For the biggest haunting yet, visit HMNS Sugar Land!

If you thought the Sugar Land museum was scary at night, just wait until Halloween! With Tricks, Treats and T. rex around the corner, a good fright is just in sight.

T3 4

Decorations are being prepared for Tricks, Treats and T. rex at HMNS-Sugar Land.

The two-day Halloween extravaganza for the whole family is coming to the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land, featuring a haunted house that will fill the entire museum for the first time ever! The chills start Friday night, Oct. 30 with spooky fun that will freak out both adults and kids! (Recommended for children ages 7 and up.)

T3 1

Volunteers help prepare some ghouls and decorations for the Museum of Unnatural Science haunted house, which will fill the entire museum this year!

In the Museum of Unnatural Science, follow the corridors of a haunted mine with glowing walls and surprises around the corner in A Trip to the Underworld. Sneak through the twisted Carnival of Evil with grim ghouls and freakshow characters. Meet visitors from outer space at Area 51, and test your nerves against roaring dinosaurs in Jurassic Terror. When (and if) you make it through, exit the house into the butterfly garden to explore an outdoor maze, where more fun is in store for the following morning.

T3 2

Nothing means murder and mayhem like blood spatter…

For a gentler Halloween experience, visit the Magical Maze from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 31. Designed with the younger kiddos in mind, the maze offers an outdoor adventure complete with crafts and activities, face painting, temporary tattoos, prizes and a costume parade. If you’re brave enough to eat insects and arachnids, come snack on some real bugs, too! (They’re tastier than you think…) Throughout the day, some of the characters from the haunted house will return for a less-intense BOO! And teams of therapy dogs from P.A.W.S. will offer warm hugs and yet another photo op!

T3 5

BOO! If nothing else scares you, this demon clown coming to life might…

Museum directors are excited to bring a new and improved Tricks, Treats and T. rex back this year. In the past, Halloween activities were limited to the conference room or the temporary exhibit hall. But with the help of volunteers creating, building, and staffing the event, this year will be the freakiest yet!

The best part of all this? You can bring the whole family out to Sugar Land and still have time for trick-or-treating, or for Spirits and Skeletons at HMNS Hermann Park Halloween night! There’s lots to do in Houston, but nothing quite as spook-tacular as Halloween with HMNS. 


Get dirty doing real paleontology during Fossil Wash Day in Sugar Land

If you want to be a paleontologist, you’ve got to get your hands dirty… and sometimes wet.

Now you can learn just what it takes to get down to the nitty-gritty of separating fossils from soil and get a little messy yourself! Just come to the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land for Fossil Wash Day this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. You’ll be able to help our staff and other volunteers spray down samples dug from our very own exclusive fossil site near Seymour, Texas, the home of the famous fin-backed prehistoric reptile Dimetrodon. While you’re washing, you can chat with our experts about your favorite dinosaurs. Who knows? You may be the first to lay hands on a bone that hasn’t seen the sunlight in hundreds of millions of years.


Fossil Wash Day is a community gathering perfect for dinosaur fans and families interested in real science.

Fossil Wash Day is a four-year tradition at HMNS Sugar Land, the perfect location for splashing around and playing with mud. The “big back yard” has a nearby water source and is perfect for the process. Large clumps of Baylor County clay will be placed in five-gallon buckets of water with a bit of hydrogen peroxide to help deflocculate, or break up, the sample. Then the clay will be taken from the buckets of water and plopped onto a screen which will catch small fossil fragments.


Searching for fossils is a job for both children and adults, and is a big help to our museum paleontologists.

“We’re looking for the things we missed. The things we didn’t know were there,” said David Temple, Associate Curator of Paleontology, who usually hosts the event. A scheduled visit to a fossil site in Germany will prevent him from joining the fun.


HMNS Associate Curator of Paleontology David Temple teaches two children how to bag fossils at Fossil Wash Day. While Temple usually appears at the event, he will be out of the country this year.

“Once we run the samples through the screens, we empty the screens out and find bits of bone and things, and we catalog the bits,” Temple said. “It’s citizen science. A way for the public to get involved. It’s a chance to do real science and you’ll never know what you’ll find. And you do find things.”


At Fossil Wash Day, small bones such as this phalange discovered by a volunteer help the Houston Museum of Natural Science collect data about Permian-era reptiles and amphibians.

Most finds from these samples contain fossilized teeth from prehistoric sharks, Dimetrodon and others. Fossils discovered at the event go into our collection, where they are valued for the information they share about the distant past. From teeth, depending on the details on the fossil, paleontologists can tell how Permian-era creatures fed and fought with one another. Broken Dimetrodon teeth, for example, show that the animal chewed its food instead of swallowing it whole.

“If you’ve got shed teeth, you can tell something fed there, even if you don’t find bones there,” Temple said. “As opposed to finding a socketed tooth where the carcass has rotted. Sometimes we find crushed bone. From these fossils, we learn what they’re chewing on and how the teeth wear.”


The clay matrix from Seymour, Texas is transported in clumps back to Houston. In the clumps, you never know what you’ll find.

If you’ve got fossils at home, bring those along, too, and have them identified. With the paleontologists and volunteers working alongside the public, it’s a great opportunity to spark up a one-on-one Q&A. There will be more volunteers inside the museum preparing Eocene-era fossils from another dig site near Bryan-College Station. Plus, you’ll get a look at other specimens in our fossil touch carts.


Rinsing red mud from a screen.

“Fossil Wash Day is a super hands-on kind of thing. You get filthy,” Temple said. “Wear something you don’t mind getting wet.”

What’s the perfect B-Day? Puppies, reading and the museum!

For her eighth birthday, Maddie Sanders told her mom she wanted nothing more than to read to dogs at the museum. It seems like an unlikely service, but the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land is the perfect fit for such a childhood wish.

Through the P.A.W.S. (Pets Are Wonderful Support) Reading Program, Maddie made two new canine friends, a German Shepherd named Jasmine, and Ranger, a Golden Retriever. From 10 a.m. to noon, she sat with the dogs and read to them along with her five-year-old sister Nola and her mother and father, Hope and Brian.


Maddie and Nola Sanders read to Ranger with the help of a volunteer at HMNS-SL.

“Ranger let the kids climb all over him. He was just a big pillow,” Hope said. “They were very well-trained, well-behaved dogs. As much as my kids love dogs, they were a little frightened at first. We don’t have one of our own. I have an allergy. But once they got acclimated to the situation, and they realized the dogs were well-trained and mild-mannered, the girls warmed up quickly.”

Hope learned about the P.A.W.S. Reading Program in the summer of 2014 when she was searching for activities for a Girl Scouts group field trip. She found information about the program on the HMNS-SL web site, but the logistics didn’t work out for the whole group. This time around, though, the program was great for two girls on a birthday adventure. She called up the museum to see if she could negotiate a birthday package, and Program Manager Kavita Self was happy to oblige.


Maddie read to Jasmine until she fell asleep for a mid-morning nap.

“Kavita is a joy to be around,” Hope said. “She loves her job. She told me to give her a heads-up before we got there so they’d be ready for us.”

The Sanders family hadn’t been to the Sugar Land museum in “quite some time,” Hope said, and when they got there, the expansion of the collection in the past couple of years astounded her.

“We were completely taken aback by how much it has to offer and how much it has grown,” Hope said. “They greeted us and gave us a welcome gift. We thought that was so kind. They showed us the new exhibits. Maddie is a lover of treehouses, so we played around there. They went above and beyond to make us feel special.”


Nola, Maddie’s sister, enjoyed her time in the TreeHouses exhibit at HMNS-SL.

The family saw geodes in the earth science exhibit and popped outside to watch butterflies in the butterfly garden. The only feature they missed out on was the paleontology exhibit, but there was plenty of entertainment for the whole family, let alone a single girl.

“I had no idea it was going to be anything greater than reading with dogs,” Hope said. “The people there knew her and kept telling her happy birthday. She loved the dogs so much. We had such a lovely time, and it all happened because the people there made it happen. We’re very appreciative.”

When they left the museum, the family stopped by Bernie’s Burger Bus in Bellaire for lunch, where they told everyone about their experience, Hope said.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 7/13-7/19

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! 


Lecture – Sustainable Seas: The Vision, The Reality By Sylvia Earle
Tuesday, July 14
7:00 p.m.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, revered marine biologist and conservationist, will give a state of the seas address. The event will include a viewing of the new giant-screen film Secret Ocean 3D that features a narration by Dr. Earle and amazing imagery captured by director Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team.

Behind-the-Scenes – Jedi – Samurai Tour
Thursday, July 16
6:00 p.m.
Armored warriors of the past inspired the creative genius of a filmmaker-in a galaxy not so far away. In this multimedia tour of the Samurai: The Way of the Warrior exhibit–led by HMNS staff and a few guest Jedi, Sith and samurai guides–the origins of many of George Lucas’ Star Wars heroes and villains will be unveiled. You will also enjoy demonstrations of light saber and kendo katana. The compelling links between Samurai and Jedi will build your appreciation for both.

Weird Science Event! A Summer Science Experience
HMNS at Sugar Land
Friday, July 17
6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Challenge your brain and develop your S-IQ (Science IQ) with hands-on experiments, demonstrations and observation. It’s the all-new Weird Science Event! Peek behind the curtain for an exclusive look at how “cool” science works in a museum. Mix, stir and mash compounds around the T-rex pit and make all kinds of goopy fun. Help feed the fish and other critters, plus learn how to care for them. Or you can try going arboreal and hang out in a tree in the TreeHouses exhibit. It’s our biggest science night of the year with something for everyone!

Mixers & Elixirs
Saturday, July 18
7:00 p.m.
The social set has never looked so smart! Mixers & Elixirs is back and it’s better than ever! We’re celebrating the year’s geekiest holidays with a cool twist, so pop on over to our place to mingle, clink your cocktail glass, and break out your best dance moves. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the live band, dancing, cash bars, and the city’s best food trucks. The perfect party, where the science club meets the social set, happens each month from June through August. Hitting this scene is a sure sign of intelligence!
This event is for 21 and up only.