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Science Discovery for Holidays at Explorit and at Home

This article appeared in the December 24, 2010 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Liz Shenaut

Special to the Enterprise

This year, Explorit Science Center has received two awards! Explorit won Nickelodeon's Parents' Picks Awards 2010 as the best museum for kids in the Sacramento area and the “Best of Davis 2010” in the category of museums by the United States Commerce Association.

During the next week, Explorit be providing expanded holiday hours—which allow for opportunities to learn more about these awards—but, more importantly, a chance for you to experience lots of science fun with your friends and family.  

Except for tomorrow and New Year’s Day, doors will be open every day through Saturday, Jan. 2. Regular public hours will resume on Jan 4. See http://www.explorit.org/news/explorits-holiday-hours for the details.

If it has been a few months since you visited Explorit, there are some new additions for you to enjoy, including the Animal Alcove where two Bearded Dragons live and the Young Scientists’ Zone which caters to visitors ages 5 and under.

In case you’re feeling science-y when Explorit is not open, try the following cold weather experiment at home.

•••

Activity goal: Use measurement to discover how temperature affects volume. For best results, this activity should be done on a particularly cold day.

You will need: Two balloons, two strings, two thermometers, a measuring tape, a pencil, and a piece of paper.

Instructions: Blow up each balloon to the exact same size, using the measuring tape to make sure that both are the same. Tie off the ends of the balloons, and tie each balloon securely to a string.

Record on your paper the original measurement around the widest point of each balloon. Again, this measurement should be the same for both balloons.

Pick a very warm spot indoors such as the kitchen while a lot of holiday cooking is going on or somewhere near the fireplace. Tie one balloon to a piece of furniture in this spot. Then pick a very cold spot outside in the shade, and tie the other balloon to something in that spot.

Use the thermometer to measure the temperature indoors near the balloon, and record this measurement on your paper. Repeat this process near the outdoors balloon.

Leave the balloons alone for about a half hour or more, to give the air inside each balloon time to reach the same temperature as the air around it. After the waiting time is up, use the measuring tape to measure around the widest part of each balloon and record these measurements.

Did the balloons change size? The amount of space something takes up is its volume. How did the temperature of the air around each balloon affect its volume?

When a gas heats up, its molecules start moving around more dramatically and become farther apart from one another. Heat makes gas increase in volume. Conversely, when a gas cools down, its molecules start moving less and begin to stay closer together. Cold makes a gas decrease in volume.

Have any other ideas for cold-weather experiments?  Send them to explorit@explorit.org!

Explorit’s coming events:

  • Through Dec. 31: Explorit has some new items for shoppers this holiday season. You do not need to be a member to shop at The Store, and if you only need to do some shopping, you need not pay admission. Store hours are the same as museum hours (below) and visit http://tinyurl.com/explorit-specials/ to see the new items. 
  • Jan. 18: Free admission Tuesday.  The third Tuesday of each month is free to all visitors.  Previous free admission days have been sponsored by First Northern Bank and The Kelly Foundation.  If you or your organization is interested in supporting Free Tuesday, please contact Explorit.

 

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Explorit Science Center, at 2801 Second St., has two exhibitions on display: “Move It! Science in Action” and “Wheels to Wings.”  Admission is $4 general, free for teachers, and ages 3 and under.  The museum is open to school groups by reservation and to the general public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org.

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