About Allison

After volunteering at HMNS since 1993, Allison joined HMNS full time in 2003. Her current job responsibilities include curating the education collections and keeping the summer camp classrooms stocked with materials, facilitating Education special events, and coordinating the Museum's overnight program. In her "spare time" she volunteers with the Junior League of Houston and spends her time in artistic pursuits.

My year of Museum Membership with a Young child

I’ve been a Houston Museum of Natural Science Member for a long time, a very long time—in fact, I started as a summer camper and field trip student way back in the 1980’s when the Museum was half its current size and still the most amazing place in the world to me. I’m so privileged to work here and enjoy the treasures we display here on a daily basis. The most amazing thing for me now is to bring my three-year-old son here and experience the Museum through his eyes.

I tallied the pricing for all of our activities and compared it to the public pricing at the end of this blog—you simply won’t believe the value of an HMNS Membership! Even I was surprised at our savings!

So here is a snapshot of our last 14 months at the Museum—and the very best thing is no matter what, we are guaranteed a nap on the way home after we leave!

April 2015 – We visited the Cockrell Butterfly Center and Brown Hall of Entomology. We followed the trip to see the butterflies and insects with a look at the garden outside of the center and the amazing kugel ball that the bigger kids shoved easily but was pretty tough for a little guy. (Member total $8, Public total $17)

image 1 April 2015
May 2015 – We started with a trip to see the dinosaurs in the Morian Hall of Paleontology, followed by animals in the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife. The picture panels really helped us identify what we were looking at in the wildlife hall! (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 2 May 2015
June 2015 –We went back to see the dinosaurs in the Morian Hall of Paleontology, and then took a quick trip through the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals before lunchtime. I think our favorite item was the large amethyst – it looked like a little house to our boy. (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 3 June 2015

July 2015Shark! A $5 experience where we got to see a giant shark model and touch a live shark! Our friends who were visiting with us were willing, but my son preferred to watch the shark instead. We took another trip to say a quick hello to the big dinosaurs before stopping to watch the Herzstein Foucault Pendulum, which is a lot more entertaining than you’d think for a young child – easily 30 minutes if I don’t say “let’s go!” (Member total $15, Public total $80)

image 5 July 2015

August 2015Hamman Hall of Coastal Ecology and a trip up the “Spiral Mountain” at the Centennial Gardens across the street. (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 6 August 2015 centenial
September 2015 – I invited my niece to meet us at the Cockrell Butterfly Center. In the kids’ area of the center, the kids had so much fun playing the pollinator game and “feeding the flowers” blocks of the correct shape. We also had to visit the dinosaurs! (Member total $12, Public total $91)

image 7 September 2015
October 2015 – With Halloween approaching, we wanted to see skeletons and some bugs, so we headed to the Morian Hall of Paleontology to see the trilobites and dinosaurs. We also paid a visit to the live animal room window in the basement of the Museum where the Youth Education programming animals are cared for. The animal room window is available for viewing to all visitors with general Museum admission and features several tanks on display, including some containing the more dangerous animals. For identification, there are cards with information about the different animals, and sometimes you can sneak a peak of the caretakers for a “behind the scenes” feel. (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 8 October 2015

November 2015 – After weeks of *practicing* building at home with our blocks, we were ready to check out Block Party at the Museum. This was a great activity when school was out for the Thanksgiving holiday. Unlimited building for a $5 add on for builders – yes please! (Member total $15, Public total $80)

image 9 November 2015

December 2015 – Seeing the holiday trees and building in Block Party was a great way to catch up over the holidays with the friends we missed from the school’s playground. We met at 9 a.m. by the holiday trees to check out the decorations before the crowds arrived. I also made a point of stopping to buy two gift Memberships for some folks I knew who would love spending some time at HMNS—plus I got two BONUS months (one for each gift) added to my Membership! (Member total $15, Public total $80)

image 10 December 2015
January 2016 – This visit happened fall on the day of the annual Educator Event at HMNS. The Educator Event is for teachers, but there are always extra activities going on in the Grand Hall. As we walked in, I was even able to grab a few bits of information that I thought my son’s school would be interested in. Afterwards, we visited the “vintage” Texas wildlife dioramas in the lower level and said a quick hello to our live friends in the animal room window. We then headed to the Welch Chemistry Hall to take the slime polymers for a spin. Our trip was capped off with a mini-safari through the Frensley/Graham Hall of African Wildlife. We loved finding the butterflies in the cases with the big African animals! (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 11 January 2016
February 2016 – We visited twice in February to attend two events that we wanted to check out. Girls Exploring Math and Science is an amazing event for kids and adults (both girls AND boys). The Grand Hall is lined with community partners offering a variety of hands-on activities. Students also presented science and math concepts at their own booths, and it was really fun to see how they were able to engage my three-year-old and explain topics like magnetism, plant growth and circuits. They even demonstrated a working robot! I think the highlight of the day was the live demonstration in the Welch Chemistry Hall—I got such a kick out of watching the reactions on the faces of the audience—kids and adults are always surprised by fire and super cold liquid nitrogen!

image 12a February 2016 On February 26, we returned for World Trekkers: Peru, an early evening family event exclusively for Members. The Peruvian dancers were fun to watch, and we even learned a few words in Spanish! (GEMS is free with admission and World Trekkers is $7 per person, so for two visits, the Member total $14, Public total $401)

March 2016HMNS After Dark (extended hours until 9 p.m.) was the perfect opportunity to invite grandparents for a special grandson-led tour of the Museum. Without the daytime crowds, our guests had a chance to take their time and see the things that their grandson was excited to share with them. My son led us through paleontology and the Texas and African Wildlife halls, and everyone also enjoyed the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit. It was especially exciting to see that some of those amazing photos were taken by kids age 10 and under – and now their work is displayed in a museum! The highlight of the evening was racing coins in the coin vortex in the Grand Hall—it’s fun AND it’s a donation that supports the Museum’s educational programming. Put that spare change to work! (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 13 March 2016

April 2016Wildlife Photographer of the Year was an incredible display of award-winning photographs from the 2015 international contest of wildlife photographers, organized by the Natural History Museum in London. We stopped by these photos again because my son was so excited to name all of the animals that we’d seen on our last visit. And of course we made a trip to see our favorite dinosaurs and wildlife in the Morian Hall of Paleontology and the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife. (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 14 April 2016

May 2016 – At HMNS After Dark in May, we visited the new exhibition, Cabinet of Curiosities. My son absolutely loves the exhibit because he can open the drawers and even reach out and touch the objects (gently with a Museum “two-finger touch,” of course). The exhibit is a great opportunity to explore with children, and because there are no labels, parents have to get creative and start a dialog with kids about what you *think* something is. Often volunteers are available to answer questions but with THOUSANDS of objects it’s tough to know everything! (Member total $0, Public total $65)

image 15 May 2016
Fourteen months of Museum fun with my son cost me a total of $79 for tickets on top of my $115 Membership for a grand total of $194. The same experiences for visitors at the public rate would total $908! That’s a savings of $714!

Learn more about Membership online, or purchase a Family Membership today in our online store!

1The Public total in February does not include any cost for World Trekkers because this event is a Members’ Only exclusive event.


Science Hack Day Houston and what it means to you! Coming to HMNS April 5th & 6th

So you skipped signing up for Hack Day this year but you want to know more about it, or perhaps you’re just a visitor at HMNS for the day and wonder what “Science Hack Day” is all about. What will they be coming up with? What does it look like when a group of skilled, creative, scientific minds get together and “hack” for 24 hours!? Well, we encourage you to come and see it with your own eyes!

Science Hack Day Houston - Bightwork CoReasearch - HMNS 5Here’s the official website for Science Hack Day Houston: sciencehackdayhouston.com

A really unique feature of this Hack Day event is that, while visitors cannot just show up in the middle of the event and be a part of the hacking*, anyone can see the Hackers in Action in Glassell Hall during regular business hours on Saturday, April 5th until 1:37 on Sunday, April 6th and join us for the unveiling of their “hacks” at 2 p.m. on Sunday! Each group will have a few minutes to present what they came up with and you could very well be witnessing the first steps toward an amazing new product everyone will be wanting in 5 years or medical breakthroughs that change the face of healthcare!

So you might know the old saying, “When you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” Well, we are wondering what can be accomplished when we put many minds together!

Come join us for Hack Day and find out!

If you have to miss Hack Day but want to know more about independent research happening right here in Houston near the Museum District? Check out our Hack Day organizers, Brightwork Coresearch brightworkcoresearch.com

Follow HMNS on Twitter and Instagram and share your Science Hack Day Houston experience! Be sure to include #SHDHou #hackdayhou @hmns @scihackdayhou

*Applications were accepted through Brightwork co-research’s website to select participants with the best mix of skills and interests for a productive Hack Day.

Science Hack Day Houston - Brightwork CoResearch - HMNS 4

Science Hack Day Houston - Brightwork CoResearch - HMNS

Save The Date: GEMS on February 11, 2012!

We had a terrific time at the Girls Exploring Math and Science event last year on Saturday, February 19, 2011. The Museum was buzzing with lots of learning – songs about kinetic and potential energy, buzzing instruments made with straws, Popsicle sticks and rubber bands, and lots of “ah-hah” moments throughout the day!

We had a fabulous presenting sponsor in KBR and two of their engineers were our featured speakers, Rachel Amos and Elaine Jimenez. Rachel and Elaine shared with the GEMS attendees a bit about their careers in Mechanical Engineering with KBR, their education, some tips for aspiring young engineers and scientists, and even a little about what they loved about math and science as kids. Interactive booths were hosted throughout the building by students, girl scout troops and local organizations and companies – there was so much to learn everywhere you turned!

Girl Scout booths have just been accepted for GEMS 2012 and there are some exciting topics and new ideas I’m very excited to see.

We’re still accepting applications from School Groups for booths and if you’re just now considering hosting a booth with your friends or opening it up to your class for extra credit it’s time to get some brainstorming going!  

What is a topic you’d like to know more about? What have you recently learned that you would want to share with your peers?

Here are a few links to sites that might inspire you for your awesome GEMS booth! Applications for school booths can be found online here at the HMNS website.

The Library of Congress – Everyday Mysteries

PBS.org’s Zoom for kids  – this link is to the engineering section but they offer lots more if you click around

How Stuff Works – go ahead – ask how it works!

Penn State College of Agricultural Science – Food Science

Exploratorium.edu – so many cool things to explore!

I’m also including some fabulous outcomes provided by some of our super star 2011 presenters, the “Truth in Numbers” group and the Rice University Association for Women in Mathmatics both presented booths on the topic of statistics and asked visitors to participate in their experiments pulling samples and recording results!

We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for GEMS 2012!

Visitors were asked by the Rice University Association of Women in Mathmatics to open a funsize bag of M&M's candies and chart how many candies of each color were included.




GEMS (girls exploring math and science) at HMNS this Saturday!

This Saturday the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council are partnering to bring you the annual Girls Exploring Math and Science event at HMNS! The GEMS event is open to all ages and will begin at 9 a.m. and go until noon – there’s lots to see and do so I would recommend coming early!

Thanks to our fabulous presenting sponsor KBR we are able to offer the GEMS event free with HMNS general admission for the day!! That means this event is FREE for HMNS members and the regular price of $10 for children and $15 for adult non-members for the day. There’s no need to pre-register (unless you want to avoid the box office line on a Saturday morning) so we hope you’ll grab your family and head on over to HMNS for a little fun in learning with us this Saturday! Tickets are available online here.


We have a great line up of Girl Scout hosted booths who will be sharing lists of really fun science and math demonstrations and activities with visitors from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Two KBR engineers will share with us their passion for science and math and a little about how they use their skills in their job in the Mechanical Engineering Department at KBR here in Houston. Want to come up with some questions to ask our visiting Engineers about their jobs – check out this website to find out more about engineering.

Since 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry we are also including a Cool Chemistry program for GEMS participants. The Cool Chemistry program is presented by our Science on Stage presenter here at the Museum and will include exciting reactions, and liquid nitrogen demonstrations! Science on Stage can be booked to visit your school – for more information email sos@hmns.org.

5 senses

Don’t forget to visit our Community booths in the Grand Hall of the Museum during GEMS  – here’s the line up of this year’s community partners; KBR, The Houston Zoo, Swift Energy Corporation, Fisher Science EducationThe John C. Freeman Weather Museum, Downtown Aquarium, CB&I, MD Anderson, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Career Girls, Kinetic Energy, City of Houston Waterworks Education Center, Rice University Association for Women in Mathematics, The Center for Hearing and Speech, LyondellBasell and the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Astronomy and Robotics groups.

Can’t wait to see everyone here on Saturday morning!