Thursday, July 21, 2016

Roadrunners & Research

-from the Head Curator

 Months of talking to museum visitors as we do strategic planning have shown that developing outdoor landscaping is one of the more popular future plans.  People are excited to continue learning more about the local plants and animals, and understanding the amazing natural world around them.

But what form will that take? The possibilities are endless, but we know people are hoping for easy walking trails, desert art through the Rainforest Art Project, and interpretive signs over the next five years or so.  All of these ideas have to start somewhere, and they are starting now!
Meet our local Greater Roadrunner, the inspiration behind these test panels!
Recently a roadrunner moved into the neighborhood and has become a regular museum visitor.  He's become very popular on our Facebook page and became the inspiration for the initial outdoor exhibit testing we're currently doing.  We know we want interpretive signs about native plants along our future trails to help people identify them, but what do our visitors want to know about the animals that live here?
4 different ideas to start discussing outdoor signage
A little roadrunner research has led to 4 different sign ideas.  Visitors coming out to the museum now can look at 4 different signs and decide what it is they like about each one, and what do they want to see that is missing? Do people want a map of an animal's range in North America?  What their tracks look like?  Fun factoids or just the basic facts? Single panels or ones you have to flip open?
Should panels include identifying animal tracks?
These signs have only been up about a week and we're already learning a lot! So far everyone loves the idea of identifying animal tracks.  But people are split down the middle on liking single panels and flip panels, and on flip panels that have a picture of the animal on the outside vs having to open the panel and discover what it's talking about.

Flip sign version one: open to discover what animal it's talking about
Flip sign version 2: see the animal before opening
Flip signs offer more space for info, when it it too much?

The feedback we get on the current ideas will help as we work with graphic designers and exhibit builders in the future to create outdoor exhibits that meet as many visitor expectations and interests as possible.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Endowment Challenge

-from the Head Curator

July marks the end of our fiscal year and the end of Year 2 of our National Endowment of Humanities Challenge Grant.  Through the Challenge Grant the NEH will match 3:1 any money we raise towards our Endowment Fund through 2019.

The Museum's goal is to raise $1 million by 2019 towards the Endowment.  When this goal is reached, the IVDM's Endowment Fund will fund two permanent, professional staff positions.

Want to donate to the Endowment but can't afford the whole amount now? We are also doing Pledge Cards.  People can pledge to donate this year and the pledge will go towards this year's match by the NEH.  Since April we have already raised $10,000 in pledges from museum supporters!

Last year in our last fiscal month, our members and supporters raised $22,000 to help us reach our goal of $195,000! It was a huge success! Can we do as well this year?    Please consider supporting the museum by donating or pledging to the Endowment Fund before July 20, 2016.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer Solstice Stargazing

-from the Head Curator

Last night 160 adults and kids braved the longest day of the year- which also happened to be the hottest day of the year (so far!)- to come out for a Summer Solstice Stargazing Party.

Nancy Rood and Bill Pape getting ready to watch a full moon rise
Michael Connolly Miskwish of Campo was kind enough to come down and gave a talk on Kumeyaay cosmology, explaining the importance of the night sky to the Kumeyaay peoples.  The talk was based on research he's been doing for years and has just published as a new book: Maay Uuyow, Kumeyaay Cosmology.  The main focus of the night was the full moon.  Before everyone went out to watch the full moon rise Connolly explained that while Europeans see the Man in the Moon during a full moon, many cultures across Asia, South America and North America see a rabbit.  The Kumeyaay see a cottontail rabbit.
Telescopes watched the moon, Mars, Venus, & Saturn

Naturally this meant that the big challenge of the night was to see if everyone could see the rabbit in the moon!  "I think everyone I helped said that they saw the rabbit" said Marcie Rodriguez, IVDM Education Coordinator.  "The kids were especially excited when they found it and would call their parents over to show them."

Mars, Saturn, and Venus were also visible last night, despite some clouds.  6 telescopes from the museum and Mike and Nancy Rood- who headed our telescopes last night- were available for people to view and many others brought their own telescopes out and let others use them.  Anthony Adams from Imperial and his daughter were among the visitors last night: "We had a wonderful time, it was very informative. The comradery of the people that shared their telescopes and phone applications was incredible. I was able to do some stargazing through several different telescopes. The only complaint that I have with the evening is how much money this is going to cost me to buy a comparable scope that I liked."
Several visitors brought their own scopes & shared the night sky views
Maybe you'll have found one you like in time to bring it out to our next Stargazing Party Anthony! 

Raffles were held throughout the evening and two telescopes were among the prizes.  It sounds like we've got some more astronomers in the making after this event!
Shaahuk games played by those taking air conditioning breaks
Also inside the museum, many visitors were seeing the permanent exhibit for the first time.  Most of the younger star gazers took air conditioning breaks and played Shaahuk, a traditional Kumeyaay game based on traveling the spine of the Milky Way.  There was intense action on the game board all night and games ranged from friendly family fun to cut throat competition.  "This is like Monopoly" one player said. "You're going to have to be willing to lose friends to win." 

Special thanks to Rogers & Rogers for sponsoring the event, Lidia Walker for hosting the event and providing raffle prizes, Mike and Nancy Rood for heading up our telescopes, and our wonderful staff and volunteers for all their hard work!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New Water Video Playing

-from the Head Curator

Power of Imperial Valley with test seating area and new video
After extensive testing of videos in the exhibit today, thanks to IID we have installed the new Brian McNeece Early History of Water in the Imperial Valley video into the exhibit.  It is now taking the place of the IID Down River video in our Power of Imperial Valley exhibit.  IID has also included closed caption for the new video, increasing the accessibility of the video to meet visitor expectations.

One of the constants in any museum exhibit is testing to see what visitors like and want in their museum. The original Down River video had an average visitor stay time of about 17.9 seconds. This increased when a seating area was installed in front of the video, but still remained low.  Only about 7% of museum visitors stopped to watch the video for even that long.  During the month we tested the Water video, many of our visitors stopped to watch it, and 18% watched the entire video (about 17 minutes)-high for an exhibit video.  We are hoping to have an equally positive response to the new video in its new home as part of Power of the Land.

 Over the next 6 months or so we'll be testing out seating arrangements, and other additions to the area, so visitors will still get to participate in changes and give their opinions on what works in the area.

We would like to personally thank everyone who came into the museum during the month we were showing the History of Water video for all of your positive feedback.  If you haven't seen it yet, come check it out!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Breaking Language Barriers on Field Trips

Coiled Clay bowl from Martin Luther King's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Class
-Education Coordinator

At the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, we believe history and knowledge belong to everyone, regardless of language barriers. We have worked hard this year to bring information to as many students as possible. In the last few days we have had two major breakthroughs as we near the end of field trip season. We have hosted a History on the Go program in American Sign Language, and we have held our first field trip in Spanish.

Andrew Alvarez talking to students about history
Martin Luther King's Deaf and Hard of Hearing class requested the History on the Go program to come to their school.  Our Education Coordinator, Marcie Rodriguez, made this possible. As a student at the Imperial Valley College studying ASL as a second language, she was able to prepare curriculum in ASL and talk with the class of 11 students using sign language. The students could understand, communicate, and respond in the language they felt most comfortable with.

This week, we hosted our first field trip completely presented in Spanish. Education staff members Angelina Coble, Albert Lutz, and research intern, Andrew Alvarez, welcomed Calexico Rockwood Elementary's thirty-one 6th grade students to the museum.

This was the first field trip to come out from Calexico.  The students explored solar energy with solar cars and the history of the Imperial Valley in our exhibit. The ability to pilot a field trip that connects with the culture of the community is a pivotal moment in the future of the museum. The museum strives to be a reflection of the people, history, and culture of the Imperial Valley.

Friday, May 27, 2016

"I Left My Heart at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum"

-by the Head Curator

Students explore Lake Cahuilla during field trip
If you subscribe to the Imperial Valley Press, you'll read in our "Land of Extremes" article tomorrow some impressive numbers looking at the growth of field trips to the museum over the last three years. Our first year of field trips in 2013 we had less than 200 students come out.  With today's field trip of De Anza Magnet fourth graders finishing out the field trip season, 2016 will have had over 2,000 students come out to the museum for field trips!

Meet our education staff: Marcie Rodriguez, Angelina Coble, & Albert Lutz- with Ramses
With such an increase in field trips, our education staff has had to increase as well.  In April, Angelina Coble went from being a volunteer to the newest member of the IVDM education staff.  Meet Angelina Coble, in her own words:

Angelina Coble, IVDM Education Staff, with Ramses

I Left My Heart at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum
-by Angelina Coble, IVDM Education Staff

When I first stepped into the Imperial Valley Desert Museum the thought never crossed my mind that my life would never be the same. The first time I attended I couldn’t believe such a sophisticated infrastructure could exist in the Imperial Valley, especially Ocotillo. I immediately signed up for the newsletter to stay informed about current events and museum business. I knew I wanted to participate and stay active in the museum in whatever capacity I could. I returned to the museum with my family for the Supermoon viewing party and we really enjoyed it.
I continued to stop by the museum whenever I could and I was always greeted by the staff with warm smiles and appreciation. Upon one of my visits, the museum director, Dr. Neal Hitch asked me if I was interested in volunteering at the museum; I quickly agreed. Ever since I have been helping run field trips with our local schools here in the valley. I have learned every component to running field trips: history, geology, and coiled clay.
I can’t explain the value of what I have learned from stepping through these doors and the relationships I have formed. Upon high school graduation I had moved to attend Grossmont College in El Cajon, CA. In 2012, I found myself back home due to unforeseen family circumstances. I struggled to accept being back in the place I had so desperately wanted to leave. What this museum did for me is what no other place or person could accomplish. The Imperial Valley Desert Museum helped me accept and appreciate the place I grew up in. I have not only fallen in love with my surroundings but with the museum itself. When I go outside I no longer see a hot desert wasteland; I see a valley with rich history and culture. I see the remnants of volcanic activity, an ocean bed, all-encompassing freshwater lake, and thriving desert ecosystem. 
My affiliation started long before I knew or recognized it. My grandfather Gene Coble helped put up the Spirit of the Desert statue located on the premises. He was part of the visionaries that believed the museum would indeed open one day. I wish my grandfather could see me now; He would be so proud.

The IVDM has also confirmed what I envision myself doing for the rest of my life. I know that I want to dedicate my life to transform disadvantaged areas through education and empowerment. I couldn’t think of a better place for me to be to require the skills and experience to do so. What I have gained being at the museum is what I wish to impart to others.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Girl Scout High Adventure Day

-from the Head Curator

On Saturday the Girl Scouts of San Diego held their "High Adventure Day" at the IVDM, with 117 scouts, scout leaders, and parents attending.

Learning to play Shaahook
Exploring the Museum grounds
 Thanks to a Community Benefits Grant sponsored by Imperial County District 3 Supervisor Michael Kelley, all girl scouts attended the event for free.  "The grant from the County Board of Supervisors if for recruitment and programming and really made this event possible, "said Nina Crabtree, the new Girl Scout Membership Recruitment and Support Specialist.  "It has a tremendous impact when so many troops get together. It really allows you to see how exciting and fun scouting is in the Valley."

Coiled Clay pot making

 "The High Adventure Day was open to all Girl Scout Troops in the Imperial Valley" said Rea de la Cruz, the Troop Support Manager for Girl Scouts San Diego "including our Juniors, Brownies, Daises, and Cadets.  We had great participation with one-fifth of all Girl Scouts in Imperial County coming to the event."

Exploring desert plants on a hike
Throughout the event, the scouts had the opportunity to make a coiled clay pot, hike through the museum property learning to identify animal tracks, and play Shaahook, a traditional Kumeyaay game.

Walking Stick insect jumped at the chance to make new friends
A Western Shovel-Nose snake discovered on a hike
"We did not expect to see any desert animals, but my group came across a Western Shovel-nose snake and a Walking Stick, an insect that looked just like a small stick." said de la Cruz.  "It is amazing that this type of desert wildlife was just right there, this was just a great experience for our girls."

 "The Shaahook game is something we have not done before with a large group like this," said Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator at the museum, "but it was really fun and competitive.  It proved to be the most popular part of the event, with some groups staying 45 minutes past the end of the day to finish playing."
Angelina Coble teaches Shaahook to a competitive group of scouts

Special thanks to Rodrigo Bernal, Angelina Coble, Robin Dodge, Mary Fitzurka, and Albert Lutz for their help in making this event a fun day for everyone!