Virtual Nature Tots: Egg-citing Science

Guest post by Erin Votaw, GSC Educator

ErinIf you aren’t familiar with Nature Tots programs at the Greensboro Science Center, let me introduce myself. My name is Erin and I am a part of the Education department here at the Greensboro Science Center. I have been teaching Nature Tots classes, summer camps and grant programs for the past 10 years.  I thought it may be fun to investigate some of the topics we didn’t get to meet up for in our Nature Tots class. We always have such a fun time together on Tuesdays and I look forward to the time when we get back to the fun, together in our special place with visiting animals and keeper talks. The GSC is working hard to keep the animals happy but I know they miss seeing your sweet faces checking on them.

Hello again, my preschool science buddies! I am excited to be back with you for another adventure. Let’s get busy! Spring is in the air and the temperatures, trees, flowers and animals are making changes. One of the most popular activities around this time of year is talking about eggs. Do you know which animals are oviparous?  

Oviparous is certainly a big science word that we don’t hear very often. It is the type of word that helps scientists classify animals into groups for ease of learning. Kind of like herbivore and carnivore (remember those words from talking about the dinosaurs?). Same deal here, just not used as often. Oviparous helps us know that group is together because those animals have their offspring by laying eggs. Can you think of animals that lay eggs? Most fish, reptiles and all birds are oviparous. Less than 2% of fish (goldfish, for example) and 20% of reptiles (boa snakes, for example) have live births of their offspring – no egg is laid, so they are not oviparous, but viviparous (have live young). This could be a result of where they live in the world. 

There are only two mammals that lay eggs, all other mammals give birth to live young that are either dependent upon mom for everything or are ready to go on their own. The echidna and duck-billed platypus of Australia are the only mammals that lay eggs.

Book-ChickensArentTheOnlyOnesThere is a really sweet book that is well illustrated about oviparous animals called “Chickens aren’t the only ones” by Ruth Heller.  The story talks about chickens and other birds, reptiles, insects, fish, amphibians and even the mammals that are exceptions to the rule with a rhyming flow and beautiful illustrations.

Now that you know what an oviparous animal is, let’s investigate and learn more. Each animal’s egg comes with its own characteristics that can be different. These can include size, colors, shapes and even shell texture! Not surprisingly, the largest egg comes from the ostrich, followed by the emu and rhea. The smallest egg comes from the smallest bird. Anyone? The hummingbird!

Eggs-Ostrich-Chicken-Hummingbird

We are also familiar with turkey and chicken eggs that we see more frequently.

Eggs-Chicken-Turkey-Swan

We also can recognize the cardinal (North Carolina state bird) and bluebird eggs based on their coloring. Maybe you have seen these eggs in your yard recently.  

Eggs-Bluebird-Chicken-Cardinal

What is going on inside that egg? There are some different parts that play important roles in the egg’s development. When we look at an egg, we notice the outer shell. It may be bumpy or smooth and dark or light in color, but the egg shell is critical to the animal for a couple of reasons. We know what happens when we drop an egg right? Oops! Egg shells are made of calcium carbonate which is similar to the calcium phosphate that make up our teeth. If we gently tap our teeth with our fingernails, you may hear a click sound similar to that if you did it to an eggs shell. Strong enough to be protective, but still thin enough to allow air to pass through. Wow, eggs can breathe!  

Experiment: Bouncy Egg

Because of that calcium carbonate of the egg shell we can use science to make the egg rubbery and almost bouncy like a ball! Also, I have a bunch of hard boiled eggs left over from Easter so I thought this would be fun to play with as well. And my favorite color is blue, so that is why I picked my blue Easter egg! Take one of your hard boiled eggs and put it in a clear glass of vinegar overnight (up to a week changing the vinegar every couple days you will completely remove the shell almost making it translucent).

EggshellInVinegar

Keep checking on the egg in the vinegar and look for any activity or changes. Little bubbles may come off the egg as the acetic acid in the vinegar attacks the calcium carbonate of the eggshell. Over time, the color of the eggs may change as well. The next day or later, get the egg out of the vinegar and investigate. Shine a flashlight through the egg. What does it look like compared to a regular egg shell? What does the egg smell like now? Feel like? Move like? Weird, right? Where did the hard outer shell go and how did it change? You may have actually dissolved the calcium carbonate (what makes the shell stiff), leaving behind the permeable part of the shell making it now rubbery and bouncy. How high can you bounce your rubbery egg?????

WATCH: Rubber Egg Bounce

Experiment: Egg in a Bottle

Another cool trick is to fit an egg into a bottle. When you first look at this you think, Miss Erin, there is no way that egg can get inside that bottle! But wait, I say….Science!!! 

  • First peel your hard-boiled egg. 
  • Next, with the help of an adult, set a small piece of paper on fire and drop it into the bottle.
  • Before the fire goes out, set the egg on top of the bottle, small side pointed downward.  

As the temperature inside the bottle changes, air pushes the egg into the bottle!  Magic!!! How did that happen? Why science my darlings, of course. But seriously, the answer has to do with the air pressure inside the bottle. You changed the temperature inside the bottle and that caused the air to rush inside the bottle, taking the egg with it!

WATCH: Egg in a Bottle

Getting the egg out should work with the opposite right?  Can you think of how to get “outside” air back into the bottle?  While holding the jar upside down and the egg is in the opening of the bottle, try using a straw to put “outside” air back inside the bottle to help re-balance the air pressure. By blowing into the straw, you can create pressure inside the bottle that will make the air want to move out – and when it does, it’ll take the egg with it!

I hope to bring you more blogs and activities to help keep you engaged in our science world.  Be on the lookout for more content from Greensboro Science Center behind the scenes, keep talks, activities and adventures for all to enjoy!  I hope to see you again soon, until then have fun and remember science is everywhere!

World Oceans Day 30×30 Recycled Art Contest

Do you love the ocean? Show us by creating a piece of ocean-themed art from recycled, reused, or repurposed materials and entering the Greensboro Science Center’s World Oceans Day 30×30 Recycled Art Contest! Winners will receive a one-of-a-kind painting created by an animal at the GSC!

What is World Oceans Day?
World Oceans Day is a global celebration of the ocean that connects us all. It’s a day to inspire family, friends and community to start creating a better future for our planet. The Greensboro Science Center is proud to announce our 30×30 Recycled Art Contest in honor of World Oceans Day and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Party for the Planet.

Why are we hosting a recycled materials art contest?
According to the World Oceans Day website, “World Oceans Day is growing the global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30×30. By safeguarding at least 30% of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!” For more information on the 30% by 2030 movement, please visit https://worldoceansday.org/. This art contest is designed to help promote the 30×30 concept in our everyday lives.

What is the contest?
Create an original piece of art that promotes saving our oceans or the importance of our oceans. The art must be composed of at least 30% recycled, reused, or repurposed materials. The higher the percentage the better! Projects can be any size.

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Who can enter?
This contest is open to all residents of the United States. There are four age groups: 2-6, 7-12, 13-17, 18 and over. All artists under 18 will need a parent or guardian to submit their artwork and fill out the submission form.

What is the prize?
One winner from each age group will receive an original piece of art created by one of the Greensboro Science Center’s animals! Prizes will be mailed; winners will be contacted with more information. Winners’ artwork will also be shared within the GSC’s World Oceans Day Facebook event.

How do I enter?
Artwork must be submitted by completing the form and uploading one photograph of the art online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GSC_WOD2020_ArtContest. Only complete submissions will be considered. One entry per person.
Only one photograph per submission is permitted. The artwork should fill the frame of the picture so the judges can see detail. File size limit is 16MB. Allowable File Types: PDF, DOC, DOCX, PNG, JPG, JPEG.

Along with your photograph and basic information (name, address, etc.), you will also need to list the materials used, the title of the artwork, and a short description of the art piece: Why did you choose this subject or topic? What inspired you? What do you hope it will inspire in others?

What are the important dates?
Entries may be submitted until midnight on June 3rd, 2020. Winners will be announced on our World Oceans Day celebration, Saturday, June 6th, 2020.

Making a Stop Motion Movie

Guest post by Laura Adamonis, Robotics Coordinator

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I looked through my LEGO collection and picked the minifigures and bricks that I wanted to use. I found a spot to set up my movie set. I went around the house and collected light fixtures. I tried using a green screen background but my green fabric was too dark so I had to use bright lights to make the green appear lighter to the camera.  Two or three lights on either side help to avoid shadows and to make the figures look more three dimensional.

Stop Action Setup

YouTube was a great resource for how-to videos! I made a stand for the tablet out of bricks — this is a good way to keep the tablet stabilized and help with the characters placement within the scene.

I used a couple of different software apps on my tablet and computer:

  • Stop Motion app for tablet
  • Microsoft Video Recorder
  • Movavi Video Editor Plus (I did end up purchasing the plus so I can do future editing)

Stop Action App

One of the tricks I picked up was to stack green 1×1 bricks to elevate the characters so that when I added a background photo, the characters would be standing on top of the tortoise statue.

Take your time. I did a lot of trial and error. I first wrote out the different scenes that I wanted to take pictures of. I did the movie scene part next and did the basic editing of the movie on the app. Once I saved and exported the movie to my computer I was able to start putting together all the parts of the movie. I opened the voice recorder and made audio clips to go along with the different sections of the movie. I wrote out my script so that when I hit record, I knew what I wanted to say. Another tip is that it was easier to cut the movie into sections and work on each section at a time. The editor software had music clips and transition effects that I was able to add. To make sure everything matched up, I did a lot of watching the movie over and over!

I made sure that I saved what I was working on numerous times throughout the process so that I wouldn’t lose anything. Creating a separate folder that can hold specific pictures and other items for the movie made it easy to access things quickly. I did have a couple of edits and updates that I had to do, so I set up a mini stage to film the last scene.

Click here to watch the completed movie!

Virtual Nature Tots: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Guest post by Erin Votaw, GSC Educator

ErinHello my preschool science buddies! If you aren’t familiar with Nature Tots programs at the Greensboro Science Center, let me introduce myself. My name is Erin and I am a part of the Education department here at the Greensboro Science Center. I have been teaching Nature Tots classes, summer camps and grant programs for the past 10 years.  I thought it may be fun to investigate some of the topics we didn’t get to meet up for in our Nature Tots class. We always have such a fun time together on Tuesdays and I look forward to the time when we get back to the fun, together in our special place with visiting animals and keeper talks. The GSC is working hard to keep the animals happy but I know they miss seeing your sweet faces checking on them.

What makes the night sky twinkle? Such a great question that begs for an answer. Let’s begin with stars and how they work. We see our sun, the center of our solar system every day, and especially when it’s a nice sunny day. The largest star in our solar system, our sun gives us light, warmth and life to Earth and plants through the process of photosynthesis. Made of helium and hydrogen gases held together by gravitational pull, the sun is the reason for our seasons, weather and – let’s be honest – birthdays! Your birthday comes from each revolution around the sun. Sounds like a very important star to me! And at around 6000℃, wow! Talk about hot!!!  

Have you ever seen a helium balloon?  Maybe at a birthday or graduation party or just floating in the sky? The helium inside the balloon is an invisible gas that makes it float and is one of the same invisible gases that creates the stars in our sky. Stars are actually giant balls of gases, like helium and hydrogen, that are so hot and fiery that they glow brightly and give off heat. Stars do come in all sizes but they are so far away from us that they look like tiny, beautiful, twinkling points of light, when actually they are really gigantic! 

Stars can also be different colors depending upon how hot they are. The coolest temperature stars are red, warmer stars are yellow-orange, hot stars are white and the very hottest stars are blue! We can’t actually feel the heat from the smaller stars because they are so far away.

Let’s try to see if we can see this for ourselves. Gather up some colored tissue paper and a flashlight. Turn down the lights. Using your flashlight and colored tissue paper, cover the light part of the flashlight with the tissue paper. What color is the light from the flashlight now? Try different colors. Shine the light onto the walls. Can you see how the color of the light changes for the tissue paper color? Just imagine you are changing the temperature of the star based on the color of tissue paper you put over the light. 

Stars also shine all the time! It’s difficult to understand this because we do not see them during the daytime. This is because the light from the sun is so bright that it is impossible to see the light coming from the other stars. But really, we do see one star during the day – the sun!  

So, onto the question of twinkling. Just how do the stars twinkle in the sky at night? The stars twinkle in the night sky because of the effects of our atmosphere. When starlight enters the atmosphere it is affected by wind, temperature and density. These fluctuations in the stability of the air and changes in properties in the atmosphere causes the light from the star to twinkle when seen from the ground. Think of it like this – as the light travels to where we can see it (from deep, dark space down to our eyes on Earth), it passes through things that cause it to jumble like a car on a bumpy highway. Not super smooth, but bumpy and jumpy, hence the twinkling appearance of the light when we finally see it. Goodness, I just like thinking that they were blinking at us! 

A group of visible stars that form a pattern we can see is called a constellation. Scientists who study space have given many stars and constellations names and you can look for them in the night sky. You may have heard of the North Star and constellations like the Big (and Little) Dipper, Orion and the Northern Cross just to name a few. A great way to investigate stars and constellations is to check out the sky at night. There are several free apps for your phones that allow you to “look” at the sky and know what you’re actually looking at in the sky. Fascinating really!

We can make our own constellations in a couple of fun ways.  Using a piece of construction paper, star stickers (or whatever you have on hand) and white chalk or crayon, we can lay out a shape or design for our constellation. Place the stickers in a square (or whatever shape you want) on the paper. Next, draw lines with the chalk to connect the stickers and there you have your very own constellation!

Chalk Constellation

Another option is to use a tp roll and make it a constellation viewer. Take the tp roll and put a square of construction paper over one end with a rubber band. Ask an adult to help you poke holes with a toothpick (in a shape or constellation design) through the construction paper.  

TP Constellation

Hold it up to the light and you will be able to see your constellation design. What will you name your constellations? Very stellar!!

TP Constellation Glowing

Stars and space are super interesting areas to learn about and investigate. I would recommend you get outside and check out space in your place. Go out during daytime to look at the clouds and the light (don’t look directly at the bright sun…ouch!). Peek outside at night to see if you can see the stars twinkling — can you connect them to make constellations? You may even have seen the space station fly overhead recently! Seriously, space is FULL of neat science.

Be sure to observe the moon during its phase changes and maybe make a 30-day moon chart (you can check the internet for a sample). A fun read to go along with this moon shape study is the story “Breakfast Moon” by Meg Gower. It corresponds to a family journaling the moon’s shape with shapes of their foods at breakfast.  How sweet!!

I hope to bring you more blogs and activities to help keep you engaged in our science world. I hope to see you again soon, until then have fun and remember science is everywhere!

Composting with Katie

Guest post by Katie Ruffolo, GSC Educator

Composting is the natural decomposition of organic materials, optimized by a controlled environment. Let’s break that down a little bit more. Decomposition is when bacteria, fungi and insects break down those organic materials — and this provides nutrients for other living things. What organic materials exactly? There are lots of things that can be composted, things like fruit and vegetable waste, old newspaper, even grass clippings! There are also many things that can NOT be composted, plastic and glass for example. 

Composting is very important to our environment. There are many benefits that include: enriches soil, reduces need for chemical fertilizers and reduces that amount of methane emissions from landfills, which helps lessen the carbon footprint! When waste sits in a landfill, it is not exposed to enough oxygen for the process of decomposition to fully happen. When the waste is anaerobic, or without oxygen, it will release methane into the atmosphere. With a process like composting, and aerobic process, methane-producing microbes are not active due to the presence of oxygen. 

At-home composting can be done on any size scale, whether you live in an apartment, or out on a farm. It’s important to choose the right container for your space, the correct items to place inside your compost, and the right time to tend. Depending on the size of your container, what materials you choose, how often you turn it and the temperature it is exposed to, it can take as little as 3 months for your compost to be usable soil! 

Be sure when you are choosing items to compost that they are NOT labeled for commercial composting. At-home composting does not produce nearly enough heat to break down the products that are marked for commercial composting. 

At the Greensboro Science Center I began a project to learn more about how things go through the process of decomposition, which materials break down fastest and what conditions are important to making for a successful composting pile/container. Over the course of 5 weeks, I built 4 Decomposition Columns. These are made from recycled soda bottles, and allow for watching the entire process of breaking down the organic materials. The columns were created weeks apart to see the stages of decomposition. What an interesting project to bring to my house! But, this is proof it really can be done in the comfort of your own home. 

For the design of my decomposition columns, I checked out: http://bottlebiology.org/investigations/decomp_main.html

You may want to make some of your own changes based on your space. I hung the columns at the GSC, but was not able to when I was at my home.

Most Fun: Seeing all the bugs!

Most Difficult: Keeping the bottles from falling over

Most Exciting: Seeing the presence of fungi

Most Disgusting: The look of the leachate at the bottom of the column

What can be done with the leftover plastic from your soda bottles? Check out these great ideas:

DIY Science: Sudsy Rainbow

Turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab with a simple DIY science experiment that uses common household products! Don’t forget to use proper protective gear, like safety glasses!

Materials:

    • Large tub
    • Vinegar
    • Food Coloring
    • 1/4 cup baking soda
    • 1-2 Tbsps liquid dish soap (Dawn works very well)
    • 2-5 Empty cups

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Watch Educator Alison perform the experiment on YouTube: https://youtu.be/0yx_wdA4Ky8

Procedure:

  • Add 1/4 cup of baking soda in a cup and drizzle about 1 to 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap on top of the baking soda and give it a gentle shake. Place this cup in the center of your large tub.
  • Fill other cups with desired amounts of vinegar leaving room for food coloring and mixing. Remember, the more vinegar you use the more bubbles you will be able to make.
  • Add food coloring to each cup of vinegar and gently mix. The more food coloring you use, the more vibrant your suds will be.
  • Slowly pour each cup of vinegar and food coloring into the cup with the baking soda and soap. TIP: Hold the cup about 10-12 inches above the baking soda and soap cup to help the reagents mix.

What’s happening?

Vinegar is the household term for acetic acid. It is a chemical used in a great variety of applications. Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is another chemical commonly used for its properties as a base. When the two are mixed you have an acid-base reaction! This chemical reaction results in three new substances, water, carbon dioxide, and sodium acetate. The dish soap captures the carbon dioxide produced during the reaction and forms a fabulous fountain of foam!

Celebrate Earth Day with a BioBlitz

The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is hosting an Earth Day BioBlitz throughout Guilford County on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. This event is free and open to anyone who has access to backyards and/or parks in Guilford County, NC. Please note: The GSC strongly encourages participants using a public space to follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing.

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A BioBlitz is a communal citizen-science effort to record as many plants, animals and other organisms within a designated location and time period as possible. Participants need a smartphone and iNaturalist account. To join the GSC’s Earth Day BioBlitz, select Greensboro Science Center Earth Day BioBlitz 2020 from the Projects menu.

During the designated time (April 22 from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.), participants snap and upload photos to record the biodiversity found in Guilford County.

Courtenay Vass, the GSC’s Community Programs Manager, says, “BioBlitzes are fun ways to engage the public – from young children to experts – to connect to their environment while generating useful data for science and conservation. They’re also a good excuse to explore the great outdoors. We hope that our community members gain a new understanding of scientific practices and their local ecology while connecting with one another through the iNaturalist app. Have fun exploring!”