Visitor Count


counter for blogger

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Moon & Tides

We are back - our visitors have left and you can expect at least a post or two a week from me again.

Last week we went to the Parrsboro area, at the head of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, and visited the fossil cliffs at Joggins, a fascinating UNESCO world heritage site that played an important role in early Darwinian discussions of evolution. We found an Interpretation Centre there that was well worth a visit. We also observed evidence of the highest recorded tides in the world.

It turns out that the Bay of Fundy acts like a big bathtub. When you were in the tub as a child, you probably had fun sloshing the water back and forth to make a wave big enough to splash water out over the end. If you did, you learned you had to give the water a push at just the right times (in resonance with its natural timing) to make the wave big enough. It just happens that the gravity of the moon as it passes over the Bay of Fundy pulls on the water at just the right times to add energy and get the water to slosh into the end of the Bay, giving tides as high as 16 meters (over 52 feet) on occasion!!

The Bay of Fundy with its amazing tides is the only Canadian finalist in the campaign to choose the New Seven Wonders of Nature (winners will be chosen in 2011, and you can vote!). While we were there, someone told me about the effect the incoming tide has in a narrow river at the head of the basin. As the water comes rushing in, it creates a high enough wave that you can ride a raft on it or surf board it quite a distance up the river, depending on the height of the tide that day. The wave is called a tidal bore, but sounds like it would be anything but a bore.Rie

Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Voice

When we were in the Parrsboro area in Nova Scotia last week, we found the very small town of Parrsboro itself an exceptionally interesting place. It has seen more prosperous days - when coal mining, lumbering, and shipbuilding kept the area thriving. Now tourism is a big draw in the summer, since the area boasts the natural wonders of the world's highest tides and famous fossil cliffs. We found as well a surprisingly large group of interesting and knowledgeable people. They run the museums, professional theatre, 'Rock Shops' [with extensive mineral collections and good prices] and the Bed & Breakfasts in the grand old wooden homes built in the booming days in the late 1800's.

The last night of our trip we ended up at a B&B run by a music teacher and his wife, who just happens to be an opera singer. After our ample breakfast and some persuasion, she was gracious enough to sing for us. She stood in the living room so that the archway from the dining room formed a frame that made her seem 'on stage' to us. After chatting for a few minutes, she opened her mouth to sing and produced a sound so powerful it nearly blew us out of our seats.

She sang beautifully, and while she projected her voice with such force, we marveled at how long she could sing without taking a breath. My mother was a trained singer, and I remember her often telling us to sing from our diaphragm. This is a very large muscle tucked under your rib cage. When you breathe in deeply to fill your lungs, that's the muscle you use. Try it. Trained singers increase their lung capacity and learn to strengthen their diaphragm and control the amount of air they release to pass through their vocal cords.

Being conscious of your mouth positions, say slowly: ‘please talk loud’. Now take a deep breath, consciously use your diaphragm muscle, and say the same expression again. Are you surprised that your voice is more powerful, and that you could easily make yourself heard above a crowd? Again being conscious of your mouth positions, sing: ‘please sing loud’. If you’ve been learning as you’ve done this exercise, you’ll now have figured out the difference between talking and singing sounds. But I probably won’t be able to resist doing an entire post about sounds one day anyway. Rie

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stepped Away

Thanks for positive comments and am pretty well hooked on blogging, so more to come - but having lots of visitors and taking a trip this week, so expect regular blogs from me again starting the near the end of August. Rie

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's in the Cards

When my girls were school age, I started teaching High School science and I loved it. However, it soon became clear that what I was trying to teach and what the kids were learning bore amazingly little resemblance to one other. I realized they needed to give me their undivided attention and have the lessons repeated. I read an article once that said you have to hear something new - like a new word or concept – an average of 7 times before it is really yours. But with those teenagers in front of me, it was game over if I started repeating myself.

I’d say: ‘Chemistry is easy if you are able to follow what I am talking about, but I have found out that most of you don’t seem to be getting it. That means either my teaching is not clear enough for you to understand, or you need to stop me and ask me questions.’ However I rarely got a question, quite a few students were getting lost and nothing I did seemed to work.

Then I happened on the idea of using cards with students' names on the back. At the beginning of a class, I would get one student to shuffle the cards and another to cut the deck. I’d tell them I was going to talk for around 10 minutes about something new they needed to understand, and I would write any new words I used on the board. When I had finished, I would then ask the person whose name was on the top card in the deck to tell the class what I had said.

No one knew whose name was on that card, and suddenly I had a captive audience paying rapt attention - a joy to teach. Very often the kids on the first couple of cards got something muddled and hands would go up waving - so I'd thank the student and turn up another card. Usually after we were 4 or 5 cards into the deck, there would be questions or a request to repeat some of what I’d said. My classes oftentimes became pretty lively with students discussing and arguing with each other, but they were talking chemistry and the topic always got a thorough airing. Best of all - they were involved in their own learning and they really liked it.

Like Confucius said – Involve me and I'll understand. Rie

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Confucius Says

Tell me and I will forget

Show me and I will remember

Involve me and I will understand

I began being interested in Science Centers when my husband George became the first Director of the Centennial Centre of Science & Technology [now the Ontario Science Centre] in 1964. At that time there were very few Science Centers in the world and, because I was a scientist, I had the good fortune to be commissioned to accompany him to Europe to tour those that existed in Scotland, England, France, Germany and Russia. While George talked to the Directors and staff, I took pictures and made notes of exhibits that I thought were attractive and worth copying or adapting.

I was really in my element - having a good time I didn't have to pay for and doing something useful. I remember one occasion especially when I had a Eureka moment while visiting the huge Deutsches Museum of Science & Technology in Munich. That day I had wandered through a number of large galleries with models of boats and airplanes and submarines and large skeletons of mastodons with lots of long labels. The exhibits were all static and there seemed to be few visitors. Even though I was very impressed, I found I wasn't reading the labels and hadn't made a single note. Then all at once I noticed a little gaggle of people in one corner of a gallery and, attracted by their animation, naturally I had to investigate.

The group were engaged in dropping ordinary maple seeds down a big open ended glass tube and watching how they spun around as they fell and interfered with each other when several were dropped at the same time. It was such a simple experiment, but it was the only one in the whole enormously expensive museum that was hands-on - where the visitors could be involved in their own learning. I took a picture of that one, read the label and made notes. In my final report I wrote at the very beginning: All exhibits must be hands-on.

I may have read what Confucius said, but I didn't really understand how wise he was until my Eureka moment in the Deutsches Museum. Rie