Friday, June 26, 2009

World Science Festival

The World Science Festival returned to New York City and offered a huge number of lectures, activities, and a street fair.

On June 11th, we attended The Hudson Since Henry: A Natural and Unnatural History at the New York Historical Society, which tied in nicely with the Hudson Quadricentennial. The panel included Eric Sanderson (author of Mannahatta), Barnard art history professor Elizabeth Hutchinson, poet David Gonzales (reading O, Hudson!), and aquatic biologist John Waldman (author of Heartbeats in the Muck).

We were supposed to participate in a bio blitz (survey of the biodiversity of an area, in which samples are collected and identified) of Swindler Cove Park in northern Manhattan on Saturday, but Mikro and I were both too sick. The following day we were improved enough to head to the World Science Festival Street Fair at Washington Square Park. On the walk over, we bumped into some homeschooling friends and spent part of the day with them. Eventually I was dragging, though, so we said farewell and proceeded on our own at a snail's pace...

First we saw a play about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly put on by Central Park Zoo's Wildlife Theatre.

We visited the booths, where Mad Science let the kids make slime; saw huge bubbles being made; watched what happens when you add Mentos to Diet Coke; learned about forensic investigation by playing with such things as identifying facial features, faux blood splatter, and fingerprinting (both lifting latents and rolling prints); played with patterns and tesselations in the math area; learned about gravity and black holes; posed with Digit from Cyberchase; learned about dog training for agility competitions, saw Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo; learned about geodesic domes; and sat in a Formula SAE race car.

Then we had luch at Au Bon Pain. Much restored by a huge helping of hot soup, we attended a great presentation featuring Mark Moffet of National Geographic, and the legendary naturalist and evolutionary biologist E.O Wilson. It was hosted by Josh Zepps of Brink. It opened with an astounding display of geekery, as the crowd was warmed up by dancers in labcoats. Mikro danced in the aisles. Afterwards, we got to be amazed by Moffet's photography of exotic locales and animals and inspired by Wilson's sheer awesomeness. Mikro was in little science geeky boy heaven (and so was his geeky mother.) What an experience!

I'll leave you with three quotes:

Mark Moffet:

"An adventure is the process of finding a story."

E.O. Wilson:

"We need to include saving the living world with our long-term plans."

"There are big secrets, still unsolved mysteries in science."

One of the reasons I homeschool is to instill in my son a love of science, this planet, and all living things, and a desire to help find some of the answers.


This was our second year raising Painted Lady butterflies. We got our caterpillars from Insect Lore. They were really tiny when they arrived-- around a half an inch long. The very next day, they were 3/4 inch long, and after that, they grew even more rapidly. We noticed that their frass changed as they matured, growing larger and darker, and that the amount of silk webbing grew each day. It only took about a week before they all formed chrysalises dangling from the roof of the caterpillar jar. We took them out and set them in the bottom of our mesh butterfly habitat. The second photo is a detail shot of a chrysalis.

I'm happy to report that they all emerged successfully. We kept them alive on sliced oranges and apples, and roses and other flowers from the garden. You can see the butterfly drinking apple juice with its proboscis in the first photo below.

After about a week, we released them in the garden. "Bye, butterfly! Have a good life!" Mikro called to each as it sailed away.

Our milkweed which we planted from seed from last year has returned, and spread. There's quite a lot of it, and I'm hoping it will attract monarchs. We also planted some milkweed cutting this spring. If we find eggs or caterpillars, that would be great (and save me a few dollars. Otherwise, I'll be ordering them from Live Monarch.) Mikro is eager to see monarchs develop first hand.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers Day!

River Fest at Lyndhurst Castle

Lyndhurst Castle hosted Westchester County's River Fest, a Quadricentennial celebration which featured the very fun and educational Hudson River Quest for kids. There was a Quest Poem, with clues about Hudson River history and ecology to complete, and stations with different activities, completion of which got you a stamp in your Quest booklet. At the end of the day, the kids got a certificate and a little prize for finishing. Some of the activities were: exploring the rose garden; trying out old fashioned toys like stilts and rolling hoops with a stick; drawing a Hudson River scene; viewing a bird of prey demonstration; measuring the circumference of an apple tree; making a corn print bookmark; finding out what might have been in Henry Hudson's sea chest, and more.

There were also a huge number of booths where kids could make crafts, learn that plants don't need dirt to grow(courtesy of the Science Barge), learn about honey bees and bee-keeping from Let it Bee Apiaries, sift through compost and leaf litter to view the decomposers at work (Mikro really enjoyed chatting with Ellen, the lady runing this booth, and even told her about his favorite critters, including his"favorite parasites"...), a session with Atka, the ambassador wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center, live animals from the Greenburgh Nature Center and Teatown Lake Rservation, and lots more that I am undoubtedly forgetting to mention, but enjoyed immensely.

After we finished the Quest and touring all the exhibitors and vendors, we were glad to partake of the air conditioned indoor lectures and concerts later that afternoon. We enjoyed folksinger Jerry Silverman's New York Sings: 400 Years Years of the Empire State in Song concert; Eric Sanderson's slide show and lecture about his awesome Mannahatta Project: The Science Behind Manhattan in 1609, which reveals what the ecology of precolonial and colonial Mahattan was like, and a wonderful presentation by Evan Pritchard, author of Native New Yorkers, about Henry Hudson and the Algonquins.

What a great day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hudson River Quadricentennial Flotilla

This year marks the Quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's voyage up the Hudson River, and our area has lots of celebrations planned. You can check out some of the events, read about the history, and download lesson plans at ExploreNY400.

On June 6th and 7th, a flotilla of tall ships sailed up the Hudson River to commemorate Hudson's voyage. Leading off was a replica of his ship, the Half Moon. Following her were the Clearwater, the Mystic Whaler, the Onrust (a replica of the first Dutch ship built in New York), and the Clipper City, as well as Coast Guard Cutters, a historic tugboat, the Riverkeeper, and more.

We had a wonderful view of the flotilla from Beczak Environmental Education Center in Yonkers, where the kids were able to make flags to wave at the passing ships.

After the ships sailed northwards, Mikro participated in Beczak's Catch of the Day seining program.

From there, we headed up to the Echo Canoe Launch in Croton for some bird watching and a picnic lunch. Then we got together with friends for some rowdy kid fun. One of Mikro's friend's mamas made him a flower circlet to wear in his hair. Well, my brother calls him the King of the Hippie Boys, so I guess he needed crowned!