Daily Discovery: Endangered & Forgotten

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Endangered & Forgotten

National Wildlife Day is September 4, 2020! To celebrate, let’s explore some of the less well known endangered species in Colorado.

We hear a lot about endangered species these days, as the climate changes around us and human activities challenge wildlife survival. Often the articles and advertisements you see feature fuzzy and adorable animals like the Giant Panda or the Sea Otter. Here in Colorado, our featured endangered wildlife tends to be appealingly majestic, like the Grey Wolf (whose reintroduction to Colorado is on November’s ballot for 2020) or even FCMOD’s beloved Black-footed Ferrets. These are species that definitely deserve attention – but there are many more of our wildlife neighbors that need our attention and help that may not be so cute or exciting. There are so many ignored species in the world that are in difficult or dangerous situations thanks to habitat loss, pollution, water loss, and many other human activities.

Here are just a few of our Colorado wildlife neighbors in need:

Least Tern (Sterna antillarum), Federally Endangered

The Least tern is the smallest member of the gull and tern family. They’re only 9 inches long. They nest in the summer on sandbars along major rivers in the central U.S., including in Colorado. This bird was listed as federally endangered in 1985. A lot of nesting habitat in the U.S. has been lost to the birds because of the ways that humans have changed the river systems: dams and reservoirs; introduction of invasive plants; stabilizing river banks, hydropower, and diverting water.

Bonytail Chub (Gila elegans), Federally Critically Endangered

The bonytail is a freshwater fish that lives in the Colorado River basin. It can grow up to 2 feet long and can live up to 50 years. It was added to the endangered list in 1980, and is now the rarest big-river fish in the Colorado. The bonytail, along with numerous other fish species in the Colorado, suffered drastic population declines after the construction of Hoover Dam and other human projects that divert water from the river and change how the water flowed and pooled. These fish also suffer from competition from non-native fish species that humans have introduced into bonytail habitat. At this time, there is no self-sustaining wild population of these fish, and human-run hatcheries are all that maintains the species.

North Park Phacelia (Phacelia formosula), Federally Endangered

The North Park Phacelia only exists in one place in the entire world: the North Park area in Jackson County. It likes to grow on bare slopes and eroding rocks in ravines in the North Park area, where few other plants are able to survive. This phacelia was listed as federally endangered in 1982. It is threatened by livestock, off-road vehicles, commercial and residential development, and petroleum exploration. It also suffers from the loss of pollinating insects in the area, which it depends on to reproduce.

You may be wondering what you can do to be a better neighbor to these species, and the other species in our beautiful state that are threatened or endangered. Here are some steps that you can try:

Educate yourself. Learn about the different kinds of wildlife that live in Colorado with us, and what kinds of things we humans are doing that are putting them at risk.

Take action. Think about how much water you use, or whether the plants in your yard are native or invasive. Consider how much energy you use leaving on lights in an empty room, or streaming your favorite songs rather than downloading them. Look at how much gas your vehicle uses, or how many plastics or other petroleum products you use on a daily basis. Even a small change you can make in your own behavior can be a help to our endangered neighbors.

Talk to your friends and family about why this wildlife is in danger, and why it’s important to you. Your friends and family care about your thoughts and opinions. Help them to understand how important it is to help all.

Contact your representatives in government. These threatened and endangered species do not have a voice in our government, but you do. If you are old enough, vote for candidates that pay attention to wildlife. But at any age, you can make your voice heard! Make sure that your representatives know how important it is that we are good neighbors to all the wildlife in Colorado, in the country, and in the world.

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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BFFs: Black-footed Ferrets or Best Friends Forever

Post written by Kim Fraser, Black Footed Ferret Program Coordinator.

BFFs: Black-footed Ferrets or Best Friends Forever

The Black-footed Ferret (BFF) (Mustela nigripes) is the only ferret native to North America and lives on the short grass prairie of the Great Plains. BFFs are members of the Mustelidae family which is often referred to as the weasel family, and includes mink, badger, marten, otter, weasel, fisher, wolverine, and domestic ferret. They are nocturnal, solitary, require large expanses of landscape, and spends their whole life on prairie dog colonies. In the prairie dog burrow systems they seek shelter from predators and weather, eat, sleep, and raise their young. Over 90% of their diet is prairie dog and they eat over 100 per year. BFFs are called fossorial predators, meaning they hunt underground. Their home range is in 12 Western states including Canada and Mexico. Considered one of the most endangered mammals in North America it has been federally protected for over 40 years.  The BFF Recovery Program is one of the most successful recovery programs with over 50 State, Federal, Tribal, NGOs and private landowner partners that all participate in recovery efforts.

Why should we protect black-footed ferrets?

In 1974 when the Endangered Species Act was enacted the Black-footed Ferret was in the top 10 species listed for protection. No one knew then how difficult or easy saving a species from extinction would be. Today, we know recovering an endangered species involves many partners, time, and effort. Since the ESA became law some species have had survival success and some have not. Many people have asked is it worth it?  Is preventing the extinction of an iconic species like the black-footed ferret worth the effort? The answer is yes, it is worth it, and here’s why. The BFF is an important member of the prairie ecosystem and their presence indicates a healthy habitat that supports many other species. Without black-footed ferret conservation efforts, prairie dogs and other associated species such as burrowing owls, swift fox, mountain plovers, ferruginous hawks, prairie rattlesnakes, and many others could easily succumb to current threats. So by conserving black-footed ferrets, we have to conserve prairie dog habitat and that saves an entire ecosystem and its inhabitants that call the short grass prairie home!

  

Why should people care and help save this species from extinction?

Maybe it’s because BFFs capture the imagination that there’s this rarely seen and secretive animal living on the short grass prairie underground. And even though it is one of the most endangered mammals, most Americans will never have the opportunity to see a live BFF.  It’s like a fairytale character of the prairie that represents the wild, and people are passionate about the wild and fascinated about the animals that live there.  When folks learn about BFFs they are amazed that something so cool lives right in their backyard- in America.  We all know about other species that are in trouble across the globe, like elephants, tigers, chimpanzees and rhinos. And it is good to care about what happens to all species on our planet because we are a global living place. Every day we hear about how these other species are doing and how we can help them and that’s important.  But here is an animal that makes its home right here, it belongs to us as Americans as one of our native species. We should care and protect BFFs so they will remain part of the wilds of North America.  One way to help save BFFs is by learning all you can about them.  Because by learning you will come to care about them, and when you care, you will want to help save them. So you see by caring and helping to save them from extinction you are being a BFF or Best Friend Forever not just to black-footed ferrets but to future generations so they too will have BFFs living wild and free on the prairie.

 

The museum is proud to have two black-footed ferrets on-site in partnership with the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center. You can see what our BFFs are up to while we’re closed via our Ferret Cam: fcmod.org/ferret-cam!

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Earth Day 2020: 50th Anniversary

Post written by Harli-Jo Rachel, Education Intern.

Earth Day 2020: 50th Anniversary

What is Earth Day?

Since it was officially launched, Earth Day has always been a day to bring about awareness of our planet’s needs – whether it’s climate change, protecting endangered and threatened species, or cleaning the ocean. Over one billion people around the world come together every year to rally for change, advocacy, education, and further awareness about our shared planet.

In celebration of Earth Day 2020, we’re looking back at how this day came to be, while also looking ahead to today’s 50th anniversary milestone, and beyond!

History of Earth Day

The official Earth Day began on April 22, 1970 with U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson’s idea to start a national day where he could combine anti-war protests and the public consciousness of the air and water pollution and something political could come out of it. This was all due to a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, and he wanted the environment to get on the national political agenda. Gaylord Nelson then created a team where Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair and a man named Denis Hayes to serve as his national coordinator. Hayes then recruited 85 people to promote events across the nation.

The team chose April 22 as the day to rally because it was between spring break and final exams for college students.  Around 20 million people in America protested about the deterioration of the environment and wanted to start making a change. The first Earth day made such an impact that led to political change and to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the clean air, clean water, and endangered species act.  

As Earth Day 1990 was approaching, a bigger change was about to happen. Denis Hayes was approached by a group of environmental leaders to help promote Earth Day globally. That year more than 200 million people from 141 countries came together to promote recycling efforts. This year was also the year that Senator Nelson was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton for his efforts to affect change in the world. With the mark of the new millennium, it allowed for the internet to become a bigger force in rallying more people to help make the change for the environment.  

Earth Day Today

Now, Earth Day is widely celebrated each year. Earth Day events are planned in major cities to help bring people together to make a change on this day. Whether it is planting a tree at your school or learning about energy saving techniques one small thing that a child or parent can do to help protect the Earth can make a major impact.  Each year since it first began, the day has seen participation of around 1 billion people from 191 countries!

This year’s focus on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is climate action. To celebrate while responsibly social distancing, Earth Day organizers have launched a 24 hour digital action plan to bring about awareness about this year’s theme and the important conversations surrounding. 

“While Earth Day may be going digital, our goal remains the same: to mobilize the world to take the most meaningful actions to make a difference.”

Earth Day Everyday

While Earth Day itself falls on April 22, everyday is Earth Day. Learn more about how you can get involved today and everyday by visiting www.earthday.org.

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At Home STEAM Activities

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

At Home STEAM Activities

Here at FCMoD, we believe in discovery. And during times like this, we want you to know that discovery can be found anywhere! Which is why we’ll be posting fun, hands-on activities for you and any other life-long learners you’re currently at home with!

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our top STEAM resources. Learn more below!

  • Water Xylophone:

Missing the Music & Sound Lab? Let’s experiment with sound waves! With just some basic materials you can create your own musical instrument to teach kids about sound waves. In this water xylophone experiment, you’ll fill glass jars with varying levels of water. Once they’re all lined up, kids can hit the sides with wooden sticks and see how the pitch differs depending on how much water is in the jar (more water=lower pitch, less water=higher pitch). This is because sound waves travel differently depending on how full the jars are with water.

    • Materials Needed:
        • Glass jars
        • Water
        • Wooden sticks/skewers
        • Food coloring
  • Tornado in a Jar:

    Create your own Tornado Chamber at home!  This is one quick and easy and science experiment for kids to teach them about weather. It only takes about five minutes and a few materials to set up. Once ready, you’ll create your own miniature tornado whose vortex you can see, and the strength of which you can change depending on how quickly you swirl the jar.

    • Materials Needed:
      • Mason Jar
      • Water
      • Dish Soap
      • Vinegar
      • Glitter (optional)
  • Wheel of the Year:

    To help connect kids more with nature and the changing seasons check out the Wheel of the Year crafts – crafts that actually spin! This was a really fun way to learn more about the year, months, and seasons.

    • Materials Needed:
      • Paper plates
      • Construction paper
      • Colored craft sticks
      • Thumbtack
      • Scissor
      • Ruler
      • Marker
      • Glue stick
      • White glue
      • Tape
      • Clothespin
      • Paper (to write month names and draw images)
  • Dinosaur Fossils:

    We love dinosaurs! These DIY dinosaur fossils made with salt dough are so fun. Plus, who knows, it may even inspire someone to become a paleontologist in your home!

    • Materials Needed:
      • Flour
      • Salt
      • Water
      • Plastic dinosaurs
  • Crystal Flowers:

    Have you ever tried making crystals yet? There are quite a few ways of making them, and we’re so keen to try them all!

    • Materials Needed:
      • Borax (laundry detergent alternative)
      • Pipe cleaners
      • Boiling water
      • Glass jars
      • Chopsticks/Pencils
      • Spoon
      • Safety glasses (preferred)

Other resources for at home activities:

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all! When you’ve completed any of these STEAM activities, be sure to post a photo and tag us at @focomod on social media!

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Meet FCMoD’s New Executive Director!

Post written by Kristin Stern, Marketing & Communications Manager

Welcome Laura Valdez, FCMoD’s New Executive Director!

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is excited to announce the hire of Laura Valdez as the next Executive Director of the Nonprofit Partner! After an extensive national search, the museum selected Laura to co-lead the organization with current Executive Director, Cheryl Donaldson, who represents the City of Fort Collins Partner. Laura has more than a decade of combined leadership experience in the nonprofit, education, and public sectors, supported by a Masters of Public Administration focused on local government and nonprofit management.

“The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery staff is excited to welcome Laura into our organization. Laura’s dedication and commitment to community impact and strong organizational management will complement and support the work of the team,” says Cheryl Donaldson.

Laura will be joining the museum after eight years working at the City of Elgin, Illinois, most recently as the Assistant City Manager. There, she was successful in leading collaborative, inclusive efforts to further collective goals and achieve shared success. She has worked to consistently build and maintain excellent relationships among diverse groups to facilitate understanding, awareness, and action on community-wide concerns and initiatives, and looks forward to bringing these skills to FCMoD.

“I am thrilled to join the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. It’s energizing to see what the staff, board, donors, and volunteers have already accomplished. I look forward to working hand in hand with the team and greater community as we take the museum to the next level.” – Laura Valdez

We’re looking forward to it, too. Please join us in welcoming Laura to FCMoD!

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Want to learn more about Laura? We interviewed her to learn some fun facts, secret talents, and more!

  1. Fort Collins has an amazing music scene! What was the best concert you ever attended?

The best concert I ever attended was Marc Anthony during the Libre tour. It was my first experience attending a concert in a big stadium. I went with my aunts, and it was a great collective experience for us to have together. I remember there were people all around me waving Puerto Rican flags, dancing and singing – the energy was just amazing! To this day I still know every single word to that album.

  1. We hear you have a Bison named after you. There must be a story here!

Oh my, yes there’s definitely a story here! For a period of time, I oversaw the Lords Park Municipal Zoo in Elgin, Illinois which is also modeled with a public/private partnership, similar to FCMoD. At the time the Zoo had two Bison, Becky and Drew, and we were looking to get another. It was a fairly long process of working with many different partners, and in October of that year we welcomed a baby Bison into the mix. However, we weren’t planning on doing a public naming until the spring. But in order to fill out the paperwork to get the Bison they had to pick a name, so they chose “Laura Valdez-Bison.” I found the gesture as endearing as I found it comical! The Bison was later named Takoda by the public – but in the initial paperwork it’s my name!

  1. What was your favorite museum experience?

My favorite museum experiences are ones that have tactile, hands-on exhibits. It’s something that immediately drew me to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. The opportunity to learn with a physical element to it is so impactful for me. One experience that comes to mind is the City Museum in St. Louis. If you’ve never been, let me just say that there is a really long, super-fast slide. I’ll leave it at that.

Another favorite museum experience that comes to mind is the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, Illinois. I grew up going to that museum all the time, so I know first-hand how important and formative experiential museum experiences are.

I grew up going to [the] museum all the time, so I know first-hand how important and formative experiential museum experiences are.

  1. Who inspires you?

 Two people: my parents inspire me. They have continually shown me what strength and perseverance looks like, while also encouraging me to take advantage of every opportunity in life. My dad’s family is originally from Mexico and really instilled in him the value of education, family, and hard work. His story is so inspiring; from immigrating to the United States to later contributing to the Space Shuttle program with NASA. Then there’s my mom. She’s one of the strongest women I know. She’s been such an incredible role model for me since she herself was a municipal leader, too. They have always been supportive of me and my endeavors. That’s why my parents are my inspiration.

  1. Do you have a secret talent? Can we make it not-so-secret?

 This is so nerdy, but my secret talent is the ability to name all the Presidents of the United States in perfect order. (Yep. Definitely nerdy!)

  1. What’s your favorite movie?

 Dirty Dancing! It’s the comfort food equivalent of a movie for me. Plus, I have totally attempted to do the “lift” that Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray do!

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone – real, fictional, living, deceased – who would it be?

 Lucile Ball. She was a pioneer of not only comedy, but also of TV production, and representation on the silver screen. From her interracial marriage to Dezi Arnaz, to being the first woman on TV to be pregnant on television, to being the first woman to run a major television studio, to her groundbreaking style of physical comedy – she was such a trailblazer! She has influenced so much of our pop culture – more than we may realize. It’s fascinating what you can learn from history to see how it’s informed our world today.

It’s fascinating what you can learn from history to see how it’s informed our world today.

  1. What is a surprising fun fact about you?

 As I mentioned, my dad’s an engineer. When my parents had my sisters and I, my dad had one request: he wanted to name us so our initials were all roman numerals. He didn’t necessarily care what the names were, he just wanted to initials be roman numerals! So my name, Laura Ilene Valdez, is LIV, or 54. My older sister is CMV, or 905, and my younger sister is CDV, or 405. Growing up, we had mail addressed to “1364,” which meant it was for the three of us because it’s a sum of our roman numerals together!

  1. Geek Week is coming up over Spring Break, March 17-20. With fun themes like Sci-Fi Strikes Back and Fantasy Fanatics, we have to ask – who is your favorite superhero?

 Wonder Woman! I love her! I am really looking forward to the sequel to this summer.

  1. What would you like to say about joining the museum to our visitors, members, partners, and fellow community members?

 I want to say how thrilled I am to be joining Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! The more I learn about the museum, the more excited I become. From then to now, intentional and thoughtful decision making has informed who and what FCMoD is. The community has been so supportive of this organization every step of the way. When I say “community” I mean it in every sense of the word – from the staff, to the volunteers, to the donors, to the members, to the visitors, and beyond.

For me, it’s a privilege to be part of this team. I want to help take the museum to the next level – whatever that level is. The museum is already on the cutting edge of everything, so the possibilities are endless. FCMoD is a mature organization, a growing organization, and most importantly it’s a curious organization. I know there is so much about the museum I have yet to learn, but I’m ready to get started.

FCMoD is a mature organization, a growing organization, and most importantly it’s a curious organization.

We’re ready, too. Please join us in welcoming Laura Valdez as the new Executive Director!

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Problem-Solvers or Rocket Scientists? Same Difference.

Post written by Laurel Baltic, Grants Coordinator.

Problem-Solvers or Rocket Scientists? Same Difference.

This is part of our “Museum of Tomorrow” blog series, where we explore 21st century skills – FCMoD style – and learn how they prepare our visitors for the future!

It’s a Wednesday morning in October, and 14 kindergartners are flying through space. As they near each planet, they call out its name and count its place in the solar system. Shouts of “Mercury!” started this journey, though like some of the other planets, that’s not the easiest name to pronounce.

These kiddos are not on a rocket careening through the galaxy. Instead, they’re on a field trip to FCMoD, participating in a Space Explorers Learning Lab.

“Learning Labs give kids the opportunity to learn about something in a focused way, to see a concept from start to finish,” says Angela Kettle, School Programs Coordinator. She invited me to join in on a Learning Lab to see how some of our youngest visitors are working on an important 21st century skill: problem-solving.

Take a moment to picture a child learning. What do you see in your mind’s eye? Chances are, you’re picturing a classroom, maybe a desk or chalkboard. Certainly, lots of learning happens in rooms that look like that. In reality, children and adults are constantly navigating an ecosystem of learning opportunities: interconnected experiences that interact with and influence one another. Some of these are formal: think textbooks, lectures, or classes. Some are informal, like the programs and exhibits at FCMoD.

“In reality, children and adults are constantly navigating an ecosystem of learning opportunities.”

Informal learning is special because it is strengths-based: it builds on what someone already knows and can do. It is about the process and the experience. There is no system of values to assign success or failure, so learners can embrace their curiosity and gain confidence in their capacity to learn.

Let’s meet our kindergarteners in outer space again. Their journey has a goal: by the end of the hour they will have built a rover equipped to explore one of the planets. First, Miss Angela (as they call her) introduces them to the magic of the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater.

“Having fun is step one,” she explains. So, the kids start their Learning Lab by reading a book together. It’s not your average story-time: this book has been blown up to the size of a small building, with stars and comets twinkling in the 360° expanse around them. They are learning about the planets in school, but reading the story together in the Dome gives helps them grasp the immensity of the solar system and apply their knowledge.

While problem-solving is a key skill that these learners will practice, the word “problem” isn’t mentioned once. They simply have a mission: to build a rover to explore a faraway planet. That mission comes with challenges: the problems they’ll need to solve. Mars is covered with craters and huge volcanoes. Surface temperatures on Venus are very hot – up to 900° F! Jupiter is covered with giant, swirling storms, including one that’s larger than Earth.

In this way, problem-solving is a positive endeavor rather than a negative one. To solve a problem, you must first identify what you know. This helps learners build confidence in their ability so they can build on it. It’s also an invitation to try something again but a little differently if it doesn’t go quite right the first time. Angela calls out questions to help the learners show what they know.

“While problem-solving is a key skill that these learners will practice, the world ‘problem’ isn’t mentioned once.”

“It’s called solar because of the sun, and because of all the planets going around it, it’s a system!” explains one participant proudly. The kids also know that Pluto is no longer a planet, that there are other bodies like asteroids and meteors in our solar system, and that 900° F is very, very hot.

After reading the book together, the learners are seated around tables covered with rover-ready materials: cardboard, tin foil, pipe cleaners, and more. Photos of the planets are posted on the wall to spark imagination and remind the learners of what they know. This portion of the Learning Lab is open-ended, making space for problem-solving to thrive. Angela models for the chaperones the types of encouraging questions they can ask to get kids thinking like a rover engineer.

Most of the answers lead to planning their next design move: “I want to be able to see!” shouts an enthusiastic explorer. Another answers that she’d like to go to Canada, and the flexibility of informal learning is on display. Angela asks if she knows what planet Canada is on, and she does: “Earth!” Together, they brainstorm the challenges a rover might face when exploring our home planet, and the explorer begins to engineer.

By the end of the hour, the tables are covered with rovers of all shapes and sizes. Some have wheels for covering rough terrain, others are wrapped in foil to protect from the heat. They all have something in common: they were built by children who walked into the museum as students and walked out as engineers and space explorers. That leap becomes a lot less giant when you believe, as we do at FCMoD, that problem-solving is something anyone can do.

“Problem-solving is something anyone can do.”

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10 Tips for your next visit to FCMoD

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

10 Tips for your next visit to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

The Thanksgiving holiday is right around and the corner. You may be traveling to Fort Collins or staying-in with the family. If you’re planning a trip to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, for your first or your one-thousandth time, here are 10 tips for your visit to the museum.

1. General admission to the museum includes all-day re-entry. You are free to leave and return the same day, any time, and with your ticket. Special exhibitions can be left and returned during the same visit. Once you leave FCMoD you will not be able to re-enter into the special exhibition without purchasing another ticket.

2. Our Café covers grab and go snack options, as well as some lunch items, such as grilled cheese or personal pizzas. If you forget a lunch or need a light snack let us fuel your discovery. The Café is located in the museum between the Learning Labs and Natural Areas. The hours are 9:30am-4:00pm.

3. Restrooms for everyone are located on the main floor. Ask any gallery host or discovery agent for directions to the nearest restroom or water fountain. These are located near the Learning Labs and Café and inside the giant jukebox in the exhibit gallery.

4. With membership, comes many perks! Did you know your membership card grants you discounts in The Museum Store, Café, Dome, and for events and programs? Just present your membership card and receive a discount.

5. We have multiple free resources for the community. Our Natural Areas, where our Black-footed ferrets are located, is free to view at the museum without paying admission, as well as, researching and discovering the Archive and Collections. Our Café and The Museum Store areas are free and open to all.

6. There are many options for parking—our parking lot tends to get full fast, however there are, 2-hour parking spots, and a parking garage which is located across Mason and Laporte near our main entrance. Check here for more details about parking.

7. There are bike racks on the plaza for you to lock up your bike or park a scooter. Remember to bring a secure bike lock. Don’t forget you can use the pace bikes outside the museum for all your traveling needs. If you walk, bike, or tube to the museum you will receive a 10% discount. Colorado weather can change drastically, check the weather before you plan your trip. Then re-check the weather before you depart.

8. Having a blast and taking a snapshot of a memory? We would love for you to take photos and videos in the museum. Please feel free to tag @FoCoMoD if used for social media purposes.

9. Have a membership at DMNS or another museum? We love partnership and we are apart of ASTC. Check here for more details about ASTC membership.

10. The OtterBox Digital Dome Theater features several full dome films and presentations in 360°. The state-of-the-art digital projection systems and other special effects bring these shows to life, while our booming surround sound system will have you hearing like never-before. Check all upcoming showtimes here.

 

For more information about Fort Collins Museum of Discovery or how to become a member visit our website to discover all the details!

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Halloween in Fort Collins

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Halloween in Fort Collins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local history lives here. Visit the Archive & Collections at FCMoD – open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm – and like us on Facebook to see more historical images and artifacts. Archival images are available for research, purchase, and more through the online Fort Collins History Connection website.

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Fall Colors

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Fall Colors in Fort Collins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local history lives here. Visit the Archive & Collections at FCMoD – open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm – and like us on Facebook to see more historical images and artifacts. Archival images are available for research, purchase, and more through the online Fort Collins History Connection website
.

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National Book Lovers Day

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant. 

National Book Lovers Day

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery interviewed local children’s books illustrator and current FCMoD volunteer, Cathy Morrison, in celebration of National Book Lovers Day! The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection to FCMoD?

I met my husband soon after moving to Colorado in the early 80s. Even back then we had a dream of buying land and building some sort of energy efficient cabin. It took another 30 years or so, but eventually we did make that happen. Now we live about thirty miles northwest of Fort Collins in an area called Glacier View Meadows. Our cabin is passive solar and constructed of SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels). I remember driving past the museum as it was under construction, wondering: “What’s that big, weird shaped building?” I did not have much connection with Fort Collins at the time, so I began to read about the museum online. In the past I’d volunteered at my kids’ schools and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver so I was excited to learn that the museum was recruiting volunteers. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time! On the opening day of the museum I helped in the museum gift shop. Since then I’ve been mostly involved with the education team, greeting school groups, being a docent for the school tours in Heritage Courtyard’s “Journey through Time” program and volunteering for Storytime in the Dome.

  1. Who or what inspired you to first become an illustrator?

In college I earned a double major in fine arts and education. After student teaching I knew it wasn’t for me. One day I heard about an opening at K&H Productions, an animation studio in Dallas, Texas and I applied. I was fortunate to walk into the interview with my college art portfolio and walk out with a job! I started out as an in-betweener then moved into traditional cell animation and audio lip syncing for characters. I worked for the studio for about five years. The studio manager suggested I freelance on the side – she knew I wanted to be an independent artist and tell stories. My freelance business began expanding and I ended up quitting that job and moving to Colorado. – I figured if it didn’t work out I could always get another job. The freelance illustration grew into a boutique graphic design and illustration studio, Big Chief Graphics, in Denver. This lasted for about ten years until I had two kids, scaled back the business and began working from home. This is when I discovered picture books and realized this was what I wanted to do next.

  1. Your illustrations are so detailed! What are your favorite elements or scenes to illustrate and why?

I really like animals, nature, and conservationism. When I started to volunteer at FCMoD, a staff member from the museum was chatting with me about her love for Fort Collins’ short grass prairie. This was a real spark for me! This was around the same time I began illustrating nature related children’s books for Arbordale Press and Dawn Publishing. I enjoy gaining inspiration from my natural surroundings.

  1. Roughly how long does it take to illustrate a book? How does the process ebb and flow?

“Roughly” is a good way to describe it! It usually takes about 6-8 months to illustrate a 32 page picture book because I am always working on multiple projects, rarely focusing on just one book. It’s typical to work on 3-5 projects at a time. It’s a feast or famine sort of life and I do wish the process were a bit smoother. When I do have down time I like to write.

The process of illustrating a picture book is not what most people imagine, there is no collaboration between the illustrator and author. The publisher acquires the manuscript from the writer. Next they match up the story with an illustrator who they believe can best bring that book to life. The author does get input throughout the process, but there’s no communication with the illustrator. The publisher is the middleman between the illustrator and author. I have a couple of publishers that I work with a lot. Since they know my style and trust me, they let me do my own process in creating the illustrations. I mainly work on creative non-fiction picture books, these are books that read as a story while being based on facts. I create the thumbnail rough sketches, then place those into in an InDesign layout along with the text so I can be sure to leave enough room for copy. There are multiple editing rounds as the manuscript is being adapted so are the illustrations. I fine tune as the process continues and finally everything comes together.

  1. What are the qualities in yourself that you believe made you a successful illustrator?

I feel like I still have that ability to think like a kid and see things through their eyes. I like a challenge and juggling projects, staying on deadline, being creative and collaborating with editors and art directors long distance can be challenging at times. I try to treat my clients the way I want to be treated and that usually works well. When a kiddo picks up one of my books I hope they enjoy it as well as learn something new. I love how curious and smart these kids are today.

  1. On the flip side – what is the hardest thing to describe about being an illustrator?

Illustrating is a very competitive industry and there are so many amazing illustrators out there. Trends in art styles are always changing so you need to be able to adapt to keep up. It can be tough financially without a steady paycheck. For most book contracts the illustrator gets an advance to illustrate the book, then additional royalties once the book is published. Also, juggling several deadlines with a variety of clients can be stressful. And many publishers expect the book creators to participate in marketing once the book is published. That might involve school visits, presenting at conferences, book store launches, etc. So the process of illustrating a book is a very solitary sort of life style, then you have to put on your public persona and go out in the world and engage, not always an easy transition. Illustrating is as much a “give” as it is a “take” sort of career.

“I enjoy gaining inspiration from my natural surroundings.”

  1. What role would you like to see museums like FCMoD play in helping prepare young people for a career in the arts?

A career in the arts doesn’t limit one to being a traditional artist. Having a background and focus in the arts should help a person to think creatively which really frees a person to do almost anything they choose. I love the museum’s sensory based educational approach to learning, their focus on STEAM, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. I love how open the folks at the museum are to experimenting with new ideas. I feel like this passion rubs off on the kids who come to the museum. And the museum engages kids at such a young age to enjoy learning, playing and experimenting. There’s a strong correlation between science and the arts and how they enhance each other. Albert Einstein said “The greatest scientists are artists as well.” Leonardo da Vinci was best known as an artist, but his interests in music, invention, and science are what really made him a renaissance man. This is how I envision the museum. It creates a safe, welcoming environment where young people can make art, music, play, experiment and create their own world.

For example, Storytime in the Dome, is a very interactive format to get kids and their families involved in books and stories. Ben, the Dome Manager recreates the picture books to fit on the huge dome screen, animates page turns, even has added some sound effects. There’s always a live narrator to engage the kids with the book. Then afterwards we head to the Learning Lab to create a related craft. I love how unique and tactile this experience is. When I volunteer I see a lot of the same families coming again and again. If I had a do-over in life I’m reconsider being an illustrator and maybe be an employee at the museum.

  1. You’ve posted such amazing photos on your Instagram, @CathyMorrisonIllustrates, of the views from your studio. How does your studio space impact or enhance your creative process?

Through the years I’ve had a variety of studio spaces. I converted an extra bedroom into a home office, subleased office space from various advertising and marketing agencies in Denver, shared co-working space with other artists, photographers and animators in the Old Colorado Institute of Art Building in the Golden Triangle. So when we built our cabin I had a good idea what I wanted – tall ceilings, good lighting, nothing fancy, a comfortable work space that feels good. And now, my studio is just right. I have a great view of the mountain and plains, which is always changing and inspiring. I like being here every day.

  1. Do you have a favorite artist or piece of art? What is it about it that you like?

I do not have one favorite artist. One thing I love to do locally is go to the RiNo District in Denver and see the murals and street art. I lived near that neighborhood over thirty years ago when it was a very unsafe area. Now most alleyways are a mixture of graffiti and street art and you can safely walk around engulfed in the atmosphere. I love watching the artists creating their murals too. If you take a blank wall and add art to it – it becomes a whole new universe. The RiNo District has lifted the area up and is an attraction for all ages, all backgrounds, all means. Art brings the community together. You can just walk around outside and be amazed and inspired.

  1. If you could give advice to someone interested in illustrating children’s books, what would you say to them?

Keep at it, but do not expect it to be easy. It’s great to do a job that you love, but it is also hard work with long hours. Joining the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org) is worthwhile. They have national and regional conferences, monthly events, plus you’ll connect with publishers, editors, agents and like-minded folks in your field. If you keep at it, you will be successful.

  1. What is your favorite part about volunteering with FCMoD?

My favorite part about volunteering with FCMoD are the people. The staff is great as well as the other volunteers and the folks who visit the museum. It’s a fun, informal environment for learning and volunteering. I always enjoy it and come away energized.

  1. And, lastly, what can we keep an eye out for next from Cathy Morrison Illustrates? Are there any books or projects you are working on that you can share with us?

I have two books coming out next year. One in the spring with Dawn Publishing is called What’s This Tail Saying? This book talks about how animals communicate through their tails. For example, a skunk warns of danger by raising its tail before spraying, whereas a rattle snake makes a rattle sound before attacking. You need to pay attention to those tails! Then in the fall I will have another book coming out with a new publisher – this is a book that a friend and I created and submitted to several agents and editors. Schiffer Publishing in Pennsylvania acquired it. The working title is The Tiny Giant – it is a story of an oak seed becoming a forest.

“Art brings [a] community together.”

Thank you to Cathy for her time and for sharing her stories at Storytime in the Dome!

To find out more about Cathy’s books, and to hear more from a local illustrator, check out her blog at: https://cathymorrison.blogspot.com/. And don’t forget to stop by The Museum Store during your next visit to purchase one of Cathy’s illustrated books!

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