Family Science

Archive for the ‘Family Science’ Category

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

Froggy February

by rockprogram on Feb. 7th, 2014 No Comments


Do you know what makes an amphibian an amphibian? They are cold-blooded animals that can live on land and in water. Did you know that frogs are a type of amphibian? There are 5,600 species of frogs on our planet! Amphibians are some of the oldest animals that we see today. They evolved over 300 million years ago. That’s a really big family tree!

Breathing via Skin

Frogs, like most amphibians need to live in wet environments in order to keep their skin moist. It is crucial for a frog’s body to remain moist because frogs actually breathe through their skin! Unlike humans who breathe through their lungs, frogs use respiration to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide through their skin, making their skin an extremely important part of their body. If you want to understand more about the respiration process of frogs, try one of our lessons.

The Sounds of Love

Ribbit ribbit. That is the sound that we most closely associate with frogs. Frogs create an advertisement call that usually lets female frogs know that a male is ready to mate. Males will also call out to warn other males of its presence. There are many animals that use sound to communicate interest in members of the opposite sex. If you want to learn more about calls of the wild, come to the Junior Academy’s Naturalist Know How on Sunday afternoons in February!

Each different species of frog has its very own sound. That means that there are over 5,000 different calls that we can hear from frogs around the world! In the book “The Frogs and Toads of North America” by Lang Elliot, there is a supplemental audio-guide so you can hear a chorus of calls that frogs and toads make! The book can be found in the San Francisco Public Library.

Save the Frogs!

Unfortunately, many species of frogs in the world have disappeared and one of the reasons is a skin fungus called chytrid. Right now, there are scientists and researchers at the Academy that are trying to save the frogs. They are performing experiments using frogs from the Academy’s collection as well as samples from different species in Cameroon to find an antifungus that can fight off the spread of this disease. If you want to learn more about these scientists’ efforts to save the frog populations, watch this great video!

Digging for Treasures

by rockprogram on Jan. 7th, 2014 No Comments


What is a fossil? Have you ever looked at one? What do they feel like? Fossils are rocks that contain the imprint of leaves, shells, or bones that existed millions of years ago. We know of the existence of dinosaurs because Paleontologists and Archaeologists have found preserved evidence by digging in many locations around the world. I wonder what it’s like to dig and find such incredible treasures of the past!

Naturalist Know-How at the Academy

Are you visiting us on a Sunday and also wonder what it’s like to dig like a Paleontologist? Join the Naturalist Center during the month of January for their Junior Academy Workshop-Naturalist Know-How! This month’s skill is Puzzling Out the Past. Learn what archaeologists and paleontologists do on a dig. Space is very limited for youth ages 8 to 11 and their adults. Every Sunday at 2pm (onsite sign-up is required at 1:30pm) in the Naturalist Center (Level 3 across from the Planetarium exit).

Make Your Own Fossil

We know it takes millions of years for fossils to form. These creatures were buried in sediments and their remains were imprinted on the rock as time passed. Make a fossil using items found in your kitchen. Make sure to ask your parent’s permission first and have them help you too. What kind of fossils will you create?

At Home Lesson

What kind of tools are necessary for a palenotologist to dig in the field? Check out our lesson, What Kind of Geologist Am I, and become familiar with the tools used by these scientists to collect our Earth’s resources.