Please don’t judge me for taking my kid out of school on his birthday.
I mean, isn’t going to school (or work, or the doctor’s office, or prison) on your birthday just plain depressing? On your special day, wouldn’t you rather do your own thing than go to a place where you’re not allowed to wear a hoodie in the cafeteria because 5th grade hood-stashing food thieves have ruined it for everyone?
Right or wrong, my husband and I enthusiastically endorsed a day of hooky playing in honor of my son’s 11th birthday. Considering that the kid also had a party and will be receiving an iPod soon, a friend asked us to put in a call to his mother, just to fill her in on how birthdays really ought to be celebrated.
Yes, back on Monday, when the other kids were slaving over their spiral notebooks, my family spent the day at Philadephia’s Franklin Institute, where we toured the Giant Heart, built amazing machines, took in an IMAX film about caves, and couldn’t stop laughing when we heard the narrator in the Planetarium pompously pronounce the words, “Hi. I’m Robert Redford.”
In order to stave off disparaging judgments that we were blowing off school just to have a good time, we decided to compile a list of science factoids based on information we gleaned from our visit. This list was included with our note to school, to prove that our field trip wasn’t just a break from the dull routine of school, it was actually educational.
Here’s what we learned at The Franklin Institute:
- If debris falls from the ceiling while you’re cave diving, then it means that no one had been there before.
- Blue water in a river means that there is a large deposit of limestone.
- In an ice cave, the further down you go, the softer the ice is.
- Our galaxy is larger than it seems.
- A canary’s heart beats 800 times per minute.
- A human’s heart beats 75 time per minute.
- An ostrich’s heart beats 300 times per minute.
- The planet Jupiter has the most gravity of any planet in our solar system.
- The space suit’s high-tech sounding MAG (Maximum Absorbency Garment) is really a diaper.
- It takes 3 hours to put on a space suit and 3 hours to take one off.
- A typical space walk takes 15 hours from start to finish.
- Scientists theorize that a collision with another plant is what formed Earth’s moon.
- The Milky Way has gas in it.
- The next closest galaxy to ours is Andromeda.
- Octopi have blue blood because it contains copper.
- People have red blood because it contains iron.
- Some butterflies and caterpillars have green blood because it contains nickel.
- Some animals have yellow blood.
- Blood looks red when light shines on it, but may appear blue when light is not shining on it (like while it is in you veins.)
- Cave explorers take samples of water because the living things in the water can be used to develop new medicines.
- Creatures that live in extreme environments are called “extremophiles.”
- Diesel engines work when fuel is pushed into a cylinder where an explosion occurs and pushes a piston.
- Gold is used on the visor of the space suit helmet to protect the astronauts from radiation.
- The Earth is protected from the sun’s “solar wind” by its magnetic field.
- Cave diving is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
- The heart is a major muscle and pumps blood into the body from the lungs and back again.
- The beaked whale has the largest heart of all the ones on display; it is even larger than an elephant’s heart.
- It took 60 pounds per square inch of pressure to launch a model rocket about 30 feet into the air.
- Hayley used 12 gears to make a fun machine that moved.
- Jake made a Mars Rover model that had 5 wheels and bumped down a rocky incline without flipping over.
Mom used to ride the school bus with the actor who played the character “Trumpkin” in the movie “Prince Caspian.” (Not scientific at all, I know, but cool, huh? Shout out to you, Peter Dinklage. You rock!)