At Home Music Resources

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

At Home Music Resources

Here at FCMoD, we believe in the importance of music. And during times like this, we want to provide resources to continue discovery.

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our recommended education resources during this time. Learn more below!

  • A list of live virtual concerts to watch during the shutdown!
  • Follow the NOCO Live from Home Show to support local Northern Colorado artists.
  • Create your own instruments at home through our #dailydiscovery blog series!
  • Here are some tips for gigging musicians!
  • Moog and Korg make synth apps free to help musicians stuck at home.
  • Smart Music is offering free virtual tutorials and online subscription access until June 30, 2020.

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

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Animal Cams!

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Animal Cams!

Here at FCMoD, we love animals. And during times like this, we want to provide resources to our furry friends – both near and far!

  • Need a pick-me-up about now? The Atlanta Zoo has their PandaCam up for your daily does of cuteness.
  • Who doesn’t love animals? Hang out with jelly fish, beluga whales, and more through the live cams from the Georgia Aquarium.
  • With ten live cams to choose from, you can experience the wonder of the ocean no matter where you are. Thanks to the Monterey Aquarium.
  • The San Diego Zoo has live cams of Panda’s, Baboon’s, Penguins, and so many more animals! Hop on today to tell our furry friends hello!
  • Tune in to the Houston Zoo webcams and enjoy a live look at animals that call the Houston Zoo home!
  • Want to know what our black-footed ferrets are up to during the closure? Check it out via our Ferret Cam!
  • Iowa is showing off their fishy friends on their webcam!
  • Chattanooga introduces their Meerkats, Snow Leopards, Tamarins, and Spotted Genet daily!
  • Can you spot the fastest animal on the planet – a cheetah! Try on the live cam from the Pittsburgh Zoo.
  • A little closer to home – the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has live feed of their Giraffes.
  • Kansas City has everything from penguins, giraffes, and polar bears waiting to make and meet new friends online!
  • Can you spot the jellyfish on the live broadcast from the National Aquarium?

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

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At Home Education Resources

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

At Home Education Resources

Here at FCMoD, we believe in education. And during times like this, we want you to know that education can be found anywhere and learning does not stop!

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our recommended education resources during this time. Learn more below!

  • Whether you’re in the mood to virtually explore ancient Rome, read past presidents’ personal papers or download coloring pages from dozens of international cultural institutions, this roundup has you covered. Check it out here!
  • The Adler Planetarium  shared this awesome #MuseumAtHome resource: 10 experiments from their “Let’s Do Science” series!
  • Here’s another awesome virtual resource for staying engaged with cultural institutions!
  • Have you ever wondered how space exploration impacts your daily life? NASA has put together this website about just that!
  • Missing Little STEAMers? Us too. But we found this handy resource of 100+ indoor craft activities for kids!
  • Speaking of online resources, here’s 13.8 billion years of history online for free!
  • Missing Storytime in the Dome? How about storytime in space?! Check out the latest storytime in space reading.

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

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These Artifacts Aren’t Playing Coy with History 

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

These Artifacts Aren’t Playing Coy with History

Though all historic documents and artifacts are open to interpretation, the material nature of authentic artifacts give them a level of trust-worthiness that is unique. A thumbprint pressed into clay by its maker, a bare spot worn into the brim of a tophat that has been politely tipped hundreds of times, or the impossibly narrow width of a wedding shoe from 200 years ago —these are all ways that artifacts can speak to us about the nature of the people whose lives touched them.

Even in the case of people who are well represented in the written record, artifacts can add aspects of humanity to their story. Elizabeth “Libbie” Coy was born in Fort Collins in 1865, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Coy, who had arrived here in 1862. She is well-known in our local history as one of the first three people to graduate from what was known then as Colorado Agricultural College —today’s Colorado State University, in 1884. Libbie was, in fact, the first woman to graduate from any institution of higher learning in the state of Colorado. She was intensely engaged in the early civic life of our community, advocating strongly for the women’s suffrage at both the state and national level.

Libbie Coy is represented in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s historic artifact collection by a small, diverse set of objects. The most personal is this cream wool skirt and bodice ensemble which she wore for her wedding to James W. Lawrence on June 19, 1890, after which she was known as Mrs. James Lawrence. This formal outfit echoes Libbie’s diminutive form, as well as the prevailing fashion of her time. The sleeves with full puffs at the top, known as “leg-of-mutton” were the height of fashion in the late 1880s, and a suit which could be worn for other occasions rather than a gown designed to be worn for the wedding day only, was a common choice for brides of her day.

Other objects in the museum’s collection represent the Coy family’s settlement in this area, and the agricultural life they led here. The family brought this pump organ overland by an ox team when they traveled here from the eastern United States in 1873. It attests to the important place that music played in their family life, and is on exhibit in the Music & Sound Lab of FCMoD.

These two rough wood objects reflect the work of Libbie’s father, John G. Coy. The donation record states that he shaped this potato masher by hand, and he may also have made this grain flail, which he used to beat the hulls off of whole grains produced on the family’s farm.

Lastly, we have this framed motto, stitched by Libbie Coy’s own hand. Local historian Evadene Swanson, recalls seeing it displayed on the kitchen wall of the Pioneer Cabin, once it had become a Fort Collins meeting place. Shaped by her hands, do you think this motto reflects Libbie’s spirit as well?

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World Wildlife Day 2020: “Sustaining All Life On Earth”

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator

Happy World Wildlife Day!

 

Wildlife, while traditionally meaning all non-domesticated animals in an area, has expanded to mean all the fauna, flora, and other kinds of life. All species have evolved to be dependent on each other. Sustaining all kinds of life on our planet can only help the human race survive and prosper.

Some individual species are so vitally important to an individual ecosystem that they are considered to be a keystone species. So many other kinds of life depend on the keystone species that it would have a disproportionate effect if it should be removed from the ecosystem.

Colorado has amazing diversity in its wildlife. With the massive changes in altitude from the Rocky Mountains down to the Great Plains, the wildlife that live here have adapted to a wide range of micro-climates. With the variety of ecologies in the area, there are many keystone species that keep the whole system healthy. Some local examples include:

In the Mountains: Aspen trees

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) are, for many, a symbol of the Rocky Mountains. They cover 20% of Colorado’s forested land, or 5 million acres.

Aspen are a keystone species, supporting many birds, insects and mammals throughout the year and creating a highly biodiverse ecosystem. Because aspen love sunlight, groves are more open and bright than an evergreen forest. More variety of plant species can grow in the understory below an aspen grove. Additionally, as aspen are short-lived (70-150 years), they quickly add nutrients back into the soil around where they fall. Aspen propagate both with seeds and via cloning. A grove of clones can send up tens of thousands shoots per acre – which many grazing animals love to eat. Aspen shoots are actually higher in fat than many plant species, making it an especially important winter food source for deer and elk. The white bark of the aspen tree can also be used by many species as a food source in winter (elk, deer, beaver, rabbits, voles, mice, etc.), and year-round by a wide variety of insects. Several kinds of woodpecker, chickadees, nuthatches, kestrels, owls, and wood ducks will nest in the aspen.

Aspen trees are unfortunately in decline throughout the Rockies, up to a loss of 60-90% depending on the local climate. The primary cause is believed to be human behavior. Human efforts at fire suppression have allowed conifers to spread into aspen groves, shading the aspen and preventing them from thriving in the sunlight they love. Fire is also a natural part of the aspen’s life cycle: as the older above-ground aspen declines in health it should be cleared out by fire, prompting new sprouts. Without the fire, the sprouts are fewer and grazing animals have more impact on the grove. As the Aspen trees decline, hundreds of species will suffer.

In the Prairie: Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are a group of intelligent, burrowing rodents – actually a kind of ground squirrel – native to North American Grasslands. In Fort Collins area, you will see the Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus). Prairie dog colonies will dig a complex maze of burrows as their colony’s home for breeding, raising their young, and hiding from predators, maintaining the town over several generations.

Prairie dog activities change the grassland ecosystem that they live in; they are often labeled “ecological engineers” for the way they shape the world around themselves. Burrowing will actually alter soil chemistry, as well as aerating the soil. Their grazing (both above and below ground) affects the plant life they live in, encouraging more diversity of plant species and plant productivity. The soil becomes richer in nitrogen and more fertile, supporting both more plants and a wider variety of insect life. Because of the positive effect prairie dogs have on the soil and the plant life above, grazing animals (including domestic cattle) often prefer to eat in the middle of prairie dog towns as the forage is better. Prairie dog burrows provide shelter and nesting habitat for many animals, including black-footed ferrets and burrowing owls. Prairie dogs are also a vital food source for a wide variety of predators: hawks, owls, ferrets, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, and rattlesnakes.

Prairie dogs numbers are vastly reduced from their historic populations. Many people believe that prairie dogs are pests, damaging crops or putting domestic animals at risk, and have actively persecuted the animals (e.g. target shooting, poisoning). Humans have also taken up most of what was originally prairie dog territory for agriculture and suburban sprawl. Between 1900 and 1960, 98.5% of prairie dog habitat was lost. Additionally, humans accidentally introduced the bacteria that caused the plague to spread, which can quickly wipe out entire colonies of prairie dogs. Even if you agree that they are pests, the loss of prairie dogs to our grassland ecosystems would have an enormous negative effect on hundreds of other species.

Celebrate World Wildlife Day

Celebrate World Wildlife Day this year by learning more about your local wildlife! Explore one of our many beautiful natural areas and observe the way that the wildlife interacts with each other. Or, visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery this weekend and see our Natural Areas Exhibit. Watch the Ferret Feeding Frenzy at 2:30 on Saturday or Sunday! This is not for the faint or squeamish of heart…

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National Inventors’ Day

Post written by Morgan Wilson, Collections Assistant.

National Inventors’ Day

In the wake of National Inventors’ Day, it is natural that we should honor a local invention that began right here, in Fort Collins.

One invention that has spanned well beyond Fort Collins is the oral irrigator, known to most people as the “waterpik” or “water flosser”. The water flosser is a dental tool which uses a stream of pressurized water to clean between the teeth, like liquid floss! It has a motor and a water reservoir which it draws water from. It was invented by Aqua-Tec, a local company founded in 1962. Aqua-Tec, now known as Water Pik, Inc., has since put forth many more products, such as the Touch-Tronic electric toothbrush and luxury shower heads.

What many people may not know is that at the time of Aqua-Tec’s founding, there was a competing invention, similar to the “water flosser”. In 1958, Dr. C.D. Matteson obtained the patent for his “dental syringe”, which performed a similar function to the water flosser except that it had a metal base which attached directly to a faucet to supply water to the irrigator. In the end, Aqua-Tec’s water flosser became the better-known dental irrigator that we still use and love today.

Water Pik, Inc. is still present in Fort Collins, located on Prospect and Riverside Avenue and will hopefully continue to be an innovative presence in Fort Collins for many years to come.

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The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades!

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

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades!

As we enter the year 2020, let’s stay focused on using 20/20 vision to look at our past, present, and future through the archives and collections at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery!

The Archive has hundreds of fantastic photos of fabulous Fort Collins eye wear over the years; check out these examples of spectacular spectacles.

 

Martha Trimble, looking cool in some shades, 1914

Paul Marshall in hexagonal specs, 1940s

John Matushima in some classic wire-rims, 1944

Margaret Martinez in some flashy cat-eyes, 1961

Donald Mai in bold frames, 1966

More cat-eye style on Barb Mason, 1967

Helen and Ed Martin sporting some eyeglasses, 1969

Michael Murry in a later style of specs, 1993

An artistic view of downtown Fort Collins through some checkerboard sunglasses, 1967

Fred Evans was a prominent optometrist in Fort Collins in the 1910s and ‘20s.

Here’s an ad for his business, 1921

Here is a view of his office at 116 South College, circa 1924.

Can you see his sign? “Eye” can!

Fred Evans shows up in our artifact collections too, in these amber tinted eyeglasses, for example, with their case from his shop.

The museum’s artifact collections offer a retrospective look (which is 20/20, of course) at the history of innovation in eyewear. Pince-nez spectacles, which had no earpieces and stayed in place with a nose clip were quite popular early in the 20th century but fell out of fashion as they became associated with older generations.

The ideas behind some innovations are difficult to understand today. These “railway spectacles,” with their hinged double lens swung to the sides offered the eyes added the protection from sun, wind, and flying cinders. Placed in front they offered added magnification. But why was only one side of this particular pair tinted green?

Earpieces appear in many different configurations, like these retractable, spring-loaded ones.

The availability and development of strong plastics led to an explosion in eyeglass styles and colors.

Check out these and many more historic glasses and other artifacts on the History Connection, FCMoD’s online archives and collections database. They’re off the charts!

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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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