Make a Banjo Box

28 11 2011

A banjo is a string instrument, it produces music by vibrating strings. Banjos are normally played by plucking the strings, but strumming (running your fingers along the strings instead of grabbing and pulling them) creates sound too. Sound is made by the vibrations that send sound waves through the air. When you pluck the strings, they vibrate and make sound waves that reach your ear.

You can make your own musical instrument, just follow the instructions below for our banjo box!

Instead of strings we used rubber bands. You’ll notice the thinner rubber bands make a higher note. Why is this? It’s because the thinner the band the faster it vibrates, making a higher pitch. The thicker band vibrates slower, producing a lower note. Our banjo box is a million times easier to make than an actual banjo, and just as much fun!

All you need is:

  • An old box (we used a left-over soap box because it was small)
  • Rubber bands of different thickness
  • 2 Pencils, pens or markers (to raise the rubber bands from the box)

Just wrap the rubber bands around the box and slide the pencils under the bands to raise them, then you’re done! Wasn’t that easy? See how ours turned out:

We had a lot of fun playing our creative instrument. You can make instruments out of all sorts of found objects. This guy made a banjo with an old cigar box!

We admit he’s a little better at playing it than we are with our banjo box…


Thankful Turklings!

21 11 2011

The turkey is an American celebrity. It is one of the most famous birds in North America. In fact, Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the wild turkey the national bird of the United States instead of the bald eagle!The wild turkey we usually see in pictures is not the same as the domestic turkey that we eat at Thanksgiving. Domestic or tame turkeys weigh twice what a wild turkey does and are raised on farms. Most domestic turkeys are so heavy they are unable to fly.

Wild turkeys on the other hand, can fly. They sleep in the low branches of trees at night, and how else would they get to their bed but by flying. They spend their days foraging for food like acorns, seeds, small insects and wild berries. Wild turkeys are covered with dark feathers that help them blend in with their woodland homes. The bare skin on the throat and head of a turkey can change color from flat gray to striking shades of red, white, and blue when the bird becomes distressed or excited.

Each spring male turkeys try to befriend as many females as possible. Male turkeys, also called “tom turkeys” or “gobblers” puff up their bodies and spread their tail feathers, like a peacock. They grunt, make a gobble-gobble sound and strut about shaking their feathers. This fancy turkey trot helps the male attract female “hens” for mating.

After the female turkey mates, she prepares a nest under a bush in the woods and lays her tan and speckled brown eggs. She incubates as many as 18 eggs at a time. It takes about a month for the chicks to hatch. When the babies, known as “poults” or “turklings” hatch, they flock with their mother all year.

If you want to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, you can celebrate the celebrity of the turkey with us and make your own little turkling!

Follow the link below for instructions!

Read the rest of this entry »

The Haunting History of Jack

23 10 2011

Jack, an Irish blacksmith, had the misfortune of running into the Devil in a pub on Halloween.  The Devil thought Jack was easy prey, but the clever trickster made a bargain with the Devil.  In exchange for one last drink, Jack offered up his soul.  Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to pay.  The Devil changed his form to make payment, but Jack pocketed the coin in a bag with a silver cross. Jack knew that the cross would prevent the Devil from changing back.

Once in his purse, Jack only freed the Devil after he agreed not to claim his soul for ten years. Ten years later, the Devil met Jack walking on a country road and told him that he was there to collect his soul.  Jack asked the Devil if he would first climb an apple tree and get him an apple.  The Devil, having nothing to lose, climbed the tree, but as he reached for the apple, Jack pulled out his knife and carved the sign of the cross in the tree’s trunk. The Devil was unable to come back down until he had agreed never to claim Jack’s soul. Some years later, Jack died and went to Heaven.  But he was dismissed from the gate because he was too much of a stingy trickster to allow in.

Desperate for a resting place, he went to the Devil. The Devil, true to his word, turned him away. “But where can I go?” pleaded Jack. “Back where you come from,” spoke the Devil. The night was dark and the way was long, and the Devil tossed him a glowing coal from the fire.  Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been doomed to roam the Earth in darkness ever since. The Irish began to refer to his soul and ghostly light as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’ Lantern.”

Nowadays we carve lanterns into pumpkins in the shapes of scary faces to keep the spirits away. Stingy Jack made his lantern out of a turnip, and we made ours out of paper. Watch the slideshow below if you’d like to make your own paper Jack-O-Lantern at home…you want to be ready when all the ghouls come out on Halloween!

Print these out: Pumpkin Printout, Jack-O-Lantern Face CutoutsMore Face Cutouts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Costume Contest!

19 10 2011

Calling all dinosaurs in training! Are you the fiercest t. rex? How ’bout the most colorful triceratops? Then come into ACM and let us hear you roar!

This month, the Museum is hosting a Dino Costume Contest. If you think you’re the best-looking dino in town, then come in with your homemade costumes and you may win a membership here at The Austin Children’s Museum. In order to win as the most creative creature, you must follow these guidelines:

  • Make your dino-suit at home (must be homemade)
  • Wear it on your visit to the Museum
  • Take a photo wearing your costume with your fiercest dino-face in the Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice exhibit
  • Upload your photo to the ACM Facebook Album
  • Invite your friends and family to “like” your photo
  • The winner of the most popular photo will receive an ACM membership
  • Second and third place prizes will also be awarded

We’ve included instructions to make your very own costume, watch the slideshow below and follow the link to the costume instructions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have fun creating!

Read the rest of this entry »


13 10 2011

with my little eye… A FUN CRAFT!

Have you ever been bored on a road trip? Then you’ve probably played the I-Spy game. I-Spy is a guessing game, sometimes played in cars, where the fun is in the observation. There are many variations of the game, and right now at ACM, our newest favorite is the I-Spy Bottle. This fun craft is extremely easy to make and the possibilities of I-Spy combinations are endless!

Here’s the first one we made using random objects, an old water bottle, and plain white rice:

Some tips for making the bottle:

  • Gather items that you know will fit through the opening of the bottle
  • Use a funnel or make a paper one, so the filler (the rice) doesn’t spill
  • Try to add the filler and the objects in increments so the objects don’t all lump together
  • You can hot glue gun the top of the bottle if you want to avoid the contents spilling out in the excitement of I-Spying

You can make all sorts of themes with your I-Spy Bottles, use shells for an ocean theme, or creepy objects for a Halloween one. You can even vary the types of fillers you use: rice, pasta, beans, birdseed, lentils, beads, sand… it all works.

If you want to add another fun step in your I-Spy Bottle creation, try dyeing the filler you use, Momtastic has a great tutorial for coloring rice (it works on beans, pasta, and lentils too!) maybe you could make a rainbow themed bottle?

We even made a Dino-Spy Bottle in honor of our exhibit Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice! Check it out:

We used assorted beans to represent soil. It looks like the tiny triceratops is being excavated from the rocky remains!

Tell us how your bottles turned out, what theme did you choose?


10 10 2011

Dinosaur Diets...

Some dinosaurs were carnivores (meat-eaters) but most were herbivores (plant-eaters).

About 65% of the dinosaurs were plant eaters and 35% percent were meat-eaters. We know this because there are way more fossils found of herbivores than carnivores. For example, over a hundred Protoceratops fossils have been discovered, but only about a dozen T. Rex fossils have been found.

Within the dinosaur food chain it may have taken hundreds of acres of plants to feed a small group of Triceratops, but these Triceratops could supply a single T. rex with enough food to survive over its lifetime!

If you want to make your own herbivorous Triceratops and carnivorous T-Rex at home, you can demonstrate the dino-diet yourself, just download these neat activities: Dino-Bite Triceratops and Dino-Bite Tyrannosaurus Rex (all you need is a clothespin, glue, and something to color with!) Check out how ours turned out:

Share your clothespin creatures with us and let us know how your Dino’s Bite!

Stomp…stomp…CRUNCH!: Make your own Dinos!

21 09 2011

Have you heard a distant rumble? Could it be the footsteps of ancient giants approaching? Get ready because on September 24th, our newest exhibit, Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice opens at the Museum! We are taking a million steps back into the historic world where dinosaurs roamed free.

Here are drawings of a couple of very well known dinosaurs:



These dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the Jurassic Period. There has been fossil evidence discovered in the United States to prove that both the Stegosaurus and the Brontosaurus wandered our lands. If you want to learn more about these two dinosaurs go to  Science Kids – they give you a ton of cool facts about the Stegosaurus and Dinosaur Facts will tell you all about the Brontosaurus.

When you come to ACM to see our fall exhibit, there will be three different sections of dinosaur country to explore. We will have the Land of Fire (a warm dinosaur habitat), Land of Ice (a cold dinosaur habitat) and a Field Research station where you will investigate clues about dinosaurs and get to dig for bones. Each area will have games and activities that will be so much fun and you may learn a thing or two about the dinosaurs that you never knew existed.

A few species of dinos were found underneath the land here in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife will tell you about the dinosaurs that lived on our turf.

We found a dinosaur craft from Kids Craft Weekly that was super fun to make, click on the jump to see how to make a dinosaur!

Read the rest of this entry »