Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Last spring we took our first real RV trip, ending up as far north as San Francisco. While we were there, the girls and I visited the CuriOdyssey Museum at Coyote Point. One of our favorite exhibits was the magnetic gear wall. 

My husband came across this video over the weekend on gears showing the kinds of movements and timing you can get with different shapes.

Well, the video has sort of renewed my interest in gears and I’d like to have something for us to play with here at home. Based on their interest while at the museum last year, I think the girls would have fun with them for a while too. I’ve seen these refrigerator magnet gears in a shop once, but what I really want to do is make something ourselves. I’m contemplating making one with peg board from the hardware store at some point. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do this, but its on my mind and I’ll let you know if we come up with anything.

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On our way up to Pinecrest Lake a couple weeks ago, we saw a sign right on the side of the road for “The Fossil Discovery Center” in Chowchilla (19450 Road 21 1/2) off highway 99. We were tempted to pull Classy off the freeway and go right then, but some of the girls were napping and I hesitated a moment too long. We looked it up on the iPad and discovered that they opened the center less than a year ago. It is built across the street from the Fairmead Landfill where fossils were discovered by a landfill employee back in 1993. The first of the fossils was a 500,000 year old Mammoth tusk that had been burried 35 feet below the surface of the ground.  A year later, the San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation was formed and since then, Fairmead Landfill and Paleontologists from the center have been working together to excavate hundreds of bones from prehistoric animals including ancient horses, camels, giant sloths, and Columbian mammoths. A lot of this information is not available on their website yet. We ended up visiting the center on our way home (that’s how I actually know all this, ya’ll). The best resource, in my opinion, on their website is the video page.

On our way home once we had internet again we looked up the hours for the center. We realized then that we were still about 2 and a half hours out and the center would be closing in exactly 2 and a half hours. My husband set the cruise control a little faster than our optimal mpg speed (still well under the speed limit) and we arrived right as they were about to lock the door. Blake, the friendly tour guide/paleontologist let us join in on the end of the tour in progress, so we did get to see a good deal of what they have to offer. We are realy looking forward to going back and spending more time there. The highlights for me were getting to talk to a real live paleontologist and see actual fossils. I know they are all over the place, but they still make my heart beat faster.

This site is one of the largest middle-Pleistocene fossil beds in North America. Fossils have been found over more than 14 acres at depths of ten to sixty feet. According to Robert Dundas, a vertebrate paleontologist at Cal State Fresno, “There’s no indication of fossils running out any time soon. I don’t think anyone knows how big the site really is.” Seriously makes me giddy.

Our 4yo and the baby walked through the tour with us and our 2yo kept herself entertained by the table height rolling sand box with plastic dinosaurs and cave men and women figurines. I have to admit the juxtaposition of the humans and dinosaurs was a little too reminiscent of all the creationism of my past and made me a little uncomfortable, but I reminded myself that she often has Strawberry Shortcake play right in the midst of her elephants and giraffes and this to her is just as fantastical. Just about then she said something about the dinosaurs looking for worms for food and I noticed that their heads were buried in the sand like ostriches. She dug around them with her plastic blue shovel that she grabbed as we had hurriedly exited the RV, saying something to the likes of, “have to bring it to dig up fahw-sools.”

Our 4yo liked the fact that she could pick up fossils of giant shells and a few large bones.There were also coloring pages for the kids. Blake, our guide, told us it was fine to take them with us, so the girls enjoyed coloring them in their car seats for an hour or so after we left. I enjoyed studying the folding timeline of the ages that we picked up in the gift shop.

I don’t know much about it, but there is a mock dig program, that I believe is geared towards kids. Its $4. It might be fun, but I want to see a real dig! The center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9am to 4pm. Its $8 for adults, $6 for kids ages 4 and older (with discounts for students, seniors and military).

I definitely recommend this if you live relatively near or if you are travelling along the 99.

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“…and you take one away, how many do you have?” On our way to the Getty Museum today, our 4yo was teaching our 2yo some basic subtraction. We also spent the drive predicting what kinds of things we would see at the museum. The most surprising of which was, “snakes!” This was made by our 2yo who happened to be quite correct. We saw a surprising number of snakes, mostly in sculpture.

We met my husband’s sister in the parking lot and rode the tram up to the museum together. Before we boarded the tram a friendly guide told us we would “have to visit the Family Room.” She said it as if that’s the place where we were suppose to go if we brought young kids with us. She was very adamant. I took it as a suggestion until we got upstairs and the “advice” was repeated several more times with the heavy implication that that was where we should really be spending our time at the museum if we had small kids with us.

We all loved the portrait of Jeanne Kefer by Fernand Khnopff. We left with both a refrigerator magnet and a print of this one. The point of the visit was to see the Impressionists. Our 4yo’s favorite was the Irises (yes, she’s brining home the fridge magnet).

The girls held Auntie’s hand for the majority of the visit. They never once touched anything that they were not suppose to touch. I made sure to gain permission before taking photos. A little while later, I missed the sign that said no photos in the Paris rooms. I was scolded for taking a photo there and profusely apologized.

My 2yo ran about 6 feet in front of the stroller and I was informed by the guide-gaurd that she wasn’t allowed to run around and that she would need to be held. So, she sat down in the stroller and that was that. We were again informed that there was a Family Room where we “could take the children.”

Our 2yo was very excited to find a painting with a reindeer. She was quite sure that it was a reindeer and not a bull. It had horns. Everyone knows that horns equal reindeer, right?

It was a warm day, hot really, so instead of eating out on the grass in the sun as we had first planned on doing, we decided to eat at the tables. In the shade it was quite pleasant. We’d brought provolone and salami from the Italian deli in town. Even the baby joined in the feast. She’s enjoying putting that tooth to use.

After lunch, we went to find the Family Room. As we entered the foyer, a man quickly set a large sign in front of us and said, “oh no, you cannot enter now. We are full. A class just came in. I would give them 15 minutes or so. You will have to wait outside.” So we went out to the fountain near the entrance to the Family Room and waited. Family after family was turned down so that the school class could play in the Space for Families (I’m not kidding, this is what they call it).

We waited for about 15 minutes. We waited longer than any of the other families, but the class didn’t leave after 15 minutes and the baby was getting tired of us standing still, so we decided to visit the wing with Italian paintings and artifacts. Afterwards we went back to the Family Room/Space for Families and were welcomed inside and then once again quickly stopped. We were told we would have to leave the stroller outside.

The baby was asleep and I had two bags I wouldn’t have been comfortable leaving with the stroller, so we decided we would not be able to do the Family Room this time. Next time we come to the Getty we will try to get to this earlier in the day. It was at this point that I thought of pointing out that they should probably change the name to Children’s Room, because Family Room is not very fitting.

It was a nice day overall, but I was a little disappointed in how everyone seemed to treat us because we had small children with us. I certainly saw quite a few of the school children get a lot closer to touching the actual exhibits than our girls. Maybe it was just a fluke day. I hope so, because I plan on bringing the kids back on a regular basis.

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I don’t know, I guess when people have asked if our oldest is in preschool yet I’ve figured that my, “well, we are planning on homeschooling” would be enough of an answer.  Apparently its not though. People often still want to know why that would have anything to do with us not sending our kids to preschool.

According to the statistics, children who attend preschool are more likely to learn to read, they tend to read better, they are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.  They are also less likely to need public assistance and be incarcerated as adults.

I can see how people who have heard these statistics and think that these particular achievements are the definition of success (or at least see them as important milestones for a successful life) can think, why in the world would you not send your child to preschool. (I can’t keep myself from pointing out that most of these folks aren’t having babies in January, changing their surnames to names that start with the letter ‘A,’ or only having first-born children. All of which would also give their children a leg-up academically and fiscally.) But, I can see how they would think that even if you are planning on homeschooling, it might be a good idea to send your children to an institutionalized preschool if you want them to succeed in life at least in these areas.

If you are planning to teach your children that learning takes place in the classroom with a teacher and a textbook or occasionally in a library with a book or on a special occasion in a museum with an instructor, well, I guess that it makes sense that preschool would condition those that take part to be better equipped to handle their time in school (whether its the dining room table or the more popular classroom). I can totally see why you would want to give them a head start, a leg up, and a preview of the next 13 years of their life and how that might be beneficial. But, what if you are not planning on ever teaching your children that the classroom (or dining room table) is the place for learning?

Why would I want to condition my children to believe these things?

To be fair. I’m not telling everyone who asks this question that we are planning on unschooling.  I don’t feel that it is necessary for strangers at the playground to know this about us. It is easier to say we are homeschooling or that we are going to be homeschooling and that we do pre-school-y things all the time at home. We are reading to them, getting them excited about learning, taking them places they are interested in and introducing them to all sorts of things that they might find fascinating and want to explore more in the coming years. Our (rather shy) 4yo’s current favorite thing to do when we go new places is to meet and make new friends. We let them (and encourage our kids to) develop relationships with all the people in their lives and not just the 2 and 4 year olds we know. We are carefully helping them develop the social skills that their personalities and ages need to navigate several social situations and environments.

We love our un(pre)school life and look forward to learning so many things in the years to come in a natural, organic sort of way. I love the fact that our kids won’t have to de-school themselves as much as I have had to do. I love that they can keep learning everywhere and that they don’t have to spend these precious preschool years learning how to learn in a classroom. I guess not sending my kids to preschool is a form of censorship.  I’m not teaching them that anyone else is in charge of their education. I’m not teaching them that raising your hand, standing in line, coloring on the “correct” side of the worksheet are all necessary skills to learning new things. Although not sending my kids to preschool is a form of censorship, its really all about freedom. Its censoring out people and systems that want to give these little people lifetimes of educational censorship.

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While we were staying in San Francisco, we visited the museum for children at Coyote Point called CuriOdyssey.  It was a great museum for kids our girls’ ages. Well, maybe not our youngest, but I don’t know many museums that are meant for children under a year. Our 2yo and our 4yo loved it. We arrived ten minutes before the otter feeding was scheduled so that’s where we headed first.

The otters were so much fun to watch because they were in such a playful mood. They kept swimming right up to the glass and popping up out of the water right in front of the girls. The girls’ and the otters’ noses were about a half an inch from each other through the glass. Belle and Gunner (the otters) were fed and we made our way through the other animal exhibits before heading inside to the science and hands-on exhibits.

The animal exhibits at this museum are great for actually getting to see the animals. The animals that we didn’t see outside were usually visible from their indoor viewing areas. There seemed to be two or three windows into each animal enclosure, so if an animal seemed to be hiding when we were in one area, they were usually visible from another.

My favorite hands-on exhibit inside the museum was a magnetic gear wall. At the bottom of the wall was a gear permanently attached to the wall that had a handle so that it could be rotated. At the top of the wall was another gear that could rotate a long belt that would cause a bell to ring close to the ceiling. There were a whole lot of magnetic gears that you could place anywhere on the wall. We managed to get them to go all the way to the top and attach to the top gear and ring the bell.

Our 4yo ran right over to the pipe building table and began connecting the pipes to create some sort of structure. She remained silent and focussed as she built.  When she was done she seemed quite pleased with herself. She sighed in satisfaction and promptly moved on to the next activity.

We tried pretty much everything and then headed to see the tarantula and the beehive. There were many tables to stop and play with and fight over along the way. On our way back, we ended up having lots of fun at the tables with the giant clear pipes with air blowing through them from beneath. There are piles of foam shapes on the floor that you can insert into the pipes and watch float up, up, up and out the top. The girls did this for a while and then they started making flowers and bouquets and marshmallows on sticks and piles of sticks/campfires (for roasting their marshmallows) and other imaginative things with the foam shapes. It was a nice break for me to sit and watch what they came up with.

We had a great time and I recommend this place to anyone who lives in or is visiting this area with kids 18 months and up. The playgrounds at the park are pretty cool too so there’s plenty to do for an entire afternoon.

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