The evening before the Free-Ride offspring went with their day-camp on a field trip to the Exploratorium:
Dr. Free-Ride: Do you want to look at the Exploratorium website tonight to get an idea what you might see on the field trip tomorrow?
Elder offspring: No.
Dr. Free-Ride: Why not?
Elder offspring: I think field trips are more fun when I don't really remember the place we're going. That way, it's more of a surprise when we get there.
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh.
Younger offspring: The Exploratorium will be the most fun for me, because I've never been there so I can't remember any of it!
Dr. Free-Ride: Hard to argue with that!
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Dr. Free-Ride: So, what did you guys see at the Exploratorium?
Elder offspring: They had some cool animal exhibits about camouflage. There were walkingsticks and tree frogs, and also a cricket colony.
Dr. Free-Ride: Neat. Hey, are crickets social insects like bees or ants?
Elder offspring: I don't know, actually. They could have just looked like a colony because of how they keep them in the exhibit. I'll check my books to find out.
Younger offspring: We didn't see the bugs.
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh?
Younger offspring: We were in different groups on the field trip.
Dr. Free-Ride: I guess it makes sense to be in smaller groups rather than one big group, since there's so much to see there.
Younger offspring: My group got to drink from a water fountain, except do you know what?
Dr. Free-Ride: What?
Younger offspring: The water fountain was in a toilet!
Dr. Free-Ride: OK, I actually did know about that, because my friend Jennifer blogged about her trip to the Exploratorium and she mentioned that fountain.
Younger offspring: Yeah, you drink water from it and you can make other people say, "Ew!"
Dr. Free-Ride: Even though that toilet-shaped porcelain has never been used as a toilet, just as a water fountain, people still say, "Ew" ? Did any of the kids not want to drink from that fountain?
Younger offspring: Only one. The water tasted good, and it was really cold.
Dr. Free-Ride: What else did you guys see?
Elder offspring: There were lots of hands-on things about magnetism and electricity.
Dr. Free-Ride: The hands-on stuff makes it more fun than just looking and listening and reading, doesn't it?
Elder offspring: Uh huh. One of my favorites was this machine where you turned a crank and it made lots of sparks. The sparks landed right on my hand but they didn't burn at all. I was surprised.
Dr. Free-Ride: That is kind of surprising. I think the sparks that come off the charcoal when I'm lighting the grill burn to the touch. Maybe I need to check next time.
Elder offspring: Be careful if you do!
Dr. Free-Ride: I will. Hmm, maybe the sparks that burn you have little bits of fuel to keep burning hot, and maybe the sparks you made turning the crank didn't burn because they didn't have fuel with them. They just went out on your hand.
Elder offspring: Good thing my hand isn't very good fuel for a fire!
Younger offspring: My favorite exhibit had sand that you could use to make all kinds of patterns.
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh?
Younger offspring: There was a wheel that you make spin, and different colored sand, and you could put the sand on the wheel and make spirals and things. And you could change how fast the wheel was spinning and that would change the patterns.
Dr. Free-Ride: You know, people who do math and physics can spend a lot of time thinking about how sand behaves -- about how much sand you can put on a pile before it collapses and things like that.
Younger offspring: But we got to play with the sand, not just think about it.
Dr. Free-Ride: Clearly, you win.
Younger offspring: There was also some black sand that you could put on a magnet and it looked like hair.
Elder offspring: I don't think that was sand.
Dr. Free-Ride: Sounds like iron filings to me.
Elder offspring: There were also exhibits about our senses.
Younger offspring: Yeah, you could see how eyes work so you can see.
Elder offspring: And they had a thing you could listen to to hear how the ear works!
Dr. Free-Ride: That's clever, giving you an explanation of your sense of hearing by way of your sense of hearing. It makes me wonder though ...
Elder offspring: What?
Dr. Free-Ride: If you can see and explanation of your sense of sight, and hear an explanation of your sense of hearing, is there any good way that you could smell an explanation of your sense of smell?
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: No. We don't work with olfactory concepts like that.
Dr. Free-Ride: What if we were dogs?
Elder offspring: Could dogs understand the sense of smell, though?
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. Needs further thought. I bet you could use the sense of touch to explain the sense of touch, though.
Younger offspring: If you wrote it in Braille!
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Another favorite feature of the Exploratorium:
They also have a toilet that looks just like a drinking fountain! But they sure do get upset when you try to use it.
Hey, I am about to go there in an hour, to see the Iron Science Teacher. But I'd like to go again, in less rush, to actually explore the Exploratorium.
Does Elder Offspring remember when I took her to the Exploratorium? I was having so much fun that I, um, lost her for half an hour or so.
I remember visiting the Exploratorium as a kid, and then being very dissatisfied with the Denver Children's Museum. The sprogs are very lucky to live in the same area, not to mention having a Mom who is willing to explain the science... or at least try. (Don't worry, in the long run, they'll remember both the science *and* having fun.)