Friday, May 27, 2011

Critters Among Us

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Critters Among Us

Lilly and Squeakers are best friends and cage mates. They live in a four story condominium that was custom made for them and furnished with ladders, hammocks, and the finest of bedding. They get room service everyday with their favorite foods (corn, cheese, cheerios, lettuce, carrots, seeds, etc.). The two female rats are among the many critters that inhabit Port Discover.

Did you know that rats have personalities? Squeakers is a thief while Lily is a hoarder. The thief who was the first to move in is fatter than the hoarder. At first they didn’t have much to do with each other and slept in separate hammocks. Then one day when the center was opened one hammock was empty, and we thought someone had escaped. On second inspection, they were both in the same hammock on the top floor. Ever since that, they usually are found napping together.

Although sometimes reluctant, adult and kid visitors to the center enjoy holding the long tailed pets. The rodents use their tails to control their body temperature because they cannot sweat. A rat’s teeth are always yellow upon maturity and don’t stop growing until the animal’s death. Both of these characteristics make the creatures unappealing to some people. Once you understand them, you might accept them.

Rats have been proven to make a laughter like noise which is unable to be heard by the human ear alone when tickled and to dream while sleeping. They have terrible eyesight so you’ll rarely see them in the middle of a room where their whiskers aren’t touching the wall.

Normal lifespan for the friendly creatures is 3 years with the oldest having been 7 years and 4 months. Females can produce 1-20 babies every month until the age of 2. That’s a potential of 460 offspring.

Neighbors of the rats are a Cope’s gray tree frog, a toad, some Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Bess beetles, a variety of fish, and most recently 3 freshly hatched chickens.

The North Carolina Extension Service provided us with an incubator and some fertilized chicken eggs. We then set everything up so that the hatching process could be seen on our website. After 3 days we had 3 noisy chicks and lots of visitors to share in the excitement.

The next big animal event will be the creation of butterflies in the front window of the center. Right now the caterpillars are feasting on the parsley planted for their enjoyment. We await the day when beautiful butterflies appear for our enjoyment.

The emphasis on hands-on science at the center has reached a new level with the installation of the Kids Grow Garden. Lots of big and little hands have made the thriving garden a reality over the last month. A wide variety of vegetables and herbs live in the transformed downtown area. Both animals and plants live in endless varieties among us and bring us immeasurable joy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The People You’ll Meet

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

The People You’ll Meet

One of the luxuries of semi-retirement is that you enjoy the gift of time and you can decide how you will use that time. Do you remember when “stop and smell the flowers” was a popular saying? Well, now I would say, “stop and enjoy the people.” In my mini-retirement job the thing I have enjoyed the most is meeting a greater variety of people.

Every day I am enlightened and surprised by the people that interact at Port Discover. An amazing array of folks come to both enjoy the benefits of the center and to contribute their talents to its mission.

Last year Port Discover had approximately 10,000 contacts which is about 200 per week. Most of the students are from ages one year to age 12. Some come with their parents and others come with school groups.

The students touched by the outreach education programs performed by the science educators is another big group. Students from Girls Inc., the Boys and Girls Club, La Casa, and the YMCA attend the monthly after-school programs. Birthday parties are held at the center and kids learn while they celebrate.

Parents of young children sometimes arrange play dates with friends so their children can enjoy the toddler section together. It is interesting to see the interaction between parent and child while they are both in the teaching-learning mode.

Grandparents are frequent visitors with their grandchildren. Often the kids are visiting, and the grandparent knows that Port Discover is a place where they can interact with a purpose. Both participants have a good time and leave feeling that the time was well spent.

Sometimes families who are taking extended trips by boat and are home schooling their children spend time using the educational resources available at the center. One family who visited the center had sold their home and business and had traveled down the Mississippi River and was on the way to Maine. They had spent a year on their journey and shared some of their adventures and observations about our area. Port Discover and the Museum were featured in their blog that week.

A family from Canada brought their year old son to experience the exhibits. They became so interested in the Kids Grow garden project that the father volunteered several hours laboring in the garden. Another family from Canada traveling by sailboat brought their children and spent the afternoon. The mother was a teacher of Eskimo children and was on a paid sabbatical leave.

Volunteers include students from ECSU, MACU, NHS, PHS, and NC School of Math and Science. Retired teachers, parents, grandparents, USCG members, Port Discover members, and other interested citizens volunteer their time to make the many activities at Port Discover happen.

If you’d like to be involved in helping kids broaden their horizons about science and education in general, come and join in on the fun. You’ll meet people who share your interests and are making their world a better place for today and tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Finding The Energy

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Finding The Energy

Invention, innovation, and creativity power our country and have made the United States an example for the world to follow. Someone is reputed to have said in 1899 that “Everything that can be invented has been.” We now know that our world is limitless—except when it comes to energy to power our inventions. Now we’ve got to find more energy.

In our daily lives we have moved toward conservation and using renewable energy as much as possible. Alternative energy sources like wind and solar are constantly being sought. We’ve been here before as a county during the eighties, but we seemed to lose our motivation then. This time, there are so many countries competing for energy that our efforts must become more serious.

Here’s where the kids come in. Since they are natives in the world of technology, and adults are usually just visitors, we must educate them to explore the possibilities. Their knowledge and understanding of science will be critical in the creation of new sources.

Port Discover will offer several opportunities for kids to develop a vision of the energy world of tomorrow. On May 26 Dr. Althea Bluilett, assistant professor of physics at Elizabeth City State University, will teach a program on alternative energy. Students will observe simple motors and generators in action and work in groups to build an alternative energy motor for display.

In the new “Kids Grow Garden” behind the center, a watering system using rain water collected in barrels and powered by the sun has been installed by Solar Garden Sitter. The company based in Edenton and created by Gary and Joan Lee proclaims that it is the only solar powered programmable rain barrel irrigation system available.

Port Discover will benefit from this innovation as well as have an opportunity to teach visitors about the concepts involved. During a one inch rain more than 700 gallons of water runs off the average roof. That’s enough to supply 17 baths or 58 showers.

Kids can be focused when they want to be. When I wanted to create a habit of fastening my seatbelt, I told my young son he could have all the change in my purse if he caught me unbuckled. It didn’t take long for me to cultivate the habit.

If you want to get motivated about energy conservation and use, involve your children by having them do things like make energy posters reminding family members to conserve. Encourage them to be the switch police for the family, monitor the doors being closed, turn the water off when brushing their teeth, and take showers instead of baths.

Have them come up with their own ideas, and then see if the electric and water bill change. Put them in the position of responsibility and power. It could be a great authentic learning experience for the whole family this summer and a money saver too. They will learn about science and economics at the same time, and you will prosper from both.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...