Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Science Fair Fun

-from the Curator

Students displaying their projects at STEM Night
Yesterday we attended the Wilson Jr. High School STEM Night.  About 200 7th and 8th grade students from Wilson Junior High, Kennedy Middle School, and De Anza Magnet participated, and friends, family, and community members came out to support them. Several science-related groups were also invited to have a table to interest people in what they do and this year we were invited to attend.
Showing our upcoming exhibit and having fun with rocks!

143 students and adults stopped by our table to talk to up about our upcoming exhibit, field trips, and rocks.  We displayed several of our exhibit drawings as well as several samples of volcanic rocks: basalt, obsidian, pumice, and geodes. Everyone loved rocks and people were excited to touch these samples and talk to us about their own rock hounding experiences.

It was great to see so many kids excited about a hands-on approach to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Congratulations to all the students for great projects- we hope to see you all out at the museum after our new exhibit is installed!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Exciting Day!

-from the Curator

Today was a hugely exciting day for us here at the museum.  After years of negotiating, today a new piece was accessioned into our collection. Over the past year, working with the exhibit developers at Weldon Exhibits, we have designed and built a special case to house this piece.  You'll be able to see it in the opening of our permanent exhibit in a section on adaptations, where it will be a focal piece.

We're not giving out any spoilers, but as a teaser, here's the text that will be on the glass of its case:

"A key adaptation to the desert’s extreme conditions is a keen understanding of your prey: its habitat, its behavior, and its patterns."

Field Trip Fun (Part 2)

-from the Curator

Sunflower students exploring the mysteries of the desert
Today was our last field trip before major exhibit installation starts.  Over the last two weeks we've had three 6th grade classes and a 5th grade class from Sunflower Elementary, and 7th-8th graders from Westmoreland- a total of 137 kids in just three days!

Making a pot is harder than it looks!

Our Sunflower students came out to do an extended hike through our property and talk about desert biomes.  They learned how different plants and animals adapt to live and thrive in the desert, and how long you can live without water (3 days).  They also got to work with clay and try making pots while finding out how important making a good pot was to living in the desert.

Flint knapping with glass
Flint knapping with glass
The older Westmoreland students helped us pilot a new field trip program- an intense look at archaeology. We looked at artifacts, talked about some of the reasons artifacts are left behind and what archaeologists learn from them, and tried our hand at flint knapping.  That one met with mixed success, but it was a good first try for everyone.

In depth archaeology with reproductions you can touch!
Since January we've had over 330 kids come through the museum on field trips. They've gotten to see some of the behind the scenes aspects of building an exhibit that people rarely see.  They've also discovered how many people are involved with very different jobs to put it all together.  Maybe we have some future exhibit designers in the making?

Hopefully they've come away excited to come back and see our final exhibit and be able to tell their families what changes they see.  They all certainly had fun while they were here, and so did we!
Out of the whole class, 1 successful point was made

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Panoramic View- Volunteers building exhibits

-from the Curator

As we get closer to installing our permanent exhibit we are now developing the media and computer interactive portions. Currently, we are working on the "Land of Extremes" introductory touch screen 360 panoramic interactive.  It will be the primary interactive exhibit that showcases the beauty of the desert and highlights regional destinations for visitors.

It requires the development of a unique program that will run a touchscreen computer, projected onto a 9x12 LCD projection.  The program is being developed by GIGAmacro in Napa, CA.  The company founder is a technology innovator with a passion for developing scientific tools, exhibits, and educational programs that provide ways of exploring the world. He has been very hands-on with our project.

Setting up the Gigapan 360 to share an amazing view

To take the pictures we have to find a great location, set up the camera, and set up the Gigapan 360.  The Gigapan unit shoots the 360 automatically, taking up to 260 images to document a single location.  Staff has been trained to use it, and this week, while out on several hikes, volunteer Bill Pape also learned how to use the program.

Members of the private hiking club Jacumba Hikers, starting their adventure
This Saturday Bill and eight members of the private hiking group Jacumba Hikers hiked about 10 miles through Painted Gorge to Carrizo Peak- the highest point on the Coyote Mountains.  They carried the camera equipment up with them and took several panoramic shots for the exhibit.  It was a hot day, but they saw some beautiful scenery and are looking forward to sharing the view with museum visitors who couldn't make the climb!

Thanks guys for helping build our exhibit!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Field Trip Fun (Part 1)

-Anne C. Morgan, Head Curator

Springtime means field trip time and even with all the construction going on here at the museum we've had several classes come out for field trips.

For the third year in a row every 4th grader with McCabe Elementary came out for field trips.  159 students over five different field trips enjoyed hiking on our property and learning about desert plants and animals; looking at rocks and applying the geology they've been studying in the class to the Imperial Valley; and learning to make pots with our signature coiled clay program.

Sunflower Elementary School's Mrs. Arguelles and Mrs. Diaz brought their 2nd graders out earlier this year.  They were kind enough to send us handwritten (and drawn!) thank you letters telling us how much fun they had with us.  From the letters it looks like making pots was the biggest hit, although hiking with cactus was a close second.  We've been fortunate enough to have great weather for our field trips so far- here's hoping that continues for the next few!