I Say Hedgehog, You Say Groundhog, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

One of the hardest parts of being a zookeeper is saying goodbye to the animals in your care. The Live Animals Department at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was saddened by the unexpected death of our groundhog, Rosie, in October of 2016. Rosie died due to complications from old age, as she was at least six years old. Groundhogs typically live 6-8 years under human care.

Rosie came to the Boonshoft Museum from the Wildlife Center of Minnesota in November of 2011. She had been found in the road running in circles and was taken to the Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. Rosie was not able to be released into the wild because of a head injury, so the Boonshoft Museum became her permanent home. Rosie was a wonderful ambassador for her species and an excellent weather forecaster. She predicted the weather at Groundhog Day for five years, and she was almost never wrong!

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                 Rosie the Groundhog

After the passing of Rosie, we realized that we would need to find a replacement very soon, as Groundhog Day was only a few months away. Rosie, and groundhogs in general, can be very lazy in a zoo setting, especially during the wintertime when they normally hibernate. Because we only have so much space in the Discovery Zoo, the Live Animals Department staff decided that another animal would better engage and educate our visitors. Instead of doing Groundhog Day in 2017, we were going to do Hedgehog Day! A hedgehog would not need as much space as a groundhog, and a hedgehog could also be an ambassador animal. Our ambassador animals travel to schools, senior centers, and other places around the community to educate people about animals, and give them a chance to meet the animals up close.

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                Quilliam the Hedgehog   

Now you may be thinking, “Hedgehog Day? Are you guys crazy?” Maybe! But Hedgehog Day has actually been around longer than Groundhog Day! Hedgehog Day began in the Roman Empire when folks considered the weather on Candlemas to predict future weather. Candlemas is a Christian holiday on February 2, and the saying goes:

“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
Winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.”

Legend has it that the Romans believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, and they looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts. These two traditions melded in Germany and were brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted with native groundhogs, and Groundhog Day was born. Unlike modern Groundhog Day, the Romans watched to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow at night. This makes sense since hedgehogs are nocturnal!

We’re very excited for visitors to meet our four-toed hedgehog, Quilliam, on Groundhog Hedgehog Day! Come to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 2, to see if Quilliam predicts an early spring!

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Careers In Curiosity: To Infinity and Beyond!

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Jason Heaton, Assistant Director of Astronomy

What was your childhood dream job? Ballerina? Fire Fighter? Marine Biologist? Everyone is different, but it is certainly a rarity to be so inspired by something that you make it your life’s work. Jason Heaton, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Astronomy, visited the Boonshoft Museum as a little boy and fell in love with the possibilities that the night sky provided.

For this month’s Careers In Curiosity post, our guest blogger and Planetarium expert extraordinaire, Jason, will talk a little bit about running a Planetarium, teaching children and adults about our Solar System, and much more. Check out his blog below:

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In 2003 I had the chance to meet Neil Armstrong

Hello, Nice To Meet You

My name is Jason Heaton and I am the Assistant Director of Astronomy at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Astronomy department at the Boonshoft houses an observatory, a planetarium, and astronomy related exhibits.

How I Started in Astronomy

My career in astronomy began at the Boonshoft when I was a child. My parents enrolled me in the Boonshoft summer programs for many years. I

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The NASA sponsored Exoplanets exhibit, produced by the Boonshoft Astronomy Department

loved archaeology, paleontology, and the activities at SunWatch, but the planetarium was by far my favorite. An energetic and hilarious planetarium director named Art Goss inspired me and fueled my love for the night sky.

In school, science classes were my favorite. I went to college at the University of Dayton, enrolling in Aerospace Engineering. I began working in the planetarium as a part time job while I was in school.  During that time, I fell in love with astronomical visualization…making

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A planetarium audience rides an Ice Slide set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

the stars come to life in the planetarium. I graduated U.D. with a degree in Computer Animation. I have been working for the Museum ever since, for more than twenty years now.

The Best Part of Working in the Astronomy Department

We do many different things in our department. We build astronomy exhibits such as the Exoplanet exhibit which recently opened. We house the Apollo Observatory, a large telescope open for free to the public on clear Friday nights. We have many different types of events that happen in the planetarium, people have proposed marriage, live bands have played, and astronauts have lectured. We have created planetarium shows and astronomical visualizations that have been shown around the world.  However, my favorite thing about working in the astronomy department is presenting the live shows about the night sky in the Dome.

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Speaking of magic, the planetarium is also one of the main stages for Harry Potter Camp, where I play Professor Starbuck, the Hogwarts summer school astronomy teacher.

Someone once said that as people we all have one thing in common…we all look up at the stars at some point in our lives and wonder. The planetarium is a unique place. When I was a child, it was magical.  People come to our planetarium to learn about the sky and experience that same feeling of wonder and magic.

As a presenter, I have witnessed the same feeling of magic in the eyes of children coming to the star shows. They will often come back after the show and ask a million questions, it becomes obvious that they will leave the museum loving the stars the same way I have.

Future Generations

You never know who is going to come into the planetarium and become a future astronaut or astronomer. The first person on Mars may be someone who is in school right now. The astronomers who find the first Earth-like planet; the mission specialist onboard a future space station; the scientists that will help us get back to the Moon; all of these people have one thing in common: someone, or something, inspired them and their love of the night sky, perhaps in a planetarium like ours.

Science @ Home: Pop, Fizz, Expand–Kitchen Science With a Kick!

When you’re a kid it seems like everything messy is fascinating. The bigger the mess, the better the time. The same could probably be true for adults if they weren’t partially responsible for helping clean up. Well, at the Boonshoft Museum we are all about making a mess in a safe environment, especially if we can learn something from it!

This month’s Science @ Home experiment turns your kitchen into a chemistry lab by mixing some delicious confections! We’ve all heard the “explosive” urban legend about drinking a pop while guzzling Pop Rocks. While that is not entirely true (no, your tummy won’t explode!), the combination does produce a lot of gas. Try this classic experiment to see for yourself!

Pop, Fizz, Expand – Pop Rocks and Soda

You Will Need:

  • A Few Packs of Pop Rocks
  • Balloons
  • 12-16 oz bottle of pop (if you want to expand on the experiment, try a variety)
  • A Notebook and Pen to Record Your Observations

Experiment:

1) Open the first bottle of pop and pop rocks. Pour out a little soda to make room for the fizz.

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2) Empty the entire contents of the pop rocks pouch into the bottle of pop.

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3) Immediately place the balloon over the opening of the pop bottle.

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4) Observe what is happening to the pop and the balloon.

5) Optional: Repeat the experiment with different types of pop.

What’s Happening?

Infamous for the popping sensation in your mouth, Pop Rocks contain pressurized carbon dioxide gas. Once the saliva from your mouth wears town the candy shell the carbon dioxide is released from it’s shell, creating a popping sound. The same is true for pop, a carbonated drink that gets it’s bubbles from pressurized carbon dioxide. The mixture of the pressurized carbon dioxide in the candy and combined with the pressurized carbon dioxide gas from the pop creates so much gas, it needs to leave the bottle so it fills the balloon.

Take it further:

Try using different flavors of pop rocks and different kinds of pop. Are there different reactions? Does the balloon fill up faster, slower, or the same?

To see more experiments watch our full segment on Living Dayton below:

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Make sure you don’t miss a Science @ Home experiment by signing up for the Boonshoft Museum’s E-Newsletters and be sure to follow us on Pinterest.

Celebrating Earth Day With “Green” Family Fun!

It’s no secret, every day is Earth Day here at the Boonshoft Museum. From learning about water conservation in Splash!, to becoming a recycling pro in our new Landfill exhibit, one of the biggest take-aways from a visit to the Boonshoft Museum is learning how every single person can make a difference when it comes to our Earth and the impact we have on it.

Today, instead of just remembering to turn off the lights and take out the recycling (not that those aren’t wonderful, helpful things) make Earth Day a true celebration by participating in fun Earth-friendly activities with the whole family!

Here are five fun and creative things you can do to celebrate Earth Day:

1) Camp In – Though it may not be quite warm enough to camp outside, there is a great alternative! Pitch a tent, grab a few sleeping bags, or build a pillow fort inside. Unplug your devices, turn the lights out and the flashlights on for some quality family time that saves energy.

Simply turning your lights off and abstaining from electricity consumption for one hour can make a huge difference! In fact, during Earth Hour, a worldwide movement encouraging communities to turn of non-essential lights for one hour, places like Bangkok decreased energy usage by 73.34 megawatts – which is equivalent to 41.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Imagine if everyone “camped in” for just one evening a year, which would save an amazing amount of energy in addition to creating a ton of awesome memories!

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Credit: blog.sheaapartments.com

2) Plant a buzz-worthy garden! Did you know that honey bees play a huge roll in pollinating the food you eat every single day? In fact, one out of every three bites of food that Americans eat is directly or indirectly derived from honeybee pollination, so why not help our flying friends out by proving a safe place for them to explore free of pesticides?

Lavender, geraniums, and zinnias are beautiful, while fennel and cilantro can spice up your meals—and the best part? They can all be part of a bee-friendly garden that helps to conserve the honey bee population. To learn more about planting a buzz-worthy garden click here. To test your honey bee knowledge, take the quiz linked below.

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Click here to Take the Quiz

3) Trade in your Subaru for a Schwinn! Just for the day, see what it’s like to take a family outing to dinner, the movies, or to get ice cream. Not only do you treat yourself to some family time while getting some exercise (a 140 pound cyclist can burn up to 400 calories in an hour), you are making a greener choice by using a mode of transportation that does not require fossil fuels, therefore reducing your carbon footprint!

Who knows! Maybe you will get the biking bug and participate in National Bike To Work Day on May 15.

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4) Calculate your Carbon Footprint! Sit down with your family to see how you measure up to your national peers when it comes to energy consumption! The calculator, linked below, estimates your footprint in three areas: home energy, transportation, and waste.

After you have taken the quiz, find small ways to adjust your footprint; hang the laundry out to dry instead of running the dryer, adjust your thermostat, and change your power settings on your computer to save energy and money. Not only can you see how much money and CO2 you will save by making these small adjustments, you can turn it into a family challenge with a goal that you can work towards.

Click here to Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

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Credit: cleveland.com

5) Candid Chats About Climate Change! Climate change is not only real, it’s happening as we speak. The implications of a warmer Earth effect everything, from the smallest plants to the largest animals. Discussing climate change and the role that human beings play in it can not only help children understand the gravity of the situation, they can feel empowered to help—even at a young age.

Hop on to nasa.gov to with your kiddos to play climate kids computer games; your child will not only learn about climate change, but what they can do to make big difference!

Click here To Play

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For more ideas on how to become a conservation champ visit our Pinterest board, or stop by the Museum. Today, from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. the Southwest Ohio EPA will be here sharing tons of wonderful Earth Day tips and providing interactive, hands-on opportunities for guests!

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Hands on learning at the Boonshoft Museum with the Southwest Ohio EPA

Boiling Water to Blistering Vapor..the Classic Below Zero Experiment

It’s the dead of winter in the Midwest and the term “arctic blast” has been thrown around quite a few times—which means one thing…boredom! Sure, the appeal of having a day off school and/or work is great until about 11:30 a.m. when you realize it’s -12 degrees outside which means any expectation of shopping, sledding, or running errands is out the window. While being stuck at home has a downside, there is also an upside, with boredom comes curiosity and with curiosity comes experimentation and where there’s experimentation, there’s science!

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Click to view

Though we don’t encourage you do to the following experiment at home, as our professional educators have the experience, safety equipment, and space to experiment in (literally) freezing cold temperatures, the “boiling water to snow” experiment is a popular one — especially on YouTube, but why? Perhaps because the same thing you use to cook a steaming plate of spaghetti turns to “snow” virtually instantly. Impressive, right? But what is actually happening? Here’s the science behind it:

The boiling water is closer to evaporating than cold water, so when you throw very hot water into very cold, dry air, the smaller droplets are able to cool off and evaporate rapidly into a cloud before it reaches the ground. What you are actually seeing isn’t the formation of snow, but rather boiling water that evaporates into a vaporous cloud. This experiment works best when the air and dew point are below zero (so we were in luck today!).

Weather is way cool – no pun intended — especially when you can experiment, but we must admit that in these kind of temperatures that we can wait for a summertime liquid nitrogen ice cream experiment, but for now we’ll just have to enjoy the chilly weather and we hope you do to!