Peep Battle!

29 04 2011

Before Microwaving

We had quite a few marshmallow chicks hanging around and getting stale, so we named them, armed them with toothpicks, and let them battle in the microwave!

Check out the video below to see what happened.

We wanted to know more about what was going on and found a great explanation from the Exploratorium. Marshmallows are basically made of sugar and water (plus gelatin) that are wrapped around a bunch of air bubbles. When a marshmallow is heated in the microwave, two things happen. First, the heat of the microwaves softens the sugar. At the same time, the heat makes the molecules in the air bubbles move around faster, making them push into the walls (of softened sugar). This pushing makes the gas bubbles expand, and that makes the whole marshmallow expand!

You can try this at home with any type of marshmallow (not just ones shaped like animals). Be sure to place your marshmallows on a plate or paper towel, or you’ll end up with a molten mess in your microwave! Our marshmallows were fully expanded in 45 seconds, but depending on your microwave, it should take between 30 seconds and 1 minute.

Note: This experiment should be done with adult supervision.

A New Way to Dye Eggs

24 04 2011

There are many different ways to dye eggs. One new way to dye your eggs this Easter holiday or for the spring is with crayons!

All you will need are white eggs, tongs, crayons and an empty egg carton. First, you must hard-boil the white eggs. After the eggs are finished boiling, remove them from the pot with the tongs. Dry them off and let them rest in the empty egg carton.

While they are still a little warm, color the eggs with the tips of crayon. To make it easier, remove the paper from the the crayons and color the eggs with the sides of the crayon.

In order to create a speckled effect like the purple egg in the picture, grate the crayon and sprinkle them crayon shavings on top.

These waxy eggs are very slippery, so be careful not to drop them as you are turning them around!

Once you have finished coloring them, let the eggs dry for about an hour.

What is your favorite way to decorate eggs? Be sure to let us know!

Spring Is Here: Your Own Discovery Pack

13 04 2011

There are many things for you to do outside in this nice spring weather. Whether you are on a scavenger hunt or a picnic, there are always things to observe and learn. To help you discover new aspects of nature, Family Fun has compiled a list of items for you to bring with you while taking a stroll outside.

A few items you may want to bring along with you to help you discover more in nature  include:

  • A water-filled spray bottle to spritz on spider webs and color changing rocks. You will be able to discover the different ways these objects look in nature.
  • Strong magnets to run across soil in order to see if iron bits are in it. If there is iron. it will surely stick to the magnets.
  • A magnifying glass to discover new things that are in plain sight!
  • Your very own soil slides can be made by taking note cards and cutting 1/2 an inch square in the center. Then, you place tape where the square is. Take your note card with you and place the sticky side on the soil to create your soil slide.
  • A color-coated egg carton to collect some treasures from nature. Take an egg carton and paint the egg compartments different colors. On your nature walk, you can collect different things in nature like leaves and rocks that match the colors of your different compartments.

Here's an example of the color-coated egg carton from Family Fun.

You can throw all of these fun things into your picnic basket or put it in a pouch to take along with you on your scavenger hunt!

Spring is Here: A Picnic and Snacks

6 04 2011

A few weeks ago, we showed you a scavenger hunt to do in this perfect spring weather. Another fun thing to do in the spring is to go on a picnic. You can have a picnic in the park or even in your back yard. All you need is a blanket, a basket and some food!

A great way to incorporate spring into your picnic is by making spring snacks.

Here are a few ideas:

PB&J blossom sandwiches for your lunch.

Vegetables in the shape of flowers for a snack.

For desert, your very own candy carrot patch.

What are you going to take on your picnic? Be sure to let us know!

Spring is Here: Nature Scavenger Hunt

21 03 2011

It’s hard not to love spring in Austin. The warming weather brings flowers, birds, butterflies, and bats back to the city. Here at the Museum, spring means Spring Break Camp which just wrapped up last week. The 4 to 6 year old kids in Half Day Camp spent the week learning about animals in Crazy for Critters camp. They got to visit with some reptiles, make marsupial pouches, learn about amphibians, and much more. We were inspired by the beautiful weather and all the animal action and put together a Nature Scavenger Hunt.

Download the pdf here: Nature Scavenger Hunt

Print out as many copies as you need (one per person or small group) and set out on a nature exploration. Place a check mark next to the items you spot or bring along small stickers to mark off each thing you see. Can you find a grackle, a squirrel, and a compound leaf?

Did you spot any other interesting animals, plants, or natural items on your scavenger hunt? Let us know what you found by leaving us a message in the comment section.

Wildflowers in bloom

5 04 2010

Over the weekend I noticed all of the wildflowers along the highway. They were all different colors and sizes, but they were all beautiful.

When I saw them I wondered why they were there.  I found out that in 1934, the highway department stopped mowing the grass around the highways so the native wildflowers could grow. Now each year they plant over 30,000 seeds of all different kinds of wildflowers.

If you go on a road trip this spring or a long drive, make sure you look out for these flowers.

Spring fun!

26 03 2010

Today I asked our Tour Intern Annie what her favorite thing to do in spring is. Here’s what she had to say!

What do you like to do this time of year?

Spring Forward!

14 03 2010

Daylight Saving Time is here once again, meaning we changed the time on the clock today to be one hour ahead. But do you know why?

Originally Daylight Saving Time was created to help save energy. When we set our clocks forward an hour like today, we have more hours of sunlight during the day.  With more sunlight, we don’t have to use as many lights in our houses

and buildings, saving energy.

Daylight Saving Time also affects farming and flying since both rely on sunlight.

Don’t forget, today is the Zilker Park Kite Festival, too! What a great way to take advantage of extra sunlight.

What will you do now since there is more time to spend in the daylight?

New takes on kites!

8 03 2010

Here are the kites I was talking about earlier. These kites are a little different from the traditional kites, but will fly just as well and are a little more interesting.

If you have a lot of time and want a challenge, try making this tetrahedral kite:


60 long, straight drinking straws
Kite string or thin, strong string that will stay knotted, at least 30 feet
4 wooden dowels, 1/8 diameter
Big sheet of paper
Newspaper, cellophane, or plastic bags
A pen/marker

1. Cut your string eight times as long as one of your straws.

2. String three straws together by pushing the string through the straw with a dowel. Tie the straws into a triangle. Leave two inches of string at the end. Then use the longer piece of string and pull it through two more straws and tie a knot so it looks like this:

3. Use this frame to make a pattern. Place the frame on top of the sheet of paper and trace around it, leaving about a one inch around the edge. Cut it out and use it to make ten cutouts of the newspaper, cellophane, or plastic bags, whatever you would like your kite’s shell to be.

4. Use the leftover string in the frame and add another straw onto the triangles. This makes a 3-d triangle, which will be one cell of the kite. Take the frame and place it on one of your cutouts. Attach with tape.

The kite frame.

Covering the frame with the shell.

5. Make 9 more cells. Attach all the cells together in the shape of a triangle with the leftover bits of string. To make them more secure, you can tape the knots and excess string to the inside of the cells.  Make sure all sides covered with the cutouts are facing the same direction.

The first layer should have 6 cells, the second should have 3, and the top layer should only have 1 cell.

6.  Cut off excess string between the cells. Along the leading edge of the cells tape your dowels to the straws for reinforcement.  Then cut two small holes on the top cell’s and lower cell’s shell, each in the middle of the cells. Tie the string around the dowels and straws and secure with tape. Then take the string you want to fly the kite by, and tie it one-third of the way down from the top of the kite. Wrap the excess around the left over dowel. It’s now ready to fly!

A kite ready for flight!

To make a kite out of recycled materials and for almost no money, try this:


Plastic shopping bag
Two thin wooden sticks
Duct tape

1. Take the two sticks and lay one other the other perpendicularly, so it looks like a + sign. Then take one piece of the duct tape and place it over where the sticks intersect.

2. Attach the 4 ends of the sticks to the bag with the tape. Then attach the string to another piece of tape and stick that piece to the bag of the center tape piece. Now it’s ready to fly.

I love my new kites and can’t wait to fly them at the festival or during the next few months.  I hope you go out and fly some too!

Make your own kite!

8 03 2010

This Sunday is the Kite Festival. To be prepared, I found a few kites to make. You can make them for anytime, and usually spring is the perfect time to fly a kite.

For a traditional kite, try this:


String or yarn, at least 10 feet
One large sheet of strong paper (I used recycled wallpaper)
Markers or crayons
Two thin wooden sticks, one 1 foot long, the other 8 inches long
Something to wrap your string around when flying

1. Use the two sticks to make a cross, with the 8 inch stick lying horizontal on the 12 inch stick. Make sure the 12 inch stick is in the center of the 8 inch stick. My sticks were a bit short so I taped a few together to make them the right lengths.

2. Wrap the string around the stick and make sure it is bound strong. You can use the tape here to reinforce the string.

3. Cut notches on the ends of every stick for the string to catch. Then starting from the bottom, take your string and fit it into the notch at the end of the stick. Continue all the way around the frame. Use the tape on the ends of the sticks to prevent the string from moving.

4. Decorate you paper if you please. Then place the sticks on top of the paper and cut around the  string frame, leaving about an inch around the perimeter. Then fold the edges over the string frame and hold down with the tape.

5. Tie a spring around the middle of the frame where the two sticks intersect. Make sure the string is long enough that the kite can have room to fly. Wrap the excess string around something easy for you to hold. I used a strong straw. Now try flying it!

Check back here later for some more kites you can make at home!

Spring is almost here!

3 03 2010

Even though the weather has been cold a lot, spring is almost here. As you probably know, in spring all of the plants and flowers bloom because the temperature changes.  When you’re out and about, try and spot the blooms and buds on the plants around you.

I went down to Town Lake to see if I could find some buds.  Here’s what I saw:

First I found buds on some bushy plants.

Then I saw some on the trees.

Then I saw some flowers.  Some were about to bud and some had even bloomed.

Tell us what you find when you go outside and look!

Spring seeds

13 02 2009

Spring feels like it is here already! Beans are some of the easiest plants to begin growing indoors. Simply soak them overnight (or stick them in the fridge, depending on the type), plant them in a little pot of soil, and keep them in a sunny window with regular water.


Look closely at the young bean plants that are sprouting. You can see that the wee little bean is still attached to the stalk of the plant. The chubby bean provides nourishment for the growing plant in its early days, much like an egg yolk provides energy to a baby chicken developing inside the egg. The longer a plant grows, the smaller the attached bean gets as the growing plant “eats” it all up! I’m hoping I’ll have some more beans in the summer to eat for myself! Happy planting!

bean plants


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