Posts Tagged 'Discovery Science Center'

Bugging out (part II)

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation (and bug fan)

In part I of this post, I wrote about a field trip to the Poudre River to collect aquatic insects. Along with being fun to catch and fascinating to look at, aquatic insects are also very important to the ecosystems they live in. These insects are a major food source for waterfowl and fish (most “flies” for fly-fishing are modeled after aquatic insects), and can also be biological indicators of ecosystem health. According to Dr. Kondratieff at Colorado State University, the Poudre River isn’t as healthy as it could be and even though we found a lot of insects, we didn’t find a lot of different species. Usually, the healthier a river, the more species you’ll find.

As it continues to get warmer, more and more insects will be visible around Fort Collins. If you haven’t tried it already, go insect hunting! It doesn’t need to be a complicated production involving waders (although, if you get the chance…), it can be as simple as sitting down on the grass and taking a close look around you – you’ll be surprised at what you see. Just remember these tips:

  1. If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. Many insects bite, sting, pinch and cause allergic reactions, so it’s always better to assume an insect will bring the pain until you know better.
  2. The best way to learn what insects you’re finding is to have an identification book with you. “Guide to Colorado Insects” by Whitney Cranshaw and Boris Kondratieff is a great tool, full of photos and easy to understand descriptions (and available in the museum’s gift shop).
  3. Leave insects where you find them. While it’s tempting to create your own insect collection, some endangered insects are protected by laws that make it illegal to collect them. Even if an insect isn’t endangered, it has an important role to play in the ecosystem it belongs to so it should be left where it is.
  4. Try keeping an insect log. How many kinds of insects can you find in a day? In a month? Can you find examples from all the orders (there are anywhere from 24-27 orders, depending on which scientist you talk to)? How many different kinds of beetles can you find (they make up approximately 22% of the world’s described, living species, so get counting!)?
  5. Visit the Discovery Science Center’s “Bugville” exhibit while you still can (it’s open through May 30th) to learn a whole lot more about insects than I can cover here.

We’re still figuring out how insects will be incorporated into our new museum, so when you come to visit us, you’ll have to leave the insects at home (at least for the time being).


Last Month to Visit Bugville at Discovery Science Center

by Deb Price,Education Coordinator, Discovery Science Center

As Discovery Science Center prepares to close the doors at its current site on Prospect Road May 30, visitors have a last chance to visit the popular Bugville exhibit.

During the month of June, Discovery Science Center will be trasitioning many of its exhibits to the Fort Collins Museum, where both sites will open together as one institution June 30. The brand new building to house the new science and history museum will begin construction sometime next year.

In the mean time, Discovery Science Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm through May 30 at 703 E. Prospect Road. Admission is $7 for adults, $5.50 for seniors (60+), and $5 for children ages 3-12.

For more information about the move and the new museum project, please visit the partnership website at

Come enjoy Bugville one more time!

Come enjoy Bugville one more time!

New museum news

The Loveland Reporter-Herald published a great story about the new museum yesterday:

It’s going to be an exciting summer as the Fort Collins Museum and the Discovery Science Center start operating under one roof — a big step towards realizing the vision of our new museum. Stay tuned — and come see us often!

Listening in museums

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation, Fort Collins Museum

I’ll let you in on a secret – sometimes I spy on you in the museum.

Not in a “Mission Impossible,” hanging from the ceiling sort of way (because I know I’d get tangled in the wires and end up dangling upside down by one foot in front of Frank Miller’s Mud Wagon), but do I like to watch and listen to you when you’re here. I care about what exhibits you visit, and what things you say when you’re visiting. It’s all part of what helps us create better experiences for all our visitors.

Normally, most of you do the same things in our exhibits. You stand in front of objects, you look at them, you open drawers, and you push buttons. You do exactly what we hoped you would in that exhibit. Everyone once in a while, though, one of you surprises me. I had one of my most interesting surprises last week.

Last Thursday I went down to our gallery and watched a little girl and boy and their grandmother. The grandmother stood in front of objects, looked at them, and opened drawers (expected), the brother ran around pretending he was a cowboy with a laser gun (also expected), but the little girl did something I had never seen before. She walked up to objects, leaned in closely, closed her eyes, and listened. She listened to baskets, coyotes, bison bones, and Folsom points. When her grandmother asked what she was listening to, the little girl replied, “Stories.”

The idea that objects are vehicles for stories is not a new one for museums. We know that the story of an object is often just as interesting as the object itself, and that those stories help situate “things” within the larger scope of human experience. However, as a museum, one of our jobs is to tell you those stories, because the objects aren’t supposed to speak for themselves. Or can they?

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work in preparation for the June 6th opening of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, which includes the Lindenmeier Site, an archaeological site that reaches back 12,000 years. Several of the Native American tribal elders we’ve worked with to better understand the history of the area have talked about the spirits that objects have, and the stories you’ll hear if you know how to listen.

I don’t know what that little girl heard as she leaned close to our pine needle basket. Did she hear Helen Dickerson, the woman who wove it, and the adventures she and her sister Alice had living in a cabin in Buckhorn Canyon? Did she hear the pine tree whose needles were given to make that basket? Or does the basket have its own story, one that I don’t even know?

This morning our gallery is quiet, and as I walk through it I can easily believe that if I lean in close enough to that pine needle basket, it will tell me its secrets. Not too long from now our museum will become a lot noisier. When the Discovery Science Center moves its exhibits into the Fort Collins Museum, the gallery will be filled with the fantastic, excited noise of DSC’s devoted fan base of kids and their families. But if you listen closely, I wonder what else you might hear.

Could you hear the coyote's story?

Could you hear the coyote's story?

Virtual Space Community event this Saturday at DSC

by Jason Wolvington, Associate Director, Discovery Science Center

As you may know, Discovery Science Center was recently awarded a $15,000 grant by Space Center Houston to participate in the national Virtual Space Community program. Discovery Science Center is one of four science museums chosen across the nation to launch the program.

vsc-logo3Our first program, “Journey Through the Solar System,” was a huge success. The live video conference enabled visitors to ask questions directly to Space Center Houston experts, as well as take a “virtual” tour of the exhibits and spacecrafts on display at the space center.

Our next Virtual Space Community event is this Saturday, April 4, at noon at Discovery Science Center. Take a trip back in time to remember the beginning of space exploration through a special video conference from Space Center Houston, and look forward in time to NASA‘s plans for future space exploration. Visit our StarLab planetarium shows, and take part in other hands-on rocket activities. Hope to see you there! And keep your eyes peeled here on our blog for an exciting space program and exhibit happening later this summer.

Tales from a Space Blogger

by Beth Higgins, Public Relations/Development Coordinator, Fort Collins Museum

In 2006, my mom and dad retired and did the quintessential mom-and-dad-are-retired thing, and bought a house along the Florida coast – the “Space Coast” to be exact – on Merritt Island, just three miles from the Kennedy Space Center. Although my mom died in late 2006, dad kept the house, and our family has managed to make the trip from Colorado to Florida a few times since then.

Our last trip to Merritt Island earlier this month was above and beyond the normal fantastic. This time, we got to watch the space shuttle Discovery launch from the Kennedy Space Center on March 15. From the back of a boat. At twilight. “Wow” doesn’t even start to describe it.

Originally we weren’t even going to be there for the launch – it was scheduled for Wednesday, March 11th and we weren’t arriving until Friday. But, there was a problem with a fuel cell requiring, I’m sure, more than one trip to Ace Hardware. And then they had to launch by the 12th in order to meet up with the International Space Station before the Russians were scheduled for their rendezvous. Apparently, to our great surprise, the Russians were caught in traffic and running late, so the launch was re-scheduled for the 15th.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. We made our way on Dad’s boat through the canals just before dusk. The launch was scheduled for 7:45, a twilight launch, supposedly the best kind. We joined a line of boat traffic at the Barge Canal…pontoons, sailboats, fishing boats, small motor boats, big boats. We all churned or sailed our way to the channel to get a good spot. We successfully anchored (yeah, Dad!) and turned on the radio. We had about 15 minutes to wait. On the boat was my dad Paul, his wife Karen, me, my husband Gary, my 8 year old son Brennan, my brother Paul, my sister Megan, and her friends Ashley and Chris.  Chris, Megan and Ashley are teachers – Megan and Chris teach science. Chris brought his video camera (thanks, Chris! You can see his video below). We all sat in the back of the boat, taking picture after picture of a gorgeous sunset, when we heard we had one minute to launch.

You couldn’t see the shore from the boat, so we just peered north and waited. Suddenly, it seemed the sun had come up in the west.  A huge fireball sat on the horizon, just hanging there for a few seconds. And then it lifted. We screamed, as did everyone else on all the boats around us. We hooted and hollered, and fell into stunned silence as the bright, orange light climbed higher. Then hooted and hollered again. Boats sounded their horns in that low, wailing complaining sound. Brennan watched through binoculars, while we all snapped picture after picture. About a minute after the launch, just as it seemed the shuttle would fly right over us, we heard the thunder. The sound shook the boat and vibrated in our chests. The smoke from the shuttle turned shades of orange, and pink, and purple far above our heads as it passed through the path of the setting sun. We watched the booster rockets fall away, and then, the fire disappeared. Instead, there was a long trail of smoke and what looked much like a star heading north. We were speechless. We felt that great sense of participation. We knew that we were incredibly lucky to have been a part of the launch, and that none of us would ever forget it.

After a bit of effort we pulled anchor and merged into the line of boats heading back to homes along the canals. We couldn’t stop talking about the launch. We laughed, and replayed it over and over again: Did you see when…? Did you hear…? I couldn’t believe…!

I know we’ll go back to the Kennedy Space Center again, especially now that we’ve been a part of this. And I also know that while I may never have the desire to hurl myself skyward and rocket through space, I was struck by the beauty and magnificence of the shuttle launch. I felt like part of a larger community, knowing that thousands were watching from streets and backyards all over Florida, and I was part of a smaller boat-bound community, yelling over the waves. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I hope you, too, have an opportunity to experience it someday. Let me know, though, so I can reserve your spot on the boat.

Today, space shuttle Atlantis is rolling out to the launch pad for its upcoming mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. You can track its progress here. Also, don’t forget to check out the Virtual Space Community events at our very own Discovery Science Center! The next one is scheduled for this Saturday, April 4, from 12-1pm. In partnership with Space Center Houston, the program is broadcast live from Texas to DSC. During the broadcast, you can interact with the presenters and ask questions about space and the space program.

The “World Window” at DSC

Last Saturday visitors to Discovery Science Center were treated to a program presented by Dr. Andrew Warnock of Colorado State University’s Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (CSMATE), featuring his World Window — a fantastic interactive 3-D visualization system. Which explains the stylish glasses!

The audience enjoys the "Discover 3-D" program

The audience enjoys the "Discover 3-D" program

Show-goers watched amazing natural phenomena in 3-D, including the eruption of the Paricutin volcano. According to Dr. Warnock, “The 3rd dimension is a critical element of imagination that is missing from the worksheets, textbooks, and computer screens that dominate classrooms today.” This was a really fun way to introduce kids to a new way of seeing science, and they had a chance to make their own 3-D picture to take home.

Check out photos from First Friday!

The First Friday event at the Fort Collins Museum last week was a great success! We had a full house in the Gallery to listen to traditional Irish fiddle music with “antique musicians” Larry Lashley and Ben Alexander. Our friends from Discovery Science Center were also on hand to talk about serpent legends and myths with their wonderful ball python, Slinky! Go to our Flickr site to see all the pictures (many thanks to our photographer Melanie Barge), and join us in April for our next First Friday event, “The Move to Fort Collins: Local History Stories of Immigration.”


Ben Alexander and Larry Lashley perform at First Friday


Now more than ever

by Annette Geiselman, Executive Director, Discovery Science Center 

In this economy … in our community … now more than ever … the new Fort Collins Museum/Discovery Science Center project is a shining light. We began planning the future of the new museum in 2004 and initiated the fundraising campaign in 2005. We have over 70% of our funding needs secured and we have the first phase of our exhibit master plan completed. We’ve benchmarked the best practices of the best museums and we’ve hired consultants who are the best in the industry. Because so much of this work is already completed, the new museum project has unstoppable momentum and we will build a museum that will serve as a source of pride and enjoyment for our community for decades to come.

We’re incredibly excited about all that’s been accomplished, and everything that’s to come. We’ll be using this blog to keep you up-to-date about the new museum, and also to let you know what’s going on at the Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center in the meantime — which will continue to be fun, engaging, and full of great experiences. Come explore with us!

March 2023

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