Live Science – Backyard Explorers!

During the month of April, in Earth City’s Cavern of Time, you can see Backyard Explorers at 1, 2 and 3pm.  During this fun nature demonstration, you can count the age of a tree, design a birds nest, find hidden critters and meet live critters!

Check out a sneak peek of this month’s live science demo in Earth City!

Earth City is full of water exhibits!  It is an exploration in the formation of West Virginia where you can see glowing rocks, build sand mountains and watch as water erodes them away, set up dams to redirect water and play in a waterfall.

The Art of Kite Making

Art of Kite MakingMarch is a very windy month and to me that means one thing…kite flying! Kites have a long and interesting history. They are thought to have been invented in China. Kites first appeared in the wars of the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC – 476 BC). In the beginning they were used for military purposes, reconnaissance and distance measurement, if you can believe it. They were first made from silk, but later people began to use paper as well.

Eventually people began to fly kites just for the sheer pleasure of it, enjoying fresh air and sunshine. Kites became more and more ornate and beautiful as time passed. Weifang in the Shandong Province is the self-proclaimed ‘World Kite Capital’. The kites made there are known for their exquisite craftsmanship, materials, painting, sculpture and flexible flying movement. They come in a variety of sizes and forms such as dragons, eagles and butterflies. The city even has its very own kite museum.

The art of kite making has been passed down from generation to generation in China, but unfortunately is now a dying art form. The younger generations are not interested in the traditions of their fathers. The artisans who still craft traditional kites are growing older and finding it difficult to find apprentices to whom to pass on their wealth of knowledge. There are still some who continue to teach children and teens the art of kite making in the hopes that at least a small number will follow in their elder’s footsteps and keep this amazing craft alive.

Have you ever made your own kite? Try it and see what happens.

How to make Chinese Kites:


Hydrophobic Art

Sumi Nagashi

Next week the After School Explorers Club will delve into the many connections between science and art. From the chemistry of paint making to the vivid colors and patterns in nature to the skillful hand of a surgeon, you would be hard-pressed to find a science or art topic that does not include the other. One of my favorite art projects that we will be trying next week is a traditional Japanese art form, known as Sumi Nagashi (pronounced sue-me na-ga-she).

Sumi Nagashi, which is sometimes called paper marbling, is a printmaking technique that uses the natural repulsion of oil and india ink from water to make some very cool patterns. When the oil and india ink are placed alternately in a tray of water, they both naturally try to spread out over the surface of the water because they are hydrophobic, which literally means they are ‘water fearing’. This is a common phenomenon that happens when a polar compound (different atoms bonded to one another, like water or H2O) and nonpolar compound (same atoms bonded together or carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) bonded together, like india ink and oil) come into contact. Japanese artist have been taking advantage of this behavior for over one thousand years.

Try your hand at Sumi Nagashi

What You Need:

  • India ink
  • WaterSumi 1
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Aluminum Tray
  • Stirring stick
  • 2 cotton swabs
  • Drawing or computer paper in a size that will fit inside your aluminum tray
  • Paper towels or newspaper

What You Do:

Fill your aluminum container with just enough water to cover the surface.

Load one cotton swab with India ink and another with oil (caution – India ink will stain clothing and surfaces).

Place the cotton swab with India ink on the surface of the center of your water for a few seconds.

Sumi 2

Next, place the cotton swab with oil on it in the center of the India ink that is already in your tray.

Sumi 3

Repeat steps 3 and 4 4-5 times until you have the desired amount.

Sumi 4

Use a stirring stick to slowly swirl the India ink and water into a pattern. Do not swirl vigorously, as this will ruin the effect.

sumi 5

Once you have a pattern that you like, place a piece or drawing or computer paper on the surface the water for about 10 seconds.

sumi 6

Remove the paper from the water and let the excess water drip for a few seconds.

Lay your artwork on paper towels or newspaper to dry.

sumi 7

If your child enjoys science and art, there are still a few spots left in our upcoming Chemical Art Workshop in After School Explorers Club.

Visit to register.

Happy Sciencing


The Power of Air!

There are so many cool exhibit at the Clay Center and many fun ways you can create your own science exhibits at home!

Let’s take a look at the “magical” flowers in our Kidspace gallery that can hold a ball in the Kidspace Bernoulli Flowersair without ever touching the actual ball.  How does this work?

The simplest way to explain this magical mystery is this: Action and Reaction!  When you tap a button on this exhibit, a strong air stream blasts from the flowers.  When you place a ball in the air stream, the ball floats!  This happens because the air is deflected by the ball.  The stronger the deflection (action) the more the air stream pushed back on the ball (reaction).  As the ball gets close to one edge of the air stream, the stream passing by the ball is deflected more and more, causing a greater and greater reaction force pushing the ball back toward the center of the stream.

Try it at home! 

What You Need:DIY Ball and Air Stream

  • Hairdryer
  • Ping Pong Ball or any type of light ball

What You Do:

  1. Turn the hairdryer on high and turn it so that the air stream is blowing upward.
  2. Place the ball in the air stream and watch what happens!

How long can you keep the ball in the air stream?

Is the ball spinning in one certain direction?

What causes the ball to fall out of the air stream?

Does the ball float if you put the hairdryer on a lower setting?


Hunger Games Training

The After School Explorers Club spent yesterday afternoon training for the Hunger Games! Hunger Games TrainingBeing a victor in the Hunger Games arena is all about survival skills. To prepare, we had seven stations including: Popsicle stick bow and arrows, face painting (remember Peeta’s rock face?), first aid, knot tying, fire making, wild foods and packing a survival pack. We also we had a martial arts lesson where we learned self-defense moves such as how to get out of a wrist grab and choke hold!

In the end, the tribute with the most tokens was crowned victor and returned to her district with a survival kit.

Try your hand at making a Popsicle Stick Bow and Arrow!

What You Need:Bow and Arrow Supplies

  • Popsicle stick
  • Fishing line
  • Cotton swabs
  • Container
  • Water
  • Sharp knife
  • Scissors

What You Do:

Using a sharp knife, cut two notches into each end of your popsicle stick (four total). Make sure the notches are close to the end of the stick.

Notch the Stick

Soak the notched popsicle stick in water for about an hour.

Soak the Stick

Remove the popsicle stick from the water and tie the fishing wire to one end of the popsicle stick.

Tie Line to One End

Next, carefully bend the popsicle stick and attach fishing line to the other set of notches. Make sure that the fishing line is stretched on the popsicle stick like a bow string.

Trim excess fishing line.

Bend and Tie Other End

Cut one end off of a cotton swab.


Test your bow!

There are still 5 After School Explorer Clubs this spring. Click here to join in!


Happy Birthday, Pierre-Auguste Renoir!

Renoir, who is one of the founders of Impressionism, was born on February 25, 1841 in Limoges, France. In 1861, he met some of his fellow Impressionists Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne. Renoir and Monet took a trip together in 1869 where they first created landscape paintings in what would become the Impressionist style. The two young men spent hours outdoors trying to capture scenes before the light changed. Due to the fact that they were painting outside they used bright colors as well as quick brush strokes, which allowed them to swiftly record a fleeting moment. Renoir is best known for his portraits of women, children and groups of happy, casual people. He continued to paint even after being crippled by arthritis in his final years. He had the brushes tied to his hands. Renoir died on December 3, 1919.

During this cold, wintry season take some time out to enjoy Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and imagine yourself on a warm summer day, with boats drifting by as you enjoy a delicious meal and lively conversation with friends.

Luncheon of the Boating Party Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1880-81 Oil on Canvas (51x68in) The Phillips Collection, Washington DC

Luncheon of the Boating Party
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Oil on Canvas (51x68in)
The Phillips Collection, Washington DC

Want to enjoy more art? Although we do not have any works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir you can still venture out to the Clay Center and lose yourself in the creatively whimsical creations of Mark Licari’s Drawing Out exhibit.


What happens when a group of travelers visit a small town?

A group of hungry, weary travelers arrive at a village to find that the people stonesoup by jess stockhamwho live there are hungry too and appear not to have any food to share. One of the travelers brings out a large pot and stone and offers to make everyone some soup. Find out what happens next on Wee Wednesday, February 25 when we read Stone Soup by Jess Stockham. Then you can have fun making a clay bowl.

The townspeople find out that it is important to share what you have and it makes life better. Do something nice for someone by sharing what you have. Take some canned foods to a nearby food bank to help those who do not have enough to eat.