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Looking for fun, inexpensive activities to do with the kids this summer? Give upcycling a try! With a little paint and creativity, empty boxes, bottles and cans can be transformed into musical instruments, games or even birdhouses.

With school out for the summer, many parents are looking for fun, inexpensive activities to do with their kids. Why not give upcycling a try?

There are so many great projects people can do with old objects around the house, instead of recycling or throwing them away.

What exactly is upcycling? It is the process of making something useful, and often beautiful, from old or discarded materials.

During our recent Earth Day Play Date, we made musical instruments, a matching game, a bowling set and a birdhouse all out of "trash" found at the Museum.

Here's how we did it.

Musical Instruments:
1. Take old coffee cans or tissue boxes and wrap different sized rubber bands around them. The different sized bands will create different notes when plucked or strummed.
2. Turn empty pla… Keep reading.

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A Museum staff member displays a corn snake, a naturally docile breed that is friendly with guests.

One of the coolest animals I get to work with is the snake. We have lots of different species that live at the Museum, including pine, corn, black rat, yellow rat, copperhead, ribbon, northern water, king and garter snakes.

Most of the snakes stay on exhibition in Creature Cavern, but we have a few that we're able to bring out for Animal Encounters. This means you can touch them!

Whenever I handle a snake, the first question a guest usually asks is, "Will it bite?" This is a great question to ask because it's important to maintain the highest level of safety around any animal.

Anything with a mouth can bite — it's true — but people also have mouths and can bite. This doesn't mean we go around biting things all the time, and it's the same way with our snakes.

Snake mainly bite… Keep reading.

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Copperheads have a distinct hourglass pattern on their skin. Young copperheads also have a bright green tail. Photo credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

We are lucky that we don't have many venomous snakes here in Mecklenburg County. We mostly only have to keep our eyes out for copperheads. So, do you know how to identify one?

There are several ways to tell if a snake is a copperhead, but the easiest and safest way is to look at their pattern. The darker spots on the back of the snake are in an hourglass shape, meaning they are wider on the sides and thinner in the middle.

If you look at a copperhead from the side, the hourglass spots touch the ground. Most similarly patterned snakes have spots that do not reach all the way to the underside of the snake.

Copperheads also have diamond-shaped heads and cat-like eyes. These two characteristics are not as easy to spot as the snake's patterned skin, so it can make identifying much ha… Keep reading.

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Despite the myth, mother birds won't abandon their young after they've been touched by a human. Before you consider touching or moving a baby bird, first make sure the animal has truly been abandoned.

We get a lot of calls from worried residents about baby animals, especially this time of year. Spring is the perfect time to see young rabbits, birds and other sorts of native animals around.

But what should we do if we think one has been abandoned or hurt?

First make sure the animal has truly been abandoned. Cottontail rabbits are out of the nest in as little as three weeks, and their mothers only visit the nest to feed. This occurs twice a day for as little as five minutes! You can mark the top of the nest with thin twigs in a tic-tac-toe pattern, and the mother will move the sticks when she visits.

Unless you can see the deceased mother nearby, watch from a safe distance to see if the mother returns after a few days. If the baby has flies buzzing around it or is covered in fec… Keep reading.

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Throughout its metamorphosis, a butterfly changes from an egg to larva to pupa before becoming an adult butterfly. Copyright - 2014 oakdome.com

Metamorphosis is one of my favorite things to teach here at Charlotte Nature Museum!

In fact, we have a whole class devoted just to learning the difference between the metamorphosis and simple growth life cycles.

Metamorphosis is a fancy word that means to transform or change. Lots of animals change slightly as they grow. A person, for example, doesn't look exactly the same their whole life. But they don't grow wings or have their lungs change to gills as they become adults.

Animals that go through metamorphosis have drastic changes from their egg to adult stages.

One animal that comes to mind is the butterfly. This time of year, these beautiful creatures are starting to make their way back into our gardens and yards, and we are seeing their eggs, caterpillars and chrysalis eve… Keep reading.

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Every year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day by finding ways to give back to the place we call home and learning how to help care for and protect our planet throughout the year. But have you ever thought about when and how it all started?

Every year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day by finding ways to give back to the place we call home and learning how to help care for and protect our planet throughout the year.

But have you ever thought about when and how it all started?

Before the first Earth Day, conditions were far worse than what they are today. Factories were allowed to dump tons of toxic garbage into streams and black clouds of harmful smoke into the air! No one would get in trouble because it was not against the law to do this.

Slowly, people were starting to see how this was harming the water, the land and even themselves. Helping the environment was becoming more and more important to everyone.

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was organized by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. Millions of American… Keep reading.

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