Saturday, April 18, 2015

April at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

We were on the road early on this morning, due at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis for a homeschool class on aquatic ecosystems at the crack of 10 am. YAWN!

When we're out for the day (or the weekend, or the week...), I always pack food for our trip. I noticed, on this morning, that our lunches have grown since the days when I was toting a toddler and a baby to the Children's Museum for the day!
There's grocery store sushi for each of the kids, a big green apple and a knife to cut it with, crackers, salami, goat cheese, and a clementine to share. And everyone had a banana and a giant nut butter and jelly sandwich in the car for breakfast. 

Our aquatic ecosystems class was fabulous. The kids learned about watersheds, then went between stations to perform a natural water filtration experiment, create art with oil pastels and watercolors, perform another experiment on showerhead design (finally I understand how low-flow showerheads work!), look at pond water through a microscope, and perform yet another experiment on water run-off. 

The highlight of the class, however, was building their very own aquatic ecosystem, with a vase, some glass marbles, a plant (we actually didn't take the plants that they gave us into the house, because they were peace lilies, which are toxic to cats. Yikes! We plan to buy spider plants, instead), and a betta fish! 

The kids. Were. Thrilled.

We came away with our ecosystems and a list of books and activities to continue the fun, and were off to the rest of the museum.

I'm always a little dubious about the museum's tendency to run pop culture-themed exhibits-- 

--but I do get they use them to integrate educational enrichment into the theme. This Transformers exhibit included lots of storytelling and pretend play, of course, but also emphasized product design:

Add "Make toy prototypes" to my list of reasons why I SUPER want a MakerBot!

Also, when I travel with the kids, NOBODY takes my photo so that the 3D works correctly!

Sigh.

We zipped through the new exhibit on TV and film production--


--then went down to our volunteer gig in the Paleo Prep Lab of Dinosphere. Will finished preparing, all but the air abrading, a lovely example of an edmontosaurus annectens chevron:

The full chevron is forked, with the two branches ending in a bulbous piece and the other end extending out a great distance. Will had a nice portion of one of the upper branches. These chevrons run along the bottom of the edmontosaurus' tail.

Syd, coincidentally, had a piece of neural spine:

These are pointed shingle-shaped pieces that run along the TOP of the edmontosaurus' tail!

Unfortunately, this neural spine was part of a great mess of a piece, because the paleontologist who discovered it (Max, I'm looking directly at YOU here!!!) did NOT Paleobond it in the field. Friends, when you do not Paleobond the fossils in the field, they crumble all to hell by the time you get them home. Syd prepped her nice neural spine piece--

and then began to Paleobond and attempt to prep some of the remaining fragments (only Paleobonding herself to the fossil once), while I chipped through some more of the matrix to see what else was in there: 

You're not going to believe it, but it was another freaking tendon. I am the tendon queen. If only tendons were at all rare or even scientifically interesting!

The prep lab tends to have a couple of other volunteers and staff members whenever we're there, but on this day, for some reason at one point all of them had run off, leaving at the Paleo Lab Window (the connection between the lab and the museum exhibit. People can come to the open window and touch fossils and ask questions) a single paleontologist, who needed to run back to his office for a minute. But he couldn't, because he also couldn't leave the window unattended--kids would be licking the Paleobond, and teenagers would be leaving the exhibit with backpacks bulging with T-rex bones.

"I can stand there for a minute," I offered.

My offer was met with an ambiguous combination of Hopeful Eyes and Horror at What is to Come. It's never been overtly stated, but I'm pretty certain that we rank amateurs are never to interact with paying guests in an official capacity. We have not had our interpersonal or guest relations training, and there is no telling what might come out of our mouths. It's the way I feel observing Syd's ballet class, where the teacher likes to ask them all what they had for breakfast while they're stretching; Syd inevitable answers something humiliating, like "cheese," or "leftover French fries," or "my Mommy didn't feed me breakfast today" (the lying little rat! I offered her peanut butter and a spoon to eat it with, and she turned up her nose at it!).

The brave paleontologist took a breath, and dubiously asked me, "Can you talk about this T-rex bone?"

I confidently bullshitted, "Dude, I can TALK about this T-rex bone! How hard can it be, right? 'Hey, Kids, do you like dinosaurs?' and 'Want to touch a real one?'"

I should have stopped talking after that first exclamation point, because the look on the paleontologist's face told me that there is a LOT more to sitting at the Paleo Lab Window than "Hey, Kids do you like dinosaurs?" but he clearly figured, "What the hell?" and left me there, speed-walking away determinedly.

Immediately, a little girl and her mom tentatively walked over to the window, where a big T-rex bone temptingly sits. "Hey!" I said to her enthusiastically, "Do you like dinosaurs?"

"Yes." YES!!!

"Do you want to touch a real one?"

"No." NOOOOOO!!!!

"Well," I said, "Touching a real dinosaur bone doesn't happen every single day. I mean, did you touch a dinosaur bone yesterday?"

"No."

"Uh-huh. And did you touch a dinosaur bone the day before yesterday?"

"No." Ooh, she's smiling now. I've got her!

"Well, do you want to touch a dinosaur bone today?"

"No." Damn it to hell!!!

I change tactics. "Do you know where your knee is?"

"Yes," and she touches it.

"The T-rex's knee is right here," and I point to it. "Now, do you know where your hip is?"

She doesn't, but her mom helps her.

"There's a long bone called the femur that connects your knee to your hip. This bone is the T-rex's femur, and it runs from his knee to his hip." I enticingly run my hand all the way from the T-rex's knee to his hip. The kid reaches out her right hand slowly, almost touches the bone, and then hesitates and pulls it back. No. Freakin'. Deal.

I get distracted from my mission, then, as I continue to tell the kid about femurs and T-rexes--I point out the complete skeleton across the way, where she can look for the T-rex's femur, and I get her mom to hike her leg up on the windowsill, so that we can all compare our femurs to the T-rex's. It's not until I turn away a couple of minutes later, the kid having wandered off, see that I now seem to have TWO paleontologists hovering nervously behind me, waiting to reclaim the Window, and go back to my work (where Will teased me, saying "You sounded like a KINDERGARTEN teacher, Mom!" "Child," I replied, "I was talking to a KINDERGARTENER!"), that I suddenly scan my memory and realize that yes, YES, at some point during our conversation, THAT KID TOTALLY TOUCHED THE T-REX BONE!!!!!

Mission accomplished.

I could fuss around in the prep lab all day, but an hour and a half of hard work is about all that the eight-year-old can stand, so off we went.

Back to the world of the dinosaurs. Of COURSE: 
In the paleo art lab, Will sketches a bust of Dracorex Hogwartsis.
 The upper level of Dinosphere (here you're looking down from it into the lower level. This used to be an IMAX theatre!)--

--is focused on paleo art, which is really cool. Sometimes one of the docents will sketch there, asking kids to describe an animal that they're thinking of for him to draw--the drawing always turns out ridiculous, of course. But there are lots of activities that show the kids how to make models and draw figures, etc. The kids' favorite one has loads of bronze-colored Silly Putty and metal skulls of different dinosaurs; the kids can sculpt the musculature and skin onto the bust. Syd was working on her sculpture of Dracorex Hogwartsis for ages, when all of a sudden Will exclaimed to her, "Oh, you've kneaded your hair in!"

And indeed, the child, intent on her work, head bent down so as to almost touch her sculpture, had absent-mindedly kneaded a chunk of her hair into the Silly Putty skin.

And that's how I can tell you that Silly Putty works exactly like bubble gum in hair. I had to finally just cut it out the next morning, bless the poor kid's heart.

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