Honey, Oh Sugar, Sugar!

After a year of providing hives for our European honey bees, we recently had our first honey extraction! On Sunday morning, August 7th the GSC team got to work preparing for the process. The GSC hives are maintained by volunteer Linda Walbridge and GSC’s Head of Horticulture & Grounds, Chandra Metheny.

Honey bees make hexagonal (6-sided) wax structures or honey combs on provided hive frames, where they store honey for winter. Have you ever wondered, what is honey? Bees collect nectar from flowers, break it down into simple sugars and then store it in honey combs. The bees work together to beat their wings, fanning the nectar to evaporate all liquid. What is left is a thick, sweet, sticky, delicious product called honey! Honey comes in different colors and flavors depending on what flowers and therefore nectar it started as. Honey is a special product that is engineered by nature to keep for a really long time and not ferment. In fact, intact, edible honey was found in the tomb of King Tut!

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Fortunately, honey bees make more honey than the colony needs, which is why it is safe to extract excess honey. This process starts when the beekeeper smokes the hive to calm the bees. The beekeepers evaluate the hive’s overall health and check for hive beetles, mites or disease.

By placing a fumigator, or a hive cap coated in a smell the bees dislike, the bees move away from the top of the hive.

The keepers then pull out the top “super” or top box of the hive. Most of the honey will be in the top and since the bees have already moved away thanks to the fumigator, it is safe to take the super.Bees cap the honeycombs with bees wax so the honey doesn’t fall out. Beekeepers remove the caps with an uncapping scraper.

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The scraper is used to remove the caps

The scrapped frames are placed into an extractor which allows the honey to flow out of the frames. The extractor works like a salad spinner. By spinning very quickly, centrifugal force, throws the honey to the sides of the machine. Then the beekeepers let it set to release any air bubbles after draining out through a strainer. Then the honey is placed into jars and it is ready to eat!

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Honey extractor

 

Each year as the hives get older the amount of excess honey they produce will increase.The GSC staff will check the quality of the honey, and may provide some for the enrichment of our zoo animals on exhibit.

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DIY Science: “Dyeing” for Color

Today at the Greensboro Science Center, we are going to be changing the color of flower petals! Not only will this experiment yield beautiful, one of a kind flowers, but it will also help us witness how quickly (or slowly!) water moves through a flower.

For this experiment you will need:

  • Food coloring
  • Small reusable cups or jars
  • Water
  • White flowers ( we used carnations since they are cheap, and available at most grocery stores. Feel free to expirement with other white flowers.)
  • Scissors/ knife
  • Adult supervision

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Procedure:

  1. Choose what color you would like to turn your flowers, and add that color to a glass  of water. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your colors by mixing two or more colors in the same jar. Be sure and use a TON of food coloring- the deeper the color of the water- the more vibrant the petal color will be (we used about 30-40 drops of each, but you can experiment with the amounts if you wish).carnation-2
  2. Clip at least one inch from the bottom of your carnation stems, and remove any leaves that will be underwater.Make sure to cut your stems at an angle, this makes it easier for your flowers to drink the water!
  3. Place your clipped flowers into the colored water of your choosing, you can leave one flower in plain, uncolored water if you would like to have a “control” flower. (All true science experiments should have a control.)
  4. Over the next few hours and days, you will see a change in the petal color.
  • If you want to make a multi-colored flower, you can cut the stem in half, and place both halves of the stems in different colored water, what do you think will happen?  

Scientific Breakdown:

Most plants “drink” water from the ground through their roots. The water travels up the stem of the plant into the leaves and flowers where it makes food and helps keep the plant rigid. When a flower is cut off the plant, it no longer has its roots but the stem of the flower still “drinks” up the water and provides it to the leaves and flowers. How does this happen?

Two things are needed to move water through plants- Transpiration and cohesion. Since water evaporates from leaves, buds, and petals, transpiration pulls water up the stem of the plant. This process is similar to that of sucking on a straw. Water that evaporates from the leaves pulls other water behind it in order to fill the space left by the evaporating water, but instead of your mouth providing the suction (like it would with a straw) the movement is due to water evaporation. This process happens because water sticks to itself ( which is called cohesion) and because the tubes in the plant stem are very small, and located in a part of the flower called the xylem.

You may want to set up an experiment that tests the transpiration rate of the flowers by placing your plant-coloring set-up in different areas such as sunny and dark, or dry and humid, and see which flower end up with the most color!

Don’t forget to show us your results by tagging us in your photos on social media using the hashtag #gscscience !

Volunteer Spotlight: Lydia G

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Meet Lydia G. Lydia has been volunteering with us the past three summers:

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I’ve volunteered the past three summers as a Teacher’s Assistant and began working as a Docent in the aquarium earlier this year. I remember coming to the Science Center as a young child when it was much smaller and different than it is today. I was fascinated by the variety of animals and exhibits they had. When I learned about the Volunteer Program, I realized that it would give me the opportunity to learn even more while also giving me the chance to teach others about the Center.

As a Docent, I get to help answer visitor’s questions, teach them about the animals, and make their experience at the Science Center more enriching. I especially enjoy helping to educate people about all of the endangered species in the aquarium and raise awareness about how it’s our job to protect the Earth and everything living on it. As a Teacher’s Assistant, I get to work more closely with children and use all the resources the Science Center has to offer to help the kids further explore a field of science that they’re interested in. I look forward to continuing to grow along with the Science Center.

Destination: SKYWILD

The weather here in North Carolina is slowly starting to cool down and we are finally transitioning into fall! With several events and adventure destinations so close to home, there are endless possibilities for local weekend activities this season!

If you’re looking for a way to get the family active right here in town, look no further than the Greensboro Science Center’s very own aerial adventure park, SKYWILD. With various difficulty levels, there are obstacles for everyone to be challenged.

One distinct characteristic that separates this aerial park from others is that the challenges on this course are modeled after the movements of wild animals. For example, the Butterfly Glider obstacle  uses a glider platform shaped like a butterfly.

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Butterfly Glider

Participants have to use the rope system to pull the glider in close enough to get on, and then ride the butterfly across the zoo path to the next platform. Our Gator in the Grass obstacle features several zig-zag logs suspended in the air. To complete this challenge you have to cross the wobbly log path, while combing through the green ropes (grasses) that are also suspended above you!

The overall objective of these animal-themed obstacles is to enable participants to experience a variety of animal behaviors while enjoying an exhilarating workout. Many of these obstacles will encourage participants to imitate animal actions, such as waddling, leaping, and crawling to help them gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity of life.

Our fall hours are as follows:

11:30am-3:30pm on weekdays.

9:30am-3:30pm on weekends.

For more information and prices, please visit our website.

Volunteer Spotlight: Betty B.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Meet Betty B. Betty has been volunteering with us for about nine years now:

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I have been a volunteer since the Animal Discovery Zoo opened in 2007. After my retirement from a healthcare career, I have been on a rotating schedule between the Zoo and the SciQuarium for my shift each week.

I began visiting the Science Center with my children in the late 70’s and early 80’s and have seen the transformation since the arrival of the Zoo in 2007.  I stopped by one day in January 2007 on a lark just to check things out and decided to inquire about volunteer opportunities. Marion, our previous Volunteer Coordinator, was available and I went right down to chat with her and ended up enrolling in the first docent class. We met each week for 1 ½ hours in the evening for 4-5 weeks to learn what our duties would be, how to greet the public and demonstrate animal handling. It was dark the night of our zoo tour, so the Zoo Curator, Peggy, walked us around to give everyone a feel for how things would be laid out once the zoo was completed.

I feel fortunate that I have been able to meet so many different people from all over the country and the world, as well as new visitors from Greensboro making their first visit to the Science Center.

In 2009-2010, I became a Board Member and was able to contribute from the perspective of a docent, and could share visitor experiences and suggestions. It’s exciting to help visitors appreciate the variety of animals we have, how we care for them, and teaching them the value of our endangered species breeding program. The WOW factor reaction from visitors when they hear about our programs, camps and volunteer opportunities is truly impactful.

My most memorable experience has been when I was selected to be a Tier 2 Docent. As part of that program, I have had the opportunity to shadow Rachael, a senior keeper, as she cares for both the tigers and fishing cats. During the same shift, I was able to assist Rachael and Dr. Sam in the hospital with a minor procedure on one of our animals. It’s an experience that I will never forget and I am extremely grateful for having that opportunity.

DIY Science: The Bursting Lunch Bag!

Today at the Science Center, we are having a blast making Bursting Lunch Bags. To do this experiment at home, you will need the following:

–          One sandwich sized zip-tab bag, double-sealed if possible

–         3 tablespoons Baking soda

–          ¼  cup Warm water

–         ½ cup Vinegar

–          Measuring cup(s)

–          A tissue

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Prepare for the experiment by going outside, or setting up your area near your kitchen sink. Collect your materials, read the directions thoroughly before beginning, and get ready for some explosive fun!

Steps:

  1. Start by combining ¼ cup of water and ½ cup of vinegar in your bag.

2. Lay out your tissue and place 3 teaspoons of baking soda into the middle of it, then fold the tissue around the baking soda pile to wrap it up.

Your next steps will require that you work fast, so be prepared.

3. Zip up your bag halfway, make sure you leave enough room to add your baking soda packet. Add your baking soda packet to the bag, and QUICKLY zip the rest of the bag, making sure it is completely closed.

4. Place your bag in the sink if you are indoors, or on the ground if you are outside, step back and watch as your bag expands, and eventually pops!

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5. Now it’s time to clean up your experiment. Don’t forget to recycle your plastic bags!

Experiment some more.

In order to really make this an experiment, you can alter your variables and record how it impacted your initial experiment. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Does the temperature of the water have any impact on the outcome?
  • What amount of baking soda creates the greatest reaction?
  • Does the size of the bag, or type of bag have any impact on the speed of the pop?

So what’s the science behind it?

It’s pretty neat – the baking soda and the vinegar eventually mix together (the tissue serves as a temporary barrier, giving you time to zip the remainder of the bag and step away). When they finally do mix, they create an acid-base reaction, and the two chemicals work together to create a gas. The gas that has just been created is called carbon dioxide (better known as the stuff we exhale every day). Gasses need tons of room, so the carbon dioxide starts to fill the bag, and keeps inflating until the bag can no longer contain it, and then… POP!

This experiment was found on https://sciencebob.com/

Volunteer Spotlight: Evan E.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Meet Evan E. Evan has been volunteering with us for about three years now:

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I started volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center in 2013 as a junior curator, and transitioned into the Docent Program the next year. During my first year as a docent, I worked in the Aquarium, Zoo, and Herp Lab until I decided to primarily stay with the Zoo as my main location.

I was introduced to the volunteer program by a neighbor, and my passion for animal life motivated me to join. I have been coming to GSC my whole life, and it is a thrill to be a part of the community that continues to educate more of the public as it grows.

A specific memory I have from the science center is from the herp lab. A little girl walked in with her family, and she wanted to pet the cornsnake, Cornflake. After I let her pet Cornflake, she proceeded to ask if she could take all of the animals back to her home as pets. I laughed and told her that she could go to a pet shop if she wanted to get some animals. Moments with the public like this make volunteering a rewarding experience, and I look forward to many more memories in the future.