Tuesday, June 30

French Navy (Camera Obscura)

Louisiana is one of the states that we've never visited...so when presented with a few days off, we thought we'd just hop on down there and see what we could find!!  (In the upcoming weeks, we will be creating units on all the wonderful things we experienced, so be sure to look for those...)

History Museum in Shreveport

Our first stop was the State Museum of Louisiana, where we learned the basic background.  We learned that they have just as much oil and gas activity as Oklahoma does, and that cotton and rice were king crops for a long time.
We got to see the native wildlife, and the boys were very impressed with the pelicans.  They learned that Louisiana is nicknamed the Pelican State.  We also saw some historical krewe costumes from various Mardi Gras parades around the state.

Science Museum at Shreveport

The Sci-Port Discovery Center was one of the ASTC membership museums, which means that we could pop in and look around for free with our card!  (If you don't have a membership yet, and you travel at all, you should look into one.)  This is similar to our Omniplex, but had a few novelties.
We flew airplanes and learned to navigate ships by the constellations.  We also played on giant pulleys, life-sized compass and protractors, and shot ourselves up into the air!  Mom thought the last one was really fun!
The sky started to turn a weird shade of green, so we decided to head on down the highway and see where it took us...
Fort St. Jean Baptiste in Natchitoches
This place was pretty neat for a little hole-in-the-wall!  You know we love our history, and this was something we had never studied.  Fort St. Jean Baptiste was a French fort and trading outpost during the French & Indian War.  They have recreated the fort, complete with actors, to bring history to life!
It was nice to get out of the car and walk around a bit, and we learned some science along the way when the boys stopped to ask about all the algae growing in 'de swamp.
We poked around the trading post, picking up a bit of French along the way, and learned how to make an outdoor brick oven for baking outside in the heat and humidity.  We visited both the enlisted men and officer's quarters, and got to try on some of their uniforms.  Did you know that it's not just the Dutch that used wooden shoes?  The French wore them, too!

Le Vieux Village in Opelousas

About two hours from New Orleans, Opelousas IS creole country.  We visited three different museums, and learned a lot about creole history, but were only allowed to photograph in one of them.  Le Vieux Village offers a glimpse of early life in St. Landry Parish.  While the set up is similar to places we have visited in Michigan and Oklahoma, each region is unique, and we never tire of comparing and contrasting how the various cultures once lived...when the world was considerably more isolated.
The end of the road came for us in Opelousas.  It was getting dark, and we had been in the car for over eight hours....on the road for nearly fourteen, with all the stops.  We found a roadside motel and checked in, with the intention of making it to New Orleans the following day.  However, Mother Nature had other plans for us....and what unfolded was a fabulous journey through our past!  That however, is another story for another day...

Monday, June 29

Carry On (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

The final goal of speech therapy is carry-over and independence. As a parent, it's very frustrating when your child is performing correctly in a speech therapy setting, but seems to be making no progress at home.  There are several factors that play into this scenario of frustration and failure...
The First Factor : A lack motivation on the child’s part.  It's difficult to blame them for this because we must learn to motivate even the most difficult child.
The Second Factor : The second factor is parents not having the time and/or patience to do the work.  We understand what our child is saying, but often forget that others do not.
Here are some fun, easy, and FREE resources for you to use with your child to reinforce that carry-over process.

Thursday, June 18

The Body Machine (Schoolhouse Rock)

Welcome to the second part of our anatomy & physiology unit study for elementary and early middle school aged students.  You can easily interchange this with Part I, which focuses on different body systems.

Part I of the Human Body Unit Study

Digestive System
Immune System
Muscular System
The Five Senses
Hands-On Fun!

Monday, June 15

The River (Joe Bonnamassa)

The Steamboat Arabia hit a tree snag and sank on the Missouri River on September 5, 1856. The 130 passengers survived, but an estimated 220 tons of cargo went down with the boat. Shortly thereafter, the Missouri River changed course, and the boat was buried underground. The cargo, destined for sixteen towns on the frontier, was buried under a cornfield in Wyandotte County, Kansas for 152 years until it was discovered in 1988.

On the way home from Iowa, we drove past a billboard advertising the Steamboat Arabia Museum.  Since we'd already learned about the Transcontinental Railroad, we figured it would just be a week of learning about historical transportation.

The museum offers a tour by some pretty enthusiastic guides...these are the guys that actually excavated the boat back in the late 1980's.  They're knowledgeable, friendly, and have all the answers.  My boys had LOTS of questions, and the guide's enthusiasm was contagious - everyone was excited to learn about this boat we had never heard of until today!
They start with a short history lesson about the Missouri River and the area itself, and then show you how they decided where to dig.  My oldest is intrigued by archaeology of the underwater variety, and had many questions here.  Then we saw remains of the ship itself before heading into a short film.  The footage was neat, but I think the tour guide was more informative than the film.  He was energetic!
They talk about the evolution of river boats and the history of trading in the area - how small towns sprang up along the river.  Then we got to see how the river had changed over the course of 150 years.  There is also a great aerial view of the area where you can see patterns in the farmland that show the river's changes.
When the Arabia sank, she was carrying supplies to sixteen different towns.  The salvage company was able to save most of that cargo, thanks to the way that it had been packed.  The results are basically the entire 1856 Sears & Roebuck catalog.  It's amazing!  Sprinkled throughout the museum are survivor stories, archaeological lessons, and an exhibit on artifact preservation.  If you're in the Kansas City area, grab some BBQ and spend the afternoon touring the Arabia!

Steamboat Arabia Resources :

Thursday, June 11

All Night Train (Allman Brothers)

Our options for "learning opportunities" (aka 'things to do') in the Omaha area were greatly limited by weather, but we found a couple of train museums! The timing could not have been more perfect. The top headlines of the week included an Amtrak accident in Philadelphia that already had the boys asking questions about how trains work. It was time to find out!

Rail Travel unit study :
Transcontinental Railroad unit study :
 Check out all of our We Were There unit studies!

This FREE museum in Council Bluffs, IA was created to educate others about the history, and future, of America's railroad industry.  There are three main sections to the museum : the Lincoln collection, the Transcontinental Railroad, and the history of rail travel.
First, we had to build the railroad.  The boys used dynamite to blow out the side of the mountain and constructed trestle bridges to span the rivers.
A virtual game allows you to physically build the railroad...from outfitting yourself properly to laying the tracks and hammering in the spikes.  Once the train has been completed, you can ride as a passenger or engineer it through a multitude of landscapes.
Take a turn driving the train through several different landscapes!

There are many hands-on exhibits and virtual experiences so that you can travel on the railroads just like your great-grandparents did!

The Lincoln collection has several pieces from his private life, but the shining exhibit is his personal rail car that was constructed in 1864.  Lincoln only ever rode on this rail car once...to Springfield, IL where he was buried.  It's beautifully macabre...

Finally, part of the history of rail travel is communication.  We learned about the importance of telephones and operators, as well as standard rail time.  The purpose behind introducing railway time was twofold: to overcome the confusion caused by having non-uniform local times in each town and station stops along the expanding railway network, and to reduce the incidence of accidents and near misses, which were becoming more frequent as the number of train journeys increased.

Durham Museum

Across the river in Omaha, NB is the old Union Station.  Maybe you've heard of a 'Union Station' in other cities...what makes something a union station is the fact that it connects multiple railway lines.

Union Station opened in January 1931 and quickly became one of the busiest stations in the nation.  At its heyday, 64 passenger trains and over 10,000 passengers came through the station each day.  The last train ran through there in 1971.

The first things you'll notice when you walk inside are the eye-popping ceiling and the bronze statues.  It is the statues that make the place feel 'alive,' like you are re-living the golden age of railroad history in the 1940's.  Actually, the whole museum has that vibe about it...
Take the escalator downstairs to ride the trolley through town and take the train across country!  On your trip, you'll pass vintage cars and beautiful scenery.  If you're an HO train lover, there is a track setup that spans over half the length of the museum - it covers the evolution of the Union Pacific railroad, from laying the track, through its peak, and to its position today.
Inside the train itself, you can easily imagine what it would have been like to travel across country.  The lounge and dining cars are reminiscent of White Christmas, but the berth cars are different.  
Our guide told us that there were two types of berths :  one had separate bedrooms, while the other was a living room that folded out into a bedroom.  These were the latter type.  Honestly, I think I'd prefer the former!  Six families slept on one rail car in little bunkbeds...with very little space to move.  If you were travelling alone, you had an actual room, but the bed folded down on top of the toilet, and if you had to go in the night, you had to unhitch your bed first!
There are many historical exhibits on the other side of the museum about the history of Omaha.  One of our favorites was the dress-up area....it's fun to be silly!