Connect With Us

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Saturday Science: Mini Dino Dig

Dino Dig Game Saturday Science Grab your chisel and brushes. Bring your curiosity and your brain. It’s time to go on a dino dig – a mini dino dig, that is! For this week’s Saturday Science, we’re bringing the excitement of a real dinosaur dig site to your home. Dig for dinos, map their bones and discover what real paleontologists find when they're searching for fossils!  

 

Materials:

  • Rice

  • Fake dinosaur bones or objects to bury

  • Plastic containers or boxes (one for each little paleontologist)

  • Tweezers

  • Spoons

  • Grid paper

  • Pencils

  • Masking tape

 

Process:

  1. Set up the dig site!

    1. Arrange your plastic containers side by side so that they represent the grid of a dinosaur dig site.

    2. Label each container.

    3. Place one or two fake dinosaur bones inside each plastic container.

    4. Fill each container with rice.

    5. On an empty wall or the floor, use masking tape to recreate your dig site. Make sure to label each section so that your dig site matches the plastic containers. Each section should be the size of the grid paper.

  2. Start digging!

    1. Give each little paleontologist his or her own container and explain that each container is a section of the grid on the wall or floor.

    2. Have your paleontologists dig for the dinosaur bones with their tools. They should use the spoon first, adding each spoonful of rice to a separate container that’s out of the way. Once they hit bone, have them switch to the tweezers and finish uncovering the dinosaur bone.  

  3. Map the bones!

    1. Paleontologists never remove a bone from a dig site before it’s been mapped. Now it’s your kiddos’ turn! Once they uncover a bone, have them draw a picture of it on a piece of grid paper.

    2. When they’re finished drawing, place the grid paper in the corresponding section of the dig site on the wall or floor.  

  4. What was found?

    1. When every little paleontologist is finished with their digs, have each kid describe what was discovered in the dig pit.

    2. Based on where the bones were found and their size, which bones might be from the same dinosaur?

 

Summary:

You just simulated a real dinosaur dig!

 

Just like your dig site, paleontologists always divide their site into a grid so that the scientists and researchers can focus on one area. It’s a tedious process to dig out dinosaur bones. Your spoon represented a clam shucker, which is used first to remove the matrix around the bones. As soon as a bone is found, diggers switch to X-Acto knives and brushes, or in our case, tweezers. This is to protect bones and make sure nothing gets damaged.

 

Did you find a complete dinosaur? If not, don’t worry! Not only do paleontologists rarely find a complete dinosaur in a dinosaur dig, but they also find bones from one dig that are from different dinosaurs. Whether you found a complete dinosaur or bones from all types of dinosaurs, you still found dinosaur bones! How cool is that?!  

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

A New Chapter for The Power of Children Awards

If you were worried you weren’t going to have enough time to submit your application for the Power of Children Awards—have no fear! We've extended the deadline to midnight March 30! So get off the couch and get your materials in order. If you haven't had a chance to apply or nominate someone yet, please head to our website to fill out the online form.

2014 Applications are now being accepted through March 30!
(Submissions close at 11:59 PM EST on March 30, 2014.)  POCA awards

Building upon the POCA legacy

As part of our 10 year anniversary we're working on utilizing what we affectionately call our “brain trust,” or the amazing and talented minds of our collective past winners. Last year our Museum team met with a portion of the winners from current and past years to sit down and discuss the possibilities of sharing their expertise and knowledge in a mentor role with other youths who were trying to create projects and make changes in their communities.

We decided to create a symposium that will be open to all of this year’s applicants and a select number of students from the community. This one-day symposium, to be held November 8, 2014, will allow for networking, team building, sharing of success stories, and strategies for overcoming struggles. Attendees will gain valuable knowledge, make new friends, and take home valuable resources to help them create the change they hope to see.

We would love to see you there! We hope that you'll share the information gained at the symposium with others around you and continue to increase the size and expanse of the impact you or other future leaders of the world will make.

Interested in learning more about this symposium? Want to attend? Watch for more information in the upcoming months. Until then don’t forget to apply for this year’s awards by midnight Sunday, March 30, 2014! 

 

 

 

 

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile—From the Book to the Stage

TroyBy Krista Layfield, Lilly Theater Manager

The set for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile—designed by Stage Manager Abbey Copeland—is based on the illustrations in the books The House on 88th Street and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, written and illustrated by Bernard Waber.

A crucial part of the Lyle play is when Lyle climbs a fire escape to save Mr. Grumps’ cat, Loretta from a fire. The production team decided that even though this might be difficult to create on the Lilly stage, it was such an important part of the story that we couldn't do the play without it. We discussed several ways to construct the fire escape structure. We have a lot of experience working with wood, so we thought we might try to build it out of lumber. However, building it out of wood would make the structure very large and heavy.

Another interesting part of the set design was that we wanted the walls of the buildings to open like books. This meant that they needed to be strong enough to hold the weight of Lyle and the fire escape, yet also be light enough so it would not pull the rest of the building down. That’s when we decided that the best material for the construction of the fire escape would be steel. 


Constructing things out of steel involves welding, which is not something that we've done before on the Lilly Stage. So we were very excited to try and learn something new! I called the technical director, Troy Trinkle, at the Civic Theatre scene shop, who's built several sets out of steel before. He was kind enough to offer his expertise in working with steel an also offered to teach me how to weld the pieces of the fire escape frames together!

Troy taught me how to prepare the steel by cleaning it, how to cut it, drill it, weld it, and then bolt the completed frames together. There are a few pictures below of what welding looks like: a welded piece of steel, the completed frames of the fire escape, and the entire fire escape attached to front of the Grumps building. Even though it was very hard work—I was very excited to learn something new. It took a lot of extra steps, and time, but the completed set is absolutely beautiful and looks like it came right out of the Lyle books!

See Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile in Lilly Theater through April 19! See the schedule for detailshttp://www.childrensmuseum.org/lyle-lyle-crocodile

Weld

LadderFire Escape

FireEscapeComplete

 

Saturday Science: Shamrock Science

The luck of the Irish is upon us! Monday is Saint Patrick’s Day, but we’re celebrating with some shamrock science today. This week’s Saturday Science, courtesy of Momma's Fun World, will have you in a green fizzy frenzy!

 

Materials:

  • 3 cups of baking soda

  • 1/2 cup hair conditioner (white will work best for coloring the mixture green)

  • 1 package of green Kool-Aid

  • Silicone shamrock mold pan (available at Amazon and other grocery stores/retailers)

  • Pipettes (or another type of dropper)

  • Mixing bowl

  • Baking tray or pan

 

Process:

  1. Mix the baking soda and hair conditioner together in a bowl.

  2. Add green Kool-Aid and stir until mixture is green.

  3. Pour mixture into silicone shamrock mold pan.

  4. Put mold pan in freezer and let freeze (overnight is best).  

  5. Once molds are frozen, remove each mold from pan and place on a baking tray or pan.

  6. Use pipettes to squeeze vinegar onto each shamrock mold.

  7. Watch the fizzing begin!

 

Results:

When you add drops of vinegar to your shamrock mold, what happens? It begins to fizz, which appears to be one chemical reaction. However, there are actually two reactions happening in quick succession.

 

First, the acetic acid (what makes vinegar taste sour) from the drops of vinegar reacts with sodium bicarbonate (a compound that's in baking soda) from your shamrock to form carbonic acid.

 

Because the carbonic acid is unstable, it then immediately falls apart into carbon dioxide and water. The bubbles you see from the reaction come from the carbon dioxide escaping the water. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so it flows almost like water when it overflows a container.

 

After the fizzing is finished, a dilute solution of sodium acetate in water and your melted-looking shamrock are left behind.

 

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

The Power of Children Awards—So Many Reasons to Apply!

As many of you already know, The Power of Children Awards is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! This means many of you may already be familiar with the awards and the types of projects it encourages, but do you know about all of the amazing rewards winners receive?  This award offers more than a physical keepsake. It includes scholarship and grant money, an extraordinary awards ceremony, and a personalized video about the winner that will play in our museum gallery. 

Intrigued? Apply today!

Still need more reasons to apply? Watch the following video and read more about the details of the awards below.

The Power of Children Awards event will be held on November 7, 2014 here at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It is an outstanding annual evening to celebrate the year’s 4-6 winners as well as the other nominees.

It's an “ Academy Awards”!

  • We host a reception in the museum’s permanent gallery: The Power of Children: Making a Difference, which features the stories of three extraordinary youths: Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White who were faced with dire circumstances yet chose to make the very best of them to affect change in the lives of others. The exhibit will display a leaf with the winners' names and cities for the next year.

  • We move from the reception to an elegant sit down meal with winners, nominees, nominators, families and friends. Last year, almost 200 people attended.

  • We then honor the winners and their nominators with pre-recorded videos. Videographers will be assigned to each winner for a sit down interview that will be recorded prior to the event. These videos will highlight the winner and the story behind the project. These videos will then play in our exhibit and on our website for others to enjoy.

  • You receive their $2,000 grants, from the Kroger Foundation, to increase the breadth and depth of your project.

  • You learn about the three different post-secondary scholarships available to you.

  • We become really inspired by the outstanding projects of these 6-11 grade students and hope that we individually can somehow make the world a better place.

  • You party with past honorees in attendance and take group and individual photographs. The newly inducted class is embraced by the past winners into the Power of Children Award's exclusive circle to meet and network with other youths who are changing the world, just like you.

Why not be a part of this excitement by becoming a nominee or a nominator? You have until midnight, Sunday, March 23, 2014, to do so. Submit your online applications at www.childrensmuseum.org/poca

Dr. Bakker Explains—what Makes Leonardo the Mummified Dinosaur Special?

Bakker Trexler Leonardo

Dr. Robert Bakker is one of the most noteworthy dinosaur paleontologists in the United States—and even inspired the paleontologist depicted in the movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Bakker has reshaped modern theories about dinosaurs, in particular by adding support to the theory that dinosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded), smart, fast, and adaptable. Dr. Bakker has worked with the museum as an expert curator and paleontologist and has helped acquire rare dinosaur fossils on The Children’s Museum dinosaur advisory board.  

 

Leonardo is exquisite.
 
When I saw Leonardo for the first time, the fossil skin was bathed in light washing over the beast from the side. The body seemed to glow. The rib cage was so beautifully preserved you might imagine the animal breathing, the chest rising and falling...
 
And you see inside!  There were windows into the great machinery of digestion, views never before available for any creature of the fabulous duckbill clan.
 
Leonardo seemed to be alive once more—almost. You could almost see the jaws grinding and chopping conifer branches. You could almost hear the gentle rhythm of fodder being swallowed, being carried through the stomach and then into the marvelously complex intestinal tract.
 
Feeding and digesting are the twin mysteries of dinosaur success. And duckbills are at the heart of Cretaceous ecology. They dominated the plant-eater guild. Their family tree was so bushy that new species sprouted in every direction. To understand the Cretaceous world, we must decipher the keys to herbivore design. Leonardo has handed us those keys.
 
Leonardo invites us to a safari into his inner secrets. Scholars and amateur dino fans alike can test century-old theories. Were duckbills merely dinosaurian moose, munching on soft water plants? So read the textbooks from 1860 up through the '1960's. No! The guts say that theory is bunk. Duckbill jaws were armed with the finest cranial Cuisinart ever evolved within the entire Dinosauria. Look closely at Leonardo's muzzle and jaws. There is a never-ending supply of tooth crowns, closely packed to make a rotary food processor.
 
We knew those basic dental facts since the first duckbill was dug in New Jersey in the 1850s. And yet the moose-diet theory would not die. Leonardo at last provides experimental proof. You can examine what plants were chewed and how thoroughly they were masticated.
 
Water plants?  Nope. Tough, hard-leaved conifers. Nutritious. Full of protein and energy. Leonardo testifies to the true preferred diet—terrestrial vegetation, the shrubs and trees that covered the landscape.
 
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the perfect place for Leonardo. Indy has duckbill smarts. The museum crew has excavated one of the greatest duckbill bone-beds in the world. The Paleo Lab presents the visitor to touch duckbill legs, run their fingers over duckbill teeth. 
 
And now.....Leonardo adds that unique window back into the Cretaceous, the window into his deepest secrets.

Why Doesn't the Dino Mummy Look Like a Mummy?

dino mummy why

By Lori Phillips, Digital Content Coordinator
 
When you're six years old and your mom works at The Children's Museum, it's not out of the ordinary to learn over the dinner table that a dinosaur is coming to "your" museum. My son, Teddy, usually plays it pretty cool when I share (what I believe to be) awesome news about the museum, but he couldn't contain his amazement when I mentioned a "mummy dinosaur"—now that's cool.
 
It was November, and the museum had just announced that Leonardo the mummified dinosaur would be unveiled in Dinosphere in March. As I excitedly showed Teddy the photos of Leonardo, his first question was, "But mom, where's the toilet paper?" When I gave him a puzzled look he said, "Like, when something is a mummy it's wrapped in toilet paper, right?" Of course! It was really the perfect question. And thankfully I knew the perfect person to answer it—paleontologist and natural science curator, Dallas Evans. 
 
Here's Dallas' response:
 
Please tell Teddy that we're working on that. When Leonardo was excavated, it was wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it safe. (Which probably made it look like a gigantic baked potato.) The aluminum foil is just a separator—it keeps the plaster from sticking to the fossil. But the foil isn't good for long term storage because it will oxidize & discolor. So we removed the foil and replaced it with acid free tissue paper while it was in storage. Essentially, until it's ready to be put on display, it will look like a mummy wrapped in toilet paper.
 
But that was in November, and now Leonardo is on display. (No more acid free tissue paper!) So...if Leonardo is a mummy, where are his wrappings?
 
Mummies are any dead bodies with preserved skin, muscle, and other soft tissue. Leonardo isn't a human mummy, like you usually would envision. Leonardo isn't a wrapped dinosaur, either. Leonardo is a natural mummy. Nature mummified Leonardo, so he doesn't have wrappings. It's estimated that 90 percent of Leonardo's body is still covered in fossilized soft tissue. 
 
When dinosaurs died, their carcasses were usually exposed to weather, scavengers, insects, and bacteria, but sometimes they would be naturally buried in sediment by things like sandstorms, mudslides, high tides or sinkholes and that sediment would harden into rock over time. If conditions were just right, mineral-heavy water would seep into the rock, and into the hollow spaces in the bones, and the bone materials would be replaced with rock-like minerals. And, if the chemicals and the moisture level and the pressure and other factors were perfect, over time, the bone would be replaced by a rock-like copy or natural cast called (drum roll, please)...a fossil!
 
Leonardo died on the banks of a shallow river in what is now Montana. His body was eventually buried and minerals in the river infiltrated the dinosaur's soft tissues, desiccating and preserving them, resulting in natural mummification. This created a mummified, fossilized dinosaur—the rarest of the rare!
 
Learn more about Leonardo's story in the blog post, "Here Comes the Dino Mummy!" by Dinosphere Coordinator Mookie Harris.
And be sure to meet Leonardo in his new home in Dinosphere!

Saturday Science: Dino Parfait

In many parts of the country, buried deep beneath the Earth’s surface, there are dinosaur fossils just waiting to be discovered! Do you know how deep paleontologists must dig to make a dino-mite discovery? In this week’s Saturday Science, we’ll show you how to create a delicious dino parfait to learn how dinosaurs became fossils and how paleontologists determine their age. The deeper you dig, the older the fossils. So let’s create a dino parfait and start diggin’!  

 

Materials

  • Small clear plastics cups

  • Spoons

  • Gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animal)  

  • Vanilla wafer cookie  

  • Fruit slices  

  • Raisins and/or M&Ms

  • Shredded coconut

  • Cookie decorating sprinkles

  • Whipped cream  

  • Grape jelly

  • Green, yellow and red food coloring

  • Paper and colored pencils

 

Process

  1. Split the whipped cream between two clear plastic cups. Use the food coloring to dye one cup of whipped cream yellow so that it represents sandy soil and the other red so that it represents clay.

  2. Use the food coloring to dye your shredded coconut green.

  3. Select a “fossil” from your gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animals). You may want to use scissors to cut apart the gummy candy or break up the cookies to show that most fossils do not survive intact.

  4. Build your dino parfait by adding a spoonful or two of the following ingredients into your plastic cup:

    1. Vanilla wafer cookie  – also known as hardened sediment

    2. A gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animal)  – also known as your buried fossil

    3. Fruit slices – also known as sediment layers

    4. Raisins and/or M&Ms – also known as rocks

    5. Grape jelly – also known as underground water

    6. Red whipped cream – also known as clay

    7. Yellow whipped cream – also known as sandy soil  

    8. Cookie decorating sprinkles – also known as surface dirt

    9. Green shredded coconut – also known as grass

 

Results

Use your paper and colored pencils to draw a picture of your cup and its layers. Each tasty treat represents a layer of what’s beneath our toes when we walk outdoors.

 

Can you tell which layer is the oldest? The deeper layers are the older layers of Earth’s surface, while the top layers are the more recent ones.

 

Can you see which layer your fossil is buried in? When dinosaurs became extinct some 65.5 million years ago, many of their bodies were fossilized between layers of mud and sand that eventually became sedimentary rock. Over time, more layers of rock, clay, water and soil formed on top of the fossilized dinosaurs.

 

Is your fossil old or young? As you can see, paleontologists must dig very, very deep to find dinosaur fossils. When they do  dig deep enough to make a dino-mite discovery, it’s the sediment and rocks surrounding the bones that help these scientists determine the age of the dinosaur fossils.

Now all hungry paleontologists should enjoy their very own dino parfait!   

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

2014 Power of Children Awards - Application Process

Power of ChildrenIf you, or someone you know in grades 6-11, is making an extraordinary difference in the lives of other, nominate them for the Power of Children Awards at childrensmuseum.org/poca-apply.

Interested in applying for the Power of Children Awards, but a little unsure about the rules for participation or the essay criteria? Today’s blog will try to answer some common questions.

Why do we require a "youth" and "adult" portion for the applications?

A completed application requires both a youth/nominee, with parental or guardian permission to apply, and an adult/nominator form to be submitted. We ask that the four criteria (Need, Achievement, Impact, and Further Empowerment) be reflected upon by both parties in order for the full application to be reviewed. The reason we do this is because we want to hear about the project from both perspectives. As a youth you may have certain things that you are proud to share about your project, but an adult may have additional elements that they want to highlight and discuss. We do not however want the exact same text copied and pasted in both applications. This will disqualify an applicant.

What does "no group projects" mean?

We are looking for youth who have created a project on their own, not as a group. This means that if you and your classmates or friends started a project or organization together, the work unfortunately does not qualify for this award. With group projects it is hard to tell who actually did what portion of the work and since the award goes to an individual winner it doesn’t seem fair to the rest of the group if only one person gets acknowledged for their contribution. On the other hand, if you started a project and then recruited your friends to help you, but you kept control/leadership of the project, it is eligible for the award.

What should I write about in my four criteria (Need, Achievement, Impact, and Further Empowerment)?

Each portion of the criteria should be discussed in 150 words or less. As the youth/nominee, you will write about your project from your personal perspective. For the adult/nominator, you will write about the stories the youth has shared with you and the impact you see on both the youth and the community through the project.

  • Need: This portion will address why the project was created and what the youth did to start it. Where did the idea for the project originate? How did you learn about the need you are addressing? Was it a hobby, a news article, a friend or family member, a trip, or other that helped spark the idea in your head?
  • Achievement: This portion will address what the youth has accomplished while working on this project and what sort of obstacles may have been encountered. Tell us about your process. Did you have to do research or get permission to start your project? Did you meet with the community? Did you need assistance from others? Did you recruit volunteers, how? Did you struggle to find support, money or come across other barriers?
  • Impact: This portion will address the specific details of the ways in which the project made an impact. How many people have you helped? What sort of monetary contributions have you acquired? How many volunteers do you use? How many days/hours have you put in on this project?
  • Further Empowerment: This portion will address how funds would be used to continue the project. How will you use the Power of Children Awards grant to help your project? Do you see the project expanding, changing, evolving, how? What would you like to see happen to your project after the awards?

 

Remember the deadline for applications is March 23, 2014 at 11:59 p.m.!

 

 

10 Things to Know Before Your First Playscape Visit | The Playscape 5

Gage Paul Playscape 5Follow along as three families (just like you!) discover Playscape together. The Playscape 5—Torrence, Myles and Ella, and Gage and Paul—will share their experiences as they learn and grow in the gallery...and at home! See Playscape through the eyes of Gage (age 3) and Paul (age 18 mos.) in this post from mom, Emily. And continue to follow their journey online, on the blog, or by searching the #Playscape5 hashtag!

Gage, Paul, and I have been avid Playscape visitors since the museum reopened the exhibit after an extensive update and modernization nearly six months ago. Our routine is typically to visit weekly, usually on Tuesday mornings, when the crowds seem to be a bit thinner than on the weekends. 

Since we love the exhibit so much, we're always talking it up to our friends, urging them to come join us for an on-location play date. I frequently get asked questions about what the exhibit is like, so I thought it might be high time to put together a little off-the-cuff "good things to know" list about visiting Playscape for the first time. 

 

  1. Calling all helpers! Yes, Playscape is designed for children five years old and under, but older children are allowed in as "helpers" if accompanying a sibling or friend. Want to know more? I've written a whole post about bringing my two older children with me!
  2. Potty training? No problem! It's true, you're not going to have to run out of the exhibit the minute you hear "mom I have to go potty RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND." Playscape has awesome bathrooms designed for little trainers and big kids alike. 
  3. You might get wet, and that's part of the fun! The Creek (complete with waterfall and a rain shower) is a favorite spot for my boys. Grab a water-proof smock or prepare to get splashed. Thankfully, if a few drops land on your clothes, there are a few powerful blow dryers to help with the clean-up.
  4. Natural light. Glorious natural light. The East wall to the exhibit is almost floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for beautiful natural light to shine in. My boys press their little faces right up to the glass and watch cars zoom by on Meridian Street below. It's so fascinating!
  5. Consider planning your visit around a daily (free) program. Playscape is always open to come and go as you please, but sometimes they do super-fun guided exploration activities (like music or art) with a museum staff member at specific times of the day. 
  6. One way in, and one way out. As a parent of multiple small children, I admittedly have a hard time keeping track of what direction everyone is headed. It sometimes feels like I'm unsuccessfully trying to herd cats. One of the best design features of Playscape is that there is only one way in, and one way out. This gives me piece of mind that my little escape artists are staying in the exhibit, even if I've lost momentary sight of them. 
  7. Top o'mast! If your kid gets stuck at the top of that sailboat in the Climber and becomes too scared to come down (yeah, it's happened to us)? You can ask a very bendy, much more flexible staff member to help retrieve them!
  8. Teamwork makes the dream work. Playscape is undoubtedly a top destination when visiting the museum, so it's always a whirlwind of activity, packed with little kids. I prep my boys each time before we go in, reminding them that it's more fun to share and play with other kids than to hog the toys to themselves. It works, kinda. 
  9. Snacks can wait. As a parent, one thing I really appreciate is that Playscape is a food-free zone. This "rule" keeps Playscape clean and provides a safe environment for children with food allergies. 
  10. Just do it! I cannot express enough just what an absolute gem Playscape is for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Each and every time we go, we learn something new and create another lasting memory. Go in with little expectation, and let your imagination lead the way. No visit will ever be the same!

So there you have it—my top pieces of Playscape advice. So what are you waiting for? Will we see you there?

Gage and Paul Playscape 5 Gage Playscape 5

An Exhibit about China? Didn’t We Already See That?

Terra Cotta WarriorsBy Chris Carron, Director of Collections

Every day, thousands of our members and visitors enjoy one of The Children's Museum's permanent, core experiences, National Geographic Treasures of the Earth. This perennial favorite lets you explore how archeologists around the world search for and literally “dig up” clues about our human past. Families love to crawl through re-created Egyptian tomb passages, pretend they’re diving for lost shipwrecks, and also reassemble replica Terra Cotta Warriors like giant jigsaw puzzles. 

If you count yourselves among the many that have explored Treasures of the Earth, then I hope we’ve whetted your appetite for the main event—an extraordinary temporary exhibit coming for a limited time from May 10 through November 2: Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, directly from China’s Shaanxi Province. Organized by The Children’s Museum, this exhibit will include some of the actual life-sized, 2200-year-old, fired clay statues from China that were buried in the earth for millennia until they were discovered by farmers in 1974. Whereas Treasures of the Earth focuses on how archaeologists make their discoveries by analyzing evidence, Terra Cotta Warriors will bring you up close with some of the world’s greatest treasures, and will focus on the how scientists, artists, and historians are using the latest technology to understand how these figures were made and preserve their original painted surfaces. I got to see how this is happening at behind-the-scenes laboratories onsite in Xi’an, China, and now so will you—only right here in Indianapolis. This will truly be a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for people of all ages. 

While the terra cotta warriors date way back to the time when China first unified as a nation, another permanent, core experience also opening on May 10 will immerse you in the ancient customs and modern activities of life in contemporary China. Take Me There:® China will be one of the largest (maybe THE largest) comprehensive exhibit on contemporary China ever produced in the United States, and will explore the art, music, language, food, tea culture, and homes of children and families in the world’s most populous nation. 

So, don’t be confused—come and see them all!

 

Terra Cotta Warriors is a timed ticket exhibit, and an additional charge is required. Member tickets are on sale now.

Making Music with Torrence | The Playscape 5

Torrence Playscape 5Follow along as three families (just like you!) discover Playscape together. The Playscape 5—Torrence, Myles and Ella, and Gage and Paul—will share their experiences as they learn and grow in the gallery...and at home! See Playscape through the eyes of Torrence (age 8 months) in this post from mom, Samantha. And continue to follow his journey online, on the blog, or by searching the #Playscape5 hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Vine!

There's a common refrain from new parents—the same old song, “It's hard to imagine our little one isn't so little anymore!” There’s a certain irony of this coming from parents of an 8 month old but forgive me. Torrence no longer wants to be held as much nor does he need help with everything. I felt like he was an old pro as we began playing in Babyscape. Immediately, he grabbed all the toys surrounding him and of jammed them straight into his mouth. Perhaps showing the other babies the ropes and how it's done in Babyscape

After a while of playing with the toys and watching the others play we decided to check out the music room. In just a few short months, Torrence is now able to bang on the drums and shake the bells. His motor skills are so remarkably improved even from just a month ago, I look forward to the day when he can walk to each room and play with all the toys by himself. 

Finally, I figured he would want to play in the water in the Creek, and as usual it did not disappoint. Torrence loved splashing in the water and watching the toys float down the creek. One of the best features of playing in the water is that the other big kids wear waterproof smocks!

I'm looking forward to Torrence being able to climb in the climber and truly express how he feels about Playscape and his surroundings— though his much taller father is perhaps not as enthused about the climbing part. 

A Family's Love for Playscape Never Fades | The Playscape 5

Ella Playscape 5Follow along as three families (just like you!) discover Playscape together. The Playscape 5—Torrence, Myles and Ella, and Gage and Paul—will share their experiences as they learn and grow in the gallery...and at home! See Playscape through the eyes of Myles (age 4 1/2)  and Ella (age 2) in this post from mom, Ronnetta. And continue to follow their journey online, on the blog, or by searching the #Playscape5 hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Vine!

As our Playscape 5 experience comes to a close (from a blog perspective), we've been so grateful for the opportunity to share our adventures with fellow Playscapees and to watch our children proudly rack up playtime points. With each visit, Myles and Ella show the same joy they've demonstrated since the renovated Playscape opened its doors last August. 


A gleeful, piercing shriek, followed by an unshakable grin, appear when we tell them it's time to pack up for a Playscape visit; also routine now is the way they communicate to each other in terms of talking about what they are going to do before we've left the driveway; and, once we park and enter the museum it's a sprint to the third floor with my husband and I trailing behind the kids. 


Each visit is like the first time for Myles and Ella. It's always a new discovery and they never get tired of it. That says a lot. Even with toys, children have their favorites, the ones that travel with them from room to room while the 'other' toys end up under the couch. Well, Playscape is one of their favorites, and rightfully so. 
Honestly, it's one of our  favorites too. I find myself enjoying it through their excitement. I could watch them play with sand all day long, and seeing Myles create a battleship in the waterfall with the net and sharks (where did those come from?), it just makes me smile. And, Ella cannot get enough of the sand. She pretends she is making a cake, or serving up goodies in her kitchen. Now that's a good time, every time.

What have we learned?
 

  1.  The Creek. The waterfall section, it seems, features new items that routinely appear (besides the sailboats and kid-size fishing poles.) We’ve seen spoons, plastic fish and sharks. There’s no better cause-and-effect than to see a child watch a floatable gently work its way downstream. 

  2. Milestones. We celebrated our kiddos’ second and fifth birthdays in Playscape, in addition to bi-monthly trips. We counted those visits as a present; the kids were so enamored that when we took them to Playscape in February, they asked what occasion we were celebrating!

  3. Even with the blog's ending, this is only the beginning for our Playscape adventures. Hope to see everyone by the Reaction Contraption soon. Again, we give it our highest, ringing endorsement!

Playscape 5 Myles Ella Myles Ella Playscape 5

 

Bringing a Mummified Dinosaur to Life

Leonardo rendering BerglundMichael Berglund is the artist behind the beautiful illustrations of Leonardo the mummified dinosaur, helping to bring Leonardo to life in his new home in Dinosphere. Michael has been a commercial special effects artist, designer, and sculptor for over 27 years. He's participated in dinosaur digs as a volunteer and has contributed art to museums for the past 15 years. His mother claims he could say "Tyrannosaurus rex" before he could say "mommy."

I first met Leonardo at a paleontology conference way back in 2005. As an artist interested in the finer points of muscles and skin on dinosaurs, I was astonished at what I saw when the pictures came up on the screen! It looked like he had just fallen over, well, not yesterday—but you get what I mean. You could really see the living creature in the rock!

Afterwards I approached the people who gave the presentation and struck up a conversation. They looked at my work, and so began my long association with Leonardo. I have done pictures and graphic design for the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, the Houston Museum where Leonardo was briefly displayed, and now, here, for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It’s almost as though he’s my "dino-buddy" at this point, we’ve been through so much together.

The renderings that I've done for the Children’s Museum represent the collected wisdom of scientists and artists through the years, thinking about Brachylophosaurs, and Leonardo in general. I've had the great fortune to be able to learn from, and have my work improved by, association with Dr. Robert Bakker, Dave Trexler, and Peter Larson, to name a few experts in the paleontological world. 

The image I created is a 3D model—a computer graphics rendering. I started by using measurements and skeletal diagrams to get the proportions and overall shapes. Creating a "low polygon, low detail" model is almost like building a sculpting armature (or frame), to refine the overall forms and shapes. Scientists know about dinosaur musculature by studying the fossils—which bear traces of muscle and tendon attachments—and by studying living creatures today. With Leonardo, there's even more information, in the form of preserved muscle and tendon structure! 

Leonardo’s skin is also preserved in large sections, and that's really exciting to me as an artist. While imagination is key to any art, it’s a real thrill to be able to create something with the evidence backing it up, and to be able to stand back, look at it, and think, "Wow, this is probably what he really looked like." All of that detail was added in a 3D sculpting program.

The most speculative thing about the picture is the coloration. We may never know what dinosaurs were colored like, but we can make educated guesses based upon living animals and habitats. Leonardo’s patterned, brownish color is reasonable given the environment he lived in. The coloration was done in a paint program and wrapped around the digital sculpture.

It’s been great fun helping to bring Leonardo back to life, and to contribute to the wonder and discovery of recreating our Earth’s prehistoric past.

Leonardo wireframe Berglund

Leonardo wireframe color Berglund

Images: Michael Berglund, 2013

 

Saturday Science: Green Eggs (and Ham!)

Green Eggs and Ham Saturday ScienceDo you like green eggs and ham? If you do not like them (or so you say), try this Saturday Science experiment and you may! This little pH trick from Home Science Tools will help you make green eggs just like in the book—Have an adult help you!

Materials

  • Frying pan and stove
  • Egg
  • Red cabbage (it's called red, but it looks purple!)

Process

  1. Mix cabbage juice with egg whites to turn them green.
  2. Chop a 1/2 cup of cabbage, cover it with boiling water, and let it sit for 10 minutes until the water is dark purple. Strain out the cabbage.
  3. Crack an egg and separate the egg white from the yolk by carefully pouring the egg from one half of the shell to the other over a bowl. (Or you can pour the egg into a slotted spoon over a bowl instead.) Set the yolk aside.
  4. Mix a little cabbage juice in with the egg white. What happens?
  5. Grease the pan and let it heat up a little, then pour the egg white in.
  6. Set the yolk in the middle of the egg white and finish cooking!

Results

Red cabbage contains pigments called anthocyanins, which change colors when they come in contact with acids (low pH) or bases (high pH), making them a natural pH indicator. When the cabbage juice comes in contact with an acid (like vinegar) it will turn red, but when it is mixed with a base it will turn bluish-green. What does this project tell us about egg whites, then? Egg whites are basic (also called alkaline) and so they turn the red cabbage juice green.

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

The Power of Children Awards—An Intern's Perspective

Andrew Power of ChildrenCurrent Intern Andrew Kimmel is working on a number of our special 10 year anniversary projects for the Power of Children Awards. He shares his story about being introduced to this endeavor and the impact it's already created in his life.

If you, or someone you know in grades 6-11, is making an extraordinary difference in the lives of other, nominate them for the Power of Children Awards at http://www.childrensmuseum.org/poca-apply.

On my desk is a stack of applications and questionnaires from previous awardees of the Power of Children Awards. (That’s right, interns get desks!) I’ve been rereading them to prepare for POCA’s 10th anniversary. Part of my internship is to follow-up with our previous winners and create a “Where are they now?” book in time for this year’s ceremony in November. I’ve also been analyzing the impact all of our winners have collectively had.

And it's been a wild ride already! Millions of dollars have been raised, hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted, and many others have been inspired to volunteer. I’m not even done counting yet. Whenever I get in touch with another POCA winner, I tell them they can add another tally mark to their impact column. Reading their stories has inspired me to seek out volunteer opportunities myself.

I didn’t think that coming into work every day and feeling inspired to change the world would be my favorite part of my internship. It is. I’m hoping to bring that same feeling of inspiration to others with our book celebrating each of our previous winners and teaching the next generation of philanthropists ways to make their own impact on the world.

I spend a lot of time in between reading and writing walking up to our Power of Children gallery that highlights the stories of Ryan White, Ruby Bridges, and Anne Frank. I’ve been to the gallery almost 100 times, but each time I'm reminded again and again through these stories of perseverance and altruism that even the tiniest voice can reach millions.

 

Learn more about the award's 10th anniversary and past winners.

 

A Great American Museum Advocate—Spencer's Story

SpencerThis January, eight year old Children's Museum member Spencer Hahn was named a 2014 Great American Museum Advocate by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Spencer was one of two youth selected from nominations submitted by museums across the country. This week he's joined by more than 300 museum professionals for Museums Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., where he'll help to make the case for federal support of museums, showing the profound ways museums are serving Americans. This blog is a reprint of Spencer's original nomination—a story that is truly extraordinary. As AAM president Ford W. Bell stated, "In Spencer's case, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis literally changed his life, and the lives of his family. What better public service can there be?"

 

 

They thought he would never talk. They thought he would never walk. Today, eight year old Spencer Hahn is proving them all wrong as he runs into a museum to throw his arms around his favorite dinosaur and give him with a great, big hug. You see, this rambunctious little boy loves theater, a big, cuddly, green dinosaur mascot named Rex, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. His mother credits these three things with changing her little boy's life forever. 
 
It all started when Spencer suffered a stroke in-utero. Complications led to life-long challenges. “Spencer experienced a neonatal stroke, which induced symptoms of cerebral palsy, grand mal seizures, and neurobehavioral difficulties felt to be Autism Spectrum Disorder,” said Dr. Luis Escobar, medical director of Medical Genetics and Neurodevelopment at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent. “Children with these diagnoses experience many physical mobility limitations that required significant rehabilitation services, and often need behavioral therapy to address social skills.”
 
"When I first got the diagnosis and saw the MRI, I'm not going to lie, I literally sat in a corner for 24 hours and cried my eyes out,” said Erica Hahn. “Then I got up and made a plan. The plan was never about how to get him to talk or how to get him to walk. I knew I didn't have control of such things. I knew that he needed to feel happy and safe. I threw out the baby books and made the choice to let Spencer decide when/if he was going to walk or talk. I focused on how he could be happy and that meant visiting the museum. We went weekly. Turns out I was right—provide children with an environment where they feel happy and safe, and add to that stimulation- and milestone-building museum adventures, and you find success. It was never an option not to be happy, it was always an option to walk or talk. I am grateful that he chose to do both."

Spencer Dan CoatesAbout the time he was one year old, Spencer’s mother decided to actively do something to help her son by bringing him to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis for stimulation.That's when something extraordinary began to happen. Spencer responded. He took his first steps in the Playscape exhibit—in fact, his mom claims most of Spencer’s “firsts” happened at the museum, including his first successful attempts at climbing and his first words, which were spoken near the carousel. Those are just the tangible outcomes. Spencer’s mother believes her son also developed his confidence through personal interactions with staff members at the museum. “The Museum and its staff have given him a much more important milestone....they teach him to be confident, they teach him to love himself even when things are hard. And, they teach him how to be a good friend—all because of the way they are with him. Confidence is a huge milestone and one I see emerging more and more every time we visit,” said Erica Hahn. 
 
The interactions with the acting staff have had a profound effect on Spencer. Every time he visits the Lilly Theater within the museum, he stays after to talk to the actors about their performances, get autographs, and have his picture taken with them.
 
“Spencer is definitely our biggest fan,” said Krista Layfield, manager of Lilly Theater. “Whenever he and his family come to our performances they are always early so they can get their favorite seats in the front row. During the show we will often see Spencer performing right along with the actors by dancing in the aisle and singing along with the music. The actors and I feel fortunate and blessed to know Spencer and his family and we love to see the positive impact all of or our hard work is making in his life.”
 
“Many children thrive with a consistent routine that allows repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities,” said Cathy Southerland, Director of Early Childhood Education. “Providing clear beginnings and endings is often beneficial. The Children’s Museum provides the reassurance to children that they will be able to enjoy many of the same sights and sounds at the beginning of each visit—Bumblebee and the Water Clock, for example—and at the end of each visit, like the End of the Day Parade.”

Donnelly Spencer Hahn Museum Advocate“For patients with autism and physical limitations, it's imperative that they receive early intervention and stimulation. Activities such as participation in social groups and educational experiences with organizations like The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis have helped Spencer to develop social skills, improve attention and gain awareness of his environment,” said Dr. Escobar. Dr. Escobar also said that as patients with autism and physical limitations receive early intervention and stimulation, like Spencer has, their health typically improves over time. In light of Spencer’s response to medical treatment and behavioral therapy, Dr. Escobar believes that Spencer’s needs will decrease as he gets older.

Believe it or not, Spencer's very favorite part of his day is when it is about to end. That is when the museum hosts its End of the Day Parade to usher families out as the museum is about to close for the day. That is when the little boy who was never supposed to walk or talk, marches down the ramp, through the museum, alongside his hero - Rex (Rex is the big, green, dinosaur Children’s Museum mascot who leads the parade). Spencer’s mom says her son literally wants to be Rex when he grows up. She chuckles as she shares there have been multiple times they have visited the museum when it opens just to see Rex, left to run errands and then returned to join Rex in the parade.  
 
“Quite simply Spencer would not be who he is, without Rex and the rest of the museum staff and that is not an exaggeration.  We are lucky to live in Indianapolis and be part of such an amazing place.  I like to think of Spencer's life like a book that he will someday write.  Each chapter will be a person or place that has meant something to him.  I hope my chapter reads, ‘She always did the best she could.’  I can only imagine that the chapter on the museum might be as simple as a smiley face - happiness is simple.  Rex is his happiness!”
 
When Spencer completed his 100th End of the Day Parade, Children’s Museum staff members made a special banner with pictures of Spencer and Rex and asked him to lead the parade. He was so excited he cried and told his mom, "Mom these are happy tears because my museum loves me!"  
 
“It's true,” said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “Our whole staff loves him. This little boy is an adorable reminder that the things children and families learn in a museum and the people they meet have the power to transform lives. Spencer truly does serve as an inspiration to us as he is a testament to strength, courage and determination and we are proud to call him our friend.”

Why Do Animal Hands Look Different Than Ours?

From our 10 fingers to our palms, our two hands are important features of the human body. In fact, our opposable thumbs are what classify us as primates. But we aren’t the only creatures on earth that rely so heavily on these extremities. We find out why the hands of five animals from the Animal Secrets exhibit look different than ours with help from The Natural History Museum, PBS, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Pacific Northwest Laboratory and National Geographic.  

 

Bats

Like humans, bats have four fingers and a thumb on each of their two hands. The difference is their fingers are very long and thin. On many bats, they can be as long as the body. But the thumb is what makes bats’ hands so unique and necessary. While it’s small compared to the other four fingers, it has a claw, which is necessary for grip in caves, on branches, etc., when the bat is in its roost.

 

Beavers

Because beavers live on land and in water, their hands must not only be suited for both climates, but they must also be useful for building their dams. Their dexterous front feet and toes are similar to human hands in that they are able to pick up small objects and use them for building, while their hind feet are webbed so that they can swim efficiently through water.

 

Black Bears

Four feet that you don’t want to come into contact with belong to the black bear. All four feet have five toes, each with a large, sharp claw. These claws, along with their sense of smell and powerful forearms, make these animals skilled hunters and gathers. According to the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, black bears can “dig out plant tubers or small rodents, tear apart rotten logs to find grubs, climb trees and break off branches to gather nuts, ‘pick’ raspberries and blueberries, and travel long distances in search of new food resources.”

 

Porcupines

While you and I have 20 digits on our hands and feet, the porcupine only has 18. Their front feet have just four toes, and the back feet have five. That doesn’t make their hands and feet any less useful than ours, however. Each one of their 18 toes comes equipped with a strong curved claw. These claws allow the porcupine to climb trees or strip away bark for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

Racoons

Raccoons’ dexterous front paws and toes are an important feature for the animal’s survival and getting into things they shouldn’t be getting into. Not only can their toes grasp food, but they can also get a hold of door knobs and latches. But what makes a raccoon’s paws even more unique is their sense of touch, which increases underwater.  

 

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

Saturday Science: Frozen Bubble

frozen bubble saturday science

After this winter, it's safe to say we all know what frozen looks like. But what about a frozen bubble? Find out in this week's Saturday Science experiment!

Materials

  • Liquid Soap
  • Water
  • Large bucket or dish
  • Straw
  • Plate
  • Freezer

Process

  1. Prepare your "bubble juice." Mix up water and baby shampoo, or any liquid soap, in a large bucket or dish.
    TIP: To make soapy water that will produce nice, solid bubbles, combine: 125 ml liquid dish soap, 125 ml corn syrup, 750 ml hot water. Mix and let cool.
  2. Dip your straw in the "bubble juice." Get your straw, or your choice of "bubble wand," and dip it in the "bubble juice." There should be a film of the solution at the end of the straw. Carefully move the straw near your plate.
  3. Blow your bubble. Blow a bubble of any size, just make sure it can fit on the plate. Don't blow it directly onto the plate; blow it right over the plate.
  4. Put your bubble on a plate. Carefully place your bubble on a plate. Your bubbles may pop several times before you can finally put one onto a plate.
  5. Freeze your bubble. Put the dish very gently inside a freezer. Wait for about 30 minutes to an hour, checking on your bubble every 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Take out the bubble. When your bubble is frozen, take out the plate very gingerly, making sure it does not crack. It will last for about 10 minutes, more or less.

Results

Some bubbles will freeze instantly, while others will freeze slowly. If you are careful, you can sometimes hold a bubble in your hands without bursting it. Why are the physical properties of frozen bubbles so different? A bubble is formed by a layer of water molecules trapped between two fine layers of soap molecules. When it is very cold, and the bubble wand is waved very slowly, the water layer freezes before the bubble can burst.
 
If you make a bubble by blowing into the wand, the bubble takes more time to set. The air in the bubble has been warmed by your lungs, and when this warm air comes into contact with cold air it contracts, and the surface of the bubble sets slowly. In both cases, the layers of soap freeze, making the walls of the bubble more solid. After a few seconds or a few minutes, the air captured inside the bubble disperses to the exterior, like a balloon deflating, and the wall of ice collapses under its own weight. Look at the frozen soap wall of a bubble — it looks like a broken eggshell.
 
Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Journey of the Jade Horse

Jade HorseBy Tris Perkins, World Cultures Curator

This jade horse and its larger mate took quite the journey to get to The Children's Museum all the way from China—even traveling through extreme weather by train! Typically we would arrange for a climate-controlled environment for shipping an artifact, but the fact that they're made of stone insured that they would weather the trip okay.

Because of the blizzards recently impacting the country, when they arrived at the museum they were frozen! Our conservator kept a close eye on them, though. We opened the crate and allowed it to acclimate to the indoor temperatures for a few days before moving it. This insured that no cracking or other damage would occur. Soon they'll be ready to be installed in our upcoming exhibit Take Me There: China, so they won't have to worry about braving the weather for a long time.