Are Birds Dinosaurs? Looking Into the Dino-Dominated Past

Three toes. Two legs. Little arms. Are dinosaurs birds, or are birds dinosaurs?

Have you ever wanted to see a dinosaur in real life? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to go somewhere like a Jurassic Zoo or a Cretaceous Park and see a T. rex or Apatosaurus doing its dino thing? Creatures such as sharks and horseshoes craps have stood the test of time, and their descendants can be observed today. But what about other ancient animals? 

We can learn a great deal by looking at their fossils, but there is something else we can do in our modern era to get a glimpse at what dinosaurs may have been like: go bird watching! That’s right! As strange as it may seem, there is a large body of evidence collected by scientists that suggests that birds are in fact the closest living relatives to dinosaurs! But before you grab your hiking gear and binoculars, here are a few cool facts to help you answer the question, "Are birds dinosaurs?"

A dinosaur named Archaeopteryx may be the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds.

Archaeopteryx was discovered in Germany and was surprisingly well preserved. Paleontologists found one specimen that still had feathers! It was long believed that

Archaeopteryx was the first bird, but upon further study, it was found to be more closely related to the Maniraptoran family of dinosaurs than modern birds. This further cemented its place as a bridge, or transition fossil, between dinosaurs and birds.

Archaeopteryx fossils are birds

Birds are related to theropod dinosaurs — a group that includes the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Theropods were bipedal dinosaurs, meaning they walked on two legs, not four like many other dinosaurs. When we look at the modern-day emu or ostrich, the resemblance to these dinosaurs is striking, especially when examining their bone structure.

However, they are not the only birds with similarities to theropods. Underneath Orlando Science Center’s resident T. rex, Stan, we have a skeleton of a chicken to show their shared ancestry. Comparing the two makes one realize how lucky we are that chickens don’t get as big as the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.

bird and dinosaur skeleton

Birds have scales like many dinosaurs and some dinosaurs may have had feathers.

Theropods were bipedal dinosaurs, meaning they walked on two legs, not four like many other dinosaurs. When we look at the modern-day emu or ostrich, the resemblance to these dinosaurs is striking, especially when examining their bone structure.

However, they are not the only birds with similarities to theropods. Underneath Orlando Science Center’s resident T. rex, Stan, we have a skeleton of a chicken to show their shared ancestry. Comparing the two makes one realize how lucky we are that chickens don’t get as big as the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.

bird and dinosaurs has scales

Birds lay eggs similar to dinosaurs and reptiles.

Scientists have discovered that the tissues used to produce scales in reptiles are similar to those that produce feathers in birds. This suggests that there is a common ancestor between dinosaurs, birds, and reptiles.

Furthermore, birds have scales on their feet! A recently discovered dinosaur in China had preserved skin with what looks like feathers, or what paleontologists refer to as proto-feathers. However, further study is required, and this is a topic of debate among scientists.

dinosaurs and birds lay similar eggs

Some modern birds still have claws similar to Maniraptoran dinosaurs.

There is a reason modern birds of prey are often referred to as raptors. Their talons have a similar curvature to those found in dinosaurs like the velociraptor. In the case of the bald eagle, these talons are used to tightly grip their prey.

Other birds have different uses for their talons. The cassowary, native to Australia, is a large flightless bird that can grow as tall as 5.6 feet. With a large crest on their head and blue skin, they look like they walked right out of a time machine! Their claws are mainly used in self-defense. When threatened, these modern-day dinos will rear up and attempt to jab at their attacker with frightening precision.

raptor dinosaur and birds

Expand on the lesson!

So, are birds dinosaurs? Now that we've explored this question, and have learned about how birds are related to dinosaurs, you can go out bird watching and make your own scientific observations! Here in Florida, you don’t have to travel far to spot dinosaur descendants. Birds like the sandhill crane, red-shouldered hawk, and bald eagle can be found in your own backyard or on a short hike!  Create and chart your observations with this DIY animal chart activity!

Make sure to stay safe and take precautions while looking for dino descendants! If you want to learn more about living animals or dinosaurs, be sure to stop by Natureworks or DinoDigs at the Orlando Science Center. We look forward to seeing you!

are sand crane birds dinosaurs

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Popular Science Myths Debunked • Clearing Up Misconceptions

Can you tell if these popular science myths are science fact or fiction? 

Orlando Science Center would like to clear the air on a few things. Somehow a few misconceptions have seeped their way into science culture. We would like to explore some of these popular science myths and explain why they are false by using scientific facts.

 

Cracking your knuckles frequently increases your chance of developing arthritis in your hands.

Popular science myths cracking knuckles

While cracking your knuckles may be annoying for those around you, it has no correlation to arthritis in those joints. Several studies that aimed to find a link between the two found no substantial evidence of any correlation. However, those who excessively cracked their knuckles did have slightly weaker grip strength later in life.

This makes sense though - knuckle cracking is a bubble being formed and popped by the liquid that surrounds your knuckle joints. It causes no trauma to these areas that would accelerate the onset of inflammation to these joints, which is what arthritis is.

 

Toilets flush in opposite directions depending on which side of the equator you find yourself on.

Toilet Flush popular science myth

The popular science myths that toilets flushes or other small movements of water move in different directions is often credited to something called the Coriolis Effect. The Coriolis Effect is a pattern of deflection that things that are not firmly connected to the earth but travel long distances across the planet. Since the earth rotates faster at the equator than at the polar poles, objects will appear to rotate to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. This is why hurricanes spin in opposite directions in the two hemispheres.

However, the Coriolis Effect only influences things moving great distances of long periods of time on earth, not a 5 second toilet flush. If you want to see the Coriolis Effect in action, grab a buddy, get on a merry-go-round, and toss a ball while it’s stationary. Then spin it and toss the ball again. You will see the ball appears to curve, but in fact the ball is traveling in a straight line. It is you who is moving due to the spin of the merry-go-round.

 

Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

lightning can never strike twice science misconception

The idea that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice is a popular misconception but, that’s all it is- a misconception. We know this to be true as lightning strikes are too frequent to not strike the same place on earth multiple times. Studies show that around 500 – 1000 lightning strikes happen globally every second! The Empire State Building was once used a lightning laboratory because the building is struck with lightning around 100 times a year.

The way lightning works supports the idea of multiple strikes. With negative charge collecting in the clouds and positive charge collecting on the ground, streamers (which are collections of electrons racing towards the positively charged ground) descend from the cloud to find the path of least resistance, and when the first one hits the ground 50,000 volts of electricity shoot up from the ground to the cloud following the streamer's path.

 

Bulls become angry when they see the color red.

popular science bull myth

The popular myths that bulls become angry when they see red, or are unsually violent animals, comes from the tradition of bullfighting, where a matador waves around a red cape, or a muleta, and the bull charges the cape with fervor.

However, it's not the color of the cape that angers the bull but it’s the movement of the cape. We know this based on many experiments with different colored capes being stationary and being moved and the bull favored movement over the color of the cape every time. We also know that bulls are actually red-green colorblind and would have a hard time distinguishing red from green, orange, and brown. 

 

A duck’s quack does not echo.

duck quack popular science myths

A duck’s quack not echoing is a myth that stems from the fact that it is simply very difficult to hear the echo. A reverberation chamber helps amplify echoes by giving sounds large reflective surfaces for the sound to bounce back on or echo off of. Using a reverberation chamber and waiting for a good quack is all you need to do to prove that a duck’s quack does indeed echo. But why is it so hard to hear a duck’s quack echo without this chamber?

Many reasons can contribute to creating an echo in the wild. A duck needs to have a large surface far enough away to reflect off of and the strength behind its quack to reach said surface and make it back to your ears at a volume that is loud enough for our ears to hear. A sudden change in volume is easier to hear than the way that a duck quacks - a fading in of volume and fading out of volume over the entire sound.

 

The north star is the brightest star in the night sky.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky

The north star, or Polaris, is the star that is positioned right above the celestial pole. The celestial pole is the axis that the celestial sky rotates around, the point in the night sky that doesn’t move as the earth rotates, therefore showing true north.

Polaris is not the brightest in the night sky - not even close! Polaris is about 50th in terms of brightness. The brightest is the dog star, Sirius. Sirius comes from the Greek word Seirius, meaning, "searing" or "scorching, which is fitting as Sirius is so bright in the northern hemisphere! It is twice as bright as the next brightest star, Canopus.

 

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made thing visible from space.

 

Image to right: This photo of central Inner Mongolia, about 200 miles north of Beijing, was taken on Nov. 24, 2004, from the International Space Station. The yellow arrow points to an estimated location of 42.5N 117.4E where the wall is visible. The red arrows point to other visible sections of the wall.
Credit: NASA

great wall of china from space popular science myths

The Great Wall of China is certainly large, at 13,171 miles long! That’s thirteen times the distance from the Orlando Science Center to the Empire State Building! However, it is unable to be seen from space with just the unaided eye.

On November 24th, 2004, an astronaut named Leroy Chiao was determined to get a picture of the wall from space. With the aid of his camera’s lenses, he was able to capture the first picture of the Great Wall from space. So what things are able to be seen from space? From low earth orbit, astronauts have said they can see cities, major roadways, dams, and even airports. So why can’t they see the Great Wall? It’s all about color. The Great Wall of China is nearly the same color as the area surrounding it, so it's difficult to distinguish the wall from its surroundings.

 

Ostriches stick their heads into the ground when threatened.

ostrich

Contrary to the popular myth, Ostriches don’t stick their heads to the ground when they feel threatened. Their first instinct is to run, and they are fast! Ostriches can outrun most predators that they encounter in the wild. Their top speeds reach 43 miles per hour! If they can't run, they aren’t afraid to fight. An ostrich can kick with their clawed feet so hard they can easily take out a full-grown lion.

However, this myth did have an origin in ostrich behavior. Ostriches will lay down flat to play dead if they feel they can’t win the fight, this combined with their lightly colored head and neck makes it look as if they ostrich has buried its head into the earth.

 

Mice love cheese.

popular science myths mice love cheese

If you’re trying to capture a mouse, cheese isn’t necessarily the best thing to use as bait. While it is true that mice will eat cheese, it’s not necessarily true that they prefer or even like it. Mice will eat anything that has some sort of nutritional value, including cheese. However, studies show that given a choice, a mouse would pick a sweeter food choice like fruit or candy over cheese.

The popular science myths that mice, or other small animals, love cheese originated in medieval times when families didn’t have refrigerators. They hung meat from the ceiling and stored grain in silos, but cheese was simply wrapped in a thin layer of wax or cloth, making it much easier for rodents to find and eat the cheese. In fact, during the bubonic plague, it was common practice to forgo cheese in diets as to not attract mice because people thought they were attracted to it when, actually, it was just the easiest thing to find in an average house.

 

All dinosaurs went extinct by an asteroid hitting earth.

popular science myths dinosaur

We imagine that this one is shocking to hear, but the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs didn’t finish the job. The asteroid, or the K-T extinction event, that happened 65 million years ago wiped out about 80 percent of all plant and animal life on the planet. The effects of the asteroid and the winter fallout that occurred afterward killed all tetrapods (four-legged animals) that weighed over 50 pounds.

However, some small species of dinosaurs survived and evolved into modern-day birds. This is supported but fossils that have been found that are dated past the sedimentary layer of the K-T event. This is why scientists say birds are direct descendants of the dinosaurs. This event, however, did lead to many mammals evolving into larger and more complex species as, during the time of large meat-eating lizards, mammals tended to become meals. With ecological niches open due to the K-T event, mammals were able to evolve.

Expand on the activity!

 

How much do you know about our canine companions? Test your knowledge with these fun science facts about dogs!

Science Facts About Dogs: Unleash Fun Facts About Your Furry Friends!

Put your bee identification skills to the test.

Bee Identification Game: To Bee or Not to Bee

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How to Build A Time Capsule: A True Test of Perseverance

Learn about NASA's Mars rover Perseverance while you learn how to build a time capsule.

Have you ever wanted to preserve time? Let us teach you how to build a time capsule! While you gather your materials and bulid your time capsule, check out this video about NASA's latest Mars rover, Perseverance.

On July 30, NASA is set to send its next rover to Mars. Our very own Science Interpreter Spencer served on a panel of judges that narrowed down the list of names. Then, the nation, and many of you, got to vote on its name!

The Perseverance rover will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for a possible return to Earth.  

Materials you will need:

  • Scissors  
  • Hot Glue 
  • Paper 
  • Pencil 
  • Cylinder that is opened on both ends 
How to build a time capsule

Directions:

STEP 1:

Take your hot glue gun and glue around the base of your cylinder. Once you have completed the ring, quickly place the cylinder onto one or the cardboard squares and wait for the glue to dry.  

Building a time capsule materials

STEP 2:

Take your scissors and cut the excess cardboard off of the cardboard square that was glued to the bottom of your cylinder.  

Assembling a time capsule

STEP 3:

Put the objects inside the time capsule that you have decided to preserve. We choose wooden tokens that represent the different exhibits and programs we put on here at the science center. You should choose something with meaning but nothing that you won’t miss for being gone for too long. 

add things to your time capsule

STEP 4:

With your piece of paper and pencil, write yourself a note. It is always fun to read a note that you wrote in the past. Make it about what you think life might be like when you open the time capsule and why you choose the items that you did.  

add a note to your time capsule

STEP 5:

Repeat steps 1 and 2 on the lid side of the cylinder to seal in the objects and the note inside the time capsule.  

seal your time capsule

STEP 6:

Decorate! We choose to laser cut out some gears to glue all over our time capsule, but you can decorate your time capsule however you like. Make sure you leave some room for a warning label so nobody opens your time capsule too early.  

decorate your time capsule

STEP 7:

Once you finish decorating you should label your time capsule with a warning label so that way if anyone finds your time capsule they won’t open it too early.  

Lastly, decide where you are going to store your time capsule. You can keep your time capsule in many places, your closet, or even under your bed. If you bury your time capsule, make sure your time capsule can endure the elements!

How did your time capsule turn out? We'd love to see it! Submit photos or videos of your projects to the OSC Science Showcase for a chance to be featured!  

store your time capsule

Expand on the activity!

Learn more about NASA's Mars Exploration Program:

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Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Explorer Kit and Downloadable Activities

Sick of being stuck inside? Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt!

Looking for an outdoor activity? Put together an outdoor scavenger hunt explorer kit and see what you can find around your neighborhood!

Materials you will need:

  • A notebook and pencil to record your findings! You could press leaves in the pages, sketch an animal’s footprint, draw an interesting tree to record and look up later.
  • Binoculars, if you have them! Birds of prey like ospreys like to build their nests on top of power poles and other tall structures. Can you find any?
  • Sunscreen! It’s important for outdoor explorers of all ages to protect their skin from sun exposure.
  • Hand sanitizer!
  • Sunglasses! It’s no fun squinting at a tree trying to figure out if that’s a squirrel or a lump of moss
materials for an outdoor scavenger hunt

Download your outdoor scavenger hunt chart, or learn how to make your own customized animal tracking chart!

outdoor scavenger hunt
orlando science center outdoor scavenger hunt

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Science of Sound Activity ♪ Make Some Noise for Foley Art

Have you ever heard of Foley art? Make your own sound effects with this science of sound activity!

Foley artistry, named for the sound effect professional that pioneered it, originated during radio shows in the 1920s. They had to create sound effects from objects in the studio – anything from horse hoof beats to snow crunching to animal sounds!  

Learn to make your own Foley art sound effects using objects from around your house with this science of sound activity! 

Action!

Snow crunching  

  • You will need:
    • Cornstarch
    • A balloon or zip plastic bag 
  • What to do: 
    • Fill your balloon or bag about halfway full of cornstarch.  
    • Squeeze out all the air you can and seal it up tight!  
    • Squeeze it with your hands. What does it sound like?  
science of sound activity foot steps in the snow

Bats flying 

  • You will need:
    • An umbrella 
  • What to do: 
    • Open your umbrella quickly, then open and close it just a tiny bit a few times.  
    • Experiment with the speed and movement. See if you can make it sound like a group of bats!  
    • Try it in a different room or outside to play with echo!
science of sound activity bats flying

Dog shaking dry

  • You will need: 
    • A mop or a rag 
  •  What to do: 
    • Wet your mop or rag.  
    • Wring out the excess water.  
    • Do the next part over your bath or shower: 
    • If you have a mop – twirl it around as fast as you can!  
    • If you have a rag – grab two corners and flap it back and forth quickly, letting as much fabric hang as you can! 
science of sound activity wet dog

Breaking a glass 

  • You will need:  
    • A set of keys 
  • What to do: 
    • Drop your keys onto the floor from 6 inches above it.  
    • Play with height to get a different sound. Try dropping onto a different surface and see what sound it makes!  
science of sound activity breaking glass

Rain 

  • You will need: 
    • Uncooked rice 
    • A cookie sheet 
  • What to do:  
    • Pour some uncooked rice onto your cookie sheet. You don’t need much – less than a handful.  
    • Tilt your cookie sheet to let the rice roll or slide down to the other side. You created a gentle rainstorm!  
science of sound activity rain

Birds flying 

  • You will need:
    • Leather or rubber gloves 
  • What to do: 
    • Hold the open end of both gloves in one hand.  
    • Shake them!  
    • Experiment with how fast you shake the gloves to make it sound like birds are further or nearer.  
science of sound activity birds flying

Dinosaur sounds  

  • You will need:
    • A plastic cup 
    • A piece of string 
    • Something to poke a hole in your cup (with grownup’s help) 
    • Water 
  • What to do: 
  • Poke a hole in the bottom of the cup right in the center using an embroidery needle or a thumbtack.  
  • Thread the string through the bottom of the cup and tie a knot on the end inside the cup.  
  • Pull the string taught.  
  • Wet your thumb and forefinger with some water.  
  • Run your thumb and forefinger along the string. You may need to do this a few times before you get a sound. 
science of sound activity dinosaur

What next? 

  • Mute your TV when next time you watch a movie – see if you can replicate any for your next science of sound activity! 
  • Try another special effect!
    What if we told you that you could freeze time with just a balloon, tape, and some water? Try demonstrating laminar flow at home!

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DIY Moon Sand: An Out-Of-This-World Activity Right at Home

Have a blast with this stellar DIY moon sand recipe!

Have you ever looked up at the moon and noticed that the moon looks sort of like cheese? That’s because the moon’s surface is made up of craters and rocks. Craters are holes in the Moon’s surface formed by impact from an asteroid, which is a chunk of rock and metal in outer space. Using our DIY Moon Sand recipe, you too can experiment and make your own moon craters!

These recipes call for various food items but it is not to be consumed! Keep an eye out for this when little ones are playing with their moon sand. We do recommend doing this activity outside if possible as it does tend to get messy.

Materials for DIY Moon Sand:

  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of baby oil
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rocks of various sizes 
  • Mixing spoon *optional
  • Play bin *optional

Materials for Gluten-Free DIY Moon Sand:

  • 2 cups of baking soda/powder
  • 2 cups of cornstarch
  • 1 cup of baby oil
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rocks of various sizes 
  • Mixing spoon *optional
  • Play bin *optional

Directions:

STEP 1:

  • First, measure out your dry ingredients and add them to your mixing bowl, this will be your flour or baking soda/cornstarch base. When you scoop these ingredients into your measuring cups, make sure you level off the cup to make sure you get a full cup!
ingredients for DIY moon sand

STEP 2:

  • Next, we will add in our liquid ingredients. Measure out the designated amount of oil to add to your mixture and carefully pour it into your bowl.
Add liquid ingredients to moon sand

STEP 3:

  • Here’s where it starts to get messy! Start to mix all of your ingredients together. You can mix with your hands or a large mixing spoon. Your dry ingredients will absorb the oil and start to stick together while still remaining soft. The best moon sand texture is crumbly, but still able to be molded together.
combine ingredients

Now that you have made your moon sand, you can start making your own craters!

Our moon sand is nice and soft but is perfect for making impressions. Gather a few rocks of different shapes and sizes. Through this activity, children will be able to experiment and make observations about their craters while changing variables of the activity. How will your results change?

Experiment: Even out your moon sand to form a layer at the bottom of your bowl or bin. Stand over your moon sand and gently drop different rocks onto the surface. You can measure the size of your craters with a ruler by how many inches wide or deep it is. Record your results, you can write or draw the way your crater looks and take note of your measurements to compare later.

Try some of these variations and observe how your craters change:

  • Drop your asteroids from different heights
  • Instead of an even layer, build up your moon sand into a mountain and try dropping your asteroid onto it and see what happens.
  • Try making your moon sand look like the moon by forming all kinds of craters of all shapes and sizes in your sand.
  • Mold your moon sand into different phases of the moon

 

Experiment with your DIY moon sand
make a crater
crater in moon sand

Make Conclusions

Which rocks made the deepest impressions? What happened to your craters when you changed the height at which you dropped your asteroids? What did your data tell you about your experiment?

If you had fun making moon sand crater creations and snapped some photos, be sure to submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels.

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Kitchen Chemistry for Kids: Get Hands-On, Then Get Your Snack On

Learning has never been sweeter with this kitchen chemistry for kids of all ages!

Everything we interact within our day-to-day lives is made out of molecules. There are countless different kinds of molecules, each made out of atoms of different elements.

This kitchen chemistry for kids will help build an understanding of atoms and molecules as we create our own atomic marshmallow models!

Materials you will need:

  • Colored marshmallows
    *If you don’t have marshmallows, you can use clay, playdough, etc...
  • Toothpicks 
Materials for Kitchen Chemistry for Kids

Molecules:

Hydrogen (H2):

  • Some molecules are homonuclear, which means they are made up of just two atoms of the same element. Let’s make a homonuclear hydrogen molecule.
  • To make a hydrogen molecule, grab 2 marshmallows of the same color. Then connect them with toothpicks, as shown in the picture.
Kitchen Chemistry for Kids- hydrogen molecule

Water (H2O – Dihydrogen Monoxide):

  • The most important molecule for life on Earth is H2O, or water. It is made of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom.
  • To make a water molecule, grab 2 marshmallows of one color and 1 of another. Then connect them with toothpicks, as shown in the picture. They should make a V shape.
Kitchen Chemistry for Kids- water molecule

Salt (NaCl – Sodium Chloride):

  • Salt molecules form cube-shaped crystals.
  • To make a salt molecule, you will need 8 marshmallows total, 4 of one color, and 4 of another. Connect them together in a cube, as shown in the picture
Kitchen Chemistry for Kids- salt molecule

Expand on this activity!

What other molecules can you make? Can you make methane? What about hydrogen peroxide? What’s the biggest molecule you can make? Check out MolView to see the digital models of all kinds of substances that you can base your marshmallow models off of!

Did you make your own marshmallow atomic models? We’d love to see how they turned out! Snap a photo of your models and submit it to our Science Showcase or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels.

The Science:

  • Real molecules aren’t held together by toothpicks. Instead, the atoms are bound together by positive and negative charges.
  • Water molecules are held together by covalent bonds, meaning they share negatively-charged particles called electrons.
  • Salt is a different kind of molecule, one that is made of ions. This happens when an atom gains or loses an electron. Sodium (Na) loves to get rid of electrons, so it is usually positive. Chloride (Cl) loves to steal electrons, so it is usually negative.
  • Molecules like this do not share electrons like water molecules do with covalent bonds. Instead, one atom gives an electron to the other, resulting in two charged atoms (ions). Just like with magnets, opposites attract. So, the positive sodium atoms and the negative chloride atoms will group together in the pattern that you’ve made. We call this an ionic bond.

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In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

Articulated Cardboard Crafts: Create a Turtle-y Awesome Race

Don't be shell-fish! Give boxes a second life with these articulated cardboard crafts!

We all presumably have an empty box hanging around the house - why not use it for something fun before recycling the cardboard and make some cardboard racing turtles?

Online shopping and articulated cardboard crafts go hand in hand! While we definitely want you to dispose of them properly, we encourage you to hone your maker skills by repurposing this common packaging before you recycle them! If you look at it with the right eye, you might find a wealth of possibility in this humble packing material. 

Materials you will need:

  • Cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Scissors  
  • Circular object such as a bowl
  • Optional: markers or paint to decorate your turtle
Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

Directions:

STEP 1: 

Trace a circle onto a piece of cardboard. Add a head, legs, and a tail, but make sure the left and right back feet are even so the turtle will balance - my turtle lost his tail because it wasn't balanced enough!

*Optional: Decorate your turtle!

Draw turtle for articulated cardboard crafts

STEP 2: 

Cut out your cardboard turtle.

cut out Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

STEP 3: 

Poke a hole for your string in the middle of the turtle just below the head.

add string Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

STEP 4: 

Thread a six-foot length of yarn through the hole and tie one end to a table or chair leg about eight inches off the floor.

Pull the string taut so the turtle stands, and then release it so the turtle flops forward. Pull it taut again and the turtle will have moved forward! Keep going until your turtle reaches the table!

Now you can grab a friend, a few more, and have a race!

cut out Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

Expand on the activity!

  • Experiment with different types of thread, like yearn, string, fishing line, etc.. to see if it affects speed.
  • What happens if you put your thread through a different part of the turtle. Does this affect speed or balance?
  • Try another cardboard animal craft like this incredible cardboard pangolin!

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Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

DIY Blacklight: Use This Hack to Turn Any Smartphone Into a Blacklight

Share and decode secret messages with this DIY Blacklight hack!

Have you ever wanted to make something glow under a blacklight? Let us teach you one of our favorite hacks to make glowing highlighter messages and drawings at home with this DIY blacklight tutorial!

Recommended Age: 5+. Younger scientists will enjoy making and revealing their messages and drawings, but may need help putting together the DIY blacklight hack.

Materials you will need:

  • A phone with a camera light
  • Clear tape
  • A blue marker (a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, works best)
  • A purple marker (a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, works best)
  • White paper
  • A fluorescent highlighter (yellow works best)
Materials for DIY Blacklight

Directions:

STEP 1:

Rip off a small piece of tape (fold some of it over to make a tab for easy clean up later) and place the piece of tape over the camera light on the phone. Make sure you place the tape over the LIGHT, not the camera!

DIY Blacklight step 1

STEP 2:

With the blue marker, color the portion of tape over the light. You don’t need to color in the entire piece of tape; you just want to make sure the area directly over the light is colored.

DIY Blacklight step 2

STEP 3:

Place another piece of tape over the first. Color the area over the light blue again.

DIY Blacklight step 3

STEP 4:

Place one more piece of tape on top of the others. This time, color the area over the light purple.

DIY Blacklight step 5

STEP 5:

Draw a picture or message on white paper with your highlighter.

DIY Blacklight step 6

STEP 6:

Grap your picture and turn off the lights or go somewhere dark. Then turn on the camera light on your phone and shine the light onto your picture.

DIY Blacklight end result

The Science Behind This Blacklight Hack:

Many highlighters fluoresce, or absorb then emit light, which makes them glow in the dark. But why?

  • Light is a spectrum. What we can see is called visible light. It ranges from red light to purple light. However, there are other types of light, including infrared and ultraviolet light (or UV) light. UV light is what a blacklight emits.
  • When you colored the tape with blue and purple markers, you created a filter that blocked out all colors of visible light except blue and purple. With the rest of the visible light spectrum blocked out, the resulting blue and purple light were enough to make the highlighter fluoresce because the wavelengths of purple and blue light are close enough to the UV spectrum, even though there is minimal UV light actually present.
  • Highlighters fluoresce under a normal blacklight because the ink absorbs ultraviolet light, which isn’t visible to the human eye, and remits it as visible light.
science of DIY blacklight

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In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

Zoo Awareness Month: How Modern Zoos Contribute to Conservation and Research

Bringing Zoo Awareness from the Past to the Present

June is Zoo and Aquariums Awareness month! Let’s take a look at the history of the first animal collections, where the modern zoo or aquarium is today, and why animals are kept in human care.

The earliest record of an animal collection was Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s collection in Egypt. It was common in ancient times for rulers across the world to give exotic animals, as gifts. For the most part, little effort went into the well-being of the animals. Slowly, information about how to care for these animals spread, and eventually exotic animal trainers and the first zookeepers began to emerge.

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, zoological gardens became more and more popular. Zoological gardens are any collection of animals that are kept for public viewing. Zoology developed into a field of science, and private collections slowly began to fade from popularity. The donations and ticket sales at zoological gardens partially funded the scientific research on the animal’s behavior, anatomy, breeding, and nutrition. In the United States, national parks were formed and laws were passed to preserve these natural areas.

A Look into the Modern Zoo

Not all Zoos and Aquariums are equal. Even though many scientific and technological advancements have helped the zoology field grow as a whole. There are millions of zoos worldwide, but there are many differences between them.

In fact, not even all animal collections are the same. Let’s look at some of the most common kinds of animal collections and zoological gardens there are.

  • Private Zoo – owned by an individual or organization, is open to the public usually by reservation only
  • Private Zoo (breeding facility) – owned by an organization or individual, the animals in this collection are bred for Species Survival Plans or for animals to go to other zoological facilities. May or may not be open to the public
  • For-profit Zoo – large or small, a zoo that is open to the public and profit comes from tickets sales, events, or outreach programs
  • Non-for-profit Zoo – has programs in place to benefit the animals, the community, and education, does not earn profit from ticket sales or outreach programs, receives local and federal funding
  • Exotic Animal Sanctuary – owned by an individual or organization, does not buy or breed animals, only receives animals that cannot go to zoos or be released out in nature for medical or behavioral reasons
  • Private animal collection – an animal collection that is not open to the public, is up to the individual whether animals breed or what animals are bought, is for personal fulfillment not educating the public or contributing to conservation efforts

There are many advisory boards and accreditation associations in the United States, and globally that oversee how zoos and aquariums are maintained, and help ensure that animals in these facilities are treated humanely. 

OSC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to science learning for life, and we’re lucky to be a science learning center with live animals. Our animal ambassadors help people learn about nature and wildlife and hopefully inspire people to make small changes in their life that will have huge positive impacts on natural habitats. The variety of animals at the science center helps people see the issues some animals encounter in the wild like deforestation, poaching, and pollution.

 

The next time you visit the Orlando Science Center, or any animal facility, ask the staff members and volunteers questions. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • How is the animal exhibit similar to the natural habitat of this species?
  • Does this animal have a favorite food?
  • What conservation efforts is the zoo involved in?
  • What is animal enrichment?
  • What are some threats facing this animal in the wild?
Zoo Awareness- an old zoo

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Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!