How to make your own glow-in-the-dark deep sea fish

24 07 2013

Background information: Ocean creatures that live in the deep ocean where there is no light often carry a light source of their own. Sometimes, they have special cells that can make light the way fireflies do. Just as often, the light comes from bacteria that live in and on the sea creatures. For example, the flashlight fish has light spots beneath its eyes. These spots are home to millions of luminescent bacteria. The bacteria get nourishment from the fish and the fish gets to have light. Light is important for catching food. Also, light can aid in confusing larger predators.

For this art project, you will need:

-Black paper


-Glow in the Dark paint

-Hole puncher



  1. Cut out a shape of a fish from the black piece of paperImage
  2. Decorate the fish with the glow-in-the-dark paintIMG_0436
  3. Wait for the paint to dry
  4. Hole punch a hole on the top of the fish & tie a string in itImage
  5. Hold your fish up to the light to charge it upImage
  6. Hang your fish, turn the lights off and watch it swim & flow!Image

Exploring Local History

23 08 2012

This summer we’ve been writing about how the Museum is creating an archive that will live on a computer. We’re doing this by digitizing things!

Digitizing is when you take something non-digital (like a paper letter or a print photograph) and turn it into something digital that lives on a computer. People use things like scanners to create a digital copy of something. We have a scanner here at the museum that we’re using to digitize things like old photographs.

Why do people digitize things? When something like a photograph is digital, you can do lots of cool thing with it. We found a neat website recently that is using old, digitized photographs in fun ways.

Historypin lets you explore cities by looking at old photographs. The cool part is that all of these photographs are put on a map, so you can see how familiar places used to look a long time ago. You can find pictures of Austin dating back to the 1800s on Historypin!

Another site that lets you explore maps and old photographs is Sepia Town.

Try exploring places you’ve visited and see how much things have changed over time.

Harness the Heat: Make Your Own Solar Oven!

16 08 2012

How do solar ovens work? Well, as you can tell from your day-to-day observations, the sun not only provides light, but also works as a heat source.  That’s why it’s warmer during the day, when the sun is out, than it is at night, when the moon is up.  With a solar oven, you use reflectors (aluminum foil) to reflect the sun’s light into a closed container and the heat is trapped inside.  With this heat, you can cook some really great snacks!

If you do make a solar oven, remember that the oven can get very hot (just like ovens in kitchens), so you should be very careful when using the oven. Heat-resistant cloths or hand covers are great ways to protect yourself from the heat.

To make your own solar oven, you will need the following materials:

- a pizza box

- aluminum foil

- plastic wrap

- tape

- pen or pencil

- scissors

- ruler

First take your pizza box and draw a square around the lid of the pizza box about two inches from the edges.  Cut along only three edges: the front and sides of the pizza box.  Do not cut the fourth side that runs along the back of the pizza box.


Fold along the uncut line so that you form a flap.  After folding the flap back, wrap it in a piece of aluminum foil and tape it down.  Make sure that the shiny side is facing out and that there are no wrinkles in the foil.


Next, open up the pizza box and cover the insides with foil.  Make sure to cover the bottom and the sides of the pizza box.  Have the shiny side of the foil face up and overlap the pieces to cover any gaps. Tape into place.


While the pizza box is open, we’re going to cover the hole made by the foil-covered flap with plastic wrap.  Before cutting a piece of plastic wrap, you can tape down one side and then unroll the plastic wrap across the hole.  Make sure the plastic wrap is the right size and that it is taped down tightly so that no air can get out.

After these steps, you’ve completed your solar oven!


Click for more to see how to make some yummy food with your new solar oven!

Read the rest of this entry »

Story Time Library: Let’s Get Organized!

13 08 2012

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:

  • Clothes
  • Toys
  • School/art supplies
  • DVDs
  • Video games

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!

Photo by jenni waterloo on Flickr
Group things by color!

Photo by matthew_moss on Flickr
Organize office supplies!

Woodcrafting 101 Workshop!

9 08 2012

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.

An example of a woven latice that Matt made!

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!

Learning how to mark and measure.

Learning how to use the dovetail saw to cut the pieces of wood in half!

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!

After cutting the wood, the next step was to drill the holes!

Showing the kids how to use a drill safely.

Making sure to always wear goggles and hold the drill downward at a straight angle.

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.

The third step is to assemble the frame!

The kids learned how to use nuts and bolts to put the pieces of wood together.

Learning how to use a wrench to tighten the nuts and bolts.

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.

The last step is to decorate the latice by weaving different colored string through the holes!

The children got to pick what colors and kinds of string they wanted to use for their latice!

The kids learned how to use a plastic needle to weave the string through the holes of the frame.

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!

Everyone had a great time at our woodcraft workshop!

Adventures in Archiving at ACM

6 08 2012

We’re doing some spring (or summer!) cleaning here at the Museum.  But we aren’t just throwing things away. Instead, we’re archiving them!

What is an archive? An archive is a place where people store old things to keep them in good condition. Archives can be filled with things like books, letters, poems, postcards, photographs … all sorts of things, really. The United States has its very own National Archives, where all sorts of papers important to American history are stored.

Just think of how much paper is in here!
Image by David Samuel, Wikimedia Commons

The museum archive isn’t going to be in a big building though. Instead, it’s going to be on the computer. The museum is scanning paper documents and creating a digital archive of everything from old photographs to brainstorming sketches.

This summer and fall, we’ll be posting about our adventures in archiving. And we’ll give you some ideas for ways you can archive things at home!

Activity: Start your own archive!
Before you start an archive, you have to find things to put in it. Try going on an archival scavenger hunt in your house!   You can see if your relatives and older friends have already started saving things like photographs. Ask how they saved those things and why.

Here are some old things to look for.

  • Black and white photographs
  • Records or CDs
  • Old postcards and letters
  • Newspaper clippings

What cool old things have you found around your house? Happy hunting!

Create your own Motion Ocean!

25 07 2012

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:

  • A  clear container with a lid (can be plastic or glass)
  • Blue food coloring
  • Some glitter (optional)
  • Baby oil or cooking oil
  • Small plastic floating toys

To make your own motion ocean just follow these simple steps!

    1. First, fill half of your container with water
    2. Then add a few drops of food coloring into the water and add some glitter too if you want!
    3. Pour in the baby oil/cooking oil until the container is about 3/4 full
    4. Add your favorite floating plastic toys on top of the oil
    5. Put the lid on the container
    6. Shake up your very own motion ocean!

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!

Extreme Planet: Compasses, Scavenger Hunts, and Shelter-Building!

17 07 2012

Last week at the Museum, our full day camp for 7- to 10-year-olds explored the ideas of “Extreme Planet!”

For the first day of camp, we talked about the different things that would classify as “Extreme Planet.”  Not only did we talk about the Earth, but we also talked about the Earth’s extremes: hurricanes, tornadoes, and extreme situations!

After talking about all of the extreme possibilities on Earth, we went on a scavenger hunt to find all of the essential, basic elements that we could use to build a shelter to protect us from inclement (or really bad) weather.

During our scavenger hunt, we followed clues that told us which directions to go in to find our next shelter-building material.  For this part of the hunt, we used a compass! Does everyone know how compasses work?

One of our campers holds the compass during our scavenger hunt!

A compass is essentially a magnet, which reacts to the magnetic field of Earth.  This means that across all of Earth there are magnetic waves that the magnet of a compass reacts to.  The magnet, also called the needle, of the compass has one end marked to show which direction is North.  The reason that the needle always points North is because the North Pole has the opposite charge of the needle in the compass.  You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: Opposites attract!!

Thus, the North Pole has a magnetic force that is opposite to the charge of the magnet in a compass, which draws the North tip of the needle towards the direction of the North Pole.

After finding all of our materials with the help of the compass, we came back to the Museum and built our best forts!

If you want to try to build a shelter to protect against harsh wind, rain, heat, or other extreme situations, just have a scavenger hunt of your own and collect all of these things:

- 1 card stock or thick piece of paper
– 1 plastic bag
– some tape
– 1 pair of scissors
– some string
– 5-10 skewers/sticks
– anything else you think would make a good shelter

Using any or all of these materials, try to build your own miniature shelter that can protect against extreme weather!  Share your photos if you’d like!

Here is what some of our campers came up with during camp!

Team Green went for a basic tent structure with their sticks and then later covered their shelter with the plastic bag to protect from the elements!

Team Blue built a shelter by curling their paper into a cone and covering it with the plastic bag to protect against rain and wind!

Team Red built a cube shape with their sticks and piece of paper before covering it all with their plastic bag to provide shelter from all of Earth’s extremes!

The Science of Juggling and Hula-hooping!

5 07 2012

Last week at the Museum, young boys and girls participated in our Secret Scientists camp.  On Tuesday, we had a field trip to Sky Candy, an aerial acrobatics company based here in Austin. At Sky Candy, two aerial artists, Danny and Winnie, told us about the science behind different parts of their work.

First, they talked about stretching and our bodies’ muscles.  Do you know the names of any muscles?  We talked about many different muscles and how stretching all of our muscles is important before any kind of exercise.

Here we stretched our triceps (the undersides of our arms).

Then, we talked about the science behind juggling. When you juggle, you are working with gravity.  When you throw the balls up into the air, you go against gravity.  Once the balls hit their peak, they no longer have any force against gravity and begin to fall with the force of gravity.

Trying to learn how to juggle!

After juggling with similar-sized balls, Danny, one of the aerial artists, asked if we thought that a larger ball would fall faster than a smaller one.  What do you think?

Danny with two different-sized juggling balls.

Because gravity works the same on every object, all objects fall at the same speed.  It’s only when an object has wind resistance that its speed may change.  This means that an open, flat piece of paper (which has a large surface that slows down its speed) falls slower than a bowling ball or a marble which fall at the same speed (because their shapes do not resist the force of their fall).

After juggling, Winnie talked to us about the hidden science behind hula-hoops.  When you hula-hoop, your body oscillates (moves from side to side).  This movement creates a force, which is called centripetal force, that acts upon the hoop.  Centripetal force is the force which carries an object (the hoop) on a curved path because of the force’s direction towards the center of the curved path. Thus, your hula-hoop rotates around you on a curved path because your body creates a force with its movement.

Here everyone took turns hula-hooping.

Who knew so much science was a part of aerial acrobats? Just by stretching and tossing a few balls in the air or playing with your hula-hoop at home, you can encounter scientific ideas about the muscles of your body, can see how gravity affects objects, and can create centripetal force.  Thanks to Winnie and Danny for teaching us all of this!!

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!

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.

Celebrate Mother Earth!

22 04 2012

On April 22nd, The United States, as well as 175 other countries will be celebrated Earth Day! This day is celebrated every year to increase awareness and appreciation for our beautiful planet.

Did you know there was an anthem for Earth Day?
Joyful joyful we adore our Earth in all its wonderment
Simple gifts of nature that all join into a paradise
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love through out all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love through out all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world

Here in the Guide to Being Green you do fun activities and learn ways to take care of Mother Earth!

Another great idea for Earth Day is to make a reminded to turn off your lights! This saves electricity and energy!

Here’s what you will need:

  • Scissors
  • Scrap cardboard (like a cereal box)
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Ribbon or String

1. Cut a light bulb shape (about 3 1/2 inches wide and 6 inches tall) out of the cardboard. Then use the cardboard to trace over construction paper. Cut out light bulb and glue on top of cardboard.

2. For the base of the bulb, cut out a strip of construction paper (about 1 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long), wrap it around the neck of the bulb, and glue it in place.

3. After it dries, use a marker to draw threads on the bulb base and to print your conservation message. For a hanger, tape a loop of ribbon to the back of the bulb.

4. Hang it on a doorknob for a daily reminder!

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