The Museum Blog

Category: Science

St. Patrick’s Day Treasure Hunt!

Materials Needed:

  • Cake pan or other container with deep-ish sides
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • Green food coloring
  • Spray bottle or small bowl
  • If using a bowl, also have a spoon
  • Coins/spare change

Prep the activity:

  1. Place a trash bag or plastic tablecloth over the “experiment area” (food coloring can stain!)
  2. Spread out the coins on the bottom of your cake pan
  3. Cover the coins with baking soda
  4. Fill the spray bottle or small dish with vinegar/lemon juice and green food coloring

Invitation to play:

  • Welcome your little one(s) into the science area and explain that some leprechauns stopped by and left a science experiment...and some treasure! 
  • Invite them to begin investigating---spraying the spray bottle or carefully spooning some vinegar onto the baking soda
  • Inquire: What is happening? What do you notice? What do you hear? Why is that happening? What is hiding under the baking soda?!

The science:

  • Vinegar is an acid and baking soda is a base. When acids & bases are added together--we get a chemical reaction! A chemical reaction is when you combine two substances and create something new. In this case, we are combining vinegar (a liquid) with baking soda (a solid) and getting a gas (carbon dioxide!) We can HEAR the carbon dioxide being created when we listen for the fizzing/bubbling sound. 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

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Learning About Symmetry

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s Monday science class offered a group of eleven 3-5 year olds a chance to learn and apply the concept of symmetry.

The museum’s Early Childhood and Literacy Coordinator, Meredith Brustlin led the Junior Science Explorers class, offered by the museum on Mondays from 1:30 to 2:15pm.

Meredith first gathered the group together and explained the concept of symmetry using images of butterflies, lions, and houses. Kids were challenged to identify which images displayed symmetry and which did not.

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Following the lesson, the group sat down to a hands-on symmetry activity, allowing them to apply what they had just learned. The kids were given the choice of painting one side of either a butterfly or a bee.

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They were then instructed to fold their papers in half, revealing a symmetrical work of art they were free to take home.

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Meet the 2018 Young Makers

We're so excited for our 6th annual NH Maker & Food Fest happening this year on Saturday, August 25th from 10am-4pm! This day long festival (formerly the Dover Mini Maker Faire) is a giant showcase of local talent. We have over 50 participants this year, including performers, food vendors, science geeks, and the young makers featured here in this blog post! Mark your calendars, get your tickets early, or at the door, and get ready to be inspired! 

Caleb Weinstein - Lichtenberg Figures

Lichtenberg Figures3

This 8th grade Maker is new to the NH Maker & Food Fest this year, but we're all pretty excited to see him in action! He'll be showing off how he uses high voltage electricity to create unique patterns in wood, called Lichtenberg Figures.

"To make a figure, you must take wood, briase it with water that is mixed with an electrolyte (I use baking soda), and then put high voltage electricity through it. I use a 12,000 kV 35 milliamp neon sign transformer."

His unique furniture will also be for sale!


Nicole Knowlton - Abstract Artist

Luna Canvasby Nicole Knowlton

Nicole Knowlton is a young art educator from Franconia, NH who will be showing off her fluid and beautiful conceptual art. Her art is created using house/acrylic paint on canvas, wood, boxes, magnets and a variety of found objects. Stop by Nicole's booth to get inspired and maybe purchase a painting to bring home.


Mixtape A Cappella - Performance

Accapella Mixtape

This group of young professionals from NH's Seacoast will mix it up on stage for a 30 minute a cappella performance! Stop by their booth and learn how to warm up your voices, try your hand at a cappella trivia and play the "Wheel of Songs!"


Audrey Ammann - Pretty Aud Face Paint

Pretty Aud Face Paint

Audrey is back for the third year in a row with more of her fantastic face paint designs (available for a small fee). Her original face paint designs use hypoallergenic and FDA-certified paints and can incorporate glitter, stencil work, and even rhinestones! 


Beckett Lutton - Word Clock, An Arduino Powered Clock

Word Clock1

Stop by and say hello to young 12 year old Maker, Beckett Lutton who helped build an arduino powered clock that tells time in English, with the help of his father and neighbor. Adjust the time on the clock and see how different times are expressed!


Kealey Gray - Wheel Spun Pottery

Kealey Gray5 Sm

Kealey Gray is a young maker who has been crafting wheel spun pottery for the last three years and will have some unique items for sale. Stop by and play with clay as you learn to make a mini pinch pot out of air drying clay to take home.


Thank you to all our 2018 NH Maker & Food Fest sponsors: The Unique College Investing Plan managed by Fidelity Investments, Prime Buchholz, Alexander Technology Group, Dover Emergency Room (a Campus of Portsmouth Regional Hospital), Great Bay Community College, Albany Engineered Composites, Beswick Engineering, The Rowley Agency Inc., Chinburg Properties, Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, LLC, Martel Plumbing & Heating, Inc., STEM From the Start, iheartMedia, 95.3 The Bull and Z107.

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Monday Science Classes Offer a Bonus!

Blubber Glove

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in downtown Dover offers a variety of weekday science classes for preschoolers, as well as homeschoolers but is now offering parents an added bonus during a Monday science class.

The museum’s popular Junior Science Explorers class for kids ages 3.5-5 is now being offered on Mondays, a day the museum is closed to the public. Families who have a museum membership can not only sign up their kids for the class, but any younger siblings can now join parents on the 2nd floor of the museum to play in the exhibits while their older siblings are in class. This is a benefit that’s exclusive to museum members and is only offered while the Monday class is in session.

This November’s Junior Science class theme is “Incredible Animals” and will invite junior scientists to explore habitats, animal tracks, survival techniques and more. The class runs Mondays, November 6 through December 11 from 1:30-2:15pm.

These 45-minute structured science classes are $60 for Members and $70 for Non-members. Pre-registration is required. Call 603-742-2002 to register.

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​Finding the Summer in STEAM

by Sarah Terry, Museum Educator

Could it finally be summer in New Hampshire? This winter child is a little sad (and hauling up the air conditioners from my basement…), but it’s hard to feel too badly when all the trees and flowers are in bloom!

I’ve been watching our museum garden start to grow out back – we have a ton of different herbs, all kinds of vegetables poking their stems up – and contemplating my unfortunate black thumb. I’ve never really been able get anything to grow except aloe plants (which apparently thrive on neglect), so I’ve been thinking a lot about the science behind growing things, the way plants and animals fit into their environments, and the effects, both positive and negative, that human beings can have on those environments.

It’s with those thoughts in mind that I’ve decided it’s high time to dirty up our fancy new STEAM Lab a bit! For the month of June, all of our lab activities are going to be focused on ecology.

I chose ecology in particular because it focuses on how all the elements of our environment work together. Ecologists look at plants, animals, soil, people – all the pieces of the puzzle. That’s what I’m hoping kids and parents will get a taste of in the lab this month.

And taste may be literal! I’m planning on growing some oyster mushrooms in the lab for kids to inspect, as well as planting some pea plants. We’ll be looking at strawberry DNA, making seed bombs, learning about beavers, making biomes in a bag, and even raising some butterflies!

We’ll be posting our STEAM Lab schedule weekly, so make sure to check our Facebook page and calendar for updates!

And who knows – maybe I’ll even get to upgrade my black thumb to something a little greener! Wish me luck!

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Augmented Reality Sand Table

A New Exhibit Opens at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire

Children Shape the Landscape with an Augmented Reality Sand Table

A new exhibit has opened at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and it combines all the fun of a sand table, with some interactive and responsive high tech imagery. Guests to the Museum can help shape the landscape with a new augmented reality sand table, installed in the ever-popular Dino Detective area.

The technology behind this new exhibit was developed by the UC Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (keckCAVES), as part of an informal science education project funded by the National Science Foundation. This hands-on exhibit allows guests to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines and simulated water, rain and even snow. The system was created to teach geographic, geologic and hydrologic concepts, but the exhibit takes on a different significance when placed in the Museum’s Dino Detective area.

“The sand table relates to the Dino exhibit well,” says Exhibits Director Mark Cuddy. “Geology looks at changes to Earth’s landscape over time, which helps paleontologists determine where to find fossils and, sometimes more importantly, where NOT to look for fossils.” In the rest of the Dino Detective exhibit, guests can dig for fossils, donning the protective eye gear and using the specialized tools that paleontologists would use to unearth these remains. “This entire exhibit is about exploration and questioning what we think we know. Why are the dinosaurs extinct? What can we learn from their bones? How does the water flow around the sand? What happens when I build a dam and then break the dam? Where does the water go?” These kinds of questions are answered, not through labels on a wall, but by the constantly shifting interactivity between the augmented reality component, the sand and the children.

“The best part about this exhibit is that it appeals to everyone. Young, old, new or repeat visitors: Everyone loves to play with the sand!” says Mark. “I’ve heard some great things while watching guests at the table. Things like ‘Woah! Look I made it rain!’ or ‘Let’s all push the sand into a big mountain in the middle of a lake.’ It keeps our guests constantly engaged and learning.”

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Here Comes the Sun

By Sarah Terry

Well, I am thrilled to report that the first session of our inaugural Maker Club at Woodman Park Elementary went wonderfully! It was so much fun, the kids are a blast to work with, and by the end of the hour, we had ten working Artbots bumping their ways around the room! One of our second grade students told her teacher afterwards, “You know, I never thought I would ever make a robot... and then I did!”

We had three-legged ArtBots, four-legged ArtBots, double ArtBots, BotBots (bots without marker legs, of course!), and more! It was quite the buzzy creative party!

And there's only one way for a Maker Club to celebrate this success... by making more stuff!

Our next hands-on project involves one of my favorite ways to combine art and science – photography! I'm probably on the edge of the last generation that remembers using film cameras. I was just getting old enough to learn how to load the film myself when digital cameras became popular and quickly took hold of the market. Digital cameras are fascinating in their own right and have made photography more accessible than ever, but my mother is a photographer and I'll always have a soft spot for film... and the chemistry you can learn by understanding how it works!

There are many types of film that use different chemicals to capture different colors of light, but we're going to be working with cyanotypes!

Cyanotypes, sometimes called sun prints, were invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel. Does that name sound familiar? Herschel's father William is the man who discovered Uranus! John Herschel continued his father's work in astronomy – he named seven of the moons of Saturn, and four moons of Uranus – but he also made large contributions to the field of photography.

Cyanotypes were originally used to reproduce notes and diagrams (their bright color is where we get the term blueprint from!). The first person to use the process to make photographs was Anna Atkins, an English botanist and friend of John Herschel. She is considered by some to be the first female photographer! She used the process to document different kinds of algae and seaweed, and published a book called (fittingly), Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Technically, what Atkins created were photograms. Photograms are made by contact printing – she put pieces of algae directly on the paper and exposed it to create her images!

We're going to be making some photograms of our own today!

Now, I bought already-treated cyanotype paper film, but you can actually make the film yourself! This process involves chemicals, so you'd want to make sure you have goggles, gloves, a mask and a well-ventilated area to work in! This article documents the process, and the supplies you'd need.

Materials:

  • Sunprint paper
  • Supplies to make your image. Now this could be all kinds of materials – I cut designs out of paper, and used some mesh, but you can use leaves, shells, Legos, anything you think has a cool outline!
  • Plexiglass sheet
  • Plastic bin
  • Vinegar (or lemon juice!)
  • Water

Now cyanotypes are made through a chemical reaction with UV or ultraviolet light! The chemicals in the paper – ammonium iron (iii) citrate and potassium ferricyanide – react with UV light to create an insoluble blue dye! Then you develop the film in water and a little vinegar, and your print is finished!

To begin, make sure that you are in a room where sunlight can't reach you! You don't want any UV light to touch your print before you're ready. Luckily, indoor lights aren't powerful enough to produce ultraviolet light, so you don't need to work in a darkroom, like you would for ordinary film.

Get the complete step-by-step instructions here in a handy dandy printable PDF

Check out this video to see the process in action!

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​The Wacky Scientist Reflects on his Career

NSSS13 WackySciAva2

By Doug Tilton

I have had the honor of being the “Wacky Scientist” for the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire for about 14 years now and I spend all year preparing for and looking forward to the October Not-So-Spooky Spectacular! I’m actually the second “Wacky Scientist” to hold this position. The first Wacky Scientist was a former employee named Bill Stroup. He and Jane, our current President, came up with the slightly misleading moniker of “Wacky Scientist.” I’ve never thought of myself as particularly “wacky” (but I suppose I have my moments). In my pre-wacky days I actually did a lot of theatre and directing, which I think has served me well when trying to keep my young audience attentive and entertained.

I had presented science concepts to children’s audiences for years and directed others to do it, but still, the first time I did it as the Wacky Scientist was still a new experience. I relied on my fellow educators to help develop the science experiments that have become a signature highlight of our Halloween celebrations. Then as time went on, I started creating my own experiments and made sure that each show was different and unique!

A few of my favorite experiments over the years have included anti-gravity in a jar, “sink or float,” giant gyroscope, Coke and Mentos explosion and screaming balloons! Of course there are always unexpected surprises. Sometimes those surprises come in the form of costumed kids who want to talk to their friends through my experiments, or perhaps think they already know all about what I’m doing. THEY are the ones I make into my first assistants! Hey, every Wacky Scientist needs a Wacky Assistant. It’s in the bi-laws.

Of course, being a Wacky Scientist, or a Wacky Assistant, isn’t all fun and games. Occasionally it requires some serious dedication and risk taking. One year I was working the kinks out of a fantastic experiment where I used a bungee cord to drop a raw egg from the ceiling onto my assistant’s face! We carefully measured everything to make sure that the bungee would stop the egg from hitting his face at the very last second. Let’s just say, the Wacky Assistant’s dedication was tested that day, as were my Wacky nerves. But in the end, we measured correctly and didn’t end up with any egg on our face, literally or idiomatically.

Are you bringing your wacky kids to this year’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular?

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