What has eight legs and is coming to a school near you? “Awesome Arachnids” from HMNS!

In 2015, The Cockrell Butterfly Center will be making a couple of new outreach programs available to classrooms all over the Houston area. One of which was given to kindergarten students at St. Francis Episcopal School in December, and it was a hit, Awesome Arachnids!

For almost 10 years, we have been fascinating kids with “Amazing Arthropods”, a program that introduces students to members of the major classes of arthropods, mostly insects. We always include a tarantula to represent arachnids and can get quite carried away with talking about them. Unfortunately, we are only afforded about 5 minutes per presentation to do this. This frustrated me, as arachnids are one of the most feared and misunderstood classes of arthropods, but they are also SO COOL! So, the idea of Awesome Arachnids was born!

In this presentation, Entomologists from the Cockrell Butterfly Center will introduce you to some of our most interesting eight-legged creatures and explain the features that make them different from their six-legged cousins and other relatives.

Have you ever wondered what a tarantula feels like? Have you ever seen a scorpion change color right before your eyes? Can you even name any other types of arachnids? Don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for!

Here is a sneak peek at some of the stars of our show…

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Rosie, a Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula, is one of two terrific tarantulas you can meet during the Awesome Arachnids program!

Rosie and Peanut, 20 and 10 years old, respectively, are two of our special tarantula ambassadors! They will help ease you into the world of spiders – one of the most feared types of animals on the planet. As many as 55% of females and 18% of males in Western society are estimated to have arachnophobia – a fear of spiders and other arachnids. Although spiders are venomous, and venom CAN cause people harm, more often than not, a spider is harmless to us. No one helps illustrate that point better than Peanut and Rosie, with their furry appearance and docile nature. We will teach you all about spiders; which ones are ok, which ones to avoid, and how they help us way more than they could ever harm us.

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Vinny the Vinegaroon may look scary, but he’s really a shy guy with a very unique defense mechanism!

Vinny is a bizarre looking creature, one that most people have never come across before! Vinegaroons, also known as whip scorpions, inhabit tropical and sub-tropical areas all over the world. They have no venom glands, so cannot bite or sting. They are very shy, spending most of their time underneath rotten logs or rocks. At night, they hunt for insects, worms, and slugs. They help us control cockroach and cricket populations. Why are they called vinegaroons? Well, you’ll have to meet Vinny to find out. Once you meet him, you’ll want to meet more bizarre looking creatures like him!

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Pinchy the Emperor Scorpion is one of the largest scorpions in the world!

Scorpions are another arachnid that most people fear, and for good reason! That intimidating looking stinger can pack quite a punch! Fortunately, the venom in their sting is formulated to act on other invertebrates, so it is USUALLY not dangerous to us, but can be quite painful! Emperor scorpions, like Pinchy, have very mild venom, no more severe than a bee sting. They are also more likely to pinch with their large, strong claws than sting, hence the name! Scorpions are incredible animals and have many characteristics that set them apart from other arachnids. Want to know more? We’ll be happy to share with you!

Children will be allowed to gently pet arachnids which pose no threat to their safety, such as the tarantulas. Necessary precautions are taken by the presenters to ensure the safety of the children and the animals at all times.

So there you have it! Hopefully we’ve whet your appetite for more fun facts and stories about these fantastic creepy crawlies! If you’re interested in bringing Awesome Arachnids to your school – just email us at outreach@hmns.org, or give us a call at 713-639-4758!

Get ready for cuteness overload: Tiny Giants 3D showing now in the GST!

Learn about the amazing trials and tribulations of a mighty chipmunk and a daring mouse from their own tiny perspective in Tiny Giants 3D now showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre!

Come on an extraordinary adventure into magical worlds beneath our feet that most of us never see – one where life is lived at an extraordinary intensive pace, where everything we know seems turned on its head. Experience the hidden kingdoms of the Enchanted Forest and the unforgiving desert of the Wild West. From BBC Earth, this is the story of a day in the life of two little heroes: a scorpion mouse and a chipmunk. For each of them this will be a day they never forget. It’s a story of drama, danger and courage, of insight and revelation, a journey to discover and understand a new and fascinating natural history. 

 

Wonder Women of STEM: Ada Lovelace, 19th century programmer

Editor’s Note: This post is the second in a series featuring influential women from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields in the lead up to HMNS’ annual GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) event, February 21, 2015. Click here to get involved! 

The modern tech industry is currently dominated by men — a problem with its origins in the 1980s. While many companies have begun to reconfigure their goals and diversify their staffs in order to be more inclusive, it wasn’t always this way.

In fact, many, if not most, of the functions modern computing has taken on, were originally thought of by a woman in the 1800s — a woman who wrote the first computer algorithm. 

This woman was Ada Lovelace, or Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace born in 1815 as the daughter of famed poet Lord Byron. It might seem strange that a poet’s daughter would turn “techie” as such, but Lovelace’s computational genius was undeniable and encouraged from a very young age. 

You see, her mother (who was apparently not very fond of Lord Byron) wanted her daughter to be as unlike her father as possible, and thereby stressed mathematics and science, and left out poetry, in her tutoring.

However, Lovelace’s inner poet could not be extinguished, manifesting itself in her beautifully artistic approach to her field, calling it “poetic sciences.” 

When she was 17, Lovelace was introduced her to Charles Babbage, who was working on a prototype for the Analytical Engine, one of the predecessors to electronic computers. 

Devised as a way to solve complex mathematical formulas, Ada created the first algorithm for the engine. However, she saw past this function, envisioning a future where the machine could perform a variety of tasks and questioned how technology and society interact and affect one another. On this, she said: 

“[The Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine…

Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”

While the plans for the Analytical Engine were never fully realized, Lovelace wrote scholarly papers on the theoretical machine, along with her algorithm, which proved vital for those building the first computer a century later.

HMNS is highlighting females that made contributions to STEM fields leading up to our annual GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) event, February 21, 2015!

Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS) is an event that showcases some of the great things girls do with science, technology, engineering and math! Students can present a project on a STEM related subject for the chance to earn prize money for their school.

If you, or a student you know is interested, apply for a student booth today!

Want to know more about the wonder women of STEM?
Click here for the first post in the series, Wonder Women of STEM: Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter

 

 

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 1/12-1/18

tea_ceremony
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!

Behind-the-Scenes Tours
Tuesday, January 13
6:00 p.m. 
Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
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. 

Shark!
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. 

Adult Education Class – Japanese Tea Ceremony
Saturday, January 17
11:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m. 
The Japanese tea ceremony tradition dates back centuries when samurai lords were among the few allowed to participate. A demonstration of the ceremony will be performed by Midori Mochizuki-master of Chado, the way of the tea. Tea master Heather Clary will provide commentary during this silent ceremony. A tea tasting for all course participants will follow the demonstration and lecture. Click here for more info.

Telescope Classes 
George Observatory 
Saturday, January 17
Do you have a new telescope that has never been out of the box? Need help learning how to set it up? Come let an expert astronomer teach you how to set up your scope so that it will work. It is not as easy as the box would lead you to believe! After you get help, it will be easy to use.
The astronomer will help you set up and learn some stars so that you will be successful. Bring all your parts and the instructions that came with the new telescope. If you want to stay later, you can allow the public to come look through your new scope and see how much fun it is to volunteer at the George Observatory.

Refractor And Reflection Telescope Class
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Go-To Computerized Telescope Class
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Day Excursion – Battleship Texas – Behind The Scenes Tour
Sunday, January 18
9:00 a.m. 
Climb 60 feet above the water to the flying bridge or down 20 feet below the water into the engine room. Tour the restored sleeping quarters and medical facilities, engine room, guns and anchors with historian guides. Our group will also receive special access to parts of the ship not open to the public and enjoy a special presentation by director Andy Smith. Participants will meet at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. Click here for more info.