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Inspired by the Museum: DIY Reaction Contraption

This post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador Katie White! Follow Katie's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @katieunscripted.

IsaacEvery time I walk into Playscape with my boys, they both immediately take off for the Reaction Contraption, also lovingly known in our house as the “Ball Wall.” I’m fairly certain this corner of Playscape was designed solely for my two boys.

Isaac, my 18 month old, spends the majority of his time trying to see how many balls he can hold at once. When he tires of this, he moves to the vacuum pipe on the far left of the wall, where he watches ball after ball get sucked up into the pipe and then make its way down the wall through a maze of open-ended tunnels.

Lucas, who just turned four, places balls in the center of the wall, cranking and twisting levers to get each ball to the top of the wall so it can also make its way down the maze of tunnels. But for Lucas, he then maneuvers each of the tunnels into his own maze, figuring out angles that make the balls continue rolling and falling into the next tunnel successfully.

Reaction ContraptionSo when we were at the museum last month and spent the first 30 minutes at the Ball Wall, I had the Best! Idea! Ever! We could make our own Ball Wall! And because I’m thrifty and so not crafty, we immediately started saving toilet paper and paper towel rolls when they were empty to use as our tunnels. With a little help from an old display board, felt, Velcro and a hot glue gun, we made our very own Ball Wall in 30 minutes for less than $7.

Reaction Contraption

We started playing with a ball from our foosball table then switched to a lighter bouncy ball. (I would suggest going with something even lighter like a ping pong ball.) Once we figured out that a lighter ball worked better, it was so fun watching Lucas try to build a tunnel system that worked. And then his older sisters (8 and 12) lined up behind him to take a turn trying to outdo each other with more complicated designs.

Even though our homemade Ball Wall will never compare to the grandeur of the original Reaction Contraption, it’ll do just fine to keep a couple little boys occupied on these long, cold fall and winter days ahead.

Katie has posted helpful directions to make your own Ball Wall on her personal blog at


Katie Blog Tag

Behind the Scenes: Chinese Shadow Puppet Theatre

This blog post is written by Patrick Weigand, one of The Children's Museum's Interpretation Operations Coordinators—who also happens to be our resident puppetry enthusiast! 

It's safe to say that I love shadow puppets. My passion for the art form started in part when I attended the 2011 National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. While I was there, I was work shopping and learning about shadow puppets for a production I was doing with a local theater company. I was drawn to shadow puppets because of their versatility—visually, the possibilities are endless. You can experiment with different types of materials and different light sources to create a wide range of images. I’ve even seen shadow plays that I wouldve thought were movies had I not known better!

I was thrilled to be asked to help develop a Chinese Shadow Puppet program a couple years ago, in anticipation of Take Me There:® China. Chinese shadow puppetry is shadow puppetry in its oldest and purist form. In fact, many believe that shadow puppetry originated in China over 2000 years ago! It was important to me that we help spread the art form to a wider audience.

Traditionally, Chinese shadow puppets are made from animal hide that is treated and scraped to be very thin and translucent. Once the leather is ready, each part of the puppet is cut out by hand, often with intricate designs, using a variety of knives and punches. Every piece is then carefully painted with vibrant colors before the joints are assembled. The engineering and assembling of the joints is also very precise, as it is important to find the right balance and movement for the performance.

As our team continued to develop the script for the program, I was sent back to the National Puppetry Conference this past summer to meet with experts on Chinese puppetry and continue developing the techniques we would use. Now we have the program you can see today—we invite families to help an unprepared apprentice (our actor) finish his assignment to perform a traditional story.

The puppets we use in the program are a little different than those used traditionally. Though they are from China, the puppets we use are mass produced, cut out by machines rather than by hand. We chose to use these mainly for practical reasons—we needed to have a lot of the puppets available to put in the hands of children and families. We also changed the way the puppets are controlled. Typically, Chinese shadow puppets are manipulated with three rods and take many years to master. We only use two rods, so it can be a little easier to work with them.

If you want to learn even more about Chinese shadow puppets, visit You can also learn more about the Shadow Puppets program in Take Me There: China in this blog post. You can check the museum calendar for all of the available times to stop by and Play a Part with Chinese Shadow Puppets!



Why Do We Have Eyebrows?

Why do we have eyebrows?Some are dark, some are light. Some are bushy, some are pencil thin. Some people even try to shave them, but there’s no denying, we all have them. We’re talking about those two bands of hair sitting just above our eyes–eyebrows! But what purpose do they serve? Why do we even have eyebrows? We answer this question with help from Mental Floss.

You may be surprised to know that eyebrows actually serve two very important purposes.

The first being that they help divert sweat and rain away from our eyes. Without them, our vision could be easily compromised anytime we’re in the middle of an intense workout or get stuck in the rain.

Besides protecting our eyes from moisture, eyebrows also act as our most expressive facial feature. Try flexing your eyebrows up and then scrunching them down towards your nose. Can you lift one eyebrow up while holding the other in place? Without moving your mouth or eyes, these movements caused your facial expressions to drastically change. With just a lift or scrunch of an eyebrow, we can tell people whether we are surprised, worried, mad or confused. Huh?

“Scientists who study facial expressions say eyebrows are key to expressing happiness, surprise, and anger,” Mental Floss reports. “They’re especially useful to speakers of sign language, who contort their eyebrows to complement hand signs.”

In fact, they may be even more identifiable than our eyes. According to Mental Floss, in 2003, researchers at MIT, photoshopped two copies of the same Richard Nixon photo. One erased his eyes, and the other erased his eyebrows. The results? The study’s participants were more likely to identify the former president with missing eyes than missing eyebrows.

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

Inspired by the Museum: Fireworks of Balloons

This post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador, Samantha Cotten. Follow Samantha's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @samanthacotten

FIreworks of Balloons

The classics never get old, do they?

To this day, I am fascinated and inspired by many of the permanent exhibits at The Children's Museum—the very same that once contributed to some of my favorite childhood memories. From the towering water clock in the Sunburst Atrium, to the whimsical Carousel in Wishes and Dreams; in my opinion the best exhibits get better with age (both theirs and mine!).

Perhaps my favorite permanent exhibit is Dale Chihuly's Fireworks of Glass. I've seen the sculpture of 3,200 hand-blown pieces of glass hundreds of times, yet I find myself studying the display at every visit. Different colors, shapes and techniques within the artwork keep me coming back for more. There is a lot to see in all 43 feet!

While my one-year old isn't exactly an art critic, it's clear she already shares her momma's appreciation for all things Chihuly. Her animated gasps at Fireworks' beauty tell me so. ;) We were inspired to grab a bag of assorted balloons and create our own work of art in our basement. It was a family affair—my husband blew up the balloons (we recommend splurging for a hand pump), I tied, and the toddler giggled as we worked. As we blew up various balloons, we talked about their different physical aspects—the color, size and shapes—and then taped them into a sculpture form. 

This little art activity would probably work better with slightly older children, however our end result has been admired and appreciated by all family members - even our cat, Halle.

Behold! The Cotten family's "Fireworks of Balloons." 
What do you see? How many colors can you find? Where is your favorite shape?

Fireworks of GlassFireworks of Balloons


From Deep Sea to Outer Space: Experts Weigh in on Pressurized Suits

This blog post is courtesy of Kit Matthew, The Children's Museum's Chief Science Educator. Kit helps infuse science throughout the museum by working alongside the exhibit and education departments, and by seeking out researchers and engineers who have interesting science stories and discoveries for us to share with visiting families.

Our bodies are finely tuned to life on Earth. You don’t even have to think about the fact that at any given moment every square inch of you is being pressed on by 14.7 pounds of atmospheric pressure–talk about having a lot of weight on your shoulders! Fortunately there is air inside our bodies balancing out that pressure, allowing us to survive on earth.

When we travel to extreme environments to explore unknown conditions—like outer space or deep in the ocean—our bodies have to contend with the changes in external pressure. Engineering is needed to create solutions to help balance the pressure and keep our bodies safe. Introducing… life support suits! (Think Tony Stark, according to a recent New York Times article.) 

We called on our museum experts who have traveled to space—Extraordinary-Scientist-in-Residence/Former Astronaut, Dr. David Wolf—and deep in the ocean—Extraordinary Underwater Archaeologist in Residence, Dr. Charles Beeker—to weigh in on this new incredible technology and how it plays a pivotal role in essential research work that needs to take place in these extreme environments. 

Dr. David Wolf and Dr. Charles Beeker

Exploration of outer space reached an extraordinary milestone with the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. How was that even possible in the thin atmosphere of outer space?  What did that space suit really do for Armstrong to protect him and yet allow him to walk?

Now instead of journeying outwards away from earth, think about journeying deep under water. A similar problem needs to be solved—protecting the diver while allowing them movement to explore and do work. With the development of the advanced diving suit, much like Armstrong’s suit for outer space exploration, this becomes possible—a huge breakthrough!  

These new atmospheric pressurized diving suits are being initially tested at depths limited to 1,000 feet, but in the future they could allow divers to go much deeper and work up to 2.5 days without surfacing!  

There are a lot of moving parts that are required to protect from the extremes—both in space and in the ocean. We need:
•    Oxygen delivered to our lungs at just the right pressure to fuel our tissues—too much or too little would have catastrophic consequences on your body and blood chemistry. 
•    Control over our body temperature from extremes of hot and cold—temperature can vary over 500 degrees in a matter of minutes. 
•    A very tough, tear resistant suit for working with heavy and sharp equipment. 
•    Reliable communications with our other team members 
•    Dexterity to move around and handle tools without quickly exhausting the diver or astronaut. 

These are complex requirements to solve all at once. New products, like these suits, are cyclic—initial design, test models or prototypes, re-design, build the real thing, and adjust based on feedback from users under real conditions. Each iteration allows us to explore further and be more productive.

For example, this picture is a prototype spacesuit, called the AX-5, that NASA tested in the 1980's.  For space it keeps the internal pressure above the much lower ambient pressure of space. It wasn't used in space, but it showed us how to build better suits like those now used on the International Space Station.  

Oceans and space are oddly similar next frontiers!  This new, exciting engineering helps us advance our knowledge in both extreme environments.

Why are Basketballs Orange?

Why are basketballs orange? Basketball season tops the list of favorite seasons for just about every Hoosier. This time of year in Indiana the sounds of squeaking tennis shoes, buzzing buzzers, and dribbling basketballs fill gymnasiums around the state. So it makes sense that this basketball state played a small part in the reason why basketballs are orange.

Why are basketballs orange? They weren’t always this color. Before the late 1950s, basketballs were generally brown.

Butler University’s head basketball coach, Tony Hinkle, thought this color was not only difficult for players to see, but also for the fans. He decided to create a ball that anyone near a basketball court could easily see. The color he chose? Orange.

In 1957, Hinkle worked with the Spalding Company to develop a new basketball. The orange-colored ball made its debut in the 1958 NCAA Finals in Louisville, Kentucky. Impressed with the easy-to-see color, the NCAA adopted the ball and is now a standard for all basketball organizations.

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

Inspired by the Museum: DIY Panda Piggy Bank

Panda bankThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog AmbassadorChrystal TurnerFollow Chrystal's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @seaofsavings

On our last visit to The Children's Museum, we stepped onto the plane from Indianapolis International Airport—next stop, Beijing. While we were in flight we flew over mountains and soaked up all of the beautiful views of the China landscape. Our in-flight captain and flight attendant even taught us a few Chinese words to help us on our journey. When we got off the plane our first stop was the local Chinese Restaurant, where my daughter cooked us up a great meal—and I did my best to use the chopsticks! All of this happened, mind you, without leaving's just another day in our favorite exhibit!

One thing that always brings us back to Take Me There: China is the pandas. My girl is such an animal lover, and the recreated Panda Research Center allows her to be totally immersed in their world. You can learn all sorts of cool facts about pandas, and also take care of your own panda cub. Did you know when a panda cub is born it’s the size of a stick of butter?!  We spend time feeding them snacks, putting the babies that were just born into their warming beds, and while they’re sleeping we play a game of Panda trivia. Our last trip to visit the pandas was not enough, as she began begging to have her own panda. When we got home, we made that happen—by making an adorable panda piggy bank!

PandasHere’s how simple it is to make your own: 

  1. Wash and dry a milk jug.
  2. To get rid of the ink numbers on the top of the jug, spray a little bit of paint on the numbers. 
  3. If your jug is clear, simply spray-paint the entire jug white and let dry.
  4. To make the bear's legs, cut the top edges off of Dixie cups.Cut a line all the way down the side seams to the bottom of the cups. Roll the cups up so that they are smaller on the tops. Cut off the parts of the cups that hang over. Glue the sides together with a low temperature hot melt glue gun. Squeeze the top of the cup together and glue closed. Paint the legs black and then glue the legs to the bottom of the milk jug.
  5. Paint a black stripe just below the top of the jug as shown in the picture. Paint two large spots where you want the eyes. Paint a noise and mouth. Cut arms and ears from black craft foam and glue to the jug.


Standing Up for One Another | Power of Children Award Winners | Part 3

POCA Winners 3By Mary LaVenture, Volunteer Services and POCA Administrator

This year, November 7th and 8th are very special days at the museum. On November 7 we'll acknowledge and celebrate our 2014 Power of Children Award winners with a special ceremony and keynote address from Ruby Bridges. On November 8th this year’s winners, along with those from the past ten years, will help lead a symposium workshop for local philanthropic-minded youths who want to do more. 

We're excited to announce our six winners and share their extraordinary projects over the course of this week! Today’s two winners have impacted the lives of others by providing anti-bullying training in schools and food assistance to hungry children.

Isaac McFarland

  • Age: 16
  • Hometown: Keithville, Louisiana
  • School Year: 11, School: Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Project: Game Changers Tackling Hunger

Isaac McFarland travels daily into an impoverished area of Shreveport to attend a top-rated magnet high school. He does not leave the neighborhood the way he found it. From the time Isaac entered high school he noticed the unkempt, hungry children he passed on his drive to class.His concern for those less fortunate children caused Isaac to found Game Changers Tackling Hunger. Said Isaac, “I believe in the power of one person impacting one life.”  Isaac started small, supplying local homeless shelters with beef grown on his family farm. Soon he recruited thousands of fellow 4-H members, classmates, city leaders and junior cattlemen to collect or donate food or decorate tackle boxes for food delivery to individual homes and organizations.
Together, Isaac and his posse have collected, packed and delivered more than six tons of food to pantries and homeless shelters. In response to Isaac’s pleas, local farmers raise fresh vegetables for his projects. And, his 26 “youth ambassadors” help him raise community gardens and teach over 12,000 classmates about the importance of healthy living.

Matthew Kaplan

  • Age: 17
  • Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
  • School year: 11 School: Tesseract
  • Project: The Be ONE Project

Imagine having to witness your younger brother being bullied. His brother’s suffering prompted Matthew Kaplan to take action, and he decided to create an anti-bullying program for his school. After shadowing several existing programs, Matthew noticed that all of the programs focused on high school students. Matthew believes it's important to target younger children and he set out to establish a program for middle school students. As a result, he created The Be ONE Project and strives to educate 5th to 7th graders about peer pressure and bullying. 

Since its creation, The Be ONE Project, has spread across three states, taught more than 1,000 middle school students and 200 teacher participants, and has requests to appear in schools in Canada and Mexico. The program has interactive activities designed to create a community environment and allow students to share in their own past experiences.  Matthew hopes to help students create an environment that is bully-free and has already touched the lives of several students. “I have received letters from students telling me how the Be ONE event helped make new friends and repair a broken friendship,” said Matthew.

Each recipient of the Power of Children Award will receive a $2,000 grant courtesy of the Kroger Foundation to continue his or her extraordinary work, a four-year post-secondary scholarship to a participating institution of higher learning: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the University of Indianapolis, and Butler University and they will be recognized in the museum’s The Power of Children exhibit.

The November 7, 2014 reception, dinner and awards ceremony, with special guest speaker Ruby Bridges, begins at 6:30 p.m. in The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Power of Children gallery. You can see more information and buy tickets to the event on the Eventbrite page.

For information about our symposium for youths in grade 5-10 and how to attend contact Debbie Young at

Delivering Hope and Comfort | Power of Children Award Winners | Part 2

POCA Winners 1By Mary LaVenture, Volunteer Services and POCA Administrator

This year, November 7th and 8th are very special days at the museum. On November 7 we'll acknowledge and celebrate our 2014 Power of Children Award winners with a special ceremony and keynote address from Ruby Bridges. On November 8th this year’s winners, along with those from the past ten years, will help lead a symposium workshop for local philanthropic-minded youths who want to do more. 

We're excited to announce our six winners and share their extraordinary projects over the course of this week! Today’s two winners have impacted the lives of others by providing assistance and hope to hospital cancer patients.

Tatum Parker

  • Age: 13
  • Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
  • School Year: 7, School: Westlane Middle School
  • Project: Tatum’s Bags of Fun

Scared, sad, sick and bored, that is often the day-to-day life of a child hospitalized weeks or months on end for cancer treatment. No one knows that better than Tatum Parker, a two-time cancer survivor. Following her first battle with cancer in 2008, Tatum sought to solve the boredom by creating gift bags for other young cancer patients. The highly anticipated bags became known as Tatum’s Bags of Fun. At a cost of about $350 each, Tatum stuffs backpacks with age-appropriate video games, toys, movies and crafts for young cancer patients hospitalized across the state of Indiana.

Through a cancer relapse, Tatum continued to make her bags. “I have delivered smiles, laughter, and hope to over 1,700 Indiana children fighting cancer by giving them a Bag of Fun,” said Tatum. She has help from young volunteers who comprise “The Kids’ Board.”  The board hosts events such as dance marathons and fun runs/walks to fund Tatum’s Bags of Fun.

Kendra Springs

  • Age:13
  • Hometown: Plainfield, Indiana
  • School Year: 7, School: Saint Susanna Middle School
  • Project: Kendra’s Call for Komfort

There is nothing fashionable about hospital gowns, a fact well-known by Kendra Springs. In 2011, Kendra was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. The fashionista, facing several years of long hospital stays, had little in the way of fashionable, comfortable clothing to wear. In between treatments she went on a shopping adventure to find stylish, comfortable hospital wear along with plenty of games and activities to keep herself occupied. Soon thereafter, Kendra’s Call for Komfort was created.

Kendra’s not-for-profit organization provides personalized care packages which include clothing, games, crafts, and gift cards that can be used for shopping online, or even to fill the gas tank of travelling families. “Nurses often tell us how the mood in a room changes once a kid receives a care package. It can bring a little bit of happiness to a child who is scared or sad,” said Kendra. Multiple fundraisers have helped Kendra raise over $50,000.  Some of the funding goes directly to pediatric hospitals for the purchase of special toy versions of medical equipment to help scared patients better understand their treatments.

Each recipient of the Power of Children Award will receive a $2,000 grant courtesy of the Kroger Foundation to continue his or her extraordinary work, a four-year post-secondary scholarship to a participating institution of higher learning: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the University of Indianapolis, and Butler University and they will be recognized in the museum’s The Power of Children exhibit.

The November 7, 2014 reception, dinner and awards ceremony, with special guest speaker Ruby Bridges, begins at 6:30 p.m. in The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Power of Children gallery. You can see more information and buy tickets to the event on the Eventbrite page.

For information about our symposium for youths in grade 5-10 and how to attend contact Debbie Young at

Sharing Resources and Love | Power of Children Award Winners | Part 1

POCA Winners 1By Mary LaVenture, Volunteer Services and POCA Administrator

This year, November 7th and 8th are very special days at the museum. On November 7 we'll acknowledge and celebrate our 2014 Power of Children Award winners with a special ceremony and keynote address from Ruby Bridges. On November 8th this year’s winners, along with those from the past ten years, will help lead a symposium workshop for local philanthropic-minded youths who want to do more. 

We're excited to announce our six winners and share their extraordinary projects over the course of this week! Today’s two winners have impacted the lives of others by providing clothing and resources to those in a variety of different natural disaster situations. 

My’Kah Knowlin

  • Age: 13
  • Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska
  • School year: 7, School: Lux Middle School
  • Project: Boxes of Love

In May 2011, a then ten-year old girl in Lincoln, Nebraska, was stunned by the devastation a tornado delivered 350 miles away in Joplin, Missouri. The sight of children who lost everything, some even their families, hit My’Kah hard.  She saw the need for children to hold something of their own, something tangible. Immediately My’Kah’s shoe box business launched. A goal to fill 100 shoe boxes with toys, snacks and hygiene items was far surpassed.  In three years, the young philanthropist has recruited over 100 volunteers who’ve helped fill over 3,000 boxes. The care packages, along with monetary donations to Ronald McDonald Houses in Joplin and Moore, Oklahoma (the site of a massive 2013 tornado) were possible because of $75,000 raised by Boxes of Love. “I believe my biggest impact is showing the kids that they are not alone and that there are other kids out there who really do care about them,” said My’Kah.
My’Kah’s mission has expanded to help teachers restock classrooms with supplies following disasters and to send Boxes of Love to military men and women in Afghanistan.

Mariah Reynolds

  • Age: 15
  • Hometown: Moores Hill, Indiana
  • School Year: 8, School: School for Creative and Performing Arts
  • Project: gLOVE One Another

If you see a need, fill it! That is the philosophy of Mariah Reynolds who saw her first opportunity to fill a need at the tender age of nine. As soon as she was old enough to realize that natural disasters wreak havoc on families and children, Mariah went to work to provide warm gloves, coats and school supplies for them. 

Funding initially came from garage sales and book sales she hosted.  Now, Mariah credits her website and blog  with helping her raise more than $120,000 in corporate sponsorships and individual donations from around the world. She has purchased over 2,000 backpacks, filled them, and delivered them personally to victims of Hurricane Sandy, the Moore, Oklahoma tornado and the floods in Boulder, Colorado. According to Mariah, “I believe that providing cold weather accessories and school supplies helps children stay healthy and become successful.”

With her Power of Children award money, Mariah will seek 501c3 IRS tax- exempt status, and, in addition to providing needed provisions to children, she intends to run self-esteem seminars for teen girls.

Each recipient of the Power of Children Award will receive a $2,000 grant courtesy of the Kroger Foundation to continue his or her extraordinary work, a four-year post-secondary scholarship to a participating institution of higher learning: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the University of Indianapolis, and Butler University and they will be recognized in the museum’s The Power of Children exhibit.

The November 7, 2014 reception, dinner and awards ceremony, with special guest speaker Ruby Bridges, begins at 6:30 p.m. in The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Power of Children gallery. You can see more information and buy tickets to the event on the Eventbrite page.

For information about our symposium for youths in grade 5-10 and how to attend contact Debbie Young at

Sponsorship Spotlight—Target Free Family Nights

TargetBy Lindsay Pavell, Corporate Partnership Manager.
What makes the first Thursday night of the month so special? ...Free admission to The Children’s Museum, of course! Since 2007, Target has been a major partner in providing monthly free admission nights for the community—leading Target Free Family Nights to become something of an Indianapolis tradition.
Thanks to Target’s support, on the first Thursday of each month the museum opens free of charge from 4–8 p.m. On this special night, families explore five floors of museum galleries and participate in activities and programs centered on a unique theme, which may tie in with a current exhibit or the time of year. In the past we've celebrated World Space Week with an “Out Of This World” Target Free Family Night, complete with a talk from Extraordinary Scientist-in-Residence astronaut Dr. David Wolf!
Target celebrates the museum’s mission with a specific focus on providing free admission for underserved children and families. Because of Target Free Family Nights, we have new opportunities to create extraordinary learning experiences for families. At the museum we like to say that a day will last a lifetime—free nights make it possible for even more children to be inspired when they visit.
Be sure to stop by our next Target Free Family Night on Thursday, November 6, where we'll celebrate the Power of Children and National Adoption Day.  This event follows closely behind our annual Power of Children Awards,, which recognize youths who exemplify an extraordinary commitment to public service and social responsibility. On November’s Target Free Family Night your family will explore the lives of three extraordinary children: Ruby Bridges, Ryan White, and Anne Frank, and discover ways to give back to the community.
Did you know? We’re not the only museum that receives support from Target!  You can learn more about how Target is making a difference for kids nationwide at

Why Do I Get Goosebumps?

Why do I get goosebumps?Things might get a little spooky this Halloween! If the little witches and goblins scare you when they yell "Trick or treat!" at your door, you might find goosebumps on your arms. It’s not just a fright that will cause these little bumps to appear. A breeze of cold air or a rush of emotions, and you’ll find them again! But, why? We answer this question with help from Discovery News.

Let’s start just beneath the skin.

That’s where you will find tiny muscles called arrector pili. Each of these muscles are attached to a hair follicle. When you get frightened or cold, your body releases the stress hormone, adrenaline, and your skin’s muscles contract. According to Discovery News, this creates small depressions on parts of the skin while the other parts, including your hair, stand up.

While goosebumps serve no helpful purpose for humans, they certainly do for animals. When animals with a fur coat gets cold or feels threatened, goosebumps cause their hair to stand up a little higher than usual. This allows for extra warmth or tells an enemy to stay back.

Next time you see the hair on the back of your cat or dog stand up, you’ll know the contraction of its arrector pili – or goosebumps – are to thank!

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

Inspired by the Museum: When Tweens Take On the Haunted House

Katie Blog 1This post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador Katie White! Follow Katie's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @katieunscripted.

One of the things I love about The Children’s Museum is that my tween daughter Alaina loves it just as much as my toddler. She may not love splashing in water or pouring sand all over the ground in Playscape like her baby brother, but she does especially love this Halloween season at the museum.

Alaina’s kind of a Halloween-crazed kid. She has always started planning her Halloween costume promptly on November 1st each year. And for as long as I can remember, she has always spent her summer reading points from the public library on a ticket to The Children’s Museum Haunted House before anything else—even as a 12-year-old, seventh grader!

Last year I took her and two of her friends to the Defender Direct’s Frightening Hours (recommended for kids who dare to be scared) for the first time. They had so much fun (I did too!) that they decided to go back together this year, and every year after as a tradition. But because of a scheduling conflict, the only time they could go was during the Williams Comfort Air's XTREME SCREAM (recommended for teens and adults).

Xtreme Scream

Can I tell you how much fun it was just to watch these three psych themselves up (or out!) to go to a “real” haunted house?! And as a parent who is a bit cautious about “adult” haunted houses in Central Indiana, I was thankful that I could confidently send my tween daughter to a haunted house at the same museum my toddler runs around till he drops.

The result? They had a blast! They were scared to death and have talked about it daily since their visit. But they felt safe since they were in a place they’ve grown up playing in. I think that’s one of the reasons they had so much fun. 

I love that a children’s museum in my city can offer seasonal events that will capture the hearts of every one of my four children—from ages 1 to 12. From the Black Hat Bash, where our entire family dressed up in costumes, ate great food, and played all over the museum, to the Creepy Carnival Haunted House, where my littles can walk through with lights on and smiling greeters in each room offering treats, or at XTREME SCREAM, where my big can be scared until she “maybe peed my pants just a little bit.” 

Still wondering what level of fright is right for your family? Learn about all of the Haunted House scare levels in this blog post and infographic.

Katie Blog Tag

Family Health Tip: Halloween Safety for Your Ghouls and Goblins

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

Make this Halloween one to remember for fun and creativity—not a trip to the emergency department. Simple precautions can make for a fun and safe Halloween. Halloween presents a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to have fun together—and more than any other holiday, it requires extra attention to safety concerns.

  1. Pumpkin-carving: Younger children can draw faces that an adult cuts out. The safest candle option is a votive — or up your jack-o-lantern’s safety quotient by using a glow stick or battery-powered light.
  2. Costume Tips:
    • When choosing which superhero or cartoon character for your child to be, consider visibility and ease of movement for each costume.
    • Costumes that are bright or reflective help keep kids safer in fading light. Parents can add reflective tape to trick-or-treat bags or costumes to ensure motorists can see children crossing roadways or driveways. Glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets are also great options to help visibility.
    • Hats and shoes should fit properly to minimize the risk of tripping or obscured vision.
    • Makeup approved for use on faces can be a good alternative to masks that limit trick-or-treaters’ ability to see.
    • Swords, wands, and other costume props should be flexible, short,and soft to prevent injuries.
  3. Trick-or-Treating Tips:
    • Always accompany small children while trick-or-treating.
    • Parents should establish a safe trick-or-treating route and time to return home with older children–who should still go out in a group.
    • Teach your child to walk on sidewalks or at the edge of roadways facing traffic.
    • Flashlights and glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets can help your children find their way and be seen by drivers.
    • Children should know never to enter a home for a treat. They should also avoid cutting across lawns or alleys and stick to sidewalks and designated places to cross the street.
  4. Candy: Wait until you get home to examine and eat candy. A responsible adult should weed out choking hazards, items in open packages, homemade items or anything suspicious.
  5. Handing out candy: Parents who plan to hand out candy should prepare yards and front porches by removing garden hoses, lawn ornaments and tools children might trip over in the dark. All outdoor lights should have working bulbs, and sidewalks should be swept of wet leaves or other slipping hazards. This way, no one gets hurt – and everybody has fun!

Creepy Carnival-Inspired Halloween Treats

Even though the Indiana State Fair has come and gone, you can still enjoy all of your favorite carnival foods this fall! As a part of the Creepy Carnival Haunted House, The Children’s Museum Guild Witches have shared ways to transform that typical carnival food into a creepy at-home creation.

Mummy Hot DogsMummy or severed finger hot dogs
Have a crowd of hungry goblins to feed?  Kids will love
these fun but simple ways to turn a classic hot dog into something creepy—like mummies! All you need to do is wrap Pillsbury crescent rolls around hot dogs, apply mustard to make eyes, bake accordingly to packaging instructions, and voila—your hot dogs are now mummies! If you’re looking for a way to really scare the kids, you can also transform a hot dog into a severed finger. To do this, you'll need a knife and a teardrop or oval cutter to make the fingernail [recipe]. For vegetarians, you can create something similar! Instead of using hotdogs, create mummies or severed fingers by replacing them with pretzel sticks and melted chocolate [recipe]. Hopefully you’ll still want to bite into these scary snacks when they’re complete! 

Creepy pumpkin carmel applesCreepy pumpkin caramel apples
Ever notice that apples are a similar shape to pumpkins? You can turn a simple fall treat into a frightening pumpkin by adding some decoration. After the caramel has cooled on the apples, melt any chocolate you prefer to use for the eyes and face.  Stick on gummy worms or other candy for an extra creepy pumpkin look [recipe]. This recipe can be a fun activity for kids to do in anticipation for Halloween and our haunted house.


Witches Popcorn Witches Popcorn
These days, we witches are always snacking on popcorn while keeping busy planning the Creepy Carnival. Yes, witches love popcorn too! To make this favorite snack scary, we like to use green food coloring, lots of butter and sometimes candy corn. However, there are many different ways to make this treat your own [recipe]. If you want to hand out Witches Corn at a Halloween party, you can also fill up a plastic glove with the popcorn and use candy corn as fingernails. Hopefully our favorite snack won’t turn you into a witch! Hehehe. 

Spider web cotton candySpider web cotton candy
Love that light and fluffy sweet taste known as cotton candy? If you have a cotton candy maker, then it’s easy! If you don’t, no worries! You can find a recipe to make this favorite carnival treat without a machine here. The cotton candy should already look naturally webby, but you can also add food coloring or plastic spiders to give it a spookier feel. This simple treat allows a lot of room for creativity and fun. 



Bloody Ears

Bloody Ears
Elephant ears are mouthwatering, sugary and everything to enjoy in life. A bloody ear might not look so appetizing, but it’s just as delicious! The only difference is these ears are stuffed with jelly using puff pastry to give it that bloody look. This recipe can be found on the Rachael Ray Show here. We witches like to eat these bloody ears for breakfast. It’s one of our favorites! 




To check out some of our other Creepy Carnival recipe ideas, visit our Pinterest page. After you’re done in the kitchen, don’t forget to get your tickets to the Creepy Carnival Haunted House!


Photo Attribution: 

  1. Mummy hot dog picture from 
  2. Creepy pumpkin caramel apples picture from 
  3. Witches Popcorn picture from
  4. Spider web cotton candy picture from
  5. Bloody Ears picture from 

Inspired by the Museum: Creepy Carnival Pumpkin Painting

BashThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador, Samantha Cotten. 
Follow Samantha's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @samanthacotten

Halloween is quickly becoming the Cotten family's favorite holiday. Last year at this time, we were anxiously awaiting our daughter's arrival (she missed being a pumpkin baby by just a few hours!) This year, we're honoring her first birthday with a month full of fa-BOO-lously spooky activities. Because what one-year-old doesn't love The Children's Museum Guild's Haunted House, Creepy Carnival?

Last weekend we dressed in our best "classic monster" garb, and headed to the Black Hat Bash to kick off our celebration. The museum did not disappoint in their festiveness—even the dinosaurs outside were in costume! Our little ghost loved checking out the other kids' get-ups, and even had a chance to haunt the Playscape in between bites of Blondie's Cookies. Our favorite part of the evening was getting a sneak preview of the Haunted House, which was delightfully creepy even with the lights on! It was the perfect amount of scary and friendly for our toddler (and for this easily-frightened mom and dad!)

Creepy Carnival was enough to inspire us to dress our own home up for the holiday. Every family headed by Frankenstein needs a little Halloween decor, right? We headed to our local pumpkin stand, picked out our favorites and got a little messy to create our own Creepy Carnival mascot—Barker Bones! Now we're the most festive house on the cul-de-sac. ;)

Dot pumpking painting

  1. Use painter's tape to cover your pumpkin (where you want your design to show).
  2. Draw your design directly on the painter's tape. I free-handed this Barker Bones, but you can use the museum's awesome Haunted House-Inspired templates!
  3. Use a razor blade to trace around your design, and remove the excess tape.
  4. Pour out the non-toxic finger paints, and let your little Picasso get to work!
  5. Once your little one has sufficiently covered themselves (and maybe the pumpkin) in paint, peel back the tape to reveal your masterpiece.
  6. If you plan to put your pumpkins outside, I recommend spraying the painted side with a clear acrylic sealant - just to make it waterproof!

Dot painted pumpkins



Your Guide to the Friendly Feasts with the Witches

FeastWitches1The Friendly Feasts with the Witches are a Haunted House tradition! Learn what you can expect from these special events from the guy who knows best—Scott Rudicel of Ruditoonz. 
October is almost here, and the Haunted House at the Children’s Museum is ready to rock! I've had the honor the last six years to host the “Friendly Feasts.” These events are a breakfast, lunch or dinner with a gaggle of friendly witches that are hosted by me, Ruditoonz. They are geared toward the younger crowd (ages 0–10 or so), last about 90 minutes total, and consist of a feast, singing and dancing, and a special 20-minute Ruditoonz Halloween-themed concert in Lilly Theater. 


For the feasts themselves, I love running around and meeting the kids, telling jokes and making them laugh while they eat. Fazoli’s provides worms with ground werewolf (spaghetti with meat sauce), breadsticks (mummy fingers) and salads (with lettuce grown by the witches themselves).  The breakfast is usually scrambled brains (eggs) and werewolf sausage and bacon with coffee (bat juice). Mmmmmmmmm. Getting hungry yet?
All the while, Halloween music is playing overhead. As I do with Ruditoonz, I choose this music carefully for not only the kids, but the moms and dads, too. We have “Witch Doctor” followed by Alice Cooper “Welcome to my Nightmare”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and of course, the “Monster Mash.” Frances the friendly witch is usually around to help teach the kids her best witchy dance moves.  We have a lot of fun!
Just ahead of the crowd, I run down to the theater and plug in for the concert. Each year, I mix up the songs I play to keep it fresh for both the returning guests and me. Also, every year I write a new song using the year’s theme as the title. Last year I wrote “Time Warp,” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Guild’s haunted house at the museum! I wrote a great song, kitschy like the Rocky Horror “Time Warp” yet entirely original and rocking, name checking both past haunted house themes and rooms in the current haunted house. Watch below or have a listen now—it rocks!
Following my show, everyone gets to go through the Haunted House with the lights on. They say this is less scary for the youngsters, but as someone who has gone through the houses many times both with lights on and off, I actually prefer lights on! You can see the incredible attention put in to every detail in all the rooms!
Cheers to the Haunted House! I’m honored to be a part of it!
See all of the Friendly Feasts dates and reserve your tickets here!

Capturing History Through Underwater Archaeology

Columbus cannonBy Dave Rust, Children's Museum Photographer and Video Producer

As the Museum's photographer and videographer, I need to capture imagery of everything, which means that I get the opportunity to see up-close a lot of the amazing things folks do around here. I never know what I might do next, or when I'll be handed traveling orders!  Would you believe that this summer I got the chance to visit the Caribbean Sea and the nation of the Dominican Republic—for work?

My trip’s objective: to capture video of Prof. Charles Beeker, our Extraordinary Underwater Archaeologist-in-Residence, as he leads Indiana University researchers on a search for clues to the Spanish galleon, Begoña, a ship that was lost to rocky shores and high winds in 1725.

The History of the Begoña

Prof. Beeker tells us that the Begoña and its captain were faced with a no-win situation 300 years ago. The Begoña’s Spanish passengers were especially enterprising…maybe too much so! They had mined silver in nearby Central America and wanted to bring it back to Spain without paying the King’s tax. So they hid sliver coins, jewelry, and table settings in trunks with false bottoms, and some of the bounty was even sewn inside their clothing. Their ship was so heavy, it sat too deeply in the water! Harbormasters wouldn’t let the Begoña into Santo Domingo waters to pick up supplies before the ship's big hop to Spain. They were afraid it’d get stuck in the shallows and plug the harbor’s entrance.

Out in deep water with no supplies and facing bad weather for days, the captain had to attempt a hard landing several miles east of the capital in order to protect the crew and passengers. Everyone got off alive, but the winds bashed the ship against the rocks until it broke into pieces. Almost all of that illegal baggage was lost under just 10 feet of water! But one trunk was pulled from the waves and everyone began the long walk back to Santo Domingo. When guards encountered the drenched passengers, they wondered why the group was even bothering to carry a bulky trunk all the way back to the capital. Guards took a look inside and the secret was out. The passengers and the ship’s captain faced serious legal penalties…despite the heroic efforts by the captain to save everyone’s lives.

What We're Discovering Today

I used an underwater camera to document SCUBA divers as they used pumps called dredges to remove layers of sand from the bottom of La Caleta inlet. As they dredged, objects long buried were revealed by the day’s bright sunlight. Since they’ve begun these exhibitions, divers have found many pounds of silver, table settings, swords, cannon balls, and musket balls.

During my trip, they uncovered one of the ship’s cannon (called “guns” when on deck). Another team thought they found a smaller deck gun (called a verso), though it was heavily encrusted with coral rock. Researchers will have to remove the coatings to see if it is indeed a ship’s weapon…or just a modern water pipe. Other divers were excited by objects that appear to have come from the local natives, the Taino. Pottery, especially bowls for carrying water and food, seem to be common finds in this bay. Prof. Beeker says this isn’t a surprise, since this beach was a part of a large native village for hundreds of years and has long since been abandoned.

After being pounded by the surf for hundreds of years, clay objects are usually found broken. The team also found a knob-like handle that probably came from a bowl. Experts on the team say this is often the case…with turtle heads being a common theme, but this one looks more like a person’s face to me. In any case, it's likely much older than artifacts from the Begoña.

Indiana University wants to learn everything it can about the Begoña.  When the research team is done, Prof. Beeker hopes to put many of the items on display underwater in the same inlet of La Caleta, creating an underwater museum for other SCUBA divers and snorkelers to explore. Some of the other artifacts—including a conglomerate of 18th century silver coins—are now on display at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Now Hoosiers can see for themselves these clues about how people lived in the Caribbean so long ago.

The silver coins aren't the only new artifacts  on display in the working Archaeology Lab in the Treasures of the Earth gallery. There are also new Columbus-era cannons on view, centuries older than the Begoña. While most families' fall break plans may not include a trip to SCUBA in the Caribbean, you can still experience these extraordinary artifacts right here in Indianapolis!

Conserving Captain Kidd's Cannon

CannonBy Ashley Ramsey Hannum, Archaeology Lab Assistant

Have you been wondering if we would ever finish treatment on Captain Kidd’s cannon? You certainly wouldn’t be alone. Cannon #4 from Kidd’s Quedagh Merchant, which sank off the coast of the Domincan Republic in 1699, has been undergoing conservation treatment in the National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit since 2011. The lengthy treatment, called electrolytic reduction, helps remove all of the salts that the cannon absorbed from 300 years in ocean water. The process also helps remove the thick layer of minerals and concretion that built up over that time. 

After years of conservation, the cannon is finally ready for the last stages of treatment. The first—and most challenging—step is boiling the cannon in highly purified water. The boiling water creates tiny bubbles inside the pores of the iron, helping to remove the final amounts of salt and minerals. 

You may be thinking, how does one boil a 1,500 pound, over 6 foot long piece of iron? Since we certainly don’t have a stove that big, we had to get creative. The Museum’s awesome facilities team had the idea to divert steam from one of the building’s giant boilers, typically used to heat the museum, through the water in the cannon’s tank. Theoretically, the heat from the steam should bring the water to a boil. 

We placed the cannon in an 8 foot long, galvanized steel water trough, designed for holding water for livestock. Steve, our HVAC extraordinaire, created some custom copper pipes, which brought steam from the boiler through the water. The steam took quite a long time to heat the water. Imagine how long it takes to boil about a gallon of water to make spaghetti. Well, we needed to boil 220 gallons of water to cover the cannon. It took almost 7 hours to bring it to a boil! 

After a couple weeks of intermittent boiling, all of the last salts were successfully extracted. The cannon is now soaking in an alcohol bath to dehydrate it without exposure to air. Once all of the water has been removed, it will be ready for its final coating and sealants. The cannon can then be safely stored in air without risk of rapid deterioration. 

New shipwrecked artifacts are now installed in the exhibit, and the process begins all over again!

Treasures of the Earth gallery manager, Josh Estes, visits Captain Kidd's cannon.
Cannon then

Conservator Christy O'Grady shares the cannon with visitors in the Wet Lab.

Christy and Ashley carry out final steps in the cannon's conservation treatment.

Cannon Cannon

Haunted House-Inspired Pumpkin Carving Templates

Skull Sample Pumpkin Template Jack-o-lantern carving

Your family may spend hours picking the perfect pumpkin in the patch—but then what? How do you transform this average-looking vegetable into something spook-tacular? Will it be a ghost, a frightening face, or possibly a favorite cartoon character? There are so many ways to make your pumpkin the scariest on the block, and now we’ve made it easier for you to choose with these Children’s Museum Haunted House-inspired pumpkin carving templates!

The Children’s Museum Guild witches have created four templates that will make your jack-o-lanterns fa-BOO-lous! All you have to do is print our design templates, tape the design to the pumpkin, and cut on the indicated lines. It’s that easy!  Give the witch template a try, because of course, witches are frightfully awesome! Or you can don your pumpkin with our friend, Barker Bones, who is the ringmaster of this year’s haunted house, Creepy Carnival!



Ghoulish Ghost > DOWNLOAD

Smile Template

Spooky Smile > DOWNLOAD

Fa-BOO-lous Witch > DOWNLOAD

Creepy Carnival's Barker Bones > DOWNLOAD

After you carve that perfect pumpkin, don’t forget to visit ringmaster Barker Bones in person at The Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st annual Haunted House! Buy tickets and learn about all of our Creepy Carnival events at