It was the day before solstice, so we explored day, night, the Moon, and the Sun during Afternoon Discoveries. (Join us the third Friday of every month from 2:00 - 4:00 at the Mary E. Fritsch Nature Center. Ages 5-11.)
Just for some evening fun, try some of these "experiments" - almost all of us learn better by doing - and if you are an adult without little ones around, I bet you'll have fun! See if you know junior high astronomy!
Gather up a globe or ball to simulate a globe, a white balloon or ball smaller than your globe, and a lamp for a sun!
I didn't include any "answers." If you need some clarification, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Here are some warm-ups:
1. Use the lamp and Earth to demonstrate why the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. (You can use a bit of masking tape to mark the eastern seaboard in the U.S. to help remind children of their directions.)
Got the globe spinning? What direction?
2. Keep your Earth rotating. Look down at the North Pole. What direction is it spinning? Clockwise or counterclockwise?
3. Keep the Earth rotating the same direction. Look up at the South Pole. What direction is it spinning? Clockwise or counterclockwise?
So when we talk about the direction of planets, we have to use a reference point!
A little bit more complicated now. . .
4. Now, did you know the Earth is closer to the Sun in the Winter! (We're going to be referencing Winter and Summer for the Northern Hemisphere.) So, the seasons are not caused by the distance from the Sun. Maybe you've heard about the tilt. To help understand, hold your globe close to your Sun - level with in the same plane as the Sun. Look at the angle of "rays" hitting the Northern Hemisphere. Tilt the Northern Hemisphere away from the Sun. Tilt it toward the Sun.
So, does the Earth rock back and forth?
Hopefully, you can walk around your Sun. If not, designate an object you an walk around as the Sun. (It doesn't need to be a light for this.)
5. Hold the Earth at a "winter" angle - so the Northern Hemisphere is tilted back from the Sun. Note where in the room the North Pole is aimed. Keeping the North Pole aimed there - not changing the tilt of the Earth - walk half way around the Sun. How is the Earth now oriented with respect to the Sun? How long does it take the Earth to revolve around the Sun? Can you revolve your Earth around your Sun and note what season it would be in each quadrant?
Stick with it; this next part is cool!
6. Now, get rid of your globe. Your head is now the Earth! Let the Sun shine on it! Use your Moon and find where the Moon would have to be for the folks on Earth to see a full moon and a new moon. Where would the Moon need to be to see a quarter moon? Crescent? Gibbous?
Look up a moon phase chart if you need it - you can also record the moon phase each night.
7. Go through the phases of the moon around your head. (Wax on, wax off. You start with your right hand, correct? If the lit part of the moon is on the right, it is waxing - getting bigger. The waning moon is lit on the left.)
How long does it take the Moon to orbit the Earth?
Which direction is it orbiting? Remember to use a reference point!
8. We only see one side of the Moon. Put a sticker or mark on one side of your Moon. Taking it through all the phases around the Earth (your head), keep the mark facing the Earth. Does the Moon rotate on its axis? How often? What direction? (Remember to use a reference point!)
9. The Moon rises about an hour later each night. Why?
10. What arrangement of the Earth, Moon, and Sun causes a solar eclipse?
11. What arrangement of the Earth, Moon, and Sun causes a lunar eclipse?
Look up a schedule of eclipses.
12. Can you explain the schedule with your model? (Scientific theories are often called models. Remember theories are the best explanation of a phenomenon. They are not "little laws" - laws are the mathematical relationships of the universe.)
We have only received a few applications for Grow Appalachia for 2014. If you are planning to do so please try to get those back to us. Also, I have a company interested in donating some fruit trees this coming May. So if you are planning on being in the program and are interested in some fruit please get your email or phone number to me or you can reach me (Lisa) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 606-308-2102 I have to get back with them asap on what we would like. You can get more information on these trees at www.chiefrivernursery.com. The types they have offered us are apples (gala,honeycrisp, red delicious, winesap, and yellow delicious), moorpark apricot,north star cherry, concord grape, red gold nectarine, red haven peach, bartlett pear,and methley plum.
Every time I go to the Mary E. Fritsch Nature Center I have four more things to do than I can possibly get done. That problem stems from two good phenomena - we are planning new, exciting programs for the community and schools, and our facilities are in the forest where leaves fall, trails erode, plants grow, and spiders will continue to build webs to catch food.
I try, however, to always take a few minutes to be still and listen. Over the past few weeks, the birds are strikingly different. The commuters have all headed south and the aves that will over-winter are settling in for shorter, colder days. The numbers are down, the volume is down, but the messages are much clearer. Each chirp and whistle is much more distinct without all the competition. The cooler, drier air delivers a crisper sound, too.
The leaves no longer whisper above me. They rustle and crunch - and mostly on the ground, except for those oak leaves which refuse to let go until a new bud pushes them to complete the nutrient cycles decaying on the forest floor.
This week, the forest was very quiet compared to the wet spring (and summer this year) that brought out the riotous amphibians and insects. It occurred to me that another sound this fall rivaled those loud creatures - children. Small, medium, large, and I'll even be brazen enough to call the visitors from the Rockcastle Adult Day Center children. Who isn't a child when you picnic in the woods and sing songs around the campfire? And it did not matter the age of the boy who visited - four, ten, thirty-four, or seventy-four, they could not keep their hands off the irresistibly long, whippy bamboo. The diversity in ages also kept us on our toes with logistics. As our director said, "Eighty high school students take up a lot more space than 80 second graders." Eighty high school students can also do a lot of trail work and eat a lot of marshmallows!
This fall the sounds of children trying so hard to be quiet and listen for the calls and scamperings of animals, the sounds of children hunting for seeds, the sounds of children emptying arthropod pitfall traps and discovering BUGS!, the sounds children roasting marshmallows, the sounds of children clearing and planting a garden surrounded the nature center.
Outdoors we learn so much from listening - we learn about bird territories, squirrel habits, depth of rushing water. We gain an inner calm. It was beautiful to listen to children learning. While we want to share the skills and calmness of listening - and we will continue to do so, I do love to hear the laughter coming through the trees.