Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Day in Cincinnati, and the William Howard Taft National Historic Site Junior Ranger Program

Here's our trip to Ohio so far:

We spent the first day at the Girl Scout National Convention in Columbus.
We spent the second day touring Native American mounds near Chillicothe.
We spent the third day sightseeing aviation history in Dayton.

And we spent the last day of our trip in Cincinnati!

Syd's ballet schedule this semester allowed us to spend just one more day on fall break, and we chose to go back to Cincinnati, where we'd had so much fun on an overnight with our Girl Scout troop a couple of months ago. Unlike that troop trip, during which the weather was so beautiful that we did all outdoor experiences, on this day it was still pretty wet and gross, and Syd was still pretty sniffly, so we stuck to indoor activities.

Such as the William Howard Taft National Historic Site! I didn't actually have the kids do any prep work on any of the places we'd be visiting on this trip, so their only experience with William Howard Taft is that time that I had Will memorize all of the presidents in order (I'd consider having them memorize this again, as Will has forgotten it and Syd never learned it, but we're currently memorizing exponent rules and The Fifth of November, so we're full up on memory work).

Fortunately, there's nothing better for giving a thorough biography of a person than a National Park visitor center and introductory film:



And even better when there's a house tour!








Fun fact: William Howard Taft didn't really have ambitions to be president--his dream was to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His second wife, however, always had her eye on the White House, and consistently pushed him there until he was elected:


But in May of that same year, she suffered from a stroke, and had a long, hard recovery. She wasn't able to do any of the fun hostessing duties anymore, and Taft no longer had her help with decision-making. And since she was the power behind the throne, as you say, his next election--


--did not go well:


The good news, though, is that guess who eventually became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?!?

YAY for Taft!

And here's a fun fact that illustrates term limits: Washington established the first Supreme Court. We know that from Washington to Trump (sigh), there have been 45 presidents of the United States. Want to guess how many Chief Justices of the Supreme Court there have been in that exact same time?

Seventeen. It's a lifetime appointment.

So even though we knew nothing about this site before we got there, and the kids weren't super enthused about going, we found it to be a fascinating house--


--and a fascinating man:


After becoming the William Howard Taft National Historic Site's newest Junior Rangers, there was only one single thing that the kids wanted to do before going back home to see their much-missed pets: 

Just last night, we watched Goosbumps for Family Movie Night and ate some of the international treats we bought there: sweet basil potato chips from Thailand, cappuccino cream-filled cookies from Italy, dinosaur-shaped corn puffs also from Thailand (that country has great snacks!), Jammie Dodgers from Great Britain, and lemon cookies from Canada!

We're saving the horror-themed sodas from the US for another night.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Newest Junior Rangers of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Following along on our fall break field trip to Ohio?

We spent the first day at the Girl Scout National Convention in Columbus.
We spent the second day touring Native American mounds near Chillicothe.

And on this day we were in Dayton, seeing all the things related to the Wright Brothers and the first airplanes!

We saw the actual Wright Flyer in the Smithsonian, so these are mock-ups:


This is a dresser built by Wilbur and Orville Wright when they were CHILDREN. I'm starting to feel like the Girl Scout Woodworking badge isn't quite cutting it now...


Here's a model of the first working engine on a Wright Flyer.

And here's a model of the first working propeller system, an innovative design!

There was also an exhibit on parachutes, because parachutes are pretty important in the history of airplanes!
I don't normally love Junior Ranger badge books that can be completed solely in the visitor's center, but the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is kind of different, in that in incorporates sites around the city. Each small site has its own special Junior Ranger badge, the first of which the kids earned in the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, whose Park Ranger swore the children to an oath that will serve me well through the rest of their childhoods:



I'm a mean mom in that when I travel with the kids, we might have one special meal or two, but otherwise, we eat our packed food or we go hungry! The downside is that I may not eat another sandwich until the NEXT time we travel, but the upside is that our picnic spots often include something quite worth exploring--such as this Little Free Library behind the visitor center!

The books were all a little damp (it rained all night, and it's going to pour again later on this day, you'll see), but I found a copy of Glass Castle that I encouraged Will to take, so score!

Also on the subject of travel food: as part of a Girl Scout badge, and because doing all the travel prep work myself is tiring, I required each kid to research and create one main dish or snack item for this trip. Will learned that making trail mix that includes anything chocolate is a BAD idea if the food will be anywhere above room temperature, such as in a car on a 90-degree day in Chillicothe, but Syd found an epic recipe that she's already planning to use again on a Girl Scout overnight later this month. Seriously, it SAVED our meals on this trip!

Although later we'd have to drive to Huffman Prairie, Google Maps told me that our next stop, Paul Lawrence Dunbar's house, was only .8 of a mile from where we were right then, so of COURSE we walked it.

Maybe we shouldn't have, because Syd exclaimed in delight at all the deflated balloons she saw along the side of the road... but anyway, it gave us a chance to check out on the way THE building where the Wright Brothers did all of their inventing and designing--

--so there you go.

Here's what they did in that building during the daytime!

The Paul Lawrence Dunbar House was a compelling biography of an author I hadn't before heard of. He wrote some of his work in the Southern black dialect of the time, so that started some interesting conversations with the kids. We discussed the difference between using dialect to be racist and using it to be realistic, and I explained to the kids that without writers who took care to represent dialogue the way it's really said, people in the future would have little idea of how people actually spoke in the days before everything was video-recorded. For that reason alone, Dunbar's work is priceless.

AND he's the first person to explain to me why my persimmons are always so late to fall off the tree!

He's also an example of a person who became addicted to prescription drugs, and this is as good of an explanation as any I've seen for how that happens:

Such an interesting, complicated, brilliant person:


Our final stop in Dayton on this day was Huffman Prairie, where it was now POURING. First, the Memorial to the Wright brothers--




This vista is a beautiful tribute to the brothers whose work have allowed us to see so many more beautiful vistas than we'd otherwise be able to.
--and as we were meandering around, a child suddenly shouted, "Mom! MOUNDS!!!"

Indeed, we had wandered into another Native American mound-builder site!

And do you know what the sign said about not climbing on these mounds?

NOTHING!!!!!!!

 

Now, through the rain to the visitor center--

--through the visitor center to earn the Junior Ranger badge--

--and then down the winding, vacant, wet country roads to Huffman Prairie itself:
Her face? It's because somehow it is raining EVEN HARDER.
 It is absolutely pouring on us by now, but there is no way that we are going to be AT Huffman Prairie itself, THE place where manned, motorized flight first happened, and not run around it:

Rather, there's no way we're not going to run around it WHILE PRETENDING TO BE AIRPLANES!!!




And then a trudge back to the car--

--and down the rainy highway, made kind of dangerous and stressful because of COURSE it was rife with road construction, to Cincinnati. We got out of our cold, wet clothes and into our jammies, and had a nice night in, as Syd was feeling a little run-down after all the excitement and running around in the variable weather.

Good thing we had two more doughnuts left over from Dayton, then! Good thing we had the last half of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to watch!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Homeschool Field Trip: The Mound Builders of Ohio

In our years homeschooling, we have visited quite a few of the Native American mounds built in the eastern half of our country.

Here's where we've gone:

I know of a few more well-preserved Native American mound locations, but last week, the kids and I hit up the last of my must-see list: Serpent Mound!

Serpent Mound is a state park, which made it the only sightseeing destination on our trip where I had to pay admission (other than, you know, the Girl Scout Convention and the My Little Pony movie). Well worth, it, though, to see one of the important effigy mounds in the United States!

The museum for the site is really small. Like, REALLY small. Like, "Where did all of the artifacts that were surely here at one time actually end up because they ain't here now?" small.

Oh, well. At least the mount wasn't entirely destroyed by farmers' plows, I guess.

This part of the museum was super cool, though:
Check it: on the top is what the peoples of this area were up to, while below is what people were doing in the rest of the world. Yay for geohistorical context!
 And this was cool: this is a replica of what the Native Americans used to transport all of that dirt:
Woven basket. Times four billion, probably.
 And now, on to the mound!

This fire tower didn't actually give a great perspective of the mound as a whole, but you could see part of it from your elevated location:

And, of course, it's a lovely spot to take pictures of your loved ones:

I may have made them stand there a little too long...

But to be fair, the sun was in and out of these enormous cloud banks all morning, and it was destroying my ability to white balance. The tone of most of these photos is totally shot.

The mound is a lot shorter than you'd think it would be:


About waist- to chest-height on a kid, I reckon.
 Archaeologists theorize that the curves in the serpent's body are related to astronomical phenomena:

And there is also a very old asteroid crater just to the north of the mound, which probably made the mound site, at the top of the strange bluff, seem even more fantastical to the native people:


These two. Can I just say that my favorite thing about parenting is watching the relationship between these two? My most important job as their parent is helping them nurture it.

I think I'm doing okay at it!



After Serpent Mound, the kids and I drove back country roads the whole way to Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

I'm just going to say real quick that it annoys me that the Hopewell people are named after the family who later owned this land. Real classy, yo.

I'm kind of fascinated by backyard archaeology, though, the history of archaeological wonders that were once in the hands of random citizens, and how they were preserved (or not) by those people. So I thought this old book mentioning the mound site was super cool:

This museum had more of the site's finds on display--

--but even here, in the smack middle of Ohio, we're still seeing evidence of the British Museum's near monopoly on antiquities:



I checked the British Museum site and found them, by the way, along with a TON more "mound city" artifacts. I guess I know where all that stuff from Serpent Mound is now! 

Check this out! After our sharks study last year, I was able to identify these pretties from half a room away:

Hopewell was also the first of FIVE Junior Ranger badges that the kids earned in three days of this trip:

 They love earning badges, don't get me wrong, but Syd, in particular, can get frustrated with the process, because the challenge level of the activities are so variable from site to site, or even throughout the book. In related news, did you know that I have a rule that when you say you "can't" do something, or you're "not good" at something, you have to do five push-ups?


Rules are rules. The kids think that I'm mean AND crazy, but I do not allow them to speak unkindly about themselves.

I like to do the museum/visitor center first, because I think it allows us to then see the actual stuff with more context and understanding. After we get that, then it's on to the mounds!


Look how nice the weather got for a while! It's going to pour later, but for now my white balance is thrilled:

A couple of these mounds were almost completely destroyed at one point, and a couple were completely excavated and then rebuilt. I don't know how I feel about that. It feels weird.


These two. I'm working here in our big family room while the kids are on the carpet in front of the couch, assembling planispheres as part of their Cadette Night Owl badge requirements, and I just had to tell them off because Will asked Syd for the instructions, Syd refused to hand them over, so Will shoved her and snatched them. I forced them to remind me of how old they were, because at the moment, it was impossible to tell.



This is cool. The mound below is unimproved, representing the way that the entire site looked before an effort was made to restore it.

I should have put a LOT more room to grow into those Junior Ranger vests!

Here's one more weird thing. As we ate our lunch on a picnic table away from the mounds, we all three watched in fascination as some sort of paranormal research group paced the site, circling the mounds. A woman led them while gesturing with her hands, and people followed her with various types of gear:

We only had to make it to nearby Dayton that night, so on a whim I detoured to the newest national park site that I'd been hearing about, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. It's just one house with a parking lot, along yet another country road, but we found out, hopped out of the car, ran up the steps, and... the door was locked. A sign told us to knock, and if nobody was there it gave us a telephone number to call, but otherwise, the place was closed! I got out my phone and checked the website, and found that they're open by appointment only?!?

Whatever. Here we are, I guess:

Fun fact: over the next couple of days, I would hear park rangers recommending Charles Young to other visitors, and every. Single. Time I would pipe up and tell that ranger that we'd gone to Charles Young at 3 pm on a Saturday, and it had been closed, locked, and empty. The park rangers were always horrified, bless them. I guess they'd only gotten half the memo!

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