Reading and traveling are two passions that I share with my seven-year-old daughter. Books, pamphlets, maps, magazines, newspapers, menus. Traveling a half-hour to the museum or across the ocean with our backpacks. My work as an elementary school Reading Specialist has naturally evolved into how I travel and read as a parent. Book recommendations will be given. Dialogue about learning to read and how to encourage the habits of lifelong readers is welcome.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Science & History Field Trips with Book Back-up

Last year, we passed through the Museum of Natural History on the Harvard campus, and besides being blown away by the exhibit of some 3,000 glass flowers, replete with their labeled parts (created by Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolph beginning in the 1880's), I was struck with the child friendly space and the listings of weekend kids' programs, grouped by grade level. So, in conjunction with a visit to my old friend DD and a visit to the Paul Revere house, Sylvia was registered in a workshop on marine invertebrates. The workshop consisted of a scavenger hunt through the museum collections to find such specimens as a fossil trilobite and a slipper lobster as well as handling live marine animals, including a star fish, which Sylvia then said, is really called a sea star. Afterward, we selected several related books in the fantastic gift shop.

Recommended Reading For Budding Marine Biologists:

  • "Swimming with Hammerhead Sharks" (Scientists in the Field series)by Kenneth Mallory (Ages 6-10)
  • "Flotsam" (Caldecott award winner)by David Weisner (All ages)
  • "Come to the Ocean's Edge: A Natural Life Cycle Book" by Laurence P. Pringle anbd Micheal Chesworth (Ages 6-11)

The buzz-word, 'hands-on', can mean very different things in practice. Our local science museum, The Liberty Science Center, in Jersey City, just reopened after a 22 month renovation. Sylvia celebrated her birthday there, with a group of her science hungry friends. The museum has the latest technology throughout, with joy sticks, simulations, of course, computer screens - everywhere. The Harvard museum is hands-on in the old-fashioned way, which is a more literal hands on experience, quieter, no razzle dazzle. The Liberty Science Center is huge, with a metal detector at the entrance, massive glass enclosed entranceway, what defines state of the art, no doubt. But interestingly, you can't sign up for a weekend program. You have to be part of a group, a class, an organization. I would hope that in the future, when the newness settles down, it will be possible to explore the museum at a snail's pace, scale way back from the WOW.

On to the Paul Revere house. We could have used the following list on our scavenger hunt to lower Boston: one way signs, traffic shut off due to creating shopping malls, and lots of patience. Again, I favor the focus on a small bite instead of a whole town a la Williamsburg, VA. The simple wooden structure was built around 1680, and lived in by Revere from 1770-1800. There's no fancy restoration. No heat. The sound of creaking stairs. Reminded me of our climb up the tenement stairs on the Lower East Side. In a simple glass case sits a silver pitcher and a row of spoons made at Revere's foundry. Behind ropes we look at the best chamber, which served as the master bedroom and parlor, the kitchen("Mom, no applicances!"), and the 'hall', used as a dining room with an Oriental rug on the table, the fashion of the time. On display outside the house is a large church bell cast at Revere's foundry. On the other side of the ticket booth is a display of souveniers. We took home postcards, a colonial coin and banknote, and a book by one of my favorite historical non-fiction authors for this age group. (See below.)

One of the highlights of our trip was that Sylvia got to ring the church bell at the Second Parish Unitarian Church in Hingham, Mass., where our friend Paul Sprecher is the Minister. I watched, as an amazed look crossed Syvlia's face when she pulled that heavy thick braided rope, and heard the muted sound come from way above in the bellfry.

Recommended Reading For Young Historians:

Everything by Jean Fritz for the 7-9 year old crowd.
For this trip:
  • "And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?"
She is the master of the esoteric historical detail that stays in your mind forever.


deedee said...

How great it would be for everyone - including adults - if there were more "hands on" experiences to be had in museums - and in life in general. I feel a yearning for the small and hands on unmediated by technology - experiences of learning that are equivalent to walking on a beach picking up stones and shells, carrying them for awhile, sorting through them before bringing a few special ones home. In a way, reading a book is one of the few daily experiences left where one can do that - meander through the pages, try out different things that strike you, take a few of them home.

Ellen Kahaner said...

Yes, meandering is highly underrated. And I think 'hands-on' education and high technology is anachronistic, generally really bad- although some of it has worked for us(like at the Morristown Museum.