National Bird Day: Winter Birds

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

National Bird Day: Winter Birds

Weather changes, snow is falling. But when you look out your window, there are still a bunch of birds hanging out. Which birds are here in the winter, and how do they survive?

Migration

Migration is a strategy that many animals use to cope with seasonal changes. Generally migration seems to be triggered by birds following their food supply or seeking a new type of food, as well as seeking more comfortable weather conditions.

We are most familiar with migration from an area closer to the poles in summer, and toward the equator in winter. This is known as Longitudinal Migration, as it is on a north-south axis. Migration distance can range from thousands of miles each way to only a short distance. While we mostly think of birds leaving Colorado for warmer weather, we get some migrants coming to stay here from much further north. Some examples of birds that migrate to the Fort Collins area for winter:

  • The Dark-eyed Junco spends its summers breeding in Canada and Alaska, and moves down into the continental United States during winter. Juncos are easily recognized by their behavior, hopping around the ground seeking food, and the black and white flash of their tail when they take flight. They are colloquially known as “Snowbirds”.

  • The Rough-legged Hawk breeds in the Arctic, but winters in the U.S. and southern Canada. It gets its name from the fluffy feathers covering its legs – an excellent adaptation for a bird that spends its summers in the Arctic as well as for our snowy Colorado winters.

  • Most Bald Eagles spend their summers further north in Canada and Alaska. They will migrate into Colorado in winter where they breed, usually January through March. (We do have some year-round resident bald eagles in the area as well.)

There are also birds that migrate a short distance, but for a big change in altitude: Altitudinal migrants. Most of the altitudinal migrants in the U.S. are in the American West, thanks to our Rocky Mountains. Many of us humans have experienced the dramatic difference in weather and temperature between the plains and up in the Rockies.

  • Most Prairie Falcons winter in the Great Plains, hunting Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks. In summer, they move up to 11,000 feet in search of abundant ground squirrels and pikas.
  • The Townsend’s Solitaire spends its summers in the mountains, then moves to lower elevations in winter. They switch food sources from mostly insects in summer to fruit, mostly juniper berries, in winter. They can get extremely territorial over their chosen patch of juniper trees, defending them against solitaires and other bird species.

  • Immature Mountain Chickadees are known to migrate to lower elevations. However, once they are old enough to select a breeding territory, they will generally stay there year-round. (It can be very challenging to distinguish them from our usual Black-capped Chickadees who stay in Fort Collins area year-round. Look for a white “eyebrow” on the Mountain chickadee that the Black-capped lacks.)

Other Adaptations for Winter Survival

For us humans, it seems logical to escape the cold and snow by going south for warmer weather. But birds have amazing adaptations to help them survive weather that we find daunting.

  • Feathers are the best insulation we know of. Imagine curling up inside a cozy down overcoat – birds have one naturally! They can retain heat by fluffing out their feathers, trapping more air underneath to keep them warm. Birds like chickadees or wrens fluff up so much that they look twice as fat in winter! Many birds, like the American Goldfinch, will also change out their sleeker, brighter summer coat for a thicker, drabber winter one. They get better camouflage as well as better insulation.
  • Some birds, like crows, will cluster together and share body warmth. Smart birds like crows and other corvids can also communicate about food sources and predators.
  • Many birds will also plan for the winter by putting on fat. It acts both as insulation to keep warm and as an energy source if hunting for food doesn’t go so well.
  • Birds are also good at predicting when the weather will turn bad and a blizzard is coming. They will eat extra food in advance of the storm, then hunker down and save calories for body heat while it snows.
  • Several species will change what kind of food they eat. The Townsend’s Solitaire and Prairie Falcon, described above, are great examples. Some birds will also stash food in preparation for the cold – if you have a birdfeeder that gets extra busy in fall, some of your avian visitors are probably caching food for later.

Birding in Winter

Celebrate National Bird Day this year by spending some time outside, looking at our seasonal visitors! But remember, winter can be a difficult season for any wild animal. Keep your distance so they don’t waste their precious energy flying or running away from you when you get too close.

Photo courtesy of  Alexa Leinaweaver.

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A Mountain of Memories: Processing an Archival Collection at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

Post written by Lauryn Bolz, Archive Intern Fall 2019.

A Mountain of Memories: Processing an Archival Collection at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

“To unite the energy, interest, and knowledge of the students, explorers and lovers of the mountains of Colorado; Collect and disseminate information regarding the Rocky Mountains on behalf of science, literature, art, and recreation; Stimulate public interest in our mountain area; Encourage the preservation of forests, flowers, fauna, and natural scenery; and Render readily accessible the alpine attractions of this region.”

The Colorado Mountain Club’s mission statement, written in 1912, has stood as an important pillar of the organization’s 100+ year existence. Its holistic approach to preservation, respect, and exploration of Colorado’s wild lands attracted a diverse cast of characters that are not only interwoven into the history of the club, but also in Fort Collins and Colorado State University.

cmc_large_052: Snowshoeing near Bunce School Road in Allenspark, Colorado

This project was my first experience with archiving, and though I was ecstatic to have been given the opportunity to work at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the task appeared very daunting to me. One of the things that struck me was the vast amount of creative freedom given to archivists, despite the very methodical nature of the work. When Lesley Struc, the Archive’s curator and my internship advisor, gave me the “Okay, go!” on my project, I found myself overwhelmed at how there could seemingly be infinite equations that all lead to the same result: a clean, organized set of documents.

Scanning my three boxes of material, I remembered my mother meticulously scanning my grandmother’s old slides into the computer when I was a child, so that is where I decided to start. And wow, did my mom make that look easy.

Blog01: Sleeved slides from the Colorado Mountain Club Records

While some of these slides were organized snugly into appropriately sized boxes, with printed descriptions to match, some were thrown haphazardly into half-disintegrated brown paper bags from the 1960s, bound together with sticky old rubber bands. Though some of these methods were difficult to organize, I couldn’t help but find it fun to get to know each of the photographers vicariously through their styles of handwriting and sorting. Alan Kilminster, who studied at CSU and later took a position there as a biomedical photographer, meticulously laid out each trail the Club took, taking more time to describe ‘neighborhoods’ of rocks than the people photographed around them. Chet Watts was a bit more relaxed, photographing his friends in funny poses as they made their way through Colorado’s dazzling mountain settings. Frank Goeder was a professor of physics at CSU with difficult-to-decipher handwriting, which he used to describe the colors of rocks in his beautiful black and white photography.

Being a transfer student, and still relatively new to Colorado, it has sometimes been difficult to find an avenue to connect to the new culture and free-spirited mindset of my new home. Through exploring this collection, I’ve found that these connections are all around us, through art, literature, science, and our instinctual drawing into the wild lands.

cmc_large_013: Hikers taking a rest

Through conducting this project, I felt extremely connected to my new home in Fort Collins through getting to know the photographers of the CMC and seeing the Rocky Mountains through their eyes. I hope this collection helps other future explorers of the vast, diverse landscapes of Colorado, and prompts them to feel the same respect and inspiration shown by the original members of the CMC.

I would especially like to thank the beautiful, intelligent, and endlessly entertaining ladies of FCMoD’s Archive. Lesley Struc and Jenny Hannifin, along with the cast of volunteers, that made my first experience with archiving fun, educational, and profound in many aspects in my life as I continue to pursue a career in museum work. Seeing new researchers come in every day, met with the wonderment of the archive and the passion of the workers there, has invigorated my interests in public history and Fort Collins’ unique past.

Cmc_large_051: Climbing Mount Audobon

View the finding aid for the Colorado Mountain Club Records on the Fort Collins History Connection here.

 

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

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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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