Children’s Museum Exhibit Teaches Environmental Awareness

June 4, 2008

The latest exhibit at the Children’s Museum is aimed at teaching children to start taking care of the environment at an early age, in the hope that the habit will last a lifetime. “My Home, Planet Earth is a bilingual, hands-on exhibit is designed to teach children how the environment is affected by how people choose to live and how those environmental changes ultimately affect mankind.

“We want kids to start noticing the environmental issues that are out there and affect them directly or indirectly, “ said Karen Milnar, director of gallery programs. “That way, they can begin taking steps to becoming environmentally-friendly.”
“It’s little things, like not leaving the water running, buying recycled products, not using aerosol products, dumping trash in trash bins, which as a whole, will make a big difference for the future.”

The exhibit features Riff and Rosie, two squirrels on a mission to trace the source of pollution in their town of Bright Water Corners. Alongside their beaver-scientist friend, Castor Slaptail, they use science as a tool for investigating the environment and finding a solution.

“Through inquiry, investigation and problem-solving activities children experience the scientific process and expand their understanding of how to tackle environmental health issues,” said Milnar. “They will see it’s not all gloom and doom. You really can make the world a better place.”

Three main messages are explored: how to identify the problems and the science behind it, keeping our brains in gear to find little and big solutions, and working together to communicate those solutions.

My Home, Planet Earth is broken down into three components which explore the contaminants that hurt the environment that are invisible to the naked eye. Water and air pollutants, dust mites and mold spores are revealed in Rosie’s Tree House, the Marigold Marsh, and Mr. Slaptail’s House. These particles require scientists to rely on the use of microscopes and specials tools to be able to see them.

By stepping into Rosie’s Tree House, children will get a glimpse of what scientists have to do to collect and identify these samples. They can view images of dust mites with a video microscope while learning about common allergens. They can use special black light technology to detect hidden allergens and pollutants lurking in Rosie’s doll house. Or, they can find out what makes Rosie sneeze while playing The Allergies: True or False? game. They’ll even get to navigate dust particles through a gigantic nasal passage in The Big Achoo!

“Through Riff and Rosie, kids can make a connection and make these environmental concepts tangible,” said Milnar. “They’ll experience an ‘Ah-Hah!’ moment.”

Children can fish for clues and find out why the Marigold Marsh is so polluted while learning how to properly get rid of trash. Participants will conduct mucky water experiments on samples taken from the Marsh and Mr. Slaptail’s well, race and filter out water pollutants before these reach Riff and Rosie’s swimming hole in Clean it Up!, and fill up Riff’s model to see how his body uses water for digestion and perspiration.

My Home, Planet Earth was created by the Children’s Museum of Houston, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine. Funds for the project’s design, development, construction and maintenance were provided by a $1.58 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award Program of the National Center for Research Resources.

Some visitors will already be familiar with the adventures of Riff and Rosie through their exposure to My Health, My World, a National Institutes of Health-funded curriculum developed in 1997 by Baylor College of Medicine faculty. This elementary school curriculum, which is geared toward children ages 5 to 10, parents, caregivers and teachers, has been disseminated nationally though university and museum partners and is also available from the Carolina Biological Supply Company.

The exhibit is sponsored locally by Apache Energy, Devon Energy with additional funding by CGGVeritas, Inc.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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