The reindeer are back! This year these amazing creatures are the star of the ‘Tis the Season for Science.
Roam on over to the Academy
This season we’re learning how reindeer, and their wild relatives the caribou, survive and thrive in the wintry Arctic. Touch caribou fur and see why it insulates so well. See how caribou find food hidden under snow. Watch caribou antlers grow and touch pieces of real antler. Watch caribou move and see how their feet help them stay on the surface of the snow.
After you learn all about these amazing creatures, don’t forget to follow the migration tracks to the East Garden to visit our friendly live reindeer and see them up close and in action. One of our reindeer experts will be there to answer any questions that you may have.
Outside the Academy
Experience how caribou feet help them stay on the surface of the snow
In the Bay Area, snow is a rarity, but there are sandy beaches with dunes. Walking in sand is a lot like walking in snow. The next time you go to the beach with your family, bring some home-made “sandshoes”, or, if you have them, actual snow shoes. To make a sandshoe, cut stiff cardboard into pieces that are bigger than your feet, but not so big that you can’t walk with them on. Place your foot or shoe on the cardboard and make four holes surrounding the foot. You can tie the cardboard on with shoelaces. Before heading to the beach, we suggest that you test out your shoes to make sure you’re able to walk in them.
At the beach, find some loose sand dunes. Walk around in your shoes or in your bare feet and notice how your feet quickly sink into the sand every time you take a step. Then stop and strap your sandshoes to you feet and start walking. Notice how you don’t sink as much or as quickly, and how much easier it is for you to walk. You may decide that you will use sandshoes whenever you go for a stroll on the beach!
Learn more about the people who live with reindeer
The Sami people of northern Europe rely on reindeer for food, shelter, and clothing. To learn more about Sami family life, read the Far North by Jan Reynolds [available at SFPL] with your children.
Have you noticed the change in the air? The days are becoming shorter, the nights are growing longer, and the air is crisp and chilly. Autumn is upon us!
As the seasons change, so do many plants and animals. Some of these changes are obvious: a honking flock of geese migrating south for winter might catch our attention, or the leaves on a deciduous tree will change from green, to gold, to red, to gone. However, some changes are much more subtle, and are well worth keeping an eye out for. There are many ways to explore the changing seasons, both at the Academy of Sciences and at home. With your family (and perhaps a jacket!), try watching autumn in some new ways.
Watch the Sunset at Home
We know the days are getting shorter, but by how much? Step outside with your family and watch the sunset while or peek through the window and write down your observations. Using a watch, keep track of how much earlier the sun is setting each day. If you have a thermometer handy, you can also record how the temperature is changing. Compare your answers by clicking on California and selecting your city, and see how close your observations are.
How Will our Living Roof Change?
Our Living Roof is a great place to watch the seasons change. If you have visited during the spring or summer, you might immediately notice a difference. Make predictions about how this roof will change as we get closer to winter. Which species will tolerate the cold, wet winter? Which ones will fade away until spring? Ask a docent stationed on the roof or visit the Naturalist Center to learn more about the species that live there.
Hi families! This October we’ve got some special activities lined up for you. Free Days, Science Backpacks and Card Games, oh my!
Neighborhood free days started this weekend and run for the rest of the month. Check out the list to see when your zipcode can come. One tip is that it’s for 3 whole days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Plus it’s not as crowded as our Quarterly free-for-everyone days.
When you’re here at The Academy, go on a Junior Scientist Adventure! It’s a new program, where you begin by picking up a backpack full of activities and scientific gear from coat check. Pick three activities on the guide within to do as a whole family. When you’re finished, head up to the Naturalist Center to report out on your scientific findings. We’ll have a presenter stationed at the Naturalist Center twice a day who would love to see your drawings and hear more about what you found.
Finally, we’ve got a card game that you can print out and play with your children, Go Bug! This is like Go Fish, except you’re collecting the life cycle cards for various bugs. You’ll collect the egg, nymph and adult for some bugs, other bugs require egg, pupa, larva and adult cards. These are different kinds of metamorphosis that bugs go through as they grow. You can start a fascinating conversation with your children if you ask them how they grow is similar or different to the way bugs grow. Or try acting out the different stages of the life cycles.
Have you ever heard of the Galapagos Islands? Zoom in and try to find it on this map. Hint: It’s neighbor is the country of Ecuador. Did you find them?! These islands formed as a result of erupting lava that cooled down as lava rock from volcanic activity on the ocean floor. Over time these lava rocks grew and grew into an archipelago, a cluster of islands. There are many endemic species (species native to this area) to the Galapagos, but how did they get to an area that is hundreds of kilometers away from any continent?
Settling on the islands
By playing our bingo game in our lesson, Coincidental Colonization,you’ll experience first-hand how chance plays a big role in the successful dispersal of your species to an area such as the Galapagos. Notice the different ways species could have colonized or settled on these islands. What species will you choose? Maybe the blue footed boobie or the Galapagos tortoise? How will it settle?
Cal Academy’s Expeditions to the Galapagos
Take a look here at one of our scientist’s expedition 800-m deep in a submersible capable of withstanding the enormous pressure so deep into the ocean. John McCosker has made many discoveries, including fish found only in the waters of the Galapagos. Next time you visit us here at the California Academy of Sciences in our Islands of Evolution exhibit, check out the specimens collected during this expedition along with other specimens such as the Galapagos tortoises and Darwin’s famous finches which were collected on previous expeditions.
Galapagos Islands Charlie Zielinski
Have you ever heard of minibeasts? You’ll find them in Africa and all around the world. You’ve probably seen them outside your home and maybe even in your home! Slugs, snails, spiders, butterflies, bees and beetles are all minibeasts. They don’t have backbones and you don’t need a microscope to see them, though you often have to look closely in order to find them. This month we are suggesting that you go on a minibeast hunt at home, in the park or in Tusher African Hall. If you like them, we even have a way for you to create your own minibeast habitat at home.
Hunt in Africa
Did you know that we display minibeasts in our dioramas in Tusher African Hall? Ask your children to try to find the insects on display during your next visit. There are five different species. To help you out, they are:
After you hunt minibeasts you can ask your children: “What was your favorite minibeast and why?” You can brainstorm how to make more habitats for that minibeast. If you have a little bit of space in your yard or balcony, you can make a home for one or more types of minibeast. Here’s one how-to. Here at the Academy, we used the guide to make a minibeast habitat in the Academy garden! In it we’ve found: milipedes, centipedes, worms, snails, slugs, spiders, and wood lice ( also known as roly-polies)!
Hunt near Home
Sticking close to home, you can start your hunt for minibeasts. After you introduce minibeasts to your children, ask them to suggest places to look for minibeasts. You can take this handy minibeast key with you, to help you identify them. Great places to look are under objects resting on the ground, such as twigs, rocks and leaves. Also look for flowering plants, as those flowers are often designed to attract flying minibeasts. A crack in the pavement, with a bit of soil and a few small plants, can be a minibeast refuge. One woman in the UK videos the minibeasts that she finds in her town. Can you find the ladybird larva in the video? Your children could digitally capture the minibeasts that they find. Are your minibeasts like the ones in the UK?
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Comments & Questions
Curious about our exhibits or collections? Confused about something? Want to share your experience? Submit your comments and questions to: email@example.com. We’ll respond to your thoughtful inquiries here in the Family Science newsletter.
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Each month we will highlight activities you can do with your family here at the Academy, out in the community or in your own home.
Cada mes vamos a destacar las actividades que se puede hacer con su familia aquí en la Academia, de la Comunidad o en su propia casa.
To sign up, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Home / En la Casa
In the Exhibits / En el Exposicionesa
Originally created for families participating in the Rock Program, these activity guides contain colorful pages that teachers can print as ready-to-go worksheets. The guides were designed for upper elementary school students, and are conveniently bilingual!
Family Science Guide (English/Spanish)
Family Science Guide (English/Chinese)
Access / Aceso
If you are a resident of San Francisco there are certain days each year that you can come for free. San Francisco Neighborhood Free Days
Check Out SF Family Pass.
This pass can be found at any local SF public library can get you and your family in for free at the museum.
Este pase familiar se puede encontrar en cualquier biblioteca pública de SF. Usted y su familia puede obtener admisión gratis en esta museó.
This website is made possible by the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Fund for the Enhanced Museum Visits for Students program.
Hecho posible por Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock para el Programa Enhanced Museum Visits.