About Kat

Kat has been both the spokesperson for the CSI: The Experience exhibit and project manager for the Imperial Rome exhibit and has a love of all things historical and cultural. She is responsible for the Xplorations summer camp program, coordinating weekday labs during the school year, writing department curriculum and presenting at teacher trainings. Kat has worked at the Museum since 1996.

Educator How-To: Making the Moon out of Cheese (and Crackers!)

After months of renovation, the Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science will re-open March 11 with the best picture of the universe in the world! The Evans and Sutherland Digistar 5 digital projection system boasts the first True 8K image on the planet, with twice the resolution as an IMAX theater. The powerful digital software can zoom audiences to distant stars to see the universe from infinite perspectives, not just from the surface of the Earth. And with a tilted, seamless dome overhead and updated, comfortable seating below, the planetarium will be a must-see for Houston residents and visitors from literally anywhere.

But while it’s closed, life goes on, and without the incredible demonstration available at the planetarium to show the phases of the moon, explaining the orbit of our only satellite to kids (and keeping their attentions) can be a difficult task. So for hungry minds and bellies, we’ve got something to tide you over until the doors to the planetarium open once again.

Teach your students about the phases of the moon with this awesome Solar System snacking activity! I created this lesson plan as an alternative to the Oreo™ phases of the moon activity that we think is so clever. This science snack is a healthier alternative and will satisfy hungry students without the sugar rush. Educator How-To: Making the Moon out of Cheese (and Crackers!)

Moon worksheet

Materials:

  • Ritz™ Crackers
  • American cheese slices
  • 1.5 inch round “cookie” cutter
  • Phases of the moon chart
  • Phases of the Moon worksheet
  • Markers
  • Waxed paper
  • Plastic knives

Educator How-To: Making the Moon out of Cheese (and Crackers!)

Moon phases

Procedure:

  1. Give each child a copy of the phases of the moon chart.  Go over the different phases, and consider using our Educator How-To: We’ll See You on the Dark (and Light and Far) Side of the Moon to demonstrate the phases in an active, hands-on fashion.
  2. Distribute one slice of American cheese to each student.
  3. Instruct students to carefully use the circular cutter to cut four circles from the cheese. With careful placement, one slice of cheese will be sufficient.
  4. Using a plastic knife, students will then cut one circle of cheese in half.
  5. The second circle will be cut using the circular “cookie” cutter.  Place the cutter carefully on the circle of cheese so that a crescent-shaped piece of cheese is cut from one side.
  6. The same procedure should be used to cut an additional crescent-shaped piece from the third circle of cheese.
  7. The fourth circle will remain whole.
  8. Now you are ready to go! Distribute the Phases of the Moon worksheets and have students place a Ritz™ cracker on each “moon.”
  9. Students will now arrange the cheese on the crackers to reflect each phase of the moon.
  10. When finished, students may eat the tasty moon snack!

Educator How-to: Make an Anubis mask!

Anubis is the Greek name for the “jackal-headed” god associated with death and the rituals of mummification in Ancient Egypt. Anubis’ color is black, symbolizing rebirth, which parallels the belief that the deceased is, in fact, reborn in the afterlife.

anubis 1

Ancient Egyptian cartonnage Anubis mask.

Over time, Anubis played several roles in funerary rituals, from protector of the grave to head embalmer, and advocated for the deceased in the Weighing of the Heart ceremony. A mask, like the one pictured below, was worn by the priest performing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and other funeral rituals.

Anubis 2

Opening of the Mouth Ceremony.

Interestingly, recent genetic research suggests the Egyptian jackal, long thought to be the inspiration for the god Anubis, may not be a jackal at all, but rather an African wolf and a member of the gray wolf family. However, at present, the animal is considered of unresolved taxonomical identity and is presently classified as a golden jackal, despite genetic evidence that suggests otherwise.

jackal

The Egyptian jackal, or perhaps the African wolf.

With the directions below, you can make your own Anubis mask! First, print out these Anubis Templates for the mask and ears and gather the following supplies:

  • Cardstock
  • Cardboard (you can recycle a cereal box for this purpose)
  • Crayons
  • Glue
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Elastic string

Cut out the face and ears from the template. Trace the ears onto a piece of cardstock and cut them out carefully. Color the face of Anubis any way you like, using your crayons. When finished, glue the face to the cardboard and cut it out using a pair of sharp scissors. Then use glue or a stapler to attach the ears to the top of the mask. Use the hole punch to make a hole on each side of the mask at its widest point. Finally, tie the ends of a length of elastic string to each of these holes so the mask fits snugly over your face. Now you can legitimately perform the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony yourself!

masks

 

Use these designs above for inspiration or invent your own. You learn more about Anubis and other Egyptian gods at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in the Hall of Ancient Egypt.

Paper to Predator: Making your own shark with sandpaper!

Have you ever touched a living shark? Sounds like a scary proposition, but you can do so safely at Shark! The Touch Tank Experience. 

A view of a shark’s skin through a microscope.

Before you reach into that tank observe shark’s skin (above). How might it feel to the touch? A shark’s skin is actually very comparable to… sandpaper! That’s right folks, the tiny dermal denticles that cover a shark actually have a texture very similar to sandpaper.

Want to learn more about the texture of shark skin? Watch this video from Myth Busters:

 

Now here’s your chance to make your very own “shark skin” in the craft below! And don’t forget to come to Shark! The Touch Tank Experience so you can compare your shark to the real thing!

How To Make Your Own Sandpaper Shark!

Ed How To - Shark 1

Supplies: 

Fine grain sandpaper
Pencil
Glue
Scissors
White paper
Crayons

Draw a shark on the back of a piece of sandpaper and cut it out with scissors. Next, color the top portion of the shark grey and the bottom white using crayons. Use a black crayon to add gills, eyes, and other details. This kind of coloration, called countershading, is a form of camouflage that allows fish to blend with the environment; it is typically seen on fish living in the open ocean. The dark top blends well with the ocean depths when viewed from above, while the white belly blends with the sky when viewed from below. 

Now, use crayons to create an environment for the sandpaper shark. When finished, glue the shark onto the paper. When the glue has dried, run a finger over the shark.

Ed How To - Shark 2How does it feel? It feels rough, of course. If a shark is rubbed from tail to head, it would feel a lot like sandpaper due to special scales called dermal denticles. Derma means skin and denticles means teeth; skin teeth, yikes! Under a microscope each scale looks like a tiny tooth.

 

 

Educator How-To: Making your own Samurai sword

Editor’s note: This blog post was contributed by Kathleen Havens, HMNS Assistant Director of Youth Education.

Feudal Japan’s government depended on a warrior class, called Samurai, for over 600 years.

Individual samurai warriors served a daimyo, powerful warlords that governed individual regions throughout Japan. At the pinnacle of this loyal and highly trained group of warriors was the shogun, to which each daimyo was subject. The shogun paid ceremonial reverence to the emperor of Japan, but, in reality, wielded ultimate political power over all of Japan.

One of the few, most prized, and iconic, possessions of a samurai was his sword, known as the katana. This sword, sometimes referred to as the soul of the samurai, was often a family heirloom, passed down, from father to son, for generations. These swords were special, made by highly-skilled artisans, they were highly versatile and could be used to slash and to stab, which made them unique for their time.

Check out this video from National Geographic about the katana: 

 

Make a Model Katana

Samurai Blog 1

Materials:

Cardboard
Foil
Ribbon
Markers
Scissors
Glue
Stapler
Tape

Procedure:

  1. Using the picture provided as a reference, sketch out a curved-shaped blade on a piece of cardboard and carefully cut it out.
  2. Next, create a hand guard, known as a tsuba, by drawing a circle or square shape on a piece of thick paper and cutting it out. Make a slit, using your scissors, in the middle of the tsuba, large enough to slide the bottom of the sword through.
  3. Decorate your tsuba using markers or crayons. You can find examples here for inspiration.
  4. Using the remaining stiff paper, cut a rectangle that is approximately 7’’ x 4’’; this will be the hilt of the sword. Fold the rectangle so that the end of the sword can fit in the middle.
  5. Slide the tsuba on and then the hilt; staple the hilt in place.
  6. Use markers and ribbon to decorate the hilt of the sword.