Gum San :: Field Trip

We were delighted when the museum announced the return of the Gum San exhibit, exploring the impact of Chinese Americans on the history of United States … the only exhibit to tell a comprehensive story of the Chinese experience in the High Desert region.  As a student of Mandarin Chinese, MeiLi was very excited when I informed her that we would be going not only with her best  péng yǒu / 朋友 who also studies Mandarin (in fact, this is how they met), but with their  lǎo shī / 老师 as well.  

MeiLi and TianTian enjoyed looking for characters they recognized in the prints, most were traditional Chinese,  however.  It was so nice to have an opportunity for the girls to explore a little more about Chinese history with their lǎo shī.  In addition to the exhibit, they were also able to participate in a couple of Chinese crafts (knot tying and paper lanterns) as well as sample a few foods (barbeque pork, spring rolls, etc.).

DìDi / 弟弟 wasn’t very enthusiastic about the exhibit, however.  I thereby provided him with an impromptu scavenger hunt.  As he is passionate about trains, I encouraged him to find at least 3 different artifacts or photographs related to trains.  Success!  One of the things he found was an axe-head, with Central Pacific Railroad markings. “Look!” he said, “It’s a wedge! A simple machine!”  Curriculum integration at it’s best. 🙂

wǒ xiān zuò huǒchē / 我先坐火车 
(If only I could get him to stop making these crazy faces … such a comic!)
Still on exhibit, Live Butterflies! We had to visit this one again, of course, as it is a family favorite.  Very crowded but still enjoyable.  🙂
wǒ ài hú dié / 我爱蝴蝶 
(I can rarely catch her looking at the camera … always looking elsewhere!)

Pine Mountain Observatory :: Field Trip

As part of our Astronomy unit study, I enjoyed a field trip to the Pine Mountain Observatory in Eastern Oregon.  We arrived just before 9 p.m. and gathered in a tent for what we expected to be a short Stellarium presentation and question & answer session … turned out to be more than an hour, much of which was over the kids’ heads.  Here are a few of things he elaborated on in-depth:  right ascension, declination, black holes, gravitational lensing, xrays emitted above the event horizon, protons, electrons, fusion, etc.  The volunteer was very, very knowledgeable … he just didn’t know how to simplify the material for the kids.  Regardless, the kids were very well behaved … even my little Buddy surprised me.

From there, we walked up to the 32″ telescope (pictured above).  However, due to inclement weather, we were unable to view the night sky.  Instead, the volunteer spoke about the dynamics of the scope, about adaptive optics, and the role the PMO plays in the collection of data for astronomers worldwide.  He spoke for 30 minutes … it was very cold and very late … a few families left early … so I facilitated in moving us along to the 24″ telescope.  Again, the weather didn’t permit sky watching but here, another volunteer explained how the 24″ scope operated … he even moved it around and showed us how it was done in the past (manually with gauges) and presently (digitally with remotes).  The kids loved it when he opened the dome slightly and rotated the dome as well.

The second volunteer did a better job bringing it down to our level and spoke for less time.  Regardless, the kids had a great time and were captivated by the telescopes.  On the drive home, the skies cleared enough for the kids to see the stars.  MeiLi proclaimed enthusiastically, “I see the Big Dipper!  It’s the first constellation I’ve seen and know!”  They are already planning a return trip as soon as our weather is more predictable (it’s just been so strange this year).

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.
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