calder’s little spider

we’re back at the national gallery of art
for their winter story series
because the summer series was so impressive.

for february we investigated alexander calder’s sculptures.
first they read about a creative weaver who used her art to help others
in sophie’s masterpiece.

listening to Sophie's Masterpiece while surrounded by Matisse

alexander calder was an engineer and artist
who liked to make art that made people smile.
we did.

we studied calder’s little spider stabile
— like a mobile, except it on the ground
instead of hanging from the ceiling.

examining Calder's stabile "Little Spider"

then the girls took a stab at making mobiles of their own
from an embroidery hoop and colorful wires.

satisfied with their own mobile designs,
we returned to the calder area
at the end of the program
to view his other intriguing pieces…

aztec josephine baker by alexander calder
a dangling wire head. even the shadows are fascinating!
rearing stallion by alexander calder
calder's huge aluminum and steel mobile in the main entrance of the east wing

on our way out we couldn’t help but ponder the curious, varied creations of other modern artists.

forest of hands
mercyGirl's favorite hands among the forest of hands sculptures
chuck close's fanny/fingerpainting all done in fingerprints!

next month the winter series continues with jim dine
and a reading of the tin forest by helen ward.
i don’t know jim dine, but we can learn about him and his work together in february.

reach for the stars, little girls

we finally (just) made it to the stars tonight,
the free planetarium show at the air and space museum
that highlights celestial bodies in the current night sky.

planetarium projector

afterward, we got another free treat to discovery theater‘s
the wright brother’s puppet production
dramatizing man’s first powered flight.

they were giving the show right in the middle of one of the great halls,
so we watched it outside of the velvet rope.
same view, better price.

before we left, we checked out the surrounding exhibits
on the history of the development of planes.

one of the things i love about our local museums
is that the exhibits can’t be exhausted in just one visit.
we’ll be back.
probably to take in the free big bird one world, one sky show on a friday morning.
you comin’?

reading to rover

the read to rover program allows young readers to gain confidence
by reading for 15 minutes to a specially trained therapy dog from pets on wheels.
why dogs? cause they don’t criticize or correct.

sanaa gets acquainted with peanut

i’m not a dog person,
but i thought this would be a cool experience.
now radianceGirl is more comfortable around dogs.
she read to a rottweiler named gigi!

reading "the giving tree" to gigi

mercyGirl read to an energetic hound dog named chance
who came to the library ready to party,
however he settled down for story time.

reading "dog day" to chance

the dogs — and their owners — come faithfully to the greenbelt library every third saturday from 2 – 4 p.m.

homeschool underwater archeology at the US navy museum

us navy museumhomeschool day at the national museum of the US navy
is something all DC metro homeschoolers should check out!
the two hour hands-on program is offered
every second monday from 1 – 3 pm
or thursday from 10 am – noon.

i found the facilitators helpful and enthusiastic
and their history and science-based programing well-planned.
they catered to the wide range of ages usually found in homeschooled families,
and not as an afterthought or thoughtful accommodation.
all age groups from 3 to 16 were prudently engaged.

the younger ones began with a sink or float activity
while the older ones viewed a presentation by and then asked questions of real life underwater archeologists!
we all joined together to do a quick experiment on how acids (lemon juice)
can help remove encrustations from specimens, like a penny.
we then put the penny back in the lemon juice while we did part two of the program.
we later examined the effects of the acid on the penny before we left for the day.

the penny in lemon juice experiment

afterward the (rather large but manageable and well-behaved) group
divided into two smaller groups.
while one examined actual archeological specimens from ancient shipwrecks
in the naval history and heritage command’s underwater archeology lab
with George, another underwater archeologist,

encrusted scissors: the metal was gone, but the void was a perfect scissor mold
ancient buttons from a shipwreck
ancient cannon undergoing slow decrustation process
encrusted anchor in a custom steel container

the other grouped practiced their newly acquired archeologist knowledge and skills
to gently uncover wrecks and diagram their findings.

uncovering an "ancient" ship wreck with fellow budding underwater archeologists

i’m an air force veteran, but on this one i’ve got to give it to them: go, navy!

to think i almost turned around and went home because of a few hassles:

1. in order to drive on the base you have to give them a copy of your registration and insurance and consent to a background check.

2. parking was horrendous.
i might as well have tried parking on the national mall on the 4th of july.
after almost giving into my frustration, i went inside and asked for help at the information/security desk and was much obliged to james, the head of security, for giving me the hook up as well as advice on parking in the parking deck close to the O street entrance when we return.

pssst! i heard that next time they’ll tackle the field of aeronautics.
once again, science is real, baby.

examining the hands of time at dumbarton house

we checked out dumbarton house‘s monthy homeschool history day.
ms. karen greeted us and, while we waited for the program to begin,
the girls colored a portrait of themselves in the federal period and decoded messages.
the program began with a reading of a letter from the son of joseph nourse
— dumbarton’s most famous resident —
about how he celebrated the new year and
we discussed the ways in which it was similar and different
from how we celebrate today.
next, as we toured the house, we read fictional letters from sarah nourse,
joseph’s wife, and moved the hands of clocks
to the times indicated intermittently in her tales.
(no photos were allowed during the tour.)

afterward we had high tea with hot chocolate and ginger snaps,
handled cones of salt and sugar and blocks of tea and chocolate
— they were pressed into cones blocks for preservation.

high tea (hot chocolate, really)

then the girls wrote letters themselves with quill pens
and closed the letters by stamping seals in red wax.

writing with quill pens
blotting the paper
blotting the paper
melting the wax
stamping the wax

bonus: the staff had a little area on the side with over-sized dominoes and checkers for the younger ones to play.

dumbarton house homeschool history days are monthly on wednesdays.
check out the schedule and other programs.

the dumbarton kid’s web site is great for a post-visit review.

colored leaves experiment

the girls were learning about controls in regards to scientific investigations.
we put red food coloring in the water of one jar
and left the other as a control, a test that other tests are compared to.
over a period of four days
we watched what happened to the celery in the red dye
vice the control in plain water.
our results agreed with our hypothesis:
the leaves of the celery in the red dye gradually gained a red tint.

day 1
day 2
day 3
day 4
day 4 - close up

the colored leaves experiment was from janice vanCleave’s
teaching the fun of science to young learners.
teaching the fun of science to young learners

exploring air and space

we intended to make the free 10:30 a.m. the stars tonight show
at the einstein planetarium,
but will have to save that
or possibly the one world, one sky: big bird’s adventure show
as an excuse for another visit.

i didn’t think the air and space museum
would be as engaging as it was for my 3-7 age set,
but the hands on activities in the how things fly exhibit was quite fascinating.

flying a cessna

afterward we roamed around until our bellies and the parking meter called us to exit.
an astronaut's shower

one treat we almost overlooked was looking at the sun
in the little observatory just outside the independence avenue exit.

the operator told us that the bulb-looking piece on which we saw the sun reflected
— he’s pointing at it in the above picture —
is actually a flower pot fitted with a thick plastic filter —
a little d.i.y. science even at the world renown smithsonian.
science is real, baby.

what’s your favorite thing to do at the air and space museum?