Archive For The “Scientific Discovery” Category

Playing with Pixar at The Franklin Institute

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Many thanks to the Franklin Institute for providing us with media preview access of The Science Behind Pixar. All opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. #Sponsored This article may contain affiliate links.

The Science Behind Pixar

Pixar family shot

“This interactive exhibition showcases the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts used by the artists and computer scientists who help bring Pixar’s award-winning films to the big screen.”

– Franklin Institute Website 2016

Go behind the scenes on the creation process for your favorite Pixar and Disney animated movies. Really get into the technical skill and science behind every detail… whether the bounce of Merida’s hair or Joy’s glow from Inside Out. Getting all those hilarious facial expressions for Mike Wazowski takes a great deal of skill. In fact every film presents a new challenge for the creative team.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Details: Please note that the passes EXPIRE on August 21st. Passes include general admission to the Franklin Institute and The Science Behind Pixar exhibit. Be sure to check out their website for parking, hours, directions and daily schedule of events. Winner will be announced by email by noon on Monday, August 8th and will be required to email confirmation and mailing address via email to by 6PM Monday, August 8th. Passes will be mailed by Tuesday, August 9th. No purchase is necessary and we comply with all FTC and state regulations.

Pixar - 3D Molding ProcessThere are eight segments in the film making process, each having a unique spin on the end product and each require science of one form or another to make the magic happen. The Process starts with modeling. Did you know that each character is created in clay after the sketch is complete? And then the technician scans the model for a 3D digital version. It was pretty cool to see the row of favorite characters in clay models on display.

Pixar - Lighting Process (2)b

Now making these 3D digital models move is called Rigging. Alissa had a lot of fun manipulating Jessie’s eyes and eyebrows making all sorts of silly expressions. Rigging can easily turn into a complex process and it requires a fine art of balance between too many and too few rigged points. Pixar - Rigging2 Process

One of the things I learned that I completely take for granted in the surfacing of objects. Surfacing is the process of giving an object dimension, aging, shine, etc. The best example would be things or characters like Wall-E in how he is rusty, dirty, dinged and so for. In the display below a scene from Ratatouille demonstrated with differing textures, shine and transparency an object could have to create different effects. This was a very interesting activity with a couple of puzzles to match. Fun stuff.

Pixar - Surfacing Process

The Set and Camera exhibit displayed offer interactive ways to maneuver camera angles and play around with back drops. This is one of my favorite aspects in that I love the detail of set design and playing with camera angles and creativity.

Pixar - Lighting Process2

Animation is probably the part most of us are familiar with, in that creators pose characters in accordance to the story line. Wow, that sounds so over simplified… but basically yeah, staging the pieces into movement. Then the simulation process was the most fascinating and actually a little hilarious, at least Mark and I got a chuckle… the art of simulation involves automating movement to make it look real. For instance clothing swaying or moving with a person is handled differently than animation. Just imagine all that fur in Monsters Inc. Wow.

Science Behind Pixar2Pixar - Dory & Lighting Process2

Pixar - Selfie with Dory2And now that leaves Lighting and Rendering. Lighting is easy to understand AND fun to play with. Plus gave me a chance to snap a selfie with Dory. But seriously lighting is a key element in filmmaking as it directs the audience’s eye toward what to look at and effects emotion. Pretty cool. Rendering is the step at pulls everything together, taking all the programming and 3D element and converting to a 2D image for viewing pleasure.

With over 40 interactive displays, there is so much to make these lovable characters come to life on screen. These cousin… not to mention my Illustrator husband, had a fantastic time discovering stage by stage all that going into the magic of animated movie making. We highly recommend a visit before the exhibit concludes on Sept 5th. Be sure to check out the Franklin Institute’s website for hours, admission, directions, parking and daily schedule of events. This is only ONE of many amazing features at the Franklin Institute.


It is also worth mentioning that they have one of the best gift shops that feature a wide variety of relevant science and learning materials. No matter your passion… you can find something here to take home and continue the fun. Victoria spotted Stikbots in the Science Behind Pixar exhibit shop. She has 2 of these little guys and loves them. It is an inexpensive and fun way to introduce your children to filmmaking and stop motion pictures. Again, such fun!!

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Philadelphia Science Festival

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Philadelphia Science Festival is calling all families to #GetNerdyPHL

It is that special time again, when Logan Square transforms into a major science carnival with booth after booth of fun and engaging experiments. The Philadelphia Science Festival is a nine-day, concentrated focus on all things science.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Science Festival

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Science Festival

Join thousands of science enthusiast in #GetNerdyPHL spirit April 22 through April 30, with literally something for everyone. Science shows, special exhibits, demonstrations, contest and the amazing outdoor Science Carnival at Logan Square… no child goes bored.


Last year we attended an extension of the Philadelphia Science Festival held at Rowan University. My daughter had a terrific time with several hands-on science activities. Last year and in 2013, we attended the science carnival with my niece and daughter, and together – they couldn’t get enough. Here are some of our favorite moments:





For more information, please visit our write up from last year’s Philadelphia Science Festival event AND visit for the specific details for this year’s festivities. If you have attended in the past, what exhibit did your family find the most intriguing?  What are you hoping to see this year?

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Tarantulas: A Family Museum Exhibit

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Tarantula myths debunked; a new appreciation for these giant, fuzzy arachnids.

We are happy to partner with Academy of Natural Sciences to provide this exhibit review as part of a sponsored arrangement. The opinions expressed herein are strictly my own.

Cover shot 3

My daughter has had a fascination with spiders for several years… so imagine her excitement when she learned that her favorite science museum is showcasing a special exhibit on tarantulas. Yeah, it was kinda a big deal.

cover shot 2

The Academy of Natural Sciences opened its “Tarantulas: Alive and Up Close” exhibit this past Saturday, January 30. It will show until May 30th, 2016 with a small admission price. Get all the details here.

Taking notesWith an invitation a couple months back, we waited for what felt like “forever” for a five-year old but finally the media preview date arrived. Victoria was afforded the day off from school to attend this event, and again this was because spiders are a big deal to her and I knew she would get a lot out of this day trip. Upon check-in, she was given a tiny notebook and pen, and from there we began our journey.

In usual Academy fashion, the exhibit has a variety of show pieces to include an interactive map, photo cut-out and plenty of easy to digest narrative and picture displays. Personally, I appreciated the “Anatomy of Tarantulas” oversized book display. The Tarantulas exhibit has a colorful backyard back drop area and tarantula costumes perfect for photo ops and imaginary play.

open presentationVictoria, being in Kindergarten, isn’t exactly the best note taker… but that didn’t stop her from paying absolute close attention and attempting to capture the important facts that Invertebrates Specialist, Karen Verderame was sharing in the Opening Presentation.

Victoria asked "What do tarantulas eat for breakfast?"

Victoria asked “What do tarantulas eat for breakfast?”


Victoria, never without a question, took an opportunity to ask Ms. Verderame what tarantulas like for breakfast before moving about the live spider exhibits. Thank you to Philly Voice for quoting Victoria and capturing the perfect picture of my little journalist in action, as well as this quick snippet on 6 abc news.

interview questions Taking notes tarantula peek

favorite spider


That little notebook came in handy, when Victoria learned about the most impressive species of tarantulas. She was quick to copy the name of her new favorite into the notebook. And if you’re curious, her favorite tarantulas are Martinique Pinktoe sporting a unique ability to change from a bright blue color as spiderlings into pink/purple legged adult tarantulas. And then that little notebook accompanied every question she had for the Academy’s staff.

This tarantulas exhibit is ideal for spider enthusiasts, like my daughter, AND those who fear the creepy-crawlers because there is so much misunderstood about these arachnids. I loved coverage of this event to highlight some of those myths and truths.


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Get Up Close & Personal with Bugs at Academy Of Natural Sciences

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 #Sponsored Homeroom At Home is proud to be partnered with The Academy of Natural Sciences to provide our readers with details on upcoming events, exhibits and programs. We were offered a complimentary family membership in exchange for media coverage.


Photo courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

Photo courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

It seems the summer months bring the peskiest bugs to season. Flies that won’t quit twirling around your corn on the cob, bees buzzing in your ear… or beer and then there are those persistent ants!!  Yikes.

But everything’s got a purpose.

Here’s your chance to understand just how critical all insects are to our environment and food chain. The Bug Fest at the Academy of Natural Sciences is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the contributions flies, bees and ants provide, among other bugs.

Join The Academy on August 8 & 9 for an epic opportunity to get up close and personal with insects of all sorts, including a peak at real samples of bug vomit, poo and slime. There are so many events to take advantage of, including live cockroach and maggot painting, as seen in the video below from last year.

Here are some other highlights as provided by The Academy of Natural Sciences:

Photo Courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

Photo Courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

Roach Race 500: Cheer on your favorite roach as it tries to conquer three different tracks in the famous Roach Race 500! Every half hour, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Bug Picasso: Cockroaches and maggots create unique pieces of art by scurrying through trails of vibrant paint. 10:15-11 a.m., 12:15-1 p.m., 2:30-3:15 p.m.

Live Invertebrate Stage Show: “B-eww-tiful Bugs” will be the stars of our unique live animal show. 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Bug Walks: Join Academy entomologists on an expedition outside the museum to see what species of invertebrates live there. Hourly, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

Photo courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

Bug Appétit: Enjoy culinary art with a buggy twist. Or, in other words, you get to eat bugs!!! Join Chef David George Gordon as he cooks up some tasty bug cuisine! Demonstrations in the Commons 11 a.m.-noon, 3-4:30 p.m.; Live show in the Auditorium at 1 p.m.

Meet the Entomologist: Talk with Academy entomologists and representatives from the American Entomological Society. Find out about current research projects and get an up close look at some specimens from our collections.

Crafty Critters: Create your own bug-themed craft to take home.

Bedbug Sniffing Dogs: Learn more about the bugs that bug us! Auditorium show at 3:30 p.m.; Demonstrations in Dinosaur Hall at noon and 2 p.m.

Story Time in Outside In: Story time will feature a bug tale, Marty the Moose, and a live animal. 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here and additional information on hours, parking, etc can be obtained by visiting The Academy of Natural Sciences. Don’t forget to check out their Animal Grossology exhibit (in it’s final weeks). You can see our review of this totally gross but engaging exhibit here.

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Getting Gross with Animal Grossology Science Learning Fun

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mom and me and the cow“That’s Disgusting!”

Between shrieks of “Ew, that’s disgusting!” and “Hey, check this out!” the Academy of Natural Science has successfully launched an amazingly engaging and totally gross exhibit for all ages in Animal Grossology.

Tapeworm exhibit really puts this into perspective.

Tapeworm exhibit

It is a tough time of year to keep kids engaged in learning, with warmer weather settling in and summer camp plans brewing… insert Grossology, the perfect opportunity to keep your children engaged in learning. With disgusting facts of hairballs, vomit and poo, mixed with awesome animal animatronics… this is sure to be an exhibit talked about for months and definitely a little something for them to share with friends in the lunch room.

Interactive exhibits

Interactive exhibits

“Oozing with disgusting science, Animal Grossology provides a slightly off-kilter view of the animal kingdom at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Get ready to be totally en-GROSS-ed!  Based on the best-selling Grossology children’s book series by Sylvia Branzei, Animal Grossology is packed with hands-on fun that celebrates those yucky topics moms warn their kids not to discuss at the dinner table.  Animal Grossology offers a fresh take on some of the more disgusting things animals do and engages visitors in how blood, vomit, pellets, dookie, and slime can be fun, funky and even fascinating.”

– Press Release, Academy of Natural Sciences

stinkyjellyfish fact game 2worm and via
Many thanks to the Academy of Natural Sciences for the ANIMAL Grossology Trivia below:
* Animals have red, blue, yellow or clear blood. Blood is very nutritious as it contains a lot of protein.

* A cow has one stomach but it is in four parts. A cow’s stomach is equal in size to nine human stomachs.

* Some frogs belch their babies into the world.

* Ticks often relocate by hitching a ride on a migrating bird.

* A Hagfish may be the slimiest creature on earth.

* Tapeworms grow inside the stomach and can grow up to 60 feet-long.

*Animals use smells for recognition, defense and attraction.

* Slime is essential to some animals, providing important functions such as facilitating motion, aiding in digestion and for defense.

* Blood slurpers transmit infectious diseases.

*What is caca, feces, dookie, guano, splay and stool stand for? All are names for “number 2”!

*Sea stars eat by shoving their stomachs out, digests the food and sucking their stomach back in.

* You can identify an animal by its “dookie” sizes, content and shape.

* An animal may feel very different from what you expect, once you have touched them.

* Why do owls purge “pellets”?

* Houseflies taste food using their feet and legs!


Did you know that copper gives some animals blue blood?
Did you know that flies fly at 4.5 mph?
Did you know that cats use their tongues as natural combs to remove loose hair?
Did you know a cow’s stomach is equal in size to nine human stomachs?
Did you know that shark skin is covered with tiny tooth-like scales called denticles?
Did you know the female mosquito needs a blood meal to lay eggs?

mom and meThe Academy of Natural Sciences is located in Philadelphia with weekday hours Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; and weekend hours of Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. For more information on exhibits, changing exhibits, tools for education and direction please visit their website at  The Animal Grossology exhibit is showing until August 30th.

Hands-on exhibits with sound effects

Hands-on exhibits with sound effects

Disclosure: This was a sponsored post, whereas we were invited to a media preview of the exhibit. The opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. Trivia and Press Release provided by the Academy of Natural Sciences.

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Philadelphia Science Festival with a Little Something Science for Everyone

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It’s time to get your geek on…

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Philadelphia Science Festival is April 24th through May 2nd 2015 and holds so many amazing family activities. Festivities include events for educators, families and even adult only educational entertainment (careful though as they sell out quick quick).







In 2013, we attended the Philadelphia Science Festival Carnival – which is hosted Saturday, May 2nd this year. Below you’ll find some of our favorite moments. Tent after tent… there were activities for all ages: messy stations, starry ones and lots of engineering and puzzle solving. We are so excited to return this year.







This year we took our geeky-selves to Rowan University in partnership with the Philadelphia Science Festival. Several departments had family exhibits… of course the messy and colorful ones were Victoria’s favorite. Check out the highlights below and definitely consider a trip out to Rowan University next year for early festival festivities.


Philadelphia Science Festival

Philadelphia Science Festival

Philadelphia Science Festival

Philadelphia Science Festival

And Hey, we were not compensated for this post. All the content and opinions herein are strictly mine and my family’s. We had a great time exploring the Philadelphia Science Festival and look forward to the remaining events this week include that awesome Carnival coming up on Saturday.

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Earth Day – A Call To Action

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Earth Day 2015 – It’s Our Turn to Lead

Earth Day Barefoot Books Earth Tales 2Earth Day is here! The observance falls on April 22nd every year. This year marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and with it comes a great hope that we are finally starting to see real change in how communities and countries view our impact on the world we live in.
Less than ten years ago, many of the world’s leading climate researchers were deadlocked in a heated debate as to whether we were causing irreparable harm to the earth through our carbon dioxide emissions, rapid deforestation and toxic/refuse dumping. Today, the tide has shifted, and many of the scientists who were once decrying the efforts of some as “overblown” or “panic driven” are coming to the side of their former adversaries as more and more proof mounts that our world needs to be saved from none other than ourselves. Not only are we having to curb the aforementioned activities, but the newer methods of extracting natural resources like fracking and the various mining/drilling efforts of the rare metals and oil industries have to be monitored for their effects on this fragile planet we call home.
That being said, the growth of general knowledge about climate change and how these activities impact the environment has driven governments to become more active in their efforts to make effective changes to alleviate these issues. Just last week president Obama took action by implementing a solar panel system across the White House and its grounds which would lower the facility’s dependence on common energy provided by the District of Columbia by 1/3. This is just one of many actions being taken by this government and others to reduce dependency on non-renewable energy. And here is the best part!

It is not enough.

This is why the theme for this year’s Earth Day is rather poignant. It’s Our Turn to Lead. A simple phrase that could be a catchy bumper sticker, but really is a call to act. While it’s great that governments are starting to see the light, research has shown that if we stopped all greenhouse gas emitting activities tomorrow (all of them, not just one or two) it would still take 50 years for the atmosphere to start recovering. It’s like a smoker who quits cold turkey. The next day their lungs aren’t going to be pristine. It would take years of not smoking to rid their lungs of the tar and other carcinogens that built up from inhaling the smoke all those years. The same goes with our atmosphere.
While no one is saying we need to stop “Now” now, we do need to make our voices heard. Because the only things that get done in Washington and other political centers are those things that are screamed the loudest by the most people. It may sound quaint, but it’s our responsibility to let our government know what is important to us. If not for our sake, then definitely for the sake of our children. And getting your children involved is a great way to keep the cycle going. It’s no good if one generation fights for change if the next does nothing to ensure that the changes last. If you’ve never thought of doing anything before, let Earth Day be a good starting point.

Variety of activities with Kid's Garden by Barefoot Books

Variety of activities with Kid’s Garden by Barefoot Books

Kid’s Garden from Barefoot Books has tons of fun activities to do with children. Or find a local event with Jersey Family Fun’s website to see what sorts of groups or activities you and your family can get behind. From roadside trash cleanup to volunteering for the local chapter of the EPA to anything in between – there are so many ways to pitch in. Don’t let the idea of “I’m only one person” deter you from doing something. In this fight to save our planet, it’s going to be the small, incremental wins that help us achieve our goal.

Here’s a video with 10 simple things families can do to promote a healthier planet.

There are cute videos and resource for our children too, because this is a discussion for the whole family. Each of us need to do our part and as parents part of “our part” is teaching our children, of course through example but a cute video never hurts either. Check out the videos below and share, discuss, act on them within your family.

And who doesn’t just love Disney’s Timon & Pumbaa?

The One Unified Project has written a terrific article with additional LOCAL resources, projects and celebrations for Earth Day. Please check it out HERE. A Grande Life Earth Day CraftAnd my good friend, Stephanie of A Grande Life as a super simple but super cute Earth Day craft. Here’s her coffee filter project with 1-2-3 step-by-step instructions. Enjoy creating something simple while talking about something HUGE!! Happy Earth Day!


Disclosure: This was not a sponsored post. All ideas and opinions expressed are strictly my own with the help of some great links and resources from fellow (and favorite) bloggers.


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Madame Marie Curie

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Women’s Scientific Pioneer by Mark Spalding

I was thinking the other day that there must be some interesting things happening in November other than Thanksgiving (that’s an easy one that I’ll talk about in a later post). I was wondering if any interesting people were born in November and just so happened to have Madame Curie pop into my head. And lo and behold, her birthday falls in the month of November! So, without further ado….

Madame Marie Curie was born Maria Salomea Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland on November 7th, 1867. Her life and work have been catalogued and retold in various forms over the last century, to include biographies, television biopics, various paintings and sculptures, as well as theatrical dramas. She is one of the pioneers in the field of Radioactivity and received numerous awards and accolades for her work in this regard despite the general misogynistic tendencies of the time. Case in point, shortly after receiving her doctorate from the University of Paris, and a few months before receiving her first Nobel Prize, Marie and her husband Pierre were invited to give a speech at the Royal Institution in London. But upon arriving she was informed that she would not be allowed to speak as she was a woman. Marie endured many hurdles due to her gender during her lifetime, but never allowed these obstacles to hinder her research.

Marie CurieWhile performing her work on radioactivity and its various sub fields, Marie managed to raise two daughters on her own (as Pierre had been killed in a roadside accident in 1906). She wasn’t completely alone in raising her children however, as she had the help of a Polish governess. Marie was adamant that the girls learn their native language as well as its customs. Eventually one of her daughters, Irene Joliot-Curie, won a Nobel Prize as well for work on the discovery of artificial radioactivity.

While I could retell much of what I have learned doing my research for this article, I thought I would just provide some highlights of Madame Curie’s life and then give you some helpful links to find out more.

Notable Accomplishments:

  • First woman to achieve a PHD degree from a French university
  • First Woman to become a professor at the École Normale Supérieure (1900) & the University of Paris (1906)
  • First woman to win the Nobel Prize
  • Won for both her theories on Radiation (1903) as well as Chemistry (1911)
  • First person to win the Nobel Prize in two different categories
  • Coined the term “Radioactivity”
  • Discovered the elements Radium & Polonium for which she won her second Nobel Prize
  • Developed techniques to isolate radioactive isotopes
  • Pioneered discoveries in radiation therapy for cancer
  • Created the Radium Institute in Paris to further research in the field of Radioactivity

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Ran a mobile x-ray unit at the front during WWI. An estimated 1 million French soldiers were treated by her during this time.
  • Carried small vials of radioactive isotopes (usually radium) on a regular basis in her coat pocket. She would show them to curious onlookers during her PR trips around the the 1920s.
  • The “curie” is the international standard for radioactive emissions so named for Marie & Pierre’s work
  • Her research papers (and even her cookbook) are considered too dangerous to handle due to their being highly radioactive. They are stored in lead containers! Protective clothing must be worn in their presence.

Links: – a very good, not too long description of her life and work. – a good “bullet point” type quick hit video. – very good, but the language is geared to teens more than preteens. – Same guy as above, less bad language, more sciencey. It might be an expansion of the conversation if your child is interested in learning more. I really like the CrashCourse channel on youtube. Lots of information in short, edible chunks of videos ranging from history to science to literature and beyond.

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