Connect With Us

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Saturday Science: Crystal Suncatchers

Saturday Science: Crystal Suncatchers During the cold months of winter, sometimes it’s nice to get a glimpse of the sun’s warm rays of light. That’s why in this week’s Saturday Science, found on Babble Dabble Do, we are showing you how to catch some rays with crystal suncatchers! It takes just a few ingredients but results in a pretty awesome winter surprise.

 

Materials:

  • Epsom Salt 
  • Clear Plastic Lids
  • Water
  • Empty Jar
  • Bowl
  • Measuring Cup
  • Fork
  • Microwave 
  • Tray
  • String
  • Pin    

 

Process:    

  1. Pour 1 Cup Epsom Salt to an empty glass jar.
  2. Pour 1 Cup of water to a microwave safe bowl. Heat the water in the microwave for 45 seconds.
  3. Quickly pour the warm water into the jar with the salt. Stir the salt and water for 1-2 minutes until salt is dissolved.
  4. Place several plastic lids on a flat-bottomed tray.
  5. Pour some of your water and salt mixture into each of the recycled plastic lids so that each lid has just enough water to cover the bottom. Be careful to not overfill the lids.
  6. Place the tray of lids in sunny location.
  7. Wait! Depending on how much water has been added to the lids, it can take a few hours or a day to start crystallizing.
  8. Once the water is completely evaporated, carefully poke a small hole in the edge of the lid.
  9. Thread a piece of string through the hole and tie in a knot.
  10. Now hang your suncatcher up in a window and watch it catch rays of sun!

 

Summary:
When a ray of sun hits your suncatcher just right, does it shimmer and beam the sun’s light in different directions? 

This is caused by the small crystals that formed on your plastic lids as they dried out. 

Crystals are solids that are formed by an organized and repeating pattern of molecules. When you added warm water to your Epsom Salt, the water molecules separated the sodium and chlorine atoms. You then poured the salt water mixture into shallow lids and put them in a sunny area. As the water evaporated from the lids, the sodium and chlorine atoms bonded together forming small crystals. If you look close enough, you might be able to see that these crystals are in the shape of small cubes. 

Now take a step back, and enjoy your beautiful crystal suncatcher! 

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

Family Health Tip: Yoga for Kids

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

Yoga has benefits beyond the physical alone. If you’re a yoga enthusiast, you’re likely to be in the fittest of both physical and mental health. But, what about the benefits that this ancient eastern art holds for kids?


When it comes to health and fitness for children, we tend to focus on sports and outdoor play rather than think of exercising at the gym or following a workout routine. But another form of exercise that offers various advantages is yoga, a fact that is not as well known as it should be.


Yoga helps children by...

  • Enhancing concentration: When your child gets used to the postures of yoga, they automatically improve their concentration skills. Your child learns how to sit still in one place and focus on what’s important as opposed to letting their mind wander and be distracted easily. This helps them in their lessons and at school, boosts their attention span and improves their grades.
    Kid Yoga
  • Increasing flexibility and balance: Yoga helps improve flexibility and balance and tones their muscles too. It makes them stronger and less likely to suffer sprains and fractures through accidental falls.
     
  • Improving general well-being: Kids who practice yoga regularly feel good about themselves and are healthier and happier than those who don’t. They feel both mentally and physically rejuvenated after a yoga session and this improves their mental and physical health.
     
  • Boosting confidence: When your child is able to display great agility and flexibility, it does wonders for their confidence. Their improved performance at school also helps boost their self assurance. They become more poised and start to believe in their abilities. This feeling provides them with the adrenaline they need to achieve success in all their endeavors.
     
  • Relaxing their minds: Even kids are subject to a great deal of stress these days because of their workload at school and the high expectations that their parents have for them. They are pushed to be achievers at every single point of their lives, and when they fail, they take it to heart and become depressed. Yoga helps them relax and de-stress when they feel upset or depressed. It soothes their frayed minds and helps them get back to a normal mental state.
     

Children are more flexible and agile than adults, so the earlier you get kids started on to yoga, the more benefits they gain.

Inspired by the Museum: Bringing the Snowflakes Home

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

We always look forward to Jolly Days at The Children’s Museum. From the pretend snowball fights to ice skating in socks to riding the slide as many times as possible, we spend many hours in the exhibit EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. It really never gets old.

We visited Jolly Days for the first time this season with our entire family (all six of us at the same time!!) to attend Breakfast with Santa. My husband and the kids had a great time making jingle bell bracelets and decorating their very own slide bags. Honestly, I was focused on two things: making it through the morning without a full-blown tantrum from the toddler and finding a unique idea for this month’s blog post. 

Thankfully, I was successful at both. There was no toddler meltdown and I decided we’d make our own snowflake mobiles like the amazing, gigantic ones hanging from the atrium ceiling. My girls love creating paper snowflakes and Lucas (4) definitely could use some practice with scissors. 

I had it all planned out in my head – when, how, exact designs, etc. And then one afternoon late last week I heard my oldest, Alaina, call out to Lucas, “Go get more paper! I’ll get another pair of scissors! And go ask Mom for hangers!”

As I walked into the dining room a few minutes later, I heard Alaina instructing Lucas on how to fold paper for snowflakes and exactly where to cut. Alaina proceeded to tell me that they were going to make their own snowflake mobiles just like the ones at the museum we had seen the previous weekend.

And then it hit me: I’m not the only one walking away from the museum exhibits with ideas to use at home to spark interest and curiosity outside of the museum walls. The exhibits, even seasonal ones we’ve been attending for 12 years, are generating creativity in my kids’ minds without my help. Yes, every couple of years when the girls ask we make paper snowflakes and hang them in the windows of our house. But never before has my daughter initiated an activity with her little brother that was specifically inspired by the museum. Heck, you could stop the previous sentence after “brother” and I’d be giddy at that alone. But knowing that my kids are taking their OWN ideas away from the museum and incorporating them into our everyday lives, and not just MY ideas and activities, that’s priceless. 

Add it to the long list of reasons I’m thankful for The Children’s Museum.

Katie Blog Tag

A Seussified Logo for A Seussified Christmas Carol

Seuss CastBy Krista Layfield, Lilly Theater Manager

For the past several seasons, the posters for a majority of the Lilly Theater productions have been designed and drawn by local artist, Tim Campbell. Tim also created the image for this year’s Haunted House: Creepy Carnival. Once we have decided on the next production, if there's not already a packaged image or logo for it, such as for Disney’s Mulan Jr., we create our own!

First we read the script and settle on the central idea of the story or the main design concept of the show. We ask ourselves, "What is the story really about? How can we best convey that with one basic image?"

This was the case for our current production, A Seussified Christmas Carol. The production, written by Peter Bloedel, is based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. But the set, costumes, and props are all made or produced in a Dr. Seuss visual style, similar to what you might see in his books. In this instance, the crux of the story is Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to stop being a curmudgeon as he learns how to embrace the Christmas Spirit. However, in this version, the ghosts he meets and their journey together all take on a “Seussian” twist!

After meeting and discussing these things over with Tim, he drew a couple of images for the production team to look over. We all suggested ideas and he then would redraw those various things in the next image. For example, here are some comments from the team after seeing the drawings: “The ghosts are clever and look very Seuss-y. Can Scrooge look a bit more Seussy, too? Can the buildings be curvier? Should we add a Seuss-style Christmas tree? Are the ends of the scarf scary? They look like fingers… Can his hat and coat be darker? Can we reconfigure the text of the title so that the eye is drawn to it all at once?”

Take a look at the progression of the images below to see if you can spot a few differences! 

You can see A Seussified Christmas Carol now through January 4 in Lilly Theater. Performances are at 1 and 3 p.m. on weekends and every day during the peak holiday schedule. See the full schedule at childrensmuseum.org. Timed tickets, included free with admission, are available at the Lower Level ticket booth on the day of the performance.

Seuss1 Seuss2 Seuss3 Seuss4 Seuss5 Seuss6

 

The Terra Cotta Warriors Return to China

Nick and JNoBy Jennifer Noffze, Children's Museum Registrar/Archivist

We were sad when the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit closed, but my colleague Nick and I weren't sad for long, because we were the lucky staff members who returned the warriors to China! This took a 14.5 hour flight to China, a 17 hour flight home, and lots of driving in between, all to make sure that the loaned artifacts—including the priceless Terra Cotta Warriors—were safely returned to their museums.

Pallett

Nick is The Children's Museum's Collections Preparator whose main job is to create artifact mounts used in exhibits. He also creates special crates and storage boxes that ensure the safe travel of artifacts. (To see all of the fun that Nick gets into, you can check out his blog series, "How does he do it? on Pinterest). Nick created all of the mounts in the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, including a really special mount for the painted head! My job as Registrar includes keeping track of all items in the permanent collection and also all loaned objects. Working with the Collections Manager, we create loan contracts, secure insurance, condition report objects and at times serve as a courier, which is a fancy word for "traveling with loaned museums objects."

Leaving Indianapolis

After the exhibit closed in early November, a team of four museum professionals from China came to Indianapolis to assist us with the de-installation of the exhibit. They helped us condition report each object and carefully pack the objects into 22 crates. Once the objects were in the crates, they were loaded onto trucks. Our Collections Manager, Joan Skroko, accompanied the trucks to Chicago and stood on the tarmac while the crates were being loaded onto the cargo planes via three separate pallets.

A Stop in Shanghai

Meanwhile, Nick and I were headed to Shanghai to meet the crates! We spent a week in Shanghai where over a period of three days we supervised the disassembling of the crates from the three pallets and the loading onto the three trucks that would transport the objects to Xi’an. After Chinese Customs sealed the trucks, Nick and I joined colleagues from a freight service for a 22 hour car trip from Shanghai to Xi’an!

crates ChinaFine arts trucks

Home to Xi'an

When we arrived in Xi’an, we supervised the fine arts team while they unloaded one truck of materials at the Shaanxi History Museum warehouse. But we weren't done yet! We then supervised the unloading of the crates at the Terra Cotta Army site. When transferring objects like this, we wait at least 24 hours to open the crates and move the objects; this allows the objects to acclimate to the environmental conditions. Once the objects were removed from the crates, we began work on checking the conditions of the objects. Nick worked with the team to check the warriors and larger objects and I worked with another team to check the conditions of the smaller objects. We are happy to report that there were no condition changes—everything was transported safely!

Crane Crates Head

 

It was amazing to work with our Chinese colleagues who were very gracious and gave us personal tours of both the Terra Cotta Warrior site and the Shaanxi History Museum. They also took us to four different Tang Dynasty imperial tombs! It was an amazing experience and we were so honored to represent the museum on this incredible endeavor. Welcome home, warriors!

Inspired by the Museum: Jolly Toddler Snow Globe

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

I've decided that nothing is more magical than experiencing the holidays through my toddler's eyes. I'm so full of the holiday spirit, I feel like I might burst! Every Christmas tree is deserving of an enthusiastic, "Wow!" Christmas lights send little Dorothy into an excited dancing frenzy. Even the cold and the snow are overly fun when you're just one-year-old.

Don't worry. I'm sure she'll develop her parent's love for the warmer climates soon enough!

We're just starting to develop our own family traditions, but I know that the Jolly Days exhibit will remain on our list for years to come. I mean, have you seen the giant snow globe in the Sunburst Atrium? My daughter could have pressed that button to see the snow fall all day long. She loved watching the older kids take on the Yule Slide (next year!), and we can't wait to attend Breakfast with Santa later this month. I'm sure Dorothy will be thrilled to finally meet Santa Claus—and if not, I'm sure we'll get a keepsake photo just the same. ;)

Since many of our Christmas decorations at home are highly fragile and off limits, we decided to take inspiration from the Jolly Days exhibit and create a toddler-friendly snow globe for Dorothy to admire. Not only is she mesmerized by the "snow," there are few ways she can destroy it. Personalized Christmas decor AND a toy for the baby? Win-win in this momma's book!

Merry Christmas from the Cotten family! May your holidays be merry and bright.

Jolly Toddler Snow Globe

Supplies:

  • Empty water bottle
  • Corn syrup
  • Glitter
  • Metallic Sharpies (or stickers, or jingle bells, or.... whatever you want to use to decorate!)

Directions:

  1. Fill your empty bottle halfway with water, then add an equal amount of corn syrup.
  2. Add in as much or as little glitter (aka "snow") as you would like! We thought it was fun to mix different colors and textures of glitter to make a true winter wonderland. In Dorothy's and my opinion - the more sparkles, the better. ;)
  3. Close the cap (tightly!), and then use your imagination to decorate the outside of your snow globe.
  4. When finished, give your snow globe a good shake and see what happens!

‚ÄčToddler Snow GlobeToddler Snow Globe

Samantha

The Crazy Math Behind A Seussified Christmas Carol

Seuss CastBy Krista Layfield, Lilly Theater Manager

For our production of A Seussified Christmas Carol we had a bit of a challenge. The story is written with about 30 separate characters, which can be performed by as little as 10 actors or as many as 30. So from very early on in the concept meeting process, we needed to decide how we wanted to go about costuming the actors and how many roles we felt each of them could logistically play.

Costume changes take up a certain amount of time depending on how many pieces there are or how difficult the clothing is to change. If there's a very quick change we also can “rig” the clothes to be changed very quickly. For example, we can replace buttons with Velcro or a zipper with large snaps. Sometimes the actors only have a line or two, only to reappear as a completely different character.

We also created another interesting challenge when we decided that the ghosts in the play would be able to “fly.” This meant that the actors who played Jake Marley, Christmas Past, Present, or Future would need to be very physically fit. They would also need to wear a performer flying harness as a part of their clothing which would need to be attached through their clothing to the rigging apparatus.

To help us decide how to solve these issues, we read the script out loud and timed how long it took to read overall and approximately how long an actor would have to change their costume, if necessary, depending on their lines in the script. This was a very fun meeting, seeing and hearing the production team members acting their parts out, even though they're primarily designers or flying directors or technical supervisors!  

We crunched the numbers and here's the math behind A Seussified Christmas Carol:

  • We discovered that we could actually perform the play with as few as 8 actors.
  • All total, the actors would need to change their clothes over 40 times!
  • Scrooge changes the fewest number of times, with 3 costume changes.
  • One of the narrators needs to change the most, at 8 times!
  • The entire costume plot of the show involves about 170 individual pieces of costumes, including, but not limited to: shirts, pants, dresses, wigs, shoes, and microphone packs.
  • The actor who plays Jake Marley, Mike Hosp, has the most pieces of clothing for all of his characters and costumes—26.
  • The actor who plays one of the narrators,Thomas Cardwell, has the fewest pieces of clothing—16

 

Watch the costume changes in action in This Week's WOW!

You can see A Seussified Christmas Carol now through January 4 in Lilly Theater. Performances are at 1 and 3 p.m. on weekends and every day during the peak holiday schedule. See the full schedule at childrensmuseum.org. Timed tickets, included free with admission, are available at the Lower Level ticket booth on the day of the performance.

 

Seuss Seuss Seuss

Seuss

Why Do My Clothes Get So Wrinkled?

You know what can put a wrinkle in your morning routine? A wrinkle in your shirt. 

Why must we heat up the iron, find a wrinkle release spray or turn on a hot shower after we've properly washed and dried our clothes? We answer this wrinkly question with help from Slate and Kinja

Why do my clothes get so wrinkled?Two things make clothes wrinkle (and un-wrinkle): heat and water. 

Our clothes are made up of fabric, which is made up of molecules held together by bonds. When your clothes get warm or wet, the bonds are broken. As they cool or dry, bonds reattach. Let’s just say these new bonds can really put a wrinkle in things. 

If your shirt is made from wool, nylon or polyester it has a glass transition temperature. Below this temperature, the material’s molecules are held together in a “glass” phase. However, If the temperature of the material rises above this threshold, the bonds break and shift into new positions. As the material cools, these newly formed bonds create wrinkles. 

When the fabrics in your shirts are made from cotton, linen or rayon are are held together by hydrogen bonds, the same bonds found in water molecules. Hydrogen bonds make fabrics very absorbent, so when moisture is added, water penetrates and separates these bonds. As the moisture evaporates, new hydrogen bonds form and lock in place wrinkles that formed when the shirt was wet. 

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

Saturday Science: Magnetic Slime

Saturday Science: Magnetic SlimeIt’s ooey and gooey, squishy and squashy. It oozes through your fingers and moves on its own. It’s magnetic slime! In this week’s Saturday Science, found on Frugal Fun for Boys, discover the power of magnetic force while playing with slimy slime!

 

Materials

  • Liquid starch
  • White school glue
  • Iron oxide powder
  • Disposable bowls
  • Parchment paper
  • A neodymium (rare earth) magnet (A note on safety: Always keep neodynmium magnets out of reach of children.)

 

Process

  1. Pour ¼ cup of liquid starch into a disposable bowl.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of iron powder and stir until well mixed.
  3. Add ¼ cup white school glue and stir again.
  4. Ready to get a little messy? Take the slime out of the bowl and mix with your hands. Squish and squish.
  5. Place the slime on a paper towel.
  6. Dispose of the liquid left in the bowl and wash your hands.
  7. Pat the slime dry with a paper towel to get rid of excess liquid. Once the slime is dry, it will no longer turn your hands black.
  8. Place the slime of a large piece of parchment paper (to prevent counter/table stains) and play!
  9. Carefully hold the neodymium magnets over the slime. Watch the slime come to life!  

 

Summary

As you held the magnets near your slime, what happened? Did the slime stretch closer towards the magnet?

This is because the iron oxide that you stirred into your mixture is a polar magnet. Each iron particle has a positive and a negative end, as does your neodymium magnet. When you hold the magnet next to the slime, the opposite ends of the iron particles are attracted to it. If you hold the negative side of the magnet towards the slime, the iron particles’ positive ends pull towards the magnet and vise versa. Either way, as the iron particles are pulled towards the magnet they take the slime with them. Because the slime is a viscous substance – meaning it has a consistency between a solid and a liquid – it doesn’t easily separate. That is why your slime can be squished and squashed and pulled in many different directions without coming apart.

Now that’s some ooey gooey and educational fun!

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

Meet Jack Frost!

JackSanta's not the only one you have a chance to meet during your visit to Jolly Days at The Children's Museum! Mr. Claus has brought many of his friends from the North Pole to spread some holiday cheer. They may sing you a cheery carol or tell you a story, but they’ll definitely get you into the holiday spirit! The one and only Jack Frost is very excited to sing some of his “cool” holiday jams with you!

Jack Frost is a North Pole native who learned to play guitar from his father, Old Man Winter. Ever since, Jack has been spreading holiday cheer and creating wintry magic by singing holiday songs. Now Jack is at The Children’s Museum looking for musicians to start a new band, The Ice Floes, because he wants to spread even more holiday magic!

Jack Frost loves the wintertime and he wants to know what you love to do in the snow. Do you like to build snowmen and sled down snowy hills? Or would you rather make snow angels and have snowball fights? Give Jack some tips about what to do in the snow this winter!

There's one thing Jack Frost loves even more than winter weather, and that's music! Recommend your favorite holiday songs for Jack to sing and play on his guitar while you sing, hum, or clap along. He may even choose you as his newest band member to help spread holiday cheer to all the guests at The Children’s Museum!

Jack wants to help you win a membership to The Children's Museum!
When you see Jack in Jolly Days, you may receive a card with a special request: Enjoy the winter weather with your family! Show Jack you did it by posting your photo with the #JollyDays hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. Enter your photo by January 4, 2015 and you could win a family membership to The Children's Museum! 

Meet Zazzelz the Elf!

ZazzelzSanta's not the only one you have a chance to meet during your visit to Jolly Days at The Children's Museum! Mr. Claus has brought many of his friends from the North Pole to spread some holiday cheer. They may sing you a cheery carol or tell you a story, but they’ll definitely get you into the holiday spirit! Zazzelz the Elf is back and ready to share some of his best holiday jokes—get ready for some laughs!

Zazzelz the Elf—full name Zazzelz Z. Zazzlington—is ready to make you giggle with glee! Meet larger-than-life comic Elf Zazzelz, the North Pole’s official stand-up comic. He’s taking a break from his comedy tour throughout the North Pole to have some fun at Jolly Days!

To stay on top, Zazzelz has to hone his jokes and hopefully learn a few new ones from families at The Children’s Museum. When you spot Zazzelz in Jolly Days, be sure to give him feedback on his holiday jokes. You can tell him which joke is more funny, or come share your own jokes with Zazzelz so he can make Santa laugh his hardest yet at this year’s North Pole holiday show! 

Participate in Zazzelz Z. Zazzlington’s world famous Joke Delivery Seminar, and see how props affect the delivery of a joke. Learn how to punch the punch-line, and come up with your own stinger—is yours Zing! Pow! or Wowwie-Zowwie!?

Zazzelz wants to help you win a membership to The Children's Museum!
When you see Zazzelz in Jolly Days, you may receive a card with a special request: Tell your own jokes and take pictures of your audience laughing. Show Zazzelz you did it by posting your photo with the #JollyDays hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. Enter your photo by January 4, 2015 and you could win a family membership to The Children's Museum! 

Saturday Science: The Science of Sliding

Saturday Science: The Science of Sliding The snowflakes are hung, lights twinkle on the tree, and—most importantly—the Yule Slide is ready to ride! Each year, families wait in anticipation for this favorite Indianapolis tradition. This year, we’re giving you tips on how to make your Yule Slide ride even faster! In this week’s Saturday Science, courtesy of Creative Family Fun, discover which surfaces slide best.

Materials 

  • Large sheet pan
  • Water
  • Freezer
  • A few small objects with varying roughness (e.g. a cotton ball, a milk jug caps, a rock)
  • Piece of printer paper
  • Pencil or pen

Process 

  1. Add water to a large sheet pan.
  2. Carefully place it in the freezer, and allow the water to freeze completely.
  3. While the water freezes, fold the piece of paper in half. On one side, make your predictions. Will each object slide or not slide?
  4. Take the pan out of the freezer, and place it on a table to begin the experiment.
  5. Slide your small objects across the tray of ice.
  6. Which objects slide the best? Record your findings on the other side of your piece of paper. How do your results compare to your predictions?

Summary

Did your smooth objects slide better than your rough objects? This is because smooth objects have less friction. Friction is a force that resists movement of two solid objects. Because your smooth objects have less friction they create less resistance when they slide across the ice. When you slide down the Yule Slide during Jolly Days, be sure to choose an outfit that is made out of a soft material and doesn’t have too many zippers. With less friction, your next ride down the Yule Slide will be the fastest one yet!

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

Meet Andy the Zookeeper!

AndySanta's not the only one you have a chance to meet during your visit to Jolly Days at The Children's Museum! Mr. Claus has brought many of his friends from the North Pole to spread some holiday cheer. They may sing you a cheery carol or tell you a story, but they’ll definitely get you into the holiday spirit! Andy the Zookeeper brought all of his animal buddies, and things could get “wild!”

Meet Andy D. Mallaferty, the North Pole zookeeper. Andy has brought fourteen of his animal friends all the way from the North Pole to explore Jolly Days. Andy came to visit The Children's Museum this year hoping to talk to visitors about their holiday traditions. He wants to get ideas for making this year’s North Pole holiday celebration even better than the last! Tell Andy about your favorite things to do in the winter and during the holidays, while visiting with all of his North Pole animal friends!

Andy's here to show you that reindeer are NOT the only animal at the North Pole! You may meet a walrus, a weasel, a polar bear, and many more! To get you up to speed, here's the complete list of all the animals Andy might introduce you to in Jolly Days!

Which is your favorite North Pole animal? Have you seen any of these animals at the zoo or in the wild?

Andy wants to help you win a membership to The Children's Museum!
When you see Andy in Jolly Days, you may receive a card with a special request: Take photos of pets or animal friends you'd like Andy and his pals to meet. Show Andy you did it by posting your photo with the #JollyDays hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. Enter your photo by January 4, 2015 and you could win a family membership to The Children's Museum! 

Meet Mrs. Claus!

Mrs. CSanta's not the only one you have a chance to meet during your visit to Jolly Days at The Children's Museum! Mr. Claus has brought many of his friends from the North Pole to spread some holiday cheer. They may sing you a cheery carol or tell you a story, but they’ll definitely get you into the holiday spirit! The wife of the big man himself, Mrs. Claus, is ready to share her favorite holiday memories and recipes!

Mrs. Claus is no stranger to Jolly Days, and is excited to make this year’s holiday season the most joyous yet. Take a photo, look through her holiday book, and share holiday memories with Mrs. Claus as she sets out to bring her special brand of holiday cheer to the Children’s Museum! 

What are you doing this year to celebrate the holidays? Visit with Mrs. Claus while you wait to see Santa and tell her about your holiday plans, hopes, memories, and traditions! If you don't have time to visit Santa, she'll pass along your wishes for you. And not only can you take a photo with Santa, you can snap festive photos with Mrs. Claus to add to your holiday photo collection as well! 

Mrs. Claus wants to help you win a membership to The Children's Museum!
When you see Mrs. Claus in Jolly Days, you may receive a card with special requests, like: Send a holiday card or letter, make a holiday snack to spread cheer, or decorate your home together! Show Mrs. Claus you did it by posting your photo with the #JollyDays hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. Enter your photo by January 4, 2015 and you could win a family membership to The Children's Museum! 

Meet Patty Cakes!

PattySanta's not the only one you have a chance to meet during your visit to Jolly Days at The Children's Museum! Mr. Claus has brought many of his friends from the North Pole to spread some holiday cheer. They may sing you a cheery carol or tell you a story, but they’ll definitely get you into the holiday spirit! Patty Cakes is one of Santa’s “sweetest” holiday friends and wants to hear about your favorite holiday treats! 

Patricia “Patty” Cakes is beginning her first year as the North Pole’s Official Chef. She is by no means new to the cooking and baking scene, though. She has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu, served as Julia Child’s apprentice, and has a well-received cooking show to her name. Her latest accomplishment? Patty is the winner of Iron Chef: North Pole, landing her the prestigious title of "Official Chef" to the North Pole. She really wants to impress Santa and the elves, so she's visiting The Children’s Museum to chat with families about what they like to eat and cook during the holidays. She's hoping to get some new recipe ideas to bring back to the North Pole. 

Your family can also help Patty design festive holiday cookies and share your favorite holiday decorating tips! Tell Patty about your favorite holiday baking memories and help her decide which recipes Santa would like best! You can practice some of your baking skills in the Jolly Days kitchen, or at home! You never know, Patty may need help at the North Pole one day…

Patty wants to help you win a membership to The Children's Museum!
When you see Patty in Jolly Days, you may receive a card with a special request: Take a photo of a holiday treat you create with your family, or share one of your recipes. Show Patty you did it by posting your photo with the #JollyDays hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. Enter your photo by January 4, 2015 and you could win a family membership to The Children's Museum! 

Did Dinosaurs Swim?

Did dinosaurs swim? In 2014, one paleontologist’s dino-mite discovery led to a conversation about where dinosaurs spent their days. Did they all roam Earth or did they swim? We turned to National Geographic's “Mister Big” to introduce you to a dinosaur like you’ve never seen before.

Imagine: It’s the middle of the Cretaceous period, about 100 to 94 million years ago. You’re standing in what is today’s southeastern Morocco. Dinosaurs, including at least three great predators roam Earth’s lands. Six or seven types of crocodiles and 8- to 25-foot fish swim through the rivers. Large reptiles fly through the sky. 

How can all of these predators coexist? 

In a quest to answer that question, paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim made an even bigger discovery– the first known dinosaur that spent a substantial amount of time in water. 

Meet Spinosaurus aegyptiacus

This is a dinosaur that stretches 50 feet long from nose to tail with a six- to seven-foot smooth sail on its back. Beneath the dorsal fin is a dense, barrel-shaped torso. Its enormous skull is held up by its long neck. A long slender snout resembles that of a crocodile, and its short hind limbs are disproportionate to its dense and powerful forelimbs.  

Spinosaurus is incredibly front heavy,”  paleontologist Paul Sereno tells National Geographic. Serena, Ibrahim’s postdoctoral adviser at the University of Chicago, also discovered several notable North African dinosaurs, including Suchomimus, a relative of Spinosaurus with long, crocodile-like jaws. “It’s like a cross between an alligator and a sloth.”

The animal was originally discovered and named by Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach between 1910 and 1914. Fossils of Stromer’s Spinosaurus were displayed in Munich’s Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology. But, in April 1944, a World War II Allied air raid destroyed the museum. Unfortunately, all that was left of the Spinosaurus was Stromer’s field notes, in which, according to National Geographic, he had concluded that the animal was “highly specialized.” But specialized for what was a question that remained unanswered.  

It was previously thought that while most dinosaurs might have had the ability to swim at some capacity, they were predominantly land animals. No one imagined dinosaurs swimming alongside crocodile and large fish—until March 2013.

After a long journey and hard search, Ibrahim was brought to a place in Morocco whose surrounding cliffs proved huge rivers had flowed 100 million years ago. And there they were– the Spinosaurus fossils Ibrahim had been searching for. 

According to National Geographic, after piecing together the bones with CT scans and digital reconstruction software, the paleontologists “wrapped the skeleton in digital skin to create a dynamic model of the animal’s center of gravity and how it moved. Their analysis lead to a remarkable conclusion: Unlike all other predatory dinosaurs, which walked on their hind legs, Spinosaurus may have been a functional quadruped, also enlisting its heavily clawed forelimbs to walk.”

This finding encouraged Ibrahim and his team to view the Spinosaurus as an animal spending its days in water rather than on land. With that perspective, the rediscovered dinosaur began to make more sense. 

National Geographic explains that the placement of the nostrils would have allowed the animal to breathe while its head was submerged. The barrel-shaped torso was similar to that of dolphins and whales. While the disproportionate hind legs wouldn’t be ideal for walking, they would have been perfect for paddling. It’s long, croc-like jaws and teeth would have been a great tool snacking on a large fish. 

While it is still believed that many dinosaurs spent time in nearby rivers and lakes, Ibrahim believes the Spinosaurus would have spent about 80 percent of its time immersed in water. This belief makes the Spinosaurus the first of its kind. That is until the next dino-mite discovery!

Photo credit: National Geographic 

Jolly Days Are Here Again!

LightsIt’s that time of year again at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis… the time when everyone says, “What, Jolly Days ALREADY??” Yep! Some of us (myself included) start thinking about each year’s Jolly Days exhibit starting way back in April or May—but things really kick into high gear on November 1. That’s when we roll up our sleeves and get to work.     

As you probably already know, our Jolly Days exhibit goes into the same gallery where the Children’s Museum Guild Haunted House is during the month of October.  It takes our hardworking Facilities staff plus our amazing Guild Witches 2 months to build and decorate the Haunted House—and it all has to come out of there in a week!  Starting November 1, it’s a scramble to get the Haunted House pulled down and packed away, and the gallery cleaned and re-painted so that Jolly Days can start going in.  So while that’s going on in the gallery space, our exhibits and production team are working hard to get all the decorations in our welcome center and Sunburst Atrium into place. 

The giant tree in the Welcome Center requires a crane to put it in place and decorate it, so we usually do that on the first closed Monday after Halloween so we don’t have to worry about visitors’ safety. Then it’s about 4 straight days of work to get all the other decorations out of our storage facility, into the building, and arranged on the deck around the tree. We also have a giant resident in our welcome center—the Transformer, Bumblebee!—and he has to be moved several times to allow us to get equipment around the welcome center and hang all the snowflakes from our ceiling. Then he needs his own decorations as well. Once we’re done with the Welcome Center, the crew moves to start unpacking the rest of Jolly Days!

Bumblebee snowflakes

The Yule Slide—everyone’s favorite holiday tradition here at the museum—takes a crew of four people a day and a half to install and decorate, and our giant snow globe takes some serious work too. The tree in the Atrium has to be assembled and decorated before our collections department staff can put Jingles and his stuffed animal friends into place; they are real artifacts from our Steiff animal collection, and have to be handled with care! The gallery façade (the house, the lights, and the title graphic) takes another day to put up.  Meanwhile, inside the gallery, our paint crew finishes re-painting and touching up so that the exhibit can be unpacked, installed, cleaned, and tested—7 full semi trailers worth of stuff! 

When the walls are in place, the curator brings in the toys and games from our collection that make Jolly Days special—from old board games to stuffed bunnies, even Santa’s antique desk! The graphics staff adds trees to the walls and replaces any of our signs that are damaged or dirty, and our cleaning crew washes and sanitizes all the toys from the play areas. Once the lights are focused and the floors swept, the exhibit is finally ready for you to visit! 

So from start to finish, getting Jolly Days ready to open takes us about 2700 work hours total!  I’m tired just thinking about it. Or it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve still got work to do….

Jolly Days is open now through Jan. 4, 2015!

 

In This Week's WOW episode 79, Josh goes to great heights to show us how much goes into decorating for the holidays:
 

Why Does Thanksgiving Taste So Good?

Why does Thanksgiving taste so good?Mouths are already watering across America at the mere thought of their Thanksgiving dinner plate.Two thick slices of perfectly roasted turkey breast. A serving of creamy mashed potatoes with a large spoonful of gravy. One helping of stuffing sitting next to one and a half helpings of green bean casserole. A warm yam nestled between a buttered roll and deep red cranberry sauce. Hopefully there's a dessert plate for pumpkin pie!

So, why does Thanksgiving taste so good? We answer this question with help from Scientific American which says, “deliciousness is both ingrained and learned.”

As you shovel a forkful of your Thanksgiving feast into your mouth, two physical things start to happen. The first is that your papillae, better known as taste buds, detect and respond to the five basic tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salt and savory. Our papillae send a message to the brain depending on if the food is sweet or savory to tell if the food is nutritious. On the other hand, if the food is bitter, your papillae might tell your brain to spit the food out because it could be poisonous.

The second thing that happens is called retronasal olfaction. This is when air passes through the back of your mouth to scent receptors in the nasal cavity, which can detect more complex flavors. According to Scientific American, this process “produces a completely unique sense–neither smell nor taste alone but a hybrid that we call flavor.”

But flavor can mean many different things to many different people. The truth is that the flavors we enjoy are developed throughout our lives. Your sense of good food started when you were in the womb. Scientific American reports that “pregnant women who drink carrot juice are more likely to have kids who like carrots…If Mom ate it, it’s safe.”

As you grew up, you watched what your family members and friends ate, and you tried those foods, too. While you might not have enjoyed the food at first, if it was something that appeared on the table again and again. You probably learned to appreciate it. Children have to try unfamiliar food about nine times, on average, before they begin to like the taste, according to Scientific American.

But your taste can still change today depending on your environment and your other senses.

“Potato chips taste crisper if you hear a crunch over headphones,” Scientific American says. “People will eat less food off of a red plate. A block of cheese with sharp edges tastes sharper than one with round corners.”

This means that we don’t just enjoy Thanksgiving dinner because deep-fried turkey hits our taste buds just right. We enjoy the meal because it’s tradition. Each November, we take a break from work and school to relax. We gather around with family and friends, and we eat the same or similar foods to those we enjoyed when we were younger. Together these things make Thanksgiving taste so good.

Enjoy!

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

 

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 www.katieunscripted.com.

 

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 chineseshadowpuppetry.com. 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!