HMNS Summer Camps: Survivor

Summer is a time for exploring and growing, and there is no better place for learning and fun than at HMNS Xplorations Summer Camps! Campers can take week-long classes in archaeology, creepy crawlies, the science behind Harry Potter, dinosaurs, robots, crime scene investigation and much more.

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 A handcrafted object to harness the suns energy
and heat up food

Interested in nature? Do you love the outdoors? Then learn how to thrive in the wild. In our survivor camp, kids learn how to survive in harsh environments such as the desert or in the tropical forests. Campers discover how to find water and determine their location from the stars. They build their own water filters and make their own insect repellent.

The kids discuss which animals are dangerous and how to best avoid them. They make their own survival kits. They also learn how to say S.O.S in Morse code.

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 Campers practice tieing slipknots

What survival class would be complete without learning how to make a compass or the best knots  to tie? Ever wondered what was the best way to build a fire? Wonder no more. Sign up for Survivor class, just one of our many summer camps.

Just because school is out for the summer doesn’t mean your kids can’t keep learning! Check out our Xploration Summer Camps, a fun and educational adventure for your children. These week-long science classes are available for children ages 5 to 12 from June 1 through August 14. For more information, visit our web site at hmns.org.

Book List: Astronomy

One of my favorite quotations is from the astronomer Carl Sagan.  “Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known.”  I hope you will find something incredible in the HMNS book list  for April, featuring books about astronomy. 

Rainbow Guard
Creative Commons License photo credit: linh.ngân

Gazing at the sky, both during the day and at night, can provide endless hours of entertainment and awe.  Who has not lain on their back in the summer grass and watched the changing cloud formations?  The constantly moving shapes provide each person the chance to use their imagination.  “Do you see that tree?”  “What tree?  I see a bear.”  But at night things are different, as the sky is full of stars with patterns of their own.

A beautiful book about the night sky is Zoo in the Sky, a Book of Animal Constellations, by Jacqueline Mitton and illustrated by Christina Balit.  This exquisite book begins:

     
    “When the sun sets, darkness falls.  The stars appear one by one.  Then the sky turns
     to a picture puzzle.  What is hiding in the patterns of the stars?  Some people say they
     only see squares and squiggles, lines and loops.  But imagine hard, and the sky comes
     to life.”

Are you hooked?  I was. Ms. Balit’s colorful illustrations are incredible, and Ms. Mitton’s words provide the explanations.  Leo the Lionis pictured on the cover.  Ms. Mitton explains the constellation:

     “Leo the Lion is king of the beasts and lord of the sky.  In February and March he looks
     down from a throne high up the heavens.  Stars in his mane shine like jewels in a crown.”

Night sky
Creative Commons License photo credit: coda

You will also meet The Great Bear, the Little Bear, the Swan, the Fox, the Scorpion, the Wolf, the Bull, the Great Dog, the Hare, the Goldfish and the Flying Fish, the Whale, various birds and the Dragon.

Ms. Mitton has written numerous books on astronomy, but three other books similar to Zoo in the Sky are Once Upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations, Kingdom Of The Sun: A Book About the Planets, and Zodiac: Celestial Circle of the Sun, all beautifully illustrated by Ms. Balit.  Do yourself a favor and pick up one of these books—you might even decide to share it with children!

A totally different look at the heavens is provided by Tish Rabe who has written There’s No Place Like Space!, a Cat in the Hat Learning Library book.  Ms. Rabe begins in the style so familiar to all Dr. Seuss fans:

     “I’m the Cat in the Hat,
     and we’re off to have fun.
     We’ll visit the planets,
     the stars, and the sun!

Sound familiar? The Cat, his two willing passengers and Thing One and Thing Two visit all the planets, and you learn an interesting fact about each one.

     “Travel to Jupiter
     and you will find
     it is bigger than all
     other planets combined.”

You also learn a nonsense sentence to help remember the names of the planets in order: 

      “Mallory, Valerie, Emily, Meetzah just served us nine hundred ninety-nine pizzas!”

(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)  The book also contains a glossary and table of contents, and is a cute way to introduce the youngest astronomy fans to the wonders of the universe.

No trip to outer space could be more fun than a field trip with Ms. Frizzle’s class on the Magic School Bus.  In The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole, the class is attempting to visit the planetarium - which is closed for repairs.  As the bus is returning to school it tilts back and the roar of rockets is heard.  “’Oh dear,’ said Ms. Frizzle. ‘We seem to be blasting off!’” and another adventure begins.  Besides learning about weightlessness, the reader learns facts about the planets, sun and moon.  For example:

     “Earth’s clouds are white because they are made of water vapor.
     Venus’ clouds are made mostly of a deadly yellow poison called sulfuric acid.
     Mars looks red because there is a lot of rusty iron in its soil.
     The sky looks pinkish because of red dust in the air.”

Solar System
Creative Commons License photo credit: tortuga767

Although a wayward asteroid cuts Ms. Frizzle’s tether and the Magic School Bus zooms away with the children, the students and teacher are eventually reunited for the return to school.  Later, the class prepares a chart of planets listing the name, size, length of rotation, length of a year, how far from the sun, how many known moons and whether or not there are rings.  Although listed as a planet in There’s No Place Like Space, Pluto is not on the students’ chart because Pluto is explained as a plutoid, not a planet.

Like all Magic School Bus books, this needs to be read carefully with attention paid to each illustration.  For example, a student holding a ball and walking around a lamp illustrates a planet rotating around the sun.  Or a student standing on a scale shows the difference between weight on
Earth and weight on other planets. (If you weigh 85 on Earth, you weigh 215 on Jupiter or 14 on the Moon.)

And remember, day or night, your imagination can enable you to travel to the planets—and beyond where “something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Free Open House! at the Woodlands Xploration Station

Ever wondered what it would be like to visit an amazing natural science museum in the Woodlands Mall?  Well here’s your chance! On Tuesday, March 31, from 4 to 7 p.m., we are holding a FREE Educators’ Open House at The Woodlands Xploration Station!!!

pachycephalosaurus2During the Open House, which – did I mention this? – is FREE to all educators, visitors will have the opportunity to view demonstrations of the Outreach Programswith Melissa Hudnall. There will be plenty of Museum Staff present to answer any questions you may have.  Chris Flis, one of our very own Paleontologists, will be on hand to discuss our newest Outreach Program, Earth Science on Wheels. Chris will also answer questions about our Whiskey Bridge Paleontology trips.  Educators will be given Information about field trips, staff development opportunities, and upcoming exhibitions at the Museum.

xpl-milk-frogAt the Houston Museum of Natural Scienceit is our goal to accommodate educators in any way possible.  With this in mind, we welcome educators’ families at this particular event; we know that childcare can be difficult to find! As a further enticement, Chick-fil-A refreshments will be provided, so come hungry! 

If you are interested in coming, please let me know by sending RSVP’s to ecrouch@hmns.org or (713) 639-4754.

Frogs, dinosaurs, insects, luminous minerals, and MORE await you at the Xploration Station!

Super Cool Surface Tension

winter
Creative Commons License photo credit: shioshvili

Did you know that water is sticky?  It may not look sticky, but water molecules love to stick together.  Water molecules pull and tug on each other from all directions.

Look at a glass of water. A special stretchy “skin” forms at the top of a glass of water because the molecules are pulling from the sides and from below, but not from the top.  This “skin” is known as surface tension.  Surface tension allows the water level to get higher than the walls of the glass without spilling!  Let’s put this to the test.

Materials:
Drinking glass
50-100 pennies
Paper towels

Procedure:
1. Fill a glass to the top with tap water.
2. Set your glass on a paper towel.
3. Carefully add pennies one at a time.  Be sure to keep count. 
4. Observe the water at the top of the cup.  Eventually it will begin to bulge out.
5. Add pennies until the water begins to drip over the edge of the glass.  How many pennies were you able to get into the cup?
6. Now, remove all of the pennies and get a new cup of tap water.  This time add several squirts of dishwashing liquid to the cup and try the activity again.
7. Were you able to add more pennies or did it hold less?  What do you think is happening?  Research and find out!