Family time & me time: Have the best of both at HMNS this holiday season

It’s the holiday season – full of food, festivities and family. Sure, you look forward to this month year-round, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick of it. Conversations start to get stale, your mother (or worse – mother-in-law) won’t let you stop stuffing your face, and you begin to worry that none of your pants will fit anymore.

This is enough to make some shout, “Bah humbug!” at every passerby, but it needn’t be so! All you need is some way to divert your family’s attention away from your new piercing, lack of promotion, the boyfriend or girlfriend that they loathe, or whatever childhood embarrassment they still insist on using to regale holiday guests (or worse yet, reenact).

What better way than an outing to the Houston Museum of Natural Science! Not only is this the perfect excuse to get out of the house, but with all of our exhibition halls, there are plenty of places to ditch your family — if only for a short while.

THE MORIAN HALL OF PALEONTOLOGY

The stunning views of fossilized dinosaurs, giant sloths, woolly mammoths and more will buy you just enough time to slip over to the John P. and Katherine McGovern Jurassic Bark Gallery (in a separate room towards the back, on the left). Here you will find sanctuary amongst the remains of a petrified forest – clearly terrified of your family too.

You might also head up to the Morian Overlook. Just as your family’s entering the hall, slip back out, and take the elevator up to the second floor. Be careful they don’t see you, because from here, you can take in the whole hall from above.

THE HALL OF ANCIENT EGYPT

There’s a lot to see in this hall. Rush to the back as you enter while the fam plods along. Here you’ll find the mummies and sarcophagi. And we have great, dim mood lighting – which means you could totally lay out on one of the benches, and people will just think you’re another exhibit! Chill here for a while until your family catches up.

THE COCKRELL BUTTERFLY CENTER

A Rainforest, butterflies, an iguana – let your clan to take it all in while you scope out your next spot.

As you enter the Rain Forest Conservatory, head all the way to the bottom level – into the cave. You can remain unseen from above and chill with all the cool butterflies that are trying to be as exclusive as you.

If you enter the Hall of Entmology from here you’ll be right by the “Land of BEEyond.” Please understand that this area is meant for children, so let them play in peace if they get there first – but after all, you’re a kid at heart, right? Why not chill here? You might even get to meet the queen bee.
THE MINERAL HALL AND SMITH GEM VAULT

This hall is lit perfectly to enhance the natural beauty of the minerals and gems on display — and also perfect lighting for a quick escape from your tribe. Walk briskly, and stick close to the wall on the left. As you round the corner, you’ll come up on the Smith Gem Vault, which, if you’re wearing dark colors, makes you nearly invisible. The only light in this room is focused on the perfectly carved diamonds and other jewels on display. It seriously looks like they’re emitting light themselves.

Hang out here for a while, and if you do it right, you can slip back into the mineral hall as the fam goes in the gem vault. You just bought yourself another 20 minutes of freedom!

Other options for some solace in the Museum:

Wortham Giant Screen Theatre: They won’t be able talk to you in here!
Burke Baker Planetarium: With the added feature of looking up, idle chit-chat is discouraged
The Museum Store: Nothing takes the edge off quite like a bit of retail therapy

HOW TO: pH paper from a Poinsetta

PLEASE NOTE: PARENTAL HELP IS A MUST ON THIS PROJECT

Poinsettia
Creative Commons License photo credit: Southernpixel

Materials:
Parental help
Red petals from a poinsettia plant
Blender
Microwave
Coffee filters
Microwave safe dish
Baking soda mixed with water (test substance)
Vinegar (test substance)
Strainer
Straw or medicine dropper

What to do:

1. Grab your parents to help you.
2. Put the red parts of the poinsettia in a blender with a small amount of water and blend.
3. Transfer this mixture to a microwave safe dish and microwave with water (enough to cover the plant material) for about 1 minute and let steep like tea.
4. Strain the mixture and throw away the plant matter and reserve the liquid.

| Poinsettia  |
Creative Commons License photo credit: arquera

5. Soak several coffee filters in this mixture until they are colored. Allow them to dry.
6. Cut them into strips.
7. Use a medicine dropper or straw to apply different solutions such as vinegar or the baking soda solution to the paper. What happens?
8. What color does it turn when it is exposed to an acid (vinegar)?
9. What color does it turn when it is exposed to a base (baking soda solution)?
10. Can you find other acids or bases in your house?

What’s going on here?
Many different plants have pigments that are very sensitive to changes in acidity. The poinsettia is one example and red cabbage is another. When acids or bases come into contact with the paper dyed with the plant extract, a wonderful color change occurs!