Viva La Science!

July 14, 2012

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I spent years searching for a buddy to do science with, because I think experiments are more fun with friends.  I wanted somebody who shared my worldview, was willing to take a somewhat relaxed, but not too relaxed approach, and who had children that could behave themselves fairly well. I found my buddy in my friend, Sunshine and her four children. We knew we shared a similar worldview, we both needed to do a little more with science, and we thought we could tolerate each other's children, so we decided to give it a whirl. Thus began what we lovingly call Slacker Science.

We started out studying plants and it took us nearly the entire school year to cover plants. The curriculum suggests studying plants, animals and the human body over the course of one school year. I would love to tell you that we took an extra month for in depth discussion on roots and stems, or grew our own specimens for dissection, or some such thing. The truth is I had a baby. Well, actually, the problems started when I did not have the baby.

My daughter, Ducky, was due September 23, 2011. It was a really hot summer. We had an earthquake and then a tropical storm that knocked out power for three days. I was 8 months pregnant and it was awful, terrible, this is what Hell must be like, HOT. I had little tolerance for my own children and the last thing I wanted to do was to take the kids anywhere or deal with anyone else's children. So, we started "Maternity Leave" sometime in September. Then, Ducky stuck around in the womb until October 8th. Yes, gentle readers, I went 15 days overdue with my 6th child and she weighed 10lbs 6 oz. Do you think I was a little cranky? Yeah, well you think wrong, I was a lot cranky.  You could say I was a little bit prickly, like an Irish Red Head.Viva La science -3

I did not want to talk to anyone who couldn't help me get that baby out. I was so irritable that I stayed home from church for the last two weeks, as a kindness to my church family who would surely have led me into temptation, or at least tears, with their well-meant comments. When my sweet plump Ducky finally arrived, I followed my midwife's wise orders to stay home for two weeks after the birth. Then, there was illness in Sunshine's family, or mine, over a number of weeks and Sunshine's son had an emergency appendectomy and that ran us into Thanksgiving and Christmas rather quickly. We did better the rest of the school year and finished just in time to take our class on a really cool field trip.

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The last unit of our chosen curriculum is titled Unusual Plants and the very first lesson is Meat Eating Plants. Well, that was enough to get both of us wondering if either of the nearby botanic gardens would have any meat eating plants for us to show our class. We picked the right year to do this study. Not only does the United States Botanic Gardens have meat eating plants, they had an entire exhibit on these wonderful creations. Savage Gardens: The Real and Imaginary World of Carnivorous Plants opened May 26th and runs through October 8th, 2012.

I think the Botanic Gardens are my new favorite place on Earth. The whole building is just the right temperature, just the right humidity and there are so many pretty flowers. Seriously, I could have easily spent all day there taking pictures. It was a calm, happy, peaceful field trip and that is really saying something considering our class includes 10 children between the ages of 8 months and 11 years. It should have been hectic. Maybe it was hectic getting there, but once I was there, oh, the pretty flowers.

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The children especially enjoyed the Children's Garden. This little outdoor courtyard allows for water play, touching plants, digging in the soil and playing in a canebrake. There are child sized shovels, trowels, push brooms, and watering cans. There is also a shady area with a bench in it. If we lived nearer, I would definitely meet a friend there for play dates.

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I enjoyed every part of the Botanic Gardens, but my personal favorite was the room that allowed us to smell all the different spices and seasonings that are used in different parts of the world. I also enjoyed taking photos of all the beautiful flowers that I can't grow in my gardens. My children really loved the Savage Gardens exhibit. It includes a larger than life replica of a Venus Fly Trap with moving parts the children can manipulate. There is also a replica of a Pitcher Plant that you can actually walk into. The kids got a big kick out of that. They also thoroughly enjoyed completing the activities in their Family Field Journals, which are free at the information desk. Even the hubbies enjoyed themselves.

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I have to confess, I hate field trips. It is no easy task to get 6 children dressed, pack a lunch, and safely get all of us to an unfamiliar field trip location. It can be nerve wracking, not knowing where the bathrooms are, wondering whether everyone will be entertained and hoping I don't have to carry anyone for any prolonged period of time and please, oh please, if Dinosaur could stay calm and Apple Blossom could choose not to have a temper tantrum that would be great!

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We did take our husbands with us, so that we had extra hands getting on and off the Metro, but truly, this was an easy, pleasant and rewarding field trip and I encourage you to take your family too. If you are a homeschooling family, I would say wait until September when most kids are back in school and you can have the place nearly to yourself on a weekday. If you are a mom or dad whose children are enrolled in school and summer break is getting a little old, I will just say these two magic phrases "temperature controlled" and "stroller friendly." Do you really need to know anything more than that?

All in all, Sunshine and I found our little Slacker Science class to be beneficial and we will start back up at the end of this month. The little ones will still be doing a basic study of animals, but the two oldest will be studying General Science, using a junior high curriculum. We have a Schedule this year and wisely built breaks into our schedule, so that we will push through a few modules and then take a break of 1-2 weeks and pick up again. I know my children are ready to get back to it and I think I am too. Viva La Science!

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