Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Week 17, day 1

Sunday night, P and E had mentioned that they wanted to spend more time with me doing "something fun." I told them I would think about what sort of "something" we could do, and when, and decided that Monday would be spent at Space Center Houston. We got going by about 10:30 (avoiding morning rush hour traffic) and spent almost all day. When we first arrived, we looked at some suits on display - an actual suit from Apollo 12, complete with moon dust, and a quarantine suit from Apollo 11. There was an interactive display area with a wind tunnel, weights to lift that became harder to lift if you pressed the "Jupiter" button and easier if you pressed "Mars", and a model rocket to launch (you pumped it up and it was powered by air pressure). There were models of the Space Shuttle demonstrating the 3 degrees of freedom: roll, pitch, and yaw. There was also a Shuttle mockup that you could explore, with freeze-dried food and lots of velcro on the lower level and the pilot and copilot seats on the upper level. I explained how the stick controls roll and pitch and the rudder controls yaw, but I'm not sure how solidly the kids grasped that. Probably flying an actual aircraft would help, but I'm not ready for them to take that step just yet.

We got to take the tram tour this time. Last time we went, it was the end of the summer, and in addition to every out-of-town visitor to Houston, at least 3 summer camps had decided to take their entire contingent of 100-odd kids in matching t-shirts to Space Center Houston. It started to rain, and they cancelled all the tram tours, which only added to the crowds in the museum itself. It was a complete zoo, overwhelming in every way, and I bought an annual membership ($3 upgrade) in the hopes that I'd be able to come back on a day when I could get my money's worth. Monday certainly fulfilled these hopes, and the tram tour was the most worthwhile part of it. We stopped first at the refurbished mission control room, restored to how it looked during the Apollo missions. (We visited when I was a child in 1988 or so and the room was still in use, and were able to see, through the window, people actually controlling a space shuttle mission. A new room is now used, which tours are unable to see). If you've seen the movie "Apollo 13", you have a very accurate picture of what the control room looked like. I'm not sure the kids grasped much of the significance of the control room, but the next stop was easier for them to understand: the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. This building contains 2 mockups of the Space Shuttle and mockups of all the components of the International Space Station, and is used for astronaut training. I explained as much as I could to the kids about what the various components were, and they were riveted the whole time we were in the building. The final stop on the tram tour was the Saturn V rocket, which was used to send people to the moon. The rocket is an actual one that was built for the Apollo program but never used, and it is housed lying down inside a building. Even lying down, the base is much taller than our house, and the engines are impressively huge. It took a long time to walk the length of the rocket, and there was a display on the wall featuring each of the 17 Apollo missions, as well as a "looking forward" display about a planned return to the moon. When we were leaving the building, the kids looked up in the sky and noticed that the moon was up, so we talked about the energy it took to get people all the way up there. On the way back, the tour guide said that one of the most common misconceptions people have is that the Space Center has a zero-G training facility on the grounds. I laughed out loud for several seconds, then noticed that no-one else thought it was funny. I forget how much more physics I know than the average American. My kids will too if I have anything to do with it, mwa-ha-ha! Perhaps we'll visit again before E turns 4 (admission is over $20 for kids 4 and older, and free for 3 and younger).

Today, we started the school week.
Bible: We reviewed last week's catechism and memory verse, and read the story of Zacchaeus.

Calendar: During our outside observations, I decided that today was a good day to start our "early spring" seeds (the ones they tell you to plant "as soon as the ground can be worked"), and we did that after we were done with school for the day. I plan on having us water them daily during "calendar" time.

Handwriting: P traced her copywork today, which she did fairly neatly. She still struggles with "b" and "d", but I'm seeing progress.

Language Arts: We introduced a new letter today, and P read her reader with full comprehension (she told the story to Ari at lunch time).

Math: P has seemed to enjoy her 5-a-days lately, or at least find them somewhat easier. Today's went quite smoothly. We played with pattern blocks for a while afterwards.

E's "school": didn't really happen today, but we did read How Do You Lift a Lion?. We discussed friction and gravity, and I reminded them of how I'd talked yesterday about the friction between the space shuttle and the air of Earth's atmosphere which made the shuttle heat up during re-entry and necessitated heat-resistant tiles.

Science/Geography: Today's theme at Titmouse Club was the noises animals make. We listened to various birds, and the kids made noisemakers. They carried the noisemakers with them on the nature walk, which added somewhat to the challenge of hearing nature sounds, but the docent did a good job of having them sit quietly with their eyes shut for a minute to listen. She pointed out a tree riddled with woodpecker holes, and asked the kids to imagine the noise that was made when the woodpecker made the holes.

No comments:

Post a Comment