Physical Address:
625 Esplanade
(near  Bidwell Mansion)
Chico CA

Mailing Address:
College of Natural Sci.
CSU, Chico
Chico, CA 95929-0545


Gateway Connection Newsletter Spring 2012

connection header

For past editions of the Gateway Connection, click here.

Discovery Club student with Ken-A-Vision

Hidden in Plain Sight!

Students in the Discovery Club at Chico Junior High School developed a micro-photography exhibit, Hidden in Plain Sight! on display at Gateway Science Museum for spring 2012. The students and their faculty advisor selected items at the museum to photograph very small aspects of using a Ken-A-Vision video microscope. Museum visitors are invited to enjoy the resulting images and to try to discover what item in the galleries the images are of! In this photo, Discovery Club member Keirstan Sandro experiments with the Ken-A-Vision. 



Dinos owl pellet discovery room connections





Explore: A Closer Look

In the Galleries

In the Galleries: Discovering the Discovery Room: PLEASE TOUCH

“This is not a dinosaur,” docent Elizabeth Johnson explains, picking up a miniature Quetzalcoatlus. “Dinosaurs couldn’t fly. The Quetzalcoatlus was one of the largest flying creatures ever known, and it’s a kind of pterosaur — flying reptiles that lived during approximately the same time frame as the dinosaurs.”

EJ and pterosaur

Gateway’s Discovery Room is full of fun! Fun and hands-on, inquiry-based science learning and exploration. As a docent, Jo Johnson points out, “in the Discovery Room we have a sort of unwritten rule that almost everything can be touched or handled in some way, as age-appropriate. Sometimes the hands-on elements in the main galleries are very specific; they have a clear destination. But here in the Discovery Room [where docents develop new displays and exhibits at least three times a year] the experience/play-based activities are open-ended — allowing for creativity and the stretching of the visitor’s imagination.” Jo, who has participated in Gateway’s educational programs in ways as varied as being a summer camp counselor, leading a planetary sciences demonstration on the Winter Solstice, and dressing up as Microbe Man, enjoys the fact that visitors (kids and adults) often stay in the Discovery Room for extended periods of time: “The Discovery Room offers something for almost everyone, exploring geology, paleontology, astronomy, climatology, physics, anthropology, engineering, biology, and microscopy.”


Jo and Elizabeth (not related) are both seniors studying Geology at CSU, Chico. They both began as volunteers at Gateway in the fall of 2009, prior to the museum’s opening to the public in early 2010. Working together, with input from other docents and Education Staff, they are excited about the new activities in the Discovery Room for spring 2012. Make sure to check out the Dinosaur Wall, and the many mind-engaging magnets, mazes, and other moveable objects in the manipulatives cubbies. And, PLEASE TOUCH!

back to top

In the Gardens: The silvery sycamore

Gateway's silvery sycamore

Gateway Science Museum’s gardens are exhibits in themselves, and integral to the museum’s mission. Based on native plant ecoregions found around Northern California, for instance montane forests, riparian corridors and the Delta, Gateway’s landscapes are full of beautiful plants and trees that thrive in our area.  Of all of the plants in the gardens, the young sycamore (Platanus racemosa) tree on the south side of the museum is most beloved by Gateway’s director, Rachel Teasdale. “It was originally planted under the drip line and in the shade of a line of established cork oaks, and it was not doing well. After being moved, it’s now flourishing! University staff pruned it this past fall, and it looks great right now.” It’s an allegorical story of growing up and overcoming difficulties.

The California, or western sycamore, is a stately tree admired for its graceful branching and silvery mottled bark. Western sycamores are found in a variety of plant communities, generally near wetlands or streams, and grow at up to 6,500 feet in elevation throughout California. Sycamore is endemic to (found only in) the Western United States, and grows fairly quickly. Healthy sycamores can grow to over 100 feet tall and live up to 100 years. Gateway’s sycamore is in good company within the bounds of CSU, Chico’s 119-acre Arboretum that includes over 200 species of plants.  ( )

This spring, look for new Education Station activities on native plants and native plant pollinators in conjunction with a Valley Gallery exhibit on California’s many native pollinating insects and animals opening in late April!

In the Works: Field Notes from the Director

 sycamore leaves

Field notes from the Director

2011 was a wildly successful, wonderful year for Gateway Science Museum, and upcoming exhibits and events in 2012 are sure to raise the bar even higher as illustrated by the opening weekend of our spring 2012 exhibits, Noise! Toys: the Inside Story, and Larger than Life with more than 350 visitors to the museum!

In recap, 2011 included a wonderful array of activities to explore, interpret, and discover!

  • Spring: Exhibits on Microbes: Invisible Invaders…Amazing Allies (produced by Evergreen Exhibitions) accompanied our first self-produced exhibit, A Big Look at Tiny Things, which was no small feat for our first go at exhibit production! Spring MWOW lectures expanded our examination at the micro-level, thanks to wonderful speakers from the university and community.
  • Summer: Camps kept us hopping, running, and wading in the creek. Children from around the North State (and a few from out of state!) examined, discovered, and explored creeks, the museum, and the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve, and had a great time along the way!  The Sustainable Choices and Climate Science exhibits offered a chance to better understand the science of climatologists, and David Arnold’s presentation on Double Exposure was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the physical changes of glaciers during the last century.
  • Fall: Past Tents – The Way We Camped finally brought John and Annie Bidwell to the museum as part of the photography and artifacts of camping, when roughing it was pretty rough! The Hunt for Treasure inspired the launch of Gateway’s geocache; watch for installation information on our website! As hoped, our inaugural event, An Evening to Treasure, was a true jewel for the museum. Funds raised exceeded our expectations and will help us continue to provide educational programs, a summer camp for children from underserved communities, exhibits, and operations. Thank you for all the support of this event!
  • We added to our staff (employees and volunteers) this year, each of whom bring expertise, passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity. Chico State students have been participating in great numbers, bringing their experiences in Animal Sciences, Geology, Volcanology, Cartography, Environmental Science, Liberal Studies (pre-service teachers), and more. We’re thrilled to have such great connections and participation from the faculty, staff, and students!

Looking forward to 2012, there are many opportunities for you to be involved with the museum — come visit, attend a lecture, become a volunteer in the galleries, the gardens, or the office; attend a lecture — and more! Upcoming opportunities include:

  • Spring: Visit exhibits, Toys: An Inside Look and Noise (including a scream chamber!) and in late April be sure to come see the Pollinators exhibit, a blend of art with science. We’ll also host our semi-annual MWOW lecture series at CARD Wednesday nights in April. Check the museum calendar for Education Station activities.
  • Summer: Get your kids registered for Gateway Discovery Camps and come by the museum to learn more about the Ursus arctos horribilis (in our summer exhibit, Bear in Mind).
  • Fall: more great exhibits, Take Flight to be specific! Ed programs, MWOW lectures, and Discovery Room fun galore!

In 2012, we look forward to even more opportunities to Explore, Interpret, and Discover the wonders of the North State in whole new ways!

All the best,


back to top

Interpret: Dig Deeper

13th Annual Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway

owl in barn

2012 marks the 13th anniversary of the renowned Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway, a major birding and wildlife event in the state of California. The festival takes place throughout Butte County with activities, field trips, workshops, and art exhibits celebrating the North State’s unique position along this major north-south corridor for migratory birds.  Gateway staff will be participating in the festival with an educational booth exploring the fascinating finds inside of owl pellets (regurgitated material).

Come visit Gateway’s booth from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday January 28 and 29 at the Chico Masonic Family Center on East Avenue, and dig deeper for yourself! You will uncover some amazing facts about the life of a predatory bird as seen through their pellets!

back to top

The Love of Learning — Gateway’s Education Station and beyond….

Monet's student in Ed Station

Gateway’s Education Station sits at the heart of the physical museum, and it’s one of the places that learning comes to life as visitors dig deeper into how and why things work the way they do. In 2011, more than 35 unique activities took place in the Ed Station, exploring all manner of interesting topics as varied as wind, caldera formation, the smell of bacteria, the many uses of native plants, and the planetary science behind the Winter Solstice.

Gateway staff enjoys developing Education Station activities focused on active learning throughout the year. Sometimes Gateway staff, based on their fields of interest or fields of expertise, creates the activities; sometimes community or campus-based groups and individuals develop and lead these activities. In 2011, the National Science Teachers Association and the Biology clubs at CSU, Chico, the Altacal Audubon Society, and regional native plant experts led Gateway activities for the public.

The spring 2012 exhibits Noise!, Toys: The Inside Story, and Larger than Life offer myriad opportunities for exploring the science of everyday life, including the science of toys and noise — and ESPECIALLY the science of noisy toys!

Look for weekend activities in January, February, and March on making your own kazoo or your own elderberry flute, as well as demonstrations on waves — from sound waves to waves crashing on a beach.

  • February 4 & 5, 1–3 p.m.: Musical Matters: Why do instruments make the sounds they do? Discover how different ways of playing drums, flutes, pipes, and strings change the sounds the instruments make! Join the PVC pipe band — come ready with a song to conduct! Build a kazoo — impress your friends with homemade instruments that play any tune.

For more Education Station activities this spring, please visit Gateway’s Calendar of Events

back to top

Celebrate: Make Connections

Kids (Of All Ages) At Gateway: The Playful Sound of Learning

boys in discovery room

The sound of people at play is perhaps universally recognizable. Gateway’s galleries regularly ring with such sounds from visitors of all ages. The museum is a destination for visitors to connect their lives more fully to the world around them — in play and in study. Individuals, families with pre-school aged kids, home school families, elementary school classrooms, college students, and faculty enjoy Gateway as an extension-classroom.

In fall 2011, Gateway welcomed more than 2,210 elementary students as visitors, and more than 75 college students engaged in classroom learning and educational outreach as part of their learning.

Among many faculty members who put Gateway’s resources to good use, Professor Julie Monet, in CSU, Chico’s Department of Science Education, holds her class for aspiring teachers twice weekly at the museum during the school year. In the practical setting of the museum galleries and learning labs, Prof. Monet’s students get hands-on experience teaching school-aged children from schools around the North State about science, and the art of inquiry and observation, through the lenses of current exhibits and hands-on activities. It is a reciprocal relationship of learning and teaching for both the future teachers and the students!


Volunteer Corner: Connie and Nathan Voss

Voss photo

Home school families see Gateway as a valuable resource for lesson plans and curriculum development. Connie Voss is a mother, a graduate student working toward her master’s degree, and a longtime teacher of her children, all of whom she has home schooled. The eldest of the Voss children is also working toward her master’s degree, and the youngest, 7th grader Nathan, is a valued Gateway volunteer. Most every Thursday mid-day, Connie and Nathan are at Gateway Science Museum serving as gallery docents. They explore the museum’s offerings, and their active enthusiasm helps visitors to engage even more fully.

Connie states that her teaching philosophy flows in many ways from a quote by Annie Sullivan, the renowned teacher of Helen Keller: “I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.” Connie finds that when she nurtures her children’s innate sense of curiosity and wonder, they think. When they are guided well from there, and given every more opportunities for exploring and discovery, they learn.

Gateway’s volunteers are integral to the museum’s mission. Currently, volunteers serve hundreds of hours a year for the museum as docents and as education, exhibit, special events, and operations helpers. Join us — see below for how to get involved!

back to top

Get Involved

School groups and classrooms from all over the region visit the museum on field trips many weekday mornings. Want to schedule a group field trip? Email Mary Brownell, administrative assistant, or call 530-898-4121

Gateway Science Museum welcomes volunteers in all aspects of the museum’s work. It’s inspiring, educational, and FUN! Want to be involved? Email Jennifer Jewell, volunteer coordinator, or call 530-898-3273.

Donate! Gifts of all kinds help support the museum and its educational programs.  All gifts are tax deductible as allowed by the IRS. To make a secure gift online, please visit the University website. Thank you for your support of Gateway Science Museum!

back to top