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!

Are you craftier than a fifth-grader? For me, the answer was no: Xplorations from the inside

You’ve heard of our Xplorations Summer Camps — the sell-out science fests that bring thousands of kids to HMNS each summer. You probably know registration deadlines, details of the camp catalog and maybe even the peak times for carpool. But do you know what an average day in the life of a camper looks like?

I do, thanks to our camp organizers. And I’ve got the pictures to prove it:

photoI arrived at Earth’s Wild Ride on a “Thirsty Thursday,” during which each camper was required to list their favorite beverage on their name tag as a means to get to know one another. I kept it honest — but PG.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. We kicked the day off with a book about the arctic landscape, in keeping with the day’s cold theme, and followed it up by practicing our seal sounds.

Next up, it was craft time.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. Each camper constructed an arctic landscape using construction paper, Styrofoam, imagination, and a little bit of magic also known as instant snow.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. (The material, which expands when it comes into contact with water, lost some of its allure when it was also revealed as the filling of choice for most diapers.)

We followed that craft up with another in the form of a faux glacier, which we filled with assorted sizes of rocks. These would be melted later with a hair dryer (the classroom method for modeling accelerated climate change) to study the erratics, or rock deposits, left by melting, retreating ice.

Lunchtime provided the perfect fodder for my weekly #throwbackthursday post on Instagram, courtesy of Bill Nye the Science Guy on DVD.

After we’d snacked sufficiently, the class headed to the Giant Screen Theatre for a spectacular 3D screening of Titans of the Ice Age.

Post-theater we were out in the open, out-of-doors, for a geyser demonstration. With the help of some studly pink safety goggles, Mentos and a liter of carbonated beverage, Mr. Colin was able to convey the physics behind these geological gushers.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. Back in the classroom, we met two ingenious Ecoteens for a physics demonstration. Here, we explore how durable a nose is your center of gravity:

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. As if our day weren’t full enough, we concluded with the creation of an incredible edible: snowflakes crafted with mini marshmallows and toothpicks. Can you tell which of these belongs to a 26-year-old and which belongs to somebody who can count their age on one finger?

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper.

I’ll never tell.

March 4th and conquer: Camp, that is! Family level member registration for Xplorations Summer Camps opens Monday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: We’re gearing up for our Xplorations Summer Camps, and online registration for Family level museum members starts Monday, March 4 at 12:01 a.m.

That’s right. It’s like Black Friday, except replace the rock-bottom deals on televisions with crazy-awesome intensive science camps. And it’s on a Monday. So, let’s say, Fuschia Monday — perhaps even with confetti.

Thank you, Summer Campers!For those of you who might be unfamiliar, our week-long educational camps run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with before and after-camp care also available for an additional fee) and cover science topics ranging from physics to robotics to understanding the universe in interactive classes tailored for kids ages 6 through 12.

Camps do sell out, so we recommend checking out our full catalog in advance here, and having your picks ready once the witching hour rolls around.

Camps are available at both the HMNS Main and HMNS Sugar Land locations throughout the summer; for a full schedule at both locations, click here.