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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National Authors Day

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant. 

National Authors Day

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery recently sat down with local author, blogger, and inspirational speaker, Teresa Funke. A friend of the museum, Teresa seeks to provide bursts of knowledge and inspiration through the arts. She sat down with staff for an interview in honor of National Authors Day on Friday, November 1. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

1. Hi Teresa! Thanks for chatting with us today in celebration of National Authors Day! Can you share a little about your background as an author?

For the first 27 years as a writer I was involved with writing about WWII. My first two books were for adults. My first novel, called Remember Wake, is based on a true story about the civilian men that were taken prisoners on the Wake Island during WWII and their time spent in the prison camps in Japan and China during the war. It is a fascinating true story. I also look at the women that were left behind, fiancées and wives that were left at the home front. This led to my second book, Dancing in Combat Boots. This short story collection is about different women of different economic, socioeconomic, and ethnic groups. This book is not about nurses, but about the variety of work that women did during the war that contributed in unique ways that we may be unaware about. Lastly, that led to the children’s books, Homefront Heroes, a series that was created because fifth grade classes were inviting me to come share about WWII. Many of the children had not heard of or Pearl Harbor, nor Adolf Hitler, and so a student suggested that I write for them. I never thought I would be a children’s author. But I learned how to write for children and I wrote five books in that series, each based on the five people I interviewed. Something unique about me is that each of my books are based on real people that I interview. That was the last 27 years of writing, and this past October my new book, Bursts of Brilliance, came out and it is based on a blog that I have been doing for over 5 ½ years. The book and blog are based on living in the creative life, tapping into our own bursts of brilliance, and so this book has taken me in a completely different direction than WWII.

 

2. What or who inspired you to become a writer?

That’s a good question! There was not a specific person or book, but I grew up with parents that were avid readers, they loved to talk about literature and authors. So I grew up in a home where books were highly respected and talked about. I was very lucky in that manner. I thought seriously about being a writer after something that happened in 5th grade. That year I was given an assignment to write a poem. For some reason this assignment mattered more to me than most assignments, and I was a good student, but this one was really important and I stayed up past my bed time to get this poem perfect. I could not even explain why. When I turned it in to the teacher, the teacher said: “No fifth grader could write something this good – you must have copied it out of a book. So go home and write it yourself or you are not getting a grade.” A very embarrassing moment, but also a moment of revelation. I thought to myself, I must be a really good writer. I loved writing, enjoyed doing it, and I was good at it. This sparked my interest to becoming a writer.

3. Did you have a favorite book growing up?

 

I have lots of favorite books. As a kid, I liked picture books that had people who were accomplishing things and cared about someone else. I enjoyed Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel and Dr. Seuss for his whimsical and imaginative writing. I was found of all the picture books that were bold and had different characters than me. But in high school, I read the classics, as the book worm nerd.

But I would say a book like Anne of Green Gables can be underappreciated– I didn’t read that book until I was an adult, maybe in college, but most of my friends read that book as a child. So they formed an association with Anne the way a kid relates, but when reading it as an adult you can appreciate the messaging, writing, and character development that you may not have picked up on as a kid. I think it is fun to read books that we read as kids, but now as an adult and say: “Oh there is a lot more to this book than I remember as a kid.”

4. How would you describe the process of writing your first novel, Remember Wake?  What was the top thing you learn in that process that helped you in the future?

Remember Wake is based on real people that I had interviewed. Those interviews created a lot of the story such as the plot and chronological order for the story. I was just telling the story of what theses men had survived. I thought I would be capable of writing it easily, but I realized books are first always about character. People connect with the character. I then discerned that I do not know how to write a novel. So I started writing short stories and personal essays and getting those published in magazines to not only learn the craft of writing, but also to find my voice as a writer. Then I went back to the novel a few years later. The book then came together. One thing that people often do not know is that in those early stages of forming who you are as a writer; the craft is very important. Whether you do that in a practice book, where you write an entire manuscript, or if you do it like I did through short stories and essays. Most people who are career writers had to do that, and no one told me about this part of the process. You think you start by writing a book and it is not that simple.

Finding your voice is the connecting point with the reader.

 

5. You mentioned finding you voice, what does that mean?

Voice is that illusive thing that is impossible to describe, but what we connect to in a book. You may love a book and your friend thinks it is okay, yet you both know the writing is excellent – that is the craft. But you probably loved the book because of the voice of the writer. I think through personal essays and short stories I was able to find out what words I use, how I express myself , what matters to me, what is underlying my book, and what I am seeking to discover more about myself. There is a deep emotional connection of discovering yourself when writing a story. Authors write to discover ourselves.

As we write, we discover ourselves more.

6. Your books take an unusual approach because they are based on interviews with real people. How do you balance real stories in a fictional setting?

I am an unusual writer in the sense that I take that approach with all of my books. I like to stir curiosity. In my first book I took the best parts of the interview stories and personality traits and embodied that in the characters of the book. The most challenging part is coming up with the characters. With short story collection, each story has a different voice. Some are told in 1st person, and others in 3rd person. I also have to decide to take a tight-in or lens-out approach. Each story is unique. But, I put an epilogue in the back of each book, because I concluded that people are interested in the real stories too. For my adult novels the stories are directly from the interviews and created to be seamless as the characters develop. For kids books you must have a lot of interest to keep their attention. For my children’s books I tell 50% truth and 50% fiction, but at the end of the book I tell what is real and what was made up. The curiosity of a child is always asking: “Did that really happen?” I want to be able to be honest with the kids and inspire that curiosity at the same time.

 

7. Knowing what you know now, if you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

As my younger self, I learned and did all that you should do – conferences, classes, tangible things you can do to be a writer. But the best thing that you can do, and that I would tell myself, would be to write a lot. Keep writing. Allow yourself to write what may not be good. Develop the thick skin for criticism. My writing clubs made me who I am through their critiques. Don’t give up. You are going to face rejection. You have to believe that you can do it.

8. In your blog Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life, do you ever encounter writers block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I never really encounter writers block in my blog, because in the last 5 ½ years I have let the blog be my creative outlet. The blog is where I do not have any pressure and I can explore and write for writing’s sake. The blog started when life was busy. I gave myself no boundaries on the blog. The wide-open ability to share freely has allowed me to write pen to paper – or should I say keys to screens. However, in writing novels I have encountered writers block and my method to overcome it is to keep writing. I allow the wheels to keep turning. I admit I am stuck, but I give myself permission to keep writing even though I know it may not be my best work or what I will keep in the end. Eventually, I get to where I want to be in writing…  if I keep at it.

9. How did you first get involved with the museum?

 

I got involved with the museum when my kids were younger. We frequented the Discover Science Center and Fort Collins Museum before they became what they are today: Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. My kids would participate in the summer camps and, as a history major, I would frequent the Fort Collins Museum often. Currently, I am a supporter of the museum. We come to the new exhibits, events, and programming that happens. It is great to still be involved as an adult. I love attending the museum for community partnership events. There are still a lot of activities – even as adults – for us to enjoy.

10. How do you feel museums like FCMoD promote 21st century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, and literacy?

FCMoD stands for discovery, exploration, and hands-on engagement. The museum sparks a new kind of engagement. When kids get to have a tangible experience doing a science hands-on activity or churn the butter at Heritage Courtyard – it makes learning fun! The museum makes these big ideas, like scientific theories, real and accessible. People are able to come in asking: “Who am I?” They are able to explore who they are and what attracts them to history, science, music, theater, etc. People find how they are uniquely themselves, and find themselves, through the culture of the museum. The museum taps into the deeper question’s kids have. The connection the museum creates is wonderful!

The connection the museum creates is wonderful!

11. We heard you love personality tests. What have you found to be the strengths and weaknesses from the tests?

I love personality tests. You can see all of my scores on my website. However, the Enneagram and Strength’s Finder are two of my favorites. People often find personality tests to be fun and quirky, but I refer back to them frequently. I understand a lot more about myself because of these tests. I often consult the Enneagram (which I am a 7) to find insight on my everyday life. Whereas, the Strength’s Finder has been enlightening to my business and work.

 

12. Do you have any projects in the works that we can look out for in the future?

 

We currently just launched a new website – Burstsofbrilliance.com – where we will have a podcast – mainly reading the blog posts and creating an environment where you can experience the book in a new way. Also included will be membership site that has weekly communication encouraging creativity and imagination in quick, easy ways. My new book, Bursts of Brilliance, came out earlier in October. This book, as well as Dancing in Combat Boots can be purchased at The Museum Store!

Thank you to Teresa for her time and for sharing her stories! To learn more about Teresa or find some of her writing resources visit TeresaFunke.com

 

 

 

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Member Spotlight: Bevin Walker

Member Spotlight: Bevin Walker

Museum member, Bevin Walker, spoke at this year’s Night at the Museum. We were so inspired by her words, we wanted everyone to be able to experience them. Below is the transcript of her speech. Thank you for your support of the museum, Bevin!

Thank you for joining us tonight in adoration and support for Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Iʼm Bevin Walker, proud mother of the 5 amazing kids featured in the FCMoD film. The kiddos true colors were presented so beautifully. I hope you enjoyed  viewing the film as much as we enjoyed making it.

I would like to take a moment to thank FCMoD for asking our family to be a part of this special night and for the privilege to speak about how this wonderful museum has enhanced our childrenʼs education.

A special thank you to my husband Jeramie for his unwavering love and support. It is his dedication that gives us the freedom to homeschool.

8 years ago, when our eldest was kindergarten age, we began our homeschooling journey. We wanted our children to have ample time and opportunities to pursue their interests and learn to self-regulate.

Our choice to homeschool has granted us many luxuries; one of which is the ability to tailor curriculum to our childrenʼs needs. We use a mixed media approach for core subjects but our pedagogy is mainly oriented by everyday life and our childrenʼs interests. Curiosity and learning are innate human abilities and few places have piqued our childrenʼs curiosity more than the Museum of Discovery.

Our first visit to the museum had very little to do with education; we simply needed to get out of the house on one of those, “these are my monkeys and this is my circus” kind of days. Since then, frequent visits have facilitated our childrenʼs acquisition of knowledge through invaluable hands on experiences.

During discovery labs our children have performed dissections and experiments that would be difficult to replicate at home. Museum take overs, summer camps, and special exhibits have intrigued and inspired.

One of our favorite exhibits thus far was the National Geographicʼs Photo Ark. I hope you all had a chance to view the breathtaking photographs! The stories behind those photos inspired our daughter Juliette to become passionate about photography and conservation. She was so moved by the exhibit that she zealously raised donations for the Wild Animal Sanctuary here in Colorado.

Our eldest daughter Jennavieve is an aspiring aerospace engineer and geologist. Moon month and the aviation museum takeover ironically correlated with the beginning of her Aerolabs course. The spectacular film ‘CapCom Goʼ fueled her ambition for an aerospacecareer. If you havenʼt seen the film yet, I highly recommend it.

Beyond the amazing exhibits and educational opportunities I have already mentioned; The museum has also graciously hosted the WOLF sanctuary for our Girl Scout troop and is currently working with Jennavieve on her Girl Scout Silver Award. Their collaboration will bring STEAM programs to NoCo Girl Scouts right here in Fort Collins. A huge thank you to Angela for making both possible! As a homeschool mother I strive for educational value in everything we do. We visit the museum almost weekly and it remains one of our favorite places to learn and explore. From the tot spot to the Otterbox dome theater and everything in between there is a plethora of knowledge to gain and fun to be had. What I personally love most about the museum is that I can tend to our younger children as they discover while allowing our elder daughters to be auto didactic in an engaging and safe environment.

None of this would be possible without your generous contributions.

As Pam noted the FCMoD has a $15,000 goal tonight. By making a donation you not only help us achieve that goal but ensure that access to science and cultural education remain a priority for our community!

In efforts to stimulate your inner child, we have made it both easy and fun for you to donate tonight: participate in the Silent Auction, play Heads or Tails, and as you can see over here, we have 3 of the Donation Stations spread throughout the museum. Please visit one and youʼll be able to pick out your own colorful accessory to help light up our night and spread the word that you believe in FCMoD. Thank you for enriching the lives of our children and the lives of so many others whom visit the museum.

Your donations color their world!

The museum relies on the generosity of you – our community – to do everything we do. Please consider donating to support explorations in science and culture for all.

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The Griffin Piano Lounge

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections.

There is a lot of space to explore at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery; visitors of all ages can spend hours experiencing the exhibits, jamming in the Music & Sound Lab, taking in a show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, and more. But even with just a few dozen steps through our front door a visitor can encounter something unique: the grand piano, with its distinctive Curly Birdseye Maple veneer, which occupies a large corner of the museum’s Griffin Piano Lounge.

This piano was produced by William Knabe & Co., of Baltimore especially for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It is apparently one of only two such pianos produced by Knabe, and its eye-catching appearance and distinctively mellow tone are said to have caught the attention a group of fair visitors from Fort Collins, who determined that their community needed the grace and culture it could provide. This group consisted of Abner Loomis, Frank Miller, Sr., F.W. Sherwood, and Peter Anderson –names that loom large in our community’s history, and echo in the names of our streets and local landmarks. These men brought the piano back to Fort Collins and it was placed in the Old Town Elks Lodge, on Oak Street, where it remained until the that building was demolished in 2008. At that time the piano was first sent to Finger Piano Restoration of Niwot, Colorado for a complete evaluation and restoration, and then delivered to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

This history is not the only thing that makes the Knabe piano unique among the artifacts displayed and preserved at FCMoD, whose preservation requires that they are protected from all touching and use. Experts agree that the working mechanisms of musical instruments like the piano are best preserved when played on a regular basis, by experienced musicians aware of its age and delicacy. So, for the health of the piano and for everyone’s enjoyment, visiting musicians and trained museum volunteers play the piano during special events and when possible during regular museum hours.

Come visit the 1904 World’s Fair Knabe Piano in FCMoD’s Griffin Piano Lounge. You’ll experience a legacy gifted to our community over a century ago, and you may just get the chance to hear it played.

Image courtesy of Malcolm McNeill

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World Animal Day

Interview conducted by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Happy World Animal Day!

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery interviewed FCMoD Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator, Alexa Leinweaver in celebration of World Animal Day! The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

  1. Hi Alexa! First, tell us a little bit about your role as the Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator here at FCMoD.

Here at FCMoD, my job is to take care of all animals in the Animal Encounters exhibit and make sure they are happy and healthy, as well as coordinate the team that is responsible for their care.

  1. What inspired you to begin working with animals?

I can’t remember a time that I was not fascinated with caring for animals. As a kid I would go back to the field behind my house and catch grasshoppers, and be thrilled when they peed on me! When I look back at my childhood education I would find a new animal to be fascinated with, and keep adding more and more animals until I cared about all of them. My aunt bought me a subscription to ZooBooks and that only enhanced/expanded my love for animals.

A few years ago when I was moving to Colorado, I was looking for something that would get me away from the stress of my previous job. So I found a place to volunteer taking care of animals and it was a good way to stay centered and present — because you have to be if you are working with an animal. So that evolved into working with FCMoD.

  1. Tell us a little bit about the Animal Encounter exhibit, what kinds of animals do you encounter in this exhibit?

We have quite the variety of animals. We have everything from reptiles to amphibians to mammals to arthropods in the exhibit. We have a large variety of animals in the encounter exhibit. However, fun fact, the animals available are all able to be pets. We are not a zoo, so we do not have endangered or large animals in the animals encounter exhibit. That said, we do have some exciting and exotic animals.

Our most familiar are the rats. We have 5, and they all look different. We also have fish, insects, turtles, snakes, frogs, geckos, scorpions, etc. All of our fish are local. And my favorite is the whip scorpion because it shoots vinegar out of its butt! It’s the same as white vinegar as in your house and there is no stinger, but his aim is good so, if he feels there is a predator messing with him he aims for their eye.

Our goal is to keep all animals as comfortable as possible when cleaning. The most risky to work with animals include the whip scorpion, regular scorpion, and the assassin bugs. For all of these we keep them calm and have protective gear that we wear.

  1. Mammals, reptiles, and amphibians – oh my! How do you think the Animal Encounters exhibit fits into FCMoD’s vision, which is to inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the future?

I think any exhibit where you get to see animals that you do not usually see in everyday life is awesome. This exhibit at the museum is a great way to get all our visitors thinking about the world that they live in. Certainly now, I go out and see so much more because I know the animals to look for around in the mountains, city, etc. This sort of perspective creates a bigger world to live in. It allows for imagination and inspires us to care about the environment and for the animals.

“It allows for imagination and inspires those to care about the environment and for the animals.”

  1. Are there any programs associated with the Animal Encounters exhibit?

There are various programs associated with the Animal Encounters exhibit, including Meet the Animals, as well as school programs and summer camps. When school groups come in they can have a special time where we bring out the animals and let the kids get a closer look and sometimes pet the animals. Then we have our animal-themed summer camps, such as Animal Adventures. This camp includes a trip to the Lee Martinez farm and presentations of our animals in the Animal Encounters exhibit. Meet the Animals is a free gallery program offered every third Sunday of the month from 10 am to 1 pm. This program again, allows families and museum guests to get a closer look at the animals. Lastly, our animal-themed birthday parties are also quite the hit! Sometimes we even allow the birthday kid to handle the animal (depending on the child and the animal).

  1. What is your favorite part about working with animals at the museum?

My favorite part about my job is that it is my job to spend time with the animals – handling them, socializing them, and making sure they are well. I also get to snuggle with the rats. I get paid to hang out with the rats!

  1. What does a typical day at the museum looks like for you?

My team and I arrive a few hours before the museum opens. There are typically about 3-4 people working in the animal zone. We clean, feed, and observe the health of the animals, and then clean up to get ready for our visitors for the day.

  1. How do you think museums, like FCMoD, can continue to communicate, educate, and inspire positive action for animal care and conservation?

The first step is having the animals there to let people learn about them and be connected to the wild world. Also having school programs where kids come in and become the experts, to tell their friends and family about something like meeting a tarantula. Getting kids and adults interested in the world around them is the beginning. This creates awareness and increases interest. The second step is to get people angry. If you see and connect with an animal and you know their home is in danger — for example, once they are angry that frogs’ habitat in the Amazon is burning down — then they will have the motivation to do something about it. If you do not care you will not be willing to take the next step to protect the animals.

  1. Ok, random question, but if you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

I would want to be some kind of bird, maybe a Corvid. Specifically, a crow or magpie. Other than having the ability to fly, these birds are very smart and clever. It would allow me to have my wits about me while also having fun. These birds can solve puzzles that I could never solve. For example, a crow can understand how a street light works by dropping a nut that needs to be opened during the red light. And once it’s green the cars run over and open the nut. They go back down during the next red light to get the food they need. Isn’t that amazing?

“I can’t remember a time that I was not fascinated with caring for animals.”

  1. If you could have a conversation with every visitor in the Animals Encounters exhibit, what is the one thing you’d definitely want to know from them before leaving?

I would want to know what animal they connected with the most. It is so personal – which one and why. I want to know what people connect with and if there is any way to provide more information to create a greater proactive response to the animals. That way I can enhance the experience or help to inspire them in the future.

 

Thank you to Alexa for her time and talents at FCMoD! We hope the next time you visit you enjoy the Animal Encounters exhibit!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Johannes G.

Interview conducted by Laurel Drasner, Volunteer Coordinator.

Volunteer Spotlight: Johannes G.

Position at FCMoD: Gallery Host & Digital Dome Operator

When you started volunteering here: I started here in June 2016. (Side note: he has volunteered over 560 hours in that time!)

Hobbies/Interests: One of my main interests is music because my wife and I both play the recorder. Sometimes we just play with the two of us, and sometimes we play with others. We are both members of the Fort Collins Recorder Society. We attend recorder workshops all over the U.S. and at times abroad. We are going to a workshop in Switzerland in a couple of weeks! Traveling is another major passion of ours, so it’s neat to get to combine music and travel sometimes. We also spend a lot of time on special projects, such as helping to curate exhibits at the Global Village Museum. Most recently, I worked on the Panama Canal exhibit, which is part of the current exhibit about Central America.

Hometown: I’m from Basel, Switzerland. It’s really neat, geographically, because it’s a city on the Rhine River right where Switzerland, Germany, and France meet. At one point, there were different currencies in all three countries, so parking meters in Basel would need to accept all three! We moved to Colorado in 1966.

Current/previous occupation: I am a retired Civil Engineer and professor at CSU. I also served as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Engineering at CSU.

Favorite book: I have two favorite books. The first is The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston, which talks about the archeological excavation of Mayan cities in Honduras, including the groundbreaking method of locating them in the dense Honduran rainforests by emitting laser beams from airplanes to collect information about the topography of the ground. The other is one that I am currently reading called The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, which chronicles the building of the Panama Canal.

Favorite vacation memory: That would probably have to be the time that my family spent each summer at Lake Thun, Switzerland growing up. My mother had two sisters- one owned a house on the lake, and the other owned a sailboat! Of all my siblings, I probably spent the most time on the sail boat. The lake house is still in the family, and I still get to go back occasionally.

One thing or fun fact you want people to know about you: The topics of engineering and music can, in fact, fit within the same brain!

Favorite thing about volunteering at FCMoD: The visitors! It is so neat to see the kids in the Tot Spot become totally absorbed in exploring and forget about the world around them while their parents either have a few minutes to catch up on emails or get just as absorbed in the exhibits themselves. It’s also really fascinating to see how kids sometimes come to Dome Shows that may be a bit above their heads in subject matter, but they end up loving it anyway!

Thank you for all you do for FCMoD, Johannes!

Interested in volunteering? Learn more here.

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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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Happy #MoonMonth!

Post written by staff members at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Happy #MoonMonth!

“Your mission is ours.” This is the mission statement of Colorado company Lockheed Martin. In June, the Archive & Collections received a donation of 2D prints of aerospace technology that Lockheed Martin Denver assisted in building for NASA. Today, we’re sharing information on that donation as well as exploring Colorado’s connection to the Apollo 11 lunar landing, which took place 50 years.

Who is Lockheed Martin?

Lockheed Martin was formed in 1995 after a merger of Lockheed Corp. and Martin Marietta, which both had decades of aerospace experience behind them. (Martin Marietta was formed in 1961 in a merger of Glenn L. Martin Co. and American Marietta Corp.) The companies’ aircraft have set records and achieved milestones in aviation and space exploration. In fact, Lockheed Martin is the largest provider of IT services, systems integration and training to the U.S. Government.

Lockheed Corp.’s projects also included the Hubble Space Telescope, the Apollo launch escape system and the Corona surveillance satellite series. Martin Marietta was known for spacecraft such as the Viking Mars landers and the Magellan Venus spacecraft.

In aerospace, some of Lockheed Martin’s major projects today include the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter plane, the C-130 Hercules military transport, the P3-Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter (with Boeing), according to Encyclopedia Britannica. In space, Lockheed Martin is known for the Titan IV and Atlas launch vehicles and the Trident II submarine-based missile. Lockheed is also part of the joint venture International Launch Services, along with Russian companies Energia and Khrunichev.

The Apollo Project

Project Apollo was announced by NASA in 1960. Many companies were contracted to design and build parts of the Apollo spacecraft, including the Lockheed Propulsion Company. Lockheed Propulsion Company designed and built the solid propellant launch escape motor and the pitch control motor for the Apollo spacecraft. 50 years ago, Apollo 11 touched down on the Moon on July 20, 1969. The space race had been won, yet in many respects had only just begun.

Lockheed Martin’s contribution to the Apollo Project

Years later, on April 12, 1981, the space shuttle Columbia launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its first official mission, beginning an era of manned spaceflight unlike any before or since. Columbia looked more like a sophisticated plane than the bubble-with-legs design of the Apollo moon landers. The space shuttle missions were also quite different. This was no race to the moon—this was to be sustained science and space exploration.

For decades, space shuttles were the symbol of space exploration and innovation, and they were fueled by an iconic burnt-orange external tank that was designed and built by Lockheed Martin.

The structural backbone of every shuttle takeoff, the tanks were the largest component of each shuttle at 154 feet in length—longer than the Statue of Liberty—and were composed of nearly a half-million parts. The external tank that launched Columbia’s first mission in 1981 weighed nearly 76,000 pounds, but by 1998 Lockheed Martin had developed the Super Lightweight Tank, lowering the weight of the external tank to approximately 58,500 pounds. This change in design and the shift to a lighter aluminum-lithium alloy made it possible for shuttles to carry greater payloads, a breakthrough that allowed the shuttle to deliver to orbit the construction modules that became the International Space Station.

Lockheed Martin & NASA Partnership Today

Today Lockheed Martin still partners with NASA. Currently, Lockheed Martin is working on the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft to reduce a sonic boom. Lockheed Martin has designed X-59 to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph. On July 2, 2019, NASA will test Orion’s launch abort system. This test will verify the system can steer the crew module and carry astronauts to safety in case of an emergency during launch. Lockheed Martin has been the prime contractor building NASA’s Orion, the only spacecraft designed for long-duration, deep space human exploration.

Lockheed Martin & the Archive & Collections at FCMoD

Members of our Fort Collins Community have contributed to many space exploration projects over the years through their work at Lockheed Martin. One Fort Collins family had multiple generations working there, and the museum was thrilled when they donated models and prints documenting this work. Through this multi-generational family influence the museum is able to display some of aerospace’s greatest achievements in history. We’ll be displaying some of these prints in the Archive, as part of our exhibit commemorating #MoonMonth. The display will feature posters, photos, and more from the history of the lunar landing and will be on view until July 30, 2019. Visitors may view the exhibit during our open hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm-5:00 pm.

3…2…1 BLAST OFF 🚀 It’s #MoonMonth at FCMoD!

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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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