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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Science @ Home: Candy Sparks

SCIENCE @ HomeFourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to attend a fireworks display to see a spark! That’s right, with some simple science, you can create spark (in your mouth!) with some refreshing candy.

What You’ll Need:

  • A bag of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (not sugarless)
  • A pair of pliers (use if you are not allowed to crunch on hard candy)
  • A mirror or a group of friends

Experiment:

  1. Head into your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror. If you are at home with friends, you can head outside when it’s dark. Keep in mind you will need complete darkness to best see the spark, so if you are outdoors head to an area of your yard with the least light pollution.
  2. Give your eyes 3-5 minutes to adjust to the dark, you will be able to see the spark better this way.
  3. Place the Wint-O-Green lifesaver between your teeth, make sure you are standing across from your friends or directly across from the mirror. Bite down on the Wint-O-Green with your mouth or crush it with a pair of pliers.
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Click to play

Observations:

What did you see? Was it a greenish-blue light? If you didn’t see the spark, repeat the experiment a few more times until you see the spark.

What is Happening?

You’ve created a little storm in your mouth, that’s right! This actually is more similar to lightning than it is to a sparkler. Lightning is an electric stream that excites nitrogen molecules in the air, proving them with extra energy which is released as visual light.

When sugar is crushed with teeth or pliers, the pieces become negatively and positively charged, making electricity jump through the air between the pieces of sugar. This is what creates light.

But can’t I just crush a piece of sugar and see the reaction? The answer is no, but that’s just because the release of energy when regular sugar is crushed is ultraviolet light, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, the wintergreen in the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers is a special substance that absorbs ultraviolet energy and transforms it into visual light – aka triboluminescence.

5 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day This Friday!

A recurring theme both at the Boonshoft Museum and our sister sites, SunWatch and Fort Ancient, is conservation. We conserve artifacts and specimens, and we teach children and families about our natural resources and how we can best preserve them. On Earth Day, we are all acutely aware of the impact that humanity has on our planet and its inhabitants, some big (like the Polar Bears at the Columbus Zoo) and some small (like Patience, the Boonshoft Museum’s Two-Toed Sloth).

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Two-Toed Sloths just like Patience face habitat loss due to deforestation of the South American rain forests.

It’s easy to be intimidated by the effort requires to slow down the effects of deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, but the Museum is committed to making sure that everyone, through small changes, has the ability to make a HUGE, positive impact on our environment–and what better way to kick-off a year of “green” living than by celebrating Earth Day on April 22!

Here are 5 simple things you can do that will have a big impact on our environment:

  1. Actively Educate – By attending events like the Boonshoft Museum’s Earth Day Celebration and Super Science Saturday, your family will learn about our natural resources, like the Miami Valley Aquifer, in addition to how we can use science to conserve, preserve, and sustain our natural resources. Most of our special conservation days are included with regular admission or free to the public, so be sure to check our Calendar frequently for upcoming events!
  2. Be a Good Steward – One of the most critical challenges to the world today is climate change. The change in climate affects the world’s ecosystems and has a ripple effect to which humans are not immune. Climate change affects our food sources and the economy. To be a good steward of the environment, try to save energy in your household. Simply turning the lights off when you leave a room, keeping your house a few degrees warmer during the summer, and unplugging electronics when you leave for school and work can collectively have a large impact on your energy usage and wallet!
  3. Purchase With a Purpose – You can shop smart and help fight deforestation by using sustainable alternatives to products that use Palm Oil and are created with recyclable materials. Palm oil is a key contributor to rain forest deforestation and can be found in common household items and food, like candy and cereal—even makeup. Opt into purchasing certified recycled products and support companies that use sustainable practices. Click here to view a list of companies that are dedicated to saving the environment.
  4. Plant for Pollinators – Between honey bees, bats, and butterflies, millions of dollars worth of crops and food are cultivated each year. With one in every three bites of food being indirectly or directly a result of honey bee pollination, something has to be done about their dwindling populations. Many of our pollinators are at risk due to habitat loss, so the best way to combat that is to create a pollinator-friendly place in your back yard! Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, a flowering plant that can easily be planted in your back yard. You can also opt for a bat house or plant a bee friendly garden. Some honey bees are often confused with wasps, so if you have a nest that you wish to remove, ask a professional if it is a honey bee hive and if it is contact a local apiarist (beekeeper).
  5. Get Active – If it’s a beautiful day and you need to run errands, consider riding a bike instead of taking your car. Not only does Dayton have some of the best bike trails regionally, biking to work is a green alternative to a car commute and it keeps you healthy! The burning of fossil fuels from motor vehicles creates both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, both of which affect our atmosphere and add to changes in climate.

Just doing these 5 simple things can help save our environment and its inhabitants! Learn more tomorrow during our Earth Day Celebration!

STEM Skills: Everyone Needs Them.

It’s not a secret; here at the Boonshoft Museum, we love all things Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and our goal is to inspire children and their families to do the same. While we’re in the business of engaging our guests with STEM education that will hopefully spark a lifetime of commitment to STEM fields of study, we realize that there are many children whose passion will lie outside of a traditional STEM Career–and that’s okay!

What is important, however, is for parents and children to understand that all jobs in the future will require STEM skills in some fashion, whether you’re a history teacher, small business owner, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You might remember reading about the importance of STEM from our Educators, but this time we asked our support and administrative staff just how much STEM they use in their jobs every day; and the answer? Much more than you think:

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Families explore hands-on science.

Dona Vella , Vice President, Development and External Relations

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Dona pitching in to help craft some Memberships in a Box

“Encouraging children to build science, technology, engineering, and math skills is a big part of our mission at the Boonshoft Museum, and while I understand that not all children will grow up and become mathematicians and physicists, it is important for current and future generations to have these STEM skills in order to flourish in their careers.

I use math every day to evaluate budgets, develop fundraising strategies, and analyze data. My entire team and I use technology to help us streamline and work more effectively. Because we rely on customers, committed sponsors, and generous donors in order to help us fulfill our mission, it is so important that we are good stewards of the funds that we receive, and by using technology, we are able to do that by working as efficiently as possible.”

Lauren Lemons, Communications Coordinator

“As the Museum’s Communications Coordinator, I am responsible for writing copy, digital marketing campaigns, and creative content, as well as evaluating metrics that pertain to our marketing platforms. My job starts with creativity, is implemented with technology, and is analyzed with math–so I would definitely say STEM is essential to doing my job successfully. I spend a lot of time working with graphics, editing and creating code, and using math to evaluate what makes our marketing campaigns successful.

In fact, though I do not have a traditional STEM job, like a doctor or engineer, I do have a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing, which means I had to take a lot of business and economics-based math and science classes in college. I believe this has certainly come in handy in my career and makes me more well-rounded for my position here at the Museum. I would encourage anyone, no matter what career path they will eventually take, to seize every chance they have to hone their STEM skills, because all jobs will require some degree of STEM in the future.”

Angela Shaffer, Senior Manager, Guest Services and Gift Shops

As an English and Classical Humanities student in college, I didn’t anticipate managing a database in my post-college career! However, as the person responsible for managing the Society’s point-of-sale database, CounterPoint, that is exactly what I do on a daily basis. It is my job to ensure that anything the Society “sells”–including admissions tickets, memberships, gift shop merchandise, group visits, and Astronomy programs, just to name a few–is entered and managed properly within CounterPoint. It is extremely detail-oriented work that incorporates many other fields of study, such as information technology and accounting; I work closely with our business office and many other departments within the Society to make sure that all information is set up and managed correctly and that both software and hardware systems function fully. It’s challenging and rewarding work that requires a lot of STEM skills!”

Sarah Aisenbrey, Dayton Society of Natural History Registrar

“As the Registrar of the Dayton Society of Natural History, I work with many types of technology, including (and most importantly) our collections databases. Databases, which are computerized tables that keep track of information, are a technology you probably use every day–Facebook, Amazon, and Google are all typical examples. Even though the artifacts we curate can be thousands of years old, we use current technology to help us research, exhibit, publicize, and track all 1.7 million of them. Successfully mastering the use of collections databases takes a lot of skill–I have to be very organized, up-to-date on the newest technology, and ready to field questions about the collection at a moment’s notice. Practicing and constantly improving these skills has helped me to excel as the DSNH’s Registrar.”

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Jill, our Associate Curator and Sarah, our Registrar, before the opening of Cut From the Same Cloth.

Jimmy Adams & Caleb Orecchio, Graphic Artists

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Jimmy and one of our SAA externs in the African Room.

“Graphic Designers use technology every day, specifically Adobe Creative Suite. We also have to understand how to use the printing presses, use measurements for production, and I use a lot of math when working with budgets. I would say our job requires as much STEM as it does art and creativity.” – Jimmy Adams

“Besides the obvious use of technology, there is also a psychology that goes into creating advertising pieces. We use science, geometry, and color to make things pleasing the eye.” – Caleb Orecchio

Phillip Dunlevy, Facilities Supervisor

I need things like Technology, Engineering, and Math to get my job done and keep the Museum in top shape! Our power, HVAC, lights–they all run on computers. I also use a lot of math when measuring wood and steel to cut when there are things that need to be fixed around the Museum.”

Marge Forsthoefel, Supervisor, Accounting

“I’m not a scientist or engineer, but I do use math every single day in Accounting. Whether I am calculating sales tax reporting using different percentages for different counties in Ohio, accounts receivable, or balancing sales against cash, my job requires a lot of math and reasoning!

Because our sales come through a point-of-sale system, either at the Museum or online, I also need to understand how to use online sales reporting systems, credit card reporting systems, management information systems, and I need to export data in order to balance our daily sales. Accounting is no longer handwritten ledgers, but all done using accounting programs, which are most certainly technology-based.”

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Erika, having a blast with our Education Crew

 

 

Erika Asher, Education Coordinator

“I’ve learned a lot about science and science-based concepts because I frequently have to talk to teachers about the programs that we provide to their students. I also do a lot of math when calculating numbers for programs, billing, etc.

Being well-versed in technology, specifically the use of databases, is something else that is necessary for my job. We keep schedules, membership information, and book programs with information that are all stored in databases.”

So, what did we learn? It’s safe to say that there isn’t a single staff member at the Boonshoft Museum that doesn’t use STEM in some form. Our goal? To make Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math so accessible to children and their families that STEM no longer seems like a burden or a challenge, but more like a fun tool children use to explore, problem solve, and invent. While we can’t expect all children to grow up to become the next Albert Einstein, we can provide children with some of the tools necessary to poise them for a future of unlimited successes and the confidence to become accomplished problem solvers, in whatever career they choose.

If you want to participate in some STEM fun at the Boonshoft Museum, consider signing up for Summer Discovery Camps or visit the Museum tomorrow, March 19, on Super Science Saturday, for a FREE day of fun, hands-on STEM activities!

DIY Upcycled Air Canon Project!

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle!

America Recycles Day is this Sunday, November 15 and we want to encourage all of our readers, guests, and friends to make an effort to be a little more “green”. Of course, people have the best of intentions when it comes to recycling, conserving, and reusing, but getting into the groove of being more green can be difficult.

First, here are some need-to-know stats about America’s waste, conservation, and more:

  • The average person produces about 4 pounds of trash a day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste a year.
  • Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year and the EPA estimates that 75% of that is recyclable. Yet our rate of recycling is only about 30%.
  • We generate 21.5 million tons of food waste each year, which is unacceptable, as 48.1 million Americans live in food-insecure homes. If we cut down on food waste and composted, it would reduce the same amount of green house gas as taking 2 million cars off the road.
  • Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to listen to a full album on an iPod. Recycling 100 cans can power your bedroom through a two day Netflix binge of your favorite show.
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The Maker’s Space at the Boonshoft Museum Springfield is dedicated to upcycling projects of all kinds!

America, we can do better, but where do we start? You can start by having a candid conversation with your family about small, fun ways you can start reducing, reusing, and recycling.

To kick things off, visit our “Celebrate Earth Day With “Green” Family Fun post and then scroll below for an awesome DIY upcycling project from the Museum’s Education Department:

A great way of reducing waste — and in turn aid to your impact on the environment — is to reuse your wasted materials. This is often referred to as “Upcycling” and involves re-purposing your trash items in an effort to find another use for them. Such examples include milk carton planters, aluminum can stoves, and recycled art and sculptures made from trash materials.

Use recycled items to create an air cannon and learn about air pressure!

Upcycled Air Canon

Supplies: 

  • 1 toilet paper tube or plastic bottles with the bottom cut out.
  • Used or leftover balloon
  • Duct Tape
  • Scissors

Instructions:

1) Cut the thin end of a balloon off
2) Stretch the wide end to a tube or the bottle with the end cut off
3) Tape it in place
4) Pull on the back were the balloon is taped as far as you can and let it go.

As you pull back on the balloon you build force. Once you let go, you cause that force to move forward and it takes the air inside the tube/bottle with it. As the force of the balloon forces the air out, it creates a vortex as the air reacts to the force of the balloon snapping back into place.

Spend some time upcycling with your kiddos and then be sure to visit us for some green-themed public programming on Sunday, November 15 for America Recycles Day!

Why You Need To Celebrate Make a Difference Day

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Dave, a Boonshoft Museum volunteer, has a blast rocking out with our guests and teaching them the science behind music!

A famous humanitarian and wonderfully philanthropic actress, Audrey Hepburn, once said, “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm…as you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Our sentiments exactly! Especially this week—when we celebrate National Make a Difference Day on October 24. Make a Difference Day is a day for encouraging people across the country to make a difference in other people’s lives. From gestures as small as buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks to volunteering at a local organization, there are so many ways that you can help your community.

So why is the Boonshoft Museum so interested in Make A Difference Day? Because the Museum and its sister sites (Fort Ancient, SunWatch, and the Boonshoft Museum Springfield) are all non-profit organizations! The backbone of every strong non-profit organization are dedicated volunteers who contribute their time, skills, and resources for the betterment of the organization. From public programming and special projects, to simply lending a helping hand to a family in the Museum, volunteers make our organization thrive.

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What Difference Can You Actually Make?

Central State Volunteers at a Boonshoft Museum event

Being an altruistic person causes a ripple effect of epic proportions. Not only does the organization or cause you are championing benefit, your peers will be inspired to lend a helping hand to a cause they care about, as well. Paying it forward, doing good things, and volunteering your time is infectious and an unstoppable force in the best kind of way—not only does it make you feel wonderful about yourself (and is actually great for your health!), hundreds of helping hands combined create a huge difference in your community, even the world.

In fact, many employees at the Boonshoft Museum either started at the Museum as volunteers or had a background in volunteering before they started their careers at the Museum. Our volunteers are such an inspiration to our staff, that the vast majority of our staff members continue to volunteer on a regular basis with organizations like the Victoria Theater Association, the Special Olympics, HART Animal Rescue, and many more.

I Want to Help! How Can I Celebrate Make A Difference Day?

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Volunteers spruce up the Junior Observatory!

Whether you are a seasoned pro or a newbie to volunteering, there is no better way to start than to just dive right in. Celebrate Make A Difference Day by doing one (or a few) of the following:

  • Commit a random act of kindness and ask someone to pay it forward. Whether you pay for a stranger’s coffee or rake your neighbor’s yard, there is always a small gesture of kindness you can pass on to someone — and hopefully they will keep it going! Think of all of the amazing things that can happen in a day because of one small gesture that acted as a catalyst.
  • Check out VolunteerMatch.org to view all of the available volunteer opportunities in your area and commit to tackling a project!
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    Miami Valley Astronomical Society volunteers explore the sky with guests at the Boonshoft Museum!

    Make a donation to a local organization you feel passionate about! Go grocery shopping for the week and grab a few extra cans of food and make a donation to your local foodbank. Adopt an adorable pet, or just take some pet food to your local animal shelter. The Boonshoft Museum’s Zoo Animals are always hoping to receive an item from their wish list and all of our sites accept donations online through our safe and secure website.

  • Visit boonshoftmuseum.org to fill out our Volunteer interest form. We currently have needs for the following in terms of volunteers:
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Lexus Nexus volunteers clear the Werthner Woods trail.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery: The Boonshoft has volunteer needs for coaches for the 2016-17 FIRST® LEGO® League season. Additionally, anyone 16 or older is welcome to assist with customers or programming, from reading stories to little ones to doing Science on a Cart experiments.

SunWatch: Perfect for retired individuals and history buffs, SunWatch is in need of tour guides.

Fort Ancient: Fort Ancient needs enthusiastic educators to assist with tours and scavenger hunts.

Learn more about Make a Difference Day by clicking here.

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.