Summertime, Sunny Days, and Sunglasses Day!

27 06 2012

As of last Wednesday, the 20th of June, it is summer!

During summer, the days are longer and hotter because the sun rises earlier and sets later than it does during the other three seasons.  That means we’ll be seeing a lot of the sun for a couple of months!

Did you know that the sun is the Earth’s main source of energy and light?  It’s energy and light both come to the Earth as electromagnetic radiation.  Electromagnetic radiation (or EMR) has many different forms with which you may be familiar.  There are microwaves which are used by the microwave ovens in your kitchens, visible radiation which is the light we can see, and X-rays which hospitals use to see through our bodies.

Sunbeams are visible types of electromagnetic radiation.
Photo by Ronnie, flickr.

There’s another type of radiation that the sun sends that is harmful to humans.  This type is called ultraviolet radiation (UV radiation).  This radiation is very strong and can cause damage to the cells of our bodies.  Luckily, the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs the most-damaging of the ultraviolet rays.  But the atmosphere can’t absorb all of the UV rays which come to Earth, so we have sunscreen and sunglasses to help protect our skin and eyes from harmful rays.

Sunglasses work by reflecting or filtering the light travelling into our eyes and only allowing visible light (which does not cause harm) to enter our eyes.  They use different tints and films on the lenses to filter different types of light.  With the various tints, frames, and colors, sunglasses can also be pretty cool-looking!

Photo by EndOrfinaS~, flickr.

Sunglasses are a great invention because they keep our eyes safe and healthy when the sun is the brightest.  Remember, even when you are wearing sunglasses, it’s not safe to look directly into the sun. So celebrate Sunglasses Day, but also celebrate sunglasses on all of these bright summer days and look great while being safe!

Bubble Science that Won’t Burst Your Brain

4 06 2012

When was the last time you played with bubbles? Maybe you were taking a bubble bath, or doing the dishes? Maybe you took a bottle of bubbles to the park. At the Austin Children’s Museum, we love bubbles! We blow bubbles at the Box Office, and play with bubbles at Discovery Time – we even had Bubble Day at Camp!

Bubbles by Stellajo1976 on flickr

When we are using lots of bubble solution for an activity, we like to make our own using this recipe from our friends at the Exploratorium:

  • 2/3 cup Dawn dishwashing soap
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of glycerine (available at the pharmacy or chemical supply house.)

We’ve also been enjoying blowing the Touchable Bubbles that are available for sale in the Museum Store. These bubbles become touchable after a few seconds in the air – we find them all over the Museum!

Have you ever tried to blow a bubble with a wand that wasn’t round? What shape did the bubble become? Even if you blow a bubble from a square or triangle wand, it will end up being a sphere. That’s because the “skin” of the bubble shrinks to the shape with the smallest surface area for the volume of air inside the bubble, and that shape is always a sphere.

Bubble on grass by jMorgan90 on flickr.

When two bubbles bump into each other, their walls meet to minimize surface area. If two bubbles the same size meet, the wall between them will be flat. If one bubble is smaller than another, it will bulge into the larger bubble.

There are lots of cool patters, observations, and colors to check out when blowing bubbles. It’s some of the most relaxing scientific investigation we can imagine!

Robots, Computers, and Programming, Oh My!

1 06 2012

Some days it feels like the Austin Children’s Museum is experiencing a Robot Invasion! We have dozens of Lego NXT Mindstorms Robots that come with us to schools and community centers for our Technology Outreach Classes. This Spring, we wrapped up another successful semester of classes. Students learned how to build and program robots, how to make computer animations and simple video games, and a whole lot more.

A student shows her robot to her mom and little brothers.

This year, we introduced a new curriculum where students used their robots to solve an ecological mystery. As engineers and programmers, we imagined being asked to help out a team of researchers who worked with endangered sea turtles. Our robots helped with a beach clean up challenge and collected clues that led us to discover who was responsible for the disappearing sea turtle eggs.

A robot disguised as a sea turtle.

We also got better at making video games and computer animations using Scratch. Students made some really great projects including mazes, animated jokes, game controllers, and much more.

Writing computer programs is fun!

We spend a lot of time trying to write very specific programs for our computers and robots. It’s like writing very specific directions. One of the activities we use to demonstrate this is our Behind The Back Building Challenge – and you can try it at home! All you need is a few LEGOs (or a similar building toy), and a friend.

Make two identical sets of blocks with 6-10 pieces each.

Give one set to your friend, and keep the other set for yourself. Now sit back to back with each other. Choose one person to go first – this person will build an object using all of the blocks from one set. Then, without looking, the builder will explain how to build the figure to the friend.

It’s hard! You have to be super precise and specific about your directions. When we tried it out, I built a bird (in the upper right hand corner of the photo) and explained it to my friend Emily. She made a similar bird, but didn’t get it quite right – see if you can build and explain well enough to get identical figures!

Our original bird, in the background, and what our friend built, in the front.

Can You Name the Landforms?

18 05 2012

The continent of North America is a great place to discover all of the different geographical features that the world has to offer! Can you name all of the landforms in the map below?

  1. Archipelago: sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands.
  2. Bay: a large body of water connected to an ocean or sea formed by an inlet of land due to the surrounding land blocking some waves and often reducing winds.
  3. Gulf: A deep inlet of the sea almost surrounded by land, with a narrow mouth.
  4. Isthmus: A narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land.
  5. Island: A piece of land surrounded by water.
  6. Lake: A large body of water surrounded by land.
  7. Peninsula: A piece of land almost surrounded by water or projecting out into a body of water.
  8. River: A large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake, or another stream.
  9. Strait: A narrow passage of water connecting two seas or two large areas of water.

You can find other fun geography maps at Enchanted Learning!

Undersea Explorers

16 05 2012

Maybe it’s because summer is approaching, but we’ve got the ocean on our minds. Have you visited the ocean? Swam in the sea? We did some research to learn about some famous explorers and adventurers who focused on the ocean.

  • Robert Ballard- (June 30, 1942 – ) is an American undersea explorer, marine scientist, and US Naval officer who has been on over 65 underwater expeditions in submarines and deep diving submersibles. He found the Titanic and many other wrecks. Ballard has revolutionized undersea exploring by using remotely controlled submersible robotic devices (including Argo-Jason; Argo is a remotely controlled submersible vehicle with cameras, and Jason is carried in Argo and sent from it to collect samples and perform other functions).
  • William Beebe- (1877 – 1962) was an American naturalist and undersea explorer. In 1932, Beebe and Otis Barton descended 3,000 ft (914 m) in a bathysphere (a pressurized steel sphere invented by Beebe and Barton). They descended off the coast of Nonsuch Island, Bermuda, in the Atlantic Ocean. During the dive, they communicated with the surface via telephone.

  • Jacques Cousteau- (1910-1997) was a French undersea explorer, environmentalist, and innovator. In 1943, Cousteau and the French engineer Emile Gagnan invented the aqualung, a breathing apparatus that supplied oxygen to divers and allowed them to stay underwater for several hours. Cousteau traveled the world’s oceans in his research vessel “Calypso,” beginning in 1948. (Calypso was a converted 400-ton World War 2 minesweeper; it sank in 1996, after being hit by a barge in Singapore harbor).
  • Sylvia Earle-(August 30, 1935- ) is an undersea explorer, marine biologist (specializing in botany), and author. Earle has done pioneering work in studying ocean life, and she has helped develop the equipment necessary for underwater exploration. During 50 underwater expeditions and over 6,000 hours underwater, Earle has discovered many new marine species and set many diving records. In 1970, Earle led a team of five aquanauts (underwater explorers) who lived for 2 weeks (during which they experienced an underwater earthquake) in an underwater laboratory in a U.S. government project named “Tektite II.” She has discovered many underwater phemonena, including undersea dunes in the Atlantic Ocean off the Bahama Islands.
  • Jacques Piccard-(1922- ) is a Swiss ocean explorer and scientist who was the first person to go to the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean. On January 23, 1960, he and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh descended over 35,802 feet or 7 miles (10,912 m) in a pressured bathyscape, called Trieste. They went to the bottom of the Challenger Deep of the Marianas Trench (200 miles southwest of Guam), the deepest place on Earth. The trip took five hours. The bathyscape was built by Piccard and his father, Auguste Piccard (1884-1962), a notable Belgian physicist and inventor.
Make an Origami Whale!

American Bike Month

14 05 2012

American Bike Week takes place every year during May and is generally a week of cycling events. Bike Week is dedicated to showing and teaching people how they could help the environment and exercise in a fun way that would also allow them to socialize while they bike ride. Austin, Boston, Portland, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and many other cities celebrate Bike Month.

Kate, on two wheels, outside the Museum.

Here at the Austin Children’s Museum, we love to bike. Gallery Manager, Kate, doesn’t have a car – she gets to the Museum, her college classes, and everywhere else she needs to go by bike. Ibaad, our newest Gallery Manager, rode the MS150 a few weeks ago. The ride starts in Houston and cyclist travel all the way to Austin, raising awareness and money for Multiple Sclerosis. Technology Education Coordinator, Emily, has been enjoying commuting to work on her touring bike, and getting special attention for kids for her goofy helmet:

Here are some fun ways to celebrate Bike Month:

  • Decorate your bike with streamers, bells, and colored tape.
  • Learn the names of different parts of your bike.
  • Have a bike parade in your neighborhood.
  • Practice pedaling by laying on your back and “pedaling” your feet in the air… Away you go!
  • Build an obstacle course to ride your bike around.
  • Find some pictures of bikes to find out how bikes have changed through the years.

Make a Mother’s Day Bouquet!

10 05 2012
Mother’s Day is this weekend, and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate moms and every thing they do! This year, we wanted to make a bright and happy bouquet that would last for a long time. Here’s how we did it:
  • Card stock (assorted colors)
  • Decorative Scissors
  • Glue
  • Stapler (optional)
  • Envelopes

To make this hand made flower bouquet, we need to start by creating a ‘vase’ for the flowers to stand in. To do this simply follow these steps:

- First cut a simple wave across the top of a sheet of card stock.

-Fold a small section of the cardstock in to create a tab.

-Fold the card stock into three sections and glue down using the tab.

Next we move on to creating the flowers!

For this you will use different colored card stock to make the flowers brights and colorful!

- Cut out circles of all colors and sizes.

- Cut petal designs to the edges of the larger circles

- Glue the smaller circle into the center of the larger circle.

- Grab some green card stock and cut out stem shapes for as many flowers as you want to make.

Finally, glue the stems of the flowers into the vase to be sure that they will not fall.

You can always add extra decoration to the outside of your vase. Try adding your own special, personalized message to your mother on her special day!

¡Cinco de Mayo!

4 05 2012

The 5th of May marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although the Mexican army was eventually defeated, the “Batalla de Puebla” represents a symbol of Mexican patriotism and unity.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated all over the United States and in Mexico (mainly in Pueblo) and includes mariachi music, folklorico dancing, parades and other types of festive activities.

A fun and easy craft to do for the celebration is making Mexican tin cut-outs:

Here’s what you will need:

  • A disposable pie plate or roasting pan (cleaned)
  • A marker
  • Scissors
  • A large nail, hole punch, or pencil
  • String or yarn
  • Scrap cardboard or newspaper

You can create any shape you want, but here are some templates for a star or a crescent moon!

1. First, print out your design or draw on the pie plate.

2. Cut out the design

3. Lay down a piece of cardboard or newspaper to protect the surface of the table and then use a large nail (hole punch) to poke holes at the top, where the string will go through.

4. Using a nail or a pencil, make indentations all over the piece to decorate.

5. Attach a string to the top & hang anywhere!

National Police Week

1 05 2012

The third week of May celebrates National Police Week. During this week, you are encouraged to be thankful for Police Officers who have worked hard to keep America safe. National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others. This week was established in 1962 and has taken place at the same time every year since it’s creation. It’s slogan is “In Memory of Many, in Honor of all”.

As well as recognizing police officers, May also holds days dedicated to other hard working professionals such as nurses, teachers, receptionists, and those who serve in the armed forces.

National Nurse Week takes place starting May 6th, with school nurses getting their own recognition on May9th.  The week draws awareness to the importance of the care , comfort, and well being that nurses bring to us,  especially our children and the aging, and those in poor health.

National Teachers Day takes place on May 1st and is dedicated to those hard working, patient and understanding people who look after us and out children throughout most of the week. National teachers day values professionals working as teachers and teaching assistants through Kindergarten to college.

National Armed Forces Day is on the 19th May and was created in August 31, 1949 by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. This is a day specifically designed to remind everyone of the hard work and dedication that the armed forces do every single day. It is to congratulate them on all of their hard work during training and to thank them for their bravery during risky and sometimes perilous missions for freedom and country.

Mathematics Awareness Month

30 04 2012

Celebrate your math skills in April!

Mathematics Awareness Month is designed to recognize the importance of mathematics in everyday life. This nationally recognized month was created by President Ronald Reagan in a way to try to make math more ‘cool’. During April, we’re encouraging everyone to discover the ways in which math is important and how it can also be fun!

Sometimes students have a hard time understanding how the math skills they are learning relate to every day life. To show how math will always be a useful skill to have, try incorporating math problems into your everyday life!

Use math while Grocery shopping! Try to work out the total price of your grocery bill while you are shopping, or work out how much you will save by using coupons when you shop. This will help you to enhance your basic math skills.

You could also play games! Board games, card games and strategy games all incorporate many mathematical concepts. From counting to probability you may see your chances of winning improve with your math skills.  Playing board games with money like Life or Monopoly will allow you to figure out calculations while also playing games.

You can also start learning about math early by reading about math. There are many books for all ages dedicated to helping people of varied ages with they math problems. These may be able to help you in showing you a different way to work out problems in an easier way than you learned at school.

Come by the Austin Children’s Museum to check out our feature exhibit, 123 Geometry Lane, which is inspired by the numbers and calculations in everyday life.

Recycled Robot Contest

24 04 2012

Every spring, the Austin Children’s Museum hosts a fundraising gala called Imaginarium. This year’s event will celebrate all things tinkering, and in that spirit, we’re decorating the tables with Recycled Robot Centerpieces. We’re asking for submissions of child-created robots and even having a Recycled Robot Contest. Would you like to enter? Here are some guidelines:

  • The robot must be friendly
  • The robot cannot be more than 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide
  • The robot must be made of objects you already have. Please do not go out and purchase anything.
  • The robot needs a name and job. Please wire this on an index card, along with your first name and age.
  • The robot should be stationary – no movable parts, please.

A panel of judges will evaluate the robots on creativity, use of recycled materials, and whether it met the guidelines. Robots will not be returned to their makers.

The winner of the Recycled Robot Contest will win a free Blowout Bash Birthday at the Austin Children’s Museum. A winner will be announced on May 18th.

Want to participate? Download this pdf entry form: robotcontest. Then, make a robot and deliver it to the Museum by Friday, May 4th at 5pm.

We used recycled material we found around the Museum to make a Catbot and this robot collage:

Hans Christian Andersen

23 04 2012

April brings us so many exciting things, like Easter, April Fools Day, and National Garden Month. But April is also home to the birthday of the great author, poet and children’s story writer Hans Christian Andersen!

Andersen was most famously known for creating popular stories such as Thumbelina, The Ugly ducking, The Emperors New Clothes and The Princess and the Pea.

Andersen lived from April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1875 in Denmark. Within this time, he wrote an incredible 168 tales most of which have been translated into many different languages.

A movie was released in 1952 starring famous actor Danny Kaye. This movie incorporated many of his fairy tales. The opening scene of the movie describes it best: “Once upon a time there lived in Denmark a great storyteller named Hans Christian Andersen. This is not the story of his life, but a fairy tale about the great spinner of fairy tales.”

What is your favorite Andersen tale?

National Pet Owners Day

18 04 2012

Here's my pet, Hazelnut, looking at some bluebonnets.

Do you own a pet? If so, what kind?

April 18th is National Pet Owners day. Having a pet is a great way to stay active and keep busy! Several studies have shown that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. Dog owners have been found to be more active than those who do not own dogs. This is because dogs require regular walks to keep them healthy.

Dog walkers exercise an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. “This is a highly motivating physical activity, when children walk with a dog,” Rebecca Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri

What is better than owning your own exercise motivator?

Well pets also help in other ways!

  • Pets Can Improve Your Mood
  • Pets Help Control Blood Pressure
  • Pets Can Help With Social Support
  • Pets Prevent Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love
  • Pets Can Reduce Stress

Keep America Beautiful!

16 04 2012

April is now known as Keep America Beautiful month. Here at the Museum, we have been trying to come up with ways that we could all actively participate in keeping our country beautiful!

There are many ways in which you could take part in this month whether you help to clean a spot or to pick up litter in a local park, any little helps!

  • Don’t litter and tell your friends that they shouldn’t litter

There are many reasons why people litter. It could be because there is no trash can nearby,  or they are simply too lazy to walk over to the nearest one. Litter is not only ugly, but it can also be harmful to the environment, it could injure animals and plants, but there are actions that you can take to prevent this.

Set an example to your friends and family by not littering yourself. This will show others how they should be acting and could make them want to do more to help the environment.

If your school doesn’t have a trash can outside for breaks, ask your teacher if it would be possible to get one!

Remind the people you drive with to always tie down their loads.

Debris from peoples cars can be seen all over the sides of roads. This could be avoided by simply making sure that anything that is on top or in the back or your car/truck, is tied down securely. This will stop anything from being able to escape and end up lying by the side of the road. This would also be seen as littering as you would most likely, not be able to stop to pick up the item, and therefore it would be left. This would pose the same threat to animals and the environment as any other form of litter.

Use a litter bag in your car

Bring a grocery bag on journeys with you to act as a trash can. This will allow any trash to be collected in one place. This would them make it easy to dispose of all your trash after any kind of road trip. You should also make sure to keep hold of any trash you create wherever you are. This way, once you come across a trash can, you can put it all in there instead of leaving it lying around.

Help get the banana peel into the trash can!

Awesome Works of Art Influenced by Children’s Toys!

15 04 2012

The imaginations of today’s contemporary artists seem to have no limits. Artists are able explore the wonderful world of children’s toys by creating gigantic masterpieces that are very fun to look at! Some incorporate discarded toys, and others create large-scale balloon dogs or Lego’s. Here are some of our favorite artworks that share a wonderful child-like imagination:

1. Jeff Koons, “Balloon Dog” and “Puppy” (1994-2000): Created out of stainless steel with a mirror finish, Koon’s balloon animals range from 43 feet to 10 feet tall. In 1992, he was commissioned to create “Puppy”, a sculpture of a white terrier puppy covered in a variety of flowers.

2. Peng Hung Chih, “Little Danny” (2001): Little Danny was created with 660 wind-up dogs that start yapping and moving when you enter the room. Chih was interested in presenting the world from a dog’s perspective to visitors that enter.

3. Hans Hemmert, “German Panther” (2007): Standing at an amazing 31 feet tall, “German Panther” was created entirely out of balloons. At the end of the exhibition, the balloons were popped!

4. Florentijn Hofman, 42-foot tall toy rabbit (2011): This giant yellow bunny was created using local materials and craftsmen in Sweden. Located near St. Nicolai Church in the city center, people can walk up to the sculpture and admire its enormous size.

5. Robert Bardford, “Fairy Too”: The sculpture is created using his own children’s old toys, all coming together to make a masterpiece of unique materials.

6. Joe Black, “Made in China” (2011): Created from more than 5,500 toy
soldiers, Black’s portrait is of a Chinese soldier (taken from a photograph by
Robert Capa). All of the toy soldiers were created in China, hence the title.
When the viewer stands back, they see just a portrait. However, if you move
closer, you can see the incredible detail of different color toy soldiers!

7. Ego Leonard’s “Lego’s” (2007-2011): This wonderful, weird mystery Lego seemed to appear out of no where on a Florida beach one day. Standing at 8 feet tall, weighing 100 pounds, the Lego adds a playful and magical moment to a beach visit.

Do you have a favorite work of art? Leave us a comment and share your pick!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers