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.

Costume Contest!

19 10 2011

Calling all dinosaurs in training! Are you the fiercest t. rex? How ’bout the most colorful triceratops? Then come into ACM and let us hear you roar!

This month, the Museum is hosting a Dino Costume Contest. If you think you’re the best-looking dino in town, then come in with your homemade costumes and you may win a membership here at The Austin Children’s Museum. In order to win as the most creative creature, you must follow these guidelines:

  • Make your dino-suit at home (must be homemade)
  • Wear it on your visit to the Museum
  • Take a photo wearing your costume with your fiercest dino-face in the Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice exhibit
  • Upload your photo to the ACM Facebook Album
  • Invite your friends and family to “like” your photo
  • The winner of the most popular photo will receive an ACM membership
  • Second and third place prizes will also be awarded

We’ve included instructions to make your very own costume, watch the slideshow below and follow the link to the costume instructions.

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Have fun creating!

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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?

Celebrate Chemistry Week with Lava…

6 10 2011

…in a cup! 

Did you know that volcanoes are just a bunch of lava?

Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. Volcanoes form after the eruption of molten lava cools and leaves a raised platform, after repeated eruptions the volcano gets bigger and bigger. We find lava and volcanoes endlessly interesting here at ACM, we even have a featured volcano in our current exhibit Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice.

So what’s happening in this experiment? First of all, the oil floats on top of the water because it is lighter (less dense) than the water. Since the salt is heavier (or more dense) than oil, it sinks down into the water and takes some oil with it, but then the salt dissolves and the oil heads back to the top.

The lava in the cup is demonstrating something you might learn in chemistry class: density. Density refers to mass per unit volume of an object. Most objects have a fixed density, however temperature sometimes can affect this. For example, as lava cools it becomes harder and more dense, neat huh?

If you like this experiment, then you should check out the Museum on Sunday, October 9th, where you can get your hands on your own chemistry activities in honor of National Chemistry Week!

What’s that rumbling in the distance?

3 10 2011



These late-cretaceous creatures are roaming around ACM  in our exhibit, Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice. Can you handle the heat from the volcano? Will the ice freeze your toes? You’ll have to come see for yourself, and try not to go extinct!

Our staff had the wonderful opportunity to get a hands on learning experience about dinosaurs thanks to our friends at The Austin Nature and Science Center. They even have their very own Dino Pit!

If you dig dinosaurs as much as we do, then you should also stop by The Texas Memorial Museum for their Family Fossil Fun Day on Sunday October 9th. You’ll see Sarahsaurus aurifontanalis, an early ancestor to giant sauropod dinosaurs. Learn about the discovery of this claw-handed dinosaur!

Are you tired of all this dino-talk yet? Then come to ACM’s Dinosnore Sleepover October 14th-15th, meet a paleontologist, eat some prehistoric pizza and sleep like a stegosaurus!  You have until October 7th to sign up.

You should check out all these fun dino-deals, and tell us about it… don’t be a no-fun-a-saurus!


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