HMNS in the Classroom: Amazing arthropods model for middle schoolers

Editor’s Note: This post was written by HMNS Outreach Presenter Sahil Patel.

Those expecting a typical runway show were in for a surprise; the models all had at least six legs, nobody was showing off the latest fall collection, and the paparazzi consisted of a group of art students at Johnston Middle School.

A student concentrates while sketching one of the eight legs on Peanut, the Costa Rican Curly Hair Tarantula. Peanut was very cooperative and stood still the whole day for the classes.

A student concentrates while sketching one of the eight legs on Peanut, the Costa Rican Curly Hair Tarantula. Peanut was very cooperative and stood still the whole day for the classes.

HMNS’ LyondellBasell Bugs On Wheels traveled to Christina Gutierrez Gonzalez’s art class October 1-2 to model for a group of talented middle school artists. Exotic specimens from the Cockrell Butterfly Center’s insect zoo spent the days playing muse as the students learned about the arthropods and practiced their sketching.

A student smiles while observing a Giant African Millipede attempt to escape its plexiglass enclosure. While it is just a little too small to get out right now, this millipede is expected to grow up to one foot long.

A student smiles while observing a Giant African Millipede attempt to escape its plexiglass enclosure. While it is just a little too small to get out right now, this millipede is expected to grow up to one foot long.

In February 2013, Gonzalez booked the TOTAL Wildlife On Wheels program for the same purpose, and after the presentation yielded fun and fantastic artwork, she decided to try it again, this time with bugs.

A student sketches a Giant Prickly Stick, who is just trying to blend in with his stick. This species of walking stick will curl its abdomen and mimic a scorpion if threatened.

A student sketches a Giant Prickly Stick, who is just trying to blend in with his stick. This species of walking stick will curl its abdomen and mimic a scorpion if threatened.

Many students got the chance to draw multiple of the five live and five once-living arthropods present.

HMNS Bugs on Wheels

A student colors in the wings of a Blue Morpho butterfly. While the butterfly’s upper wings are a brilliant, bright blue, the undersides are a darker brown with eye spots.

While the bugs lounged around, the students were hard at work, carefully drawing outlines in their sketchbooks and filling in gaps with pencils.

Two students draw the outline of Stewart, the Giant Long-Legged Katydid. This species of katydid may be the largest and loudest in the world, but they are herbivorous and very gentle; Stewart was a very good model!

Two students draw the outline of Stewart, the Giant Long-Legged Katydid. This species of katydid may be the largest and loudest in the world, but they are herbivorous and very gentle; Stewart was a very good model!

The event was a hit once again. One young man stopped the HMNS presenters as they left for the day and gave them a thumbs up, saying, “Thanks for the awesome sixth period!”

A student colors in the legs of Peanut with alternate bands of black and yellow. Peanut, like all arachnids, has eight legs and two main body segments.

A student colors in the legs of Peanut with alternate bands of black and yellow. Peanut, like all arachnids, has eight legs and two main body segments.

Bugs On Wheels and our other Outreach programs, such as TOTAL Wildlife On Wheels, ConocoPhillips Science On Stage, and Chevron Earth Science On Wheels, bring the wonders of the Houston Museum of Natural Science to you through hands-on and interactive presentations. For further information on these programs and more, visit our HMNS Outreach website or send us an email at outreach@hmns.org!

A student shows off his finished rendition of an Atlas Beetle behind the specimen itself. While its horns look scary, these beetles are not harmful to humans and are often kept as pets.

A student shows off his finished rendition of an Atlas Beetle behind the specimen itself. While its horns look scary, these beetles are not harmful to humans and are often kept as pets.

For more information on HMNS’ outreach programs, click here.

For more information on LyondellBasell Bugs on Wheels, click here.

About the author of this post:
Sahil has worked for HMNS in some capacity each summer since 2007 with the Moran Ecoteen Program and Xplorations Summer Camps. He quite literally grew up at the Museum; Sahil and his mom made biweekly trips at lunchtime until he started school at age 5, and he was a regular camper in Xplorations from ages 6-13. In 2014, he was hired full-time as Outreach Presenter, a job where his friends think he spends all day playing with alligators, tarantulas, and dinosaur fossils. He doesn’t like to contradict them.

14 Ways to Look Awesome for Halloween at Spirits & Skeletons Friday 10/31

Having trouble deciding on your costume for Spirits & Skeletons? I got you, bro.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNSHouston’s favorite Halloween party — the one and only Spirits & Skeletons — is back at HMNS! With the entire museum open you can shake your stuff with a stegosaurus, grab a drink with a skink and get spellbound by bewitching gems, all to live music and your favorite hits played by DJs with fantastic food trucks parked right outside.

Whether you go with scary and spooky or fab and kooky — dress up, party the night away at HMNS and we’ll put a spell on you!

 

Here are 14 costume ideas, perfect for Spirits & Skeletons:

1. HODOR: Because small talk is overrated

Benefits: You don’t even have to worry about making small talk, you can just say “Hodor” to everything. “What’s your name?”… Hodor.“What do you do?” … Hodor. Etc…

Spirits and Skeletons HMNSHow to be Hodor:

Step 1: Get taller. Unless you happen to be 6’10”, then move onto Step 2.
Step 2: Wear dark sweater/dress, scrappy scarf, dark pants, and leather bag – bonus points if you can find a Bran to be on your back  
Step 3: Put on your scruffy white wig
Step 4: Hodor!  

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

2. OLAF: Do you wanna build BE a snowman?

Benefits: Elsa is so overrated (seriously guys, let it go…)
Warning: Be prepared for some warm hugs.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be Olaf:

Step 1: Wear a white long-sleeved shirt and white pants
Step 2: Olaf is all about the accessories -glue on some black felt circles for the buttons, strap on a carrot nose, and black out your teeth with some gum wrappers for Olaf’s signature buck-tooth smile.
For a more hassle-free version, make your own Olaf hat – see above.
Step 3: Get Elsa to conjure up your own personal snow flurry.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

3. GUESS WHO: Is it me? Is it you? Who knows!? GUESS WHO!

Q: Do they wear an awesome costume?
A: Yes. Yes, they do.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be a “Guess Who” character:

Step 1: Make your frame with some cardboard, paint it, and write “Guess Who?” on the frame
Step 2: Find a colored shirt and paint a question mark on it
Step 3: Accessorize! Mustaches, large classes, funky eyebrows, get creative!
Step 4: Be prepared for many questions

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

4. STARLORD (PETER QUILL): Because “Starlord” is the coolest title ever 

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be called Starlord for the night?
For that extra touch: Add the cassette player

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be Starlord:

Step 1: Put on your get pumped music – Awesome Mix, Vol. 1
Step 2: Wear dark pants, a blue shirt, and your signature red leather jacket
Step 3: Clip on your cassette player and put on some headphones so you can groove to your awesome mix on the go.
Step 4: Remind everyone you meet that you go by Starlord, not Peter Quill. 

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

He’s probably making excuses to Yondu…

5. THE GOBLIN KING FROM LABYRINTH: Because, Bowie.

I can never decide if I hate this movie or if I love it. Either way this costume is awesome and this girl is my idol.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be The Goblin King:

Step 1: Find a fantastic Bowie wig, or style your own hair if you have skills.
Step 2: Wear the tightest pants you can find, a white pirate/musketeer-esque shirt, black vest, and some sassy boots
Step 3: Layer on some serious eyeliner/eyeshadow
Step 4: Do some sleight of hand tricks with your crystal ball, and you’re done!

People will be looking at your costume like…

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

6. CHER FROM CLUELESS: Um, like, who else would you want to be?!

Iggy reminded us that we have neglected Clueless for far too long, but no more!
Um…It’s a pink pen DUH. Like Cher would have a black/blue pen…

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be Cher:

Step 1: Find a blonde wig, unless you already have beautiful blonde locks
Step 2: Wear your best yellow plaid skirt suit (we all have at least one in our closet, right?), white socks, and black shoes
Step 3: Say the stupidest sounding, yet secretly most brilliant things ever

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

7. TAMAGOTCHI: What? You were thinking of being a goldfish? Pfftt

The best and worst toy of your childhood

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be a Tamagotchi:

Step 1: Wear whatever, it’s the next step that matters. 
Step 2: Cut out an egg shaped piece of cardboard and paste on squares/circles for the screen and buttons
Step 3: Cut out some string and secure it to your Tamagotchi board, creating your Tamagotchi necklace
Step 4: Beep every five seconds

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

8. PIXAR LAMP: Because everyone loves (Pixar) lamp

But really, this looks freaking awesome.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be the Pixar lamp:

Step 1: Wear all white (shoes too!)
Step 2: Find your own cone of shame and spray paint it white
Pin some white cloth midway down the tunnel to hide your face
Step 3:  Find a white piece of plastic/cardboard for your lamp base and secure it to your shoes.
Step 4: Hop around, stop, and stare, as demonstrated above by this fabulous person.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

9. ELLIOTT WITH E.T: In case you need to phone home

With this costume, you have a built in friend!

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be Elliot with ET:

Step 1: Wear jeans and a red hoodie (probably the most comfy costume of the bunch)
Step 2: Secure a basket with a rope/strap around your neck
Step 3: Find an ET doll/mask (a pug doll would do too) and wrap the head with white cloth
Step 4: Bike your way through the sky!…or drive to the party, either way is fine.

Now this is the science museum, so I had to include some costumes to bring out your inner geek. I’ll leave the designing to you.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

 

SCIENCE PUN COSTUMES: Because anyone who tells you all the good science puns Argon, is lying. 

10. DESIGNER GENES

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

11. PUMPKIN PI

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

12. IRON MAN

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

 

SCIENTIST COSTUMES: Don’t get mad, get brilliant 

You can’t talk about science costumes without mentioning Bill Nye & Ms. Frizzle.

13. BILL NYE: Because he’s THE Science Guy

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to be Bill Nye:

Step 1: Wear a white button-up, slacks, pale blue lab coat, and a classy red bow tie
Step 2: Comb your hair over to one side, nerd style
Step 3: Tell everyone that ‘Science Rules’

Remember that time Bill Nye was on DWTS? Yeah, me neither.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

14. THE FRIZ: Because everyone wants to be in Ms. Frizzle’s class

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to Be Ms. Frizzle:

Step 1: Wear a blue or yellow dress
Step 2: Glue science-y things on it – planets, stars, insects, rainbows, rocks. Whatever you decide to glue on, chances are she has worn it (seriously, Google her outfits, she be cray)
Step 3: Wear a red wig
Step 4: For the finishing touch, strap on your bffl, Liz.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

 

BONUS: Dress your pet! (Sorry, pets are not allowed at Spirits & Skeletons. This one’s gotta be for home only OR adapt it and wear it yourself!)

CHIA PET: Cha-cha-cha-CHIA!

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

How to transform your pet into a Chia Pet:

Step 1: Have a pet.
Step 2: Glue on some leaves/vines onto an old pet sweater
Step 3: Put your Chia sweater on your pet.
Step 4: CHA-CHA-CHA-CHIA!

Spirits and Skeletons HMNS

 

Next step? Strut your stuff in your awesome costume at Houston’s hottest Halloween party, Spirits & Skeletons,  Friday, October 31 at HMNS!

 

This post was written by HMNS Manager of Online Media Sheila George.

We’re gonna scare your pants off: Psycho and The Exorcist showing this month at HMNS

Take Two gets spooky this October with classic horror flicks showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre

We’re bringing “Hitch-y” Back: Psycho showing October 10
Come scream at Hitchcock’s most iconic film, Psycho, showing Friday October 10 at 7:00 p.m.

Obsessed with the Possessed: The Exorcist showing October 24
Relive the nightmarish film The Exorcist once again on the Giant Screen Friday October 24 at 7:00 p.m.

Want to know more about why we feel fear, what happens to the body when we’re afraid and we love horror movies? Check out the video below to learn about the chemistry of fear! Then don’t forget to come out for Psycho 10/10 and The Exorcist 10/24 at HMNS!

And for everyone still making their Halloween plans:

Houston’s favorite Halloween party — the one and only Spirits & Skeletons — is back at HMNS October 31! With the entire museum open you can shake your stuff with a stegosaurus, grab a drink with a skink and get spellbound by bewitching gems, all to live music and your favorite hits played by DJs with fantastic food trucks parked right outside.

Whether you go with scary and spooky or fab and kooky — dress up, party the night away at HMNS and we’ll put a spell on you!

And for everyone who identified with this meme:

 

We spotted this today:

Sweet dreams.

A Celebration and a Restoration: Ringing in 25 years at the George

This Friday we’re kicking off our celebrations in honor of the George Observatory’s 25th anniversary with a members event at the George! Leading up to this anniversary, we launched our S.O.S (Save Our ‘Scope) fundraising campaign to restore the mirror, and, thanks to your generous support, we reached our goal of $80,000 this past spring.

Optical Mechanics, Inc. has been working on our 36” mirror for several months now and in that time has made great progress as well as some surprising findings. The mirror is now 98% finished — but it’s the work for that final 2% that’s proving to be the most critical, taking the mirror from “good” to truly top notch! 

This 2% involves resolving issues with the mirror that are a direct result of the original grind on the mirror.

SOS

The technology used to grind the mirror originally, while cutting edge for the time, left the mirror susceptible to deterioration from imperfections. These imperfections, microscopic bubbles and fissures, allowed for tiny places where “gunk” could get in and stick. Once that formed, there was no way to get a coating to stick to the surface. We ran into this issue in 1994, when we re-coated the mirror, and in this case, we were eventually able to overcome the imperfections. However, this time around, it was absolutely time to regrind the surface and apply a new coating. 

If the ‘scope had been put in the desert or on top of a mountain with a very low amount of humidity, these imperfections may have never compromised the scope. However, both Louisiana and Houston are very high humidity locations. HMNS has owned the telescope and dome for 25 years now, however the mirror itself is 50 years, with LSU having owned the ‘scope for the first 25 years of its life. It has been a good scope for a very long time, for many people. We have always felt strong in our conviction that the ‘scope, like all of HMNS, should be available to everyone in the greater Houston area and Texas. We are close to people. 

The new technology being used to grind our mirror will give us a far superior mirror than it has ever been. We are so excited to get it home and to see the difference! 

That being said, the restoration process is behind where we had anticipated, but we’ve decided that this time is more than worth it to get the high quality we know we will receive if we do not rush this project.  

The mirror will be ready and delivered home as soon as possible this fall and we’ll update you when we know it’s on its way!

The process to grind the mirror is fascinating and time consuming. They grind a while, take the 500 lb. mirror off to check it and then grind the curved surface again and again. Ours is a hyperbola, which makes it even a bit more complicated than other types of telescope mirrors.

Here are some photos of how they carry the mirror and grind it:

George Observatory Mirror Grind 1

Here is how they transport the 500 lb. mirror. Notice the cleaned surface before they began grinding.

George Observatory Mirror Grind 2

This is the first test of the mirror when they received it in February. The lines are supposed to be straight which tells us that the original grind 50 years ago never quite got finished or perfected. It was a good telescope, but not nearly up to the full potential.

George Observatory Mirror Grind 3

First coarse grind. They grind for a period of time and then take it off, look at the surface with the lights and then grind more.

George Observatory Mirror Grind 4

Then they have a fine grinding after the coarse grind. It takes time, patience and almost an artistic ability to get it right.

George Observatory Mirror Grind 5

Latest Ronchi Focault test showing much straighter lines. We expect a slight curve around the center opening. The final figuring will make it even more perfect.

 

We will keep you posted and will let you know as soon as the mirror arrives home. Check HMNS.org and the George Observatory Facebook page for updates.