Tags: art, dinosaurs, natural history, origami, photography, plants
Though you’d never know it from my last several posts, there are actually numerous cool and exciting things happening at the Peabody Essex Museum which are not related to Eye Spy. However, since the Art & Nature Center is all about things interdisciplinary, we are frequently invited to come play in other departments’ sandboxes.
One great example was yesterday’s program planned by our Family Programs staff– “Dinosaurs at the Museum.” Capitalizing on young folks’ interest in all things dinosaur, this program tied in to the current photography show on exhibit, Imprints: Photographs by Mark Ruwedel.
A screening of the cartoon classic Land Before Time kicked off the morning, followed by make-your-own dinosaur feet (which tie on over your shoes, adorable!). The program finished up with a trip upstairs to Imprints to see the very cool photographs, and yours truly in a pith helmet, hanging out with a pair of real dinosaur footprints in stone (three-toed carnivorous, 215 million years old), and a fossilized dinosaur tooth, both from PEM’s natural history collections.
The dinosaur tooth was my favorite story of the day: donated to the museum in a ladies’ scissors box from the 1800′s, it had with it a calling card and a sketch of a model from Harvard’s museum of natural history, back when it was called Agassiz Hall. Interestingly, the card claimed it was a phytosaur tooth, but the sketch also identified it as belonging to a desmatosuchus.
When my research on phytosaurs turned up nothing that looked like a desmatosuchus, I dug a little deeper to find out that while both are ‘archosaurs’ — precursors to the dinosaurs and looking rather like crocodiles — desmatosuchus was a plant eater and phytosaur a carnivore. I then got to present all the clues to our smallish (and even tallish) visitors and ask them which dino *they* thought our mystery tooth belonged to. Great fun all around, and at least three short visitors, two of them girls, informed me that when they grew up they were going to find out for sure. It made me smile (and think about the book Boy Were We Wrong about Dinosaurs, a fun read).
What did we decide about our mystery tooth, after all that? Given the pointy nature of PEM’s mystery fossil, I’m throwing in my vote that our tooth once graced the mouth of a phytosaur, and the majority of yesterday’s visitors agreed with me…but I’d be happy for an actual paleontologist to come by and prove me wrong.
And so today I offer you some more ways to share the dinosaur-joy.
The World of Dinosaurs
National Geographic: Prehistoric World — Want to know what’s new in the world of dinosaurs and their neighbors? Great articles, artistic reconstructions, and meaty issues here.
Jurassic Gardens – Create a terrarium populated with your favorite model dinos!
- Useful list of supplies and possible plants from National Geographic here.
- Inspiration for an outside dinosaur garden at Lucy’s Garden here.
- Go organic with some of the other plant and compost suggestions from Organic Flower Gardening with Kids here.
- Making fossil-impressions with salt dough and coffee grounds from Kaboose here.
- Pteranodons and T-Rex skulls from milk bottles directions here.
- Glue-resist dino bones art directions here.
Tags: art, eye_spy, light and color, plants
It’s been blinking hot, which means that everyone I know has been in search of and grateful for even a tiny scrap of shade when forced to be outside the last few days.
One of the things I love about shade on a sunny day is looking up through the leaves to see the patterns and variations of green that you get from the overlapping leaves.
One of the artists featured in Eye Spy clearly feels the same way. Mary Temple is an artist who works primarily with concepts of light and shadow — tree shadows falling on buildings, through windows, across floors, etc. Many of her works are either photocollage or painted to the sharpness of a black-and-white photograph, but one of my absolute favorites of hers is neither.
In Corner Light (Grape Arbor), the image you see is actually part of the paper–sections of it have been washed or scratched away to create a translucent window within the paper which the light then shines through. Though this piece is a lot less in-your-face whiz-bang-wow than a lot of the works in Eye Spy, in the early mornings when the Art & Nature Center is quiet it’s one of my favorite pieces to just savor for a little while.
If you’d like to make your own light garden piece, try out my Layered Light Quilts activity. It’s creation by addition instead of subtraction to make it easier for kids and also easier to find the supplies–but if you hang one in your window you’ll get some of that same dappled-leaf glow.
Download the pdf directions here: Layered Light Quilts directions
Tags: architecture, outdoors, plants, recycling, spring, weather
It’s warming up, it’s almost school vacation week here in Massachusetts, and as the leaves are starting to unfurl I thought I’d offer up some paper-craft options for fresh-air fun.
That’s an idea whose time has fortunately gone by, but if you’ve got that spring-air fever, may I recommend a fair-weather fort made of newspaper?
Indulge your architectural side and build a geodesic dome out of rolled newspaper struts. (Alternate directions also available here.) This is a great activity in small scale or large — I’ve done it with visitors both ways, and it’s always a big hit. Just typing this makes me want to build one in my backyard. There’s some fun inspirational architecture-via-recyclables here: Amazing Recycled Architecture.
And while you’re into the newspaper-folding mode, and out in the backyard, try out a six-sided kite or these neat biodegradable newspaper seed-starter pots. Or make yourself a useful newspaper basket, perfect for a picnic in your geodesic fort.
Looking for other great recycled-material activities and a way to get out of the house next week? Check out this list of upcoming events for Trash Springs to Life at the Peabody Essex Museum!
Tags: electromagnetic spectrum, light and color, optical illusions, physics, plants
So if you’ve got a case of the grays, here’s a collection of fun things to lighten up your day!
“Bright Ideas: Light Bulbs Stimulate Insights” — “New research finds exposure to a bare, illuminated light bulb — a universal symbol of bright ideas — is a catalyst to reaching insights. ” (Ah, but does it work with CFLs?)
Re-using Lightbulbs as Mini-Terrariums Surprisingly pretty! And a neat statement about going green. (Definitely does not work with CFLs! Can you imagine a teeny tiny twisted terrarium? You can? Good. Now say that back to me five times fast.)
Designer Duo Create Dress with 24,000 LED’s – “We used the smallest full-color LEDs, flat like paper, and measuring only 2 by 2 mm,” say designers Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz… “The circuits are extra-thin, flexible and hand-embroidered on a layer of silk in a way that gives it stretch so the LED fabric can move like normal fabric with lightness and fluidity.”
How-to’s and Lesson Plans on Light and Waves from the New Zealand Physics Teachers’ Resource Bank. Lots of very cool stuff here, including a very small-scale demonstration of eye resolution and color mixing, which would be an interesting tie in to a discussion of Impressionism and pointillism, I think, as well as an explanation of how TV’s and monitors work.
20 Amazing Optical Illusions — The Lilac Chaser above is #13 on the list.
Tags: animals, art, diy, electricity, ideabox, jewelry, magnets, physics, plants, recycling
It’s time for another Ideabox–this time, on CD spindles and the many uses thereof, with a guest appearance by a few spools of thread.
I think CD spindles are a remarkable piece of design: they’re the kind of thing that do what they’re supposed to very well, and then sit there and taunt you, gathering dust because they LOOK like you should be able to do something else with them. If you have a few of these lying around that you’re looking to ‘upcycle’ into something new and useful, here are some ideas to get you started. (Instructables was a really valuable resource in assembling this post. You’ll see what I mean.)
First, a video that gives you four options in what feels like forty seconds, just to get you thinking:
Next, for the folks who can never get too organized:
- The ‘you’re kidding, someone wrote instructions for that?’ Headphone Holder. (Yes, they did. But just because it’s easy and not exactly aesthetically pleasing doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid idea!)
- The ‘I know a techie sort with too much jewelry’ CD Spindle Earring Holder. (I know an artist who could really use this kind of display stand…)
CD Spindles for the Plant and Animal Worlds:
- Flower Planters — this is a particularly cool idea if you’re trying to do a science experiment that allows you to watch the roots of things grow. Visible carrots!
- Mushroom Storage Case — I wasn’t sure whether to put this under ‘plants,’ ‘organization,’ or ‘huh?’ but it’s cute.
- High Speed Silent Hamster Wheel — For the fleet of foot, but not the faint of heart.
For the Electrically Savvy:
- CD Spindle Lamp — Gorgeous, actually. And using an LED or CFL bulb would make it even safer. I’d love to see a version that took up less horizontal footprint though, for the sake of those of us who live in small spaces.
- Water-Powered Tesla Turbine — There are a number of variations to this idea provided by ‘mrfixits’ on Instructables. They’re all fascinating in a ‘how do you come up with these things?’ way. I love the idea of using recycled materials and water power and magnets to talk about generating electricity, though. (And on that note, a similarly cool variation, A Pringles Can Wind Turbine)
Spools get to play too:
- Build a Spool Racer with extra supplemental teacher materials here.
- Spool Racers Expanded! Including the ‘Come Back Can’ directions as well.
- Spool as Pixel –Artworks by Devorah Sperber. This artist is going to be part of the upcoming Art & Nature Center exhibition, Eye Spy, Playing with Perception, opening June 19th.