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


Meet SCI's Jr. Paleontologists

Meet SCI's Jr. Paleontologists

Were dinosaurs purple? Pink? Green? Or all of the above? What did Earth look like when Futalognkosaurus and Giganotosaurus reigned? We have just the experts to answer these questions!

Our 7- to 11-year-old “Jr. Paleontologists” were chosen because of their enthusiasm and expertise for all things dinosaur, and they are eager to answer your questions about the wow-worthy traveling exhibition, Ultimate Dinosaurs. Consult these Jr. Paleontologists at SCI’s $5 Family Night on December 12, where they’ll be ready to answer your questions and show off special Ultimate Dinosaurs activities!

Until then, let us introduce you to a few of these Jr. Paleontologists:

What made you want to be a Jr. Paleontologist at the Science Center of Iowa?

Sadie, 8: I’ve always wanted to work at the Science Center, and when I heard they were doing paleontology, I wanted to intern so I could learn more about dinosaurs.

Landan, 10: I’m really interested in the dinosaurs. I’ve liked them ever since I was in first grade, and I always wanted to learn more about them because they’re really interesting. 

Chloe, 8: I’ve always wondered about nature, so I wanted to learn more, so I went to the library, and I found this dinosaur book, which looked really interesting, and ever since, I’ve wanted to be a paleontologist.

Resean, 11: I learned that birds are technically a dinosaur! 

Cadence, 8: I wanted to become a Jr. Paleontologist because I’ve always wondered about the history of dinosaurs. I wanted to be a Jr. Paleontologist because it sounded like it would be very interesting.

Why do you like teaching others about dinosaurs?

Sadie: It makes me feel proud that I’m teaching the world about dinosaurs.

Landan: If dinosaurs ever came back, so they would have knowledge to know how to escape, so they wouldn’t get eaten.

Chloe: Then, they get to share what I’ve learned instead of trying to find all of the books and trying to go everywhere instead of just listening to people who know about it. 

Resean: For them to get interested.

Cadence: It’s really cool because you can help other people learn more.

What color do you think dinosaurs were when they lived on the Earth?

Sadie: I think that they were brown, green or other bright colors to show off to mates.

Landan: Well, maybe dinosaurs that didn’t need to hide could have bright colors, so they could attract females. Maybe if they had to hide, they could have colors that would match their habitat, so they could hide from predators or even help predators catch their prey.

Chloe: Different colors, actually. Nothing can be just one color!

Resean: All colors except for… never mind, all of them.

Cadence: I think they were mostly brown, blue and green.

What do you think the Earth was like when the dinosaurs were alive?

Sadie: I think it was kind of like the Earth right now but no buildings, no people, no man-made stuff. One big continent of dinosaurs. 

Landan: No humans, nothing we created. A lot of forests, deserts, water. In that time period, the Earth was all put together into one big continent.

Chloe: It must have looked different. 

Resean: All the continents were squished together.

Cadence: All the continents were stuck together, and when it got closer to the dinosaurs being extinct, all the continents were all apart in seven continents.


RAWR! How to T. rex -proof a museum

3 semi trucks + 11 staff + 38 crates = one BIG exhibit!

3 semi trucks + 11 staff + 38 crates = one BIG exhibit!

By: Allison Schwanebeck, SCI Exhibits Director

RAWR! Something big is coming to SCI!  

If you haven't heard, A T. rex Named Sue opens at SCI on February 2. Our planning process has been quite fun, and you can probably imagine the dinosaur and T. rex jokes that have filled our office. (Including this URL redirect:

But before we introduce Sue to the public, we have a lot of work to accomplish... We have to T. rex -proof the museum! 

Winter Closure: January 22-25

SCI will be closed next Tuesday through Friday for annual maintenance and cleaning as well as to get ready for our dino-sized visitor. We're also going to be doing many construction and exhibit projects. 

Why close? Well, there are some projects that are just too big to do while we're open to the public!

When we reopen, the biggest change you'll see is the removal of the wall in Founders Hall (what the staff refers to 'the big purple wall'). The wall was installed to allow us to bring large traveling exhibits such as Da Vinci: the Genius and Body Worlds: Vital  to Des Moines, but A T. rex Named Sue will be included with general admission, so a wall is no longer needed!  This change will be quite dramatic, and when you first walk into SCI, it will be BAM! DINOSAUR! (Well, at least while Sue is here 'til May 12...)  

Other things on our agenda:

  • Constructing a large dig pit for the exhibit
  • Making repairs and cleaning to our much-loved permanent exhibits (Can you imagine the impact 200,000+ visitors can make in a year?)

Planning for the future

While Sue is at SCI, we will continue the planning and design for the reinstallation of one of our permanent exhibits. I can’t give too much away now, but stay tuned for more details.

Make sure to stop by and say hi to Sue between February 2 and May 12! She can’t wait to eat…I mean *meet* you!

Allison Schwanebeck is SCI’s Exhibits Director. This is a recent promotion from her role as Traveling Exhibits Manager. Allison has worked at SCI since June 2007, when she started as a Programs Presenter.


7 tips to see Facing Mars before it leaves SCI!

Mission: Accomplished - Facing Mars ends January 6!

Mission: Accomplished - Facing Mars ends January 6!

By: Emilee Richardson, Marketing & Communication Coordinator


It's hard to believe that Facing Mars is wrapping up its time at SCI!

From the initial excitement of its arrival to following the awe-inspiring journey and landing of NASA's Curiosity rover, and with programs like Train Like An Astronaut  and a visit from astronaut Peggy Whitson, we've had a ton of fun celebrating space and exploring the challenges of traveling to the Red Planet.

If you haven't seen Facing Mars yet (or if you want to see it again!), there are only a few days left - it leaves SCI on Sunday, January 6.

We anticipate that many people also will wait until the last minute, so here are a few tips to get the biggest bang for your buck:


  1. Experience Facing Mars this Saturday for "Space Spectacular,"a day packed full of space-themed activities and programming included with general admission!
  2. Visit either day this weekend and take a Hovercraft Ride, offered Saturday from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm and 2:00 - 3:00 pm and on Sunday from 2:00 - 3:00 pm. Hovercraft rides are included with Facing Mars admission.
  3. Stay and experience SCI. Facing Mars tickets include all-day admission to SCI. Continue the adventure with live science programs, including Journey to Mars!
  4. See Roving Marsin IMAX. Explore the surface of the Red Planet through the eyes of NASA's twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
  5. Continue the journey through outer space by visiting the NASA Shuttle Legacy exhibit, "Conquering Low Earth Orbit."  This special exhibit in SCI's Why The Sky? experience platform features artifacts and information from the Space Shuttle program, a real spacesuit, shuttle tire and a 1:15 scale model of a Space Shuttle.
  6. Need a night at SCI without the kids? SCI's monthly 21+ event, Mixology, is this Friday from 5:30 - 9:00 pm. Mix up your Friday night with live music from Seedlings and experience Facing Mars for only $10.
  7. Become an SCI member and save! Members receive FREE admission to Facing Mars every day, plus discounts throughout the year!

Don't procrastinate! You don't want to miss out on this hands-on and thought-provoking traveling exhibition. Want more details? Check out the Facing Mars site for information about the exhibit!


Train Like An Astronaut: Do you have what it takes?

Do you have what it takes to Train Like An Astronaut?

Do you have what it takes to Train Like An Astronaut?

By: Catherine Lowe, SCI Education Coordinator

What does it take to become an astronaut? I would guess if you asked most people, they would respond with, “Intelligence,” or perhaps, “Patience.” Physical fitness is not always the first thing people think of. However, it is a key ingredient in succeeding in space. Astronauts need to be in peak physical condition even before they journey into space to help combat the muscle loss and changes their bodies will experience in a micro-gravity environment.

Right now, as you sit on our great planet Earth reading this, your body is working. Gravity is pulling you down, and your body is using muscles to keep you sitting upright. While in space, the bodies of astronauts are no longer working against that force, which in turn, causes them to lose muscle strength and coordination.Coordination is using your muscles to move your body the way you want it to move.

Another big change between Earth and space is a human’s ability to balance. We all have tiny organs in our ears that are filled with a liquid that communicates to our brains whether we are right-side-up or upside-down. In space, the liquid isn’t held down by gravity – it sort of just floats around in there. During the first few days of space flight, astronauts experience a change in their spatial awareness and sense of balance. Even after returning to Earth, their brain has to relearn how to use information from their eyes, muscles and the organs in their ears to help control their body movement.

All of this means that it is incredibly important that astronauts are in peak physical condition before leaving Earth and that they continue a fitness routine while in space. NASA recently released information and videos sharing some of the training exercises astronauts perform before going to space. SCI has decided to join in on the fun and offer our newest program, Train Like an Astronaut.

Train Like an Astronaut will feature physical fitness activities straight from NASA, videos of astronauts in action and a discussion about eating healthy. I am so excited because this is something totally different from the programs we traditionally offer. This program is part of the Let’s Move! initiative launched by the First Lady Michelle Obama, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity through education and interactive activities.

Train Like an Astronaut premiers this Saturday, June 16, at 1 pm and is free with general admission to SCI. It also will be offered July 21 and August 18. The program will last 30 minutes and is open to astronauts of all ages. If you’ll be joining us, an RSVP is encouraged to I hope to see you there!

Catherine Lowe is SCI’s Education Coordinator. As part of her job, Catherine travels the state visiting libraries, schools and communities sharing interactive science presentations. When not driving across Iowa, she works to develop new programs and exhibit guides. Catherine studied elementary education at Iowa State University. She has worked at SCI since February 2011, when she started as a Programs Presenter.


Mars is almost here.

Crews are busy installing Facing Mars this week before the exhibit opens on Saturday, June 2!

Crews are busy installing Facing Mars this week before the exhibit opens on Saturday, June 2!

By: Allison Schwanebeck, SCI Traveling Exhibits Manager

DaVinci. The human body. Ancient Egypt. Mars.  

Learning about a variety of subjects has always been one of my favorite things about working at SCI.  As traveling exhibits manager, it’s my job to learn about new things as we prepare for a new exhibit. I get to dive into a topic and learn as much as possible, and right now, I’m all about Mars.

Did you know that sunsets on Mars are typically blue because of the dust particles in the atmosphere? How cool is that?!

I also get to work with an amazing team of people from many of the different departments within SCI to create a fun, unique and engaging experience for each exhibit. Typically, the SCI team works on a traveling exhibit for six months to a year planning, developing, scheduling, designing and implementing what you will experience when you visit one of our traveling exhibits. (Funny enough, that’s about the amount of time it would take to travel to Mars!)

The last month before opening is always the busiest. On average, we spend two weeks packing up the exhibit that just closed and sending it off to the next museum. It always amazes me that taking down an exhibit goes so quickly after all of the hard work that goes into setting it up. When installing an exhibit, everything needs to go like clockwork. We spend the week before the exhibit arrives preparing the space with painting, lighting and any other special needs that the exhibit may require. The trucks carrying the exhibit arrive two weeks before opening, and it is full steam ahead unpacking crates, building the exhibit components and putting everything in its proper place.

Right now, we are just days away from the opening day of Facing Mars, and I think this is one of the most exciting times for the SCI team. Everything is in motion, the exhibit is getting the finishing touches, staff and volunteers are being trained and experiments are being finalized.

Would you go to Mars? I hope the answer is yes, because we are so excited to share Facing Mars with you! The exhibit opens this Saturday!

Allison Schwanebeck is SCI’s Traveling Exhibits Manager. As part of her job, Allison researches potential traveling exhibits, then helps execute the planning, installation and operations of the exhibits selected for SCI to host. Allison has worked at SCI since June 2007, when she started as a Programs Presenter.