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The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

The Intern Experience: StarPoint Campers and Museum Apprentices

Natalia groupToday's blog post is brought to you by Natalia Welch, a senior at Butler University focusing on Marketing. Natalia is a Family Programs intern working with youth in the StarPoint summer camp and teen volunteers in the Museum Apprentice Program

 

In the left corner on the first floor of the Museum lies Family Programs. It’s a beautiful space that comes to life throughout the school year with the Museum Preschool and during the summer with StarPoint, The Children’s Museum's summer camp. During my time as a Family Programs Intern, I've had the pleasure to work with StarPoint and the Museum Apprentice Program. 

The StarPoint campers arrive daily at 1 o’clock—with oodles of energy. I jump around helping out with each of the cabins named after iconic pieces in the museum. These iconic pieces include the Trains (after Ruben Wells), the Polar Bears (after Martimus), and the Racecars (after the Indy Car). Each cabin has been busy learning and exploring everything from dinosaurs to China this summer. I help bring each week’s theme home to family and friends through weekly newsletters that illustrate StarPoint’s week through pictures and brief write-ups.  It is greatly rewarding to be able to promote communication—and of course a weekly joke—between families with each newsletter.   

Another facet of The Museum I've been able to work with is the Museum Apprentice Program (MAP). The Museum Apprentice Program is the museum’s teen program whose members volunteer their time to create public events. The event this summer was entitled “The Warrior Challenge.” I've had the opportunity to design a map, sticker, and other visual displays for the challenge. On Saturday, July 19 the MAPs put all their hard work together for the event. It was truly uplifting to watch each family come together to defeat an obstacle course and succeed in a dress-up challenge (all Terra Cotta Warrior themed, of course). But watching the MAPs see their project come to life was even more exciting, as families laughed and limbo-ed their way to the end. The themes of the Museum Apprentice Program include fun, hard work, and bonding, and it shone through during the Warrior Challenge. 

Being able to interact with elementary and teen aged individuals has truly made this summer extraordinary. Watching their smiling faces as they learn Chinese characters or figure out the scoring system to their challenge has given me a positive attitude and perspective that I can proudly carry with me after my internship ends.   

Natlia starpoint

Natalia bubbles

 

The Intern Experience: Terra Cotta Warriors After Dark

Sarah Fox InternCurrent Events Intern Sarah Fox, a senior at Butler University, is working in the Events and Development Departments on various events and projects. In this blog, Sarah describes her experience with working on the three-part Terra Cotta Warriors After Dark event series.  

One of our newest exhibits, The Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, has been getting attention from around the world. Closer to home, the exhibit is grabbing even more attention thanks to a new event series designed to showcase these special artifacts—Terra Cotta Warriors: After Dark

Being a part of this new event series has been a wonderful experience! I have gotten to see all of the backstage components that go into these events.  They involve a great deal of planning, including finding sponsors, creating signage, and organizing the layout. I have gotten to see these different stages and have participated in the meetings that take place in order to get us there. Once everything is complete, you see all the details come together and you realize that these events are really something special. 

With the last two events sold out, it’s no coincidence that people cannot get enough of the Terra Cotta Warriors or The Children's Museum. I have found that adults of all ages attend these events because it is an ‘adults-only’ activity. From young professionals just coming from work to older couples visiting together, the Museum has a diverse group that comes for the After Dark series. I even got to see generations of families attending the event together. It’s a great event, not only for networking, but also for bonding with friends and family. 

I think this event series is something that is very important to The Children’s Museum because they are reaching out to a new demographic pool. One vision of the Museum is to "take the Museum to new audiences." Through reaching these individuals, the Museum is showcasing itself as not only a place for children and families—but also for adults. I never knew how diverse in audiences the Museum really was until I started interning here. From fun, interactive exhibits for children to spaces for private meetings for adults, there is room for everyone and everything at the Museum. I believe the Children’s Museum will continue to succeed with events likes these, so that the Museum can continue to be a place for everyone to love for many more years to come!

 

Why Do Earbuds Get Tangled?

  

Never Stop Asking Why: Why do earbuds get tangled?Most of us, after we use our earbuds, stuff them into a bag or backpack. Inevitably, when we go back to use them again, those long cords are wrapped around each other in a tangled mess. You didn’t even touch them, so what happened? Why do earbuds always get tangled? We answer the question with help from Discover Magazine.    

 

In a recent study, physicists from UC San Diego put strings and knots to the test. They put strings with differing lengths and thicknesses in a box and tumbled that box around. What they found was that complex knots often form within seconds. To analyze these fast-forming knots, scientists used a mathematical knot theory.

 

The findings? The longer the string, the more likely it is to knot. The more flexible the string, the more likely it is to knot. The more time the strings spends being jostled around, the more likely they are to knot.

 

Long, flexible strings form coils, and as they are bounced around, the loose ends weave through the loops and strands like a braid. The longer the strings have to weave around and through themselves, the more knotted they become.

 

Our earbuds are a perfect example of the type of cords that are easily knotted. They are long so they can reach our ears from a mobile device. They are flexible so that they can be easily stored when on the go, and they spend a lot of time in our bags and backpacks.

 

While there isn’t a solution to this tangling problem, at least now you’ll know why frustration creeps through you every time you reach for your earbuds.

 

 

Happy listening!

 

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Whys" on Pinterest or on the blog!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Materials:

  • 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!)

Process:

  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!

 

Summary:

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.

Meet the Maiasaura—"Good Mother Lizard"

Maiasaura skull at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is the Maiasaura?

The Maiasaura is a composite skeleton, which means that it was made up of the bones of several Maiasaura. It is 70 percent real fossilized bone. The remaining bones are casts from other Maiasaura that have been discovered.
 
The Linsters—Cliff, Sandy, and their seven children, Brenda, Cliph, Bob, Wes, Matt, Luke and Megan—are a family of amateur paleontologists who hunt dinosaurs on their summer vacations. They found the fossilized bones that make up the Maiasaura in 1997 in Teton County, Montana. Dinosphere's gorgosaur and one Bambiraptor were found with the MaiasauraIt took five years to excavate the fossilized bones of the Maiasaura.

The Story Behind the Maiasaura

When paleontologist John Horner walked into a small rock shop in Bynum, Montana in 1978, he had no idea what he was about to find. The owners of the rock shop, the Brandvolds, showed him a coffee can full of little fossilized bones. Horner saw at once that they were fossilized baby dinosaur bones and asked where they were found. The Brandvolds showed him the site, which was later named "Egg Mountain" for the hundreds of eggs and nests excavated over many seasons. The Brandvolds, it turns out, had discovered a new species of dinosaur that John Horner named Maiasaura, meaning "good mother lizard." Horner chose that name because he believed the maiasaurs cared for their young.
 
What made him come up with this hypothesis? There were several clues. He studied baby Maiasaura skeletons and determined they couldn't walk just after hatching because they had soft fossilized bones. Bits of fossilized eggshell were also found, indicating hatchlings stayed in the nest long enough to trample their shells. Horner guessed that the baby Maiasaura probably stayed for about a month in the nest and depended on the adult Maiasaura to bring them food.
 
Maiasaura were herbivores, which means they ate plants instead of meat. They lived in the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 80 million years ago, in North America. Maiasaura had a toothless beak for snipping plants and hundreds of teeth designed for chewing and grinding. Although its teeth were frequently worn down by all the chewing, replacing them was not a problem. Each tooth had four or five teeth growing and ready to replace it. Maiasaura needed its teeth so it could keep eating. It had to eat constantly to get enough food to maintain its weight. It probably had to eat many pounds of leaves, berries, seeds and woody plants each day to survive.
 
Maiasaura migrated, which means they moved to different places during different seasons, in search of food. They traveled in large herds of perhaps 10,000. Traveling in such a large herd helped protect them from predators, such as meat-eating gorgosaursMaiasaura were big. Adults were up to 30 feet long (as long as three basketball goals laid end-to-end), 12 to 15 feet tall, and weighed around 3 to 4 tons (6,000 to 8,000 lbs.). They walked on all fours, but they could also stand on two legs for feeding. Maiasaura had long, stiff tails that helped them keep their balance. Like hypacrosaurs, Maiasaura are called duckbill dinosaurs because their mouths are shaped like a duck's bill. Hadrosaur is another name for a duckbill dinosaur.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Family Health Tip: Sunscreen Myth vs. Fact

Family Health TipA version of this blog post first appeared on Kids HealthLine, courtesy of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent.

As summer continues and sun exposure increases, review this list of myths and facts about protecting your child’s skin with sunscreen.

MYTH: My child doesn’t have to wear sunscreen if she has naturally dark skin or if she gets a “base tan” early in the summer—after that, she’s protected from skin damage.

FACT: While children with dark skin due to higher melanin production are at a lower risk of the harmful effects of sun exposure, they still need to wear sunscreen regularly to prevent skin cancer. A base tan does nothing to protect children or adults from skin cancer. A tan is the skin’s response to damage on a cellular level—there is no such thing as a healthy tan caused by ultraviolet (UV) light.

MYTH: SPF 30 sunscreen is twice as effective as SPF 15.

FACT: Sun protection factor (SPF) measures how well sunscreen protects against short-spectrum, or UVB, rays. SPF 15 filters out about 93 percent of UVB rays. Higher SPF sunscreens do not provide substantial amounts of extra protection—SPF 30 filters 97 percent of UVB rays, and SPF 50 only filters out 98 percent. The most effective sunscreens protect against two types of UV light—UVB and UVA. Look for labels that say “broad spectrum.”

MYTH: My child only needs to wear sunscreen on vacation or when we’re at the beach—and he never needs to wear sunscreen when it’s cloudy outside.

FACT: It’s true that sunscreen is important while on the beach or during other brief, intense exposures. However, chronic lifetime exposure to UV rays increases your chance of developing skin cancer. Clouds do not provide adequate protection from UV rays—up to 40 percent of the sun’s radiation still reaches your skin when it’s completely overcast. Going outside without sun protection on cloudy days can lead to serious sunburns. Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 on exposed skin every day to reduce the effects of UV radiation, including skin cancer.

MYTH: I do not want my kids to have a vitamin D deficiency from using sunscreen. The risks of using sunscreen outweigh the benefits.

FACT: Sunscreen does inhibit vitamin D production, but not enough to have a significant effect in most people. However, regularly using SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your child’s chances of getting skin cancer by 78 percent. Additionally, dietary changes and supplements can make up for a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin D-rich foods, such as salmon, orange juice and milk, can boost your child’s vitamin D production. Talk with your pediatrician about other ways to increase vitamin D levels without exposing your child to skin cancer later in life.

To learn more about dermatology services at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent, click here.

This article was reviewed by Mandy Cook, esthetician and massage therapist, St.Vincent Fishers Center for Women’s Health.

Meet Dracorex Hogwartsia

Dracorex Hogwartsia at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Dracorex?

Dracorex hogwartsia is a dinosaur that is new to science, and it bears a close resemblance to a fairy-tale dragon, with its bony head covered in spikes and knobs.
 
Dracorex belongs to the group of ornithischian dinosaurs called Pachycephalosaurs, or bone-headed dinosaurs. These dinosaurs were a group of plant-eating dinosaurs that are largely characterized by their distinct dome-headed skull. The group actually consists of both flat-headed forms and highly domed forms. They lived in both Asia and North America during the late Cretaceous Period, 95 to 65 million years ago.
 
DracorexDracorex is a unique addition to the paleontological record. Until now, no flat-headed Pachycephalosaur fossils have been discovered in North America. Further, no flat-headed dinosaurs with this unique configuration of knobs and spikes have ever been found. This new specimen suggests a significant new branch in the evolutionary development of the Pachycephalosaur family—much more complicated than paleontologists suspected.

 
“The discovery of this new flat-headed Pachycephalosaur was a total paleontological surprise,” said internationally-recognized paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker. He added, “Dracorex is a scientifically significant milestone in the world of paleontology; it proves that family trees were still branching off and evolving, even near the end of the age of dinosaurs.  It demonstrated a world of color and movement in nature more recently than we ever thought possible.”
 
In a recent publication, scientists were able to closely describe this new species. “It is truly a magnificent specimen. You hardly ever find skulls of these dinosaurs in such a complete state,” said Dr. Robert Sullivan, the vertebrate paleontologist and senior curator at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. “This spectacular skull shows an amazing combination of primitive and advanced features. Its discovery has dramatically altered our view on the relationships of these strange pachycephalosaurid dinosaurs to other dinosaurs,” Sullivan added.
 
How do you name and completely new species of dinosaur?
 
A team of museum scientists officially named the new dinosaur species Dracorex hogwartsia, the “Dragon King of Hogwarts. The name celebrates Hogwarts School for Witchcraft & Wizardry, the academy for wizards in the Harry Potter novels.
 
“All of us dinosaur-hunters agree—it’s splendidly appropriate!” said Dr. Bakker, curator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and a long-time friend of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “Dinosaurs are wonderful for getting kids to explore with their minds and exercise their scientific imagination. And that’s where Ms. Rowling excels too. Her books invite the reader to probe mysteries, solve riddles and learn the craft of fighting ignorance and evil,” Bakker added.
 
When hearing of this honor, J.K. Rowling stated:  "The naming of Dracorex hogwartsia is easily the most unexpected honor to have come my way since the publication of the Harry Potter books!  I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small claw mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs. I happen to know more on the subject of paleontology than many might credit, because my eldest daughter was Utahraptor-obsessed, and I am now living with a passionate Tyrannosaurus rex-lover, aged three. My credibility has soared within my science-loving family, and I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker and his colleague’s paper describing “my” dinosaur, which I can’t help visualizing as a slightly less pyromaniac Hungarian Horntail.”
 
The discovery and preparation of a one-of-a-kind fossil

The dinosaur was discovered by Brian Buckmeier and brothers Steve and Pat Saulsbury, all from Sioux City, Iowa. They found the remains of Dracorex during a fossil collecting trip in the Hell Creek Formation of central South Dakota. It was Steve Saulsbury who first suggested that they donate their new find. Steve fondly recalled taking his daughter Alexandra to the museum when he and his family lived in Indianapolis during his residency at Indiana University Hospital in the early 1990s. Steve talked to the others, and they soon agreed the museum would be the perfect home for this specimen. The trio donated their discovery to the museum in late 2004.
When Dracorex came to the museum it was still in the plaster field jacket.

Vertebrate paleontologist Victor Porter, along with preparator Shane Ziemmer, spent many hours getting this skull ready for exhibit. As the skull was cleaned and pieces glued together, thousands of children passed by the laboratory windows watching.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

The Intern Experience: Creative Marketing

MelissaMelissa Mcshea is an intern with the Creative Marketing department. She attends the school of informatics and computing at IUPUI, studying New Media. In her free time she enjoys being outside.

What makes up a museum? At The Children’s Museum—the largest children’s museum in the world—a lot of things make up our museum! That means that archiving, typically associated with Library Science, is a large part of what we do in the museum.  

The Children's Museum was recently awarded the National Metal for Museum and Library Service, which celebrates the museum’s accomplishments and its positive impact on families, children, and communities.

My internship is within the Creative Marketing Department, which allows me to contribute to many real world projects. It also allows me to be supervised by a Children's Museum design department manager, who bridges the relationship between creative design staff and staff in other departments. The designers work with staff across the museum to create marketing and educational materials that are used in advertising, museum programs, and beyond.

It's true—interns at The Children’s Museum get real assignments and real world professional museum experience! One of my main projects is archiving photographs so that departments can more readily use them for projects, from museum signage to brochures.  This will be accomplished through a Digital Asset Management system, which will allow staff to easily find images and graphics for various needs.  

In between my internship assignment, I have enjoyed walking up to our new exhibit Take Me There: China to see our marketing and exhibitions hard at work. It’s a good feeling to know that I'm archiving these images for future generations to understand and enjoy. 

Meet the Bambiraptor

Bambiraptor at the Children's Museum of IndianapolisYou’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is the Bambiraptor?

Bambiraptor is the most bird-like of all the raptor dinosaurs found. Scientists don't know if Bambiraptor actually could fly, but its fossilized bones do show a close relationship to birds. Only one Bambirpator skeleton has ever been found. The two Dinosphere Bambiraptors are casts made from the original Bambiraptor.

The Linsters, a family of amateur paleontologists, found the original Bambiraptor in 1997 in Teton County Montana. The Bambiraptor was discovered with Dinosphere's Gorgosaurus and Maiasaura.

The Life of a Bambiraptor

Bambiraptor means baby raptor. Bambiraptor got its name because of its small size. Bambiraptor lived about 74 to 80 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous Period, at the same time as Gorgosaurus and Maiasaura but several million years before T. rex was alive.
 
Bambiraptor was very small compared to a T. rex, gorgosaur, or Maiasaura. It was about 3 feet long and 1 foot tall and weighed around 7 pounds. Its skull was about the size of a light bulb. Bambiraptor was a carnivore, which means it ate meat instead of plants. Do you think it was a predator or a scavenger?

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

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!

 

Materials:

  • Colorful sidewalk chalk

  • Small plastic bags

  • Hammer (or similar tool)

  • Small bowls or cups

  • Water

 

Process:

  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.

 

Summary:

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.

 

Meet Stan the T. rex

T. Rex at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Stan?

Stan is a Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) which means "tyrant lizard king." Unlike Bucky the Teenage T. rex, Stan is an adult T. rexDinosphere's Stan is a cast of the original Stan in the collection of the Black Hills Institute.

Stan has probably the best preserved and most complete dinosaur skull ever discovered. Nearly every fossilized bone of Stan's skull was discovered during excavation. The fossilized bones in Stan's skull were found separated from each other. This is important because it allowed the bones to be preserved for millions of years in excellent condition with little distortion or crushing. It also gave scientists the opportunity to study each fossilized bone and determine how the bones connected and moved in relation to each other.
 
Forty-seven separate fossilized bones and 35 loose fossilized teeth were assembled in the reconstruction of Stan's skull. The only missing bones were two small skull pieces from Stan's lower jaw. Stan had several broken and healed ribs, a broken neck and a hole in the back of its skull. The study of Stan's skull led scientists to believe T. rex had the largest brain, the best eyesight, the best sense of smell, the strongest teeth and the most powerful jaw of all the dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous Period at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

In 1987, amateur paleontologist Stan Sacrison was exploring in the Hell Creek Formation near the town of Buffalo, South Dakota, when he discovered a large fossilized bone sticking out of a sandy cliff face 100 feet above the prairie. He had discovered the T. rex later to be named after him, Stan.

The Life of a T. rex
 
Stan lived in the Late Cretaceous Period, around 65 million years ago. Tyrannosaurs like Stan could be found in parts of western North America.

T. rex was a carnivore, which means it ate meat instead of plants. Its teeth and strength came in handy when it ate. It had more than 50 teeth, the largest of which were up to 7 inches long and sharp like saw-edged steak knives. Its upper teeth were curved and very sharp like butcher's knives. T. rex didn't eat tiny, polite bites. Its teeth and strong jaw muscles enabled it to tear off and eat large chunks of meat from its prey.
 
From studying the way T. rex teeth were worn down, scientists believe that it likely ate tough, fresh meat instead of rotting meat from animals already dead. This means that T. rex was a predator rather than a scavenger. As a tyrannosaur's teeth got old, the long roots of the teeth dissolved so they could fall out and be replaced by new teeth.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

The Intern Experience: Playscape Research and Evaluation

Kala internCurrent Intern Kala Strickland is working in the Research and Evaluation Department on the summative evaluation of the Playscape gallery. She is a recent graduate of IUPUI and mom of 3 living in Indianapolis. In this blog post, Kala shares her experience interviewing visitors about their time in Playscape. 


This summer, I've had the pleasure of talking with families about their experiences in Playscape. Playscape provides unique opportunities for families to learn and play in a stimulating nature-themed environment with a wide range of sensory experiences, encouraging families to explore together. Seeing the happiness of children who've just climbed to the top of the climber is contagious! I've been fortunate to observe children learning new words and mastering new skills as they conduct the important business of playing and learning with their parents.  

Following up with families who reflect on their Playscape visit provide the museum with important information to keep improving experiences for visitors and allows the staff to measure the success of the gallery. The families I've spoken with have been happy to share about makes this space so special for their little ones. Parents share memorable moments that make their experiences rich and encourage them to return for more learning and fun. 

Working in the Research and Evaluation department has helped me better understand how the evaluation process informs decisions and provides valuable insight to almost all other departments in the museum. The Children’s Museum uses the information and guidance of the Research and Evaluation department when planning, developing, installing and improving exhibits. The museum also studies the local community to ensure that we're providing stimulating family learning opportunities that serve their needs.

Observing and interviewing families in Playscape this summer has allowed me to experience the museum from another perspective and contribute to the success of the teams working behind the scenes to create extraordinary experiences for our visitors. I've had the chance to listen to parents discuss their visit, which produces data that informs the exhibits team regarding what is working well and what needs some adjustments. This learning experience has allowed me to use my strong people skills and acquire new talents which I hope to put to use in the museum again in the future!

Learn more about internships at The Children's Museum at childrensmuseum.org.

Meet the Hypacrosaur Family

An infant Hypacrosaur dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children's MuseumYou’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who are the Hypacrosaurs?

Hypacrosaurus means "almost the highest lizard," because of its size. Hypacrosaurs are called duckbill dinosaurs because their mouths are shaped similar to a duck's bill. Hadrosaur is another name for duckbill dinosaurs. There are four hypacrosaurs in Dinosphere; an adult, a juvenile and two infants.

The adult hypacrosaur in Dinosphere is a combination of fossilized bones from more than one hypacrosaur and is 75 percent real fossilized bone. The juvenile is also a combination of fossilized bones from more than one hypacrosaur and is 70 percent real fossilized bone. One of the infants is 35 percent real fossilized bone from one hypacrosaur and the other infant is a cast of the first one. The remaining bones are casts from other hypacrosaurs that have been discovered.

The hypacrosaur family was discovered in 1990 at the Two Medicine Formation in Montana and was excavated over a period of five years. Hundreds of hypacrosaurs have been discovered at this site, possibly because the dinosaurs, traveling in a herd, drowned while crossing a river.
 
HypacrosaurThe adult and juvenile hypacrosaurs were found by the commercial paleontology group, Canada Fossils Ltd. The infant hypacrosaur was found by Dorothy and Leo Flamand working for Canada Fossils, Ltd.

Hypacrosaurs, like many other duckbill dinosaurs, had a nasal crest. Scientists think the hollow crest may have been used to make sounds so hypacrosaurs could communicate. Some think the sounds were similar to a low trumpet call. Only adults had crests, so younger hypacrosaurs may have made very different sounds. Some scientists think the crest may have been used by male hypacrosaurs to attract females.

How Hypacrosaurs Lived
 
Scientists believe that hypacrosaurs lived together in families. Several families lived together in groups called herds. There could be hundreds of hypacrosaurs living together in a herd. By living together, hypacrosaurs were better able to find food and protect themselves from predators. Hypacrosaurs were migratory, which means they moved to different places during different seasons. They may have migrated to find food, or they may have migrated from forests to the sandy shores of lakes to lay their eggs.
 
The mother hypacrosaur could lay up to 20 eggs in nests made of soft sand or dirt. She may have covered the eggs with sand or plants to keep them warm because she was too heavy to sit on the nest. Hypacrosaur eggs were about the size of cantaloupes. After hatching, the babies were about 24 inches long. The adults might have taken care of their young because the babies' leg bones were not strong enough for walking. It's not clear how soon the young hypacrosaurs joined the herd. The baby dinosaurs were so tiny that they could have been trampled by the bigger hypacrosaurs, so they may have lived together until they were big enough to travel.
 
Hypacrosaurs were herbivores, which means they ate plants instead of meat. Hypacrosaurs lived in the Late Cretaceous Period approximately 73 million years ago in western North America. Hypacrosaurs were big. An adult could be 30 feet long (as long as three basketball goals laid end-to-end), 15 feet tall, and could weigh 1.5 tons (3,000 lbs.). Because they were so big, hypacrosaurs had big appetites. An adult hypacrosaur ate around 350 lbs. of food a day. Hypacrosaurs had a long snout and a beak. It had rows and rows of teeth on both sides of its jaws, which it used like a grater to grind tough plants and leaves up to 6 feet off the ground. It had hundreds of teeth that were constantly replaced with new teeth.
 
Three of the four fingers on a hypacrosaur's front legs were enclosed in a mitten-like skin. This shape wasn't much help to the hypacrosaur in picking up food or fighting off predators, but it could help in walking. This has led scientists to believe that hypacrosaurs probably walked on all four legs. A hypacrosaur could probably walk faster on its back legs than on all four legs. Scientists estimate it could walk up to 12 miles per hour in a hurry, but that it usually walked on all fours at a much more leisurely pace.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

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!

Mulan Jr.: 10 Fun Facts from Backstage

Mulan weaponryWhat boy or girl isn't excited and inspired by the 2,000 year old Chinese legend of brave, smart, young Mulan? In this inspiring story, Mulan takes up arms and disguises herself as a boy to spare her father from having to serve in the army. Families have watched the 1998 Disney film over and over again. Now, for the first time at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Mulan Jr. brings the musical story to life on stage!

The choreography will have you thinking “Broadway” as nationally known, locally-based choreographer Kenny Shepard created the musical staging for six Broadway Junior shows, including Mulan Jr.. This adaptation has mesmerizing special effects, ranging from a rocket shooting off to a crashing avalanche. Check out all of these backstage fun facts:

Mulan Reflection

 
  1. This production incorporates Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, and Kung Fu—all choreographed by Kenny Shepard.
  2. Theater manager Krista Layfield, in collaboration with the cast, choreographed three new fight scenes with stage combat weapons.
  3. Some of the cast and crew members trained in stage combat techniques.
  4. The stage weapons were made in Chicago specifically for this production.
  5. Mulan Jr. includes a spectacular rigged avalanche effect and a rocket/cannon effect.
  6. This production includes five new cast members who've never worked with us before, including the actress playing Mulan—Brooke Sheehy.
  7. Lilly Theater purchased nine new intelligent lighting instruments for lighting effects in this production.
  8. Some of the costumes came from Chinatown, or even as far away as China!
  9. Production designers used a new 3-D fabric material for the stone on the set.
  10. The cherry tree includes a real water effect.
     

Mulan Jr. is based on the 1998 Disney film Mulan and the story Fa Mulan by Robert D. San Souci. Music and lyrics by Matthew Wilder, David Zippel, Stephen Schwartz, Jeanine Tesori, and Alexa Junge. Music Adapted and arranged and additional music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle. Book adapted and additional lyrics by Patricia Cotter.

Why Do Bug Bites Itch?

Never Stop Asking Why: Why do bug bites itch?Long days and short nights. Beaches, lakes and pools. Campfires and cookouts. Playgrounds and sprinklers. A visit to the museum any day of the week.

 

Is there a downside to summer? We can only think of one – bug bites. Even if you use every type of insect repellent, those annoying mosquitoes seem to find a way to our sweet skin, take a drink of blood and leave us with an itchy, itchy red bump. So why do bug bites itch so much? We answer this question with help from Hank Green at the SciShow.    

 

Warning: While reading this blog, you might feel a little squeamish. You might want to scratch an existing bug bite. And in some cases you might call out, “Yuck!”

 

Let’s start at the beginning. You’re outside enjoying a summer activity when you realize there is a spot on your skin that is very itchy! You look down and there is a small red bump.

 

This is the result of a mosquito using its proboscis to stick your skin and drink some of your blood.

 

The proboscis, a long, straw-like tube, is made up of other long, bendable extremities. After the initial puncture into your skin, the mandibles and maxillae stretch the tiny hole wide enough to make room for the labrum and the hypopharynx. The labrum then sucks your blood while the hypopharynx injects saliva back into your skin. Because the mosquito’s saliva is an anticoagulant, it prevents your blood from clotting around the opening and allows that pesky bug to keep drinking until you swat it off or scare it away.

 

You can thank this saliva for what happens next, because chances are you’re allergic to it.

 

The allergy causes your body to produce histamine, a protein that causes inflammation and widens your capillaries so that white blood cells can attack the allergen.

 

For a reason that scientists don’t yet understand, histamine makes us itch. If you have seasonal allergies, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Your body’s production of histamine in response to a pollen allergy is what makes you want to rub your eyes and nose.  

 

So it’s not the actual bug bite that makes you want to scratch, scratch, scratch! It’s the histamine.

 

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Whys" on Pinterest or on the blog!

 

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!

 

Materials:

  • 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

 

Process:

  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!

 

Summary:

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.

Meet Kelsey the Triceratops

Kelsey TriceratopsYou’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Kelsey?

Kelsey is a Triceratops horridus which means "horrible three-horned face." Why do you think they named this type of dinosaur that way?

Kelsey was discovered by the Leonard and Arlene Zerbst family in the fall of 1997 on their ranch in Niobrara County, Wyoming. The ranch is part of the Lance Creek fossil bed, where the fossils of many dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Period have been found. The Zerbsts named Kelsey after their 3-year old granddaughter, Kelsey Ann.
 
Alongside Kelsey were found more than 20 fossilized teeth of predatory dinosaur, Nanotyrannus, a smaller cousin of T. rex. Did the Nanotyrannus kill Kelsey, or did Kelsey die of natural causes and the Nanotyrannus just happen along to scavenge on the already dead Triceratops? Does this explain the tiny bite marks found on Kelsey's leg?

Triceratops at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

Interesting Facts about Kelsey

Like other Triceratops, Kelsey had a big head. It was as long as a human adult is tall (over 6 feet) and was nearly one-third as long as its body. The fossilized bone of the skull is up to 2 inches thick and is very heavy. The skull is bumpy (scientists refer to this as "rugosity"). Some scientists think this bumpiness might have been a sign of old age.
 
No dinosaur is discovered 100 percent complete. Due to erosion and other factors, some fossilized bones are always missing. The people who prepare the dinosaurs for exhibits create casts of the missing bones, usually from other dinosaurs that have been discovered, to fill in the missing pieces. Very few Triceratops have been found and most of the ones that have been found aren't very complete. More than 50 percent of Kelsey's skeleton has been found, which makes it possibly the most complete Triceratops ever found and one of the top three ever discovered. 

The Life of a Triceratops
 
Kelsey lived in the late Cretaceous Period, more than 65 million years ago. Triceratops like Kelsey could be found in the western part of the United States and in southwestern Canada. You can tell Kelsey is a Triceratops by the three horns on its head. Scientists call a horned dinosaur like Triceratops a ceratopsian. The two horns above the eye sockets were up to 3 feet long. The horns were sharp and covered with a thick coat of the same stuff your fingernails are made of, called keratin, which made them strong. They came in handy in a fight with any T. rex that decided Kelsey would make a nice meal.
 
Although Kelsey wasn't a predator looking for a fight, it wasn't defenseless if attacked. In addition to having horns, Triceratops could use its size to defend itself. Triceratops could be as tall as a basketball goal (10 feet), and as long as three basketball goals laid end-to-end (30 feet), and could weigh as much as three cars (six tons). A Triceratops' eyes also helped it defend itself. They were on the sides of its head and helped it scan for any predators coming after it.
 
You can't miss the big bone sticking up at the back of Kelsey's head. This bone is called a frill and scientists used to think it was there to protect the neck area. Some scientists now think the frill may have been important in helping male Triceratops attract females or distract potential male rivals for a female's attention. Another possible explanation for the frill is heat regulation. As the Triceratops' body warmed up, heat escaped from the frill and the body temperature returned to normal.
 
Kelsey was a herbivore, which means it ate plants instead of meat. Because a Triceratops was so big, it ate many pounds of plants a day. It ate low-lying plants such as ferns and cycads. Scientists think it may have used its horns to knock down small trees and then snipped off the leaves with its parrot-shaped beak. Scientists know some of the plants it ate by studying phytoliths, tiny parts of plants that left scratch marks on fossilized dinosaur teeth or remained between teeth after they fossilized. Scientists debate whether Triceratops lived in herds. Some think they might have roamed the Cretaceous forests on their own and did not migrate.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

 

Behind the Scenes—The Making of the Emperor’s Portrait

Emperor's Portrait in Progress

Rob Day is a nationally-recognized illustrator, with work appearing in Smithsonian, Time, Business Week, Rolling Stone and more. Day’s portrait of Emperor Qin Shi Huang is his second project for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. You can also find his first painting of the infamous Captain Kidd in the Museum’s permanent exhibit, Treasures of the Earth.

When visitors to the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit are welcomed by the larger-than-life image of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, they might never guess that the emperor had a “stunt double.” Many thanks to David Donaldson, The Children's Museum's Chief Technology Officer, for graciously agreeing to be photographed—wearing full emperor garb—for reference images that have made the emperor’s portrait come to life!

The Reference Image: Shooting reference shots is often necessary when historic images are rare or difficult to obtain. As an illustrator, I’ve found many a model over the years to help me capture just the right reference images. When combined with historic information, they make for a much more realistic and engaging painting. Working with Children's Museum Creative Director Ned Shaw, we found just the right model in David, who Ned described as having “a regal bearing of an emperor.” (I wonder if this is a prerequisite for all CTOs?) Knowing that we needed a full-length portrait that captured the power and posture of Emperor Qin, we went to work shooting various poses that ultimately would be combined in the final portrait. 

The Research: One of the things that I enjoy most about working as an illustrator is the opportunity to research and learn about the subjects that I paint. I began by investigating existing images of Emperor Qin, costumes, and sword designs of ancient China. During my research I learned details about the emperor that would be included in the portrait. For instance, did you know that the dragon shown on the emperor's clothing always has five toes? Or, that the emperor is always portrayed wearing an unusual cap called a Guan Mian? In the Chinese idiom, Guan Mian Tang Huang translates: "elegant and stately in dressing". The "Guan" and "Mian" refer to cap. 

The Sketches: As Ned and I reviewed the dozens of reference photos taken from our shoot, we chose several images to combine for the portrait. I created pencil sketches incorporating details gleaned from my research to achieve an historically accurate portrayal of Emperor Qin's physical likeness. After discussing final elements with Ned and his team, I began painting the emperor’s portrait.

The Scan: The painting, which is 23"x38" oil on paper, took three weeks to complete. The next step was making a high resolution digital scan of the painting. Color corrections and costume details and embellishments were made digitally. Museum staff reproduced and enlarged the image and today the portrait of Emperor Qin towers over guests who enter the exhibit.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the history of what is considered to be the most significant archaeological find of the twentieth century and look forward to being one of the thousands of visitors who will be welcomed by Emperor Qin as I visit The Terra Cotta Warriors.

Want to see the portrait for yourself? Buy your tickets to see Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army.

 

All photos and sketches are courtesy of Rob Day, 2014.

Meet Frannie the Prenoceratops

Prenoceratops at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Frannie?

Frannie is an adult Prenoceratops and is about 60 percent real fossilized bone. No dinosaur is discovered 100 percent complete. Due to erosion and other factors, some fossilized bones are always missing. The people who prepare the dinosaurs for exhibits create casts of the missing bones, usually from other dinosaurs that have been discovered, to fill in the missing pieces.

Dorothy and Leo Flammand found Frannie in 1995 in the St. Mary's Formation in Pondera County, Montana while working for Canada Fossils Ltd., a commercial paleontology group. Frannie is named after Fran Julian, a supporter of The Children's Museum.

There are two Prenoceratops in Dinosphere. In addition to Frannie, there is a cast model made from Frannie's bones. Some scientists believe that Frannie could be an entirely new species of Prenoceratops!

The Life of a Prenoceratops

Not all dinosaurs were big or had long necks and sharp teeth. Many dinosaurs were quite small. Frannie, an adult Prenoceratops, is less than 6 feet long and 3 feet tall and would have weighed less than 150 lbs in life. Prenoceratops lived in the Middle and Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 65 to 74 million years ago in western North America and Australia.
 
There's something mysterious about Prenoceratops. It doesn't seem to belong to the usual cast of Cretaceous creatures. At the end of the Age of Dinosaurs when Prenoceratops lived, most dinosaurs had adapted and evolved in special ways to meet the challenges of a changing environment. Prenoceratops, however, was around for a very long time in geological history and did not seem to develop unique adaptations. Perhaps it survived on the fringes of the forest or in the uplands where there was less competition for food and fewer predators.

Prenoceratops is a cousin to Triceratops. Both are members of the Ceratopsian family of dinosaurs, which means they have horns. But Prenoceratops does not have a horn, even though its name means "slender horned face." Prenoceratops did have some things in common with Triceratops. Both were herbivores, which means they ate plants instead of meat, and both had a beak like a parrot that they used to snip plants to eat. Prenoceratops also had a frill, but it was smaller than a Triceratops frill. Prenoceratops had teeth different from the teeth of Triceratops and other Ceratopsians. Prenoceratops teeth were broad rather than long, perhaps for eating a variety of plants. Each tooth also had only one, rather than several, replacement teeth available. The Prenoceratops teeth had one root rather than double roots like the teeth of Triceratops.
 
Prenoceratops probably walked on all four legs, but may have had the ability to stand on two feet for feeding. Its slender build indicates that it could move quickly. Some scientists think Prenoceratops may have used its hind legs to burrow into the ground to hide from predators. Other scientists disagree and think Prenoceratops could have run swiftly to escape predators. Scientists also aren't sure if Prenoceratops lived alone or in herds. Six, however, were found together in a bone bed in 1999. Could this be a clue?
 

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!