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!

Be the Party Smarty: Birthdays are awesome, unique & educational at HMNS

Just like clockwork, another year has rolled around and you find yourself in that same old dilemma: what to do for your child’s birthday? What should be a joyous time for you and your family becomes stressful and agonizing: the decisions, the planning, the cleaning! 

So be a Party Smarty and let the Houston Museum of Natural Science host your child’s birthday party! Our one-of-a-kind parties provide a unique experience that your guests will continue to rave about for ages.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should have your next birthday party at HMNS:

NEAR, FAR, WHEREVER YOU ARE
We offer birthday parties at two great locations: HMNS and HMNS Sugar Land!

 

WHAT’S A WEEKEND?
We know you’re busy, and sometimes (especially during the summer) your “weekend” isn’t really a weekend. That’s why our parties can be held any day of the week!

TOO DARN HOT
We are an indoor venue … in Houston. Whether you want to beat the heat, get out of the rain, or stay warm, all of our party rooms are climate-controlled and even pre-decorated!

COMPLIMENTARY “RINGLEADERS”
Nervous about what to do with all those monkeys adorable children running about? Every party comes with a least one party coordinator to help run the show, making it easier for parents to be able to enjoy the party along with everyone else.

STAY AND PLAY ALL DAY
You party guests can make a whole day out of it! Book a party through us and you and your guests will receive access into our permanent exhibit halls following the party.  

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!
We have very few restrictions dealing with food, meaning you are more than welcome to bring in anything — whether you make it yourself or have it catered. And you’re not limited to specific vendors either. In fact, we only have two restrictions when it comes to consumables: (1) no alcohol and (2) no heating devices or sparkler candles (for obvious safety reasons).

EASY, BREEZY? BEAUTIFUL!
Having a party at our Museum is just plain easy! From booking to the party itself, we are with you every step of the way. Your rooms will be set up and ready to go, and your party coordinator will even meet you at your car to help bring in any items you may have. The coordinator will also keep everything running smoothly and on schedule, so you do not have to worry about a thing. And best of all, we clean up everything!

SOMETHING FOR THE SCRAPBOOK
Our venue offers one of the most unique birthday experiences in town! From taking a walk through our tropical rainforest in the Cockrell Butterfly Center, greeting ancient Egyptian mummies, seeing out-of-this-world shows in the Burke Baker Planetarium, or roaring with our dinosaurs in the Morian Hall of Paleontology, our parties are one-of-a-kind, memorable experiences.

REALLY “WOW” THOSE SOCCER MOMS — AND THE KIDS TOO, OF COURSE
If you are looking for a way to personalize your party even more, we offer a range of add-ons and options (including our Deluxe parties for the super fans) to make your party the hit of the neighborhood. Whether you want to add party bags to go with your theme, a live animal presentation, face painter, balloon artist, or even our astonishing magician, we can help you get the party you really, really want.

EDUCATIONAL OR FUN? WHY NOT BOTH?
Our parties are both entertaining and educational! Instead of the same old party where the children spend the entire time running around, why not try us and see how we make learning fun?

For more information or to book your party today, send an email to birthdays at hmns dot org (replace “at” and “dot” with the appropriate symbols), or visit HMNS.org.

Happy partying, you party smarties!

School’s (almost) out for summer: Time to xplore with our Xplorations Summer Camps!

Summer Camp is here again!  As we busily prepare, buying all the weird odds and ends it takes to run camp here (everything from plastic spoons to sheep eyeballs), I thought I would share a bit about camp with you.

Xplorations Summer Camp 14Recently I gave a presentation to fellow HMNS staff members about Xplorations Summer Camp, just a little informal FYI. I was surprised at how many of them stopped me later in the day and said, “I didn’t know that ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_________.” 

The No. 1 item they commented on was the sheer size of our summer camps. We have approximately 550 campers per week at HMNS in Hermann Park. This means that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, we are larger than your average elementary school each week for the eight weeks of camp. 

Because of this, we take safety very seriously … which brings us to the second most surprising camp fact I shared: Staffers were also amazed to learn that all the full-time Youth Education Programs staff regularly has First-Aid, Epi-Pen injection, and Heart Saver/AED training. We have found that parents really like getting their campers back in the afternoon in same condition as when they signed them in in the morning. To that end, we feel like we should be prepared for a whole range of potential problems — everything from a Band-Aid solve-able boo-boo to a zombie apocalypse.

Our number one goal is to keep our campers safe!  A close second is to have fun while learning.

And because we are always learning new things around here, I learned how to make this infographic with some of the other numbers and statistics our staff found interesting about Xplorations Summer Camp. 

Summer Camp InfographicIf you haven’t signed up your little scientists, you’d better do it quickly.  Spots are vanishing before our eyes! 

Camp is an excellent, hands-on way to introduce kids to topics in science. They learn, have fun and are able to explore themes and careers that can help them change the world. Perfect for kids age 6-12, sign up for Xplorations Summer Camps today! Click here to see our full catalog of age-specific camps.

A program to give P.A.W.S.: HMNS Sugar Land brings animal audiences to new readers

There are few things more important — or more anxiety inducing — for a child than learning to read. Sounding out and stumbling over worlds can be awkward and a little embarrassing, and adults and authority figures can compound the apprehension for little people learning to love words.

One service animal organization recognized this, and developed a program to introduce therapy animals to young readers.

PAWS Reading Program

The P.A.W.S. Reading Program [Pets Are Worth Sharing] pairs non-judgmental animal audiences with children of all ages and reading abilities as they build confidence and, hopefully, develop a love of books not obstructed by reading anxiety.

PAWS Reading Program

Each Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m., kids are welcome to pair up or read in groups with these sweet therapy dogs. They’re great listeners, though they do have a tendency to cuddle.

PAWS Reading Program

PAWS Reading Program