Bell County Museum

Elianna Tenorio, 10, of Killeen, colors a paper hat to wear for ringing in the New Year during a craft event at the Bell County Museum in Belton on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017.

Jenna Summa/Special to FME News Service

BELTON — Children got into the festive mood at the Bell County Museum on Saturday during a pre-New Year’s Eve event that was both fun and educational, said Coleman Hampton, museum director.

Ayleen Rise was among the volunteers who showed the youngsters how to dip a scouring pad in paint and decorate a 2018 sign with what looked like fireworks explosions. The volunteers also helped the children color, cut and tape cone-shaped party hats, complete with an elastic chin strap.

Kayte Ricketts, the museum’s education coordinator, said the interactive educational program uses STEM —science, technology, engineering and math. She guided the children and their parents through a game involving electrical circuits. The children learn that when the circle is broken, no electrical current gets through.

She started by plugging a device into a computer. Part of the circuit was a row of play dough buttons shaped in the numbers of 2018.

“I touch one and touch another button, and the computer screen erupts with fireworks,” she said. “We can make our circuit bigger by holding hands. We are conductive.”

Harker Heights residents Greg and Gaby Bourgeois brought their two daughters, Vanessa, 10, and Elizabeth, 6, who started with the party hats.

“We came to do the New Year’s craft activity, and also to see the museum,” he said. “We’ve never seen the museum.”

Hampton said the museum plans to have more interactive programs.

For example, on Jan. 13, the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, visitors will be able to make a unity bracelet and banner. One of the interactive items already on display in the museum is a replica of a World War II victory garden. Food was rationed during the war, and the government encouraged people to plant small gardens at home. Children can interact by placing plastic vegetables in the garden, he said.

One such exhibit was a small tipi with an animal skin for a floor. Children can crawl inside and get an idea of how some people lived in the early days, he said.

“We’re working with Kayte to add interactive elements to the exhibits,” he said.

While not interactive, another interesting exhibit was a lace necklace. It was supposed to have been found among the belongings of Santa Anna, the Mexican general, after Texas won her independence in the Battle of San Jacinto.

Another general, Napoleon Bonaparte, perhaps contributed to the popularity of one novelty — the moustache cup, Hampton said. The museum has more than 250 of them, the largest publicly displayed collection of moustache cups in the U.S., he said.

“They have an interior ridge,” he said. “It would protect men’s moustaches from getting wet, and prevent moustache wax from getting into a hot drink.”

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