when ships sailed the anacostia river

while our guide to the 18th century claimed that
he was improperly dressed for his time period
— he was missing his coat and hat —
he looked quite hot even in the air conditioned room
as he took us back to when ships sailed the Anacostia River.

he gave us a flashback to how life was in early Bladensburg:
how people and things traveled by foot, cart, carriage or ship;
how children played with simple toys like a jacob’s ladder
or hitting wheels of wood with flat sticks;
how bathing was seen as hazardous to your health;
and the many ways to ingest the area’s most widely grown crop: tobacco.

here’s some cool Maryland trivia:
there is a small Anacostia tributary called Dueling Creek
that got its name because gentlemen would come to its banks
and take care of their affairs of honor
since dueling was illegal in the District.

we followed up our trip into the past with a pontoon ride
down a much shallower Anacostia than was found in the 1700s
— during colonial times the river was 40 feet deep and Bladensburg was a busy seaport,
but clear-cutting of forests caused the river to silt in.

we saw blue heron, Canada geese, osprey,
something that looked like an otter,
and many turtles, their shells reflecting the sun,
resembling silver plates as they sunned themselves on logs.

it’s hard to leave Bladensburg Waterfront Park.
even after learning about early Maryland for an hour
and riding on the pontoon,
we just had to take advantage of the playground

and poke around in their vintage B&O caboose

allowing our children’s imaginations to take them where
this train may have gone in the past.

it only added to that creative energy
when a modern freight train drove by on nearby tracks,
it whistle momentarily drowning out their lively commotion.

we’ll have to come back to the Bladensburg Waterfront Park
for canoeing and kayaking,
the Arts on the Waterfront Summer Concert series,
river cleanups and plant restoration efforts,
more of their social studies and science programs,
or just to daydream on that old caboose.

a quick experiment in the buoyancy of liquids

will other liquids float in water?
is oil lighter than water? is rubbing alcohol?
make your hypothesis and then see what happens.

first, we poured water with blue food coloring into the glass.
next, we poured in cooking oil slowly down the side
so that it would not mix.
finally, we poured rubbing alcohol with red food coloring down the side of the glass,
again slowly so they stay separate.

what’s happening?
the cooking oil and the rubbing alcohol
both have a lesser density than water
so they float in water.
however, if the cooking oil were not in between,
the alcohol and water would easily mix.

sometimes a quick experiment after breakfast or lunch
makes a easier segue into more in-depth work.

hull design at the navy yard

last May at homeschool at the navy museum
we learned about different hull types and their various strengths and weaknesses.
for example, large cargo ships usually have deep-v hulls
because they can travel through many different types of water
(i.e. shallow, rough or deep waters)
and can support larger payloads,
but ships with this hull type must travel at slower speeds
and use larger engines.

for their hands-on project
— and there always is at least one hands-on project
for every homeschool at the navy museum —
the younger ones built hulls out of thick paper and tape
and tested their hull’s payload capability with plastic baggies full of pennies.
the older ones designed and carved their hulls out of foam blocks,
and then evaluated their creations in a 12-foot water track.

THIS is what science is all about!

science = learn + think + do

the beeman cometh to the washington youth garden

pollen and pollenators was the topic at hand
on our most recent SPROUT journey at the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum.
Beekeeper Shawn gave us the run-down of bee anatomy and hive life.

for example,
you can tell what is inside an individual honeycomb cell by the shape of its cap.
bees build the honeycomb from the top and eventually connect the disparate pieces…

until it becomes a single honeycomb.

another one of our garden guides, Ms. Purple,
expounded on the many different types of pollinating bees.
besides honeybees, there are carpenter bees and bumble bees,
shaggy fuzzyfoot bees, japanese horn-faced bees, sweat bees, and squash bees
to name a few displayed here.

with all this information swirling around in our heads
we were ready to see bees in action at the beehive!

Beekeeper Shawn prepared his smoker to work its magic.
he told us that the smoke doesn’t actually make bees calm,
rather the bees think there is a fire
so they load their honey pouches with honey
in an effort to save some of their hard-earned work.
their honey pouches are so full
that they can’t even bend their abdomens in order to sting.
it’s almost like they’re honey-drunk.

we all got to sample fresh honey.
our store-bought honey bears will never be the same.

next, time for a garden scavenger hunt
looking for other types of pollinators
like butterflies fluttering around the strawberries,

and flies buzzing around the mint.

you better believe we rubbed, sniffed and nibbled on a bit of everything that we could,
including fresh deliciously tender asparagus. wow!

near the edge of the garden are a pair of pawpaw trees
whose brown blossoms are reminiscent of…
well, uh, how do i put this politely…
pollinators who prefer this distinct scent
— like the zebra swallowtail butterfly —
help the tree bear its fruit.
there’s a catch though:
the pollen has to come from a totally different pawpaw tree
rather than just a different flower on the same pawpaw.
that’s why these pawpaws are planted as a pair.

when you visit the WYG, make a special request to play
the Pollen Relay Game.
lots of fun. trust me on this.

lastly, Ms. Purple shared one of her favorite pollination picture books,
The Reason for a Flower, by Ruth Heller.

what better way to finish off a nectarous day
than with a romp in the Youth Garden’s natural play area.
wooden logs have never been more entertaining.

breaking news:
the WYG has SPROUT sessions specifically geared towards homeschoolers on June 20 and July 26. check them out!

what’s your favorite Washington Youth Garden SPROUT program?


so, radianceGirl what did you think of MathAlive?
(press play)

and you mercyGirl?

did you have a similar opinion signGirl?

picture a Dave & Busters
for kids,
but with (a bit) less noise,
an emphasis on mathematics in
outdoor sports, engineering, art, robotics and a bit of video games,
subtract the need for money for tokens and whatnot cause it’s free,
then add the fact that it’s bilingual (English and Spanish),
and accessible for those with disabilities.

that’s MathAlive!

we went twice.

in this section we learned about how engineers use systems
to help make sure we have enough power,
(especially in emergency situations)
keep our water safe, use our various forms of transportation
and connect with each other using diverse communication systems
like phone, email, and radio.

we battled using our graphing skills,

we competed in a live-action snowboard race,

we programmed a Mars rover,
and helped NASA develop those amazing pictures of our universe
from the hundreds of photos taken by the Hubble telescope.

we were blown away by the artistic shadow play of mere digits,

and made bits and bytes move and groove in psychedelic colors,

but, by far, our favorite interactive
was to make grand fools of ourselves
in the Style Revolution 360!

(see silly live examples at the top of this blog post.)

us Washingtonians are so spoiled
by having the the exceptional free institution
that is the Smithsonian at our doorsteps.
we got the world premiere of MathAlive,
but it is also set to hit the Arizona Science Center (Phoenix, AZ),
U.S. Space & Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL),
and then the Space Center Houston (TX).

MathAlive, come back to DC when you’re finished with your world tour, y’hear?