What scat is that?

by Carrie M. Miller, Science & Technology Program Developer

As the Exploring Nature summer camp director, preparing the activities and materials to be used in summer camp is only half of the fun. The other half comes from seeing the looks on the campers’ faces as each activity is presented to them. Those looks vary from “Wow!” to “Really?”  This year, in Exploring Nature camp, I’m really hoping for an “Ew!” to go along with that “Wow!” Why? Because it’s all about the scat. 

What scat is that? Cat scat? Rat scat? Bat scat?

You may call it dung, droppings, feces, pellets or poop, but we’re going to be scientific and call it scat. Using my notes from back in my park naturalist days, I’m using an activity on how to make your own scat. And no, not in the everday process. This scat activity uses oatmeal, cocoa powder and food coloring. Food coloring is used when creating select scat pieces such as goose scat and you can add pet hair for more realistic canine scat. Creating this pseudoscat has its advantages. First, there’s no nose-pinching smell to run away from. Instead, it’s an aromatic chocolate scent. Second, it’s way safer and more sanitary than trying to actually go out and search for scat from coyotes, geese and deer. Third, the pieces can be strategically placed for the campers to find. And finally, I think it’s just fun to make!

Adding a little pet hair makes the carnivore scat look more realistic.

We’ll be using the homemade “scat” in the “What Scat is That?” activity in Exploring Nature camp the week of June 18. Campers will spend three days (Monday – Wednesday) at the museum with their own backpacks going on habitat hikes at White River State Park, seeing a live animal presentation, learning about animal adaptations and testing their scat identification skills, just to name a few activities. Campers will then spend the rest of the week (Thursday – Friday) at Eagle Creek Park where they can put their knowledge to good use. Who knows, maybe one of them will come across some actual scat on a trail at the park and be able to answer “What Scat is That?”

Advertisements

Yarnbomb in is the house!

by Joanna Hahn, Manager of Arts and Culture Programs

Last week, Indiana State Museum staff assisted volunteers from the Crochet Guild of Indianapolis and SWIFT (Spinners and Weavers of Indiana Fibers and Textiles) with the installation of a few new objects to the museum’s core exhibits as part of our Yarnbomb the Indiana State Museum. Yarnbombing allows fiber artists of any skill level to leave a non-permanent creation using public spaces of buildings, sculptures and infrastructure such as telephone poles, parking meters and bike racks. The idea is to help bring warmth, color and personalization to objects that are often ignored or overlooked. We have gone one step further and allowed our core exhibits and the artifacts to be the inspiration for some fun creating.

It has been a lot of work (and some sweating and even a small bit of blood) taking these fun two and three-dimensional creations and placing them throughout the museum. Some are right in your face and not hard to miss, but I will bet there will be a few that will be hard to find. They are so well made that they just blend in with our exhibits and artifacts. So if you are looking for something new to see at the museum, come check out these wonderful and colorful additions to our spaces. And if you really want to have some fun, join us for International Yarnbomb Day on Saturday, June 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We have some lovely rocks in front of the museum that would love to receive some color. Create your own knitted or crocheted squares, rectangles or any shapes. Or, come prepared to create on the spot!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let’s go to the movies!

by Katherine Gould, Associate Curator of Cultural History

What is your most memorable movie-going experience? We all have them: the epic love story that made us cry as we gazed up at that big screen; the first special effects experience to blow our minds; or the first make-out session in the back of a darkened theater (confession: Top Gun, 1986, his name was Sean).

For me, it’s not any one particular movie that is most memorable, but rather my overall movie-going experience as a kid. I grew up on Army bases across the county and most would have a single-screen theater that showed second-run films. I remember the seats being filled not only with kids and parents in civilian clothes but also men and women in uniform. Before the start of each movie, the theater would darken and everybody would rise and remove their caps for the national anthem. The screen would be filled with rousing, patriotic images of tanks rolling across rugged terrain, Navy destroyers smashing through the high seas, and fighter planes soaring over the mountains. Even now, quite a few years later, the memory of those experiences is as clear as day.

I queried the staff of the Indiana State Museum to find out about some of their favorite movie-going experiences. Because sometimes the best part of history is not researching important artifacts or examining “old-timey” photographs, but rather simply recalling our own experiences with the past, and what it means to us. That’s what makes history fun. That’s what makes it personal. So, for some of you, your memory of going to a theater to see Top Gun may involve squealing at seeing Tom Cruise playing beach volleyball or gripping your seat while watching the action-packed fighter jet scenes. For me, the memory is something completely different. Continue reading

A passion for wildflowers

by Karen Lowe, Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites member

If you want to indulge your passion for wildflowers and enjoy the sound of a variety of birds, I recommend a visit to the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site at Rome City. Overlooking Sylvan Lake, her Cabin at Wildflower Woods has been accurately maintained to represent the author’s years here. Built with the proceeds from the sales of her many books, the cabin and surrounding land reflect her interest in the preservation of natural habitats for flora and fauna.

Members enjoy thier tour of Gene Stratton-Porter’s Cabin in Rome City. The author is in the yellow jacket.

The site managers gave an impressive tour of the cabin. The beautiful cherry woodwork was fashioned from trees which were on the property. Several examples of Stratton-Porter’s photography are on the walls. Some of the furniture is original, such as a cherry chest, carved by her father, Mark Stratton, and given as a wedding gift. Her piano, which she brought from her Limberlost home in Geneva, is in the library, which also contains her Victrola. The library is lined with built-in shelves filled with the many books that interested her. The cabin has four fireplaces, the most impressive one being in the parlor. This massive fireplace, called the Friendship fireplace, is made from a variety of interesting stones, including the colorful pudding stone, which she liked so much that she also had it surrounding a spring out in the garden. A large picture window, which Ms. Porter called the million dollar window because of the view of the lake, dominates this room. The conservatory has much natural light coming in through the many windows, and is designed to serve as an aviary as well. This is much like her conservatory at the Limberlost which she designed to bring in moths.

The second floor of the cabin has a sleeping porch that looks out on the lake, and can be accessed from Ms. Porter’s bedroom. There is a fireplace and half-bath in her room. The built-in storage units include a huge cedar closet in the hall, used to store blankets and winter clothes.

Equally impressive was the tour of the gardens. There are both wildflower habitat and what she called her “tame garden.” She left extensive information as to how this garden was laid out and planted, and the managers, with the help of master gardeners and other volunteers, have painstakingly worked to recreate these plans. In one of the gardens there are globe thistle, butterfly weed, milkweed and other plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. A garden designed for sun-loving flowers contains black-eyed Susans, cone flowers and ladies’ mantle.  Another area is for Indiana native flowers: wild oats, wood poppy, May apple, bluebells, bloodroot, wild ginger.

There is a fascinating variety of wildflowers throughout the property. In bloom during our visit were large flower trillium, rue anemone, Dutchman’s britches, violets, shooting stars, Jack- in-the-pulpit, nodding trillium. As we strolled through the gardens, we heard many birds, and saw a few, such as a downy woodpecker and a nuthatch snacking on suet cakes. A mute swan was gracefully gliding across the lake, and we heard the call of geese, the twitter of the tufted titmouse, and the louder voice of a pileated woodpecker.

Gene Stratton-Porter died in California in 1924. Her wish was to be buried under her favorite tree here in the Wildflower Woods, which was the chinkapin oak. Many years after her death, her wish was fulfilled and there is a sculpture and lovely headstone for her and her daughter Jeannette off one of the footpaths.

Postscript: As usual, Chrissy Vasquez arranged a great members’ tour to Rome City on April 14, which included a comfortable bus (driver, James), informative literature, snacks and videos pertaining to the subject of the tour. A meal was provided at the site as well and each participant was given a package of wildflower seeds and some postcards which show rooms in the cabin. Consider becoming a member of the Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites!