The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds

The Weaverville Joss House, a Taoist temple, is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. On display are art objects, pictures, mining tools, and weapons used in the 1854 Tong War. This Taoist temple is still a place of worship and a fascinating look into the role played by Chinese immigrants in early California history. The Joss House was built in 1874 as a replacement for another that had burned.

In an effort to preserve this important part of California’s Chinese tradition, the temple became a part of the California State Park System in 1956. Many of the historical objects have been restored and the structure itself stabilized. In addition to the temple equipment, park visitors will see Chinese art objects, pictures, mining tools, and wrought iron weapons used in the 1854 Tong War.

We visited the Joss House for the first time during the annual Moon Festival.  We first explored the exhibits inside the museum and then ventured out into the garden area for a few activities targeted for children.  Sweetie and Buddy most enjoyed the calligraphy … learning a new word and character … (Yuè or moon).  The other activity in which they took part was decorating paper lanterns .. both choosing to practice writing a few other characters they knew.  

We then walked across the bridge and up to the temple. Unfortunately, we had arrived too late to enjoy the lion dance that took place on the lawn in front of the temple.  
Just beyond the two large doors, the entrance to the temple proper, are two more high wooden doors, “spirit screens” to keep out evil spirits.  According to traditional Chinese belief such spirits can go only in straight lines, not around corners.
Inside, we marveled at the intricate details of the carvings, sculptures and of course the Chinese calligraphy.  We listened to a docent describe how the artifacts were transported from China, first by ship and lastly on foot 80+ miles from Red Bluff.   There are three ornately carved wooden canopies containing images of gods along the back wall opposite the spirit screens and in front of them is an altar holding candles, incense sticks, oracle fortune sticks and an oracle book, wine cups, and pictures of immortals painted on glass.  Before this altar is a small wooden table on which food offerings are placed and a stone urn used to offer alcoholic beverages, usually whiskey.    
The temple has been in continuous use as a place of worship since its construction.  The family of Moon Lee, whose grandfather contributed toward its building, are know to worship here, along with other Chinese from all over California.  Worshippers visit the temple alone, with their families, or with a small group of close friends to pray and to place some incense, candles and other offerings such as food and paper money before the images of the gods Health, Decision, or Mercy.  The docent explained that the Chinese would bring offerings to the spirits of their ancestors … generally the foods or beverages that their loved one had most enjoyed in life.  Worshippers are forbidden to pray for such things as wealth or revenge on an enemy, and the temple attendant would punish those who made such requests with fines.

Prior to our departure, we were also able to glimpse the caretaker’s quarters adjacent to the temple room as well as the conference room which sometimes served as a courtroom.  Each were much more demure and lacked the adornments so prevalent in the temple room.  
We enjoyed the excursion but were sad that the schedule of activities hadn’t been advertised better.  Sadly, 2011 may be the last year that the Joss House celebrates the annual Moon Festival.  The state has decided to close the doors of the museum and close it to the public.  
For more information about The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds and how you can help keep the doors open, visit the Weaverville Joss House Association.

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry :: Field Trip

A couple weeks ago, we the kiddos and I went to OMSI.  The kids had been since Buddy was just a baby … Sweetie only vaguely remembers it.  Presently there is a special exhibit on space exploration so it was the perfect opportunity.

Upon arrival, we spent an hour or so in the Life Science Hall … exploring hands-on activities that introduced the kids to nanotechnology.  During the second half of the twentieth century, scientists and engineers learned to observe, measure, and manipulate individual atoms and molecules. The areas of research related to this activity—known as nanoscience and nanotechnology—are leading to the creation of materials, processes, and technologies that many scientists believe will dramatically change our daily lives. 

Their favorite exhibit was a large display of human fetuses whereby they could become more familiar with the different stages of human fetal development during all nine months of pregnancy.  One of my good friends is a doula and we’ve frequently talked about birth … the kids also request to hear their birth story regularly.  


From there we spent time in the lab where visitors generally get the chance to hold and touch a variety of animals and insects.  This was not the case during our visit but we did get to observe.  I would have expected the kids to be intrigued by the animals we don’t have … snakes, a tarantula, a scorpion, walking sticks, turtles, etc. … but they spent most of the time observing the rats. Go figure.

They also enjoyed the earth science lab where they got their hands wet in the Watershed Lab. They created their own rivers and explored the microscopic world that supports us all.  In this area were several gallon jugs with varying amounts of sand to represent the different magnitudes of earthquakes.  We discussed the recent quakes and the damage that resulted in Haiti and Chile.  

We were not able to get into the Paleontology Lab – much to our disappointment – as there was a special class taking place.  We did, however, get to explore the many exhibits on dinosaurs and prehistoric life.  This helped to make our previous studies more real for them.  Buddy still insists he would like to be a Paleontologist.  

After we explored these permanent exhibits, we went down stairs to the OMNIMAX theater where we watched Hubble!  We then went to the planetarium for another show called Stars.  Both were very informative but went over Buddies head.  Sweetie really enjoyed them.

We concluded our trip exploring the temporary exhibit, Space: A Journey to Our Future.  This dynamic, multimedia exhibit looks back into the history of aeronautics and examines the many unknown questions of existence posed by future space exploration.  This was a lot of fun for me as it brought back many memories of the weeks I spent at Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena as participant of a NASA Education Workshop for teachers.  

 What surprised me was how much the kids had remembered from our previous reading – this always surprises me – images and models sparked their interest and thereby their narrations.  The kids most enjoyed the Gemini spacecraft replica.  They climbed aboard and announced, “I’m Buzz Aldrin!”  “I’m Neil Armstrong.  Mom you can be Mike Collins!”  Okay. 

 

Gilbert House :: Field Trip

Last week, we accompanied DH on a business trip to Salem.  While there, the kiddos and I ventured out to explore some of the more well-known attractions, A.C. Gilbert House and the Salem’s Riverfront CarouselThe hands-on children’s museum offers year-round fun with indoor & outdoor interactive exhibits that promote learning through play. 
As it was raining intermittently while we were there, we took advantage of the indoor exhibits and explored the outdoor climbing structures later in the afternoon.  This strategy served us well for another reason. Upon our arrival, a few school groups were there and it was rather crowded outside.  By the time we had finished exploring the indoor exhibits, the school groups had departed and we then had the structures to ourselves.

Coincidentally, it was also Cinco de Mayo so there were several learning stations set up to allow kids to learn a little about Mexico.  Sweetie created a flag of our southern neighbor with her hand – I thought this was quite clever.  She also made a maraca with recycled materials and barley. They both enjoyed making fresh tortillas.

The indoor exhibits are divided amongst three historic buildings.  In the Rockenfield House, we explored the Village Grocery, Recollections, the River Room, and A Child’s Trip to China.  Sweetie enjoyed the China room, of course.  She impressed a couple of other moms who were there as she was writing Chinese characters on the slate tablet.  Buddy played restaurant and served me a steaming hot bowl of Phở (a Vietnamese dish, but my favorite).
The Gilbert House hosts the Bubble Room, Body Basics, Brazilian Rainforest Theater, and Undersea Cave of Frozen Critters.  There is also a room here called Go Figure with 6 giant books with headphones to listen to the story.  Each book has a fun, hands-on activity and information on the math connections for the adult.  My kiddos weren’t too impressed with the books – I suppose we enjoy cuddling up with books and this exhibit felt a little formal.  By far, the kids most enjoyed the Bubble Room whereby we explored bubbles and even enclosed ourselves inside a bubble wall.  The Cave of Frozen Critters was very cool – but my photography skills were highly lacking – or perhaps it was just my camera. 
Lastly, the Parrish House is where you’ll find Dinostories and the Imagination Station.  This was by far Buddy’s favorite place – and mine.  Along the walls was a timeline telling about the life of AC Gilbert. After graduating from Yale with a degree in medicine and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault, AC Gilbert created the Erector Set. 
He later marketed a variety of other educational toys ranging from American Flyer trains to Mysto Magic sets, chemistry and telegraph sets. With his toys, Gilbert hoped to combine fun with an understanding and appreciation of science. Gilbert realized that a child needed playthings that would encourage creative expression and satisfy a natural curiosity about the world.  [Buddy insists this is the train set he wants now – if only I can find one on eBay!]
At the time of his death, AC Gilbert held more than 150 patents for his inventions and is hailed as the Man Who Saved Christmas.  During WWII, when the government wanted to prohibit the manufacturing of toys and ban the purchase of toys (“Buy war bonds!”), he brought a number of his toys to Congress and petitioned that toys were needed for morale.  Soon after his presentation began, the men present began playing with his toys and within 3 hours agreed and allowed him to continue.
Lastly the,

Paleo Lands Institute :: Field Trip

What a fabulous day! We departed home at 7 a.m. for the drive to Fossil. Despite a few setbacks, we arrived safe and sound just after 10 a.m. where we met with Will Boettner, the Executive Director of the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute. After introductions and a stop in the necessary or lu, we drove the short distance to Wheeler High School whereby we listened to a volunteer as she explained a little about the geology of the area and what we could expect to find.

The fossil beds were formed 30 million years ago when volcanic ash fell during the formation of the present day Western Cascade Range. The ash was washed into the lake basin along with leaves and other plant material, level after level piling up. The ash preserved the leaves long enough for impressions to form under the pressure of the overlying layers.








About 35 species of plants, most of them belonging to genera that are no longer native to the Pacific Northwest, are found there. The most common plants are alder, maple, beech, dawn redwood and pine in what appears to represent a deciduous hardwood forest. This implies, according to Will Boettner, that the climate at that time was much more moist and more temperate than is presently the case in the shrub steppe and savannah of today.

We spent about an hour ‘excavating’ in the shale behind the high school. Everyone was successful in finding fossils. I was delighted with how intrigued the kiddos were as they diligently picked up piece after piece of shale in hopes of finding a little treasure preserved between the layers. Prior to departing, we were able to browse the many fossil samples that have been found previously, including several amphibians and fish species.

We took a break for lunch … whereby Will shared more about his experiences, the geology of the John Day Basin, and about the community of Fossil. We then proceeded southwest to the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds for a guided nature walk through a canyon.

It was a delightful walk. Everyone was entranced by one thing or another. We all had an opportunity to ask questions and explore the region more closely. We saw first hand how the layers of sediment had built up over millions of years and how the rocks formations had changed over time due to weathering. We talked about the impact man has had on the water table in just the past 150 years or so… changing the once temperate, deciduous forest to the dry scrub land of today (mostly Juniper and Sagebrush). Everyone walked away with a new awareness and appreciation of the natural history of our region.

Thank you to Will Boettner of Oregon Paleo Lands Institute for providing such a wonderful learning opportunity for us all.

“Do what you can
with what you have,
where you are.”

~ Theodore Roosevelt

Wildlife Safari :: Field Trip

I have very fond memories of visiting the Wildlife Safari when I was a little girl. I was thereby very excited to share the experience with my own children. We arrived Friday just before 11 a.m. and proceeded to drive through the park. Immediately, animals were visible all around us. Though we were able to see all the animals relatively well (the cheetahs were the only exception), most were not very active due to the heat.
Preceeding our visit, I attempted to contact the education department to inquire about possible pre-visit activities and field booklets they may provide for school children. Unfortunately, no one returned my calls. I thereby had to create our own activity books. Sweetie was focused and worked diligently on completing the pages – she even collected data to help us to answer the question, “How often do elephants interact?” Two sample pages from her field research notes are shown below. If you are interested in seeing the complete booklet, it is available as a free download at Homeschool Launch. I’d be more than happy to share.Buddy, on the other hand, was focused on another objective, “When we go to Grandma and Papa’s? I’m ready to go now. How much longer? It’s been a long time.” He makes me laugh! Whenever we go anywhere, he is very anxious and filled with excitement and anticipation. No sooner do we arrive and he is ready to depart for the next adventure.
Throughout the park, they allow you to have your windows rolled down to take photographs. The only area that this is restricted is in the bear habitat. They even have a guy on patrol watching for would be violators! As I am taking photos from the passenger window, DH rationalizes that it must be okay to roll the windows down since the bears are playing with one another some distance away. As he does so, the patrol guy announces over the loud speaker, “Keep your windows rolled up in the bear habitat!”
Busted! I think DH felt a little silly for breaking the rules… we quickly moved on to the next area.
Sweetie enjoyed the safari as much as I predicted she would. She spent most of the evening drawing pictures of the animals that she had observed. I was a little disappointed with the facilities. The park was opened in 1973 and it is very obvious that the buildings and structures are dated. I was surprised that there were limited number of ‘Ranger Talks’ and opportunities to learn more. We basically observed the animals from a distance, nothing more. No signage. No talks. No docents or volunteers anywhere!
It is unfortunate that the region doesn’t have a stronger economic base with which to support their endeavors with fund raising and private donations. Gives me things to mull over and discuss with my Roots & Shoots group in the near future.

On a related note, we are going to be focusing on vertebrate animals in our science studies over the next couple of months. I generally start with inverts… but since we had an opportunity to go on safari, I figured it was a good kick-off.