How to Make a Plant Press

Flowers are fleeting, but you can make them last for years by pressing them. In this video you can learn how to make your own plant press to preserve flowers or plants for years to come. You can also use pressed plants for a variety of art projects such as making cards, collaging, or encasing them in resin!


Explore the museum’s herbarium collection of pressed plants in our Collections Close-Up blog: Herbarium Highlights and Fern Fever

How to Make a Spore Print

Sure, you can make beautiful pieces of art from the spores of a mushroom, but you can also learn more about the mushroom in the process, too!

Watch this video to learn how to make a spore print and explore more resources below.

Do you know what a spore is?

A spore is a reproductive cell. Some plants make them but bacteria, algae, and fungi make them too. Spores are to mushrooms as seeds are to plants. Spores are how mushrooms reproduce and make more mushrooms. 

The first step to making a spore print is collecting a mushroom.

You can collect from:

  • Your yard
  • Your friend’s yard (with permission)
  • Local city park. 

You cannot collect from:

  • Someone else’s property without permission
  • State parks

Please follow the rules of where you collect and make sure it is okay to collect from the area you are visiting. 

Bring something to carry your mushroom with, like a basket or paper bag. You don’t want them to get squished in your pocket! Only pick the mushroom if there are a lot around because they are important for the environment

Do you know why mushrooms are important? 

Mushrooms are decomposers which means that they break down dead materials such as fallen leaves and logs to make soil and nutrients that help other living things survive. Remember to wash your hands after handling mushrooms!

Once back home:

  1. Gather jars or containers big enough to place over the mushrooms. Gather white and black paper. It is okay if you only have white paper, but some mushroom spores are white and therefore they won’t show up on white paper that well. 
  2. Take the stems off the mushrooms using your hands or scissors. 
  3. Place the mushrooms with the gills or pores facing down onto the paper. Then place the container over the mushroom to create an airtight seal.
  4. Leave the mushrooms covered anywhere from a couple hours to overnight based on how fresh the mushrooms are.
  5. After you let the mushrooms sit for a while, carefully pick up the containers and the mushrooms to reveal the spore print. Spore prints are fragile, so try to avoid touching it. 

Resources for identifying mushrooms

Coyote Skull Activity | K-3 Grade

Coyotes are widely known as clever animals. Commonly heard, less commonly seen, and rarely surprised, coyotes are able to survive in all kinds of habitats thanks to their ability to eat lots of different foods.

Explore a coyote skull and learn about how these tricky creatures are able to adapt to eating different foods, and how teeth and skeletons can tell us a lot about how an animal survives!

Materials Provided:

Use this activity with our rentable coyote specimen! Learn more about kit and specimen rentals HERE.

Celebrating California Biodiversity Day!

Choose your own adventure this California Biodiversity Day! Explore the biodiversity around you through a series of activities for kids — from building tools to aid in your observations to scavenger hunts that showcase the variety of life in your neighborhood.

Observation jar full of cool plants

Observation Jar Activity | Make observations, explore the different ways we can group objects together, and create a jar full of our fun finds!

Make Your Own Museum | Museums might be closed but in this video you can learn to make your own natural history museum at home! Include a favorite exhibit from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History as well as your own curations.

Build a Bug Net | Reuse materials from your home to create a tool to help you observe the secret world of insects more closely — a bug net!

Nature Bingo | Tune into the biodiversity around you by following completing our nature bingo.

Monterey Bay Algae Guide | Dip your toes into the world of algae with this illustrated guide to local species and foraging ethics. Available in Spanish.

Cultivating Nature Awareness | Build your sensory awareness skills through nature journaling, games, stories, and exercises in mindfulness.

Pollinator Matching Activity | Explore the diversity of plants and insects around us through this fun game. Available in Spanish.

How to Create a Moon Phenology Wheel

Happy Moon Day! In honor of the anniversary of the first human steps on the moon, we’re celebrating space exploration — from the comfort of your home.

Study your environment to the pace of our lunar cycles with this moon phenology wheel activity.

For more on Phenology Wheels, check out this activity!

Explore more resources about SPACE
Explore more resources about NATURE JOURNALING
Post by Marisa

Learn more about astronomy with these resources in our Online Museum Store.

Summer Solstice Sun Prints

A summer solstice sun print being made

Happy Summer Solstice! What better way to celebrate than creating art with sunlight? Follow along and harness the power of the sun to create your own sun prints using objects found in nature, construction paper, and sunlight.

Astronomically, the June solstice marks the first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere, but many cultures consider this event to signal midsummer. This year, solstice occurs at 2:34 p.m. PDT on Saturday, June 20, 2020, which is the exact moment that the Earth’s North Pole is leaning most toward the sun.

The materials for a sun print laid out

Construction paper
Nature objects

Saran wrap

  1. Place object(s) on construction paper. If your object is heavy, like a rock, move on to step two! If it is lighter, like a feather or leaf, you may want to tape it down (masking tape works best), or put a piece of saran wrap or plexiglass over the paper (glass won’t work because it will block the UV rays from the sun, which we need to make our prints). You can also cut paper into shapes and tape them to your construction paper.
  2. Place paper under the sun. Since we’re doing this on the solstice, we’ll have many hours of daylight — more than any other day of the year! Hopefully we also have sunny skies with few clouds, which will make our project go faster. If not, however, that’s okay. Just leave your paper out longer. Give your project at least two hours in the sun. Place your paper on the ground and make sure everything is secure so that the wind won’t blow anything away.
  3. Remove objects and enjoy your artwork! Why do you think the sun changed the color of the paper? Why did the paper not change color where the objects were placed?
A small collection of sun prints

Post by Marisa

Observation Jar Activity

Observation jar full of cool plants

Look all around you – how are the things we see around us different from each other? How are they the same? Scientists put things into groups based on their observations of similarities and differences. Why do you think this is?

Today we are going to do some scientific sorting using objects you can find around or outside of your house. We’ll make observations, explore the different ways we can group objects together and create a jar full of our fun finds!

Observation Jar Activity (PDF | HTML)

What you will need:

  • A clear jar or bottle.
    • You can reuse a plastic water bottle, pasta sauce jar, or any kind of clear container that you can find
  • At least 4 different found objects 

1. ) It’s time to collect some objects! 

  • Make sure to take a trusted adult with you if you choose to leave the house! 
  • We don’t want to put any living creatures in the jar. Make sure to check for tiny insects on any of your objects before putting them in the jar if you collect things from outside your house.
  • Try to gather things that are different sizes, shapes, and colors.
  • Some ideas could include: rocks, leaves, coins, small toys, flowers, shells, buttons, or small sticks. 

2. ) Now that we’ve collected our objects, let’s take a little bit of time to look more closely at the things we found before we put them in our jar. See if you can answer the following questions about your objects!

  • How many things did you find? I found _____________ things.
  • Pick one object that catches your eye and see what you can notice about it. See if you can answer these questions about the thing that you found! 
  • What do you notice about it? What do you wonder about it? What does it remind you of?
  • You can also think about…
    • Where did you find it?
    • What color is it?
    • What does it feel like in your hand? 
    • How big is it?
  • Take a look at all the objects that you found. Can you find any similarities between them? Try to find at least two things that are similar about your objects.
  • Try sorting your objects into different categories by putting them in different piles. Can you sort your objects by….
    • Color?
    • Size? 
    • Types of things (plant, rock, toy, flowers)?
  • Which object is the heaviest? Which is the lightest?

3.) Now you are ready to fill up your jar! Layer your items based on how you sorted them. You can always take your objects out of the jar if you think of fun new ways to sort your items. Or, you can put all the things you found right back where you found them.

If you chose objects like flowers and leaves, you may want to put them at the top of your jar so that they don’t get crushed by heavier objects!

Wrap-up questions
Can you think of some other ways you could group your objects together?
What do you think we can learn when we sort objects or living organisms?

Post by Elise