It’s as easy as A-B-C: Five reasons to book a back-to-school field trip this fall

Field Treip memeThe beginning of the school year is lurking just around the corner …

… which we love here at HMNS, where we are even more passionate about education than we are about dinosaur poop (ahem, coprolites). Our venues are chock-full of fun, hands-on exhibits, films and activities that introduce students to the world beyond their classroom.

Field trips allow students to own their education, and to be an active participant in their learning — which is why visiting HMNS this fall is a fantastic way to kick off the school year. Rather than waiting until April and May, give students an early opportunity to embrace HMNS as a part of their educational path. Give them the chance to OWN IT.

Not convinced? Here are five great reasons to pay us a visit this fall.

1. GET THE VIP TREATMENT: You’re a star (teacher), so we’ll treat you like one!

We know that a fall field trip can be a bit intimidating. You don’t know your students, the demands of the school year are looming in front of you, and you’re still waiting on your supply order to be filled. Planning a field trip on top of everything else can be daunting. Don’t worry — we’re here to help.

Our field trip coordinators have all been in the classroom, are familiar with current TEKS, and understand the demands of a full curriculum. They are also at your disposal as you plan your trip to HMNS. Need information about an upcoming show? We’ve got you covered. Want someone to visit your school and go through our amazing opportunities? Done. Need to figure out the perfect itinerary for your group of students? Absolutely.

Our three coordinators spend the vast majority of their time out in the community, visiting your schools and finding out what you need. There is no reason to be overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a field trip — even early in the school year — because your coordinator will walk you through every step of the process, ensuring that you and your students have an amazing experience.

Don’t know who your coordinator is? Shoot us an email at fieldtrips@hmns.org and we’ll get you in touch.

 

2. ESTABLISH PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Because those light bulb moments don’t come out of thin air.

Get students excited about what’s to come in the school year, whether you will be teaching them about metamorphosis, ancient cultures, climate change or alternative energy. We even offer free online curriculum, designed to help guide students through the exhibit halls while focusing on a variety of age-appropriate TEKS. Ignite excitement and encourage student inquiry via a fall field trip that you can refer back to throughout the school year.

 

3. ENJOY FEWER CROWDS: Because crowd surfing is overrated.

If you’ve visited HMNS during April or May, you know how hectic it can get. We love seeing so many schools take advantage of our programs, but if you’re looking for a somewhat quieter experience, consider taking a trip during the first semester. You’ll find that you can explore the Museum without being shoulder-to-shoulder with several hundred other students at any given moment.

 

4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FALL DEALS: Because thrift never goes out of style.

Everyone loves a discount! If you book a field trip in the month of September, you can take advantage of our fall special. Bring your students to either the Burke Baker Planetarium, the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, or the Cockrell Butterfly Center on a Monday or Tuesday during September and receive access to the permanent exhibit halls for free.

 

5. SEE IT FIRST, OWN IT FIRST: Because whoever said “first is the worst” is just mad that they weren’t first.

HMNS is changing constantly — for the better! We are opening new halls, establishing new programs, and premiering new shows that will get your students excited about learning. By bringing your students to the Museum early in the year, you get to experience everything that HMNS has to offer first and take it back to your school to share the love. Trust us, your students will love you for it.

This is your Museum, and we are proud to be a part of your educational toolkit. Treat yourself — and your students — to a world-class experience that will set the tone for an exciting school year full of discovery!

Inside HMNS Sugar Land: Why the Body Carnival exhibit is a sensory party you must attend

Just like all of our exhibits, there’s plenty to see. But a better question might be, “What is there to DO in Body Carnival?

This special exhibit is packed with lots of fun, interactive stations that give each visitor just a little bit of a challenge!

When you walk through the exhibit’s entrance, your vision, perception and balance come into play as soon as you see the “Wacky Wall.”  It’s easy to find since the entire wall is covered with narrow black and white vertical stripes. With a gentle tug, the wall swings side-to-side, and suddenly, you have to think about staying in balance! 

Lift one foot off the floor and see what happens, then switch and raise the other foot. Is it easy to go from one to the other? Is it hard? I’ve been in the exhibit many times and I hate to say it, but adults really do start to lose their balance as they get older. 

A few days ago I noticed a family in front of the “Wacky Wall.”  The kids were nearly hopping from foot to foot, laughing at how cool the wall looked. Behind them, the father was wobbling just standing in front of the wall while the mother couldn’t balance on her left foot. All of them were laughing like crazy! 

Obviously, each person has a different reaction based on their sense of balance and ability to process visual puzzles. Accept the challenge and see how you do.

Photo credit: ClassicMommy.com

Speaking of balance, there are several tests in this exhibit to check yours. 

A fun one for both kids and adults is “Walk the Plank.” First, you walk across a slightly raised 3-inch-wide bar, then a 1.5-inch-bar and finally a tight rope. Sound easy? If you can walk all three short planks slowly and stay on each one all the way to the end, you’ve got great balance! 

I didn’t have any trouble with this one, but the tight rope can be tricky, depending on your shoes. You can make things a little more interesting by adding a small wrist weight, from the nearby bin, to just one arm. Is it still as easy with one side of your body a bit heavier than the other? You’ll probably have to lean over farther to the opposite side or find another way to even the weight distribution. 

Photo credit: ClassicMommy.com

The “Dizzy Tunnel” and “Goofy Goggles” are two more stations that will keep you on your toes, so to speak, with more balance and visual acuity tests. Come give them all a try and see how well you do!

You can also experience how levers work in our bodies. Wait a minute: The human body has levers?  Aren’t those just for wheelbarrows and pulleys? 

At Body Carnival, you can check out how your elbows and shoulders serve as levers, making it easier to reach, pull and pick up items every day. Wheelbarrows and pulleys only magnify what the levers in your body already do! 

To see this in action, visit the “Hang Time” station and see how long you can hang with your hands about 12 inches apart. Can you make it 10 seconds or longer?  A chart on the station gives you an idea of how good your arm strength is in comparison to others your age. The real lesson comes when you switch your hands to the position 24 inches apart.  That moves the levers — your shoulders — farther apart, making them less efficient and your hang time shorter. 

I used to be the champ on the monkey bars in my much younger days — until I grew up and put on about 100 pounds. I figured I’d do miserably on this one, but I actually made it longer than average for my age group and it even made my creaky neck feel better (although I think that had more to do with me needing a good stretch than the lever effect). 

There are several additional stations in the exhibit about flexibility, arm span, joints and height. You can also explore the concept further with the levers and pulleys found nearby in the Discovery Works Hall.

On Thursdays, healthcare providers from Next Level Urgent Care stay in the exhibit to help explain the concepts in the exhibit to patrons and kids.

These are just a few examples of the fun things to both see and do in Body Carnival! Come explore all 14 stations and check out your physical abilities.  

I’m also looking forward to our Teddy Bear Clinic on August 14. Little ones are encouraged to bring in their favorite stuffed animal, don a lab coat and “assist” while their lovey gets a check-up — just in time for back to school. Check the website for details and come see the exhibit soon!

Educator How-To: Mimicking weather with convection currents

There has been a lot of strange weather this spring. Temperatures in North Dakota reached -60°F — which is about the same temperature at the surface of Mars, and about 50°F colder than the North Pole on the same day. 

Meanwhile, in Australia, temperatures reached over 120°F! California is at its driest point since they started keeping records in 1849. And just recently, a bout of deadly tornadoes tore through the Midwest.

The rapid changes happening on the surface of the Earth, like hurricanes and tornadoes, and the slower changes happening under the Earth’s surface, like earthquakes and volcanoes, are as awe-inspiring as they can be terrifying.  Understanding the dynamic Earth helps us prepare for the worst that Mother Nature has to offer.

On that note, here’s a simple but really cool experiment you can do to get you started on the path to meteorology mastery. With a few simple items, you, too, can create a convection current.

Activity: Convection Currents

Materials:
-Large, clear container with a depth of at least two inches (a Pyrex loaf pan would work)
-Red and blue food coloring
-Ice cube tray and access to a freezer
-Water
-Electric kettle, stove or microwave to boil water
-Styrofoam cup to hold very hot water

Procedure:

  1. Dye water blue using food coloring (make it pretty dark). Then freeze in an ice cube tray. When you have your ice cubes made, move on to the remaining steps.
  2. Begin to heat water in an electric kettle. You’ll use it later on.
  3. Fill a clear container with tap water, and then set it on the table to settle. The water should be as still as possible, so try not to jostle the table.
  4. Carefully place a blue ice cube at one edge of the clear container. The blue ice makes it easier to see what happens to the cold water melting off of the cube. You should notice where the cold blue water goes in the clear container.  View the container from the side — your eyes should be about the same height as the water.
  5. Repeat this process again to make sure it isn’t a fluke! (It’s not…)
  6. The cold water tends to sink down. (It is denser — heavier for its size — than the room temperature water). So what do you expect warm water to do if we added some to the bowl? Let’s find out.
  7. Add several drops of red food coloring to the bottom of the plastic or Styrofoam cup. Pour approximately half a cup of heated water into the cup. Lower the cup close to the surface of the water near one edge of your demo tank, and pour a small amount of the hot red water into the tank. Try to pour it so it runs down the side of the container and try to disturb the water as little as possible.
  8. Does the red water do what you expected?

What’s Going On Here?

So how does this relate to the weather? Well, it’s all about convection!

Convection is the action of warm air rising and cold air sinking. You are using water to model some things that also happen in the atmosphere because sometimes air moves in similar ways to water. You probably guessed that the blue water represents a cold air mass and the red water represents the warm, unstable air mass.

A thunderstorm is caused by unstable air and convection plays an important part. A body of warm air is forced to rise by an approaching cold front. Other things can cause warm air to rise, like a mountain slope. In this experiment, the cold water sinks while the warmer red water rises, or stays higher than the blue.

Can’t get enough of the science of weather and natural disasters?  We’ve got four things to quench your thirst for all things weather!

1. In a new special exhibit open this summer, Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters, you will come face-to-face with the inside of a tornado, create your own volcano and earthquake, and witness the aftermath of several historical disasters. You’ll see why these events happen and how we study to better predict them.

2. On the lower level of the Museum, you can step in front of the camera and join KHOU Channel 11 Chief Meteorologist Chita Johnson for a severe weather update — with you as the weather reporter! It’s lights, camera, action! as you become the star of the show on a replica of the Channel 11 weather set!

3. Are you ready for nature’s fury? Force 5 in the Planetarium is your chance to survive three Category 5 storms — a hurricane, a tornado and a solar eruption — without any rain, wind or dangerous radiation. Discover the causes of weather catastrophes and venture into the middle of the action when nature goes Force 5!

4. For the smaller scientist in your family, check out Calamity Camp for 6 and 7 year olds and Nature Unleashed for 8 and 9 year olds. In Calamity Camp, you will tame a twister, battle a blizzard, hunt a hurricane and much more as you explore and experiment to discover nature’s awe-inspiring fury. Nature Unleashed is an exciting interactive journey to the center of the Earth, where we’ll explore earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and more!

No matter how you explore weather at HMNS this summer, you’ll be blown away!

Educator How-To: Identifying moon phases

The moon’s appearance in the sky follows a 29.5-day cycle. During the cycle, it first appears as a crescent. The lighted portion that you can in the night sky see becomes larger as days pass, growing until you see a full moon. As more days pass, the lighted portion gets smaller again, until no moon is seen. The cycle then repeats. This 29.5-day cycle corresponds to the time during which the moon makes one complete orbit around Earth.

When you see a full moon, Earth is between the moon and the sun, and all of the lighted half of the moon faces Earth. When there is a “New Moon.” the moon is between Earth and the sun, and all of the lighted half of the moon faces away from Earth. When there is a New Moon, you can’t see any of the moon at all.

Materials:
Paper plates
Copies of moon phases (downloadable here!)
Scissors
Glue
Stapler
Jumbo craft sticks

Educator How-To:

Procedure:
Fold a paper plate in half and carefully cut out the middle of the plate with scissors.
Neatly cut out the moon phases and glue them to the rim of the plate starting with #1 in the 12 o’clock spot and working clockwise.
Staple a jumbo craft stick to the bottom of the plate.
Staple or glue the moon phase key to the handle of the plate.
At night, locate the moon. Holding the moon viewer with the stick pointing toward the ground, frame the moon within the center of the plate.  Observe.  Which picture does the moon most closely resemble? Find that number on the moon phase key and you will know the name for the phase of the Moon you are viewing!

Educator How-To: