Perfect Travel Gifts & Tips for Young Adventurists & Travelers

Traveling isn’t easy. There are frequent hiccups and unexpected delays that can lead to headaches and frustration. Over the years, we have learned a lot. We have become more savvy about what we need pack to assure we are comfortable and more flexible in how we pack to avoid potential catastrophes.

Today, I share a list of travel gifts for young adventurists and travelers – things you will find make travel with kids easier and more enjoyable.

Perfect Travel Gifts & Tips for Young Adventurists & Travelers

This post contains affiliate links which means I may receive a commission when products are purchased. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

Travel Gifts for Young Adventurists

We absolutely love to travel. Until recently, my hubby’s high pressure job necessitated that he decompress every six months. Even so, it would take him nearly a week before he could relax enough to enjoy himself while on vacation. While his work doesn’t permit us to world school on a full-time basis, we have become accustomed to traveling regularly for 2-3 week holidays at least once a year.

Build Excitement Prior Departure

Over the years, we have surprised the kids with a trip to Disneyland, slowly built anticipation for Florida with clue envelopes, and done all the planning ourselves. What we have found works best for us, however, is that everyone is involved in the planning.

When the kids were younger, we subscribed to a monthly travel adventure from Little Passports. It was a fun way to spark interest in travel and engage them in a great learning activity. They loved following along with Sam and Sofia, marking their new location on the world map and “stamp their passport book”.

Now that they are older, they take a more vested interest in our travel destinations. We generally discuss our next excursion concurrently while on vacation. This helps to make the long flight hours and delays more endurable.

Once we’ve settled on a destination, we are each expected to research the attractions and activities we would most like to take part. We make a list and share our ideas at a family meeting.

Not only does this help to build their excitement, they learn a lot about geography and budgeting as they help to plan our excursions and are more invested upon our arrival.

Perfect Travel Gifts for Young Adventurists & TravelersTravel Gifts & Tips for Packing

When we first traveled abroad to Scandinavia, our luggage was delayed and we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark with just one suitcase. The kids had their clothing but hubby and I had only our carry-on bags. Fortunately, our bags arrived the next day but we certainly learned a lot in regards to packing on that first trip.

We now split our things between our four suitcases – a few days of clothing in each suitcase. We use Eagle Creek packing cubes to keep everything nicely organized and to take the stress out of packing for these extended holidays

Hubby and I have two large garment folders each. Each one holds several days of clothes. The kids use the medium cubes and the small cubes are perfect catch alls for outlet adapters, chargers, batteries, our first aid kit, etc.

What I love best about the packing cubes is that they come in a variety of colors. We can easily identify whose cube is whose. Eagle Creek now has a lighter weight fabric and a wider range of color options in their new line of Specter Cubes.

One quick and inexpensive way to distinguish your luggage from another traveler is to use tassels or pom poms on the luggage handle. Alternatively, luggage belts work well to secure the contents in case a zipper breaks in transport.  

I love the green color of our Eagle Creek luggage (pictured above), making it more visible on the luggage carousel in baggage claim. Though we have not yet invested in new suitcases for the kids, when we do, I know it will be Eagle Creek. They stand behind their lifetime guarantee. When the zipper on one of our green suitcases broke, we simple dropped it off at an Eagle Creek retailer, and they repaired it and shipped it back to us FREE of charge! How’s that for customer service!?

Another product we love are the colorful daypacks and gear by Cotopaxi. Lightweight and versatile, the daypacks are perfect for carry-on luggage as they fit under the seat nicely and have ample space for a change of clothing, your shaving kit or vanity bag, a jacket, and a few incidentals to keep you busy en route.

Use this link for a $20 Cotopaxi discount

Cotopaxi is making a difference in the global community, creating innovative outdoor products that fund sustainable poverty alleviation, move people to do good, and inspire adventure. Their products are guaranteed to last 61 years. If there’s a problem with your product, they’ll gladly exchange it, get you a replacement, or repair it. I love a company that stands behind their products!

Lastly, we have a set of TSA-approved luggage locks to secure our baggage – comforting when we have late departures and need to store our luggage with the hotel prior to our departure. The TSA logo on these special locks alerts inspectors that they can unlock the luggage without cutting the lock or damaging the bag.

We have had our locks for several years. The resettable 3-dial combination is easy to set and alleviates the stress of having to carry another set of keys.

Travel Gifts & Tips for the Departure

To keep the kids busy en route, we generally bring along the iPad and their Mandarin schoolwork. Often they are expected to journal about their trip in Chinese. They also bring along a puzzle book and a paperback book or two that they will discard along the way when they finish with it.Fun Travel Gifts for Young Travelers

My son is now twelve years old. Unlike his sister, he is not an avid reader so it is rare to catch him reading quietly. He has always been fascinated with airplanes however, and will generally content himself with watching the planes take-off and land while at the airport. Once we are underway, he makes quick friends with the stewards for soda refills as we watches the inflight movie.

One thing we’ve found that works well for him is to carry a Lego mini-fig or two in his carry-on. His grandmother also gifted him with a small digital camera a year ago and he uses it to digitally journal his trip from the perspective of his mini-fig. It is so fun to watch him as he carefully poses his pocket size toy and carefully words captions and anecdotes in his journal.The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netMy son has recently developed an interest in speed cubing. He thereby carries a puzzle with him everywhere. Even if your child is not a speed cuber, learning the algorithms to solve even the original Rubik’s Cube 3x3x3 takes time. It’s thereby the perfect activity for teens to occupy themselves during long flights and car drives.

Tips for Improving Your Experiences Upon Arrival

As I eluded to earlier, teens have a more vested interest in the trip when they have been given the chance to help plan the destination and the excursions you take part in upon arrival. This was never more evident than during our recent trip to the East Coast.

Our advance research and planning paid off. While in New York, we purchased a CityPASS as the majority of the sights we wanted to see were included. We thereby saved money on admission fees and avoided long lines at the ticketing window. It was well worth our time.

My daughter loves to visit art museums while my son enjoys air and space museums. We thereby did our best to alternate visits so everyone was happy. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t always have to do everything together.

National Portrait Gallery: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.netIn Washington DC, the boys spent an afternoon at the International Spy Museum while Geneva and I took our time at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which were conveniently located next to each other. We were able to take our time to explore the exhibits without feeling rushed by those who were less interested. 

Even with an itinerary and well-thought out plans, things do not always go as planned. When things go awry, we have learned it is critical to sit down each evening and reflect on what did go well in addition to that which fell apart. We also discuss what we each could have done to make the day better.

These vacation debriefs, as we have come to call them, are easy to implement and have opened valuable dialogue. We learn more about one another’s expectations and how we can improve our communication skills when we are in stressful situations.

christmas-gift-guides-23894

Looking for more gift ideas? Hop over to the iHomeschool Network linkup for many more Christmas Gift Guides.

Must See Art Museums Around the World

I have visited many art museums over the years and through seeing a variety of art I have discovered which periods of art that I prefer: Contemporary and Abstract. This has in many ways also shaped our decisions when deciding upon the art museums we want to see when we are traveling. Today, I would like to highlight a few of my favorite art museums around the world.

This is the first post in many years by guest author Geneva Varga. If you would like to read more of her work or see her original artwork – check out her digital portfolio.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Venice, Italy

Visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy was amazing, amplified by the fact that we had just moment before traveled by gondola. Our brief visit to this museum sparked my joy for the Abstract Art movement and several artists and collectors who contributed to it. In particular, Peggy Guggenheim, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dali. After coming home, I did a research project on the life of Peggy Guggenheim, which was highly intriguing and made me desire to learn more about the lives of her friends, who are famous artists.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Boston, Massachusetts

When we were in Boston, my family and I decided to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on more of a whim then anything. It had not been previously planned in our itinerary before we left for our trip but a brochure we picked up sparked our interest. Our main interest was a special event that they were putting on to get the community involved in art. They had provided a variety of things to do, but I was particularly interested in learning how to make homemade paper.

The building in which the museum is located was the home of Isabella Stewart Gardner, who thought that America was greatly lacking in art. Therefore, she made it her mission to collect a great many pieces, in fact 2,500 objects of paintings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, drawings, and so on. These pieces come from a variety of places, yet each and every piece fits perfectly in her 15th Venetian-style castle.

After each taking our turn in making a piece of paper, my family and I meandered through the museum enjoying the art, gardens, and the ambiance that flowed from the combination of the two. I particularly liked a series of watercolor pieces that were done on watercolor paper cut to the size of the small Altoids tins, altogether it was a miniature sketchbook and journal combined into one.

Even though, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a smaller art museum than others my family has visited, it was pleasurable to visit. I am extremely glad we took the trip to this art museum, it allowed me to realise that some of the best places are the smallest treasures not known to the public at large.

National Portrait Gallery: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

National Portrait Gallery: Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C. there are many art museums to choose from. Like many younger brothers, mine is not interested in art, in stark contrast dad and him were significantly more eager to visit the Spy Museum so Mum and I opted to visit the National Portrait Gallery which was nearby. She was delighted to see many of the works she had written about in her American Art History series for Bright Ideas Press.

In my opinion, the paintings by Albert Bierstadt were far more interesting. His landscapes of real life places, some that my family has even been to, had a fantastical element to them. At one point, I entered into a room with circular couches scattered throughout the floor. Hanging on the walls were several huge paintings by Bierstadt that left me in awe. I mindlessly laid upon one of the couches to simply gaze at the magnificent pieces of art. Often times, I am left in such a state and my family always becomes humored with it, not quite understanding the emotions going through my mind as I study the art.

Art Institute of Chicago: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois

Our most recent visit to a popular art museum was to the Art Institute of Chicago, obliviously located in Chicago, Illinois. When we arrived and made it through the ticketing booth, I immediately directed my family to the contempary art gallery, skipping over the other time periods and ancient art. We later returned to some sections, such as the medieval armory and Aztec art but we skipped the Greek and Roman sculpture section entirely as we had only last year visited both Italy and Greece.

I was excited to see a few more pieces by Pollock and Warhol. A few pieces in the Contemporary and Modern art section were amusing, to say the least, in their sense of normalcy of explicit content.

Guggenheim: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Manhattan, New York

When we moved back to Oregon in 2015 and during one of our first weekends back we visited our local art museum one afternoon. We happened to go when the Coos Art Museum was hosting a free Zentangle class for the community to participate in for the festival also going on that weekend, the Blackberry Arts Festival. While I enjoyed the class, I was more impressed the art at the museum and what opportunities the museum held. My family first visited when they had the Maritime Exhibit up, which is one of their most popular annual exhibits, yet we have continued to take a peek at the ever-changing galleries.

One of my favorite exhibits was when they featured the artist Jesse Reno. I spent a significant amount of time looking at each piece of art, in fact, I was looking at the art for so long that my mom started to get worried as to what had happened to me. Yet, after I returned to where mom was she chuckled, as I apparently I had a look of utter awe upon my face. That weekend I took a seven hour art class from Jesse Reno himself, the class was entirely about his process and was extremely fun and exciting. You are able to read my more in-depth post about the class on my page.

Local Art Museums: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Coos Art Museum

When we were living in Redding, I always treasured the times we went to San Francisco or another big city as it was inevitable that we would visit a museum or gallery. Redding had only a small science museum focused on the local area. Yet, it seems the Oregon Coast is teeming with artists and with them, art museums, galleries, and studios.

As soon as I heard that the Coos Art Museum allowed youth volunteers I felt the urge to sign up. Initially, as I was just 13 years old, my mother was required to accompany me. Now that the staff have become acquainted with me, I volunteer alone most weeks doing behind the scenes work and Mum only joins me during CAM community days when more volunteers are needed. Volunteering at CAM has provided me with real work experience and job skills that will undoubtly help me succeed when seeking out employment in the future.

 

Travel the Globe with a World Geography Gift Basket

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Growing up the changing season meant my mother would be in the kitchen canning the fruits and vegetables we had collected at the U-pick farms. My brothers and I would also eagerly await the annual “Back-to-School” shopping spree.

Now that I am mother myself, I look forward to fall for a different reason. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know how much we love to travel. Frequently, our trips abroad happen in autumn when we can take advantage of reduced fees and less crowds.

Thus far, we’ve visited China, five countries in Europe, and Ecuador & Peru. This year, we are excited to add stamps from the British Isles into our passport.

To celebrate our love of travel and the “Back-to-School” season, I have put together a gift basket full of great resources to explore world geography with your kids.

Travel the World Geography

This post contains affiliate links. Contents included in the giveaway are detailed below.

World Geography Gift Basket

The Passport Club

When the kids were younger, we were involved in a wonderful world geography co-op that explored the diverse cultures of our world, one region at a time. We utilized a program called The Passport Club and it was our most anticipated activity of the month.

the passport clubThrough this program, students learn all of the world’s countries plus forty capital cities, the continents, oceans, seas, deserts, and mountain ranges (if they choose Level Five). Each student is given a passport and a study map. At the end of each month, students receive “stamps” in their passports from the countries they have learned.

Designed as an enrichment program, it is easily adapted to a homeschool setting. Included in the basket are two passports, the stamp images, and study maps to get you started learning about the the world in your homeschool.

When students participate in The Passport Club, teachers are able to make geographic connections to authors, folktales, legends, myths, stories from around the world, biographies, books about history, and the arts. Students benefit from a global perspective, which helps them more fully understand and appreciate both informational and literary reading.​

Children’s World Atlas

Included in the basket is hardbound edition of The Children’s World Atlas by Colin Arrowsmith.  With more than 100 easy-to-read maps of all the countries and oceans as well as thousands of illustrations and photographs, this is the perfect atlas for children. It is an incomparable tool for reference and browsing.

Detailed thematic pages give the reader a complete overview of our place in space, Earth’s habitats, and the human story. Each country is featured on a page which provides an encyclopedic survey of each region including information on resources, land use, places and people, natural features, traditions and culture, and history.

Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder. ~ John F. Kennedy

Cuckoo Clock Secrets

Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland, a paperback edition is included in the basket, centers around a homeschool family that travels regularly just as we do. It’s a fun adventure quest guaranteed to immerse the reader in the culture of Switzerland. Your children will delight in this first book of the Case of Adventure travel series.

For fun activities to accompany the book, you may wish to visit Case of Adventure to purchase the Destination Switzerland Unit Study as well as download the FREE Maps Pack and Money Pack to use for your geography studies. Here, you will also find the Mega Travel Activity Pack that goes along with any novel in their series. Filled with spy gear and codes – this activity pack will bring the mystery to life, especially for younger kids.

For a more in-depth review of the book, read my earlier post, Have you ever wanted to visit Switzerland?

Peoples of the Ancient World – 8 Books!

When we travel, we spend a great amount of our time exploring the ancient sites and learning about the peoples of the ancient world.  In preparation for our travels, my kids devoured the Peoples of the Ancient World series published by Crabtree Publishing.

Exploring each culture in advance of our trip helps to bring the peoples of these ancient worlds to life. It also helps us better understand the modern culture. I’m thereby including the following eight gently used titles from the series (they are not pictured in the basket):

North-Star-Geography

While it is not included in the basket, North Star Geography from Bright Ideas Press is a fabulous geography program. Purchase of the hardback text includes a free Companion Guide that includes reproducible outline and reference maps as well as many note-taking pages and graphic organizers. Planning calendars and lesson plans are carefully outlined for easy use.

I’ve used North Star Geography extensively in our homeschool. It is a fabulous program that is easy to use and quick to implement. One of our favorite components of the textbook are the North Star Geography Sidebars – little rabbit trails that we’d explore in more depth.

Enter the World Geography Giveaway

To enter the World Geography Basket giveaway, follow the prompts here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But wait! That’s not all.

There are 27 other homeschool bloggers have joined together to provide one massive back-to-homeschool gift basket giveaway! Take a peek around these 27 other sites and enter to win as many baskets as you like. Each blogger is conducting her own giveaway, so you never know – you may end up winning more than one! All giveaways will be live on Monday, August 7.

iHN Gift Baskets August 2017

Here are just a few that caught my eye:

Middle and High School Living Book Loverís Delight! from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus

American History & Government Back to School Packfrom Blog, She Wrote

Back to High School Giveaway Basket from BJ’s Homeschool

Ocean Learning Gift Basketfrom See Jamie Blog

Life of Fred Math Books Gift Basket from Look! We’re Learning!

Anticipating the 2017 Solar Eclipse: Activities & Lessons for Middle School

On August 21, 2017, Oregon will be the first to see the total eclipse of the Sun. This much anticipated solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. I first learned of this rare occurrence a year ago and quickly made plans to be sure we would be in the path.

Solar Eclipse 2017We purchased tickets to attend OMSI’s Eclipse Party at the Salem Fairgrounds and attempted to make hotel reservations in the area to no avail. We have thereby fallen back on a backup plan – staying with family in Eugene and driving up. I fear, however, that the road will be so congested we won’t reach our destination.

Anticipating the 2017 solar eclipse, I am delighted to share with you a number of lessons and activities with which you can engage your middle school students.

About the Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. It darkens the whole sky, lets you look right at the sun, and shows you the beautiful corona that surrounds the sun. Stars come out, the horizon glows with a 360-degree sunset, the temperature drops, and day turns into night.

Only look at the sun when it is 100% covered. You must use special solar viewing glasses whenever the sun isn’t completely eclipsed or it may cause irreparable eye damage.

The umbra (fully shaded inner region of a shadow) will hit the shores of Oregon at 10:15:53 am PDT near the small town of Otter Rock. From the time the shadow first touches land, it will take only two minutes for the shadow to race eastward. As the eclipse passes over the state, cities will experience various lengths of totality based on their varying distances from the centerline. At the Oregon State Fairgrounds, we will be treated to one minute and 53 seconds of shadow at just after 10:17am.

The eclipse will continue across the United States where Illinois will experience the longest eclipse duration at two minutes and 41 seconds. South Carolina will be the last state to witness the eclipse and the final shadow will be over the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa. See a map of the full eclipse path.

Solar Eclipse

Three Types of Eclipses

Solar eclipses occur during the new moon phase when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line, Earth-Moon-Sun. There are three kinds of solar eclipses, Annular, Partial, and Total. On even more rare occasions, a hybrid eclipse occurs when there is a combination of two.

Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, yet the moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth. The Sun’s visible outer edges thus form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

We have been fortunate to observe an eclipse in the past. In 2012, we enjoyed an annular eclipse near Red Bluff, California.

Partial Eclipse

A partial eclipse, which are visible to a greater number of people due to its wider path, occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, but they don’t align in a perfectly straight line and thus the Moon only partially covers the Sun’s disc. A Partial Eclipse can be seen on either side of the path of totality where the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun.

Total Eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and completely covers the face of the sun, letting the sun’s magnificent corona burst into view, and casts the darkest part of the shadow (the Umbra) on Earth. In this shadow, the Earth is almost as dark as night.

Check out the 2017 Solar Eclipse explainer video we created with mysimpleshow.

Hybrid Eclipse

A hybrid solar eclipse occurs when the eclipse changes from an annular eclipse to a total eclipse along the path of the moon as it rotates about the Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2017Bring it Home – Solar Eclipse Resources

◉ NASA’s Eclipse 2017 guide and information by NOAA Portland 2017 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse for Beginners: General information on the science of a solar eclipse

◉ NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Eclipse Gallery: Scientifically accurate visualizations of solar eclipses including position of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and path of the Moon’s shadow from different perspectives.

Shadow and Substance: A simulation for Oregon showing where totality and partial phases can be viewed.

NASA Eclipse Simulation: Students discover relative relationships between the Sun, Earth, and Moon, and how the Moon can eclipse the Sun.

NASA Wavelength: A full spectrum of NASA resources for Earth and space science education.

Explore the Earth’s geometrical relation to the sun by calculating where the sun will be in the sky for any date or time given a particular location on Earth.

Eclipse in a Different Light: A Sun-Earth Day page for educators presented by NASA.

◉ In 1715, Edmond Halley published a map predicting the time and path of a coming solar eclipse.

◉ If you are a Scout, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to earn the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch.

  • Cub Scouts: Discuss what a solar eclipse is with your leaders.
  • Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts: Draw a diagram of the positions of the moon, earth, and sun to show how the solar eclipse occurs.
  • Venturers: Research Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s 1919 experiment and discuss how it confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

10 Websites and Genealogy Resources for Kids

This past autumn, we enjoyed a family holiday on the East Coast of the United States and were thereby afforded with numerous educational experiences exploring our nation’s history. One of our most anticipated visits was to Ellis Island and the Museum of Immigration.
genealogy for kids

While here, we enjoyed a guided interpretive walk with a park ranger and thereafter enjoyed the many exhibits on our own. Amongst the highlights of our visit was seeing Norwegian bunad and langeleik, a stringed folklore musical instrument also known as a droned zither. As both my husband and I have Norwegian ancestors, seeing these personal artifacts brought the experience alive for us.

Genealogy Resources for Kids

Genealogy has always been fascinating to me. I grew up listening to stories my dad would share of his childhood and the stories that had been passed on to him by his Uncle Sam who had emigrated from Norway in the early 1900s. We’ve explored many of the branches of our family tree over the years. Today, I share some of our favorite genealogy resources for kids.

World’s Largest Online Resource for Family History

This is a subscription based, very user friendly site that is great even for a novice. This is the site I have used the most in my research. It includes records, links to other users, family trees, resources, pictures, and cemeteries.

Family Search

Family Search is a nonprofit family history organization maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the Latter-day Saints are dedicated to preserving the records of their ancestors, they provide this service free.

Resources for Genealogists

Free database for genealogists that includes immigration, naturalization, military, passport, land, and bankruptcy records.

Researching Records and Archives

A low priced paid subscription web service that provides the user with an abundance of archived records of their ancestors.

Ellis Island History Center

Free immigration information for any ancestors that were processed through the Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924, during their years of operation. Even if the relatives did not go through the port, it is an excellent source with links to other helpful sites.

genealogyforkidsGenealogy For Kids Forms

This site is geared for children with adult help. It has several links to forms kids can use, questions that they would find helpful while interviewing relatives and even a ‘cousin calculator’ that will help figure out how family members are related.

Genweb Project for Kids

This site is a good place for younger kids to start. It has links to several sites that would be helpful, however several of the links aren’t working. As with all internet usage, parental monitoring is needed.

Washington State Genealogy Resources for Kids

Excellent resource for students as well as adults with a wealth of information on researching the family tree.

Climbing Your Family Tree

This is an excellent source of worksheets for children to use when charting their family tree. It has PDF files to be used when interviewing family members.

Companion Website to be Used with the PBS Program Ancestors

An online companion to the series of 13 episodes presented by PBS on researching your ancestry. Each episode takes the viewer on a journey closer to finding their family’s story.

Science Milestones: The Heroine of Lyme Regis, Mary Anning

In my Facebook newsfeed recently, a memory popped up highlighting a field trip we took part in years ago when we first began our homeschool journey. Our visit to Paleo Lands Institute in Eastern Oregon is one of our fondest homeschool experiences. When we visit the Field Museum in Chicago last week, we reflected on this trip as we marveled at the many specimens they had on display – the most impressive, of course, was SUE (pictured below).

The unveiling of her 67-million-year-old skeleton at The Field Museum made global headlines in May of 2000. As the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, she is considered to be the most famous fossil ever found. She measures 40.5 feet long from snout to tail and 13 feet tall at the hip.

Interesting fact: While SUE is frequently referred to as a “she,” scientists don’t actually know her sex.

Virtually all parts of SUE’s skeleton are preserved in great detail—even the surface of her bones. Scientists can actually see where muscles, tendons, and ligaments once attached. Not only are most of the bones undistorted from fossilization, but cross-sections of the bones show that even the cellular structure inside remains intact.

w/ Sue at the Field Museum, Chicago

If SUE is the most famous fossil, who then is regarded as the most renowned fossilist the world ever knew?  The answer is Mary Anning.

Despite the fact that Mary Anning’s life has been made the subject of several books and articles, comparatively little is known about her life, and many people were unaware of her contributions to paleontology in its early days as a scientific discipline. How can this be, you ask?

Biography

Mary Anning by B. J. DonneMary Anning was born on the 21st of May 1799 to Richard and Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, Southwest England. Mary grew up in a prime location to lead a life of fossil collecting. The marine fossil beds in the cliffs in this area remain today a huge source of fossils from the Jurassic period.

Her findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. At the age of 12, Mary Anning was to become one of the most famous popular palaeontologists, with her discovery of a complete Icthyosaur.

Interesting fact: Though she is now credited with the discovery, her brother had first found the specimen. Mary did find the majority of the remains and contribute significantly to the excavation work. Mary went on to find two more species of Ichtyosaur in her life.

In early 1821, Anning made her next big discovery with the finding of the first Plesiosaurus. She sent a drawing she made to the renowned George Curvier, who at first snubbed it as a fake. Upon further examination, he eventually reversed this statement finally giving Anning the respect she had deserved from the scientific community. This discovery is perhaps her most important find, from a scientific point of view.
Autograph letter concerning the discovery Wellcome L0022370
The majority of Mary’s finds ended up in museums and personal collections without credit being given to her as the discoverer of the fossils. There are many factors contributing to this error: the lack of appropriate documentation of her special skills, her social status, and more importantly, her gender. Many scientists of the day could not believe that a young woman from such a deprived background could posses the knowledge and skills that she seemed to display.

For example, in 1824, Lady Harriet Sivester, the widow of the former Recorder of the City of London, wrote in her diary after visiting Mary Anning:

“. . . the extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved. . . It is certainly a wonderful instance of divine favour – that this poor, ignorant girl should be so blessed, for by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.”

After her death on the 9th of March 1847, her unusual life story attracted the attention of scholars around the world. Her story was the inspiration for the 1908 tongue-twister “She sells seashells on the seashore” by Terry Sullivan and in 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

Bring it Home

➤ For younger students, explore the fun games and activities at BBC’s Primary History Famous People: Mary Anning.

➤ Read the article, “Mary Anning: The Fossilist as Exegete” by Thomas W. Goodhue in Endeavour Magazine, March 2005 issue

➤ Build upon your child’s interest in fossils and geology in an in-depth Earth sciences curriculum study.

Geology Rocks➤ Visit a local geology club in your area and inquire about getting started in collecting.

➤ Discover Ice Age Fossils at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles

 

Science MilestonesVisit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in March to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.