Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Maps and the Metro

A trip to the big city means the chance to ride on public transportation and talk about public safety.  Noor was interested in figuring out the map system this time and she did a great job as our chief navigator.  We had a seamless journey on the Green Line from the Waterfront-SEU station to the heart of China Town.

Monday, November 29, 2010

National Air and Space Museum

Back in DC, we convinced Noor to branch out a bit and after a short trip to say hello to her dinosaur friends, we headed across the Mall to check out the National Air and Space Museum.  This used to be my favorite museum when I was young because of the freeze-dried astronaut ice cream, which they still sell in the gift shop! The sales man said that lots of adults come in with their kids looking for it.  Now that is a product that stands the test of time!

Noor's main question was "how do you poop in a space suit," so we spent some time wandering around trying to find the answer: vacuum hoses!

She enjoyed walking through the space station and the older airplanes, but her favorite thing (aside from the freeze-dried ice cream) was touching a small piece of rock from the moon.  There is a new (to me) hands-on education room that was very engaging and which we plan on returning to in a few weeks to spend more time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo

The last time we were here, Noor was overwhelmed with sadness.  We walked to the top of the ramp above the dinosaur hall and she burst into tears, looking down on the giant Diplodocus.  I gathered her p in my arms while she cried because these giants, whom she loves so much, are all gone.

There was still a bit of sadness, at first, on this trip.  But the dioramas were super exciting and Noor spent a lot of time sketching them so she could recreate them at home.

Here's a bit of one of the more fantastical ones--this is a dinosaur temple (notice the great use of math manipulatives)

After Noor gave us a guided tour of the dinosaur hall (she was able to recognize most of the skeletons without reading the tags!), we ventured into the Hall of Human Origins, where we were all mesmerized by the visual record of evolution.

Evolution has been a hot topic in our home for some time now, thanks to Pokemon.  

The next morning, we headed to the National Zoo.  We were probably three of only a dozen people there! A rainy November day is a wonderful time to visit the zoo!

We were treated to a private tour of the Panda habitats and got to watch as Mei Xiang, the 237 pound, 12 year-old female panda ate massive amounts of bamboo.  We learned that all the pandas in world zoos are owned by China, and that Mei Xiang's and Tian Tian's (the male) contracts are currently expired, which means they may be sent back to China.  I'm glad we got to have such an intimate visit with them.

Next, our on-going conversation about human evolution was expanded by a trip to the Ape House, where a zoo volunteer let us hold a male Gorilla skull.  The crest on top of his skull is absent in females.  Noor asked if the crest on our male dog's head is also used to attract females.  We'll need to look at some female Greater Swiss Mountain dog skulls, but our guess is that female dogs have the crest too.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Instructions for the care of T-Rexs

The new friend Noor picked up at the museum gift store yesterday was nowhere to be found last night.

But then, good news this evening from Philadelphia:

We have your T-Rex. He will be fed and cared for, until you can pick him up.

The news was met with a request to send instructions.

Dear Ari and Cris,

Don't feed my tyrannosaur too much and don't let him play with anything inappropriate for his age. No Zombies. Well, maybe funny zombies. 

And when you tuck him in bed give him a cuddly puff puff thing, if you have something like that. He needs a nap at night and in the afternoon

Thank you
Love Noor

Open Connection Sept-Oct

Sounds like the gang in Wednesday's Open Program have been having a blast.  From Mollie:

Below are some of the activities we've enjoyed so far in the Wednesday Open Program. They have included experimenting with colors and potions at the Lab Table, building marble rollways together, exploring weather and wind while reading thermometers indoors as well as outside and then graphing the results. We've hiked the OC property and hand-built with clay. Outside we created waterways through the Sandagon, modeling them after rivers and lakes. We've had the last three weeks to explore the Geology display and join in activities such as observing different types of rocks and fossils, as well as using our geology hammers to chip away at some larger rocks outside. Some young people discovered how rocks can be ground into a fine powder with the help of a mortar and pestle. This week we will finish the Geology unit with the opportunity to experiment with ceramic volcanoes at the Lab Table!  Some conceptual Development activities have included, Dimeblocks, Cuisenaire Rods, Chip Trading, Geoboards and Kapla Blocks.
I know for certain they've been having intimate gatherings with dirt and paint.  Anything that messy must be fun.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences

I think the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences is going to become our new haunt.  The Fossil Lab is amazing.  We were treated to a special private discussion by the paleontologist on duty, who was working on a 67 million year-old Argentinian Titanosaur. He invited Noor to become his intern when she turns 15, so she asked me to help her figure out how many days she has until her 15th birthday (2850 days or 7 years, 9 months and 20 days until August 23, 2018)

The "Big Dig" was fun too...

...especially considering the lighting was much better than it was last night when Noor started work on her own Velociraptor excavation.

The Milk Snake was beautiful and we learned an easy rhyme so we can tell the difference between their harmless form and the very similar looking and poisonous Coral Snake: "If red touches yellow, beware fellow.  But if red touches black, it is a friend to Jack."

We also learned that the name Milk Snake came about because farmers, upon finding the snakes in their milking pails, believed the snakes liked milk.  The truth is, though, that the snakes liked to eat the rats, who came to drink the milk.

We also got to see one of these guys:

A Kudamundi is a ring-tailed lemur and a central American relative of raccoons. She was leash and voice trained, which Noor found quite impressive.

The butterfly house was warm and full of impressive specimens, like these two moths:

But best of all, the ever-lovely Velociraptor:

2010 Midterm Elections

Senate results so far:

Lots of talk today about government, elections, taxes and the
seperation of church and state after we voted at our new polling
place, Calvery Church.