Science Center of Iowa Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals come to explore science and technology. To continue the learning outside our walls, we give you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities and in-depth information about science events.

Latest Posts


Baby (snake) boom at SCI!

Proud mama snake with her 70 babies!

Proud mama snake with her 70 babies!

SCI was buzzing yesterday with news that our red-sided garter snake gave birth to not 1, not 10... but 70 BABIES!

Our Facebook and Twitter pages were bursting with your comments about the picture we posted -- ranging from meteorologist Megan Salois’s post on Twitter: “I just learned a garter snake here at @SCIOWA gave birth to 67 snakes this AM! Sounds cool, huh?” to Facebook comments: “I don't mind snakes, but this gives me the heebee-jeebees!! Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!”

A lot of you had questions and were interested in learning more about this unusual birth. We passed along your questions to SCI’s Animal Specialist, Mark, who gave us these fun facts about the red-sided garter:

Scientific name: Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis

"Do they always have that many??" The average number of babies that a red-sided garter snake will have varies depending on the size of the snake. On average, they will have approximately 20-30. The most red-sided garter snakes born at one time was 89 (was not in the state of Iowa).

"As in live birth? Not eggs?" Yes! This was a live birth - it took a couple of hours.

"What is SCI going to do with 70 baby snakes?" We will wait for a rainier weather pattern before we release the snakes. The plan is to release them in a suitable habitat, probably near a pond. The red-sided garter snake is one of the only unprotected snakes in the state of Iowa.

"Now let's see how many she eats." Red-sided garters do not eat their young.

Learn more about red-sided garter snakes online or by visiting our What On Earth? experience platform!

Category: General SCI


Getting in tune with nature with iEARTH camp

iEARTH is a partnership between the Science Center of Iowa and Des Moines Park and Recreation

iEARTH is a partnership between the Science Center of Iowa and Des Moines Park and Recreation

By: David Drucker, 2012 iEARTH counselor

At iEARTH camp, we believe that nature is a very important aspect of life and that all children should be given the opportunity to have a hands-on nature experience.

As we’ve been going through these past few weeks of iEARTH camp, we do our best to introduce new knowledge to the children about a variety of aspects about nature. From Pre-K to 2nd grade, there are a few subjects that we like to focus on. Those subjects include The Wonders of Nature, The Green on Plants, Animal Antics, Birding Around and I Wanna ROCK. We take each of these categories and go into great detail.

Each day, we find specific activities that reflect what and how we learn the material. For example, for The Green on Plants, we have created a song called “Be the Leaf” which reflects the life of a plant starting from a seed. Another example is animal tracks. We let the children create animals tracks of their own based on some animals we might see around Iowa.

As counselors of the iEARTH camp, our overall goal is to make sure the kids are informed about nature and that they are learning at least one new thing each and every week! To check their comprehension on the material for the day, we create individual nature journals. Theses journals are personalized for each student. In the last 45 minutes of camp each day, we give kids time to add significant drawings about something they found interesting in nature!

As important as learning is in camp, fun is also a top priority of iEARTH camps! We have a least one adventure every day during our nature walks throughout Greenwood Park. On these walks, we provide general knowledge about the things we see in nature, and it gives the kids an opportunity to explore around nature and see what they can find! Another perk of these walks is that the kids get to learn fun camp songs and just enjoy being outside with a group of children having a fantastic time!

iEARTH camp is a very enjoyable camp for the kids, and it gets them in tune with nature!

Learn more about iEARTH camp.

David Drucker is a 2012 iEARTH camp counselor at SCI.

Category: General SCI


Asteroid Deflection (in 140 characters or less)

Bong Wie is Director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University

Bong Wie is Director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University

Did you miss Tuesday's Café Scientifique - Deflecting Disaster: Preventing an Asteroid Apocalypse? Bong Wie, Director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University, presented on the technology his team is developing to prevent an asteroid from crashing into Earth, changing the world as we know it.

Here's a quick recap of the highlights of the presentation from our live-tweeting Marketing Coordinator, Emilee Richardson:

• Tonight's #CafeSci - "Deflecting Disaster: Preventing an Asteroid Apocalypse" - I'll be sharing snippets over the next hour!

• We'll discuss practically-viable, technically-feasible, cost-effective solutions for deflecting asteroids & comets.

• Asteroids: 101... NEO = Near-Earth object; 300 m asteroid = 40 billion kg; asteroid orbital speed = 30 km/s.

• A 10-km asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. A 2-km asteroid struck Mason, IA, 74 million years ago.

• A 50-m asteroid exploded over Siberia in 1908 w/ the equivalent damage of 600 Hiroshima nuclear bombs.

• In 2029, a 300-m asteroid will miss Earth by 36,000 km. (Too close for comfort!)

• Low-energy asteroid deflection: Tugboats, gravity tractors, solar sails, mass drivers. BUT, they require a longer lead time.

• Nuclear explosive options: Flyby near-surface blast, surface contact burst, penetrated subsurface explosion.

• Problem: Nuclear device can't withstand high-speed impact with asteroid.

• After destroying an asteroid w/ nuclear explosion, some debris will likely impact Earth. But damage would be minimal.

• RT @k_blythe: NASA found 167 technical flaws in the movie "Armageddon." Imagine that! ;) #CafeSci

Café Scientifique is SCI's monthly event series that engages Central Iowa's adult learning community in contemporary science. The next Café Scientifique takes place on Monday, July 9 - Training Champions: The Team Behind the Athletes.

Follow SCI on Twitter and Facebook for news and science updates, as well as live updates from many of our events!

Category: General SCI