Friday, October 30

Cave Song (Pretty Vicious)

Not far from Hershey, PA are the Indian Echo Caverns.  We've been to a few different caverns on our journeys, and these are pretty small in comparison, but if you're in the area they are definitely worth an afternoon stop!!   
In 1929, Mr. John Beiber (no relation to Justin, our guide told us) opened the caverns to the public, with the paths and gravel added for safety.  It is dark, chilly, and damp, and often eerie inside, with tales by our guide about dragons and zombies.
So we learned that the first visitors of the caverns were….wait for it….Indians.  After that it was the French fur-trappers.  They were hanging out in the caves, building fires, staying dry and waiting for animals to be caught in their traps.  That was back in the 17th and 18th centuries.  We also saw carved messages that were put there before the Civil War.  (The message in the photo is dated June 1858.)
Throughout the tour, we saw unique "natural architecture," learned about the animals that call this area home, and learned about a man named William Wilson.  For nineteen years (1802–1821) the caverns were the home of William Wilson, known as the Pennsylvania Hermit.  Following his sister's death, Wilson withdrew from society and wandered westward across southeastern Pennsylvania, settling in the caverns in 1802.  He died underground in 1821.  A little creepy...

Life Underground unit :

Make Stalactites and Stalagmites

Supplies :
  • Two glass jars
  • A saucer
  • Woolen thread
  • Either baking soda, washing soda or Epsom salts
Instructions :
  1. Fill both jars with hot water. Dissolve as much soda as you can into each one.
  2. Place the two jars in a warm place and put the saucer between them.
  3. Twist several strands of woolen thread together before dipping the ends into the jars and letting the middle of the thread hang down above the saucer. The ends can be weighed down with various small, heavy objects to keep them in the jars.
  4. The two solutions should creep along the thread until they reach the middle and then drip down onto the saucer.
  5. Watch what happens to the experiment over then next few days.
  6. Don’t forget to wash your hands when you’ve finished.
What's happening?
Over a few days the dripping water will leave behind the baking soda, forming a tiny stalactite (which forms from the roof) and stalagmite (which forms from the ground). With enough time these may eventually join to create a single column. Stalactites and stalagmites are columns of stone which form in underground caves. They are made from minerals dissolved in rainwater that slowly drips from the roofs and walls of caves.

Thursday, October 15

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Band)

On our first trip to Gettysburg was short and sweet.  We didn't realize just how large this National Park was...but we came prepared this time!  Daddy wanted to come along, so we scheduled an extra travel day just for visiting Gettysburg.
Boys will be boys!  The first thing that caught their eye was the large display of weaponry from the battle.  We spent a lot of time looking at the various guns and swords, and the boys were able to find some of the answers for their Junior Ranger Scavenger Hunt here.
One of my boys especially loves costumes!!  (He's the one that wrote Recycled History.)  He pulled out his sketchbook to make drawings of the General's uniforms from both the Union and Confederate armies.  I'm sure we'll be seeing those re-created as the cold months creep in.
As we studied the impetus for the Civil War, and the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg itself, we also saw various instruments of war.  These included actual cannon and General's swords, plated in gold leaf.
Our musical & mathematical boy was more fascinated by the code-breaking circle, drummer boy's drum, and the canteen and bag (which are much like the ones he uses today for scouts).  We stopped off at the town square for a bite to eat.  This is a tourist town, so the food was pricey, but very good!  And healthy...which is always a plus.  
We visited the Wills House, on the town square, where Abraham Lincoln stayed before giving his Gettysburg Address.  As we perused the shops, we were amazed at the fact that no one was selling Confederate flag memorabilia.  I understand the recent media hoopla over the flag, but if there's one place that it belongs, it's at Gettysburg.  Let's not go overboard...the icon is still a part of our heritage, and this is one of the places it would be appropriate to find it.
After lunch, we took the driving tour of the battlefields.  We stopped to walk around at the Gettysburg National Memorial.  They have a wall here that's similar to the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC.  It lists the soldiers that died in battle here, both Union and Confederate.
This is a huge monument, dedicated to both armies.  It's so big that it has a spiral staircase leading up several stories!   And you can climb it!
At the top of the staircase, you'll find markers like this one that point to the locations of several famous battles.
Here's your panoramic view from the top of the monument...
As we drove around, we came upon several other smaller monuments.  This driving tour could potentially take an entire weekend, so come prepared!  There are bathrooms spotted along the way, but you'll want to bring your own picnic.

Battle of Gettysburg Unit Study

Check out all of our We Were There unit studies!

Thursday, October 8

Lithium (Nirvana)

The theme of the 1962 World's Fair was 21st Century...and the Seattle Space Needle was the piece de resistance of this futuristic event.  Touring the building is a lesson in "modern" architecture, such as that created by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Our favorite part?  The view from the top of the world!  The restaurant has a minimum purchase per guest...which is not so hot if you want to take your kids to lunch.  Thanks to doggie bags, we got lunch and dinner out of this meal, and it was still pricey.  But if you eat at the restaurant, you can walk up to the observation deck for factor that savings into your cost.  The best part of the restaurant was the rotating view of the city.  While waiting for the food, we were able to check out every corner of Seattle!  
After our extravagant lunch, we stumbled upon Seattle Free Walking Tours...and the word "free" sounded really good!!  Seattle Free Walking Tours was inspired by the adventures and travels of the organization's co-founders. Free tours are a phenomenon throughout much of Europe, and they wanted to introduce the concept in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  (Suggested donation is $15.)  There are a couple of different tour options, and they're very basic, but it's a great way to stretch your legs and get an introduction to the city from a native.  Reservations are bring a smartphone.
Here we are with Chief Seattle, an ancestral leader of the Suquamish Tribe in the late 1700s / early 1800s, and the man for whom the city was named.
The oldest Farmer's Market lies at Pike Place Market, where artisans and farmers alike have been cutting out the middle man for more than a century.  It’s a place where you can “Meet the Producer”—the farmers, butchers, fishmongers, cheesemongers, bakers, winemakers and purveyors who bring their bounty to your table.  One of our favorite parts about Pike Place is watching the 'performers' at the Fish Market.  The way they toss those gigantic fish around is a source of amusement and wonder to kids of all ages!  It's also home of the original Starbucks, so you can pop in and get a cuppa to warm up.
Spend about 90 minutes underneath the city, soaking up a history lesson all the way!  As part of the tour, we learned that the commercial district burned down in 1889, and rather than take the opportunity to move the commercial district, the shop keepers rebuilt their businesses on the original mud flat.  Then, the city brought in dirt fill and created city streets that were 15-40 feet above all the buildings!  So, the front of the building and the sidewalks were well below the streets behind giant stone retaining walls.  To cross the street, you had to climb a ladder, scurry across the street, and then climb down another ladder.  It is ironic that nobody died in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, but nearly 20 people died years later, falling off the ladders as they tried to cross the streets.  That is just a taste of the wierdness that you will learn on this tour!!!   (Scroll down for more photos from this tour.)

Seattle Unit :

Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints. - Chief Seattle