover is limited to 175 guests. All children must be accompanied by a chaperone 21 years or older.
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Four Little Monsters received three complimentary passes to Penn Museum's 40 Winks with the Sphinx for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.