Monday, February 6, 2017

The Water Cycle at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Although it's been a while since we've been able to volunteer in the Paleo Lab, due to Victor's long illness and passing, I keep on the lookout for one-shot volunteer opportunities with the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, and as a whole it's been a rewarding strategy, as it encourages us to do things, primarily involving working with the young visitors, that we don't generally do in the Paleo Lab.

On this particular day, we were going to volunteer at the museum's After School Night, a special event just for children in various non-profit school-age programs around the city, and for the neighborhood's children (one of the best things about the Children's Museum is the deliberate interest that it takes in improving the quality of life of those who live in the surrounding neighborhood, an area of clear economic disparity compared to the rest of the city).

But of course if we're going to be in the museum anyway, we might as well go early to play!

And of course our first stop in the museum isn't even the museum proper, but the branch of the public library that lives in the museum:

How many other public libraries do YOU know that live inside a museum?

You might remember that we're doing a fast and loose meteorology unit currently, which means that we've been reviewing the water cycle. Remember our cloud in a jar demonstration?

It was just a happy coincidence, then, that most of our museum play happened to be related to that unit. First, as much as the kids miss the giant construction area that used to be in the old ScienceWorks exhibit, they LOVE the new, expansive water table, and they especially love it when they have it all to themselves!


Then, we timed it just right so that we were able to pop into a lesson in the SciencePort. These are always fun, but on this day, the theme was the water cycle, and the scientist had us play probably the funnest water cycle game that's ever been played (Incredible Journey, here). I especially loved this game because it dug into more than just the basics of the water cycle, covering how water is lodged in glaciers, in plants, in animals, in aquifers, etc.

The kids especially loved this game because it involved beads!

Okay, I especially loved this part, too, as you can tell when you see my own water cycle bracelet there at the bottom of the image. Every station had a different color of bead, and a die. You collected the bead for your station, then rolled the die to see where your water went next. At the end of the game, then, you had a record of everywhere your water had been. The die were loaded so that your water naturally went more often to the places where water more often is, so it was a surprisingly sophisticated model of the water cycle.

And yes, we did eventually get around to doing our actual volunteering:

By yet another happy coincidence, Dinosphere was the gallery of choice for After School Night, and we took over the perfect table for us, that of demonstrating and practicing with real paleontology tools. Well... the tools weren't *exactly* real, as you can't give small children clam shuckers and machetes and x-acto knives and Paleobond, but the experience was surprisingly close, and we were able to tell the children lots of additional details that we know from our experience at the dino dig. My favorite trick was to say, "Raise your hand if you've ever glued yourself to a fossil!" Will, Syd, and I would raise our hands, and all the children at our table would go "Wow!" and "Cool!" and "Awesome!" and such.

It was fun.

I always forget how stressful this month is until it sneaks up on me and smacks me on the head, so I'm always worried that the rigorous education that I try to stuff into my kids' brains suffers during this month, as I have more of my attention on the intricacies of Girl Scout cookie booth scheduling and Syd's Trashion/Refashion Show garment than on our weekly work plans. Days like this, however, reassure me. We didn't do math or grammar or review Greek and Roman deities, but we did listen to two hours of Al Capone Shines My Shoes, do some reading, review the water cycle, practice our pedagogy and people skills, and perform some service.

And I was home in time that night to rearrange cookie booth schedules, run the percentages for a Cookie Cupboard order, prepare a bank deposit to our troop account, and fall into bed with pizza, wine, a movie, and a heartburn pill.

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