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!