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Saturday Science: Crayon Rocks

Saturday Science: Crayon RocksWhile spending time outdoors this summer, have you noticed different types of rocks? Chances are that answer is, “Yes!” There are three kinds of rocks: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous. In this week’s Saturday Science experiment, courtesy of Momma Owl’s Lab, learn how to create colorful crayon rocks and discover how each type of rock forms.



  • 4 different colored crayons (multiple of each color) 
  • Pencil sharpener
  • 4 containers
  • 3 6"x6" pieces of aluminum foil
  • Popsicle stick 
  • Mug
  • Boiling water (Have a parent help you with this!)


  1. Unwrap the crayons and sharpen them. 
  2. Place each color of crayon shavings in a separate container. 

Create sedimentary rocks:

  1. Lay one of the aluminum foil squares flat on the table or work station.
  2. Add a few shavings of each color to the foil one at a time so that the colors form layers. 
  3. Fold the foil tightly around the shavings. 
  4. Compress the foil and shavings with your hands (or feet). 
  5. Keep compressing. It takes awhile for the shavings to stick together. 
  6. Carefully unfold the foil and remove your sedimentary rock!

Create metamorphic rocks: 

  1. Lay another aluminum foil square flat on the table or work station. 
  2. Layer the crayon shavings by color in the center of the square.
  3. Fold up the foil around the shavings to create a boat. 
  4. Have an adult pour boiling water into mug.  
  5. Place the boat into the mug and let it float for 20 seconds. 
  6. Remove the boat and fold the foil in half so that the shavings are compressed. (Be careful! The foil might be hot.) 
  7. Let it cool and solidify. 
  8. Open the foil and remove your metamorphic rock!

Create an igneous rock:

  1. Lay another aluminum foil square flat on the table or work station. 
  2. Layer the crayon shavings by color in the center of the square.
  3. Fold up the foil around the shavings to create a boat. 
  4. Have an adult pour boiling water into mug.  
  5. Place the boat into the mug and let it float for 1-2 minutes. Shavings should be completely melted.  
  6. Take the popsicle stick and stir the shavings until they are all mixed together.
  7. Remove the boat. 
  8. Let the crayon cool and solidify.
  9. Take a look at your igneous rock!



You just created sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks! Can you tell the difference between each one?


Sedimentary rocks are formed from sediments, or tiny rock particles, that were layered and then compressed together. This is similar to when you compressed the crayon shavings together between the foil. Sedimentary rocks have distinct layers of sediment and often have visible rock particles in them. If you’re looking at rocks from Indiana, you’re looking at sedimentary rocks, like limestone, sandstone and shale.


Metamorphic rocks are formed when existing rocks are exposed to heat and/or pressure. You recreated this process by using heat (the boiling water) to melt your crayon shavings and then adding pressure (when you folded the foil in half). Distinct bands or blocks of crystals can be found in metamorphic rocks.


Igneous rocks are formed when magma, or molten rock, cools and solidifies. You made magma by completely melting your crayon shavings and as that magma cooled and solidified, it became an igneous rock.  


There might be three types of rock, but it is important to note that no rock is “set in stone.” Given the right conditions, each can be changed from one into another.

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Pretty Pigments

Saturday Science: Pretty PigmentsWhen you visit the museum to see Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, you’ll notice faded paint on some warriors. While few examples of what the warriors originally looked like remain, we know that at one time these warriors were painted in bold and vibrant colors.


When China’s first emperor ordered the creation of these warriors, the color of each paint was created by crushing minerals into powder and adding liquid. Now, you and your family can explore this color creation at home by creating your own chalk paint!



  • Colorful sidewalk chalk

  • Small plastic bags

  • Hammer (or similar tool)

  • Small bowls or cups

  • Water



  1. Place colorful sidewalk chalk into small plastic bags. Use a different bag for each color.

  2. Using a hammer or similar tool, crush the chalk into a powder. Be careful! The plastic bags might tear open and leak powder.

  3. Transfer the powder into small bowls and cups. You can create new colors by mixing different colored powders together. Ask your children to guess what colors these combinations will make.

  4. Add small amounts of water at a time, mixing carefully, until your paint is the thickness you desire. It may take quite a bit of mixing to create a smooth paint.

  5. Now your paints are ready to use! Children can create works of art on the sidewalk or on paper and pretend that they are artists working on the First Emperor’s amazing army.



What colors did you make? It may not seem like it at first, but there’s some science going on in your artistic endeavor.

Art supplies like chalk, paint, crayons and colored pencils get their colors from substances called pigments. Pigments are made up of molecules that absorb some light and reflect other light. If you’ve ever seen a rainbow, then you know that the white light from the sun is made up of every color that’s in that rainbow. When white light hits a pigment, that pigment absorbs every single color from the hidden rainbow except the color that it is. So a red pigment absorbs every color but red. Only the red part of the light bounces off and enters your eye.

When pigments get mixed, suddenly you have two types of molecules each bouncing back a different color. When those two colors hit your eye at the same time, they mix, too! Yellow and blue pigments mixed bounce back green, blue and red bounce back purple, and so on. Some pigments occur naturally in plants and certain animals, and some are human-made, or synthetic pigments. They all share one thing in common, though: they made our lives brighter by adding color!

Be sure to get your tickets to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, at The Children's Museum now through November 2. 

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.


Top 10 NASA Milestones Since the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

In this infographic, The Children's Museum's Extraordinary Scientist-in-Residence, former astronaut Dr. David Wolf, shares the Top 10 NASA milestones that have taken place since Apollo 11's lunar landing.

Top 10 NASA Milestones

Sunday, July 20 is Moon Day at the museum! 
Join us to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the moon landing as you meet museum science experts and dive into fascinating space topics like gravity, moon craters, and more!

Saturday Science: Balloon Hovercraft

Saturday Science: Balloon HovercraftHovercrafts are pretty cool. They use air to hover a couple of feet up and can travel over land, snow, and even water. Since air is all around us, with a couple of things from around the house you can wrangle that air into a small but functioning hovercraft!



  • An old CD or DVD (make sure it’s one nobody wants to use anymore)
  • A pop-top from a water bottle or soap bottle
  • Duct tape
  • A pushpin
  • A balloon
  • A hot glue gun



  1. Tear off two 2-inch square of duct tape. Use them to cover the hole in the CD from both sides so there’s no sticky stuff exposed.
  2. Using your pushpin, poke 6-8 holes through the tape around the edge of the CD hole. This will concentrate the air flowing through and help the CD hover.
  3. Using your hot glue gun, glue the pop-top cap over the hole. Make sure the seal is completely airtight by opening the cap once the glue is dry and blowing through it. Air should only be coming through the holes you poked in the tape. If it’s leaking out the edges of the cap, add a bit more glue.
  4. When the glue is all dry you’re ready to add your air! Blow up the balloon as big as you can get it but don’t tie it off. Make sure that the pop-top is closed and pull the neck of the balloon down over the top part of it.
  5. Your hovercraft is finished! Pop the cap open to get the air flowing and watch it float!



So how come the CD hovers instead of blasting straight up?

The CD hovers because the air coming through those holes you poked gets spread out into a cushion underneath the CD, pushing it up off whatever surface you put it on. This is partially due to a scientific principle called Bernoulli’s Principle, after scientist Daniel Bernoulli. It says that fast moving air has low air pressure and slowly moving air has high pressure. When you concentrate the flow of air through those tiny pushpin holes you raise the pressure and lower the speed to help it form that cushion rather than simply blasting the CD across the room (like when you let go of an untied balloon).

Experiment with different bases for your hovercraft. How does a paper plate work? A Frisbee? An old record album? If you want to kick it up a notch you can go online and find blueprints for a full-sized hoverchair you can ride! Just make sure you have an adult handy to help you build it!

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Air Rockets

Saturday Science: Air RocketsWhen we think of rockets we often tend to think of giant metal rockets, blasting up into space on a column of jet fuel. A rocket doesn’t need to shoot fire to get going. Isaac Newton’s laws of motion let us use lots of things as rocket fuel, even air!


For your rocket launcher you will need:

  • One 10-foot PVC pipe, 1/2-inch in diameter
  • One 1/2-inch 90-degree PVC elbow
  • Saw or PVC cutter
  • Lots of 2-liter bottles
  • Duct tape
  • Twine

To build your rockets you will need:

  • Scotch tape
  • Old magazines (the kind with a staple in a center crease)
  • Cereal boxes
  • Scissors


  1. Using your saw or PVC cutter, have an adult cut your 10 foot PVC pipe into the following lengths:
    1. One 5-foot piece
    2. One 2-foot piece
    3. One 1-foot piece
    4. Two six-inch pieces
  2. Use the 90-degree elbow to connect the 5-foot piece and the 2-foot piece forming an L-shape. Stick ‘em in there tightly. You can glue them together if you want but sometimes the launcher is easier to transport if you can take it apart.
  3. Using your twine, tie the two 6-inch pieces across the 5-foot piece. They should be perpendicular to the 5-foot piece and about 3 feet apart from each other to act as stabilizers. The 2-foot piece should be facing skywards. Tie the twine tightly and secure it in place with some duct tape.
  4. Your launcher is almost done! Stick the open end of the 5-foot piece into a 2-liter bottle. Push it about an inch or so into the opening in the bottle. It will fit snugly but secure it with some duct tape just in case.
  5.  Now it’s time to make a rocket! Open your old magazine to the very middle and have an adult remove the staples for you. Pull out a sheet or two of paper.
  6. Using your last piece of pipe, the 1-foot piece, roll the pages around the pipe. You can go long-ways or short-ways, whichever you like. Once the paper is rolled all the way up around the pipe use the scotch tape to tape it lengthwise, creating a paper cylinder. Don’t make it too tight on the pipe or it won’t fit onto the launcher!
  7. Take your rocket body off the pipe. Using your scissors, make four 1/2-inch cuts in one of the open ends in an X-shaped pattern. Fold the four flaps down on top of each other and tape them shut until the top of your rocket is airtight.
  8. Cut some fins, whatever shape you like, out of the cereal box and tape them to the bottom of your rocket. Remember: fins are important for a rocket to fly straight but too many fins will weigh it down and make it fly a shorter distance.
  9. Slide your rocket onto the end of the 2-foot piece. You’re ready to launch! Give a countdown and then stomp as hard as you can on the 2-liter bottle.


How far did your rocket go? A well-built rocket with a really good stomp can fly close to 200 feet in the air!

Big space rockets use Newton’s third law of motion to get moving: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The rocket fuel pushes down (action), and the rocket gets pushed up (reaction). Your rocket is a bit different. Newton’s first law provides the mechanism to get it moving: an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. The air in the 2-liter is at rest until you, the outside force, stomp on the bottle and get it moving. The rocket is at rest until the air hits it, putting it into motion, and then it shoots up into the sky!

You can get 20-30 good stomps out of one 2-liter bottle by blowing into the launcher and puffing it back up with air over and over. Make sure you put your hand around the launcher so your lips don’t touch the pipe, though! When your bottle is about finished, just take it off and pop a new one on. Experiment with different sizes and shapes of rockets to see what flies the best!

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

How Fireworks Work

Fireworks are more than just a loud bang and beautiful colors showering the night's sky—they're chemistry in ACTION! This Fourth of July, learn and teach your kids how fireworks work.

Remember—safety first! It's always best to see the pros launch fireworks. If you're at home, use fireworks and sparklers under adult supervision and be aware of your local burn laws.

How Fireworks Work

The museum is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m.. Plan your visit and buy tickets at

Saturday Science: Sugary Snot

Saturday Science: Sugary SnotIt’s a little gross, but it’s a lot of fun! In this Saturday Science, courtesy of Science Kids, you'll learn about the important role mucus plays in our body—by playing with fake snot!



  • Boiling water (Have a parent help you with this.)

  • A cup (Choose a cup that can withstand boiling water.)

  • Gelatin

  • Corn syrup

  • A teaspoon

  • A fork



  1. Fill half of your cup with boiling water.

  2. Add three teaspoons of gelatin to the boiling water.

  3. Let it soften and then stir with a fork.

  4. Add ¼ cup of corn syrup to your mixture.

  5. Stir again with your fork.

  6. Look at the long strands of gunk that are forming.

  7. As the mixture cools, slowly add small amounts of water.



Does your sugary snot look … snotty? Yuck!


What makes your mixture look so gross is the combination of sugar and protein. Like real mucus, when you combined a sugar (corn syrup) and a protein (gelatin), you produced long, fine strings of goop. These strings are sticky, stretchy protein strands. Mucus uses these strands to  protect your body from contaminants (like dust or bacteria) by trapping the particles and carrying them out of the body and into your tissue.  


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.


The SciencePort Scoop: School Is Out, but Science Is In!

SciencePort fossilsHeather Gromley is The Children's Museum's MuseumPort Coordinator. Heather is finishing her master’s degree in Museum Studies from The Johns Hopkins University. She enjoys planetarium shows, facilitating science programs, and sitting sidesaddle on giraffes on the carousel. 

The staff of SciencePort invites you to visit our space to put your science skills to work and investigate some pretty cool topics. SciencePort® is a great place for the whole family to dive and explore through hands-on activities and technology stations. We have everything from a microscope station, to nifty science apps and in-depth investigations. Each week, we feature a different topic, related to an exhibit in the museum. We feature activities on flight, plants, and health, just to name a few.

This summer we've launched investigation stations about China to support our extraordinary new exhibits Take Me There:® China and Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army. Come explore tangram dissection puzzles, how to use an abacus, watch a live panda on the Panda Cam, create a Terra Cotta Warrior bookmark, and observe what tea leaves looks like under the microscope. 

SciencePort Dinos

One of our most popular programs is our Dinosaurs and Fossils theme. Together we'll decide what adaptations your dinosaur will need to survive in a setting you create. Will your winged T. rex survive in the ocean? Fossils are all around us, even in Indianapolis. Use the microscope or a magnifying glass to identify Indiana microfossils. Also, you can create a fossil imprint to take home with you! 

A cool feature of SciencePort is our animation station that allows you to make movie magic through stop motion animation. We also have touch screen computers and iPads to help you explore our topics.

Our super science staff is constantly researching new ideas for technology and investigations, so make sure you stop by each time you visit. We're located in ScienceWorks on Level 4. Look for signs around the red staircase in the construction zone area. SciencePort is open daily, from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Programming times may vary, so be sure to check gallery signs for more information about times or investigation topics. See you soon!

Robots + Nano + Astronauts = One Extraordinary STEM Camp

This post is brought to you by Don Riefler, The Children’s Museum’s Science Programs Coordinator. Don is highly trained in building, exploring, and (safely) destroying things with science. He also has the coolest safety goggles money can buy.

Okay, folks, I have to admit it: I’m really excited for The Children’s Museum’s Curious Scientific Investigators STEM Camp coming up in a few weeks. Granted, I am biased because I’m the one that’ll be leading the campers through all sorts of awesome experiments and activities (and some of them are some of my favorites). But seriously, it’s going to be all kinds of fun.

Let’s back up a bit, though, just in case some of you out there aren’t familiar with STEM. STEM is simply an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Like the science of chemical reactions. Or nanotechnology. Or engineering your very own robots and learning to program their brains. And to those of you who say math is boring, I say “Pshaw.” Math is awesome. Especially when it’s ancient Chinese math. That you unearthed during an archaeological dig.

Yes, we’ll be doing all of those things and more during this year’s STEM Camp. And unlike pretty much every other summer camp in town (okay, definitely every other summer camp in town), this one happens at the biggest and best children’s museum in the world. What does that mean for our campers? Well, not only will you get to participate in all sorts of great science activities, but you’ll get to explore our extraordinary exhibits—and maybe even go behind the scenes! I’ve already scheduled special visits and programs for the campers, including a custom Planetarium show. You (yes you, the campers) will get to direct the show and I will merely be your puppet as you tell me where in the universe to fly to next. 

Other stuff you’ll be doing:
•    Meeting and working with Dr. David Wolf, former astronaut and The Children’s Museum’s Extraordinary-Scientist-in-Residence
•    Exploring items from the museum’s huge collection
•    Engineering new chemical compounds
•    Making a mock digestive tract to explore just how poop is made
•    Hanging out with probably the coolest guy in Indianapolis (that would be me)

So if you don’t sign up you’ll be missing some unbelievably great stuff. I’m personally assuring that STEM camp will be as fun as possible, because I love science and I want you to love science as much as I do. Sometimes folks think science is boring. Perish the thought! Science can be more fun than just about anything else out there, and it’s such a wonderful, useful, powerful way to look at and think about the world. It gives us insight into the entire universe, from the very tiny to the unbelievably huge, and we’ll be looking at those and everything in between for a whole week.

Just sign up for STEM Camp 2014, from June 23rd to June 27th, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Saturday Science: Eggshell Sidewalk Chalk

Saturday Science Eggshell Sidewalk ChalkDid you make omelettes, scrambled eggs or maybe a frittata for your family’s Saturday morning breakfast? Don’t throw away those eggshells! Use them for this week’s Saturday Science experiment, courtesy of Almost Unschoolers.



  • Eggshells

  • A clean rock

  • Hot water

  • Flour

  • Food coloring

  • Mixing bowl

  • Mixing spoon

  • Paper towels (or paper napkins)



  1. Wash out the eggshells and allow them to dry completely.

  2. Use a clean rock (or mortar and pestle) to smash the eggshells into a fine powder.

  3. For each piece of chalk, add one spoonful of eggshell powder, one teaspoon hot water, one teaspoon flour and a few drops of food coloring to your mixing bowl and mix ingredients together.

  4. Pour chalk paste onto a paper towel and roll it so that it is the shape of a long piece of chalk.

  5. Let dry for at least three days.

  6. Peel the napkin or paper towel off of your chalk.

  7. Take your chalk outside and start drawing! (Note: To prevent scratches, do not use this chalk on a chalkboard.)



Did your eggshell sidewalk chalk allow you to draw beautiful sidewalk pictures just like the chalk that can be bought in a store?


Store-bought sidewalk chalk is made from a combination of calcium carbonate, gypsum, silica, phosphorus, iron, alumina, phosphorus, sulfur, manganese, copper, titanium, sodium oxide, fluorine, strontium and arsenic. Its main ingredient, however, is calcium carbonate – a form of limestone. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is the chemical that lets us draw on the sidewalk with a piece of chalk.


Do you know what else contains calcium carbonate? Eggshells! This makes them a great alternative to store-bought chalk.


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.


Saturday Science: Test Track

Saturday Science: Test Track Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!


In celebration of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, we’re putting top speeds to the test with help from In this week’s Saturday Science, discover which surface will make your remote-controlled toy car go faster.  


3 … 2 … 1 … the green flag means GO!



  • Remote-controlled toy car (or small toy car)

  • Sandpaper

  • Gravel (or pea gravel if using a small toy car)  

  • Concrete (or other hard, flat and dry surface)

  • Pencil

  • Notebook

  • Measuring tape

  • Stopwatch

  • Masking tape

  • Parent or friend



  1. Build your race track! Use your measuring tape to measure out a track that is at least five feet long and two feet wide. The track can be indoor or outdoor, but it needs to be on an area that is hard, flat and dry. (If you do not have a remote-controlled car on hand, you can make the track smaller so that it is the right size for a smaller toy car.)

  2. Make your start and finish line! Stick pieces of tape at the beginning and end of your track.

  3. Race your car! Lay sandpaper down on the track and place your toy car at the starting line. Have a parent or friend time your car with a stopwatch. Use the remote control to race your car to the finish line. When your car crosses the finish line, your parents or friend should stop the stopwatch. Record that time in your notebook.

  4. Now remove the sandpaper and fill the track with gravel (or pea gravel). Repeat step three.

  5. Now clear the track and repeat step three.

  6. Study your race times.



Other than a car's engine and horsepower, its speed is determined by the friction between its wheels and the road.


On which track did your car drive the fastest? Rub your finger on each surface. Which one is the smoothest? Which ones make it more difficult to keep your finger moving forward? This friction between your finger and each surface is the same friction that happened between your car’s wheels and each surface. When you drove your car on the clear track, its wheels were met with little resistance. That allowed your car to be faster than it was on the tracks with the sandpaper and gravel.


This also explains why the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a smooth surface. On race day, all 33 drivers are hoping to drive their Indy cars as fast as they can! Vroom, vroom!


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.


Saturday Science: Invisible Mystery Writing

Mystery Writing

Saturday Science: Coiled Clay Creation

For nearly 40 years, more than 700,000 laborers constructed 8,000 life-size clay soldiers for China’s first emperor. Starting today, you and your family can come face to face with the Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army.


But don’t let the Terra Cotta Warrior fun end when you leave the museum! In this week’s Saturday Science from eHow, bring the creativity of The Emperor's Painted Army to your home by sculpting your own clay creation. Saturday Science: Coiled Clay Creation



  • Flour

  • Water

  • Salt

  • Mixing bowl

  • Wax paper

  • Baking and/or craft supplies (optional)

  • Acrylic paint (optional)

  • Polyurethane (optional)

  • Baking sheet

  • Aluminum foil      



  1. In a mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to completely stir together 2 parts flour and 1 part water and salt.

  2. Roll wax paper out on your surface and place dough on wax paper.

  3. Use your hands and imagination to create a clay sculpture.

    1. What’s in your pantry and/or craft room? Inspire your kiddos’ creativity by letting them use baking items and craft supplies you have on hand to make their sculptures one of a kind. Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes or food coloring to transform the pale yellow dough into fun colors. Add sprinkles and/or glitter to make your sculpture sparkle or mica powder to make the dough shine. When you’ve finished molding your dough, you can also use any type of acrylic paint to add an extra element of design, just like The Emperor’s Painted Army.

  4. Place your clay creation on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Cook for 3 hours in a preheated oven set to 200 degrees.

    1. If you painted your creation, coat it in polyurethane to protect the color and prevent mold.

    2. Keep a close eye on your creation so it doesn’t burn.

  5. Carefully remove your clay creation from the oven, and let it cool completely.

  6. Set your clay creation in a special place so you can enjoy it every day!



What does your clay creation look like?


Experts estimate that there are more than 8,000 soldiers that make up the Terra Cotta Warriors, as well as 130 chariots and 670 horses. What is even more amazing than the sheer size of the army is that every soldier is unique. No two soldiers are alike, and each has unique and realistic features.


Like the soldiers, your clay creation is also unique. Keep it in a safe place so you can treasure it and always remember your experience at Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army.


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.


Saturday Science: Happy, Healthy Hearts

Saturday Science: Happy, Healthy HeartsLub-dup, lub-dup, lub-dup … can you hear that? It’s the sound of your heart beating.


In this week’s Saturday Science from Science Sparks, explore the rhythm of a family member’s or friend’s heartbeat by building a stethoscope and listening closely.



  • Kitchen roll tube

  • Gaffer tape

  • Small funnel        



  1. Hold a kitchen roll tube to a family member’s or friend’s chest while you place an ear to the other end. Can you hear his or her heart beating?

  2. Next, tape a funnel into an end of the roll.

  3. Then, listen to your family member’s or friend’s chest again. Does his or her heart sound clearer?

  4. What do you think your heart will sound like after you do jumping jacks?



Did your heart beat faster after you did jumping jacks? It should have!


When we do jumping jacks or another type of exercise, our muscles require more oxygen and energy than usual. Our hearts deliver these things by pumping blood more quickly and thus increasing our heart rate. Like a doctor’s, your stethoscope amplified the sound of your family member’s or friend’s heart beating so that you could hear it more clearly.


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Candy Chromatography

Saturday Science Candy ChromatographyBy now, your pastel-colored basket filled with jelly beans, Bunny Mix M&M’s, Cadbury Creme Eggs and maybe even a Peep or two is becoming a thing of the past. But before you enjoy what’s left of your holiday candy, let’s use a few pieces to conduct a sweet experiment! In this week’s Saturday Science from LiveScience, find out which dyes the candy makers used to make your favorite candies so colorful!  



  • 15 pieces of hard-shell, colorful candies (such as M&M’s): 5 each of 3 different colors you wish to test

  • Coffee filters

  • Scissors

  • Pencil

  • Ruler

  • Pie plate or jar lid

  • Transparent plastic cup or clear drinking glass

  • Disposable pipette or clean eyedropper

  • 4 wooden or plastic coffee stirrers

  • Measuring cup and measuring spoons

  • Container large enough to hold 4 cups of water

  • Wide-mouth glass jar

  • 2 mini binder clips

  • Red, green and blue food coloring

  • Salt

  • Water            




Prepare your test strips:

  1. Cut coffee filters into 30 test strips that are 1 inch by 3 inches.
  2. Use a pencil to lightly label each strip: 3 strips for each color of candy and 3 strips for each color of food coloring.
  3. Draw a light pencil line across the width of each strip about half an inch from the bottom. This will be the starting line for your test drop of candy dye.


Extract dye from candies:

  1. Put some water in a cup. Use the eyedropper to move a single drop of water to the pie plate. Carefully set a single candy in the drop of water. Let rest for at least three minutes while the dye dissolves out of the candy into the water.
  2. Remove and discard the candy.
  3. Touch the tip of a coffee stirrer to the colored drop and transfer a droplet of colored water to the middle of the starting line on the appropriate test strip. Allow the droplet to dry completely.
  4. Repeat step “c.” three more times. You are layering a total of four drops of dye on your starting line.
  5. Prepare four more test strips with identical candies (for example, a total of 5 test strips prepared from 5 brown M&M’s).
  6. Prepare 5 test strips for each type of candy you are testing.
  7. In a similar manner, prepare 5 strips for each of the colors of food coloring. These will be your “known” dye colors. Later you will be comparing the strips prepared from the candy dyes to the dyes in these “known” colors.


Prepare the solvent:

  1. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water.
  2. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.


Do the chromatography:

  1. Pour a small amount of the salt solution into the bottom of a transparent cup or drinking glass.
  2. Clip two chromatography strips to a coffee stirrer and balance the stirrer across the top of the cup or drinking glass. The strips should hang down into the glass.
  3. If needed, add more salt solution so the bottom edge of the test strip just touches the surface of the solvent (the salt water). Your starting line with the drop of color should be just above the surface of the salt water.
  4. Allow the solvent to creep up the strip by capillary action, carrying dye with it until it is half an inch from the top of the strip.
  5. Allow the test strips to dry. Use a pencil to mark how far the dye traveled up the strip.
  6. Compare the dyes extracted from the candy to the “known” food color dyes. What colors do you see on the chromatogram?             



When you compared the dyes extracted from the candy to the food coloring dyes, could you tell which food dyes were used to color the candy?


If you answered yes, great job! You properly separated the different colors that make up the candies’ dyes. This process of separating different components of a mixture is called chromatography. According to LiveScience, when you added the test strip to the solvent, the mixture separated and the components flowed up the paper at different rates. The pattern that the separated substances made is your "chromatogram,” which you can now use to determine which dyes were used to make your candy colorful!


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Build a Bird's Nest

Build a Bird's Nest Saturday ScienceThis week's Saturday Science is based on an activity by the Bake at 350 blog, with some added family learning inspiration from our science educator, Becky Wolfe. For more on bird nests, read Becky's latest blog about nests found in our collection.

To get into the springtime spirit, try building your own (yummy!) nest. 


  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups dry chow mein noodles
  • small candies, jelly beans, or m&m's.


  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Over low heat, melt the marshmallows and butter in a large saucepan.
  3. Once melted, stir in the vanilla, then the chow mein noodles.
  4. Coat your hands liberally with shortening, (butter doesn't work as well) and have some nearby for re-coating.
  5. Grab a clump of noodles smaller than a tennis ball and larger than a golf ball. Form into a ball while pressed your thumbs into the middle, forming a nest.
  6. Allow the nests to cool, then fill with with the candy of your choice.

Extend the Family Learning

Observing a bird nest can be a fascinating way to learn more about birds, even more fun if you are able to watch the birds hatch! Around your yard, look carefully where branches meet or under large overhangs. You might even consider a bluebird box or wren house for your hard to encourage birds to make a home. 

While observing your bird nest, it’s best to leave the nest where it was built and observe from a distance. As good stewards of our environment, it’s important to make sure that migratory birds have places to build a nest. Last year, a mallard duck made a nest in our family’s yard. My daughter and I watched carefully, making sure we didn’t startle the duck or get too close. We were so excited when the eggs hatched, and it was such a great moment for me to teach my little one about nature!

How might you build a nest if you were a bird? Where would you want to build it? High in the tree or under branches? Would it be big, or a small, cozy kind of nest?  What materials would you use from your yard? 

Keep your eyes open this summer, maybe you will have a front row seat to a birds nest! 

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Ice Excavation

Saturday Science Ice Excavation Did you notice road crews salting your streets this winter? They’re doing this to melt the ice-covered roads, making it easier and safer for drivers. Budding archaeologists wanting to excavate an object frozen inside of an ice cube should use salt just like these road crews. During this week’s Saturday Science, courtesy of Lemon Lime Adventures, find out if you can uncover the hidden treasure!



  • A small object to be your piece of hidden treasure

  • Ice cube tray or other freezer-safe container (should be large enough for your treasure)

  • Water

  • Salt

  • Toothpicks and/or chopsticks


  1. Place your object in one of the hollows of an ice cube tray.

  2. Fill the ice cube tray with water and freeze overnight.

  3. Take your ice cube out of the tray.

  4. Use salt, water, toothpicks and/or chopsticks to excavate your hidden treasure!


Did the salt and water make excavating your hidden treasure easier?


Your answer should be yes! When salt dissolves into water, it lowers the freezing point of ice. If you watch closely, you should see the ice around a grain of salt melt first before spreading out and melting the rest, revealing your treasure!


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.


Saturday Science: Colorful Rainstorm

Saturday Science Colorful Rainstorm They say April showers bring May flowers – let’s see what a colorful rainstorm could bring! In this week’s Saturday Science, courtesy of Juggling with Kids, bring a spring shower indoors.



  • Drinking glass or vase

  • Food coloring

  • Water

  • Shaving cream


  1. Fill drinking glass or vase with water.

  2. Create clouds by covering the top of the water with shaving cream.

  3. Squirt food coloring on the shaving cream, concentrating each color in just a couple areas.

  4. Look at the water in your vase. It’s starting to rain!


Why does it rain? When the water droplets and water crystals that make up clouds become heavy enough, gravity pulls them down from the sky.


This is similar to what happened in your colorful rainstorm. The shaving cream floats on top of the water because it’s made up of so much air that it is less dense. It also happens to be hydrophobic, which means that it repels water. Because food coloring is more dense than the shaving cream, the drops of food coloring easily fall through into the water, like rain drops falling from clouds.


Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.


Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Post-Dinosphere Years

Top 10 Dinosaur Events Post-DinosphereHas this happened to you? You think you know a lot about dinosaurs, and then you're surprised to learn that your favorite didn't even exist! Paleontologists are making new discoveries all the time, keeping us dinosaur fans on our toes. Curious if there's big news that you missed? To celebrate Dinosphere's 10th birthday, we've compiled the top 10 dinosaur events AFTER to Dinosphere's grand opening.

Don't miss the first post in this series, the Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Pre-Dinosphere Years.

By Paleontologist and Natural Science Curator Dallas Evans.

1. 2005 — Scientist isolates soft tissue from a 68 million year old dinosaur.
Dr. Mary Schweitzer became one of the first scientists to use the tools of modern cell biology to investigate dinosaurs. Upon examining the thighbone of a T. rex she discovered remnants of soft tissues hidden away within the interior of the bone.

2. 2005 — Evidence is unearthed that early mammals ate dinosaurs.
Excavations in China provide the first direct evidence that early mammals preyed upon dinosaurs. Inside the skeleton of the early mammal Repenomamus, researchers find the preserved remains of a young Psittacosaurus!

3. 2006 — Dracorex is introduced to the world.
Unearthed in the badlands of South Dakota, this new species of dinosaur is given the name Dracorex hogwartsia, or “Dragon king of Hogwarts” thus delighting generations of both dinosaur and Harry Potter fans.

4. 2007 — Gigantoraptor is discovered.
Chinese paleontologist Dr. Xing Xu announces the discovery of Gigantoraptor erlianensis, a 3000 pound, toothless raptor that stalked the Late Cretaceous of Inner Mongolia.

5. 2009 — First fossil pigments give clues to dinosaur colors.
Researchers find fossilized melanosomes, the remains of pigments, in the feathers and protofeathers of dinosaurs and birds from China. For the first time we're given the possibility of finding out what color some dinosaurs may have been!

6. 2009 — Children get on board the Dinosaur Train.
The Jim Henson Company introduces an animated series for preschool children featuring a young T. rex named Buddy. Perhaps the best thing about this series is the appearance of well know paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson, who encourages children to learn natural history, to be thrilled by scientific exploration and to investigate paleontology.

7. 2012 — The first feathered dinosaur specimen is found in North America.
The relationship between dinosaurs and birds was proposed in the late 1800s by anatomist Thomas Huxley. In the 1990s, well preserved fossil specimens of feathered dinosaurs were being excavated in China. However in 2012 Canadian researchers discovered the first evidence of a feathered dinosaur from North America—an ostrich-like dinosaur called Ornithomimus. These dinosaurs would have been just too large to fly, so the feathers may have served another purpose, like attracting a mate or protecting eggs during hatching.

8. 2013 — Edmontosaurus gets a new "do."
One of the most familiar of duck-billed dinosaurs may have looked much differently than we've always assumed. Researchers noticed fossil traces of a crest on top of the skull of an Edmontosaurus. Not the boney structure of the skull, but evidence of preserved soft tissue. This was a dinosaur with a cock’s comb—that's right, like a rooster!

9. 2013 — T. rex is a known predator.
Was T. rex a scavenger or predator? That question has been asked for many years until it was definitively answered. Researchers discovered the vertebra of an injured duckbill dinosaur. The backbone had a broken T. rex tooth embedded in it. Not only was the dinosaur bitten by a T. rex, but there were signs that the wound was healing. So the duck-billed dinosaur survived the attack!

10. 2014 — Excavations at Ruth Mason Quarry.
Of course we have to brag a little bit,…   this year marks a dozen years of excavating at the Ruth Mason Quarry near Faith, South Dakota. In that time we've excavated thousands of Edmontosaurus bones and introduce hundreds of families to the thrill of paleontology.

Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Pre-Dinosphere Years

Has this happened to you? You think you know a lot about dinosaurs, and then you're surprised to learn that your favorite didn't even exist! Paleontologists are making new discoveries all the time, keeping us dinosaur fans on our toes. Curious if there's big news that you missed? To celebrate Dinosphere's 10th birthday, we've compiled the top 10 dinosaur events prior to Dinosphere's grand opening.

Don't miss the second post in this series, the Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Post-Dinosphere Years. 

By Dinosphere Coordinator Mookie Harris and Natural Science Curator Dallas Evans.

  1. 1822 — Gideon Mantell discovers the first dinosaur fossil.
    Mantell discovered fossil teeth of an animal that would later be named Iguanodon. He didn't know it at the time, but he had just found the first dinosaur. Nineteen years later, Sir Richard Owen creates the word “dinosaur” to define the group of extinct animals that includes Iguanodon, Hylaeosaurus and Megalosaurus.  That list of three species will grow to over 700 discovered species by the year 2014.

  2. 1858 — The first dinosaur skeleton is found in the United States.
    Hadrosaurus was excavated and described by Joseph Leidy in Haddonfield, New Jersey, just 15 minutes east of Philadelphia. It's called Hadrosaurs foulki. It was discovered and excavated by William Parker Foulke. Dr. Joseph Leidy, a professor of anatomy at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences described and displayed the specimen.
  3. 1902 — Barnum Brown finds the first T.rex.
    The first partial skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex was found in Eastern Wyoming by Barnum Brown. It wasn't for another 60 to 70 years, though, before T. rex becomes the most well-known dinosaur. At this time, when someone says “dinosaur,” most people think of Brontosaurus.
  4. 1903For the second time, Brontosaurus ceases to exist. 
    Brontosaurus"—such a cool name. It doesn’t get more dramatic and descriptive than “thunder lizard. Elmer Riggs, a fantastic vertebrate paleontologist from The Field Museum, discovered that Apatosaurus is simply a young form of the adult Brontosaurus. But Apatosaurus was named first, so that name had priority. This will confuse people for years to come.  
  5. 1933 — Roy Chapman Andrews discovers the first dinosaur eggs. 
    American adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews (the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones) leads the expedition that discovers the first known dinosaur eggs while exploring in Mongolia. Prior to this, it was not known whether dinosaurs laid eggs or gave birth to live young.
  6. 1960 — The Flintstones debuts.
    The Flintstones debuts on ABC television, featuring cave people, ice age mammals and dinosaurs all living together. This will confuse people for decades to come.
  7. 1980 — The asteroid extinction theory is proposed.
    The Alvarez Hypothesis is proposed, stating that an asteroid struck the Earth 66 million years ago, leading to the demise of the dinosaurs. The same year, Atari releases the arcade video game Asteroids, leading to the rise of video gaming and the eventual demise of human productivity.
  8. 1986 — Warm-blooded dinosaur theory is widely accepted.
    Robert T. Bakker’s The Dinosaur Heresies is published, exposing the general public to John Ostrom’s theories on dinosaurs being warm-blooded. This revolutionizes the way they are viewed in pop culture.
  9. 1990 — Michael Crichton publishes Jurassic Park.
    Michael Crichton publishes the book Jurassic Park, reminding adults around the world that dinosaurs are still cool, even if you’re not five years old. Steven Spielberg turns it into an awesome movie in 1993 and the mainstream public goes nuts for Velociraptor, so much so that in 1995 the NBA’s Toronto Raptors become the first pro sports team named for a dinosaur. (Although the team’s owner is considering a name change. But that’s appropriate for a fossil isn’t it? Just ask the Brontosaurus.)
  10. 2000 — Leonardo the mummified dinosaur is discovered.
    Leonardo the mummified dinosaur is discovered near Malta, Montana. This fully articulated and mummified skeleton of a young Brachylophosaurus includes fossilized skin, tendons, musculature and stomach contents.