America’s First Great Public Works Project

Sesquicentennial!

A sesquicentennial celebration!  Jane’s Cool School’s 150th post! 

To mark the occasion,  I scoured the previous 149 posts and came up with a general knowledge  quiz for my son, consisting of 150 questions.  He did quite well, earning an A+.   

Here is a sampling of the questions (answers at bottom of quiz).  Fret ye not, I have selected only 15 of the 150 questions:

General Knowledge Quiz – Express Lane Style

1)  A blue moon is:

a-  a second full moon in a month     
b-  a moon with a blue tinge due to gravitational pull from Venus     
c-  a full moon in Winter     
d-  a sad moon

2)  The first wheels:

a-  chariot wheels     
b-  grain grinding wheels     
c-  wheels of cheese     
d-  potters’ wheels

3)  Which of the following is NOT depicted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling:

a-  Creation     
b-  The Last Supper     
c-  Adam and Eve     
d-  Noah and the Flood

4)  “Alpha”, “Bravo”, “Charlie” are ways of communicating letters in:

a-  NATO phonetic alphabet     
b-  children’s books     
c-  Navajo Code     
d-  Morse Code

5)  The USA enjoys many unspoiled national parks due to the influence of:

a-  the Pope     
b-  John Muir     
c-  Frederic Remington     
d-  Buffalo Bill Cody

6)  What makes the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra different?

a-  no conductor     
b-  15 violinists     
c-  they play from memory, no sheet music allowed     
d-  members are all women

7)  Who does the waggle dance?

a-  people in Australia     
b-  snakes     
c-  bees     
d-  teenagers

8)  Windless weather on the high seas is referred to by sailors as:

a-  flat water     
b-  the Sargasso Sea     
c-  middle sea    
d-  the doldrums

9)  The engineer of the interior structure of the Statue of Liberty:

a-  Gustav Eiffel     
b-  Frank Lloyd Wright     
c-  Thomas Edison     
d-  the Marquis de Lafayette

10)  The Astroid Belt is found:

a-  between Mercury and Venus     
b-  between Mars and Jupiter     
c-  beyond Neptune  
d-  in any fine mens clothing store 

11)  A country build on coral:

a-  Catalina Island     
b-  Australia    
c-  Greenland     
d-  Republic of Maldives

12)  America’s first great public works project:

a-  Hoover Dam     
b-  Golden Gate Bridge     
c-  Erie Canal     
d-  Highway 66

13)  A Jannisary Band:

a-  a large rubber band used to bind logs together     
b-  a military band of the Ottoman Turks    
c-  a decorative headband     
d-  a orchestral group that plays once a year, in January

14)  The only Finnish word in the American language:

a-  sauna     
b-  loofa     
c-  antler     
d-  smorgasbord

15)  The one place on Earth that can only be used for peace and science: 

a-  the Vatican     
b-  the Bikini Atoll     
c-  Antarctica     
d-  The North Pole

Answers:

  1. a- second full moon in a month
  2. d- potters’ wheels
  3. b- The Last Supper
  4. a- NATO phonetic  alphabet
  5. b- John Muir
  6. a- no conductor
  7. c- bees
  8. d- the doldrums
  9. a- Gustav Eiffel
  10. b- between Mars and Jupiter
  11. d- Republic of Maldives
  12. c- Erie Canal
  13. b- military band of the Ottoman Turks
  14. a- sauna
  15. c- Antarctica

Meanwhile, our Stories and Studies sessions continue.  Hoo boy – our current books have provided discussion* topics that I never thought I would be having with my son:

  • oil spills in the ocean (from “The Penguin Lessons” by Tom Michell)
  • inflation in Argentina in the mid 1970’s (from “The Penguin Lessons” by Tom Michel)
  • the currency of Ecuador  (from “Let’s Look at Ecuador” by Mary Boone, and verified by Wikipedia because THIS IS JUST TOO WACKY) – the US Dollar has been the currency of Ecuador since 1990.  I will never understand how this works, so it is a good thing I am not in charge.
  • homelessness insights (from “Almost Home” by Joan Bauer)
  • the gambling addiction (from “Almost Home” by Joan Bauer)

* how do I have a discussion with my nonverbal son?  Usually, I make up a lot of questions and have my son write “yes” or “no” to each inquiry.  He likes being asked.

Classical Music Time – we considered the concept of orchestral adaptation:

My son and I are enchanted with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet – we have listened to their recording of Luigi Boccherini’s seductive Fandango from his Guitar Quintet (1798) probably 250 times –

Topic of the evening:  could orchestral music be successfully adapted for guitar?  Could the LA Guitar Quartet deliver on pieces the were not written specifically for guitar?  Not only could they deliver, we prefer the adaptations.  We LOVE these adaptations.  YAY Los Angeles Guitar Quartet!

First, we compared John Phillip Sousa’s Black Horse Troop (a decidedly happy march, composed in 1924 for Troop A of the Cleveland National Guard, known for using only black horses) – 

Next, we compared JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, movement 3 (early 1720’s).  Both performances here are excellent, but the LA Guitar Quartet has a way of making this movement into pure comfort listening – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
 – Jane BH

All Hail the Engineer

engineer pocket 3

PROTOTYPE – Prototype, prototype, prototype (vocab).

aerospace – biomedical – chemical – mechanical – electrical – civil
geomatics (that was a new one for us) – computer – environmental – industrial

No matter what type of engineering we are learning about, we keep coming across the word PROTOTYPE.  We’ve talked about how a prototype for an engineer is like a rough draft for a writer and we’ve read about MANY successful engineering projects that needed prototype after prototype after prototype to test theories and refine specifics.

erie canal map

You had us at “America’s First Great Public Works Project” (we LOVE knowing stuff like this) – So what was America’s first public works project?  My son knows, and now I know: THE ERIE CANAL. (Previous to our study, I thought the Erie Canal was in Pennsylvania. PITIFUL.)  We learned that this engineering triumph was first imagined in 1807, completed in 1825, and stretched 363 miles from Albany NY to Buffalo NY.  Our A+ resource:  Martha E. Kendall’s “The Erie Canal”, which delivers organized and surprisingly interesting facts regarding –
*canal politics (ugh)
*engineering –  the trench,  the 83 locks
*the labor force (primarily Irish immigrants)
*financing
*the resulting commerce
*canal maintenance

We wrapped up our Erie Canal study by listening to Thomas S. Allen’s all-the-rage-of-the-early-1900’sLow Bridge, Everybody Down”.  And what was the deal with the low bridges?  My son and I learned that bridges were built for farmers whose land was crossed by the canal.  Due to budget (vocab) constraints, the almost-300 bridges were built small and low – which was not a problem for the farmers, but was a huge deal for people sitting atop the canal boats.  Plop.

More engineering?  We are reading “Mr. Ferris and His Wheel” by Kathryn Gibbs Davis.  It’s about the super skilled and fabulously imaginative engineer, George Ferris, creator of the dazzling showpiece of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  His inspirations – the water wheel and the bicycle wheel.

ferris wheel

And even more engineering?  We can’t escape it.  For our fiction selection, we are revisiting for the third time, “Cheaper By the Dozen”, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr’s and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey’s adorably hysterical remembrance of their over-the-top father (we had forgotten that father AND mother were internationally recognized industrial engineers).

french friesfrench friesfrench fries

Prototypes at Le Fictitious Local Diner (story problem) – The diner is trying out some new ways with french fries and presented 3 prototypes to Ms. Martinovich’s first grade class (a rambunctious group of 20, known for their pickiness).  Here are the results (the students could vote more than once):
– 4 liked “fries with fried pickles”
– 15 liked “fries with maple-BBQ sauce”
– 10 liked “fries with onion dip”
What percentage of Ms. Martinovich’s class liked each of the prototypes? (answers at bottom of post)

Music for engineers (this time, locomotive engineers) –

train engineer

  • Take the “A” Train” – signature tune of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, composed by Billy Strayhorn in 1931.  Would you just look at the toe tapping in this vid clip:

  • The Little Train of the Caipira” – composed in 1934 by Heitor Villa-Lobos. My son has chosen to listen to this piece at least twice a month for the past 6 years (it is THAT interesting). A simply superb performance by the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain’s Main Orchestra.  Wow:

  • Orange Blossom Special” – this piece of Americana is considered to be the fiddle players’ national anthem. Composed in 1938 by Ervin and Gordon Rouse:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story Problem answers: fried pickles – 20%, maple-BBQ sauce – 75%, onion dip – 50%)