Can Service Dogs Help STEM Professionals?

Learn how service dogs can help people with disabilities breakdown barriers!

Have you ever seen a person using a service animal? Why do some people have animals that help them complete tasks? 

When most people think of service animals, what probably comes to mind is a person who is blind using a seeing-eye dog, but there are a wide variety of disabilities and medical conditions where a service animal can be used to help people.

People who have disabilities sometimes use service animals, like dogs, to help them complete day-to-day tasks easily. Service dogs are specifically trained to help their owners complete tasks they would not be able to do independently; like open a door, bring them their car keys, and even guide a person who is blind across a street. Some dogs can detect when a person’s heart rate lowers, or when they are showing signs of anxiety from previous trauma. The dogs can alert their owners, and they can then take medications they need, prevent an anxiety attack, or get to a safe space away from people.

Service dogs are “tasked trained” meaning there is a specific task or behavior they have been trained to perform to help their owner. This is what separates them from just your average pet dog. Not every person with a disability needs a service dog, but some people can’t imagine trying to live their life without one!

Sierra Middleton was an animal care intern at Orlando Science Center where she helped to clean enclosures, walk animals outdoors, provide a science learning experience for guests, performed water chemistry testing, and learned how to train exotic animals, accompanied by her loyal service dog, Duke. 

To me, Duke is more than just my service dog - he’s my lifeline in a lot of ways. He means an increased quality of life; helping me with things every day as simple as picking up my dropped phone to as great as alerting me to an impending medical episode.

The many ways I have trained him to help mitigate my disabilities have certainly helped me in more ways than I can count, but in all honesty it was the mere existence of his unconditional love that acted as a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Sierra Middleton
OSC Intern & Volunteer
a STEM professional with her service dog

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life -- to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. 

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Soil Science Experiment • How to Demonstrate Soil Erosion

Learn about erosion with this soil science experiment!

Forces of nature like wind and rain shape and reshape Earth’s surface by gradually wearing away, or eroding rocks and soil.

When it rains, water that is not used by plants or dried up by the sun slowly flows through the topsoil downhill into nearby water basins like lakes, rivers, streams, and aquifers. Natural areas like Mangroves, Cypress Swamps, Coral Reefs, and Pinewood Flats act like buffer zones which lessens the harmful effects of natural disasters like tropical storms and hurricanes have on Florida.

In this soil science experiment, you will see how different environments can affect water runoff and soil erosion. 


  • 3 plastic bottles
  • 6 cups of soil
  • 1 cup of mulch with some leaf litter
  • 1 square of grass taken from outside. Not the grass pulled out, but a small section removed with a garden spade to be placed inside one of the bottles
  • 1 watering can which will simulate rainfall
  • 3 clear disposable cups
  • 3 pieces of twine that are 12 inches long
  • Scissors or a box cutter
  • Hole puncher (optional)


Let's get started! 

  1. Begin by cutting off one side of all 3 of the plastic bottles. (Cut the bottles vertically in half from top to bottom.)
  2. Place the bottles on their sides and fill each one with two cups of soil.
  3. In one bottle, add the 1 cup of mulch and leaf litter and pack it down.
  4. In the second bottle, add the grass that was collected and pack it down.
  5. Lay the bottles horizontally with the mouth of the bottle hanging over the edge of a table.
  6. Make 2 holes at the top on each side of the “catch-cups” using the hole puncher or you can use the scissors or box cutter.
  7. Pull the twine through the holes and tie them to make handles for the cups.
  8. Attach one cup with twine to each one of the bottles so that each one has a cup hanging from the mouth over the end of the table (see photo).
  9. Now the fun part! Use your watering can to simulate a rainstorm by watering each of the soil science bottles
  10. Make observations and record your findings about which model held the most rainwater, and what the water looks like in the catch cups.
Soil Science Experiment

Expand on the Activity


Post-Activity Discussion Questions:

  1. Which model did the best job at keeping the soil in place?
  2. Do you think it’s a good idea to have natural areas with a lot of plants to protect Florida when it rains?

How to Identify a Legless Lizard from a Snake

Slither in and learn how to identify a legless lizard you may think is a snake

What do you call a lizard with no legs?

You may be waiting for a punchline, but legless lizards are real reptiles that commonly get mis-snake-n for another commonly limbless creature. Florida is home to a few legless lizard species and, you may even come across them while hiking, playing outside, or doing yard work.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences and learn how to identify a legless lizard from a snake. Help remember what you've learned by downloading and filling out this Research Learning Adventure activity sheet as you go!

Research Learning Adventure Activity Sheet


While looking right at the eyes of the legless lizard, you can see that they have eye lids. Kind of like you and me! Snakes, however, do not have eye lids. Snakes’ eyes are protected by a durable, see-through eye scale. Glass lizards can blink, but snakes cannot!

close up of a legless lizard eyes
Legless lizard
close up of a snake eye


Now let’s take a look at the legless lizard’s jaw structure. The upper and lower part are not detachable like in snake species. Snakes can dislocate their jaw using their face muscles to eat large prey. Eastern glass lizards have minimal jaw muscle control and eat mostly insects, small mice, and bird eggs. How wide can you open your mouth? Is your jaw more like the legless lizard, or the snake?

legless lizard jaw
Legless lizard
snake jaw


Legless lizards have on opening on their head for hearing, just like us! Snakes actually use their jaw bones to hear vibrations. Have you ever felt the sound vibrations from a really deep or loud sound? Snakes rely on that sensation to hear all the time! Sound information travels in the form of vibrations from the jaw to the cochlea, a special hearing structure. We have cochlea in our ears too!

Legless lizard ear
Legless lizard
snake ear
snake ear

Legless Lizards & Snakes

Legless lizards and snakes are very important parts of Florida habitats. Glass lizards help control our insect populations, while snakes help to control rodent, lizard, and bird populations. Together they help to balance Florida food webs.

Both legless lizards and snakes pose no major threat to humans. Any bites that do happen are usually on accident because the animal was startled and scared. The best thing to do with all wildlife is to keep a safe distance of at least 15 feet away at all times.

Make sure to visit Orlando Science Center to see all the amazing snake species in NatureWorks or learn more about legless lizards and snakes in Florida by checking out this video.

Expand on the Activity!

Can Snakes Be Venomous AND Poisonous?

Are snakes venomous or poisonous? Can some snakes be venomous and poisonous?

Florida is home to 44 different snake species, from the large and dramatic eastern indigo snake, to the teeny tiny ringneck. All of our serpentine friends, even the venomous ones, serve important roles in our ecosystem by helping to regulate rodent populations, and by providing food to larger predators. Notice, we said venomous snakes, not poisonous ones. That’s because venom and poison aren’t the same things. But can some snakes be both venomous and poisonous?

First, let's break down what it means to be venomous versus poisonous. Both venom and poison are toxins, which means they can cause harm to our bodies. The difference between venom and poison is how the toxin gets into a body. Poison is either eaten or touched, like poison ivy or arsenic. Those can only hurt you if you put them in your mouth or on your skin. Venom, on the other hand, is injected. Think of the fangs of a snake or the stinger of a scorpion. Venomous animals must puncture the skin of their victims to get their venom into the victim’s blood. 

 While unusual, there are a few species of snake that are actually poisonous. Rhabdophis keelback snakes are both venomous and poisonous – their poisons are stored in nuchal glands and are acquired by sequestering toxins from poisonous toads the snakes eat. Similarly, certain garter snakes from Oregon can retain toxins in their livers from ingesting rough-skinned newts.

Of these 44 different species of snakes that call Florida home, only six are dangerous to people, those being:

  • Eastern coral snake
  • Southern copperhead
  • Cottonmouth
  • Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
  • Timber rattlesnake
  • Dusky pygmy rattlesnake

That all sounds pretty scary, but don’t worry! It’s actually very unlikely to be bitten by a snake in the state of Florida. In fact, it is much more likely for a person to be struck by lightning than to be bitten by a venomous snake! This is because snakes want nothing to do with people. They usually are very likely to flee at the first sight of a person. They don’t want to end up as a larger animal’s dinner after all!

Can Snakes Be Venomous and Poisonous

Unfortunately, the majority of reported snake bites are due to handling snakes or even trying to hurt them. If you’re still concerned about snakebites, educate yourself and family about them, make sure not to reach into dense bushes where you can’t see your hands, and seek out snake avoidance training for your pets. Fortunately, even those who do get bitten are almost always fine, as long as they seek out medical attention immediately. Snake venom has been heavily researched by medical scientists for creating new highly effective medicines.

Take a few minutes to find out which venomous and nonvenomous Florida snakes are your favorites, and see which ones you can find in NatureWorks next time you slither into Orlando Science Center!

Outdoor Safety for Kids • 7 Survival Tips for Any Scenario

Check out these 7 outdoor safety tips for kids! 

When the sun is shining, there’s nothing better than getting outside, breathing in a breath of fresh air, and communing with nature! But don’t forget to keep safety in mind! Whether you’re camping or hiking the great outdoors — or just exploring your own backyard — check out these 7 outdoor survival and safety tips for kids! 

Get more safety and survival tips, and put your hero skills to the test with new, interactive exhibit RESCUE now on display! 

1. Not all who wander are lost. But if you are lost, stop wandering

If you find your surroundings are starting to become unfamiliar, it’s easy to want to retrace your steps, or find the last familiar setting. However, staying put

is the most important survival skill to teach your children. The farther they wander from the site where they were last seen, the harder it’s going to be for rescuers to find them. Staying in one place will also conserve energy and reduce their risk of falling or getting injured.

2. Wear bright colors 

Bright colors will help you stand out from your surroundings, and even more so if your whole party is wearing matching colors. However, be mindful of your surroundings. If you’re spending time in or near water avoid blue, and if you’re spending time in a wooded area, avoid green.


Outdoor safety for Kids - a picture of what different colored swimsuits look like underwater

3. Keep calm and carry an explorer’s kit

Even on a short adventure, it’s always best to bring supplies! Here are some fundamentals to keep any adventure safe and fun.

  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • A whistle
  • A flashlight or glow sticks
  • A poncho
  • Water and non-perishable snacks
  • A laminated emergency contact card
  • For basic first aid, include: adhesive bandages, hand sanitizer, antibiotic cream, and antiseptic, wipes or spray, and any personal medications, inhalers, or EpiPens

4. Build a shelter

This is not only a good survival tip, but a fun one to practice! Children are naturally creative and, with a little guidance, design excellent shelters. Can a jacket or a poncho make a tent? What kind or sticks or foliage are around you? Next time you’re enjoying the outdoors, challenge your junior explorers to see what kind of shelter can be made from their surroundings.

5. Always wear sunscreen. Even on a cloudy day

Can you get a sunburn on a cloudy day? While clouds do reduce some of the sun’s UV rays, they don’t block all of them. UVA rays can penetrate clouds, and they can also reach below the water’s surface.

UVB rays can also damage your skin year-round, cloudy or not. Reflective surfaces like snow and ice also intensify UVB rays and their effects on the skin so be sure to apply sunscreen anytime you plan on spending time outside.

6. Know when it’s okay to ask for help

Children who are lost or in another emergency situation can often fear rescuers, in part because they learn about “stranger danger” at an early age. Sometimes, they’re so afraid, they hide from the very people searching for them or trying to help.

Explain to your children that if they find themselves in an emergency, the people calling their name are trying to help them. Show them what emergency professionals look like in their various uniforms: firefighters, law enforcement officers, and search and rescue dogs.

outdoor safety for kids - kids dressed up in first responder gear

7. Expect the unexpected

No one ever plans an emergency situation, but you can plan for when one happens. Like fire drills or seatbelts, the best way to plan for the unplannable is to practice and incorporate safety into as much as your daily life is possible. Whether you’re just taking a walk in the park or exploring the wilderness, make sure you always have a plan, and know the plan! 

Check out some outdoor activities!

Are Jellyfish Older Than Dinosaurs? And 7 Other Fascinating Facts

Did you know jellyfish can age backward? Are jellyfish older than dinosaurs? Check out these seemingly immortal invertebrates!

What’s the first animal you think of when you think of the ocean? Chances are it probably isn’t a jellyfish. Many people don’t think about them beyond being careful not to be stung by one in the ocean or watching them gracefully float by in an aquarium.

But did you know that there is a jellyfish that can grow to be the length of a blue whale? Or that the answer to "are jellyfish older than dinosaurs" is an incredible YES! How about that many jellyfish can glow in the dark?

In honor of World Ocean’s Day on June 8th, let's dive into these eight extraordinary facts about jellyfish!

A jellyfish is a very simple animal.

But what exactly is a jellyfish? A jellyfish isn’t a fish but an invertebrate, which means it doesn’t have a backbone. In fact, it doesn’t have much of anything. Jellyfish don’t have a brain, a heart, or even blood, and have a very simple digestive cavity with a single opening for eating and expelling waste. What they do have is water – lots of it. Jellyfish are about 95% water. This makes them highly camouflaged in the ocean. Going a little deeper, the body of the jellyfish is divided into three main parts: the bell, the oral arms (long appendages that move captured prey into their mouths), and the stinging tentacles.

anatomy of a jellyfish

Jellyfish come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.

Though the basic parts of the jellyfish are fixed, the bells, oral arms, and tentacles can be different shapes, sizes, and colors. Thought to be the smallest jellyfish in the world, the Irukandji jellyfish has a bell that only reaches a maximum of 25 millimeters across, about the size of a quarter. A species of box jellyfish, they are one of the most venomous jellyfish in the world despite their tiny size.

The lion’s mane jellyfish (featured in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”) is the largest known species of jellyfish by length, reaching up to 120 feet from the top of the bell to the bottom of the tentacles. This is about the length of 4 school buses, making it longer than a blue whale! Nomura's jellyfish are the largest by weight; they can weigh up to 450 pounds. That’s the weight of a piano!

two images: tiny creature in a test tube and a very large one with long tentacles

Are jellyfish older than dinosaurs?

Jellyfish have been around for more than 500 million years. That means they appeared more than 250 million years before the first dinosaurs. However, because jellyfish are soft-bodied and almost all water, jellyfish fossils are incredibly rare. Of those that do exist, the oldest-known jellyfish fossils, found in Utah, date to 505 million years ago and have enough detail to show clear relationships with some modern species of jellyfish.

a close up of a jellyfish

Like butterflies, jellyfish undergo metamorphosis.

Have you ever wondered what a baby jellyfish looks like? What we usually think of as a jellyfish is called a medusa. Medusas lay eggs. Eggs grow into larva called planula – which have been described as looking like furry tic-tacs – and they start swimming until they find somewhere to stick themselves. Once a planula finds a rock, dock, or other place to attach itself to, it stretches into a tube called a polyp. When a polyp is ready, the tube becomes longer and separates out into a series of snowflake-like discs. Each disc will begin to wiggle then pop off the stack. The disc, called an ephyra, is a baby medusa. It pumps its body to swim away. It can grow an inch every few days until it becomes mature medusa. 

There is a species of jellyfish that is basically immortal.

Now that we’ve talked about the jellyfish life cycle, the real fun can begin. Turritopsis dohrnii, a species of tiny jellyfish discovered in the Mediterranean Sea, can turn from medusas into polyps when damaged or starving. This would be like a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar or a frog turning back into a tadpole. T. dohrnii can go back and forth between its polyp and medusa stages, leading to it being known as “the immortal jellyfish.” Further research shows that other species of jellyfish may be able to reserve-age, too. Studying the cells of these jellyfish has potential uses for medicine.

a clear jellyfish with a bright red center

Some jellyfish get sleepy.

Since they lack a brain, jellyfish have a very different kind of nervous system from many animals. Jellyfish have what are called “nerve nets,” which are loose networks of neurons and sensors spread out across their bodies. Even with this very simple nervous system, jellyfish can carry out a variety of behaviors, including some once thought impossible. A 2017 study showed that one type of jellyfish (Cassiopea, or the upside-down jellyfish) enters a sleep-like state at night and were sluggish when they didn’t get a full night of sleep. This was the first time an animal without a brain was observed sleeping!

a cluster of jellyfish sleeping

Glow-in-the-dark jellyfish revolutionized biotechnology.

Bioluminescence is the ability of living things to make light through chemical processes. The jellyfish species Aequorea victoria, also known as the crystal jelly, glows bright green due to both bioluminescent and fluorescent proteins. The green fluorescent protein (GFP), which glows green under blue light, has since been cloned and inserted into other organisms’ genetic codes, allowing scientists to literally see how genes and cells work. According to Juli Berwald, scientists have used fluorescent proteins made from GFP to see how bacteria divide; how cancer, Alzheimer’s and HIV affect cells; to trace neurological pathways in the brain; to test for diseases like malaria and ebola; to build solar cells, and to make low-temperature, energy-efficient lasers.

bright green glow in the dark jellyfish

Scientists are making robo-jellyfish.

Scientists and engineers have created robotic jellyfish to assist them in studying the ocean. In 2018, Erik Engeberg, an associate professor of engineering at Florida Atlantic University, and his team tested prototypes of a soft-bodied robot that moves like a jellyfish. The robot can monitor and study the underwater environments of coral reefs without harming them, since these robo-jellyfish are quieter and safer for marine life than underwater drones. Dr. Edie Widder developed an electronic jellyfish as a lure to attract large, deep-sea predators. Her e-jelly, which used the bioluminescent patterns of the jellyfish Atolla wyvillei, was used to capture the first video footage of a living giant squid in 2012.

Expand on the activity! 

Want more jellyfish?

Check out these jellyfish live cameras from the Georgia Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Can Purple Martin Birds Build Their Own Nest? How YOU Can Help!

They travel over 5,000 miles a year, but can purple martin birds build their own nest?

Purple martins are the largest swallows in North America and we are preparing for their arrival here at the Orlando Science Center. Martins spend the winter and fall in Brazil but, like many of our tourists, they make their way to Orlando every spring! The martin families spend their time in the states raising their young and gobbling up their favorite foods – dragonflies, wasps and bees!

You could almost call them people martins because they depend entirely on human-made nests to raise their chicks. Can purple martin birds build their own nest? For several hundred years, humans have provided hollow gourds and other birdhouses for purple martins. The martins have adapted to this practice, so they can not build their own nests or steal nests from other birds. Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment department has built a specialized martin house for us at the Science Center. Our high-rise, waterfront condo features 22 different nests for new martin parents to raise their young (and it’s already furnished!) Our house is located in Loch Haven Park, just outside the 4Roots Cafe.

After just a few short weeks, we have already noticed purple martins using the house and hope to see them nest next season which will encourage them to return each year.

Several days a week, members of our NatureWorks team lower our purple martin house to make sure it is in tip-top shape for potential martin parents. They observe every nest compartment, record what they see, and send the information to scientists who are working to preserve purple martin populations.

The purple martin population in Florida declined about 50% from 1995 to 2015 due to loss of habitat and decreased insect populations.

a group of kids looking a a purple martin nest at orlando science center

Purple martin birds can not build their own nests, but the good news is that we can all help these beneficial birds in our very own yards! By adding native plants to your yard, patio, school, or business, you can provide a much-needed rest stop for martins on their 5,000 mile journey. The martins will also appreciate the buffet of native insects living in your garden!

Enter your ZIP code HERE  to find local nurseries and websites where you can get native plants for your home or community garden. To learn more about our house and help us create the perfect home for baby birds, visit the NatureWorks exhibit and join us for a Purple Martin Tour or read more about purple martins!

This project was made possible with support from Disney Conservation.


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

OSC At Home Emails

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Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!


Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!


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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!

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

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!


Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!


Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

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!

Instructions for Cardboard Animals: Pangolin Project

Follow the instructions for cardboard animals and make a new friend. Literally! 

Pangolins are strange little creatures. They are very hard to keep in captivity, so you probably have never seen one in a zoo. So what are these animals, and why are they important? As you follow along with the instructions for cardboard animals, learn a little more about our pangolin pals!

Pangolins are mammals that are completely covered in scales. They are solitary animals and primarily nocturnal. Pangolins eat ants and termites specific to their region of the world. They have no teeth, so they catch bugs with their sticky tongue. They curl up into a ball when under attack; their scales protect them against most predators. There are eight species of pangolin across Africa and Asia, and all of them range from vulnerable to critically endangered. The primary threat to pangolins is illegal wildlife trade for their meat and their scales. This severely harms the pangolin population, and sometimes harms humans – removing scales can subject people to disease.

Pangolins are extremely important to their ecosystems! They eat most of the time they’re awake, so they control the insect population in a huge way. They also dig up soil while they look for food or when they burrow, which aerates it and creates a healthier surface for plants to grow in. When their burrows are abandoned, other animals move in and are protected.

Materials you will need:

  • A soda box (or a few cereal or granola bar boxes)
  • A hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Optional: a strip of paper for the pangolin’s tongue
Materials for making cardboard pangolin

Instructions for Cardboard Animals: Pangolin

Step 1: Cut out a body shape (like a rounded x) and strips for the neck and tail – make sure it’s wide enough to hold some scales!

Step2: Make a small cone for the head. You can do this by cutting a strip of the box and rolling it tightly from one corner, then cutting off the excess. Glue the cone together.

Step 3: Glue the head cone to the neck and onto the body. DON’T glue the tail on yet.


Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin steps 1 - 3

Step 4: Now for the tough part – let’s cut some scales! Scales are teardrop shaped, but they don’t all need to be exactly the same. Variety looks natural.  

  • 20 small scales, about the size of your thumbnail 
  • 35 medium scales, about the size of your thumbprint 
  • 40 large scales, about the size of a guitar pick 
Make scales- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin step 4

Step 5: Start gluing scales to your pangolin's head, legs, neck, and tail.

  • Glue a small scale to each leg with the point facing down.  
  • Glue 7 small scales to the head, layering on top as you move backwards on the pangolin’s body.  
  • Glue 7 small scales to one end of the tail, layering on top as you move forwards on the pangolin’s body.
glue scales- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin step 5

Step 6: Now, let’s create some body structure. Create a trapezoid shape where the smaller end is about the size of the back of the pangolin’s head with the scales on.  

Step 7: Create a slightly larger trapezoid than the first one. Then, create one more, larger than the middle one.  

Give each trapezoid shape some curve, like an arch. 

create body structure for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin steps 6-7

Step 8: Glue some scales onto the smallest trapezoid, starting with layers of small scales. You can use all the rest of your small scales and move onto medium if you have room. Don’t over layer – just fill in spots where you can see the trapezoid underneath.  

Step 9: Glue the smallest trapezoid to the body shape. 

add scales to body structure for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 10: Repeat steps 6-7 with medium and large trapezoids. 

  • Glue some scales onto the medium trapezoid, a row or two of medium and then large.  
  • Glue the medium trapezoid so it’s layered slightly underneath the smallest trapezoid.  
  • Glue some scales onto the largest trapezoid. 
  • Glue the largest trapezoid so it’s layered slightly underneath the medium trapezoid.  

    *If you need it, you can fold up a piece of cardboard to slip between the body shape and the trapezoid for support.  
add body structure to body for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 11: Add the finishing touches

  • Glue the tail onto the largest trapezoid.  
  • Fill in the tail with medium or large scales.  
  • Fill in the legs with medium scales with the point facing downwards. 

    *Optional: curl up a thin strip of paper and glue it in the mouth to represent the tongue.  
add body structure to body for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 12: Name your pangolin!

How can you help pangolins? The biggest challenge is education – most people don’t know that pangolins exist! Tell your friends about these cute little creatures. You can also support wildlife sanctuaries and advocacy groups.

results of instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Expand on this activity

  • Learn more about pangolins!
    • Why do we know so little about pangolins? Because of their natural behaviors and specific diet, only a few sanctuaries exist where their natural behaviors can be observed or they can be studied up close.
    • Check out The Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary in Liberia, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife Rescue, and even some zoos in the United States are working hard to get the pangolin population back up.

  • Have you been online shopping? Check out more ways to get creative with cardboard!

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