Kid invention saves birds’ lives

23 01 2009

Check out this cool story about Charlie Sobcov, eighth grader, who came up with an idea for saving birds from crashing into glass windows. Charlie invented a plastic window decal painted to reflect ultraviolet (UV) light. Humans can’t see UV light so the decal appears invisible to us. Birds can see UV light and so the decal will be like a big “stop” sign! Great invention, Charlie!



Create Your Own Owl: It’s a Hoot!

30 07 2012

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)

3) Scissors

4) Glue Stick

5) Markers

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!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

24 02 2012

With the new movie The Lorax being released on March 2nd 2012, the date that would have been Dr Seuss’ 108th birthday, we thought we’d take a closer look at the issues that the movie is trying to tell us about.

The story, originally published in 1971, pays great attention to how the environment is being damaged in order to make other things. Trees, truffula trees in this case, are being chopped down  to make clothing and carpet. In real life, trees do get cut down every day, even if we don’t see it happening.

The Lorax shows us how every action causes a reaction. In this case, because the trees are being cut down, the other characters in the book are not able to eat because it is the trees that grow their food. With no trees, there will be no food.

It is also mentioned that because of the factory being built to create more items from the trees, the birds are being effected – they cannot sing and have to fly much further away to get out of the smog.

In the final section of the book, the lorax shows how the water around the factory is also being harmed by the chemicals that are thrown out of the factory. The images also show the amount of damage that factories can cause to the environment. In this particular case, fish are jumping and climbing out of the oil filled pond as quickly as they can.

So in the end, The Lorax is trying to get you to think about how your actions are affecting the environment, and what you could do to help the environment.

Do you recycle?

Recycling is a great way to start helping the environment! Start by cleaning up your room and recycling everything that you don’t need or use anymore.

Here is a short list of just some of the things that can be recycled:

  • Aluminum cans
  • Cardboard
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Magazines
  • Metal
  • Newspapers
  • Paper
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic bottles
  • Steel cans

These are items that would will find everyday in your own house. Just find yourself a large box/bin to place all these items when you are finished with them. You could even decorate the large box and label it ‘Recycling‘ so that even visitors can see that you are trying to help the environment.

But other than recycling, how else can you help the environment?

  • Walk or cycle to school
  • Take shorter showers
  • Make sure all lights are switched off when they are not needed
  • Reuse water bottles etc, instead of throwing them away once you’re done.

Extra, Extra! Read All About Dinosaurs!

5 01 2012

Even though dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period, they’re still making headlines today. Here at the Austin Children’s Museum our feature exhibit, Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice is reaching it’s extinction point; the last day to stomp around with the “terrible lizards” is January 16th. That doesn’t mean that we’ll stop being fascinated by these  ancient creatures. Dinosaur discoveries are happening every day. Here are a few recent news items where dinos and their prehistoric pals made headlines:

Discovery News reports that a “Dinosaur Freeway” has been discovered in Colorado. The 98 million year-old highway consists of over 350 tracks from dinosaurs that traveled along what was then coastal plains. Read all about the discovery and how dinosaurs roamed by clicking this link.

A theropod dino foot from the exhibit.

– Across the pond in Germany, a prehistoric marine reptile from the order Ichthyosauria was found by a private collector looking for fossils alongside a (human) freeway construction site. German newspaper, the Local, describes the importance of the discovery – the newly unearthed reptile lived between 65 and 145 million years ago and up until its discovery, scientists had thought that the Ichthyosauria was extinct by then.

The Smithsonian reports that long before the first paleontologist sat behind a desk studying fossils, mysterious tracks and bones were shaping folklore around the world. As recently as the 1950’s, villagers in small Chinese towns had traded stories about mythical birds and creatures that traveled near the villages and brought good luck. Read the full article to learn how these folktales help paleontologists make new discoveries. 

Come visit the dinosaurs before they become extinct!

– Biologists and engineers at UC Berkeley are learning a thing or two about balance from dinosaurs and modern lizards. The research team tested a hypothesis that theropod dinosaurs used their tails to stabilize themselves while they ran and leaped. Students created a robot, named Tailbot, that uses its tail to keep balance. Find pictures and more information by reading the full article.

– And we’ll close out our dinosaur news cast with a heartwarming human interest story… a 4 year-old Canadian girl has found some internet fame with a video where she analyzes the inaccuracies of a model dinosaur in a toy shop. Her video got special attention from the Canadian Museum of Nature who sent her a more anatomically correct dinosaur model. Watch Stella explain why the triceratops toy is anything but and read about her interest in science over at the Ottowa Citizen’s site.

Thankful Turklings!

21 11 2011

The turkey is an American celebrity. It is one of the most famous birds in North America. In fact, Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the wild turkey the national bird of the United States instead of the bald eagle!The wild turkey we usually see in pictures is not the same as the domestic turkey that we eat at Thanksgiving. Domestic or tame turkeys weigh twice what a wild turkey does and are raised on farms. Most domestic turkeys are so heavy they are unable to fly.

Wild turkeys on the other hand, can fly. They sleep in the low branches of trees at night, and how else would they get to their bed but by flying. They spend their days foraging for food like acorns, seeds, small insects and wild berries. Wild turkeys are covered with dark feathers that help them blend in with their woodland homes. The bare skin on the throat and head of a turkey can change color from flat gray to striking shades of red, white, and blue when the bird becomes distressed or excited.

Each spring male turkeys try to befriend as many females as possible. Male turkeys, also called “tom turkeys” or “gobblers” puff up their bodies and spread their tail feathers, like a peacock. They grunt, make a gobble-gobble sound and strut about shaking their feathers. This fancy turkey trot helps the male attract female “hens” for mating.

After the female turkey mates, she prepares a nest under a bush in the woods and lays her tan and speckled brown eggs. She incubates as many as 18 eggs at a time. It takes about a month for the chicks to hatch. When the babies, known as “poults” or “turklings” hatch, they flock with their mother all year.

If you want to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, you can celebrate the celebrity of the turkey with us and make your own little turkling!

Follow the link below for instructions!

Read the rest of this entry »


13 10 2011

with my little eye… A FUN CRAFT!

Have you ever been bored on a road trip? Then you’ve probably played the I-Spy game. I-Spy is a guessing game, sometimes played in cars, where the fun is in the observation. There are many variations of the game, and right now at ACM, our newest favorite is the I-Spy Bottle. This fun craft is extremely easy to make and the possibilities of I-Spy combinations are endless!

Here’s the first one we made using random objects, an old water bottle, and plain white rice:

Some tips for making the bottle:

  • Gather items that you know will fit through the opening of the bottle
  • Use a funnel or make a paper one, so the filler (the rice) doesn’t spill
  • Try to add the filler and the objects in increments so the objects don’t all lump together
  • You can hot glue gun the top of the bottle if you want to avoid the contents spilling out in the excitement of I-Spying

You can make all sorts of themes with your I-Spy Bottles, use shells for an ocean theme, or creepy objects for a Halloween one. You can even vary the types of fillers you use: rice, pasta, beans, birdseed, lentils, beads, sand… it all works.

If you want to add another fun step in your I-Spy Bottle creation, try dyeing the filler you use, Momtastic has a great tutorial for coloring rice (it works on beans, pasta, and lentils too!) maybe you could make a rainbow themed bottle?

We even made a Dino-Spy Bottle in honor of our exhibit Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice! Check it out:

We used assorted beans to represent soil. It looks like the tiny triceratops is being excavated from the rocky remains!

Tell us how your bottles turned out, what theme did you choose?

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:

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.

Bird Feeding Fun

25 02 2011

Earlier this month, we learned about the different birds seen at the annual Christmas Bird Count. This got us thinking more about birds, and we discovered that this month has been International Bird Feeding Month!

There are many different ways you can help feed the birds in your backyard.

One simple way to help feed birds is with a Bagel Bird Feeder. All you need is a bagel, string, peanut butter and bird seeds. First, you tie the string around the bagel. Then you spread peanut butter over the bagel and pour seeds on it. Once this is done, you hang the bird feeder from tree and watch the birds eat!

Bagel Bird Feeder

You can also do this with a pine cone, a soft pretzel or a corn husk.

After making your bird feeder, you can have your own bird count. Tally and research all of the different birds you see at the bird feeder.

Bosque del Apache Bird Watching

9 02 2011

In December, we learned about the annual Christmas Bird Count. This winter, one of the Museum’s staff members went on a bird watching trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro, New Mexico. Every autumn, tens of thousands of birds migrate south to Socorro to spend the winter in warmer weather. The Wildlife Refuge tracks the types and quantities of birds that visit them every year. See how many different  kinds of birds you can spot  in this slideshow:

Christmas Bird Count- a 111 year tradition!

21 12 2010

Do you know that birdwatchers have been participating in the Christmas Bird Count throughout America for over 100 years? In the late 1880’s it was traditional to hunt birds on Christmas day. Whoever brought home the most birds was the winner.  in 1900 the conservation movement was just beginning and Frank Chapman worried this tradition was contributing to the decline of the bird population. He organized the first Christmas Bird Count as an alternative to hunting.

Today bird watchers from around the country volunteer to observe birds in a specific 15 mile circle for a day in between Dec. 14- Jan. 5.  Their sightings are compiled and used to monitor the population of species and do additional research.

String cheerios onto a string and hang it from a tree branch. Watch birds and see how long it takes them to finish their treat.

Take a Listening Walk

1 10 2010

Take a listening walk to discover interesting sounds around you.  Do you know if your steps make an echo?  Does it ever seem like the dogs in the neighborhood are talking to each other? How many different types of birds can you hear?

Scientists have to be like detectives, carefully looking for clues. Practice the art of careful observation by quietly walking with your family and discussing what you hear.

Try this fun project on your next walk, so you do not forget all the wonderful sights and sounds. Place an interesting stick or leaf under a piece of paper and lightly color over in with a crayon. Hold the paper up against a tree and color on the paper, so you can see the texture of the bark.

I made this while taking a listening walk around the Museum.

It’s the Motion of the Ocean…

29 06 2010

Ever wonder what lives thousands of feet under the sea? This week at the ACM our Under the Sea campers are exploring the ocean from top to bottom! Today they devoted their day to exploring the lives of fish. Here are some pictures of the different activities and crafts that campers created.

painting a "rainbow" fish

creating seaweed!

fish tracings

Here are some fun facts about fish!

  • Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)Fish have been on the earth for more than 450 million years.
  • Fish were well established long before dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • There are over 25,000 identified species of fish on the earth.
  • It is estimated that there may still be over 15,000 fish species that have not yet been identified.
  • There are more species of fish than all the species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals combined.

  • What can wind do?

    27 01 2010

    Did you know that wind is very important?  Wind can shape landforms like mountains through erosion.  It can make new plants by blowing their seeds to new places or helping to pollinate existing plants. Birds decide their course because wind can help push them in a certain direction. Sometimes wind can help airplanes and kites in the same way. Wind can also cause bad weather like hurricanes or tornados.

    New wind turbine.

    Nowadays, we use wind turbines to create energy.  These turbines look like giant, skinny windmills, and are all over the world. When the wind blows, air moves the blades and they begin to turn. When this happens, it starts a generator in the turbine which creates energy. This new energy can power anything electricity can, but it is better for the environment because it does not cause pollution by putting bad things in the air.

    To see how wind works for yourself, you can make this pinwheel at home.  Like the wind turbines that create energy for us, this pinwheel also works by catching the wind under its blades to spin.


    Construction paper
    Push pin
    Unsharpened pencil with eraser
    Markers or crayons
    Glue stick
    Hole punch


    1. Measure and cut a 4 1/2″ square out of your paper. Decorate the paper with markers or crayons.

    2. Place the dime in the middle of the square and trace around it.

    3. Cut from each corner towards the center, stopping at the dime’s outline. You should have 4 sections.

    4. With your hole punch, punch the top right corner of each section and the center of the dime’s outline.

    5. Use the glue stick and put glue around the center hole. Then bring one of the corners to the center and line up the holes. Press down and make them stick together. Continue to put glue on each corner that you place down, this way they can all stick together. Also make sure the holes are always lined up.

    6. Carefully take your push pin and put its needle through the holes. Push the needle end through the pencil eraser. Now you have a pinwheel! Go outside and test it out if it’s windy. If not, try blowing on it or putting it in a room that has a fan or air vent.  

    Other than moving our pinwheels,  shaping the land, making plants, helping animals and providing new energy for us, wind can also be fun! Starting Saturday, the Museum’s new exhibit Air Fair will show us the power of wind and more exciting things it can do. To learn more about wind energy, visit Energy Kids.

    Science Fact of the Week: All About Penguins

    16 12 2008

    penguin3When I think of winter, I think of the penguin, a bird that can survive in very cold conditions! Penguins are different from most birds. Here are some interesting facts that you may not know about penguins:

    Did you know that male Emperor Penguins help to take care of eggs before they hatch? This penguin will balance an egg on his feet for a long amount of time and will cover the egg with his belly to keep the egg warm! Large groups of male penguins also huddle together and generate body warmth to keep all the eggs warm!

    Did you know that penguins can’t fly? Although penguins have wings, the wings act more as flippers. Penguins use their wings to help them swim and dive underwater instead of for flying!

    Did you know that there are 17 different types of penguins? These different types of penguins vary in size, appearance, and behavior. Emperor Penguins can grow up to four feet tall while Little Blue Penguins are only about a foot tall. And while most penguins live in areas that have a cold climate, some penguins live where it is very warm! The Humboldt Penguin lives in South America and The African Penguin lives in- you guessed it- Africa!

    To test your penguin knowledge and to learn more about penguins take this Penguin Quiz on the Discovery Kids Website!


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