Friday, March 5, 2010

A day at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Location, Houston, TX

Today we went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science with Tim and the grandkids for a morning of home school activities with other home school children.

Matthew had spent the night with us last night so we really had to get moving this morning as we had to be at the museum which is located near downtown Houston by 9 AM. We actually arrived shortly after 9 AM by driving the HOV lane, bypassing most of the morning traffic.

The children were separated into 2 groups by age, given name badges, and assigned Chaperones. They proceeded to a classroom in the basement where the younger group (Ivy) studied Canines with a teacher while the older group (Matthew) went to the Challenger Learning Center in the same area.

The Challenger Learning Center is designed to introduce real careers to young students. As the brochure says:

“In a Challenger Center Mission, students take on the jobs required to complete a space mission successfully. As students on the Space Ship and Mission Control become engineers, environmental scientists, doctors, research scientists, information specialists, and more, they are introduced to the careers available in the Houston area”.

While the first class period was ongoing, Clyda and I wandered through the dinosaur exhibit, the energy exhibit, and the Americas. At 10:45 we went back to the basement and joined Ivy in the Challenger Learning Center for a simulated voyage from an Earth orbiting space station to a landing on Mars.

After the kids were divided into 2 person work groups and assigned a job aboard the space craft and following brief instructions we all proceeded through an airlock into the space ship.

It was a really neat experience to witness all the kids going about the jobs assigned to them to make the mission happen. All instructions were issued through a communications net, manned by kids, as well as the results of all experiments performed to Mission Control. This is a real sophisticated setup with lots of Astronaut memorabilia on the walls.

From an adult observer (me), it was really great watching all the activities. The kids built and launched a space probe from parts provided, monitored space ship environment, did medical studies, did geology with rocks in an isolation booth with rubber gloves, manipulated robotic arms, in all about 10 different stations which had to be completed before Mission Control would allow a Mars landing.

All data collected was entered by a data group into a computer and passed to communications for verbal transmission to Mission Control.

It was a really great experience!

Earlier this week we took the kids for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, did some shopping, had the oil changed in the truck (way over due), got a haircut and played games with the kids after their school work was done.

Tomorrow is soccer, two games (miles apart), and Ivy will stay overnight with us.