SLC Young Ambassador Blog: Week 1

22 07 2013

     Hello, my name is Alana Zamora from San Marcos, Texas. This year, I was selected as a 2013 Smithsonian Latino Center Young Ambassador; Up to twenty-four graduating high school seniors are selected each year and are given the amazing opportunity to intern in a museum/cultural institution in their local community for four weeks. Currently, I am interning here at the Austin Children’s Museum. I will be posting weekly blog posts to describe my experience here at ACM, as well as, insights into the different summer camps that we offer at the Museum.Image

     This week, I worked directly with children, ages 7-10, that were enrolled in the ‘Inside Out’ full day summer camp program here at the Museum. For every full day camp, we go on daily field trips, experience innovative hands-on activities, and play in the Museum. This week, I assisted in leading science and art activities, played with the children in the museum and supervised them on the daily community field trips.

On Monday, July 1st, we took the children on a walk down to Lady Bird Lake, where we met with two students from the Department of Geological Sciences from The University of Texas at Austin. There, the two students directed the children, as well as myself and the other interns, on how to properly take water samples and how to measure the pH levels. We discussed with the children on what to do if the levels become harmful to the environment and how it can affect the community. When we returned to the Museum that afternoon, we led the children in an activity of designing boats, out of plastic containers and straws, that were durable enough to hold a few dollars worth in pennies.Image     On Tuesday, July 2nd, we took the children to the UT Department of Engineering. There, we met with two students, one studying to be a Chemical Engineer and the other to be a Mechanical Engineer. They instructed the children on how to create their own little ‘rocket’s made out of a straw and tape. After the field trip, we returned to the Museum and started our hands-on activities. I interacted with the children, asking them what they knew abut meteors and craters. Then, I led an activity where the children dropped different sized balls into a bucket of cocoa, and they had to measure the size of the ‘crater’ and describe what it looked like. In the next activity, we gave the children their own Styrofoam ball and they had the opportunity to color and create their own planet.


On Wednesday, July 3rd, we took a field trip to the Goodwill Computer Museum. There, we all had a tour of the museum and learned the history of electronics. Since 1994, Goodwill started a collection of hardware, software, and documentation of recycled electronics. We also learned that Goodwill gives back to the community when you donate items to them; Some of the money that is made by Goodwill goes to helping their employees, as well as other community members, achieve their GED. When we returned to the Museum, we had two activities for the children to participate in: One was, taking apart computers and keyboards, and then putting them back together. The second one was, building their own circuits with circuit blocks and ‘alligator’ clips.


     On Friday, July 5th, we took a field trip to Dell Children’s Hospital, where we were given a tour of the pediatrician’s office and of an operating room. We all learned how to take blood pressure, measure height and weight, perform an ultrasound scan, and how to prevent spreading germs. When we returned to the Children’s Museum, the other volunteers, interns and I led activities in dissecting owl pellets and how to create a lung model, using a water bottle and balloons.Image

Overall, this week has been amazing! The children are so bright and intelligent; I am confident that these individuals will become the strong leaders of our future. I am very excited for the weeks to come! I enjoy the diversity of the interns and campers; Everyone is so unique and there is definitely never a dull moment at camp. Between all of the tours and activities, I hope the children have learned as much as I have. I have never really been interested in science before, but after this week, I find it very engaging! I honestly wish I had attended a summer camp like this when I was younger.Image


World Water Day 2012

22 03 2012

Water is the most basis requirement for life. It is something that, in many countries, take for granted.

World Water Day was created in 1993 and has taken place on March 22nd every year since.  On this day, people are encouraged to not use, or use as little as possible, their home water supplies.

Every year since World Water Day began, they have centered the day around a certain topic. This year they have chosen to use:

 Water and Food Security: The World is Thirsty Because We are Hungry.

All of your everyday activities use water whether that is for drinking, cooking or washing but mostly it is used for producing food, paper, clothes, etc.

There is a large amount of water required to produce the food that we eat everyday, more than you might think. It is recommended that you drink between 2 and 2.5 Liters of water a day. However it takes 15,000 liters to create 1kg of beef.

Water is a renewable source but we do not have an infinite amount of it.

Here is an example list of just how much water you may use daily.
1. Slice of Bread :40 Litres
2. Bag of Potato Chips:185 Litres
3. Portion of Olives:250 Litres
4. Beef Steak: 7000 Litres
5. Apple:70 Litres
6. Cup of Tea:35 Litres
7. Tomato: 13 Litres
8. Glass of Apple Juice: 190 Litres
9. Potato: 25 Litres
10. Serving of Lettuce: 13 Litres
11. Hamburger: 2400 Litres
12. Glass of Milk:200 Litres
13. Cup of Coffee: 1 40 Litres
14. Egg:135 Litres
Total:10726 Litre

So for one day, why not try keeping your water usage low and conserve water.

Heat is not the straw that breaks a camel’s back

22 08 2011

Caravanning around Central Texas is seemingly getting hotter and hotter. The highest temperatures in Austin have been above 100 degrees during the day and moderately humid. Check out the Kids Weather Channel page for more information on the weather in Austin. Ever wish you could keep cool like a camel does?

This is a Bactrian camel.

Camels are natives to places with extreme weather such as hot summers or cold winters. A camel keeps itself cool during periods of heat by it’s use of the very recognizable hump or humps on its back. Many people think that camels store water in their hump but actually they have a fatty tissue that can be converted into energy and water when there is need. Camels can survive many warm days and nights without food or water. A camel also keeps itself warm in the winter with its very thick, shaggy coat that protects it from cold temperatures. When summer comes around again a camel sheds its thick fur by molting, so that it will be able to stay cool.

There are two species of camels the Dromedary and the Bactrian and you can tell the difference by the shape of their back. Dromedary camels have one hump and are native to the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. Bactrian camels have two humps and are native to Asia and are critically endangered.

The Jungle Store has collected information on camels such as:

  • They are very smart animals with great eyesight and near perfect hearing
  • They are so strong that they are able to carry loads of 900 pounds, but usually carry no more than 450 pounds
  • Baby camels have no hump at birth. They will not develop one until they begin eating solid food
  • A camel is often called the “ship of the desert” because when being ridden they gallop and the person may feel seasick

National Geographic Kids tells us that a very thirsty camel can drink up to 30 gallons of water in only 13 minutes. Did you know that a baby camel is born with a white coat which will eventually turn brown as it grows up? Just like this baby and its mother:

We hope you’ve learned as much about camels as we here at ACM have. Can you answer this question?

Tell us what else you know!

What Can Water’s Surface Tension Do?

14 12 2010

Water particles are attracted to each other from all sides. The particles on the surface only have each other to bond with, because there are not particles on top of them.  This attraction creates a thin skin, called surface tension.  Very light objects, like paper clips, can float on water if they do not break the surface tension.

When you simply drop a paperclip into a cup of water the surface tension breaks, causing the paper clip to sink.  It is possible to gently lay a paper clip on top of the water. This is very difficult, because if  your fingernail touches the surface you will break the tension. One trick is to lay a small piece of paper towel on top of the water and then pace the paperclip on top. This allows the paperclip to gently ease 0nto the water. The paperclip will float even after the paper towel sinks to the bottom!

Do you have any other tips for making a paper clip float? Leave a comment letting us know.

Ocean Art: Using Wax and Water

26 11 2010

Have you ever noticed water droplets pooling up on the top of leaves and dripping off? The waxy layer on the outside of leaves is called the cuticle and makes the leaves waterproof. This keeps moisture inside the plant, allowing the rain water to soak into the soil and into the pant’s roots.

You can see wax repel water through this art project.  I drew fish using crayons, markers and colored pencils.  Crayons are made from wax.

Then I painted over the picture with blue watercolor paint, so it looks like it is under the ocean.  You can see how the yellow fish repelled the paint. The purple marker smeared a little, because it was also water based and mixed with the paint.

Leave a comment letting us know what you discovered when making your own creation.

Make a Water Motor with a Milk Carton

25 10 2010

Have you been to the Notion of Motion exhibit here at the Museum? Come and explore the turntable, cloud ring machine, and much more anytime before Jan. 23! You can also learn about motion by making this water motor out of a milk carton at home.

Cut off the top of the carton. Next, make an equal size hole in the bottom left-hand corner of each side of the carton. Then cut two small holes near the top of the carton  on opposite sides, so you can attach a handle.  Take a piece of string and tie it to each side of the carton. Finally,  take a second piece of sting and tie it to the middle of the handle.

Hold the carton by the second piece of string that you attached to the middle of the handle. Pour a large glass of water into the carton and watch to see which way it spends. You can cover your first set of holes with tape and make new holes on the right-hand corners or in the middle to experiment.

When observing your water motor remember Isaac Newtons Third Law of Motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

We got the idea to make this water motor at

Salt Art Shows Evaporation

6 10 2010

Make a unique piece of art while learning about evaporation.

Put 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of warm water into a bowl. Stir the water and salt together with a few drops a food coloring.  You can make as many colors as you like.  Use a paintbrush to paint with the salt solutions.

Leave the painting out overnight. The water will evaporate leaving the colorful salt behind.

This is my painting before all the water evaporated.