The Austin Children’s Museum is now closed, and we are now the Thinkery! Check out our new blog at thinkeryaustin.org/blog
The Austin Children’s Museum is now closed, and we are now the Thinkery! Check out our new blog at thinkeryaustin.org/blog
Hello, my name is Alana Zamora from San Marcos, Texas. This year, I was selected as a 2013 Smithsonian Latino Center Young Ambassador; Up to twenty-four graduating high school seniors are selected each year and are given the amazing opportunity to intern in a museum/cultural institution in their local community for four weeks. Currently, I am interning here at the Austin Children’s Museum. This week is the last week of my internship, and in this blog post, I describe my experience here at the ACM, as well as, insights into the different summer camps that we offer here at the Museum.
This week’s full day camp at the Austin Children’s Museum for ages 7-10 was titled ‘Get a Clue’, and the half day camp for ages 4-6 was ‘Passport Adventures’. Each day, I photographed the camp’s field trips and activities, and filtered, edited and uploaded the photos that I took onto the Museum’s Flickr account.
On Monday, July 22nd, we walked a few blocks with the full day campers to The Driskill hotel. There, we were given a tour and were told of it’s history; We learned that for well over a century, historical benchmarks have been crafted at The Driskill, such as, when Former President Lyndon B. Johnson awaited news of his successful 1948 Senate run and his 1960 election to the office of Vice President, and 1964 election as President. We also learned of the ghosts that have reportedly been seen at the hotel! Colonel Driskill himself is said to wander through the original side of the hotel and the spirit of Samantha Houston, a senator’s young daughter who was chasing a ball when she fell to her death on the grand staircase, has been seen bouncing a ball along the corridors in the hotel.
On Tuesday, July 23rd, the full day campers took a tour of the Texas State Cemetary. The Cemetary is the burial place for soldiers and founders of the Republic and State of Texas, elected state officials, jurists and other prominent men and women. Culturally, the Cemetary is unique because it represents every aspect of Texas history from European Colonization to modern day Texas politics. The Texas State Cemetary is the burial site of Stephen F. Austin, Ed Burleson, Bob Bullock and many more historical and cultural icons.
On Wednesday, July 24th, I photographed the half day camp, ‘Passport Adventures’. The continents of topic that day were Asia and Australia. The children participated in various activities, learning about kangaroos, origami, bamboo, and the Sydney Opera House. One specific activity of the day that I thought was pretty neat was where the children could create their own Moai statues out of clay, and decorate it with beads and feathers.
On Thursday, July 25th, I had my community outreach portion of my internship; Each Young Ambassador must hold a children’s story-time at a local library in their area. I traveled to the Little Walnut Creek Branch Library here in Austin to read Abuela’s Weave by Omar S. Castaneda. Abuela’s Weave is the story of Esperanza, a young Guatemalan girl, and her grandmother who grow closer as they weave some special creations and then make a trip to the market in hopes of selling them. This story shows the importance of family pride and personal endurance, and introduces children to the culture of Guatemala through the eyes of little Esperanza.
In the latter half of the day, I traveled back to the Austin Children’s Museum to be the photographer for the Museum Career Ladder & Volunteer Appreciation party. MCL participants and volunteers brought their friends and families to show them what they do at the museum and to have some fun! MCL is a volunteer and employment readiness program that offers opportunities to Austin area teens (12-17 year olds) to engage in fun and meaningful work at the Austin Children’s Museum. This year, there were over 1,100 active volunteers at the Museum. The youngest volunteer is four and the oldest is sixty-six.
On Friday, July 26th, the full day campers took a trip to the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin. There, they toured the ceramics and painting studios, and learned about kilns and easels. They also visited visited the art galleries in the building.
Sadly, this is my last week at the Austin Children’s Museum. This four-week internship has truly been a great experience! Never having a job before, I was skeptical that I would not successfully fulfill what was expected of me…but at the conclusion of this month, I feel that I have done everything I’ve been asked to to my fullest potential. Throughout my internship, I have learned various skills, such as, time management, patience and team work. In a museum, there’s so much team work that goes into running a successful learning institution and I really do appreciate what every employee/volunteer at any museum does. Along with the Museum, I do believe that the most important skill we can give children is the ability to learn, and that the diversity and interactions among people from different backrounds enrich and strengthen our community. I am eternally grateful to have been selected as a Smithsonian Latino Center 2013 Young Ambassador, to have met many amazing individuals along the way, and to have been blessed with this amazing opportunity to work with the Austin Children’s Museum.
If you haven’t had the chance, check out my blog posts from the previous weeks of my internship!
The school year is almost over and that means it’s time for SUMMER CAMP. Have you made your plans yet?
We are gearing up for an awesome summer filled with new discoveries, fun activities and memorable field trips. This is the last year we’ll be hosting camp at our Museum downtown, so you don’t want to miss it.
ACM offers half day camps for ages 4-6 and full day camps for ages 7-10 from May 28 – August 16. Full day camps include field trips all around the Austin area. Camp topics range from science, engineering, art and more. Most of our half day camps are already filled, but there are plenty of spots left in full day camps.
This year, we are excited for our full day camp, “Get a Clue.” Together, we’ll investigate and gather evidence to discover the hidden mysteries around town. Field trips include an investigation at the Driskill Hotel where we’ll reveal the haunted history that lies behind the spooky walls, and a behind-the-scenes visit to the Austin Police Department where we’ll meet real investigators.
Inside the Museum we’ll extract DNA, experiment with blood typing, solve riddles, decipher codes and navigate through a laser alarm system. At the end of the week, we’ll use our problem solving skills to solve an art heist.
Check out all of our camp topics and register online at austinkids.org/camps.aspx.
What is Mini Maker Faire? It’s a community-oriented learning event where families and individuals are brought together to showcase any and all Do-It-Yourself projects. Maker Faire is arranged in a show-and-tell format, allowing makers to connect by showing what they’ve made and sharing what they’ve learned.
Every Sunday at ACM, we welcome this year’s Makers to show off their stuff and answer any questions. A special guest leads the activity as Makers do different DIY activities to prepare for the upcoming event.
Last week at Meet the Makers, we had fun making our own soap from scratch!
On Sunday, April 14, join the Makers from Austin Mini Maker Faire Craft division and design a beautiful denim crown to wear home. Burnadette Noll will be attending as our special guest and she will have everything you need to stitch and create a unique upcycled crown. Show the world that you are the King or Queen of your very own universe and come meet the Makers to get excited for Mini Maker Faire on May 5!
Candra has a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from The University of Texas at Austin and 20 years of experience working with children. We caught up with Candra to ask her a few questions about herself and the Early Learners programs.
Q: Tell us about your previous experience working with young children.
A: I started as a kindergarten teacher then joined the staff of an Austin preschool working with toddlers while I finished graduate school. I have also worked with children under the age of five in various research projects as a professor of Early Childhood Education.
Q: Why did you choose to work at ACM?
A: My primary professional interest has always been to work with young children. As my career progressed and I developed research interests, I focused my attention on the benefits of play in this age group. At ACM, I’m able to utilize what I love to do, working with young children, with what I believe in, the power of play.
Q: What new things do you have planned for Baby Bloomers & Cub Club?
A:There will be traditional weekly themes like colors and shapes, but I am introducing new themes such as “Colors of Us” and “Yummy! Yummy!”. I am also bringing in new guests for Sing-a-long as well as increasing the frequency of their visits.
Q: How do you develop ideas for activities?
A: Many ways: some I’ve done with children in the past, some I’ve accumulated over the years and saved for later, and some come from random resources like books and the internet that I put my own twist on to make appropriate for ACM’s youngest visitors. Great ideas are everywhere.
Q: In your opinion, what is one of the most important things to know about early childhood development?
A:Young children experience the world in qualitatively different ways than we do and to accommodate that, they should have as many opportunities to engage in open-ended, hands-on free play as possible.
Q: What’s a fun learning activity parents or caregivers can do at home with young children?
A: Yummy! Yummy! Bunny Sundaes is a wonderful activity for young children. Bunny Sundaes is a multi-sensory activity that includes questions about sights, smells, sounds and tastes. This activity also involves math. How much yogurt is being measured? How many bunnies are being added on top? Is there more strawberry or banana fruit in the bowl?
Here’s how to do it at home:
- Vanilla yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
- Annie’s Bunny Grahams or something similar
- Two fresh strawberries (cut in ½ or ¼)
- One third of of a banana, peeled.
Instructions: Provide a plastic knife and with supervision, allow children to “cut” (sometimes it comes out more like mashing) the strawberries and banana. Children then place into a bowl ¼ cup yogurt, the cut fruit pieces, and 5 bunnies. There are endless variations on how Bunny Sundaes can be assembled and enjoyed, so allow children freedom to explore and indulge.
Once you’ve made your Bunny Sundae. Dig in and enjoy this tasty treat.
This spring we opened a new exhibit called, Think, Do, Make. One of the activities you can do in the exhibit is make a paper “roto-copter” and launch it in our Flow Lab. You can also make roto-copters and test them out at home.
Download Copters and print out the roto-copters. Cut along the solid lines and fold along the dashed lines to make your roto-copter.
Add a paper clip to the bottom of your roto-copter to give it some weight. Drop your roto-copter from a high place or toss it in the air. What do you notice?
How can you change your roto-copter to make it spin differently? Try adding paper clips, using different weights of paper, or trimming the “blades” of your roto-copter to different lengths. Happy flying!
Hi ACM Blog readers!
I’m Melody, a summer intern here at the museum, helping out with our archival projects, as well as with the Story Time library.
Each day before Story Time, our readers choose a few great stories from a whole collection of books here at the museum. Sometimes, the books can get a little messy and hard to find.
Photo by Prio on Flickr
That’s why this summer, I have been finding new ways to organize them and clean the shelves up a bit!
In the Story Time Library, I have been using some fun, new colorful labels to help people find books that fall under certain topics. Each color stands for a different topic: Green = Environment, Blue = Ocean, Orange = Mammals, Red = Food, etc. If one day, a Story Time reader wants books about dogs, cats, and pizza, he or she can just look through the books labeled with an orange and/or red sticker! Easy, right?
There are lots of great ways to group together similar things, not just for your books.
Activity: Organizing Time!
Try going through your bedroom or playroom to organize things like:
Find a creative and fun way to group them together, so that they will be easier for you to find later on! Maybe you can organize your movies and games alphabetically and your clothes by color and style. You could label different tubs or boxes with the words “Pens”, “Pencils”, “Markers”, and “Crayons”, so that your school and art supplies will stay where they are supposed to.
Any way you do it, make sure it helps you stay clean and organized!
Last weekend at our Museum we had our Woodcrafting 101 Workshop where kids of all ages made their very own woven latices! The process consisted of four easy steps and young boys and girls were able to learn about tools and their functions while they built and decorated their own latice.
Here are the four steps the kids went through in order to make this neat craft!
1. First, the children started out with two 16 inch pieces of wood and measured and marked 1 inch holes for the drilling process later on. Then the children cut the two pieces of wood in half with a dovetail saw and ended up with four 8 inch pieces of wood!
2. Second, the children brought their four pieces of cut wood to be drilled. We showed them how to use a drill and used a larger sized bit for the holes on the ends and a smaller sized bit for all of the other holes. We made sure to wear goggles at all times to protect our eyes!
3. Next the kids took their newly drilled pieces of wood over to the nuts and bolts station where they assembled the frame to their latice! We showed them how to put the frame together using nuts and bolts and how to tighten it with a wrench.
4. The last and final step was to weave different colored yarn and string through the holes that they drilled earlier with a plastic needle.
Who knew that working with tools could be so fun?! The children were able to learn how to use simple materials and tools to make an awesome craft that they got to take home! Kids and parents had a great time learning how to build a woven latice!
In the entire world, over 200 species of owls exist! Many unique traits make these beautiful birds so special:
1) They are nocturnal (they become active at night)
2) They can turn their heads around as much as 270 degrees!
3) Owls can blend into their surroundings with the help of the camouflaging colors of their feathers
Use these easy steps to make your own colorful owl!
What You Need:
1) Cardboard Toilet Paper Roll
2) Tissue Paper (6 colors)
4) Glue Stick
How To Make The Owl:
1) Cut a thick strip of any colored tissue paper and glue it around the very top of the toilet paper roll.
2) Cut out thick strips from 3 colors of the tissue paper.
3) Then, fold each strip in half (hamburger style) like the images below.
4) Next, cut the bottom of these strips into an oval shape.
5) Unravel the strips, and you’ve made the feathers for the owl! (Repeat steps 3-5 for 3 colors)
6) Then, starting with the color you wrapped around the top of the roll, glue the first feather strip around the bottom of the toilet paper roll.
7) Alternating colors, repeat step #6. Repeat until you reach the tissue paper wrapped around the top of the toilet paper roll. (Make sure the color of the highest feather strip matches the color of the tissue paper wrapped around the top of the roll)
8) Next, pinch the top of the toilet paper roll in the center and push the two sides together to form the ears.
9) Cut out oval-shaped pieces of tissue paper for the eyes.
10) Then, cut out smaller oval-shaped pieces of tissue paper and glue them inside the larger ovals.
11) Draw the inside of the eyes any way you want to using markers and then glue the eyes on the owl’s face.
10) Then, cut a small triangle out of tissue paper, and glue it in between your owl’s eyes for the beak.
Now you have finished making your very own owl!
In the next couple of weeks our Museum we will be having our Under the Sea and Extreme Planet camps where we will be exploring crazy weather phenomenas and learning about the ocean as well as the many plants and animals that call the ocean home! Here’s a simple experiment to help you start thinking about the many wonders of the ocean
You will need:
To make your own motion ocean just follow these simple steps!
Since water is denser or heavier than the oil it stays at the bottom while the oil stays at the top of the container. Since the two liquids never mix the water pushes the oil around at the surface making it look similar to waves in the ocean. Try creating your own motion ocean and let us know how yours turned out!
Now that it’s summer time, the extreme heat makes everyone want to go swimming! If you have gone swimming with a life vest before you know that life jackets keep you from sinking down into the water, but do you ever wonder how? This simple experiment can help explain.
Here’s what you’ll need:
What did you see?
The raisins should have dropped to the bottom at first, started floating to the top, and then fell back down to the bottom again. This should happen continuously for a few minutes! Take a look at how our experiment went:
The reason why the raisins dance in the club soda and then floats to the top is because the bubbles in the soda stick to the rough edges of the raisin making it more buoyant, meaning that it floats easily. The bubbles in the soda are carbon dioxide gas and help bring the raisins to the top, when the bubbles reach the top, they pop and release the carbon dioxide gas into the air. This makes the raisins fall back down again since it is denser than the liquid soda. The bubbles make the raisins float to the top similar to how a life jacket keeps you above water!
Now that you’ve tried this simple experiment, try putting other small foods into the club soda to see how they react! Although not everything you try will float, it is always good to experiment! You could try peanuts, chocolate chips, apple seeds, or pieces of uncooked pasta to see how long it takes for the bubbles to bring it up to the top and how fast they move up and down in the soda. Let us know what results you got!
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We recently got some new Storytime books. Do you have any new favorite books? Let us know what books you’d like to see us read in the comment section. Here’s just a few of our new books and why we like them:
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
This sweet, bed time, rhyming book features all our favorite vehicles who work so hard all day at the construction site. After doing all the heavy lifting, Bulldozer, Cement Mixer, and all the other trucks and tractors are ready for their well deserved rest.
Watch Me Throw the Ball!
by Mo Willems
Elephant and Piggie are back for more fun. Gerald’s ball rolls up to Piggie, just asking to be thrown. But when Piggie’s throw is far from perfect, how will the dynamic duo recover? Silly fun abounds in this book by the author of the Pigeon series, Knuffle Bunny, and other favorites.
Little Owl Lost
By Chris Haughton
Our favorite thing about this book is the beautiful illustrations – the jewel tone, cut-paper collage imagery tell a classic tale with new vibrancy. Owl falls from the nest and gets separated from Mom. An overly helpful squirrel eagerly helps with Little Owl’s search.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.