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Embracing the cold . . . all year long

The weather in New England is always interesting on any given day, but this winter has been especially memorable. When it’s not snowing close to two feet of snow causing people (and cars, buildings, Giant Blue Crabs, etc.) to be totally buried in the fluffy white stuff, it’s in the mid-50’s with families walking, jogging and playing outside.

At CMNH, we offer a safe and warm facility for families to enjoy – especially on those sub-zero Polar vortex days we’ve recently experienced. On moderate winter days, one of our favorite activities is guiding families into Henry Law Park in front of our building and creating Snow Art!

Our visitors use spray bottles full of non-toxic watercolor paint and water to decorate the landscape in Henry Law Park

Our visitors use spray bottles full of non-toxic watercolor paint and water to decorate the landscape in Henry Law Park

But whether the weather is freezing, windy, hailing or sizzling, one of the most popular indoor activities we run at CMNH is Ice Art. When we set up larger Ice Art projects (consisting of several tubs of ice) they can be worked on in the Muse Studio, while our smaller ones (usually one tub with one large or several smaller pieces of ice) can be found in the Naturalist Study near the CochecoNature exhibit on the first floor of the museum.

Parents & children (and staff!) experiment with cups of colored saltwater to see how their actions affect the ice.

– Does the salt make the ice melt faster or slower?

– What is the advantage of using a pipette to administer the solution?

– Do colors mix the same way on ice/water as they do on paper?

– How does an items density affect how it freezes inside the ice?

– How much time do you think it will take to free a trapped treasure from the ice?

– How do you make stripes of color – or a rainbow – in the ice without the colors mixing?

Through the help of our visitors, here’s some knowledge we’ve gleaned thus far in our years of ice exploration:

– Some dice floated to the top before freezing while some sunk.

– Glitter always floats before freezing.

– We had to weight the plastic sharks so they would freeze in the center of the ice.

– Ribbon is fun to freeze. Fabric is not fun to freeze.

– Pencils are fun to freeze. Pens are not fun to freeze.

– Plastic bugs look cool trapped in ice. Plastic food looks gross trapped in ice.

– Colors that slowly drip from one section of ice to another can create cool swirling effects. Too many colors in the ice at once causes brown and gray water. Yuck.

– Freezing different colors side-by-side takes a few days as each color must be frozen on its own first.

– The plastic human brain mold was our most popular ice shape. (Sadly, human brain mold developed a crack last year and had to be retired.)

– Visitors most favorite trapped ice objects are – hands down – plastic dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes.

Ice Art is an inexpensive, fun activity that can be done at home with Plastic containers, small cups, pipettes or paint brushes, table salt and watercolor paint or food coloring (but we recommend the paint as it washes off easier). The bigger the shape that you’re freezing, the more time it will need in the freezer. Museum Educators often set up their ice projects at the end of the museum day to be ready for the following morning.

Enjoy this short video of some of our most interesting ice art that we’ve seen at CMNH!

Zach once ate so many coconut flavored popsicles in a row that everything he ate for six months tasted like coconut.

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