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10 Facts About Amelia Earhart

amelia earhart

On July 24, 2014, Amelia Earhart would have turned 117 years old. She may be best-known for her numerous aviation records, but it is Amelia's legacy of unfaltering determination and her can-do attitude for equal treatment of women that lives on. 

Though she was born in 1897, Amelia didn’t board a plane until 1920. Then, when the pilot flew her just a couple hundred feet in the air, Amelia knew she had to fly. In 1923, Amelia became the sixteenth woman to receive a pilot’s license. 

On June 17, 1928, she departed from Newfoundland with pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis E. Gordon. When her team landed in Wales 21 hours later, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, a record that was just one of many. Later, the pilot became the first woman and the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic. She also became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific. Then, shortly after her flight across the Pacific, Amelia became the first to fly solo from Mexico City to Newark.

On June 1, 1937, Earhart left Miami for her final flight. She hoped to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. Sadly, Amelia would never complete this flight. On July 2, her radio lost contact and a rescue attempt began immediately. Although it became the most extensive air and sea search in naval history, Amelia was never found. 

In a letter to her husband, Amelia wrote, "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards." She said, "I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

Today, we celebrate Amelia Earhart Day to not only honor Amelia’s life and career, but also her courage and strength. 

Here are 10 facts you may not know about this famous aviator:

  1. Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897.
  2. Amelia saw her first plane at a state fair when she was 10 years old.
  3. During World War I, Amelia became a nurse's aid in Toronto, Canada, to tend to wounded soldiers.
  4. On December 28, 1920, pilot Frank Hawks gave Amelia her first ride in an airplane. 
  5. Amelia took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921. 
  6. Amelia’s first plane was a bright yellow Kinner Airster that she nicknamed, "The Canary".
  7. While living in Boston, Amelia wrote articles promoting flying in the local newspaper.
  8. In 1932, Amelia developed flying clothes for the Ninety-Nines that were advertised in Vogue. 
  9. Although she referred to herself as “AE”, Amelia became known as “Lady Lindy” after her first flight across the Atlantic. 
  10. During her 2,408-mile flight to become the first person to fly solo across the Pacific, Amelia enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate.

Did you know that you can see a pair of Amelia Earhart's aviator goggles at the museum? The aviator goggles pictured here were worn by Amelia. She supposedly didn't enjoy wearing goggles, and would only put them on at the end of the runway and would take them off as soon as she landed. These were given by Amelia to an artist friend of hers along with a leather jacket and flight cap. The goggles were purchased for the "Maps: Tools for Adventure" traveling exhibit and are now currently on display in Flight Adventures.

Meet Dracorex Hogwartsia

Dracorex Hogwartsia at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

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

Who is Dracorex?

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

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

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

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

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

The Intern Experience: Creative Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Bambiraptor

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

Who is the Bambiraptor?

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

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

The Life of a Bambiraptor

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

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

Saturday Science: Pretty Pigments

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


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



  • Colorful sidewalk chalk

  • Small plastic bags

  • Hammer (or similar tool)

  • Small bowls or cups

  • Water



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Meet Stan the T. rex

T. Rex at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

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

Who is Stan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Intern Experience: Playscape Research and Evaluation

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about internships at The Children's Museum at

Meet the Hypacrosaur Family

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

Who are the Hypacrosaurs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 NASA Milestones Since the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

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

Top 10 NASA Milestones

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

Mulan Jr.: 10 Fun Facts from Backstage

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

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

Mulan Reflection

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

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

Why Do Bug Bites Itch?

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Saturday Science: Balloon Hovercraft

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

Meet Kelsey the Triceratops

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

Who is Kelsey?

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

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

Triceratops at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

Interesting Facts about Kelsey

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

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

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


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

Emperor's Portrait in Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Meet Frannie the Prenoceratops

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

Who is Frannie?

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

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

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

The Life of a Prenoceratops

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

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

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

Creating and Sharing the Artwork of our Youngest Visitors

Playscape Art WindowStephanie Eddleman is the museum’s Early Childhood Specialist and manager of the Playscape gallery. Playscape offers a wide variety of sensory and play-based learning experiences for families with children ages 0-5.  

Pablo Picasso famously said that, “Every child is an artist,” and in the Playscape Art Studio that is certainly the truth! From the small scribbled drawing of a toddler to a preschooler’s patterned painting, each child is encouraged to express their own creativity and unique abilities when creating a work of art in our studio. 

Our Playscape art projects also help our youngest visitors build visual literacy skills as they're encouraged to notice and make observations about the details of authentic works of art. Our staff encourages children to talk about the lines, shapes, and patterns in a work of art in order to build critical math and science foundational skills. 

My favorite thing about the Playscape Art Studio is that we not only strive to provide rich artistic experiences, but we make our visitor’s learning visible when we display their work. We love to place on display the community art that multiple visitors have completed together. 

Twice a month (every third Thursday and fourth Saturday) our artist-in-residence, Linda S. Cannon, helps our visitors add their own creation to a larger work of art. So far we've created a pen and ink drawing, sumi painting, water color painting, and much more! Children and their families have worked together to leave their own mark on each of the community pieces. Linda recently blogged about her experience in Playscape—be sure to check out her perspective on the Art Studio, too!

On your next visit to Playscape, take a look at the artwork lining the windows and you'll see that Picasso was correct. Whether you're in or outside of Playscape—all children are artists. We proudly display this fact on the walls of our studio.

Join us daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. in the Playscape art studio and witness the artist inside your own young child! You may be surprised at the wonderful creativity they unleash!

Playscape Art Wall Playscape Art Sample

Meet Bucky the Teenage T. rex

Bucky the teenage T. Rex at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

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

Who is Bucky?

Bucky is a Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) which means "tyrant lizard king." Bucky is a teenager almost the size of an adult T. rex. Although still young, Bucky is already big, about 34 feet long and more than 10 feet tall!

A young rancher and rodeo cowboy named Bucky Derflinger discovered Bucky in 1998. That's how Bucky the T. rex got its name. Bucky Derflinger has been collecting dinosaur fossils since he was 9 years old. He was 20 when he saw Bucky's fossilized toe bone sticking out of the ground. The part of the fossilized bone he saw was white because it was weathered and had been bleached by the sun. Bucky Derflinger is the youngest person ever to have discovered a T. rex. You don't have to be a professional paleontologist to be a dinosaur hunter!
Bucky DerflingerMost of Bucky's fossilized bones were scattered and difficult to find. The dig site for its bones was about half the size of a football field—the largest dig site ever for a T. rex. Bucky was extremely well preserved and easy to prepare for display in the museum because the rock surrounding its fossilized bones, called the matrix, was soft and easy to remove.

  • Bucky is the sixth most complete T. rex ever found and the first teenage T. rex put on permanent display in a museum.
  • Bucky is the first T. rex to be identified with a furcula (also called a wishbone). This is very important because modern-day birds have wishbones. Does this mean that dinosaurs are distant relatives of birds?
  • Bucky also has a nearly complete set of gastralia and is only the third T. rex to be discovered with an ulna, or elbow bone.

The Life of a T. rex

Bucky lived in the late Cretaceous Period, around 65 million years ago. Tyrannosaurs like Bucky could be found in parts of western North America. Bucky lived at the top of the food chain, but life during the Cretaceous was tough and it wasn't easy to find food. Tyrannosaurs were carnivores, which means they ate meat instead of plants. Starvation, disease, and fights with potential mates and rivals were some of the bad things that could happen to a T. rex.

Although adult tyrannosaurs were one of the largest and most powerful of all predatory dinosaurs (about as heavy as an elephant, tall enough to look through a second story window and long enough to stretch out the width of a tennis court), some other dinosaurs, such as a large duckbill or Triceratops, may have been too big and powerful for a T. rex to kill by itself. Some scientists think tyrannosaurs worked together in families or groups to kill prey.
Bucky had a strong sense of smell, powerful legs that may have allowed it to move quickly, and forward-looking eyes which allowed it to quickly spot and focus on prey—characteristics that made it a ferocious hunter. (Some paleontologists believe tyrannosaurs were actually slow moving.) Bucky's lower jaw hinged like a door at the midpoint between its jawbone and chin so it could open its mouth wider to take bigger bites. Scientists think the T. rex moved its lower jaw backwards so its sharp lower teeth could tear through what it was eating while its upper teeth held the food in place. Fully grown tyrannosaurs were relatively lightweight for their size (around 6 tons—about as heavy as 3 cars) because their bones were hollow and they had large openings in their skulls.

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

Why Is My Hair Blonde?


Never Stop Asking Why: Why is my hair blonde?Do you have platinum, strawberry, golden or even dark blonde locks of hair? If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and thought, “Why is my hair blonde?”, then keep reading! We answer this question with help from Discovery News.    


Like all genetic questions, the simple answer is that you got your goldielocks from your parents. While this holds true, there’s more! In early June of this year, evolutionary biologists reported that they had identified one of the genetic mutations that codes for blond hair in one-third of Northern Europeans.


They found the mutation in a long gene sequence called KIT ligand (KITLG), a gene we could not survive without. It not only affects pigmentation, but it also affects blood cells, nerve cells and sex cells. When David Kingsley, an evolutionary biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stanford University in California, and his colleagues discovered the mutation, they wanted to know how it could alter hair color without damaging other essential aspects of life.


It turns out that when the blonde segments are tagged with a gene that codes for fluorescent-blue, the blue hue appears only in hair follicles. Because no other parts of the body change color, Kingsley and his team concluded that the gene mutation was activated only in hair.


"There's a half dozen different chromosome regions that influence hair color," said Kingsley. "This is one, but not the only one. The combination of variants that you have at all those different genes — that sets your final hair color."


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


Saturday Science:

Meet the Didelphodon

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

Who is the Didelphodon?

Didelphodon is a mammal, not a dinosaur. Despite its small size, Didelphodon was among the largest mammals in the world 65 million years ago. But dinosaurs ruled the land and even the largest mammals were an easy target. In Dinosphere, you will see a fossilized Didephodon jaw bone and two models of a complete Didelphodon.

The discovery of the Didelphodon jaw is important because it is the first Didelphodon jaw containing teeth. The jaw will help scientists determine the size, position and number of its other teeth, and will serve as a useful comparison tool when studying other early mammals.

Barry Brown was searching for fossils in 2001 in Harding County, South Dakota, when he spotted a small area of eroded rock that was filled with "micro material" - tiny fossilized bones, teeth and claws from mammals, fish, amphibions, reptiles and dinosaurs. Included in the fossilized material was the Dinosphere Didelphodon jaw.

The Life of a Didelphodon

Didelphodon was a small creature that lived among the forests of the Late Cretaceous Period around 65 million years ago, along with T. rex, Triceratops and the duckbill dinosaurs. If you have ever seen an opossum, you know what Didelphodon might have looked like. Though no one has found anything more than a few pieces of a Didelphodon - fossilized teeth, jaw and skull fragments - scientists have speculated that it resembled today's opossum in shape and size. In fact, the name Didelphodon means "opossum tooth."
Didelphodon likely burrowed in the ground and slept during the day for protection. At night, it relied on its keen sense of smell and good vision to scavenge for insects, small reptiles, amphibians, other mammals, or dinosaur eggs. Its teeth were especially suited for crushing, so it could probably feast on hard-shell clams, snails or baby turtles. Like today's kangaroos and koalas, Didelphodon was a marsupial and probably carried its young in a pouch. Although marsupials are found today mostly in Australia and South America, Didelphodon fossils have been found only in North America.

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