Family Science

What’s Your Ocean Promise?

by rockprogram on Jun. 6th, 2014 No Comments

california coast

Don’t you just love taking a stroll down the beach and taking in the ocean breeze? Maybe you have a favorite ocean animal you like to explore underwater or at the aquarium. Mine are jellyfish, but I also love seahorses! What’s yours? Oceans do so much for us! They provide us with entertainment, inspiration, but also supply us with food, and contain organisms that contribute to the air we breathe. Help us celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8th and every day. Be a part of this global celebration. How, can we celebrate? Find an event near you!

Rocky Reefs and More at the Academy!

Appreciate your ocean friends and be inspired to make a promise to our oceans while checking out our latest addition, Rocky Reefs. The new exhibit highlights a colorful 2,000-gallon tank of invertebrate life found off the California Coast. Make sure to test out the interactive display, to track the extraordinary migration pathways of sea turtles, sharks, and other long-distance travelers. Come admire the beauty our oceans provide. Don’t forget to stop by the Citizen Science station where you can contribute to an ongoing Academy research project and learn more about how to protect California’s coastal ecosystems.

Our oceans are filled with fish of different shapes and sizes. In this hands-on art activity, Fish Prints, students will study and identify features of the external anatomy of a fish, and learn about issues related to conservation of fish. Gather for story time and explore Sea Monsters.

Continue your appreciation with us! Help the Academy celebrate World Whale and Dolphin Day by adding your own stories and pictures to an interactive art installation in the East Garden. Learn about the challenges that whales may encounter in their ocean homes and what you can do to help. Open all-day in the East Garden from June 28th-29th.

Take a selfie for the sea

The selfie phenomenon, as we all know, has exploded all over social media as a means of self expression. Follow the next phenomenon! Take a selfie of yourself doing something for the ocean, or making a promise. Are you drinking out of a reusable water bottle? Take a selfie! I promise to carry my reusable bag to every grocery store and shopping center. What’s your ocean promise?

Every Skull Has a Story

by rockprogram on May. 7th, 2014 No Comments

Skulls Exhibit opens May 16

Have you ever looked at a human skull? If you have, you may have noticed how our eye sockets our positioned at the front of our skull. And you also may have noticed that our teeth include canines, incisors, and molars. Human skulls look pretty neat don’t they? But have you ever seen the skull of a hammerhead shark or that of a toucan?! Well, wait no more! These are some examples from the FASCINATING collection in Skulls, opening May 16th and running until November 30th. Trust me; you’re in for a treat in this highly interactive experience collected by Raymond “Bones” Bandar, an Academy research associate, who has been collecting skulls for more than 50 years!

Skulls of a Lifetime

Then make your way up to the Naturalist Center to see Bandar’s Bones: Skulls of a Lifetime. Curated by Bandar himself, the 10-case display is available now for viewing. You can see his personal display highlighting a variety of mammal skulls. In addition, the Naturalist Center will have lots of fun skull related activities all around. Check online for Naturalist Center hours as they may differ by day of the week.

Chomp, Bite, and Chew: How Do Our Teeth Do What They Do?

Let’s get to know our teeth! Teeth tell us a lot about what we eat and how we eat what we eat. With your family choose at least three types of food (choose different textures like apples, carrots, beef jerky, sunflower seeds, soft bread, etc.). Eat one item at a time and as you’re eating it, think about which teeth you use and how you use them. Did you tear with your front teeth first, then chew with your back teeth? Record your observations and continue discovering which teeth are used when eating the rest of your food items. Discuss your results with your family and talk about the function of each type of tooth.

What’s Their Story?

The next time you look at a skull, look very closely. Observe it for a couple minutes. Skulls tell us stories of our vertebrate animal friends. Head to your local library to check out Skulls : an exploration of Alan Dudley’s curious collection and explore beautiful pictures of more than 300 different animal skulls. Skulls tell us whether animals are predators or prey in their ecosystem (eye placement), or whether they are diurnal or nocturnal (relative eye size). They can also tell us whether an animal eats meat, or only enjoys greens, or both just by looking at their teeth. Ask yourself, “What’s their story?” You can find out more here.

Every Day is Earth Day

by rockprogram on Apr. 9th, 2014 No Comments


Have you ever thought about how awesome our planet is? Earth is so unique. Earth makes it possible for all life to call it home due to its breathable atmosphere, suitable climate, its ideal distance from the sun, and having the most necessary chemical, we know as water. This year, on April 22, let’s give Earth the biggest thank you yet, by learning more about our planet and exploring how to keep it clean for our future generations.

Let’s talk about one of the ways we here in San Francisco are taking care of our Earth. San Francisco has the highest rate of recycling and composting out of all the cities in the country. And by 2020, the city is challenging themselves to have zero waste! What does this mean? It means that all recyclables and compostables are not to be allowed in the trash which goes directly to a landfill. It means that all the stuff you put in your blue bin will be made into new bottles, cans, and other products. All the food, soiled-paper and plants that you sort into your green bin will be composted into nutrient-rich soil used by our local farmers. How are you sorting your trash? Work together to sort your trash at home by checking out our online lesson. Need a little help figuring out what goes where? Phoebe the Phoenix is here to give you some tips.


Now, that’s just one way to take care of our planet, Earth, but there are other ways we can be the best at taking care of it. Take a look at some of the great ways you can help and learn more about our planet this month!

Attend a beach cleanup on Earth Day-San Francisco Surfrider hosts multiple beach cleanups each month at Ocean Beach and Baker Beach. Volunteers are our greatest asset. And all you have to do is show up!
Try buying locally-Buying locally helps reduce the amount of carbon emissions emitted into our air. Local food products have minimal impacts on the environment.
Learn about the ground beneath your feet-Soil is a crucial element in the diverse ecosystems around the world. It is made up of nonliving materials like minerals from broken down rocks, and living materials like fungi and decaying plants. Join the Naturalist Center for Soil Sleuthing and learn about the different types of soil and how this diversity matters in seed development/growth.
Look for transportation alternatives-If you live in San Francisco, your options for public transportation are much easier and environmental friendly. Try biking or walking to school or places in your neighborhood. The Academy is one of many places that gives a discount to guests who walk or use public transportation.

These are just little reminders for Earth Day, but remember, we can appreciate our planet every day of the year. And most of all, enjoy it and appreciate it! Step outside and enjoy the natural world around you any chance you get. Every Day is Earth Day!

image credits:
Farmers Market Natalie Maynor

What is Biodiversity?

by rockprogram on Mar. 1st, 2014 No Comments


Many scientists are saying Biodiversity is vital to protecting our planet. What does that mean? Biodiversity is basically a list of everything living in a specific area from plants and animals down to fungus and microbes. Looking at those lists, we find complex relationships between species that help make an environment stable. Sounds like a huge task, but how can we help? The good news is that there are many citizen projects, such as Bioblitz, that anyone can join to help map the Biodiversity of our world.

White Poppy

Biodiversity: Why?

So, the species in an environment have a connection, but how does that affect us? For people, we depend on biodiversity for food, medicine, materials for building, clean water and air and resistance to disease, among many other needs for survival. Studying Biodiversity helps scientists to see how species work together and how we can keep different species from disappearing in order to keep life on Earth stable.



A Bioblitz is an event where scientists, naturalists and volunteers survey a particular area for a short period of time, recording all the living species they find. It is like a festival where the public is invited to take interest in their local biodiversity. Participants enjoy the chance to connect with scientists in their own neighborhoods, get outside and see the amazing life nearby, learn how to survey an area for species, and experience the joy of finding recognizable and uncommon species.

National Geographic’s official Bioblitz 2014 is in Golden Gate National Parks on March 28th and 29th! Go to their website for further information.

Can’t make it to on those dates? No problem! California Academy of Sciences has several ongoing Citizen Science projects to study biodiversity near San Francisco. Find information here to see how you can get involved anytime.


Find those reptiles!

California Academy of Sciences has a tremendous number of species on display, separated into their particular environments. Some scientists search for only one category of species when studying environments. Become a Herpetologist and take your family on a Reptile Scavenger Hunt. Take a closer look at those reptiles and see how they have adapted to fit into their preferred habitat.

Explore an Online World of Biodiversity.

The American Museum of Natural History has an entire kids website dedicated to Biodiversity. From games to books to interviews and quizzes, this website has so much to offer! Go to their website for all the activities appropriate for all age ranges.

image credits:
Female Mallard and Ducklings in Golden Gate Park Brocken Inaglory
White Poppy David Besa
Urban Coyote John Picken
Spreckles Pond Turtles David Ohmer

Bioblitz! The Perfect Sunday Refuge

by rockprogram on Feb. 19th, 2014 No Comments


Looking for something fun to do with the family this Sunday? Have you ever wondered what goes on below the surface of Lake Merritt? Well on February 23rd, you can find out for yourself with underwater robots called ROVs!

Come to Lake Merritt to check out the Bioblitz! Nerds for Nature have packed the day full of scientific activities that will be happening all around the Lake. Help conduct a survey of the biological diversity at Lake Merritt by recording observations of as many different organisms as possible.

Looking to get your hands a little dirtier? You will have a chance to get up close and personal with some of the creatures that live in mudflats of the Lake. And don’t forget to get wild and go for a nature walk around America’s oldest wildlife refuge. And did we mention that Bioblitz at Lake Merritt is free? All you have to do is RSVP by clicking here! You can check out Nerds for Nature’s recent brainstorm for the event to get a better idea of what the day will look like on their blog. Who in your family will be the Bioblitz superstar?! We hope to see you there!

image credits:
Bird’s View of Lake Merritt Sonny Abesamis Photography