Let it insta-snow: Make faux snow grow this holiday season!

In the age of Instagram, instant rice and instant gratification, it can’t come as much of a surprise that there also exists insta-snow.

How does it work? Carolyn Leap knows. Our youth educator facilitates an Outreach Program here at HMNS called Science on Stage, and my favorite topic has to be Cool Chemistry. I love watching her stick things in liquid nitrogen, set things on fire that never burn and make a cup of water disappear in an instant. Carolyn is magical.

Okay, she isn’t really magical. Everything she does is totally explainable with science, but seeing kids watch these demonstrations for the first time is super fun. They are totally amazed!

One of the topics she focuses on in a Cool Chemistry program is polymers. My favorite polymer demonstration has to be instant snow. If you’ve never seen it done, it is super fun! But what is it?  And more importantly, where can you get some? First things first, my friends…

Learn how instant snow works and get your own at the Museum Store!I asked Carolyn to explain exactly how instant snow works the other day, and here is what she had to say:

“Whether it’s called ‘Amazing Snow Powder®,’ ‘Insta-Snow®,’ ‘SnoWOW®,’ ‘Magic Snow®’ or anything else, any faux snow that grows when you add water works the same way. Instant snow powder is made of some very large molecules (polymers) composed of repeating units that are hydrophilic, or ‘water-loving.’ Most synthetic polymers are not hydrophilic; plastic soda bottles, PTFE (Teflon®) coatings, and PVC pipe, for example, are not.”

“As you add water, the powder acts like a bunch of very tiny but very good sponges. When you look at a regular kitchen sponge, you can see the pores that the water fills in; with instant snow powder, the places the water occupies are way too tiny to see, but they’re still there. Fake snow’s chemical name is ‘sodium polyacrylate,’ but the absorbent polymer in disposable diapers goes by the same name, because they have very similar chemical structure. Most people call instant snow by its simple name for clarity. Depending on who you ask, polymer ‘snow’ was first developed either as a blood absorber for hospitals or as a material to use in indoor snowboard parks in Japan. However it was invented, it’s awesome!”

Want some insta-snow of your own? Visit the HMNS Online Store and pick some up for yourself! These little jars make perfect stocking stuffers, particularly for kids from southern Texas who may have never seen snow before. Want to keep it after the holidays? You can dry it out and store it for the next year, but it takes weeks to months in the Texas humidity.  We tried it one year and finally gave up around spring break!

Bringing the wonder to you: Science on Stage

We’ve got permanent exhibit halls, special exhibitions and an entire basement full of classrooms for camp and education. But did you know that we can bring HMNS to you?

HMNS outreach programs — which include Science on Stage, Docents To Go, Wildlife on Wheels, Discovery Dome, Bugs on Wheels and more — can be booked for school appearances, youth groups, or nearly anything else you can dream up.

Our largest program, Science on Stage, can serve an audience of up to 250 people, and offers three compelling programs: Exploring Energy, Cool Chemistry and Motion Commotion.

Science On Stage - HMNS Outreach Programs

Each program lasts about 45 minutes and can be customized for certain age groups or group sizes. Each program includes live demonstrations and strives to make learning visual by bringing student volunteers on stage and weaving a question-and-answer portion throughout. HMNS provides all the supplies needed for each program and manages clean-up — how great of a house guest are we?!

Youth Educator Carolyn Leap walked us through the Cool Chemistry program. “We start off demonstrating chemical reactions versus physical reactions, usually through combustion. Things on fire on stage usually get people’s attention.”

“In this program, the audience learns how fireworks function and engage in color-changing reactions, as well as experimenting with water-absorbing polymers,” Leap explained. “And, depending on the age of the audience, we make our own slime.”

Leap continued, “We use a concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide to create a foam reaction we call Elephant’s Toothpaste.”

“We dip all sorts of stuff in liquid nitrogen with the assistance of our student volunteers, who love to shatter frozen flowers and dunk balloons,” she said.

Science On Stage - HMNS Outreach ProgramsHMNS’ catalogue of outreach programs covers many fields, from life sciences with Wildlife on Wheels and Bugs on Wheels to anthropology with Docents to Go to our Discovery Dome portable planetarium  — and much more, thanks to a wealth of programming.

Most of our Science on Stage programs are hosted by Leap, who was this year named Educator of the Year by the Texas Association of Museums.

Science On Stage - HMNS Outreach ProgramsTo reserve Science on Stage for your students or group and get introduced to one of the best educators Texas has to offer, call 713-639-4766 or click here.

GEMS (girls exploring math and science) at HMNS this Saturday!

This Saturday the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council are partnering to bring you the annual Girls Exploring Math and Science event at HMNS! The GEMS event is open to all ages and will begin at 9 a.m. and go until noon – there’s lots to see and do so I would recommend coming early!

Thanks to our fabulous presenting sponsor KBR we are able to offer the GEMS event free with HMNS general admission for the day!! That means this event is FREE for HMNS members and the regular price of $10 for children and $15 for adult non-members for the day. There’s no need to pre-register (unless you want to avoid the box office line on a Saturday morning) so we hope you’ll grab your family and head on over to HMNS for a little fun in learning with us this Saturday! Tickets are available online here.

yahtzee

We have a great line up of Girl Scout hosted booths who will be sharing lists of really fun science and math demonstrations and activities with visitors from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Two KBR engineers will share with us their passion for science and math and a little about how they use their skills in their job in the Mechanical Engineering Department at KBR here in Houston. Want to come up with some questions to ask our visiting Engineers about their jobs – check out this website to find out more about engineering.

Since 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry we are also including a Cool Chemistry program for GEMS participants. The Cool Chemistry program is presented by our Science on Stage presenter here at the Museum and will include exciting reactions, and liquid nitrogen demonstrations! Science on Stage can be booked to visit your school – for more information email sos@hmns.org.

5 senses

Don’t forget to visit our Community booths in the Grand Hall of the Museum during GEMS  – here’s the line up of this year’s community partners; KBR, The Houston Zoo, Swift Energy Corporation, Fisher Science EducationThe John C. Freeman Weather Museum, Downtown Aquarium, CB&I, MD Anderson, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Career Girls, Kinetic Energy, City of Houston Waterworks Education Center, Rice University Association for Women in Mathematics, The Center for Hearing and Speech, LyondellBasell and the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Astronomy and Robotics groups.

Can’t wait to see everyone here on Saturday morning!