Journal of Be(e)utiful Pla(y)ces

Outing #12: To the Moon!

Earth’s Moon EXPLORE Today we decided to visit our closest celestial neighbor, the Moon. To join us, start with the National Geographic’s Earth 101 video. Then, Walk to the Moon with David Bowie and the NPR Skunk Bear team to get a sense for how far away the moon really is. To learn why the Moon appears to change shape, tune into the SciShow Kids Moon episode. Bonus: Check out this interesting NASA recreation of the first time humans watched the Earth rise from the Moon. DISCUSS Would you want to travel to the moon? Why or why not? What do you see when you look at the Moon? How do you think life on Earth would be different if we didn’t have a moon? If we had more than one? DO Learn more abou

Outing #11: Stories from Dark Skies

Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation, Arizona EXPLORE This week the Adventure Whales decided to take to the skies. We started by talking about how the one thing that all cultures have in common is the sky. We all see the same sun, moon, and stars (well, we all see stars, but our friends in the Southern Hemisphere get a different collection). But to see them from Earth, you need clear, dark skies. So, we started Space Week at the first “Dark Sky Nation” in the world—the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona. To join us, use the International Dark-Sky Association map to find official “dark sky” locations near you. Then, zoom in on the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation along the Arizo

Outing #10: The Glow-in-the-Dark Sea

Puerto Mosquito (Mosquito Bay), Vieques, Puerto Rico EXPLORE Our last stop on our “week of land and water” was pretty special. We traveling to a bioluminescent bay on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. That means that the water GLOWS when you disturb it! The light comes from a type of plankton called a dinoflagellate (Pyrodinium bahamense to be precise.) This plankton is just one of the many aquatic animals that produce, reflect, or absorb then release light to survive. Start your trip by finding Puerto Mosquito on the map. Then, watch this beautiful video photographing the bioluminescent plankton in the water. National Geographic also has a great video explaining how and why animals releas

Outing #9: Northward, ho!

Kenai Fjords National Park EXPLORE Of course, not all aquatic ecosystems are warm like tropical rainforest and coral reefs. Some of the most interesting places where water meets land are in the arctic. Today, we travel to Alaska to see Kenai Fjords National Park. There, the forces of ice, tides, and changing temperatures dominate the landscape and the wildlife that live there. Start by checking out the Google satellite map to see where exactly Kenai Fjords National Park is and get a sense of what is around it. Notice the narrow fjords connecting the ocean to the snowy glaciers. Use Google’s Hidden Worlds of the National Parks interactive website to explore the glaciers and fjords of the park

Outing #8: In Search of Muck Fish

Rio Negro near Manaus, Brazil (Amazon River Basin) EXPLORE We explored one of the most diverse ocean ecosystems yesterday. Today, we’ll travel further south to Earth’s most diverse terrestrial ecosystem—the tropical rainforest. In particular, we’ll visit the flooded forests along the banks of the Rio Negro in central Brazil. The abundant water and seasonal floods along the Rio Negro support such a diverse collection of fish and other life, that scientists are still trying to describe it all (including the elusive muck fish that look like swimming hot dogs on the forest floor)! Start with a brief National Geographic overview of rainforests, their benefits, and what threatens them. Then, use G

Outing #7: Under the Sea

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA EXPLORE After our introduction at the Shedd yesterday, we decided to continue learning about the diverse, but delicate, coral reefs. These underwater ecosystems grow in warm, shallow waters such as the Florida Keys. To get a feel for these undersea wonderlands, we visited Dry Tortugas National Park. Start by finding the park on a map—it’s about 70 miles west of Key West. Personally, I’d never heard of this park, and I was a ranger for the National Park Service! But, now I totally want to go. Then, watch this Coral Reefs 101 video from National Geographic to get a sense for how the reefs work and what lives there. Use Google’s Hidden Worlds of the Nati

Outing #6: Where Water Meets Land

Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois, USA EXPLORE The Adventure Whales voted to spend this week visiting places “where water meets land.” We’ll focus on how creatures have adapted to diverse ecosystems defined by water and land coming together. And what better place to start this adventure, but the world-class Shedd Aquarium! To explore the Shedd, join their Aquarium Adventure Club via these sweet Sea Curious videos: What do animals eat? What does animal poop look like? What animals have super powers? Bonus: Why are animals slimy? You can also tour the museum with some of their residents, the penguins! Since the aquarium is closed to visitors, they let the penguins roam the exhibits instead. DI

Outing #5: What Emperor are you?

Great Wall of China EXPLORE We finished our “week of the ancients” by exploring the Great Wall of China. We talked about how and why Chinese emperors ordered it built, what a “dynasty” is, and especially the impressive technology developed by Ancient Chinese cultures. To start your journey, check out this interesting map of the different sections of the wall built by six dynasties over more than 1500 years. Then, watch this short video from the Smithsonian Channel about the original inspiration and construction of the first iteration of the wall. (I’m not a fan of how they sensationalize the conflict and describe the Mongols as simply “terrifying raiders from modern Mongolia.” So, we stopped

Outing #4: Drip Drop, Not Tick Tock

Acropolis & Agora, Athens, Greece EXPLORE To continue our tour of ancient cultures, we got our tourist on at the Acropolis and Agora in Athens, Greece. To join us, start with this short video from the ultimate tour guide, Rick Steves. Then, to explore on your own, take a self guided virtual tour. Finish with a short introduction to one of the less common, but fascinating structures: The Tower of the Winds. The tower acted as both weather station and town clock. DISCUSS Which sites in the Acropolis or Agora were most interesting to you? Why? Where do people gather in your community? What do they do there? How are these places similar to or different from sites in the Acropolis and Agora? How

Outing #3: Does that Start with Vulture or Viper?

The British Museum, London, UK EXPLORE My crew of virtual explorers—aka The Adventure Whales, they've decided—have been really excited about ancient cultures. So, we decided today would take us to the British Museum in London. The Brits collected (or as some of the kids pointed out, took) cultural objects from every inch of the planet, and it’s impressive to see them all in one place. We focused on how cultures learn, share, and take from one another, even when they are separated by distance and time. To share our adventure, start by traveling through their collection, time, and space with the museum’s interactive Museum of the World . One of the most famous objects at the British Museum is

Outing #2: Maya Math, Art, & Bingo?!

Chichén Itzá EXPLORE My kids and I are meeting once a day with other families to go on our Virtual Outings together. When I asked the kids what they wanted to learn about, there was lots of enthusiasm for space, ancient temples, and cultural stories (aka mythology). So, we decided to visit Chichén Itzá on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. To jump in, visit the Living Maya Time website created by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. This beautiful website explains how Maya culture--past and present-- combines a deep knowledge of astronomy, math, architecture, nature, and story. Make sure to check out at least these pages and videos: The Maya World The Maya and the Sun DISCUS

OUTING #1: Outbreak!

Understanding Why We’re Stuck at Home New York Hall of Science EXPLORE For our first outing, I thought that we should learn a little bit about how diseases like COVID-19 spread and why we are all stuck at home. Our Virtual Outing will take us to the New York Hall of Science in New York City. This AMAZING science center worked with several scientists and advisors (including a few dear friends!) to create a wonderful interactive comic book called Transmissions: Gone Viral. The story explains how scientists identify new diseases. Read the comic here After you read through Transmissions, watch this video from the World Health Organization about the origin of COVID-19. DISCUSS How is COVID-19 lik

Virtual Outings, Anyone?!

Hello all! Like many of you, my kids and I are stuck at home with no school because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep our minds active and cabin fever at bay, we’ve decided to go on a “Virtual Outing” each day we’re out of school. Please, join us! This is what they will look like: EXPLORE: First, I’ll provide a link to a website, video, or other interactive on-line resource to explore some place exciting. We might visit a museum, arboretum, historical site, poop-themed amusement park, who knows. If you have somewhere you’d like to go, leave me a note in the comments, via Facebook, or by email. DISCUSS: I’ll provide some prompts for families exploring the site/video/etc. that encourage curios

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