International Space Station

Two Siberts!

FYI:  The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal – awarded annually to the most distinguished INFORMATIONAL book for children.  (Really, these are books for everybody.)  Sibert award winners in our library:
– 2018  Honor Award  Grand Canyon, Jason Chin
– 2015  Medal Winner The Right Word, Roget and His Thesaurus, Jen Bryant
– 2015  Honor Award  The Mad Potter – George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius, Greenberg/Jordan
– 2014  Honor Award  Locomotive, Brian Floca
– 2010  Honor Award  Moonshot, Brian Floca

Two more Sibert winners in the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER this past week:

2017 Honor Award:  Giant Squid, by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.  I was looking for information on giant squid (because, why not?) and getting irritated because the books I found included only illustrations NOT photographs.  Well, here is why:  giant squid are tricky to locate.  The first time scientists actually saw a live giant squid was in 2006!  In 2012 (for the very first time), a giant squid was captured on film swimming at a depth of more than 2,000 feet under sea level.  After reading through the book, we confirmed that restaurants do not use giant squid for their calimari menu entrees.  Squid used in restaurants are around a foot in length.  Giant squid are about the size of a bus (and have the largest eyeballs of any living creature on earth) (not that this has anything to do with the dining experience).  We also talked about black squid ink.  Thinking about any sort of squid makes my back shiver.

 2007 Medal Winner:  Team Moon, by Catherine Thimmesh.  Perfect timing!  We were reading this the very week that marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.  “Team Moon” focuses upon critical challenges, last minute glitches, and the team of 400,000 focused professionals who supported the project that landed the first men on the moon.  We read about:

  • unexpected alarms (hearts in our throats)
  • potential fuel deficiency in the lunar module (hearts in our throats)
  • the space suits and shoes (requirements, construction, testing, testing, testing) (hearts in our throats when we read about Armstrong and Aldrin jumping up and down on the moon – disastrous if any seams had ripped)
  • the cameras (OK, this we could deal with, put us on the camera committee)
  • the potential for deadly bacteria/virus returning from outer space (hearts in our throats)
  • the parachute landing (hearts in our throats)
  • high winds in Australia that nearly prevented TV transmission (again, we could deal with this)

We learned that every aspect of Apollo 11 had a “backup program for the backup program for the backup program”, while acknowledging that any surprise from outer space could disable the mission at every single stage.  

We loved finding out why Armstrong and Aldrin shed their oxygen backpacks at the end of their moon walk and left them on the moon:  they needed the room in the lunar module for the moon rocks they were bringing back to earth!  (This book is so A+.) 

BTW,  here is something else we learned (via Wikipedia):  the moon is 240,000 miles away from planet Earth and the International Space Station is a mere 250 miles away.  We learned about the concept of “Low Earth Orbit”  (anything that orbits between 99 and 1,200 miles from the surface of the earth).  So, questions:  is the ISS in low earth orbit?  is the moon in low earth orbit?

Speaking of distances – A Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown’s truck manages 22 miles on one gallon of gas.  Today, the truck has 2 gallons of gas left in the tank and Farmer Brown’s grandmother needs a ride into town to the beauty salon.  The beauty salon is 6 miles away, but on the way to the salon, Granny would like to stop at her friend Beulah’s house to return a cookie tray she borrowed for a tea party.  Beulah’s house is 10 miles beyond the beauty salon.  But before she can return the tray, Granny needs to go to the florist to buy Beulah a bouquet to thank her for lending the tray.  The florist is 3 miles in the opposite direction from the beauty salon.  Does Farmer Brown have enough gas in his truck to drive Granny to the florist, to Beulah’s, to the beauty salon, and then back to the ranch?  (answer at bottom of post)

Music to capture the triumph of the Apollo 11 mission –  we were looking for orchestral music that celebrated the can-do spirit of America, applauded the historical achievement, and conveyed JOB WELL DONE:

– Hoe-Down from Aaron Copland’s ballet (1942), “Rodeo” – EXCELLENT SELECTION:  a joyful, rambunctious dance of exhilaration.  A splendid performance by the National Youth Orchestra of the USA (2018):

– Theme from “Bonanza” TV show – EXCELLENT SELECTION:  composed by Livingston, Evans, and Rose for the Bonanza TV show (1959 to 1973).  A short, robust piece brimming with that American confidence:

– And then, HOO BOY:  my son and I took a listen to the #1 pop song of 1969:  “Sugar, Sugar”, by The Archies.  Let’s get this straight – the very same people who could collectively appreciate the magnitude of the moon landing listened to this song enough times to send it shooting up to the top of the “Billboard Hot 100” list.  Maybe we just needed something ridiculously uncomplicated.  “Sugar, Sugar” to the rescue! 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  yes, barely.  Granny’s zigzag route to the beauty salon is 38 miles in length)

Starry Eyed


From “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontier’s of Space” – Last night was all about the Hubble Space Telescope.  This fine piece of machinery measures in at 43 feet by 8 feet.  Making it personal – we learned that the idea of sending a telescope into outer space was first discussed in 1923 (the birth year of both of my son’s grandmothers) and we learned that the Hubble Space Telescope (HST to those in the know) was launched in 1990 (the birth year of my son).  We thought about this:  the HST has been repaired 5 times. That means astronauts had to sync up with it (how can this be easy?) and perform delicate technical procedures.  Hmmm.  Would we want to be (1) floating around in space and (2) fiddling with a 2.5 billion dollar telescope?

Our Main Science Unit – We are about half way through the “Usborne Book of Scientists”.  We have covered astronomers, physicians, physicists, and chemists.  Right now, we are reading about botanists. I think our take-away from this book is three-fold:  (1) there are brilliant thinkers and observers EVERYWHERE, (2) brilliant thinkers stand on the shoulders of brilliant thinkers that have gone before and (3) brilliant thinkers have always had to battle (often uninformed, therefore seriously irritating) defenders of the status quo. Good book. Really good book.

The Le Fictitious Local Diner Story Problem of the day – The diner has 5 large windows that need constant cleaning (pollution on the outside, grimy fingerprints on the inside).  The “Squeaky Clean Window Washing Service” cleans the exterior windows once a month, and the interior windows once a week. If the SCWWS charges $5 per single side of a window, how much does the diner need to budget per month for window cleaning?

Last night’s music theme was “Dealer’s Choice”– About once a week, I provide my son with a list of 10 compositions. He selects 3, by writing “yes” or “no” next to the title.  I love the programs he puts together.

dealers choice

  • Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” – what’s not to like? We enjoy a recorded version with Arthur Fielder conducting.
  • Respighi’s “The Cuckoo”, from his suite, “The Birds”– a sparkling collage of the two-note cuckoo motive.
  • Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo”, from “West Side Story” – a steamy-hot composition in the hands of TODAY’S HOTTEST CONDUCTOR, Gustavo Dudamel.  In this video he conducts the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra (Venezuela). Who wouldn’t want to be part of this energy?

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Takes a Lickin’ and Keeps on Tickin’!

PROOF! They do make ’em like they used to!  Last night we read a page in  “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space”  and learned about “Opportunity”, the NASA exploration rover sent to Mars in 2004.  It was supposed to function (take photos/collect mineral samples) for 90 days.  Well! Just in case you don’t keep abreast of all news interplanetary, “Opportunity” is STILL working! Cheers to the beyond brilliant JPL team that constructed this mighty mite!  Of course, we have already ordered a poster of this little engine that could.


What else we have learned from “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space”:

  • the differences between the rocket that took the men to the moon in 1969 and the space shuttle of recent years
  • science experiments aboard the International Space Station
  • advancements in space attire

We do not want this book to end.

Concept Check-up – To study planets, it is essential to understand the difference between a solid, liquid, and gas.  All of a sudden, it occurred to me that I had no idea if my son understood the terms.  After illustrating the differences for a few nights, last night my son was presented with a list of 20 items, of which he sorted into solid, liquid, or gas categories.  Yay! Concept mastered!

Reading – We are back reading “Under the Egg”.  Now that it isn’t competing with an equally complex story plot (“The Absolute Value of Mike”) (we were overwhelmed, so we had to take a short break from both books), this novel is most intriguing. The story centers upon one particular painting of the Renaissance artist, Raphael. The plot thickened last night, when we read about the painting’s possible connection with the Monuments Men of WWII (immediately over to the iPad to look up info on the real monuments men. WHOA).  Great reading!

New Vocab – words, concepts, and locations we came across during STORIES AND STUDIES:

axis   –   cadaver   –   dissect   –   eclipse   –   patron   –   pendulum   –   probe   –   rover

symmetry   –   the Baltic Sea   –   the Mariana Trench   –   Croatia   –   Willem deKooning

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem: Farmer Brown is sponsoring a horseshoes tournament at his ranch to raise money for a local animal shelter. Farmer Brown will charge a $15 participant’s fee, so we calculated the number of horseshoe enthusiasts needed if Farmer Brown’s goal is to raise $1,000.

Last night’s music theme wasThe Overture”: of course we first discussed what was meant by the term, “overture”.

  • Overture to “H.M.S. Pinafore”, by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Just under 4 minutes of jolly jauntiness. A definitive taste of the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.  I would have liked to have youtube-linked this piece because you cannot listen to it without grinning, but alas, there is not a super good video of this yet.
  • Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, by Felix Mendelssohn. Over 12 minutes long, but oh so clever – worth the listening time. Get this: written when Mendelssohn was 17.
  • Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”, by Mozart. Just over 4 minutes in length. From the sixth most performed opera in the world!  Enchanting from the first measure.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH