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.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening this week (12/1-12/7) at HMNS

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Go behind-the-scenes of our offsite collections storage facility or tour one of our exhibits in the five behind-the-scenes tours offered this week, sharpen your survival skills (and an arrowhead and stone knife) in the adult education class ‘Creating Stone Age Tools’, and explore India with the last World Trekkers event of the year – this week at HMNS.

shrunken head
View shrunken heads from the Amazon up close in our Behind-the-Scenes tour of our Offsite Collections Storage facility. 

Behind-the-Scenes Offsite Collections Storage
Monday, December 1
1:30 p.m. & 6:00 p.m.
Millions of artifacts and specimens are housed at the Museum’s offsite collections storage. For the first time ever, HMNS is allowing the public to tour this facility. Participants will see old favorites no longer on display, like the shrunken heads from the Amazon, and new acquisitions that have not been seen by the public yet, including a giant African elephant. This truly behind-the-scenes tour of the museum collections will be led by Lisa Rebori, HMNS VP of collections. Participants will meet at HMNS and ride van to the offsite facility. This program is limited to adults and children age 12 and older. Reservations are required in advance. Space is very limited. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Fabergé: From A Snowflake To An Iceberg
Wednesday, December 3
6:00 p.m.
This new installation of the McFerrin Collection includes over 150 new objects. The exhibition is designed to tell the history of Imperial Russia through the works of the Fabergé master craftsman and highlight the different types of items made by Fabergé – from showy fashion statements to opulent utilitarian items – all made with Fabergé’s hallmark beauty and precision. Tour this remarkable collection with HMNS master docents. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife
Wednesday, December 3
6:00 p.m.
Walk through the different biomes of Texas that feature the flora and fauna of these distinct areas that are unique to Texas. Learn of the animals that are featured in the exhibition – some who flourish in these areas, and others who are endangered or extinct. Museum master docents will be your guide through the new Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Shark!
Thursday, December 4
6:00 p.m.
Learn about the important roles sharks play in ecosystems and about their unique physical characteristics in the Shark! touch tank experience. Museum biologists will lead this special after-hours, hands-on tour. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
Thursday, December 4
6:00 p.m.
Witness the exquisite objects related to the legendary Samurai warriors of Japan in the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. Museum master docents will lead you through the collection that includes full suits of armor, helmets, swords, sword-hilts, and saddles, as well as exquisite objects intended for more personal use such as lacquered writing boxes, incense trays and foldable chairs. Click here for tickets.

Class – Creating Stone Age Tools
Thursday, December 4
6:00 p.m.
Discover how antler, stone and bone can be used to fashion a Paleolithic survival knife through proper percussion and pressure methods. Learn how to make an arrowhead by pressure alone and a simple stone knife using traditional hand tools. Your lithic art is yours to keep for your collection. Paleolithic archaeologist Gus Costa will teach the prehistoric skills needed to master the ancient art of stone tool making. All materials, tools and safety equipment will be provided. Participants must be at least 15 years of age. Click here for tickets.

Orion First Flight Viewing
George Observatory
Thursday, December 4
4:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. 
The George Observatory will be free to the general public for the viewing of Orion’s first flight. 

World Trekkers – India
Friday, December 5
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Leave the luggage at home, you can explore India right from HMNS’ Grand Hall with World Trekkers this December! Our last World Trekkers event of this year will transport you to India with Bollywood dance performances, rangoli display, photo ops with cultural icons, traditional Indian cuisine, and much more! Click here for more info. 
Also, don’t miss the screening of the Disney Classic The Jungle Book at World Trekkers at 7:00 p.m.

Holiday Trunk Show – Rebecca Lankford 
Saturday, December 6
12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. 
Favorite local designer Rebecca Lankford is back! With hand cast metals, fine leathers, and a casual take on gems like raw diamonds and South Sea pearls, Rebecca’s designs have earned her a devoted Houston following.Click here for more information on upcoming trunk shows. 

Educator How-To: How to Make Your Own Pet Squid

The days just after Thanksgiving are always busy at the Museum. There are flurries of children on field trips, shoppers looking for that unusual and prefect gift and, my favorite, the annual installation of the holiday trees in the grand hall. The trees, which are decorated by local area non-profits, celebrate a variety of themes and causes and are not to be missed. My particular favorite each year is the tree decorated by the Houston Conchology Society. My department also gets to decorate a tree and it is always an ode to science. This year’s theme: Cephalopod Christmas. How can you go wrong there?

We know you will be out to visit the trees this year, and we assumed that you would want a cephalopod for yourself so I whipped up this little tutorial for your very own pet squid.  He’s adorable. He’s a cephalopod. Most importantly, he doesn’t have to be fed, walked* or cleaned up after. 

(*You might look really awkward trying to take your cephalopod for a walk.)

Ed How To - Squid 1

Materials:

1 Paper towel tube
1 Toilet paper tube
Paint – color of your choice
Paint brush
Scissors
String, yarn or thin ribbon – 2 to 3 feet.
Tape
Straw
Glue
Black permanent marker
Stapler

Procedure:

  1. Color your tubes with the paint of your choice. (Don’t clean up the paint quite yet. You’ll need it again in a minute.)
    Ed How To - Squid 2
  2. Set the tubes aside and let them dry.
  3. Pinch one end of the toilet paper tube shut.
    Ed How To - Squid 3
  4. Use scissors to cut a 45 degree angle off each side of the tube so you now have two triangle pieces and a pointy tube.
    Ed How To - Squid 4
  5. Use a stapler to keep the tube flat. I aligned my staple with the length of the tube so as to not get in the way of the next step.
    Ed How To - Squid 5
  6. Use the scissors to cut 8 legs from the paper towel tubes. The legs should go up the tube about 2/3 of the way.
  7. Use the rest of the paint to color the pieces you cut off – both sides and the inside of the legs you just cut. The legs may get a little floppy when they are wet with paint, but don’t worry – they’ll firm up when dry. If you have some weird delaminated bits, you can always add a little bit of glue.
    Ed How To - Squid 6
  8. Once everything is dry, cut one of the triangle pieces down the fold so you have two pieces. Cut the other triangle piece into two feeding tentacle pads.
    Ed How To - Squid 7
  9. You are going to use the halved triangle pieces to make the fins of your squid. Apply a little bit of glue to the hypotenuse of the two triangles (opposite the 90 degree angle) and slide them in between the two pointy bits of the toilet paper tube – one on each side.  The 90 degree angle should be the part sticking out and making the fin.
    Ed How To - Squid 8Ed How To - Squid 9
  10. Now grab the paper towel tube. Use the scissors to shape the legs as you see fit. I like mine a little bit more realistic but, really, you can leave them as is.
  11. If you so choose, you can also curl or shape the legs for more realistic appearance. For mine, I did this by rolling the legs over a round marker – switching from the inside of the leg to the outside of the leg every so often.
  12. Now, glue the feeding tentacles to the string. You can also staple or tape them on as you see fit. Go crazy.
    Ed How To - Squid 10
  13. Tie the middle of the string into a small knot. This will give you a little bit more material when you attach the feeding tentacles.
    Ed How To - Squid 11
  14. Holding onto the knot, drop the feeding tentacles down through the uncut end of the paper towel tube.
    Ed How To - Squid 12
  15. Staple, glue or tape the end of the knot to the edge of the paper towel tube to secure it in place.
    Ed How To - Squid 13
  16. Cut a 2 ½” to 3” slit in the uncut end of the paper towel tube. This will allow you to overlap these edges and fit the “legs” into the “head”.
    Ed How To - Squid 14
  17. Now let’s make a siphon. Cut a straw slightly longer than your slit. Let’s say 3 ¼” just for fun.
  18. Flatten the straw a bit and then attach the straw to one of the edges of the slit you just made.
    Ed How To - Squid 15
  19. Curl the side of the slit without the straw behind the side of the slit with the straw. Then, fit the “legs” into the “head.  Push it all the way in.
    Ed How To - Squid 16
  20. Once you know it fits, take the “legs” out, put a little glue on the top edge and fit it back into the “head”.
    Ed How To - Squid 17Ed How To - Squid 18
  21. Last step! We need to add some eyes! Using your black permanent marker, make two dime sized circles on your guy on the “leg” piece between the “head” and the legs.  They should line up approximately with your fins.
    Ed How To - Squid 19
  22. Done! Enjoy your pet squid and take him on lots of walks to the park.  Squid love going on walks. Here’s the final product.I have named him Maurice.
    Ed How To - Squid 1

 

Educator How-to: Tectonic Chocolate Bars

The earth is vast and its surface seems huge. However, the earth’s crust only makes up 1% of the earth’s mass — subsequent layers (the mantle and the core) make up the other 99%.

So, why do we care about the earth’s crust (besides the fact that we live there)? It consists of tectonic plates that move around, and where they hit, we get nature’s most impressive formations — Earthquakes and Volcanoes. Because the crust is so vast, it is hard to see the minor changes that occur daily. We tend to notice the big changes like mountains and effects from earthquakes.

In Houston, we don’t get to see either of those things! Luckily, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters on exhibit right now. In Nature Unleashed you can see how the earth’s tectonic plates shift and learn about the earthquakes that can result, build your own volcano and watch as it explodes molten rock along the mountain side. You can even experience the inside of a tornado, and see some of the aftermath found in several cities.

Nature Unleashed: Inside natural DisastersIf you can’t make it to the museum, you can always show the effects of tension, compression and shifting on the earth’s crust using a simple chocolate bar!

Materials

  • Snack-sized chocolate bars (Milky Way and Snickers work best because of the caramel)
  • Wax paper or plates to place candy on while working

Procedure

  1. Tell the students that the earth’s surface is constantly changing. The crust is formed by tectonic plates which float on the plastic layer of the mantle called the asthenosphere. Where these plates interact, we notice changes on the earth’s crust. The chocolate on this candy bar is going to mimic some of those changes. This time I used Milky Way.

Structure of the Earth

  1. Have the students use their fingernail to make some cracks in the “crust” near the center of the candy bar. Ask them what they notice about the cracks in the crust?

Science Education

  1. Next, demonstrate tension by pulling the candy bar apart slowly. Notice how the crust shifts on top of the caramel layer. The caramel is the exposed upper mantle also known as the asthenosphere. It is this layer that allows the tectonic plates to move around. Sometimes this tension between plates can form basins or underwater ocean trenches.

Science Education

  1. The students should then place their chocolate bar back together gently. To demonstrate another way the earth’s crust moves, ask the students to move one half of the candy bar forward and pull the other half backwards. This is an example of a strike-slip fault. Notice how the chocolate changes at the fault line. This mimics the bending, twisting and pulling of the rocks that can occur at a fault.

Science Education

  1. Lastly, ask the students to push the two ends of the candy bar together. Notice how some of the chocolate pushes up and some even slides on top of another piece, showing how mountains can be created on the earth’s crust.

Science Education

  1. Now that you’ve seen what the earth’s crust can do, feel free to allow your students to eat their new landform creations! 

And don’t forget to come check out Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters showing now through September 14!