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STEM Ideas from Perot Museum

Logo for Perot Museum of Nature and Science

From physics to feathers, from robots to rockets. The diverse array of STEM fields in a science museum, include physics, biology, astronomy, and more. Going to a science museum can give teachers useful STEM ideas and hands-on tasks that they can use in the classroom. Museum professionals meticulously craft displays, interactive exhibits, and hands-on activities. Educators can use this to their advantage by using simulations, models, and activities from museums to help students understand and remember difficult STEM ideas.

Discover STEM ideas at Dallas's Perot Museum with Code Hero - a giant music sequencer, and Bird Builder - craft your feathered friend.

Last summer, I faced a lengthy layover at Dallas Airport while flying from Spokane to Chicago. With ample time on my hands, I opted to explore Dallas for the afternoon. The last time I visited Dallas I did a walking tour but the scorching 106-degree weather dissuaded me from extensive walking on this visit. Instead, I decided to visit the Perot Science Museum. From the marvels of space exploration to the intricacies of the human body, the Perot Science Museum creates a dynamic and engaging learning environment. With halls covering birds, minerals, energy, sports, and more it caters perfectly to students, teachers, and families. Additionally, the museum showcased intriguing displays such as Pneumatic tubes and interactive wooden mirrors. Amidst these discoveries, I found two activities that I could use in the classroom: the Interactive Music Sequencer "Code Hero,” and  “Bird Builder”.

Code Hero

Discover the magic of music creation with Code Hero, the interactive music sequencer. Nestled in the Engineering and Innovation Hall, this captivating 35-foot table beckons with its array of colorful buttons, each representing a musical note. Crafting a melody is a tactile experience – you select a pattern of buttons, and as they light up, the sequence you've programmed comes to life. The sequencer orchestrates the notes in the order and spacing you've chosen, forming a rhythmic composition. As your musical creation unfolds, dynamic 3D images, a visual symphony shaped by your inputs, grace the display. Code Hero seamlessly blends technology and art, offering a dynamic and educational activity that unveils the thrilling possibilities of this creative convergence.

Code Hero is similar to the virtual SongMaker from Chrome Music Lab. Both platforms allow users to create music by playing with buttons and coding, adjusting rhythm, melody, and harmony through a coding interface. They serve as creative spaces for experimenting with musical elements and crafting compositions. While Code Hero is much larger and touchable, making it exciting for short visits, SongMaker provides a similar experience accessible from the classroom or elsewhere. Overall, both platforms contribute to learning about coding and showcasing the connection between technology and music in an easily accessible manner. 

If you are interested in trying out a music sequencer, I posted some Song Maker activities on my blog. There are also some activities on this site, 5 Fun Activities for Chrome Music Lab

Build a Bird

Bird I created at Rose Hall
Here's the bird I built

In Rose Hall you can explore the unique features of different bird species, learn about their habitats, and understand how they've adapted to their environments. One exhibit lets you pilot a red-tailed hawk while soaring through Texas canyon valley. This experience combines technology and education to give you a bird's-eye view of the world. Through an engaging simulation, you'll gain insight into the remarkable abilities of red-tailed hawks, from their keen eyesight to their impressive hunting and techniques that make you feel like you're part of the hawk's journey.

In the "Build a Bird" activity you have the freedom to choose features to create your very own bird. Opt for vibrant feathers in different shapes, sizes, and textures. Select beaks tailored for distinct feeding styles, like the pointed beak of a seed-eater or the curved beak of a fruit-eater. Choose wings reflecting different flight patterns, such as the broad wings of a soaring eagle or the short, rounded wings of a robin. Decide on feet matching your bird's habitat, like the webbed feet of a duck or the powerful talons of a raptor. Pick a unique bird call from a selection representing different vocalizations. Select the pieces that best fit your vision for your bird's role in its environment then watch your dream bird come to life on a designated interactive display.

Outdoor Nebraska has a couple of activities that are similar to Perot’s build a bird activity. In Project Beak build a bird, you choose 4 characteristics - wings, head, feet, habitat. When you are finished the site evaluates each aspect of your bird and gives a percentage chance for survival. You could challenge kids to find the combination that gives the best chance of survival and also the least chance of survival. This could lead to a discussion of characteristics. 

A Build a bird worksheet helps students learn about bird adaptations and their importance in helping birds survive. It involves identifying and describing physical and behavioral adaptations of different bird species, creating an imaginary bird with specific adaptations, and explaining how these adaptations help the bird survive. Students work in pairs using cards representing different bird features to design their bird, discuss its habitat and diet, and present their creation to the class. The activity also includes extensions such as observing real birds, identifying their adaptations, and writing stories from a bird's perspective


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