Posted by: blotzphoto | February 10, 2012

Simple Science Tools: Calendars

Sometimes the simplest science tools are the best.  In the hands of an inquisitive youngster something as simple as a dollar store magnifying glass (a lot of inflation from the days of dime store magnifying glasses evidently) can transform mundane items into amazing vistas. Or you can set things on fire with it… that’s learning too…right?

This Krismas the eldest Hellion had one simple gift request, a calendar all her own.  She had become fascinated with the family calendar, which we keep in the kitchen and use primarily to jot down the extensive number of doctor/dentist/haircut appointments a family of five can accumulate.  We do this even though we’re an incredibly wired household with any number of iDevices at our disposal that would seem to obviate the need for such a hidebound device. But you can’t knock the convenience and permanence of the family calendar. It's the end of the world as we know it...

The Schmoo’s calendar  is a simple off the rack at the bookstore item. It has beautiful images of  Greek Island Cats ,and there’s nothing cuter than that.  It also marks off the various major and minor Federal holidays, as well as the holy days of most of your major Abrahamic religions.  Abby has been dutifully checking off the days as they pass and asking questions as she goes. The most fun we have had however is using the calendar for tracking the phases of the moon.  At the last full moon, February 7th, I was alerted by Abby that I absolutely HAD to come outside and see because we could see the full Moon. “Just like my Calendar said!” She squeeeeed, happy as a clam that her predictive device had been accurate. She’s already anticipating the upcoming New Moon, (February 21 btw) and can’t wait to see it, at the moment blissfully oblivious to the fact that “not seeing the moon” is the whole point.

This new interest of the Schmoo’s has lead to a lot of great discussions, from how the ancients depended on the phases of the Moon to mark time and how intimately those people were connected to natural timekeepers like the phases of the Moon, the changing lengths of the day and the ebb and flow of the seasons.  It’s also got us talking about the Moon and how it revolves around the Earth in relation to the Sun. And what are all of those marks on its surface.  And what is it made of ?

Adding the calendar has also helped us introduce the concept of planning ahead to the kid.  We’ve already marked off our summer vacation, Opening Day (yes in Cincinnati we capitalize Opening Day, there’s a parade and everything.)  And having a direct, physical measuring device is helping  the Schmoo begin to grasp broader concepts about how long things last, and how long things take. I already plan on having her keep track of the spring seedlings for our vegetable garden on it.

If you are curious (or have an older kid with some amount of patience), the good folks at Astronomy Cast devoted an entire program to Calendars last month. Their shownotes are a great jumping off point for learning more. What, you don’t listen to Astronomy Cast? Well make time, they’re awesome.

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