Mindful Mondays: Do Animals Feel Emotion?

Written by Willow Sedam, Animal Husbandry Staff

Mindful Mondays: Do Animals Feel Emotion?

Throughout history, humans have been asking questions about the natural world. But there’s one we keep coming back to with endless curiosity: do animals feel?

The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras was an early ponderer of this very question. A vegetarian, Pythagoras believed that animals and humans had the same souls, and should be treated equally. He was even known for going into markets and purchasing live animals, only to set them free. But Pythagoras’s ideas were controversial – the later philosopher Aristotle created his own theory, a ranked view of nature that put humans at the top and the lesser, “irrational” animals below them. For Aristotle, and many thinkers who followed in his footsteps, the idea of animals having souls or feeling pain, let alone emotion, was a strange one.

 

But is it really that odd to imagine that animals might feel emotions like we do?

 

After all, it’s not hard to find instances of animal behavior that appear to be driven by emotion. Take your dog to the vet or start up the vacuum cleaner around him, and you’ll see a response that looks a lot like anxiety, fear, or even anger. If animals appear to feel negative emotions, couldn’t they feel positive ones as well? Might they feel a similarly wide range of emotions to ours?

Elephants and whales have both been observed behaving unusually around dead herd members, guarding the bodies of fallen friends for days, or carrying deceased calves with them for miles. And great apes have even been able to communicate their own emotions to researchers. Koko, a gorilla who had been taught sign language, responded “Bad, sad, bad, frown, cry, frown, sad, trouble” when learning her adopted kitten had died.

Koko with her kitten, photo from the Los Angeles Times

 

It’s no surprise that these animals – some of the smartest in the world – would be able to feel; but it’s not just the big-brained mammals like us who display signs of emotion.

 

Parrots and crows are exceptionally bright birds, and their intelligence seems to extend to the complexity of their emotional lives as well. Crows have been known to form bonds with humans who feed them, and grudges against those they don’t like. They will even bring gifts to humans they like, and teach other crows to attack those they don’t. And parrots can get so bored in captivity that, without anything to occupy their clever brains, they will develop compulsive behaviors similar to neurosis in humans, such as plucking out their own feathers.

Some fish have even been observed to exhibit individual personalities. In a study where new and possibly dangerous things were introduced to a school of fish, some fish would approach aggressively, some curiously, and some would simply hide. Each new item saw the same fish approaching in the same manor – the aggressive one continued to act aggressively, the shy one continued to act shy. Each fish had their own unique temperament!

And let’s not forget invertebrates – those animals without a backbone like insects, worms, and squids. You might not think them very smart or emotionally deep, but you would be doing them a great disservice. Octopuses are renowned for their intelligence, despite their short and solitary lifestyle. Captive octopuses enjoy playing with humans – and will attack ones they don’t like. They’re smart enough to get bored, and smart enough to escape their tanks looking for something more interesting. That’s a lot of complexity for an animal so closely related to slugs.

 

So, problem solved: animals do feel, and they feel quite a lot! …Right?

 

Unfortunately, the scientific jury is still out in this case. While there are plenty of behaviors that we observe in animals that might look like what we think of as emotions, we can’t exactly ask a lizard how it’s feeling. So, we rely on assumptions – assumptions that could be wrong.

The biggest problem we face when trying to answer these questions about animal emotions is called anthropomorphism, the action of projecting human traits onto animals, plants, or even inanimate objects. It’s a bit like seeing faces in clouds – they’re not really there, but we’re so used to looking for them that we conjure them up anyway. While an action or expression might mean one thing to a human, it could mean something completely different to another animal. While humans smile when happy, chimpanzees bare their teeth as a threat display. And while a dog wagging its tail may be excited or happy, a cat wagging its tail is definitely not. It’s easy to misread these behaviors and displays, and easier still to project a human idea of an emotion onto an animal who may experience the world in a vastly different way from us.

 

But just as it is important not to project our own emotions onto animals and their behavior, it’s important, too, to not assume that animals are mindless or emotionless drones. It’s tempting to think that animals experience less than we do – that they don’t feel pain, sorrow, or joy. But nature has proven time and time again that intelligence and emotion come in all shapes and sizes. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to be kind – to your human and non-human neighbors.

 

To stay informed on the latest Mental Health: Mind Matters programs and experiences, visit the Mind Matters webpage and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Don’t forget to tag us in your experiences when you visit the museum to help us #MakeItOk. 

We look forward to welcoming you to FCMoD to experience this amazing exhibit!  

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Mindful Mondays: DIY Fidget

Mindful Mondays: DIY Fidget

A fidget is an object that can be fiddled with to expend some energy and help the brain focus on the task at hand! Make your own to help you remain calm in stressful situations, or to help you focus when doing homework or another task!

Supplies:

  • Craft stick or popsicle stick 
  • Chenille stem (any color)
  • 6-8 pony beads
  • Painters tape or washi tape

Instructions:

  1. String the beads on to the chenille stem.
  2. Lay the stem on the craft stick and bend the ends of the stem around the ends of the stick.
  3. Use a piece of tape to attached the chenille stem to the craft stick. Make sure your tape covers the ends of the chenille stem so they don’t poke anyone!
  4. Keep your fidget handy, and use it to keep calm or maintain focus!

 

Each mind matters. Taking care of our mental health is important to all of us – everywhere and always. Learn more by visiting FCMoD’s special exhibition Mental Health: Mind Matters, open through January 10th.

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Mindful Mondays: Changing Minds

Post written by Brian Ferrans, Manager with Behavioral Health Strategy and Implementation Community Impact Team Health District of Northern Larimer County

Mindful Mondays: Changing Minds

Let’s talk about addiction. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. One in 10 of our neighbors lives with drug and/or alcohol addiction in Larimer County. It’s not a choice — it’s a disease that changes the brain, and it can happen to anyone. Understanding how substances re-wire our brains is essential in helping us to get rid of negative stigma and stereotypes about those experiencing an addiction, which can encourage more people to seek out treatment. Watch our 5-minute video to learn more about how addiction changes the brain.

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Mindful Mondays: The Best Life-Saving “Drug” I Found

Written by Carl Nassar, President of Heart Centered Counseling

Mindful Mondays: The Best Life-Saving “Drug” I Found

Therapy saved my life. That wouldn’t come as a surprise to you if video footage of my childhood was available for you to view.

The screen would zoom in on a boy whose constant companion was loneliness. A boy whose imaginary friend Bucky tried valiantly, but without success, to fill the relational void. You’d discover a boy attending a religious elementary school promoting the fear of God over the love of God, and a fear of the world rather than a love for it.

In therapy, I came to understand how my past was shaping my future (Freud called it “the transference of everyday life,” and Berne labeled it “replaying your life script”). I learned how my scared-ness was trampling over my vitality (Perlz called it the “dilemma of secondary Gestalts”). I learned what it looked like to open my heart, first to my own pain, as something to go through (and not around), and then to the world, as a way to lean in (instead of leaning out).

I loved therapy. It helped me to reclaim my excitement and energy for life. It also gave me my voice. That love grew into a professional desire to become a therapist myself. I wanted to help good people realize that they no longer needed to simply get by in this life, but rather to discover and learn to thrive. I wanted to help others work through the traumas (of childhood and later life) to become the people they’re meant to be—to find their voice in the world and to use it to express all of who they are, in its endless unfolding.

After 20 years in the field, I’m more convinced than ever that the popular song from 1965 speaks a profound truth, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love…” and, while not in the song, I might add a line about therapy being a beautiful way to discover that love within ourselves.

I’m more convinced now than ever that each of us can become the hope we long to see in the world. I believe this so much that I created a video series called “What if a Therapist Reported the News?” It’s my way of helping people break free from the paralysis of waiting for the news to change, and instead encouraging each one of us to find the courage—in how we live our everyday lives—to take the small steps that allow us to create the news we’re waiting for.

As we come to the end of our time together in this blog post, I want to share my gratitude for you…not only for taking the time to read this, but for each small act of courage—each small step toward kindness—you show in your everyday life. Because one final lesson therapy taught me was that each us matter far more than we image, and each small act adds up to create a new world, even if we don’t see its dawning quite yet.

Carl Nassar is known differently to different people. To some, he’s a professional counselor offering a safe space to reclaim hope and tenderness. To others he’s the president of Heart Centered Counseling, supporting a team of 250 providers that together provide access to a counseling and psychiatric care throughout Colorado (www.heartcenteredcounselors.com). And to those who find his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW3MmwKez76a51rQRp17qwQ/), Carl offers a thoughtful and inspiring answer to the question What if a Therapist Reported the News?

 

To stay informed on the latest Mental Health: Mind Matters programs and experiences, visit the Mind Matters webpage and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Don’t forget to tag us in your experiences when you visit the museum to help us #MakeItOk. 

We look forward to welcoming you to FCMoD to experience this amazing exhibit!  

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Mindful Mondays: The Feelings Volcano

Mindful Mondays: The Feelings Volcano

This activity is recommended for ages 5-11.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a strong emotion? Maybe you were angry with a friend for taking your favorite book, or frustrated that you couldn’t figure out that math problem? We all have strong feelings sometimes, and that’s okay! Try this is a twist on the classic baking soda-and-vinegar volcano experiment, and explore why it’s important to express and regulate our emotions in healthy ways!

Supplies:

  • Empty plastic bottle or 8 oz cup 
  • Measuring cup 
  • Funnel 
  • 1 tbsp baking soda 
  • Distilled white vinegar 
  • Food coloring (if desired) 

Instructions:

  1. To get ready: Place the baking soda in the empty plastic bottle or 8 oz cup using the funnel. 
  2. Think about a time when you were overwhelmed by a strong emotion (feeling sad, embarrassed, mad, nervous, etc.). Talk with your grown up about what happened. What happened to make you feel this way? What did you do about it?
  3. Pour a little bit of vinegar into the measuring cup. (Add food coloring if desired). This vinegar represents the feelings you had in your story. Now, let’s say that instead of expressing your feelings and doing something to manage them, you let them keep building and building and building up inside of you!
  4. Add more vinegar “feelings” to the cup until it reaches the ½ cup mark. What do you think will happen when you act on your feelings by adding the vinegar to the baking soda?
  5. Pour the vinegar into the baking soda. What happened? All of those sour feelings came out!
  6. Time for another experiment! What if instead of letting those sour feelings build up, you did something to manage them? Maybe you talked to your grown up about how you were feeling, or maybe you took some long, deep breaths! When you take steps to manage them, your feelings aren’t so sour anymore – they’re more like water than vinegar! What do you think will happen if you add water to baking soda?
  7. Pour the water into the baking soda. What happened? This time, we didn’t let our emotions get the best of us!
  8. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings! They’re part of being human. But it’s important that we learn how to express and manage our feelings so that we can control them instead of them controlling us. Work with your grown up to make a list of ways you can express and manage your emotions in hard situations, when you sense a feelings volcano brewing! Some ideas you might include: 
  • Take 10 slow, deep breaths. 
  • Draw or write about your feelings. 
  • Talk about your feelings with a friend, family member, or teacher. 
  • Dance to your favorite song.  
  • Stretch your body. 
  • Hang your strategies up somewhere to reference throughout the year! 

 

Each mind matters. Taking care of our mental health is important to all of us – everywhere and always. Learn more by visiting FCMoD’s special exhibition Mental Health: Mind Matters, open through January 10th.

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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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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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The Museum of Tomorrow, Today

Post written by Laurel Baltic, Grants Coordinator.

The Museum of Tomorrow, Today

At FCMoD, it’s not hard for us to imagine what the future looks like. Every day, hundreds of people stream through our front doors. They tinker with hands-on exhibits, spark new connections in a Museum Takeover program about germs or trees, or dream big (and Big Bang) during a Space Explorers summer camp.

Inquiry, ideas, and the connection between the two are the drivers that transport us from now to what’s next. The future may be 2 minutes away: what changes when I try this? Or it may be decades away: what invention can I dream up that would make my life – and the world – better? We also spend a lot of time looking to the past, helping us spin stories about how we got from then to now, and how we’ll get to that future we’re imagining.

These days, it feels like everyone is forward-focused. Preparation for what’s next is a central outcome of formal and informal education. The phrase “21st century skills” echoes through the hallways of schools, businesses, after-school programs, and – of course – museums.

It wasn’t so long ago that talking about the 21st century required visions of hovercraft cars, colonies on Mars, and robotic pets retrieving your newspaper. Hello, Jetsons! But now, two decades into the 21st century, we have arrived.

What have we learned? Well, our parking lot is full of cars that still roll on wheels, our animals are still furry, and the closest we’ve come to the Jetson’s was our groovy 60s-themed Night at the Museum event last fall. The future may be impossible to predict.

But one thing is certain: our world – and the skillset it takes to thrive in it – is always changing.

When we talk about 21st century skills, we are not talking only about what is needed to prepare for future jobs or face upcoming challenges; we are thinking about the present moment. Our deeply held belief is that every person who walks through our door has these skills already. Our museum, our exhibits, and our programs are designed to activate them.

Because of this belief, it’s easy for us to think that 21st century skills are self-explanatory. You know, 21st century skills! The ones everyone is talking about? The ones that everyone knows?

Except… does everybody?

We recently read a blog post by one of our board members, John Williams, who leads the Global Services division at Advanced Energy. It was inspiring to read about how AE is investing in education and equipping talented people for careers of the future. Maybe they’ll be the ones engineering those hovercrafts!

John closed his post with a challenge: “What further investments can we all make in our future to ensure that the emerging workforce has the skills, motivation, and inspiration needed to continue to improve both our products and the world at large?”

Okay, but we’re a discovery museum. Our mission is about learning, reflecting, and having fun while exploring science and culture. What does this have to do with an emerging workforce?

Everything, actually.

That mission is our “what.” Every exhibit we build, every program we offer, furthers that mission. Look a little deeper at our vision, our “why,” and there’s more: to inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the future. That is the heartbeat of our everyday work, and where we rise to John’s challenge. Everything we do at FCMoD, we do looking toward the future. And when we look toward the future, it’s one rich with questions and learning.

Let’s break down what we mean by inquisitive: it’s about asking questions, constantly. The only way to move effectively into the future is to ask questions, and believe in our individual and collective ability to answer them, and then ask more.

Why? Why not? How?

…what if?

That is why our “what” is so important. To learn. To reflect. To have fun. We delight in the opportunity – the gift – to remind kids and adults how much fun learning can be. How good it feels. How asking questions and admitting what we don’t know doesn’t have to feel scary. If we admit how much we don’t know we can embrace how capable we are of knowing more. If we imagine the possibilities, we won’t spend so much time dwelling on the limitations. We really prepare ourselves for the 21st century.

This is how FCMoD invests in our future.

This is how we change the world. We’re excited to continue sharing our process – and our partnerships – with you. So, we’re going to use this blog series to break down the 21st century skills that we’re all so excited about. We want to share with you, with our partners, with our community, how proud we are of the ways that people learn at our museum.

Check back each month for a breakdown of a new 21st century skill, and how our team infuses it into specific programs and exhibits (that you can come experience for yourself!). Sometimes, they’ll feel familiar, like our next two posts: problem solving and collaboration. Sometimes, they might be a little jargon-y, like cross-disciplinary thinking or information literacy. Don’t worry: in every post, we’ll share how we define that skill, and how accessible it’s development is to anyone, right here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

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The Know-It-All Turned Student

Post written by Adam Goss, regular attendee of DomeLab.

The Know-It-All Turned Student

Like many artists before me, I think I know everything. I think my eye for design is better than everyone else’s, and that my aesthetic choices are best. I think I can do better than others where their projects have fallen short. I think that working alone is the only way to achieve perfection. At least that’s how I used to think before I started coming to DomeLab at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD). Nowadays, I’m the student. But for good reason.

The first time I watched a show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater was during the first (now annual) Fort Collins Fringe Festival in 2015. I watched an experimental show that combined practical effects, recorded 360-degree video, and live acting. The resolution was low, and I was a hard critic on the show. After all, it’s easy to be a critic. It’s easy to say, “I could do better.” Through regular meetups at the Dome, these people I was so critical of would eventually become my friends, and further down the road, collaborators on projects.

It was around this time that the Digital Dome Manager, Ben Gondrez, reached out to me via my hobby website – DIY Planetarium – and invited me to come tour the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater. I had recently finished college and had been helping people build inflatable domes for the past six years. I enjoyed dabbling in content creation in Blender; it was something I loved doing, but something I had never taken seriously.

Ben gave the most gracious tour of the Dome, its server room, and control console, ending with a long chat about planetariums and software. Before leaving, I asked the question that had been burning at my insides the entire time, “Are there any openings at the Dome?”

The museum was adjusting to its new facility and didn’t have any openings at the time, but Ben mentioned a new meetup that he was starting called DomeLab. Every other week, anyone was welcome to come to the Dome to share their creative works and collaborate with others. I was intrigued.

That evening, I went home and installed Blender for the first time in 2 years. I had 2 weeks to put something together to show at the next meetup. I decided to model a Mars crew transport prototype. I was rendering frames round the clock on every laptop I could bring back to working order. At my first DomeLab meetup, I only had 30 seconds of video to show, but I was excited to see how it looked.

The meetup had a handful of members, all of different backgrounds. Some were video producers, some were audio engineers, and some people were there just because they’d heard about DomeLab online – maybe like you are now! Ben spent some time showing us the Dome, its speakers and server racks, and talked about how to get things up on the Dome. Unlike a flat 16:9 movie screen, the dome requires a 180-degree fisheye projection, which requires a very skilled hand, or (more commonly) a fisheye camera – be it a physical camera or a virtual camera with a 3-D rendering engine. As a Blender user, I had rendered my frames using Cycles’ Fisheye Equidistant projection and was crossing my fingers that everything would look right on the Dome.

At long last, it was time to view my clip, and lo and behold, it worked. It wasn’t anything special, just a 6-wheeled vehicle crawling across a low-polygon Mars surface for 30 seconds, but to me, it was one of the most awesome experiences I’d had to date.

“Here was something I spent 2 weeks creating, and now I was viewing it in a gigantic full-dome theater… and the most amazing part is that Ben and FCMoD are opening their doors to the public for this every other week!”

Here was something I spent 2 weeks creating, and now I was viewing it in a gigantic full-dome theater, with a 5.1 Dolby speaker system that made my home setup sound like it wasn’t even trying. It is a content creator’s dream – viewing your work on a state of the art system, and the most amazing part is that Ben and FCMoD are opening their doors to the public for this every other week!

Over the next 6 months, I came to DomeLab on and off. I loved it, but as before, I wasn’t taking animation seriously. So, I decided to start taking DomeLab seriously in the summer of 2016 and began coming to every meetup. Since I live in Broomfield, this was a 2-hour driving commitment, but I felt it would be a good investment. As it turned out, this was truer than I ever could have imagined.

So why has DomeLab been so awesome? For starters, 2 weeks is “a long time” but at the same time, not that much time. It gave me enough time to put something together for the next meetup, while still keeping the pressure on to not procrastinate. For me, procrastination is my Achilles heel, and this was the fire I needed to keep growing creatively.

“….this was the fire I needed to keep growing creatively.”

I started watching Blender tutorials on YouTube for the first time in years. I tried new techniques. My modeling skills got better, and within a year, I had landed a small Dome animation contract. DomeLab really kept me growing creatively, and it’s hard to imagine how much further behind I’d be if I hadn’t started attending regularly.

Up to this point, I’ve talked mostly about me, and I’d like to talk about the other, and perhaps most important part of DomeLab: the people. I’d like to start with Ben Gondrez. For nearly 4 years now (and perhaps even longer), Ben has managed the Dome, and has opened the Dome to the public every other Tuesday, all because he believes in supporting local art projects. I’ve been around long enough to know that most museums are a walled garden, and rarely collaborate so closely with the community. FCMoD is different. Ben wants people to come in and experiment in the dome. He encourages first time members to come back with ANYTHING so that we can play it in the Dome. He invites musicians to come in and perform music. He coaches people and offers suggestions to people who want to “figure out this whole dome thing.” As a community, Ben is such an incredible asset to arts and creative works, and even after 3+ years of attending DomeLab, I can’t believe how lucky we are to have a museum that welcomes the public, and a Dome manager who cares enough to facilitate meetups.

The other side of the people equation at DomeLab are the members. During the beginning of DomeLab, members would come and go, but around 2 years ago, people started staying. We now have around a dozen “regulars” and almost always a few first-time guests. These members have humbled my creative arrogance and have shown me that I don’t know everything after all.

One of the members is building his own ray-tracing/path-tracing render engine from the ground up using linear algebra in C++. He creates mind-blowing abstract visualizations that are synchronized to his original electronic musical compositions. Another member is a Unity developer who creates interactive video games for the Dome that can be controlled from any cell phone or tablet – think multiplayer Asteroids for the Dome! There are members who create kaleidoscopic music visualizations in AfterEffects, videographers who share their 360-degree treasure hunting episodes with us, and musicians who come in to play music while Ben live VJs on the Dome.

“Every meetup is different, and every time I make new friends.”

I have learned to leave my ego at the door, and to enter with an open mind and heart. I could pick any random person at DomeLab and be guaranteed to learn something new. I have had the privilege of collaborating on several projects with these fine creative minds, and I can’t imagine life without DomeLab.

Sometimes, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself, and DomeLab is the perfect tool to keep my ego in check while helping me grow creatively. The Dome is awesome. Ben is awesome. The people are awesome.

If you’ve made it to the end of my post, I hope to see you at the next meetup!

Happy Blending!

 

Interested in DomeLab?

DomeLab at FCMoD is an open meetup for anyone who wants to stretch their creativity in the dome. Whether you are a digital artist, painter, musician, DJ, VJ, photographer, or even a programmer this is for you! DomeLab is open and free to anyone interested in creating and collaborating on projects of all types so bring your creativity and #doitinadome!

For more information about DomeLab click here to join our Facebook group.

 

All images courtesy of Adam Goss.

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Memories from the Heritage Courtyard

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Youth & Family Programs Assistant.

Charlotte’s Courtyard Memories

The museum has had a special place in my life for many years. Growing up in Fort Collins, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery always had a hand in my life. An especially fond memory for me was the summer camp I attended at the museum’s Heritage Courtyard at Library Park. The year was 2006 and I was 10 years old.  

The summer began as most summers did during my childhood. My mother sat me down to tell me about the various summer camps she had signed me up for, to my chagrin. Something about summer camps just did not work for me. The uncoordinated medley of arts and crafts and off-putting team building activities always left me feeling bored, uninspired, lonely, and misunderstood. However, there was one piece of this summer’s puzzle that was vaguely intriguing to me this year. For one of these summer camps, I had to come dressed up in costume: a historical dress resembling clothing worn in the 1900’s, to be exact. This piqued my interest…  

And my mother immediately pounced on my interest. The next day we drove over to a fabric store and perused all sorts of fabrics and patterns, deciding on the simplest prairie dress we could find. My mom is not a seamstress and neither am I, but we stitched together that dress and low and behold, it fit me!  

Driving over to the Heritage Courtyard on that Monday morning, dressed up as a little homesteading lady, I felt excited! I loved my dress, I loved the experience of making it with my mom, and I could not wait to show it off to everyone at the camp 

“What a memorable camp experience it turned out to be.”

It may have been the outfit that broke the ice for me. It might have been the compassionate camp leader we had that summer. Whatever the reason was, this camp experience could not be further from those summer camps I had attended before! I made friends with the other children at the camp. As a lover of learning, I enjoyed pretending I was a student from another time period. I loved practicing reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmitic on my little chalkboard writing tablet.  

I was finally happy to attend a summer camp. It is possible my mother was even happier than I was! This experience stuck with me for a long time. It eventually inspired me to apply for a job at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. I had such strong, fond memories of that place, why not continue those memories?  

In retrospect, I could not be happier with my experiences with the museum. I was introduced to the museum through an incredibly positive summer camp experience – one that grabbed hold of me through my interest in history, reading, and writing, and sustained my interest through hands-on, fun, and compassionate experiences. 

It is my chance now to engage and excite children this summer through our exceptional summer camps and courtyard programming. Not every visitor and summer camper knows my personal relationship with the museum, but I hope I can pass on my continued passion for learning, even to those cynical students who haven’t found the right summer experience – until now!

Explore more this summer with summer camps at FCMoD!

Registration is now open! FCMoD members receive a discount on summer camps. The 2019 Program Guide is available here.

 

 

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