SCI 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 of all ages come to explore science and technology.

To continue the learning outside our building, we bring 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, in-depth information about science events and STEM connections in the Des Moines area.

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  • Unearthing the American dream at Effigy Mounds

    Effigy Mounds in northeast Iowa has layers of significance. There’s the park’s importance among Native American communities. There’s its status as Iowa’s only national monument. There are the physical mounds, each mystically carved into Iowa’s landscape.

    Located in Monona, Iowa, in Allamakee County, Effigy Mounds joins national parks and historical sites under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which celebrates its centennial in August.

    The park’s trademark mounds were formed by Native Americans in the shapes of animal spirits, including birds, deer, bison and lynx.

    Northeast Iowa and Wisconsin are the only places in the Midwest have these types of highly concentrated mounds.

    The mystery is part of the park’s allure for Effigy Mounds Cultural Resources Manger Albert LeBeau. He understands how the mounds were made — it’s the lingering “Why?” that inspires lasting relationships and collaboration with more than 20 Native American tribes.

    “It’s about making sure that story is being told and making sure it’s told correctly,” LeBeau says. “We work hard to reestablish a working relationship with tribal partners. We have open, frank conversations about the management of the park together.”

    For Chief Ranger Bob Palmer, the park’s importance is rooted in little moments that embody what it means to be an American.

    Palmer’s national parks career has taken him to North Carolina, the Virgin Islands, Virginia and the north island of New Zealand. At Effigy Mounds, he oversees everything from visitor center operations and school visits to environmental protection and park upkeep.

    Distilling a 29-year national parks career into a moment or two is tough for Palmer, but one Effigy Mounds moment still has him tearing up, 15-some years later.

    Palmer took a group of fourth graders on a hike at Effigy Mounds, asking history trivia along the way.

    He started things off with a story about Fort Crawford, which is across the Mississippi River. The commanding officer’s daughter there married a soldier named Jefferson Davis. Palmer asked if anyone knew who Davis was.

    “This little boy raised his hand and shyly said, ‘Wasn’t he the president of the confederacy during the Civil War?’ ‘Yes, yes, he was,’ I said. ‘And his father-in-law was Zachary Taylor, does anyone know who Zachary Taylor was?’”

    The boy answered question after question correctly, even acing Zachary Taylor’s nickname: “Old Rough and Ready.”

    Palmer finished the hike and stopped to chat with the boy’s teachers.

    “I said, ‘Boy, that fella is really switched on. He knows his history,’ and she looked at me, and said, ‘Yeah, he’s a Bosnian immigrant. He’s only been here for two-and-a-half years because his family was in the civil war in Bosnia. They moved over here, and he’s really embraced being an American.’”

    Fifteen-some years later, that moment still encapsulates Palmer’s understanding of America’s National Park Service and all it encompasses.

    “The value of our parks, national monuments and historical sites allows us to weave a tapestry among our citizenry that brings us all together in one form or another,” Palmer said. “You go to these parks and people have experiences that transform their lives. In that case, it was an experience that transformed mine.”

    Experience the transformative power of the parks with National Parks Adventure in IMAX at SCI. Plus, get a local taste of America’s nationally protected lands with a trip to Effigy Mounds this summer!

  • Meet the Makers: Bridgett Harvey

    Hi, I’m Bridgett! One of the biggest influences in my life as a Maker was growing up on a parade route in Adel, Iowa, and the transformative magic that happened on the floats with candy, color and confetti! I spent summers barefoot playing in creeks and riverbeds with my labs, Otis and Buddy. Here, I filled my pockets with shells, rocks and artifacts, looking up curiosities in the World Book Encyclopedia. My family encouraged my creative curiosity by providing endless arts-and-crafts supplies, often secondhand from thrift stores and instilling the idea that the box the new item came in is often more fun than the new item itself!

    I took my interest for the natural world and my love for creating things on to study at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. Here, I continued to care and expand my family of pets, adopting toads, guinea pigs and Lolli the Boston terrier, and transformed my dorm room into a tinkering studio covered in solder, screen-printing emulsion, vintage fabric and puff paint. I developed a strong body of work in fort making, circuit bending and printmaking and furthered my experience with animal rescue and advocacy volunteering with local animal shelters.

    While wrestling with a major for my bachelor’s degree, I decided, “I just like to make things!” I graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s of fine arts in printmaking and environmental science. One of my favorite things about Making is the empowering ability to take ownership of a process and the potential to educate yourself and create anything you can dream of. I am excited to continue Making, working with animals and spreading my excitement for the world around me to everyone I meet at the Science Center of Iowa!