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Robots + Nano + Astronauts = One Extraordinary STEM Camp

This post is brought to you by Don Riefler, The Children’s Museum’s Science Programs Coordinator. Don is highly trained in building, exploring, and (safely) destroying things with science. He also has the coolest safety goggles money can buy.

Okay, folks, I have to admit it: I’m really excited for The Children’s Museum’s Curious Scientific Investigators STEM Camp coming up in a few weeks. Granted, I am biased because I’m the one that’ll be leading the campers through all sorts of awesome experiments and activities (and some of them are some of my favorites). But seriously, it’s going to be all kinds of fun.

Let’s back up a bit, though, just in case some of you out there aren’t familiar with STEM. STEM is simply an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Like the science of chemical reactions. Or nanotechnology. Or engineering your very own robots and learning to program their brains. And to those of you who say math is boring, I say “Pshaw.” Math is awesome. Especially when it’s ancient Chinese math. That you unearthed during an archaeological dig.

Yes, we’ll be doing all of those things and more during this year’s STEM Camp. And unlike pretty much every other summer camp in town (okay, definitely every other summer camp in town), this one happens at the biggest and best children’s museum in the world. What does that mean for our campers? Well, not only will you get to participate in all sorts of great science activities, but you’ll get to explore our extraordinary exhibits—and maybe even go behind the scenes! I’ve already scheduled special visits and programs for the campers, including a custom Planetarium show. You (yes you, the campers) will get to direct the show and I will merely be your puppet as you tell me where in the universe to fly to next. 

Other stuff you’ll be doing:
•    Meeting and working with Dr. David Wolf, former astronaut and The Children’s Museum’s Extraordinary-Scientist-in-Residence
•    Exploring items from the museum’s huge collection
•    Engineering new chemical compounds
•    Making a mock digestive tract to explore just how poop is made
•    Hanging out with probably the coolest guy in Indianapolis (that would be me)

So if you don’t sign up you’ll be missing some unbelievably great stuff. I’m personally assuring that STEM camp will be as fun as possible, because I love science and I want you to love science as much as I do. Sometimes folks think science is boring. Perish the thought! Science can be more fun than just about anything else out there, and it’s such a wonderful, useful, powerful way to look at and think about the world. It gives us insight into the entire universe, from the very tiny to the unbelievably huge, and we’ll be looking at those and everything in between for a whole week.

Just sign up for STEM Camp 2014, from June 23rd to June 27th, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Saturday Science: Eggshell Sidewalk Chalk

Saturday Science Eggshell Sidewalk Chalk

Did you make omelettes, scrambled eggs or maybe a frittata for your family’s Saturday morning breakfast? Don’t throw away those eggshells! Use them for this week’s Saturday Science experiment, courtesy of Almost Unschoolers

Materials

  • Eggshells
  • A clean rock 
  • Hot water 
  • Flour 
  • Food coloring 
  • Mixing bowl 
  • Mixing spoon
  • Paper towels (or paper napkins) 

        
Process

  1. Wash out the eggshells and allow them to dry completely. 
  2. Use a clean rock (or mortar and pestle) to smash the eggshells into a fine powder.
  3. For each piece of chalk, add one spoonful of eggshell powder, one teaspoon hot water, one teaspoon flour and a few drops of food coloring to your mixing bowl and mix ingredients together. 
  4. Pour chalk paste onto a paper towel and roll it so that it is the shape of a long piece of chalk. 
  5. Let dry for at least three days. 
  6. Peel the napkin or paper towel off of your chalk. 
  7. Take your chalk outside and start drawing! (Note: To prevent scratches, do not use this chalk on a chalkboard.) 

Results
Did your eggshell sidewalk chalk allow you to draw beautiful sidewalk pictures just like the chalk that can be bought in a store? 

Store-bought sidewalk chalk is made from a combination of calcium carbonate, gypsum, silica, phosphorus, iron, alumina, phosphorus, sulfur, manganese, copper, titanium, sodium oxide, fluorine, strontium and arsenic. Its main ingredient, however, is calcium carbonate – a form of limestone. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is the chemical that lets us draw on the sidewalk with a piece of chalk.

Do you know what else contains calcium carbonate? Eggshells! This makes them a great alternative to store-bought chalk. 

 

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

 

Meet Our Artist in Residence—Linda S. Cannon

Sumi painting

Linda S. Cannon is The Children’s Museum Playscape artist-in-residence. She is a professional artist who creates work in pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, and oil. Linda visits The Children’s Museum twice a month to share her artwork and lead fun art projects for children ages 0-5 and their families. 


Artists are dreamers. They are imaginative. Ideas come for paintings, writings, art activities at the most unexpected times. So as they come, I write them down. Every month this includes a new Arttails. ArtTails tell the ongoing stories of art puppet, Monet Mouse, and includes art activities and an art recipe; an artventure to try.

Artists are observers. They notice things. Perhaps the curve of a cat’s outline as it basks in a sunny window. The shape, texture, light, color and movement as maple leaves dance about in the wind. Look closely. What do you see? 

Artists are story tellers. They communicate with you through their art. It could be the mystery in the shadows at night or the freshness and invitation found in a new day. Expressive . . .still . . . art awakens an emotion in you. What does it mean?  How do you feel?  

Linda CannonUsually I am drawing and painting in my studio, but every month—the third Thursday and fourth Saturday—I also visit the Children’s Museum Playscape Art Studio to share artventures with the children and families in that studio. I bring one of my works of art and Monet Mouse. Occasionally a puppet friend of his accompanies us. Monet Mouse and I demonstrate, welcome, and interact with those that visit.

With the Playscape team, we explore something new from the world of visual art. So far this year we are discovering art and nature. Every artist has his or her own special way of creating art, so individual works are created to take home and a community piece is enjoyed cooperatively—all with artist, Mrs. Linda, and art mouse. An ArtTails to reinforce the experience goes home with each family. What a treat, at Playscape we cook up some art in the most fun, imaginative and memorable ways. Join us and come back again and again!

You can download your own ArtTails newsletter on Linda's website

Take Me There: China Top 10—Music and Arts

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

Throughout Take Me There: China your family will find opportunities to experience Chinese art and music as you participate in performances, discover authentic art and music, and learn about the history and tradition of the Chinese arts. Many of the art and music-related experiences can be found in and around the Tea House, with other activities—including the seasonal shadow puppet cultural immersion program— taking place in People's Park.

Jenny Guhzeng

Music in Take Me There: China

Try your hand at playing traditional authentic Chinese instruments like drums and bells, or strum a guzhong or a pipa. Traditional Chinese musical instruments are highly valued, collected, and played, even today. On an iPad, your family can watch and listen to clips of traditional music played on the pipa, compared to an American stringed instrument, the banjo. Our teacher-in-residence will also perform on traditional instruments and share about Chinese music with your family. 

Discover Chinese arts such as silk embroidery, painting, shadow puppets, jade carving, and fine porcelain. Just outside the Tea House, look for cases with fine examples of traditional and contemporary Chinese jade and ceramic art objects. In China, jade (“yu”) has long been prized for its color, transparency, and texture. Jade carving and the crafting of fine porcelain are both art forms that are still widely practiced today.

Other things to see and do:

  • Watch a video showing the art of Chinese shadow puppetry, as well as a segment of the story of Monkey King and the Jade Emperor. Look for the beautiful shadow puppets from our permanent collection on either side of the screen.
  • Practice Chinese painting, using similar tools as you take inspiration from an original, 19th century hand scroll featuring 100 children. Learn about Chinese art from the past and present through a display of traditional and modern scroll paintings. 
  • See examples of dragon robes embroidered with traditional symbols paired with contemporary silk dresses, blouses, and children’s clothing that incorporate similar motifs and colors. Touch a panel of real silk to feel the texture of the fabric.
     

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Take Me There: China Top 10—Family Homes

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

Meet four generations of the Wangs, a typical Chinese family from Fujian Province in China. Your family will see this area through the eyes of eleven-year-old Wang Yijie  (Jackie) as you explore his parents', grandparents’, and great-grandmother’s homes. Some of Jackie's family moved to larger cities for jobs, while others preferred to stay in the rural, seaside town where they grew up.

Like people around the world, the Wang parents and grandparents cherish their children and grandchildren. They also have high expectations for their children to work hard, be generous, and get an education to succeed.

Wang family couch

Couch Wang Family


Discover similarities between the lifestyles of Chinese children—like Jackie Wang—and western children. Jackie's father, Feng Wang, and his family have recently moved into a brand-new, multi-story apartment building. Take a seat in the living room and look through the family's scrapbooks, which include photos of daily life in Quanzhou. Watch the family's TV for a segment on kung fu and clips from the Wangs’ favorite TV shows. Peek into the family’s lucky fish tank to see Jackie’s “pet” fish and crab.

Practice your chopsticks skills in the Quanzhou home of Jackie's grandparents. Role play cooking fish, vegetables, and the soup noodles that Mrs.Wang is known for. Then serve the "food" at the dining room table and see how quickly you can pick up noodles or dumplings with chopsticks. In the living room, explore the tradition of the zodiac—Shengxiao—as you lift the flaps under bronze animal sculptures to find which animal represents your own birth year.

See the Ancestors’ Shrine in Jackie's great-grandmother's house and learn how the family traces their heritage over 100 generations. Respect for ancestors is a key cultural value exemplified by the shrine. Near the shrine, choose a Chinese given name for yourself from a list of common boys’ or girls’ names, then stamp the characters on a bookmark to take home. Many Chinese families have a tradition for conferring given names that might seem different than western traditions. 

Other things to see and do:

  • Sit down on Jackie's bed to hear Jackie talk about favorite things in his room. Bookshelves at the end of his bed hold family photos, books, and his stamp collections.
  • Scroll through an iPad on Jackie's bedroom desk that showcases a day in Jackie's life, including photo albums and short video clips.
  • Learn about Grandfather Wang’s hobby, penjing—the art of growing and training miniature trees and plants—and see faux trees and plants similar to Mr. Wang’s creations. 
  • Sit on the bed in Jackie's grandmother's house to hear Jackie tell a story about his great-grandmother’s life—a tale of hard work, perseverance, and devotion to family.
  • See pieces from the Museum’s collection of infant hats, bibs, and shoes—just the kind of clothing that parents and grandparents like to save as mementos. The clothing includes examples of common Chinese themes and symbols, such as dragons, bats, fish, or tigers.

 

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

 

Shrine

Take Me There: China Top 10—People's Park

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

In People's Park, your family can experience how Chinese people and communities come together in public parks to socialize, play games, practice Tai’ Chi, or listen to music. With the Shaolin Temple as your backdrop and the leafy branches of the People's Park tree overhead, your family can gather in this central space within Take Me There: China for immersive experiences as well as casual activities like Chinese games!

People's Park
People's Park in Beijing, China.

People's Park
People's Park in Take Me There: China.

Try your hand at playing a traditional Chinese instrument. Explore the difference between traditional Chinese and Western music by playing an authentic traditional Chinese stringed instrument, such as a guzheng (a 21-stringed mandolin) or a pipa (a four-stringed Chinese lute). Hear staff demonstrate Chinese (pentatonic) and Western (heptatonic) scales as they remove notes from a glockenspiel. Understanding traditional Chinese music and its use of the pentatonic scale show the importance placed upon harmony in Chinese society.

Play Chinese games in the park. While in People's Park, your family will see and play authentic Chinese games, while also hearing stories about how different generations use public parks in China. Games include Chinese checkers, Mah Jong, Tai-chi ball, sun dia (Chinese yo-yo), and Jian-zi (feathered hacky sack).

Immerse yourself in People's Park. Through a series of Cultural Immersion Programs, your family will be introduced to Chinese culture while learning about the similarities and differences in how people live. These immersive programs rotate throughout the year to provide new experiences depending on the season. 

  • Shaolin Kung fu (May–Aug.): In the Shaolin Temple your family will be introduced to the meanings and movements of Shaolin Kung fu martial arts. Practice the fundamental movements of Shaolin Kung-fu and learn basic Kung fu excercises that you can then show off with music outside the Temple.
  • Chinese Shadow Puppets (Sept.–Dec.): Explore how Chinese shadow puppets operate and receive a behind the scenes look at some of the puppeteer’s illusions. Then, with lights dimmed, perform in People's Park for the whole gallery to see and enjoy!
  • Chinese New Year (Jan.–Apr.):Count down from ten as theChinese New Year Gala plays on televisions in the family homes. Then celebrate the Chinese New Year with a traditional dragon dance as everyone participates by parading with the dragon through People's Park. 
     

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Kung fu

Why Do Indy 500 Winners Drink Milk?

Never Stop Asking Why Indy 500 Imagine! You are a renowned Indy Car driver, and it’s Memorial Day weekend. You’ve driven 199 laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval. You’re on lap 200. More than 250,000 race fans are hootin’ and hollerin’ as you speed past them. Thirty-two cars are behind you. The pagoda is in sight. You see the black and white checkered flags waving through the hot, sticky air. You cross the Yard of Bricks. You’ve won! You’ve won the greatest spectacle in racing! You’ve won Indianapolis 500! Here comes the milk …

 

The milk? We answer the question “Why do Indy 500 winners drink milk?” with help from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

The beginning of this tradition dates back to the 1933 winner of the Indianapolis 500, Louis Meyer. Just like you or I might drink a glass of cold water, Gatorade or lemonade on a hot day, Meyer regularly drank buttermilk to refresh himself. When the three-time champion won his first race in 1933, he drank a glass of buttermilk out of habit.

 

When Meyer won his second race in 1936, he asked for a glass of milk again, but instead was handed a bottle. The next morning, an executive at the former Milk Foundation saw a photo of Meyer and his bottle of milk in the sports section of the newspaper. He decided to make sure the moment happened again upon the completion of future races.   

 

This tradition continued for 10 years until 1947, when milk was no longer offered, but the practice was revived in 1956 and has been a tradition ever since.

 

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

Saturday Science: Test Track

Saturday Science: Test Track Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

 

In celebration of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, we’re putting top speeds to the test with help from education.com. In this week’s Saturday Science, discover which surface will make your remote-controlled toy car go faster.  

 

3 … 2 … 1 … the green flag means GO!

 

Materials:

  • Remote-controlled toy car (or small toy car)

  • Sandpaper

  • Gravel (or pea gravel if using a small toy car)  

  • Concrete (or other hard, flat and dry surface)

  • Pencil

  • Notebook

  • Measuring tape

  • Stopwatch

  • Masking tape

  • Parent or friend

 

Process:    

  1. Build your race track! Use your measuring tape to measure out a track that is at least five feet long and two feet wide. The track can be indoor or outdoor, but it needs to be on an area that is hard, flat and dry. (If you do not have a remote-controlled car on hand, you can make the track smaller so that it is the right size for a smaller toy car.)

  2. Make your start and finish line! Stick pieces of tape at the beginning and end of your track.

  3. Race your car! Lay sandpaper down on the track and place your toy car at the starting line. Have a parent or friend time your car with a stopwatch. Use the remote control to race your car to the finish line. When your car crosses the finish line, your parents or friend should stop the stopwatch. Record that time in your notebook.

  4. Now remove the sandpaper and fill the track with gravel (or pea gravel). Repeat step three.

  5. Now clear the track and repeat step three.

  6. Study your race times.

        

Results:

Other than a car's engine and horsepower, its speed is determined by the friction between its wheels and the road.

 

On which track did your car drive the fastest? Rub your finger on each surface. Which one is the smoothest? Which ones make it more difficult to keep your finger moving forward? This friction between your finger and each surface is the same friction that happened between your car’s wheels and each surface. When you drove your car on the clear track, its wheels were met with little resistance. That allowed your car to be faster than it was on the tracks with the sandpaper and gravel.

 

This also explains why the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a smooth surface. On race day, all 33 drivers are hoping to drive their Indy cars as fast as they can! Vroom, vroom!

 

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

 

Take Me There: China Top 10—Tea House

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

In the Tea House, your family can explore the Chinese art of brewing and serving tea (Gong Fu). Gong Fu reflects notions of hospitality and beauty, as well as physical and spiritual health. Tea drinking originated in China thousands of years ago, and tea is still the most popular beverage in China.

Tea House China
A tea house in Beijing, China.

Tea House
The tea house in Take Me There: China.

Take a seat around a tea table and role play serving tea with the help of a video demonstration. See examples from a seasonal tea service, which typically includes a specific kind of tea, teapot, cup, and appropriate flowers or foliage. Teapots and cups come in many different shapes and sizes for use with specific teas. The design and decoration of teaware reflects values such as balance, beauty, and aesthetics.  

Discover six categories of Chinese tea, based on color and processing techniques. Learn about the six basic categories of tea (white, green, yellow, oolong, red, and black). Each type of tea demands its own tea set; six special tea sets, one for each type of tea, are on display. Your family can also look at photos of the tea harvesting, read about the processing techniques associated with each kind of tea, and see tea leaves in many different shapes and colors. 

 

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Take Me There: China Top 10—Calligraphy Shop

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

Within the Marketplace in Take Me There: China, your family can enter a recreated calligraphy shop and explore the art and traditions of Chinese calligraphy. Calligraphy is a traditional art form that is revered in China. Chinese people speak in many different dialects, but write in just one language.

Jackie Calligraphy

Teacher in Residence Calligraphy

Try your hand at calligraphy using authentic tools. Using a real brush and practice paper, paint different strokes freehand or follow a template. It takes skill, practice, and patience to learn how to draw the Chinese characters. To help you get started, a video of a local calligrapher will provide instructions for holding and manipulating the brush. 

Try stamping different Chinese symbols with real carved chops. Chops are like rubber stamps—Chinese calligraphers and artists use them to sign their work by pressing them into ink, then stamping the paper. In the Calligraphy Shop your family can experiment with sample chops using red ink.

Other things to see and do: 

  • Be inspired by examples of beautiful calligraphy on display on the shop walls, along with traditional supplies, such as ink stones and sticks, brushes, and rice paper. 
  • Over in the People’s Park/Tea Shop area, your family can take part in a Dishu program, using large, foam-tipped brushes to trace characters in water on the slate pavement.
  • Meet our Teachers in Residence! Teachers from the Confucius Institute will offer regularly scheduled, facilitated programs in the shop, answer questions, and provide additional information about calligraphy.

 

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

 

Dishu brushes

Saturday Science: Invisible Mystery Writing

Mystery Writing

Take Me There: China Top 10—Food Market

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

Within the Marketplace section of Take Me There: China, your family can explore a Chinese Food Market. Some produce in the Chinese market might look familiar, while others might look different.

Food Market
A food market in Chengdu, China.

Food Market
The food market in Take Me There: China.

Explore what kind of fruits, vegetables, and other foods look the same or different to those we have in Indiana. The farming industry in China produces a tremendous variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some popular Chinese items, like bok choy, are becoming familiar to American diets; others, like bitter melon, are less common here. On the shelves along the wall, you may spot canned and packaged goods and snack products that might look familiar or different than what you see in American stores.

Role play buying, selling, or stocking faux foods in a recreated food market. The cash register has keys numbered in both English and Chinese, and features Chinese money within the drawer.​ The fruit and vegetable displays will encourage families to sort and compare. Traditionally, Chinese families like to shop for fresh vegetables and fruits daily. Many Chinese enjoy quick snack foods, either from the market or from street vendors. 

 

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Why Do I Have Curly Hair?

Never Stop Asking Why: Why do I have curly hair?Genetics, shampoo, weather … who is to thank for all of your curls? While many factors play into your good and bad hair days, you can thank physics (and your parents) for your natural curly locks. We explain why physics plays a part in how your hair falls with help from TIME.

 

In an effort to determine how and why steel pipes get wrapped around things, a group of MIT researchers also found an explanation of what causes hair to curl.

 

It’s no secret that the longer your hair grows, the more weight each strand places on the bottom of the hair shaft. This weight often causes the hair to topple over itself – or become curly.

 

According to TIME, straight hair lays flat and moves in just two dimensions, front to back and side to side. The researches call this a 2-D hook. If you have curly hair and it is short, each strand forms what the researchers call a 3-D local helix. It grows up and down, swoops in at angles, and doubles back on itself. If you have curly hair and you let it grow toward or past your shoulders, it is called a 3-D global helix because the hairs behavior becomes even more complex.

 

But a 3-D helix isn’t your hair’s only curly variable. Thickness, stiffness and weight of each strand, as well as the number of hairs per square inch, also play a role in determining the look and texture of your hair.

 

When the researches reduced all of these variables to algorithms, they found that their models could predict the behavior of any strand. Your locks curl based on the shape, thickness, stiffness, weight and the strands’ proximity to each other, and by tweaking any of these variables, your hair may fall in a completely different way.  

 

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

 

Take Me There: China Top 10—Medicine Shop

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

What do Chinese families do when someone is sick?  Or what do they do for preventative care?  In the Marketplace section of Take Me There: China, your family can learn how modern-day Chinese use traditional Asian medicine and treatments, such as acupuncture and herbal remedies, combined with western-style medicine, including familiar over-the-counter items such as aspirin.

Medicine Shop
A specific medicine shop in Chicago's Chinatown inspired the museum's recreation.

Medicine Shop TMT: China
The Medicine Shop in Take Me There: China.

See the amazing array of safe plant materials used in Asian medicine. At a computer touch table, your family can diagnose and prescribe a treatment for common ailments by guessing key ingredients. Try taking turns role-playing patient or herbalist.   

Discover traditional Chinese acupuncture, the system of balancing one’s chi (life energy) using a map of unseen connections, called meridians, throughout the body. Experiment with touching different points on the hand map to see what part of the body those points affect.

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Take Me There: China Top 10—The Restaurant

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

Inside the Restaurant in Take Me There: China, your family can role play as chef, server, or customer in this recreation of a restaurant in Chengdu, China. Restaurant food is served on a communal turntable in the center of each table, allowing guests to select small amounts of food from many dishes. Learn about the importance of cooking, presenting, and eating food in Chinese culture.

Chengdu Restaurant
A restaurant in Chengdu, China.

Restaurant Take Me There
The Restaurant in Take Me There: China.

Explore Chinese cuisine, including cooking, plating, serving, and eating (faux) food. The sights and sounds of a working kitchen will greet you as you try steaming or stir frying at cooktops. Pots can be stirred, steamers stacked, and tea brewed while servers send in orders. Chefs can select from faux food ingredients such as noodles, fish, and vegetables. Servers or chefs can plate the food to match photos of traditional Chinese dishes.

Role play taking orders, serving customers, and “ringing up” at a cash register. Menus are printed with Mandarin characters and English translations, including basic information about Chinese cuisines along with photos of plated menu items. Your family can practice using chopsticks as you pick up the “food” from the central turntable. 

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Take Me There: China Top 10—Opera House

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

In the Arts section of Take Me There: China, you can go "backstage" at the Opera and explore the secrets behind Chinese opera costumes, makeup, and Biàn Liǎn mask-changing. Chinese opera is a popular form of drama and musical theater; it is also a traditional performance art that features music, stories, make-up, and costumes that look and sound uniquely Chinese. 

Opera Performance China

Opera China Exhibit

 

Find yourself “backstage” at the Guangzhou Opera.  This immersive area includes a stage featuring real opera costumes that highlight the ornate and brightly colored characters that are the focus of Chinese opera stories. Opera costumes sized for both children and adults provide opportunity for dress-up and pretend play as you imagine taking the stage at Guangzhou!

Uncover the mysteries of mask-changing. Mask-changing, known as Biàn Liǎn, is a Chinese cultural treasure, its secrets tightly guarded by its performers! Watch a video showing the incredible speed and skill of Biàn Liǎn performers, then try mask-changing for yourself with a hydraulic-powered photo opportunity.

Other things to see and do:

  • An interactive display of costumed dolls introduces several of the most famous characters from Chinese operas. Turning the wheel and rotate four characters into view as you learn about their roles in popular Chinese dramas.
  • Apply virtual opera makeup to your own photo, transforming yourself into one of five famous opera characters, then email the photo to friends and family.

 

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Why Do We Sneeze?

Why do we sneeze? Ah-ah-ah-choo!

 

Spring is in the air … and if you’re an allergy sufferer, than the fresh pollen probably has you sneezing and itching. Have you ever wondered why this season has you continuously reaching for the tissue box? We answer the question “Why do we sneeze?” with help from The Washington Post.

 

Oxygen isn’t the only thing you’re breathing in through your nose each day. You’re also getting whiffs of microscopic dust, mold and germs. To protect the body from these tiny particles, your nose is lined with small hairs, mucus-producing glands and hairlike microscopic structures called cilia.

 

When a foreign particle irritates the inner part of your nose, a signal is sent to your brain, and your brain tells your body to pull back your head, take a deep breath, contract the muscles in your chest, throat and abdomen and … and … ah … CHOO! Air and water droplets come blowing out of your nose at about 100 miles per hour! According to The Washington Post, “that is faster than a cheetah chasing down a gazelle on the African savanna.”

 

Gesundheit! And don’t forget to use your tissue!

 

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

 

Take Me There: China Top 10—Panda Research Center

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

In the Environment section of Take Me There: China, your family will learn about the important, ongoing work at Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Station as you explore a recreation of the Panda Nursery and observe pandas in their enclosures. The Chinese are studying pandas and working hard to increase the number of animals in captivity. They're quite proud of their “national treasures.”

Chengdu Panda eating 

Panda in Exhibit

Role play the job of a panda keeper in the Panda Nursery. Carry a stuffed panda over to one of the two check-up stations to weigh or measure it, listen to the heartbeat or take a temperature. At nearby incubators, keepers can place pandas inside and learn how newborns must always be kept warm. Keepers can also take the panda to a feeding station, where baby bottles with "formula" and leaf-eater "biscuits" will be available to feed the cubs, as well as pretend play apples and bananas. Examine real x-ray images of pandas’ special adaptations (a wrist bone that is used as a thumb) and compare it with x-rays of human hands.

See how pandas are trained at Chengdu. Keepers enrich the pandas’ daily schedule with toys and feeding challenges to keep the bears active and alert. Observe two young pretend bears (six to 18 months) who are posed with typical training materials like a slide and feeding balls. The other enclosure features an adult bear eating bamboo. Learn facts about pandas, hear panda sounds, and find out about the various duties of panda keepers through an interactive computer program.

Other things to see and do:

  • Photos will feature new pandas born at Chengdu, as well as other pandas born at zoos around the world, such as Lun Lun and her twin cubs at Zoo Atlanta, a partner of the Chengdu Center.
  • Video clips will highlight panda check-ups, moms and cubs cuddling, panda cubs in incubators, and panda's enjoying outdoor enrichment activities.
  • An artifact case displays a range of Chinese objects featuring pandas, showing how incredibly popular Pandas are in China.

 

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Panda Research Center

Panda Incubator

Saturday Science: Coiled Clay Creation

For nearly 40 years, more than 700,000 laborers constructed 8,000 life-size clay soldiers for China’s first emperor. Starting today, you and your family can come face to face with the Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army

But don’t let the Terra Cotta Warrior fun end when you leave the museum! In this week’s Saturday Science from eHow, bring the creativity of The Emperor's Painted Army to your home by sculpting your own clay creation.

Saturday Science: Coiled Clay Creation

Materials

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Salt 
  • Mixing bowl 
  • Wax paper
  • Baking and/or craft supplies (optional) 
  • Acrylic paint (optional) 
  • Polyurethane (optional) 
  • Baking sheet 
  • Aluminum foil      

Process 

  1. In a mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to completely stir together 2 parts flour and 1 part water and salt. 
  2. Roll wax paper out on your surface and place dough on wax paper. 
  3. Use your hands and imagination to create a clay sculpture. 
  4. What’s in your pantry and/or craft room? Inspire your kiddos’ creativity by letting them use baking items and craft supplies you have on hand to make their sculptures one of a kind. Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes or food coloring to transform the pale yellow dough into fun colors. Add sprinkles and/or glitter to make your sculpture sparkle or mica powder to make the dough shine. When you’ve finished molding your dough, you can also use any type of acrylic paint to add an extra element of design, just like The Emperor’s Painted Army. 
  5. Place your clay creation on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Cook for 3 hours in a preheated oven set to 200 degrees. 
  6. If you painted your creation, coat it in polyurethane to protect the color and prevent mold.
  7. Keep a close eye on your creation so it doesn’t burn. 
  8. Carefully remove your clay creation from the oven, and let it cool completely. 
  9. Set your clay creation in a special place so you can enjoy it every day! 

            
Summary
What does your clay creation look like? 

Experts estimate that there are more than 8,000 soldiers that make up the Terra Cotta Warriors, as well as 130 chariots and 670 horses. What is even more amazing than the sheer size of the army is that every soldier is unique. No two soldiers are alike, and each has unique and realistic features. 

Like the soldiers, your clay creation is also unique. Keep it in a safe place so you can treasure it and always remember your experience at Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army. 

 

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

 

Creating Take Me There: China

Finishing TouchesA version of this article first appeared in the Indianapolis Star on April 13, 2014. 

Ní hăo! It’s time to learn to say “hello” in Mandarin—China is coming to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in the new exhibit Take Me There:® China, starting May 10! 

Opening in tandem with China’s Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, Take Me There: China will be the second in the museum’s series exploring modern life in a single world culture. The series began with Take Me There: Egypt, which ran from 2009 to 2013; the Take Me There gallery is scheduled to change cultures approximately every four years.

An Authentic Experience
Over the past several years, the museum has sent teams of people to China to study customs, culture, and modern society and also to collect artifacts and shoot photos and video. The result is an immersive exhibit that offers an experience of modern China with its time-honored traditions and modern innovations. 

To explore changes affecting Chinese society, the museum worked with a single family. An 11-year old boy named Jackie serves as a guide on a journey from his great grandmother’s traditional rural home to his grandparents’ newer suburban home to his parents’ modern urban apartment. “It’s a chance to see how family life and living circumstances have changed as Chinese society has changed over the course of four generations,” said Charity Counts, the museum’s associate vice
president of exhibits.

To examine environmental issues facing China, the museum turned to pandas, the country’s most enduring and endearing symbol. Visitors will find a re-creation of the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, home to China’s panda conservation efforts. Children and families can also explore a tea house, marketplace, calligraphy shop, food market, and much more. For more details, see behind the scenes photos on the Pinterest board.

A Community Effort
Many advisors and partners, both in the U.S. and internationally, consulted on this exhibit including the Indianapolis Hangzhou Sister Cities Committee, The Confucius Institute, the Indiana Association of Chinese Americans, Lilly Chinese Culture Network, The America China Society of Indiana, and The Indianapolis Chinese Community Center, Inc.

In addition to these organizations, more than 10,000 Chinese and Chinese Americans call Indianapolis home, and some will be serving as gallery volunteers, performers, and language and calligraphy teachers during Take Me There: China’s run.

Join us for our Opening Day Celebration on May 10, and be sure to buy your tickets for Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army (May 10–Nov. 2).

 

Take Me There: China is made possible by lead gifts from Lilly Endowment, Inc., Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, The Lilly Family, Mrs. Yvonne Shaheen, Sarah and John Lechleiter, the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, Jane and Steve Marmon, Susan and Jim Naus, and Polly Hix.