Day 2 with the Kids: The Natural Science Museum

We had a big day yesterday trying to meet all of our goals with the day_sculptor program.  We woke up early to go to the museum, but we got off to a grumpy start as I tried to demo the write_words program.  The boys were not up for “school”.  So, everyone timed out for a bit, the museum visit was canceled, and the boys went in their own room alone with some books.  They fell back asleep, and when they woke back up, we started over.

A little discussion, and we decided we could go to the museum after all.  When we arrived at the museum, there was a 60 second ride in a device that rapidly simulated 0-gravity by spinning around so fast, any normal adult would probably have a hemorrhagic stroke not to mention lose their balance and throw up.

It was almost the price of the entrance ticket to the museum, and the boys were absolutely sure this minute of tumbling was completely worth forfeiting an afternoon at the museum.  As it turns out, we watched another man with a boy take the ride, and stumble out, and did enjoy the museum visit very much.

We saw some wonderful exhibits.  We began in the paleo hall looking at superbly presented exquisite fossils and an explanation of how they have determined the history of the earth –

observing carefully preserved oxidation states of various mineral levels in rock strata, they could see when oxygen first appeared with the red layer of iron oxide.  We met a very old big fish, that I’m sure the boys would have wanted to catch.

the new dinosaur exhibit where the boys imagined tempting fate with their heads and arms in exciting battles with huge dinosaurs:

The boys are pretty hands on at the exhibit, and it was tough for them to keep their hands and bodies from leaning on things.  They needed constant reminding and attention.  By the time we were through with the dinosaurs, I was ready for Buddha!

We went through a very quiet exhibit of the Chinese warriors – I guess we did the exhibit backwards, observing this emblem of nonviolence before the warrior exhibit.  When we asked the guard at the exhibit entrance about the differences between the dynasties, cultural, linguistic, artistic, she wasn’t too sure, but she said that the size of the statues did change across different dynasties.

Unbeknownst to us, we were looking at excavations from one of the 8th wonders of the world.

Historically, the tour was accurate though.  Buddha predated Jesus by about 500 years, and the 3 dynasties (Qin, Han, and Tang) whose tombs had been excavated date from 221 BCE (before the common era) to about 800 CE (or AD).  We looked carefully at the shape of the dynastic maps:

Qin Dynasty (221 BCE- 207 BCE)

Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 AD)

Tang Dynasty (considered the high point in Chinese civilization 618-907 AD)

noting the unusual shape that would seemingly correspond to a river, and the seashore, and yet the relative absence of fishing tools.  There were swords and arrowheads,


and camels,

but no hooks, boats, or fishing pictures.  Toward the end of the exhibit, the boys tried to figure out how to open doors,

noting with interest the replica of an early Chinese house,

the early tablet of Chinese writing,

and later, after imagining himself picking up a sword,

one boy would leave the sword alone to try to trace out his first Chinese word.

Overall, the exhibit raised a lot of questions in my mind: what was the relationship of the mausoleum to the Egyptian pyramids? Linguistically, how did the evolution of block words, vs. phonetic spellings develop?  Was it an independent evolution of language, or a synthesis of preexisting forms?

The silk route had been established for a while, with trade between the middle eastern and eastern communities.

It was a journey of over 5000 thousand miles.  Did one person make the whole journey, or was it simply that goods were exchanged at stations along the way.  I learned that both paper, and compasses were invented in China, and that both the Qin and the Han dynasties are credited with developing an intellectual vs. an aristocratic allocation of bureaucratic positions.

We left the exhibit, and moved on to an exhibit that detailed the Mayan culture and several plains American Indian and Arctic cultures.  The boys sat down for a moment in a tee-pee.

and saw a buffalo hide that was almost certainly a sundial with an explanation of how feathers would be collected for brave acts by indians who would build a headdress with them.

We saw the importance of the jaguar,

and a Mayan forest figurine who seemed to be the equivalent of the bogey-man,

and finally, learned one of the boys’ names in Mayan.  They named their children after the day that they were born in the Mayan calendar.  How in the world did they figure this out?

We had a brief visit to the exhibit about evolution, where we practiced making up stories (called hypotheses) about how any given species might have become extinct and replaced by another species.

I think we came up with one story about a monkey that survived off of a certain plant.  And then the plant was no longer there because of a drought, so the monkey moved into another territory where there was more water and therefore more of the plants that they liked to eat, but because so many other species were competing for water, they got eaten up by the lions when they went to the water hole, and only those monkeys that ate a different kind of food that didn’t require so much water to grow survived.

Finally, we just had time to visit the science hall, where the boys got to work off some of their extra energy by cranking a wheel to see the energy equivalent of how many drops of gasoline they could generate in 15 seconds.

I have to say that at 4.16 drops, one of them was competing pretty well with the bigger boys.  They also practiced refining oil from different countries.

Leaving the museum when it closed, we balanced my observation and interest in an outdoor sample of the enormous indoor butterfly exhibit

with the boys’ successful attempt to stop the world.

as the periodic oscillations of Foucault’s pendulum carved out time on the clock inside.

Walking back, we met a 20 year old young Greek woman who was completely lost in the middle of the city.  We gave her a ride to the bus stop she needed, discussing the austerity policies and upcoming elections in Greece.  I practiced the 4 or 5 words that I could remember in Greek, and told her that Texans are known for their friendliness and hospitality – like Greece.

Later, I tried to explain to the boys about how women were having babies in hospitals in Greece only to have their babies held until they could pay their medical bills.  Because of the amount of debt the Greeks had, it was like all of their rent money was being used to pay off their debt.  The currency problem was that they had given up their Drachma for the Euro.  By using Euros as a common currency, they were forced to exchange goods on a value system with the rest of Europe, and had to borrow from the wealthier more industrial countries to develop their infrastructure to the level of these other countries who were selling this improvement.  If they forgot their debt, they would have to go back to the Drachma.  And that was what they were having an election about.   There had been an awful lot of Drachma in a Euro before the unification of currency.

Arriving back at the room, we ate dinner, and did a thorough health evaluation together according to the dog training program on Spin, checking ears, eyes, coat, appetite, energy-level, paws, weighing the dog, measuring pulse and respiration, and noting any limps, infections, or sensitivity with palpitation.

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