Dino Updates

Here at the Children’s Museum, we’ve always got dinosaurs on the brain! If you’ve visited recently, you may have noticed some changes in our Dinosaur Garden. Our curator and interns have spruced up the dinosaurs outside, as well as adding our model Parasaurolophus (“Jennifer”) who used to live inside the museum. The well-loved dinosaurs have been cleaned, repaired, and painted.

For a long time, paleontologists didn’t know what color dinosaurs really were. Teeth, bones, and claws- the hard parts of the body- are the most common fossils that we find, and they don’t tell us what color the dinosaur was. Sometimes scientists find fossil impressions of skin and scales but, again, no color is preserved. However, in 2010, scientists at the University of Bristol made an exciting discovery. They knew that a substance called melanin is what gives modern day birds (and humans!) their color. Melanin is stored in little capsules with each color having its own particular shape. Using a very powerful microscope, these scientists were able to see melanin in fossilized Sinosauropteryx feathers! For the first time, we could say that the Sinosauropteryx had an orange and white striped tail. However, this method only works on more recent dinosaurs- we still don’t know what color our friend the T. Rex was!

In other dinosaur news, did you know that here in California we just got an official state dinosaur? Augustynolophus morrisi is a hadrosaur, a type of herbivorous dinosaur known for its duck-shaped mouth. Specimens were found near Fresno in the late 1930s and were thought to roam California about 66 million years ago. Only two specimens have ever been found, both right here in what is now California. A. morrisi was about 25 feet long and weighed about 3 tons.

There’s always more to learn about dinosaurs, including the ones that lived in our own backyards. Have your future paleontologist try our Dinosaur Scavenger Hunt the next time you visit the museum!

Sinosauropteryx photo credit to Jim Robbins via NPR.org/ A.morrisi photo is from Stephanie Abromowicz/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles)

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STEAM Lab, Dream Lab!

Tuesday, October 17th was the public unveiling of our new permanent exhibit- STEAM Lab! Many people are familiar with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) but we added the “A” to highlight the importance of applied art in technology and design. Through generous donations from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing California, La Habra Rotary Club, La Habra Host Lions Club, Museum Guild of The Children’s Museum at La Habra, and National Charity League – Whittier Chapter, we were able to transform our former Nanny’s Travels gallery into a hands-on early childhood science lab.

The first exhibit you’ll see is our Balance and Funnel table. Younger children will develop their pincer grip and hand/eye coordination as they move beans from one area to the other. Our older guests can experiment with position and weights on the balance- does location matter when filling the cups with beans?

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In the back corner next to the balance and funnel table is a small magnetic shape wall. It’s a great example of how shapes can be combined into larger ones- geometry in motion! We love seeing the colorful designs our guests make.

Next up is our Ramp Raceway. Using a combination of rubber ramps and plastic stands, kids can design their own “rollercoaster” for small wooden balls. You can even build side by side tracks and race to the end! Hills, valleys, extreme drop-offs- anything’s possible with this enriching and open-ended activity.

Across from the Ramp Raceway is the Magnetic Maze Wall. Using magnetic ramps and rings on a metal wall, your goal is to create a layout to get a wooden ball from the top to the bottom. Warning- it’s harder than it looks! This area is already a big hit with our visitors and encourages learning through collaboration, prediction, and hands-on trial and error.

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Next to the maze wall is the Flight Lab. The Flight Lab was specifically designed for children to experiment with and learn about the movement of air. Bins with ribbons, feathers, and other small objects are available for kids to test in the wind tunnel. We love that children get instant feedback from the display and develop an intuitive understanding of aerodynamics.

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Finally, one last component of STEAM Lab actually lives in the Science Station. Our Illumination Station is a giant light wall similar to the Lite Brite that many of us remember from our childhoods. The colored pegs shine at their ends, transforming your design into a beautiful glowing creation. We’ve been so impressed with the creative pictures our visitors come up with!

Child development pioneer Jean Piaget is known for his quote “Play is the work of childhood.” It’s a great idea to keep in mind for anyone with little ones. The sorting, mixing, rolling, and repeating of tasks that look like “play” are foundational skills needed not only for science, but in all aspects of education. We invite you and your child to work together in our new STEAM Lab and let us know what you think!

Horses of the Sea?

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If you’ve visited our Ocean Zone exhibit lately, maybe you’ve seen our adorable new additions- seahorses! We have 3 lined seahorses on display in the Ocean Zone exhibit. They are captive-bred, which means they were raised by experienced breeders instead of caught in the wild- always a better choice when purchasing an animal. Lined seahorses are found in a range that stretches from the oceans on our east coast all the way down to South America. The seahorses that live in the museum are young and will reach about 6 inches by the time they are fully grown. While they look quite different from the other finned animals in our tanks, they are actually a species, or type, of fish. There are about 40 species of seahorses.

Seahorses are not good swimmers, so their bodies have adapted in a few ways to help them survive. Their long, prehensile tail grabs on to plants or rocks in the ocean, and the color of their bodies help them camouflage (blend into their surroundings). In the wild they eat tiny shrimp, crustaceans, and other small ocean critters. Here at the Museum we feed them mysis shrimp. Their fused jaws cannot open or close- no yawning for seahorses!- so they catch their food by sucking in, kind of like when you use a straw to drink! Check out this video that shows seahorses catching and eating their food:

Another fun fact about seahorses is that male seahorses give birth! The female seahorses places eggs in a pouch on the male’s stomach. The pouch is sealed up and the male protects the eggs and keeps them healthy and happy. About 3 weeks later, the seahorse dad is ready to give birth! He squeezes the baby seahorses out- up to 2,000 at a time! The baby seahorses look like tiny little copies of their parents. Here’s a video that shows some baby seahorses being born:

Unfortunately, the number of seahorses in some parts of the ocean is declining. Sometimes seahorses are caught to sell as pets, to make medicine, and even sold as souvenirs. Pollution in our oceans is also affecting their numbers. You can help by not purchasing dried seahorses or wild-caught ones. Practice “reduce, recycle, reuse” since emissions from cars and factories harms the ocean too. We love seahorses and we want them living long healthy lives in their ocean homes.

Do you have any questions about seahorses? Ask them in the comments. Ocean Zone runs in our changing gallery through January 7th, 2018.

Take a Deep Dive into the Ocean Zone!

Spring is here and, with it, the opening of our new changing gallery exhibit: Ocean Zone! The exhibit showcases several tanks of live ocean animals, as well as models, fossil artifacts, and information on marine conservation. The ocean covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface, so how have the animals in it adapted to live in or near it?

You’ll see one wall devoted entirely to sharks. There are live-sized paintings of hammerhead, tiger, and great white sharks. Kids can play a shark info game or watch a video on sharks. We also have real shark jaws and fossils to touch and see.

Another part of the exhibit is the Reef Area, where kids can learn about the different corals and animals that make up a coral reef. Touch pieces of coral or watch a video about this beautiful marine environment. Next to this is our reef tank, with real live corals and fish for children to observe. There’s also information on reef conservation.

In the Diver Zone, you can play the Ocean Zone scavenger hunt, or compare yourself in size to giant sea creatures! You’ll also see a representation of the different zones of the ocean- depending on the depth, each level receives a certain amount of light and has particular life forms associated with it. You can try on a fish hat and pretend you’re swimming around deep in the ocean, too.

Some of the aquariums might look a little sparse- when setting up a new tank, it takes time to build up levels of beneficial bacteria and make sure all the chemical levels are correct. We want the best, healthiest environment for our fish and the other animals who will live in our tanks. We’re getting ready to add more animals so we hope you can meet them soon!

Ocean Zone, March 28th-January 7th, 2018

Attack of the Killer Mosquitoes! (Or Not?)

Many of you have probably seen what look like huge mosquitoes bouncing around in your house lately- dangerous, right? Wrong! These leggy critters are not a type of mosquito at all. They’re a different group of flies commonly called crane flies or mosquito hawks.

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crane fly larva

They don’t eat mosquitoes, nor do they bite people for blood as some mosquitoes do. In fact, adult crane flies eat very little at all. They hatch out of eggs as larva, just like butterflies. The larva live in streams or in moist soil, which is probably why we’re seeing a lot of them this year. Larva can damage turf and lawns in some parts of the world, but in S. California they don’t pose a major agricultural or economic problem.

After spending a few weeks underground getting nice and plump, they pupate and emerge as the familiar large fly in the picture above. And please don’t worry about them hurting you- it is physically impossible for them to bite or sting people. Adult crane flies don’t feed very much in the handful of days they spend as adults, though some may drink nectar from flowers or take in water with a spongy mouthpart.

There are about 15,000 different species of crane flies in the world, and they play a valuable part in the ecology and food chain. They range from a couple of millimeters to over 10 inches across. They’re a major source of food for birds and fish, and help aerate and enrich our soil.  So the next time you see one in your house, no need to get the rolled-up newspaper!

Read Across America Day

Theodore Geisel was born on March 2nd, 1904 in Massachusetts. You may know him by a different name, a name that’s now beloved by millions of children and adults- Dr. Seuss! In 1998, the National Education Association (NEA) began planning a day to help children get excited about reading- and what better day to celebrate than Dr. Seuss’ birthday? As stated on the NEA’s website, “Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.” Today, Read Across America is celebrated by thousands of schools, museums, and libraries across the United States.

We’ll be having our own Read Across America day this Thursday, March 2nd. Please join us for a special craft, activity, and celebration of all things Seuss. We’ll have readings of Dr. Seuss books every hour from 10 am to 2 pm by museum staff and special guests from the La Habra police and fire departments. Hope to see you then!

Read Across America

Thursday, March 2nd from 10 am-2pm

FREE to members or with paid admission

 

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Ocean Zone- Coming Soon!

If you’ve visited us lately, you may have seen something interesting in our Family Art Center. Pictured below is Lisa Reckon, our curator of Exhibits and Education. She’s working on a painting of a whale shark for our upcoming Ocean Zone exhibit! Ocean Zone will focus on the different depths, or zones, of the ocean and how each one supports its own unique life forms. Fun fact: most of the components from our Changing Gallery exhibits are fabricated in-house, with many items reused from previous exhibits. Lisa, along with other staff and interns, are already hard at work prepping for the Ocean Zone exhibit.

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The upcoming exhibit will feature the animals, big and small, that make up our beautiful ocean. We’ll also help our visitors learn about marine conservation and how we can all take steps to protect our ocean waters. You’ll be able to play an interactive Shark Parts game or try the Ocean Scavenger Hunt! Best of all, we’ll have several saltwater tanks housing live ocean animals- get up close and personal with rays, jellyfish, coral, and more!

Ocean Zone opens March 28th, 2017. Call (562) 383-4236 or email museumstaff@lahabraca.gov for more information.

 

Paint & Sip Valentine’s Day Tea Party

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It’s officially January, so happy New Year! That also means that one of our favorite holidays is just around the corner- Valentine’s Day! In between all the sweet treats and cards to loved ones, have you ever stopped to think about how Valentine’s Day came about? We don’t know exactly because it all happened a very long time ago, but there are a few explanations we can draw from history.

The ancient Romans used to hold a festival in mid-February called Lupercalia, which celebrated birth and new life. Later, in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius replaced Lupercalia with a holiday honoring- you guessed it!- St. Valentine on February 14th. Valentine was a priest who secretly married young men and women at a time when marriage was outlawed, which is why he’s associated with love. Fast forward to the 21st century, where Valentine’s Day is celebrated throughout the world with flowers, chocolates, cards, and time spent with a loved one.

This year we’ll be having our own Valentine’s Day event- a paint and sip Valentine’s Tea Party! Enjoy tea, cookies, and paint a beautiful canvas to take home!  Give us a call and sign up today.

Paint & Sip Valentine’s Day Tea Party

Saturday, February 11th from 11am to 12pm

$12.00/person ($10.00/person for members); museum admission is separate. Ages 3 and up. Please call (562) 383 4236 to make your reservation.

United Way Book Drive

We’re partnering with the United Way and Read Aloud 15 Minutes on their upcoming book drive! Their goal is to collect 1,000 new or gently used books to be donated to families in need right here in Orange County. By now we all know the importance of reading to your child every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. In fact, in a statement by the National Association for the Education of Young People (NAEYC), they stress that “The single most important activity for building the understandings and skills essential for reading success appears to be reading aloud to children.”

Look for our book donation box in the lobby. We’ll be collecting new or gently used books until March 1st, 2017. Thank you! For more information, please visit the Read Aloud 15 Minutes website or the United Way.

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Little Free Library

If you’ve come for a visit recently, you may have noticed yet another lovely new addition to our front entrance- a Little Free Library! The Little Free Library movement was started in 2009 by Todd Bol in Wisconsin. The first one looked like a one room schoolhouse and was a tribute to his mother, a school teacher. Now there are over 50,000 of them worldwide, including at least 4 right here in La Habra! We love that our visitors and our community will be able to “Take a book, leave a book!” Remember what Dr. Seuss said- “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

To find out more about the Little Free Library foundation, visit their website. Special thanks to the United Way for donating the library and books, the Burbank family for being our models for the day, and to our exhibits intern Savannah Morra for customizing it so nicely!