Origami Origins Unfolded…

30 09 2011

Have you ever made a paper plane? Well I bet as you made it you didn’t know you were practicing origami, did you? Origami which means paper folding in Japanese, is just that: folding paper. But it is much more complex than your average folded sheet. The way in which you fold your paper can create many intricate designs. The traditions of paper folding are rooted in China and go as far back as 100 A.D. That’s 1,911 years ago!

One of the most common things to create in origami is a crane. The Japanese word for crane is Tsuru, and the bird is a symbol for happiness, good luck, and peace. For the Japanese, the crane also represents long-life, as it was believed in tales that a crane could live 1,000 years! That’s why the belief is that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes you will be granted a wish by the mystical bird.

Come check out our 1,000 paper cranes here at ACM. The paper cranes here were created by the Thousand Cranes of Peace project. Their project provides resources to families seeking peace from domestic violence.

If you’d like a wish to be granted, learn how to fold the famous crane here: Origami Peace Crane.

And if you would like a simpler origami project, follow the slideshow below to make your own origami house!

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Let us know how your origami projects turned out! And tell us about a wish you have worth 1,000 paper cranes.

Fall Facts and Fun!

19 09 2011

Here at The Austin Children’s Museum we’re excited that Summer is leaving and the weather is starting to cool, which means autumn is just around the corner.

Autumn is one of the four seasons and it typically falls between September 21st and December 21st. Why is autumn sometimes called Fall then? Because leaves fall off of deciduous trees during the season. Here are some cool facts about fall leaves from LoveToKnow.  You should learn this before autumn starts and summer leaves!

  • Leaves require sunlight, water, chlorophyll and carbon dioxide to make food for themselves.
  • As winter approaches, leaves make a coating for themselves which blocks their water source; in the absence of water, the leaves no longer produce chlorophyll (chlorophyll is what makes leaves green).
  • When the leaves turn colors in the fall, they actually are returning to their normal colors. During the summer months, the chlorophyll in the leaves causes them to turn green, blocking the leaves’ actual colors.
  • Along with chlorophyll, leaves contain two other chemicals that cause coloring. The first is called xanthophyll, which is yellow in color. The other is carotene, which is orange in color.
  • Red and purple leaves are actually caused by the presence of sugars from sap that is trapped inside of the leaves.
  • Once the leaves have turned brown, they are dead and no longer receive any nutrients.

Leaves are pretty interesting right? They can even be used for art! Check out how we used leaves creatively in these activities:

Color one yourself: Leaf Man and Butterfly Leaf

And send us your leaf art!

Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

9 09 2011

To Break Wind!

Golf Ball from kainet on flickr

As funny as it seems, golf balls really do have dimples in order to break the wind. How Stuff Works explains the reasoning:

In the early days of golf, smooth-surfaced balls were used until golfers discovered that old, bumpy balls traveled longer distances. The science of aerodynamics helps explain the dimpled phenomenon. The dimples reduce the drag on a golf ball by redirecting more air pressure behind the golf ball rather than in front of it. The higher levels of pressure behind the golf balls force them to go far distances.

The dimples maximize the distance golf balls travel. Dimpled balls travel up to four times farther than smooth-surfaced golf balls!

The dimples change the levels of pressure by bringing the main air stream very close to the surface of the golf ball. The dimples (or “turbulators”) increase the turbulence in the layer of air next to the surface of the ball. This high-speed air stream near the ball increases the amount of pressure behind the ball, forcing the ball to travel farther.

Here at The Austin Children’s Museum we show the aerodynamics of golf balls in our Ready, Set, Roll exhibit. Come check it out before it leaves on September 18th, golf balls have never had so much fun!

CowParade Austin 2011

26 08 2011

Have you “herd” the news? Artsy cows are strolling around Austin like they’re right at home. Click here for a map of all the cows roaming the streets of Austin.

Betty the Magnetic Cow in Austin, TX

CowParade’s first event created by Jerry Elbaum was in 1998 in Zurich, Switzerland. He then launched the concept across the ocean to Chicago in 1999 and the event has gone global ever since. After more than 10 years, 75 cities in 30 countries have featured a whopping number of decorated cows as an artistic expression. More than 5000 signature cows have been created by a number of artists, architects, and even celebrity designers.

You may wonder, why cows? Well, the CowParade website tells us that,

“the cow is a universally beloved animal. The cow represents different things to different people around the world-she’s sacred, she’s historical, she connects us to our past-but the common feeling is one of affection. There is something magical about the cow that transcends throughout the world. She simply makes everyone smile.”

There are charitable benefits that come along with this fantastic event. At the end of each CowParade, about 50 of the cows are sold at a live auction where proceeds will go straight to the nonprofit organization with which the CowParade has partnered. The Austin CowParade has paired with the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas to benefit the center as well as the Superhero Kid’s Fund. Throughout the years, CowParade has raised more than $30 million for its nonprofit partner.

The Austin Children’s Museum is lucky enough to have its very own painted cow standing right out front! “Batsy at Twilight” created by Linda Figg and sponsored by Scholotzky’s gazes with pride at the young visitors we have everyday.

Here is a slide show of the process of Batsy stepping off the truck and onto on our sidewalk:

Come to the Museum so you can take a picture with Batsy! Send us your favorite and tell us what you like about art… and cows!


Historic Eruption: Mount Vesuvius

24 08 2011

At noon on August 24, 79 A.D., the peak of Mount Vesuvius erupted.

This photo of Mount Vesuvius was taken in January of 1912. Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland and is expected to erupt again in the near future.

The eruption of 79 A.D. is the most well-known ancient eruption in the world and it buried two cities. The Roman town Pompeii was buried under 14-17 feet of ash and pumice (highly pressurized rock formed when lava and water mix) and Herculaneum laid underneath 60 feet of mud and volcanic material.

In 1748, a farmer found pieces of Pompeii under his vineyard and since then, historians and geologists have been excavating the land to find lost treasures and artifacts. When volcanic ash and lava flowed the streets of these two Roman cities, it seems as if life was frozen where it stood. The way of every day life is understood from the artifacts and skeletons left behind.

Do you know how a volcano erupts?

Volcanoes are land forms that open downward to a pool of molten rock (magma) and they erupt when the pressure builds up.

National Geographic has a really neat video that explains Volcanoes 101.

Would you like to make a color-changing volcano? Roots and Wings Co. has instructions for a really neat one.

Make one and tell us how it exploded!

Heat is not the straw that breaks a camel’s back

22 08 2011

Caravanning around Central Texas is seemingly getting hotter and hotter. The highest temperatures in Austin have been above 100 degrees during the day and moderately humid. Check out the Kids Weather Channel page for more information on the weather in Austin. Ever wish you could keep cool like a camel does?

This is a Bactrian camel.

Camels are natives to places with extreme weather such as hot summers or cold winters. A camel keeps itself cool during periods of heat by it’s use of the very recognizable hump or humps on its back. Many people think that camels store water in their hump but actually they have a fatty tissue that can be converted into energy and water when there is need. Camels can survive many warm days and nights without food or water. A camel also keeps itself warm in the winter with its very thick, shaggy coat that protects it from cold temperatures. When summer comes around again a camel sheds its thick fur by molting, so that it will be able to stay cool.

There are two species of camels the Dromedary and the Bactrian and you can tell the difference by the shape of their back. Dromedary camels have one hump and are native to the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. Bactrian camels have two humps and are native to Asia and are critically endangered.

The Jungle Store has collected information on camels such as:

  • They are very smart animals with great eyesight and near perfect hearing
  • They are so strong that they are able to carry loads of 900 pounds, but usually carry no more than 450 pounds
  • Baby camels have no hump at birth. They will not develop one until they begin eating solid food
  • A camel is often called the “ship of the desert” because when being ridden they gallop and the person may feel seasick

National Geographic Kids tells us that a very thirsty camel can drink up to 30 gallons of water in only 13 minutes. Did you know that a baby camel is born with a white coat which will eventually turn brown as it grows up? Just like this baby and its mother:

We hope you’ve learned as much about camels as we here at ACM have. Can you answer this question?

Tell us what else you know!

Rockin’ and Rollin’ on a Big Roller Coaster

16 08 2011

The month of August is here and the end of summer vacation is near. Have you enjoyed our Ready, Set, Roll exhibit? There are so many components that allow you to challenge the science of physics with some hands-on experimentation.

A few of the games you can play are the Loop d’ Loop where you send a golf ball on an upside down ride, a Ski Jump where you launch a golf ball attempting a land on another ramp, and there’s also the Big Spiral that will make the ball very, very dizzy. There are a ton of other games to play with that give you the chance to have fun while learning physics.

We also have a Roller Coaster that allows a ball to roll from the top of the track through hills and valleys and to the end. Do you know about the physics of roller coasters?

The higher you start the ball on the Roller Coaster track, the better chance it has making it over the first hill. The higher the ball’s starting point, the greater the energy it has at the bottom. On top of each hill, the amount of energy the ball has is called potential energy. Physics4Kids will teach you about potential energy.

The Humor Writer tells us that “physics is the scientific study of many things, such as motion, force, energy, light and sound. It includes gravity, friction and speed – all things that contribute to the way roller coasters operate”. Humor Writer also teaches us about the history of roller coasters.

This is a picture of the oldest working roller coaster Leap-the-Dips in Altoona, Pennsylvania, it’s 109 years old. Built in 1902 by the E. Joy Morris Company and in 1996 was named a National Historic Landmark. It is also the last known example of a Side Friction Figure Eight roller coaster. That means that it is made up of low flat turns and long straightaways with small dips in the the track. There aren’t many of these roller coasters left but learning about the way they have changed throughout the years is interesting.

Speaking of interesting… did you know that August 16th is Roller Coaster Day? Maybe celebrate by going to a theme park or make your very own roller coaster. Zoom gives instructions on how to make one. Send us a picture or let us know what you like about roller coasters!

Summer Reading Club

8 08 2011

Finding ways to spend your vacation is half the fun of summer. But after many, many days without school sometimes you may find yourself bored. Well, writer Jenny Rosenstrach was taught by her mother that “Only boring people get bored”.

Have you ever thought about the challenge of a summer reading list? Jenny has playfully created a point system to encourage her children to entertain themselves with fabulous books whether it be a picture book, a chapter book or even a comic book. After reading a few books and obtaining a specific number of points, her child will be able to collect prizes. Here is Jenny’s detailed account of her Summer Book Club.

Scholastic gives kids the task of logging the minutes that they read not just how many books that are completed. Scholastic invites kids to Read for the World Record and attempt to have the name of their school placed in the 2012 Scholastic Book of World Records.

If you’d like a list from Scholastic of books for ages 3-5 click here!

Ages 6-7? Click here!

Ages 8-10? Click here!

Ages 10-12? Click here!

Take a look at how we use children’s stories here at the Museum.

Read the rest of this entry »

Calling All Super Sleuths: Get a Clue Camp

2 08 2011

The more you have it, the less you see. What is it?

Read this post to find out!

This week, the Museum is holding a Get A Clue camp. During the week kids get the chance to be a real gumshoe by learning about the mystery behind science and science behind the mystery. They have opportunities to explore optical illusions, learn problem solving skills by cracking codes, and even get to solve a real mystery!

Get A Clue campers navigate a "Laser" Alarm System to reach a vital clue!

Have you ever heard of a man named Sherlock Holmes? He is a fictional character famous for his sleuthing and detective skills. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the author of four novels and fifty-six short stories about Holmes and his partner Dr. John Watson. They solved many mysteries together even when given only a small amount of clues. If you’d like to learn more about Sherlock Holmes, click here!

Keep reading this post to discover a list of detective supplies and to find the answer to the riddle!

Read the rest of this entry »

History of Fingerprinting

28 07 2011
At ACM’s Get a Clue camp, campers sharpen their  logic and detective skills by investigating mysteries, solving riddles and cracking codes.  One of the favorite activities at camp is to take each other’s fingerprint.
Imprinting the friction ridges of a person’s fingertip onto a surface is an easy way to uniquely identify someone.  No two people have been found to have the same fingerprint and because of this, fingerprinting is used for many purposes, including crime solving.
The first modern, official use of fingerprinting as a way of identifying people was July 28, 1858 when a British magistrate, William James Herschel in India requested a local businessman put his hand print on the back of a contract.  Herschel developed to the system because he thought locals felt more bound to a contract through this personal contact than if it was just signed.  After 40 years of observing the fingerprints over time, Herschel also determined that fingerprints never change with age.
Although fingerprinting had been used as early as ancient Babylonia to seal clay tablets, this was the first time a government made fingerprinting a protocol to use to distinguish people.  Almost 40 years later a policeman in Argentina began to keep fingerprints on file of criminals for investigating crimes.  Now fingerprinting is a fundamental technology used in criminal investigations.
You can take your fingerprint at home.  All you need is some tape, a pencil, some white paper and a magnifying glass. Read the rest of this entry »

Campers fly Up, Up, and Away!

27 07 2011
Lift Off!

Campers release homemade hot air balloons.

This summer ACM hosted a new camp focused on flight. Up, Up & Away camp took children on field trips to study various air and space topics.  Afterwards campers participated in activities dealing with how animals and aircraft take off and stay up in the air.

Home-made hovercraft

A camper blows up a balloon to propel a home-made hovercraft.

Campers visited the University of Texas’ Aerospace Engineering lab to learn about rockets, Austin Nature and Science Center to visit birds of prey,  the University of Texas Heliostat to learn about the sun and it’s gravitational pull as well as tour Camp Mabry Air Force base.  As you can see, much fun was had by all!


Campers ride a hovercraft!

UT telescope

Campers visit the UT telescope

Watch some videos of our trip to the University of Texas Heliostat:

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM

25 07 2011

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States declared July National Ice Cream Month!! Take a peek at the proclamation that makes this month so creamy and delicious.

Do you want to enjoy ice cream as much as this little guy? There are many delicious ice cream places in Austin that you can try. This week, campers in the Museum’s Home Grown Cooking camp will take a field trip Amy’s Ice Cream and see where the famous Austin establishment makes their ice cream. Stop by Amy’s sometime and try one of their seasonal flavors such as Girl Scout Thin Mint or Fresh Peach (with peaches from Fredricksburg).

If you’d like to be a Creator of Flavor, you can make Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag from this recipe:

What you need:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons rock salt
  • 1 pint-size plastic food storage bag (e.g., Ziploc)
  • 1 gallon-size plastic food storage bag
  • Ice cubes

Tip: A 1/2 cup milk will make about 1 scoop of ice cream, so double the recipe if you want more. But don’t increase the proportions more that that — a large amount might be too big for kids to pick-up because the ice itself is heavy.

Here is a list of fun-to-read books about ice cream you can all read together!

Did you know?

  • It takes an average of 50 licks to polish off a single-scoop ice cream cone. Challenge your family to a Lick-A-Thon, and see who finishes first.
  • The biggest ice cream sundae in history was made in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 1988 and weighed over 24 tons.
  • Of all the days of the week, ice cream is mostly bought on Sunday.
  • The United States produces the most ice cream in the world.

We hope you have enjoyed National Ice Cream month and find a smile in a good ice cream cone.

The Legend of Amelia Earhart

24 07 2011

“Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

–Amelia Earhart

May 21, 1932, Amelia steps off her Lockheed 5B Vega in North Ireland

On July 24th we celebrate the historic adventure of a daring soul on Amelia Earhart Day. Amelia had courage and willingness to prove she could do something that no woman had ever attempted before. Throughout her career, Amelia broke several records such as:

  • the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo
  • the only person to fly it twice
  • the longest non-stop distance flown by a woman
  • a record for crossing the Atlantic in the shortest time

All four of these records were broken in one flight! This woman was fearless. Her life of breaking records and flying around the world was not always the plan. Born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897 to Edwin and Amy Earhart, Amelia (Millie) soon became an older sister to Muriel. After schooling, Amelia began working as a nurse’s aide during World War I at Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

After moving to California to be with her parents, Amelia picked up flying as a hobby. In 1922, after receiving help from her mother and sister, and working a few odd jobs, Amelia was able to afford her very own airplane.

Amelia Earhart's first plane

To read Amelia’s full biography check out Pitara’s Magazine for Kids.

Amelia Earhart is a role model to women because she had a goal she felt destined to achieve and made every effort to do so. She is a historic legend because on July 2, 1937 Amelia completed nearly two-thirds of a flight that was meant to go around the world with her navigator Frederick Noonan but then went missing. The  result of their final flight is still a mystery to the world. There are several beliefs about what could have happened to Amelia Earhart, but this may be one mystery that never gets solved.

Play and learn about Amelia with this trivia game!

ACM believes Amelia Earhart is a powerful heroine that we can all look to as a guide for perseverance and determination, no matter if you’re a boy or a girl. She paved a path for bravery and dedication that anyone can follow. ACM also celebrates a girl’s interest in science and making history. August 15-19 we are holding the Girls Explore Science camp here at the Museum and there are several spots open. This camp gives girls a chance to experiment and learn about science in a hands-on way. If you’re interested in registering, contact the Museum at 512-472-2499 x201 or sign up here!

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”–Amelia Earhart

Technology Camps in the House!

18 07 2011

Here at ACM, our mission is to equip and inspire the next generation of creative problem solvers. Our robotics and technology camps are good examples of the fun ways we inspire creative problem solvers.  This summer we held three such technology camps at Silicon Labs.  At the conclusion of every camp, campers presented their their work for their parents and friends to see.  See a slide show of our work here on the ACM Vimeo Channel.

Program, Animate, and Create!

Programming the robots.

Campers designed games and animations using Scratch (see our post about this children’s programming language here).  At their final presentation, parents got to play camper’s games, watch their animations, and explore what they made using circuits, motors, lights, and more.

Robot City demo

Campers demonstrate their robots in Robot City

Mindstorming a Lego Village

Our Lego Village camp focused on designing an interactive LEGO Mindstorm village.  Our village included a flower garden, a zoo, a car wash and an airport.  Campers also completed various challenges by learning how to program sensors and motors for their robots.

Treasure Hunters!

During this camp, campers had to build a special kingdom for Queen Nandua.  We programed robots to find and retrieve treasure without falling into traps that were set for them.  Imagination and creativity were a necessity for this camp!

Test run

Test running the robots.

We had a great time at this year’s Technology Camps and will be offering more next summer. See you there!

Special ASL Science Sunday Program – “Snakes, Slime, and Science” this Sunday

8 07 2011

This Sunday at the Museum, from 3 – 5pm, we are holding a special event for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and ALL families called Snakes, Slime, and Science!  UT’s Pam Cook will be in the Museum rotunda hosting an assortment of fun science learning activities relating to polymers.  Even more special, she will be accompanied by her summer high school research students from LBJ High School’s LASA* and the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) as well as two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters!

Pam has led Science Sundays for almost five years in addition to working with TSD elementary and high school for four years. This Sunday she will bring everyone together for a lot of learning, ASL and fun activities with the biggest and most entertaining molecules in the lab: Polymers!


Polymers are fun to make!

To learn more about polymers, check out the Polymer Science Learning Center.  For some easy, at-home activities check out this flubber experiment, or this activity using milk to make polymers.

To brush-up on your ASL, visit Handspeak for the ASL alphabet as well as watch ACM’s own Josh Clements demonstrate how to greet one another and say Science in sign language:

Join us for Snakes, Slime, and Science on Sunday, July 10th, 3 – 5pm.

*Liberal Arts and Science Academy


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