A Day Off—for Science!

science_cityjpeg3Please 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:

  1. If debris falls from the ceiling while you’re cave diving, then it means that no one had been there before.
  2. Blue water in a river means that there is a large deposit of limestone.
  3. In an ice cave, the further down you go, the softer the ice is.
  4. Our galaxy is larger than it seems.
  5. A canary’s heart beats 800 times per minute.
  6. A human’s heart beats 75 time per minute.
  7. An ostrich’s heart beats 300 times per minute.
  8. The planet Jupiter has the most gravity of any planet in our solar system.
  9. The space suit’s high-tech sounding MAG (Maximum Absorbency Garment) is really a diaper.
  10. It takes 3 hours to put on a space suit and 3 hours to take one off.
  11. A typical space walk takes 15 hours from start to finish.
  12. Scientists theorize that a collision with another plant is what formed Earth’s moon.
  13. The Milky Way has gas in it.
  14. The next closest galaxy to ours is Andromeda.
  15. Octopi have blue blood because it contains copper.
  16. People have red blood because it contains iron.
  17. Some butterflies and caterpillars have green blood because it contains nickel.
  18. Some animals have yellow blood.
  19. 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.)
  20. Cave explorers take samples of water because the living things in the water can be used to develop new medicines.
  21. Creatures that live in extreme environments are called “extremophiles.”
  22. Diesel engines work when fuel is pushed into a cylinder where an explosion occurs and pushes a piston.
  23. Gold is used on the visor of the space suit helmet to protect the astronauts from radiation.
  24. The Earth is protected from the sun’s “solar wind” by its magnetic field.
  25. Cave diving is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
  26. The heart is a major muscle and pumps blood into the body from the lungs and back again.
  27. The beaked whale has the largest heart of all the ones on display; it is even larger than an elephant’s heart.
  28. It took 60 pounds per square inch of pressure to launch a model rocket about 30 feet into the air.
  29. Hayley used 12 gears to make a fun machine that moved.
  30. Jake made a Mars Rover model that had 5 wheels and bumped down a rocky incline without flipping over.
  31. 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!)





  1. Monica said,

    April 1, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Glad you all went to the Franklin Institute for Jake’s birthday. I’m sure Jake learned more there than he would in school anyway…:) Dominic and I had a great time when we went recently. He already wants to know when we are going again.

    • scheirmad said,

      April 2, 2009 at 8:52 am

      Yeah, it was a nice school without school experience. What was really fun for us was being so “in the know” about the space suit!

      We’re actually doing back to back science field trips this week–on Saturday we’ll be at the MD Science Center where Craig will be exhibiting the recently returned Antarctic Habitat. I think I can actually feel my brain getting bigger!

      You know, if you (or any of you, dear readers) ever want to team up and go to the Franklin with the Scheir M crew, we have a Family Max membership now that helps to get some extra people in for free. Galileo’s coming next–the tagline for the exhibit is, “We are not the center of the universe.” Looks like astronomy fun to me!

  2. Monica said,

    April 2, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I thought it was pretty neat too how they had a little interview with an ILC worker from Delaware next to the space suit displays.

    That sounds like a fun Sat. trip and I’m sure it will be neat for all of you to see the habitat on display (tried to think of a different word, but can’t find my thesaurus fast enough). 🙂

    Thanks for the offer for the Franklin….Dominic did sound interested in the Galileo exhibit.

  3. Lorraine said,

    April 2, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    And astronomy fun it should be! After all it is International year of Astronomy! I’m in the process of building up the courage to take the class to the local Planetarium! (And, with some of my “stars”, it will indeed take courage!!!)

    • scheirmad said,

      April 3, 2009 at 6:20 am

      Yes, it crossed my mind while at the museum that I was thankful to be there with only 2 children, rather than an entire class! Teachers are so responsible…and brave!

      Hey, maybe the Franklin Institute could be part of your whirlwind US tour next fall…Philadelphia is not to be missed–it’s the “birthplace of independence!” Plus, with our amazing museum pass, we’ll be able to get you in for free!!!!

  4. Lorraine said,

    April 3, 2009 at 8:56 am

    That sounds great! I’ll look forward to it! I can’t wait. I’m finally going to Disneyland after waiting almost my whole life. (I’ve even got my original Mickey Mouse Club T-shirt with my name on it just like Cubby and Karen wore – even though you’re way too young to remember them!)
    Is the Liberty Bell really in Philadelphia?

  5. scheirmad said,

    April 6, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Yes, Philadelphia’s got the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence), and Betsy Ross’s house (she sewed the American Flag). It’s pretty steeped with history and is a great, compact destination. Also, Philadelphia is home of the famous Philly cheese steak, has its own Chinatown, and boasts some other great museums (the Rodin sculpture museum is one of my favorites). It’s no Disneyland, but let’s put it on the list!

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