Monday, March 13, 2017

Maryland Science Center Cub Scout Camp-In

The Maryland Science Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor hosts camp-in events in the winter and spring, some especially focused on scouting. Our Cub Scout pack participated in a February camp-in. Mom drove us into the city and dropped us off around 5 o'clock. Normally the center is open till 6 p.m. on Saturdays but we were going to stay all night. We dropped our stuff in one room and did some exploring before the formal program started at 6:20.

The opening presentation was quick and informative. We'd be locked in all night and participate in three sessions on science, as well as view a planetarium presentation and watch an Imax movie in the morning. Also important to us was the snack at 9 p.m. and breakfast in the morning.

Review of rules and agenda

The planetarium presentation told us all about the February night sky and what we could expect to see if we ventured outside (which we couldn't just then since we were locked in). I also found out that they have Friday night stargazing from the roof of the building. We will attend in the future!

The first science session was about Life in the Dark, specifically creatures that live in caves. The presenter explained the three levels of a cave. The first level is the entrance which has plenty of sunlight, so plants grow there and animals visit from time to time but don't live there year round. They are known as Trogloxenes (though they don't just stay in the entrance).

Visitors but not residents?

The second level of a cave is the twilight zone, where daylight still is visible but is not direct. The more serious cave dwellers, Troglophiles, get this far but wouldn't do so well on the outside.

More committed to caves

The deepest part of the cave is the dark, where all the cool, sightless, and colorless critters live. The boys were very fascinated by these animals.

Spiders are often found in caves and they don't always use their eyes to detect their prey. Many spiders rely on vibrations in their webs to know that they've caught their next meal. The related activity was a bit tough for the boys. Using yarn in a loom as their web, they tried to feel when their partner would touch the web.

Learning about spiders

Explaining the activity

Probably could make this at home?

My son detects some movement

Next, the boys designed their own cave creatures. My son decided to make a mammal in the twilight zone, so he picked out pale, not white skin, and large eyes to help see in substandard light.

Skinning the beast

Finished product

The second science session was Mineral Mystery. The boys broke into groups and learned the difference between rocks and minerals. Minerals are more or less made of one element; rocks are made of many different minerals.

Picking between rocks and minerals

Next, they analyzed various samples to see what kind of minerals they were. They examined the rocks for color, luster, hardness (using their fingernails, a penny, and a steel nail to check), magnetism, and fluorescence. Radioactivity is another attribute but they were given no equipment to detect, since they were also given no radioactive samples. The boys took turns examining different rocks and recording their findings.

Mineral investigation kit

Is it fluorescent?

It is, as seen under the special flashlight

Mineral Id card

The final session was on archaeology. The first exercise had the boys go through a small trash can to discover what they could about who made the trash. Our group's trash had some toys and ear buds, so probably from a house with lots of kids.

An overview of the activities

Next, the boys tried out the law of Superposition, which is the common-sense fact that things that are buried deeper in the ground are older. They even made their own stratified test tubes.

That blue object at the bottom of the red layer is from long ago!

Another fun activity was uncovering various sections of a box to try and determine what was on the archaeological site. We eventually discovered a home with various ancient artifacts like a rotary phone!

Grid-style archaeology

The next morning, we watched Journey into Amazing Caves on the science center's Imax screen. The documentary was narrated by Liam Neeson. The movie follows several cave explorers as they delve into deep and dangerous caves, like ice caves in the Arctic and underwater caves in the Yucatan Peninsula. The movie is fascinating and breath-taking and convinced me I don't want to go 500 yards down into a crack in glacial ice!

After the movie, we headed outside the center and found mom waiting to take us home. We had a great time, if not a great night's sleep. The museum's floor wasn't the most comfortable surface I've ever slept on.

The morning view from where we slept

Nevertheless, we recommend the camp-in adventure at the Maryland Science Center!

More on the Science Center's exhibits later this week.

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