Turtles Teach: Springtime Science!

The weather is warming up, the sun is starting to shine (sometimes) and flowers are starting to bloom! All of this makes a wonderful combination to do some science! In this project we’re going to create rainbow flowers.

White flowers Supplies

What you’ll need:

  • white flowers, like carnations
  • small jars
  • water
  • food coloring
  • paring knife or scissors
  • tape
  • adult assistance or supervision

Step One: Trim the Stems

Trim the stemsCut the stems of the flowers so they are 10-12 inches long. (Have an adult help!) Using a sharp knife carefully cut a 6 inch slit through the bottom of the stem. Remove any large leaves. Be sure to keep the cut edges moist since exposure to oxygen will make the flowers wilt at a faster rate.

Step Two: Add Dye

DyeFill your jars with water and add between 10-20 drops of food color (or more depending on your preference). Place each separate stem end into a cup of colored water. Prop up the flowers so they don’t fall over. We had some fancy mason jar covers, but tape should work as well to help prop the flowers.

Step Three: The Waiting Game

Waiting gamePlace the jars by a window and hopefully you will begin to see the first hints of color after a few hours, but wait 24 hours to see an even more dramatic change.

What’s Happening?

Flowers go through a process called transpiration, where it releases moisture into the atmosphere. As moisture is released, more water is pulled up through tiny tubes in the stem called xylem. Water molecules have the tendency to stick together, so as one water molecules leaves the flower, it brings another one up with it.


Did you like this activity? Then you might be interested in our single-day Spring Break Camp!

Turtle Bay will be offering single day camps April 11th – 13th for children 7-10. Campers can register for one, two, or all three days. Each day will be different from the next as we cover matter, energy, and forces. All camps will feature hands-on and self-led activities that encourage collaboration and innovation.

Tuesday, April 11th – Magnificent Matter

With all things hot and cold, campers will discover the states of matter and how they’re important to us. Some activities include changing milk into one of our favorite desserts to stacking liquids on top of each other!

Wednesday, April 12th – Energy in Action

Campers will explore the sights, sounds, and properties of energy in many forms. From discovering the power from the sun to watching the effects of sounds, we will be learning all about the power or power!

Thursday, April 13th – Fantastic Forces

Though our superhero forces may be lacking, there are still many super forces to be explored! Campers will check out the unseen forces of our Sundial Bridge and see if they can explain the mystery behind magnets.

Whether you have enrolled into one of our camp programs before, or if this is your first time hearing about them, we invite you to check us out! For additional information and registration forms, visit www.turtlebay.org/learn/camps. We have a limited space, so hurry!


From our science journals to yours,

The Education Team at Turtle Bay

Mad Science Lab: Cabbage Chemistry

This experiment may be aimed for children, but if you release your inner mad scientist… we won’t tell!

Red cabbage juice may sound like the newest health fad, but really this liquid has been used in chemistry labs for years… That’s right, chemistry! Chemistry scientists, or chemists, study things that are so incredibly small we can’t see them. They study atoms and molecules. Because these particles are so small, the best way for chemists to study them is testing and observing how they act in certain environments and how they interact with other chemicals, like cabbage juice!

So, why cabbage juice? Red cabbage juice can be used as a pH indicator. When mixed with any liquid, the cabbage juice will change color depending on that liquid’s pH. The pH determines whether a chemical is an acid or a base. Acids have low pH values (1-6) and the molecules donate what we call a hydrogen ion (H+); bases have high pH values (8-14) and the molecules donate a hydroxyl ion (OH-). These ions interact with the cabbage juice and make it change color! When a substance does not have these ions, we call it neutral. For instance, pure water is neutral and has a pH of 7.

Safety First!

Some chemicals are safer than others; we will give you some ideas on safe chemicals to use during this experiment. If you want to explore more we recommend sticking to your kitchen supply; any food grade substance is safe to handle.

Red cabbage stains very easily, make sure you’re wearing clothes that are dark colored or that can be stained.

ALWAYS have an adult present when doing science experiments; not only do adults help you stay safe, they like to learn too!


Test Tubestubes

If you don’t have a set of test tubes and a test tube rack like this one, you can use clear glasses to hold your liquids.

Eyedropper – if you don’t have one you can easily use a straw! To use, submerge the straw into the liquid so that the level inside the straw is how much you’d like to transfer (for this experiment you want to measure 1-2 inches from the bottom of the straw). Then place your finger on top of the straw so that it is airtight. Then place you straw over where you would like to transfer it to and move your finger off the straw.

Red Cabbage – you don’t need a whole head, one cup of shredded cabbage will be plenty

Assorted Liquids –We recommend vinegar, baking soda (mixed with a little bit of water), lemon or lime juice, milk, aspirin (dissolved in some water), dish soap, and whatever else you’d like to test (remember our safety guidelines!).


  1. If your cabbage is not already shredded, have an adult chop it up into smaller pieces.
  2. Put cabbage into a non-aluminum saucepan and add just enough water to cover it.
  3. Bring to boil and boil for 10-15 min.
  4. Pour cabbage juice into a container while straining out the cabbage leaves. Place in fridge until you are ready to test!
  5. Collect the liquids and dissolve any solids you’d like to test. You should use enough of each so that the amount of liquid is about ¾ inch from the bottom and you can see it from the side.
  6. Once you have placed each liquid in their glass or tube, add enough cabbage juice until you can see the color.

What’s going on?

As we talked about earlier, cabbage juice uses color to indicate the pH level of liquids. Blue/Green color appears in substances that have a high pH value. Light/Bright Pink appears in substances with a low pH value. Remember which one is which? Arrange your tubes/glasses so that you make a pH rainbow! What liquids turned the juice pink? Which turned the juice blue or green? Did any leave the juice purple?

Remember: you’re a chemist! Record your data, ask questions, make predictions, and do some research if you’d like.

Make sure to take pictures and share with your friends too!

Don’t forget!

We are taking registrations for both of our single day camps. November 22nd is Up, Up, and Away Camp and December 20th is DIY Science Camp. More information and how to sign up can be found here.

Tree Rings: A Natural History

We count them. We touch them. Some people study them. Just about everyone is in some way fascinated by tree rings. It’s almost as if nature knew we would one day benefit from the self-aging system of trees. Things get even more fascinating when the process behind the tree ring phenomenon is explained.

Every growth season, a tree adds a new layer of wood to its trunk and limbs. Each ring has two sections: a wide, light section (early wood) and a narrow, dark section (late wood). The early wood grows during the wet spring season. During this period, the abundance of sunlight, warmth, and rain allows the tree to grow quickly. During the transition to fall and winter, growth slows down and the darker late wood forms. This two-part ring process is why we’re told to either count the light rings or the dark rings, but not both, when aging trees.

Turtle Bay’s historic Elliott Redwood
Turtle Bay’s historic Elliott Redwood

The rings provide clues about the weather of the area over time and evidence of disturbance to and around the tree, such as fires and floods. The shape and width of the annual rings can differ from year to year because of varying conditions. A moist growing season may produce a wide ring. During a drought or colder year, the tree may produce narrower rings. Disturbances like fire, tree-eating insects or disease can cause a narrow or misshapen ring to form, or even a black scar spot within the tree.

The older the tree, the more history that is told through its rings. Dendrochronologists—scientists who study tree rings—try to answer questions like, how has the climate changed over the last 2, 3, 4, or even 5,000 years? What conditions did wildlife (and humans) face during these time periods? Or even, what is the maximum lifespan of a tree? (Answer: 5,065 years and counting, according to one Bristlecone Pine). To avoid killing trees for ring research, dendrochronologists use tools called increment borers to take small core samples from trees. These thin cores still display the ring patterns even though they are long, narrow strips of wood.

tree cookie
Different Trees, Different Stories: Each “tree cookie” shows the tree’s age and the stresses it faced during its life. These particular tree cookies have drill holes so they can become tree ring necklaces later.

At Turtle Bay Exploration Park, we don’t cut down trees for dendrochronology studies. Your kids, however, can get the opportunity to learn all about tree rings in one of our summer camps! Starting June 6th, Turtle Bay will be holding three weeklong Discovery Camp sessions, each with its own theme. Sign your kids up today at http://www.turtlebay.org/learn/camps.

Weird Science is All Around Us!

One of my favorite families of birds is the Hummingbird family. Hummingbirds can do some pretty amazing things, such as hover in midair with their fast-beating wings, or use their long beaks and tongues to sip hard-to-reach nectar from hard-to-pollinate flowers. With most hummingbird species, males have an especially showy group of neck feathers called the gorget. The feathers in the gorget are highly iridescent, and the male hummingbird can display these gorget feathers in various ways to get attention from females.

Hummingbird gorget display
A male Lucifer Hummingbird flares its gorget in an attempt to attract this female.
Photo from: http://cmoasis.blogspot.com/2013/05/lucifer-hummingbird-courtship-display.html

What color is that hummingbird’s gorget?

Pink? Possibly…

Magenta? Another good answer…

Shiny… Is shiny a color?

What’s going on?

In reality, the hummingbird’s gorget feathers are colorless. If you looked at these feathers under a powerful microscope, it would become clear that there is no pigmentation in the bird’s gorget feathers at all.

So why do we see such brilliant colors? The hummingbird’s gorget feathers (and most of the hummingbird’s other feathers, actually) exhibit a phenomenon known as structural coloration. Structural coloration works differently than the pigments we usually associate with color.

Pigments absorb some of the light and reflect some back. This determines the color we see. If all light is absorbed in the pigment, the color we see is black. If all light is reflected back to our eyes, we see white. Other colors are somewhere in between, with darker pigments absorbing more light and brighter ones reflecting more light.

Structural coloration, on the other hand, uses the microscopic shape of the feathers to create the appearance of color. All of the light is reflected back, but not all of it is reflected back from the same distance. These distances determine what color each fraction of reflected light creates in our eyes. In the case of our magenta-gorget-sporting hummingbird friend, his gorget feathers are structured to produce that shiny magenta hue the females know and love. His green feathers are similarly structured, utilizing a different reflective distance, where green light is reflected back most strongly.

Close-up of hummingbird gorget
A close-up of the hummingbird’s gorget feathers. Even at this magnification, color is still perceived!
Photo from: http://www.corbisimages.com/images/Corbis-LP001589.jpg?size=67&uid=489f357e-9888-4abd-81cd-f46b9991aa35

I could go on and on about structural coloration and birds and weird science, but I don’t want to take away from the fun that’s coming soon to Turtle Bay! Join us for “Beaks, Wings, Feathers, and Feet”, a Science Saturday program all about birds on March 19th, from 11am – 3pm. We’ll talk about bird feathers, structural coloration, and pigmentation in much more detail then.


Jake Ewald, Educator


Let’s Scoop Some Ice Cream for Science!

Have you ever noticed that your metal ice cream scooper works better than your plastic one? It just seems to cut through the ice cream a little more easily. Well, that’s not a coincidence, and you can show yourself why in about 5 minutes by trying this:

If you own both a plastic and a metal ice scream scooper, pick one up with each hand. If you only have one scooper, a metal and a plastic spoon will work too. Now, which one is colder? That was a trick question, because if you got these from the same drawer, they are about the same temperature. But then again, the metal scooper or spoon is almost guaranteed to feel colder.

Metal ice cream scoop Plastic ice cream scoop

How is that possible? Could it be that the plastic scooper hogs the heat? No, the two scoopers are really the same temperature, but plastic conducts heat differently than the metal.

Metal is considered a very good thermal conductor. It can absorb or release heat much more easily than plastic, which is better known as a thermal insulator. When you touch your two scoopers, heat from your warmer hands flows into the room-temperature objects you are holding. This causes each scooper to feel cold, but your metal scooper will feel much colder because your heat is pulled into the metal scooper much more quickly than the plastic scooper.

ice cream scoop

Now, back to the ice cream. If you take your warm ice cream scooper and dig it into your favorite flavor of cold ice cream, the heat from your scooper will flow into the ice cream, causing the ice cream to melt wherever it touches the scooper. The scooper, having lost heat, will get colder. If your scooper is metal, the ice cream will melt quickly and easily, making it easy to carve out a scoop of ice cream. If your scooper is plastic, this will happen much more slowly, meaning you will have to rely more on your muscles to get your ice cream out of the container and into your bowl.

So, the next time you’re out shopping, think about thermal conductivity. Buy metal ice cream scoopers, but plastic coffee containers. And if you think this stuff is pretty cool, sign your kids up for Turtle Bay’s Discovery Camp! From March 28th – April 1st, we’re going to focus on “Weird Science”, from thermal conductivity, to nano-science, to squid dissections! Registration is limited, so don’t miss out and sign up today!

Turtles Teach: Summer Camp… At Home!

FlubberDon’t let the summer heat bring you down! Try this summer camp activity at home!

Flubber – can you shape it, bounce it or stretch it?


  • 3 cups of warm water
  • 2 cups of white glue
  • Liquid water color
  • 20 Mule Team Borax (available in the laundry aisle of the grocery store)
  • 2 bowls
  • Spoon to stir
  • White vinegar (for cleaning)


  1. In a large bowl combine and mix 1 ½ cups of warm water, white glue and a few drops of liquid water color. Completely mix.
  2. In a separate bowl combine and mix 1 ½ cups warm water and 2 teaspoons of borax. Make sure borax is completely dissolved.
  3. Use the spoon (or your hands!) to mix the borax solution into the larger bowl.
  4. Lift and turn the mixture until it is fully combined. Discard any leftover liquid.
  5. Play!

FlubberWhat is Flubber? 

Flubber is a polymer made by a chemical reaction. Polymers are long chains of repeating units. When these two solutions are combined, polyvinyl acetate chains (a polymer from white glue) are linked together in a three dimensional arrangement by borate ions (from the borax). This produces the thick, sticky polymer called Flubber!


*Flubber will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. White vinegar will dissolve Flubber from any unwanted surfaces.



Happy Learning!

Turtle Bay Education Staff

Turtles Teach: Programs, programs and more programs at Turtle Bay!

The Education and Programs Department of Turtle Bay Exploration Park is all about programs! We offer a vast array of school and public programs, special events and even holiday programs and other amazing opportunities across the Turtle Bay Campus and around the North State. Our programs span a variety of subjects and reach audiences as young as pre-school, through school age youth and teens, and into adults.

Turtle Bay Education ProgramsAre you an Early Childhood Educator seeking opportunities for training or new ideas for classes or programs? Join Monique Gaido in our “More to Explore Program”, funded by First 5 Shasta. We offer a wide range of professional development workshops for teachers and early childhood caregivers to help improve your skills and grow your knowledge base.

Maybe you are a teacher or educator in search of professional development opportunities for yourself and your colleagues. Join Mary Harper, our Teacher Professional Development Coordinator, for a variety of Professional Development workshops throughout the year. Topics range from facilitator trainings for Project Learning Tree, Project WET and Project WILD, to workshops on global warming/climate change, Nanotechnology and STEM Programs and even how to engage in current science initiatives via Citizen Science.

Have you heard about what is happening at Turtle Bay Exploration Park on Saturdays? Join us on the second and third Saturday of each month for Family Second Saturday and Science Saturday. For the month of March, join us to learn all about Nanotechnology, the “Science of Small”! Discover how many of our everyday and household items rely on complicated nanotechnology to function.

Spring is just around the corner, and that means Spring Break Camp! Sign up your 8-12 year old students for a week of scientific investigations in our “Exploring Food Webs” camp program. Learn all about the components of life on earth and how they all come together to create the web of life. Each day will focus on a theme, starting with the sun and the energy it provides to kick-start the food web.  Sequential days will build off the previous day as we piece together the food web that can be found surrounding Turtle Bay.

What programs are you most excited to explore?


Happy learning!

The Teaching Turtles 

Education and Programs Department