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

Things to Do in 2017

In case you are looking for something to do with you little ones while the big kids head back to school, or are wanting to provide fun learning opportunities for your children… Turtle Bay is a good place to start! Turtle Bay is already a place for interactive, exploratory fun, but did you know about some of our regular programming that is available to you? As the New Year starts, we invite you to join us as we experience the following programs this year.

Little Explorers

Little Explorers
These little ones got an up close meet and greet with Virginia, the box turtle.

Every Thursday morning, little ones ranging from 2 to 5 years old come with their families for the Little Explorers Program. This program facilitates a play-based learning environment where young children can investigate, create, and discover. Because Little Explorers is in the Mill Building, you can join in rain or shine. A typical program usually includes a story, an activity, and a take home craft all led by one of our docents. January’s theme is Nighttime Wonders. Join us in February to learn all about what’s On the Farm!

Little Explorers
We aren’t afraid of getting our hands dirty! This explorer is investigating a worm as he learns about what makes soil healthy.

Family Second Saturday

Family Second SaturdayIt’s in the name! Every second Saturday of the month, we invite everyone in the family to join us for an afternoon of interactive and educational fun. Although we offer new and exciting activities each month, we occasionally pull out some of our popular favorites! Keep an eye on our calendar for upcoming Family Second Saturday topics and activities; we hope to see you and the whole family there!

This month’s Family Second Saturday: Dry Ice Investigations

February: Innovations

Science Saturday

Science Saturday
Chemical Reactions come in all colors and sizes! Here we have colored Alka-Seltzer tablets being dissolved in warm and cold water. Do you think they had the same reaction?

Following our family Saturday program, each third Saturday of the month we feature Science Saturday. During this event, guests will have the opportunity to experiment, observe demonstrations, and hopefully will be able to answer the question, “What is going on?” as we explore and investigate.

This month’s Science Saturday: Science of Small

Science Saturday
How many glass beads in each glass do you see? Hint: there’s 3 altogether. Come see us this Science Saturday and find out what is going on!

February: On the Ranch


We hope to see you here soon!

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.

Maker Faire is coming to Shasta County!

Shasta County Mini Maker Faire

The very first Shasta County Mini Maker Faire is coming! Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 12th, 2016 from 10am – 4pm and the Redding Civic Auditorium.

The Shasta County Mini Maker Faire, hosted by Turtle Bay, is a chance for our North State California counties to celebrate its local makers. This is a family-friendly event that celebrates the creativity of individuals, students, educators, innovators, and businesses in the community. Mini Maker Faire allows creators to showcase their work to the community, while the public comes to enjoy interactive experiences, connect with like-minded people, and be inspired. Maker Faire supports passionate innovation, collaboration, and hands-on doing as a way of experiencing the world.

This Mini Maker Faire will feature various makers from all over the North State. View art made of masking tape, learn to solder, discover how a 3-D printer can make pancakes, participate in a LEGO robotics workshop, and so much more!

How can you be part of it?

  • Purchase your early bird tickets NOW! Early bird tickets are on sale at makerfaireshasta.com. Early bird adult tickets are only $10 available until November 4. (After November 4, adult ticket prices will increase.) Children 18 and under and college students with a valid ID are free. All attendees (free or not) must have tickets upon entry.
  • Participate in student team and individual challenges. Can your team build a bridge made of pasta? Can you design a helmet to protect an athlete’s head (aka a raw egg)? Can you design a creative sculpture that incorporates artistic skill and engineering? Create a mini race car for the Nerdy Derby Track! These challenges will test engineering and design skills for students of all ages! Visit the website for entry rules and requirements.
  • Volunteer at the event. Many volunteers are needed to help make this a successful event! Click here to sign up or email makervolunteer@gmail.com with any questions.
  • Spread the word! Tell your friends and family and make this a event a family affair!

The fun doesn’t end all in one day! On Sunday, November 13th, John Collins, the Paper Airplane Guy will be presenting at Turtle Bay Exploration Park at 11am in the Take Flight exhibition. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn the science behind paper airplanes and learn to fold the paper airplane that holds the world record for farthest flight. For information about John Collins, visit his website at www.thepaperairplaneguy.com.

We hope to see you at the Faire!

Summer Science – Bubbles!

Although summer’s end is approaching, let us remember that there is plenty of time left for some our favorite activities! We would like to share with you one of our personal favorites: blowing bubbles! Sure, bubbles on the back patio these summer evenings can be relaxing and fun, but we challenge you to take blowing bubbles to the next level with these hands-on activities.

First, you will need plenty of bubble solution. If you already have some on hand, awesome! If not, here is our go-to recipe. Feel free to look up any DIY bubbles recipe for these activities.

DIY Bubble Solution

1 gallon of water

1 cup of Dawn dish soap

2 tablespoons of glycerin (available on Amazon or Carolina Biological)


Gently mix all ingredients in a large container. Let it sit overnight for best results! Once you’re ready, divide the solution into smaller containers to reduce risk of spills and maximize the potential of fun. Plastic food containers and dish pans work well. If you plan on using the solution over a longer period of time, keep what is not being used inside a closed container in a cool area, like indoors.


Things to remember about bubbles…

– Bubbles like things that are wet, not dry. Dip your hands or tools in bubble solution to keep the bubbles intact, with wet hands you can catch and handle the bubbles.

– The sun and heat can deteriorate your solution and bubbles. If the indoors are not available, try to find a cool(ish) shady spot that is protected from the wind so you can enjoy your bubbles longer.

– Bubble solution is slippery! Walk carefully on hard surfaces and clean up any spills with vinegar and water. Squeegees, towels, newspaper, and paper towels are great clean up supplies when the time comes.

– If you get any solution in your eye, do not rub! Blink a lot and if necessary, rinse well with water.

– Don’t have a bubble wand? Fear not! A simple drink straw makes a fantastic instrument; just make sure to remember which end is for you mouth. When you’re not using the straw, your built in straw holder (behind your ear) is a great place to set it aside until you need it again.


Because we are scientists (bubble-ologists that is), we make observations. During these activities, watch carefully, take notes, and ask questions!!

Bubble Colors

The thin bubble film diffracts light and presents a colorful swirling surface. Watch carefully as the colors change and move around the bubble. Do you see any patterns in the colors? Do all bubbles present the same colors? Can you predict when the bubble will pop by watching the colors change?

Bubble FoamBubble Foam

Pour some bubble solution into two separate containers. Using your straw, blow as many bubbles as you can into one container; in the other whisk the solution to create a foamy mess. Compare the two containers and make some observations. Which grew faster? Which lasted longer? What is different between the bubbles and the foam? What is the same?

Bubble TechnologyBubble Technology

Find objects around your house that would make great bubble blowing instruments. (Hint: start in the kitchen!) See if you can use multiple objects to create your own instrument. Build a bubble blower from pipe cleaners, yarn, or straw!


Bubble FestivalBubble Festival: August 13th from 11:00-3:00 in the classroom

Excited for more bubble fun? We sure are! We will be hosting a Bubble Festival for our Family Second Saturday program. Here you can participate in more activities; you can make GIANT bubbles, stand inside of a bubble, and watch bubbles freeze over dry ice!! We hope to see you there so you can enjoy all the stations and leave the clean-up to us 😉

Summer Science – Make Your Own Solar Oven

As summer starts to settle in and the reading on the thermometer keeps rising, don’t fret – do some science! Here at the Turtle Bay Education Department, we do science all year around. This is one of our favorite activities that you can do at home and it involves a tasty treat!

Did you have pizza for dinner last night? Save the box and create your own solar oven! A solar oven takes the energy from the sun to warm up or “cook” the contents inside. What are the benefits for using a solar oven? You aren’t relying on any electricity! You are saving energy by harnessing what’s already available (the sun!) You are saving money in energy costs and benefiting the environment. Warning: do not try to use your solar oven at night – contents may not cook.

How to make a solar oven:

You may already have many of these materials in your home. Please remember to always have an adult nearby and ready to help.


Solar Oven materialsMaterials:

  • Pizza box
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Tin foil
  • Black paper
  • Box cutter (and an adult to help!)
  • Glue and packaging tape
  • 2 bendy straws
  • Marker


  1. Draw a square on the top of the pizza box about 1-2 inches away from all the sides.
  1. With the help of an adult, use the box cutter to cut out the square/rectangle from the top of the pizza box.
  1. Take the square from the box and wrap in tin foil, keeping the shiny side out.

solar oven

  1. Measure and cut a piece of plastic wrap and tape it down to the inside top of your pizza box. The plastic wrap should cover the square opening. Try to secure the plastic wrap so it does not sag and tape all four sides.

solar oven

  1. Glue black paper to the bottom inside of the pizza box.

solar oven

  1. Reattach the foil wrapped square with packaging tape making a flap.

solar oven

  1. Using the top end of the straw as a base, tape the straws along the sides of the top opening towards the front. Try tilting them slightly inward to catch the flap from closing shut.

solar oven

  1. Put something in your oven! For a quick snack, put together a s’more.
  1. Find a sunny spot outside where your oven will be warm and safe. Set up the tin-foiled flap to reflect sunlight directly on your food and secure this position with tape.


solar oven
Ta-da! The finished product!

Happy Summer Science, from your favorite educators at Turtle Bay!

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.