Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yellowstone Mini Unit Study

I specifically planned our Geology Unit to take place right before our trip to Yellowstone because I knew it would be generally applicable, but before we went, I wanted to zero in on some specific geologic (and other) highlights of Yellowstone itself. So we had this little Yellowstone mini-unit in the week and a half before we left. 

I am generally a great advocate of learning about a place before you go there (it makes traveling so much more fun and meaningful!) but this time along with the many children's books we checked out from the library, I checked out this book for myself:
I read the first chapter and then decided maybe Death in Yellowstone was NOT a book one should read before visiting Yellowstone! :)

Here's an interesting article about the magma chamber under Yellowstone

Here's a short video about Norris Geyser Basin (my favorite part of Yellowstone on our trip!)

Here's a cool way to build your own geyser. This works a lot like a real geyser works (not the Mentos-and-coke reaction people sometimes call a "geyser")

Video about Geysers from the National Park Service

This video explains how the rangers predict the eruptions of Old Faithful—and here's a chart to help you do the same thing

A rare cold-water geyser in Utah! The pressure in this geyser is caused by natural carbon dioxide gas in the ground. I wish we'd known about it when we were in Green River recently.

Here's an activity to help you learn about fumaroles

And of course we had to do a geyser bottle activity! The children insisted. :) We used alka-seltzer tablets for ours. You can feel the pressure on your hand before letting go!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Glacier Activities

We made "glaciers" by freezing layers of gravel and water in bread pans. Then we had fun doing various things with them—scraping them along different surfaces, letting them melt and observing what kind of features were left behind (till, moraines, etc.), and so forth. There are several good ideas for glacier-related activities here.

Maybe the most interesting thing we did, though, was demonstrate how glaciers melt and re-freeze as they move. One book we read said to think of them less as big ice bulldozers, and more as ice conveyor belts. The thawing and freezing of successive layers of glacier ice is an important part of why they move and shape the land the way they do.

This demonstration shows how pressure can force ice to melt (as it does on the bottom of a glacier) even when the temperature itself is not cold enough to cause melting. We set up a block of ice on top of two rulers between two stacks of books, and across the ice we hung a wire tied to two heavy stones. It was a very awkward, improvised set-up—you can see a much tidier example here.
As time passed, the pressure of the wire gradually melted the ice, and the wire began to cut through the ice block. As the children saw this, they predicted that eventually the ice would be cut into two pieces.
But the surprising thing is that the ice re-freezes above the wire as the pressure lessens on a particular place, leaving the wire inside the block of ice—and eventually, allowing the wire to cut all the way through the ice and still leave an intact ice block above it! Fascinating.
We should have gotten big ice-blocks from the store and slid down steep hills atop them, as I occasionally did with youth groups or for ward activities in college. But we didn't. Maybe next time!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon

We haven't ever hiked a slot canyon before, but I've always wanted to! Little Wild Horse is near Goblin Valley, and everything I read said it was a good place for families and little kids, so we were excited to try it out. I thought, based on its designation as an "easy" or "beginner" slot canyon that it probably wouldn't be as cool as some of the "advanced" canyons (the kinds you have to rappel into or whatever)—but I thought it was great! Beautiful narrow slots, and gorgeous light streaming down from above, and interesting sand dune lines and ripple marks on the rocks. I can hardly imagine how there could be a more beautiful place! Here's some information about how slot canyons are formed. We read that there are more of them in Utah than in any other place on earth!

It was really hot the day we went, and the slot sections were SO nice—you could even feel the cooler air coming off the rock walls before you walked in. There were some really narrow squeezes, but nothing TOO difficult, and even Goldie (who is three) managed it all okay, with a couple boosts here and there when we had to climb over big rocks. I was walking with her most of the time, and there were a few places when squeezing myself, and the camera around my neck, AND Goldie, through the  rocky passages was a bit tricky. But we just took it slow and we were fine.

I would LOVE to hike this again on a cool fall day. It's on our list of places to revisit for sure!

The hike starts out in this wide sandy wash. This was the hottest part! It was a relief to get into the (relatively) shady canyon area.
We carried our lunch up just past the wide part, then ate and left our cooler there to pick up on the way down. There were just a few of these large overhanging rocks to provide shade.

The children were constantly climbing up rocks and into little holes. They were so pleased with themselves! I always tell them they are free to climb around and explore as long as they are in front of me and not behind! So they're constantly racing ahead to give themselves time. It keeps everyone going. And I'm usually coming last with the baby or the smallest ones, so it's not too hard to stay ahead of me! :)
At one point I was walking through a section of canyon and I thought I heard someone giggle, but no one else heard it so I thought I was imagining things. A few minutes later I caught up to Sam and said "Where's Goldie?" She was gone! We went back and found her coming up the trail alone, laughing to herself and saying "I was hiding." Eeek! We had to make a new rule that everyone has to come out and reveal themselves when I come by!
I love the graceful, scalloped shapes these walls make. Can you spy Daisy?
Here's one of the narrowest sections. Tiny Goldie just walked on through, but most of us couldn't even get our feet to fit on that tiny floor! We had to walk along on the walls.
Sam, doing the bulk of the work holding that heavy, heavy Theodore.
I loved the view looking up too!
Smooth waves and scoops.
I love how rich the colors are as you go in and out of light and darkness, too. Those reds and oranges in the rocks glow like fire!
Tiny girl and big rocky walls
Goldie found this dead lizard. Poor little guy.
Such a cool rock "doorway"
These sweeping upward fins are so amazing! See little running Junie for scale.
Hot. We sought out any little shade we could find.
More fins and holes, and Marigold. This Goldie was really the best little hiker. Cheerful, talkative, brave. I loved being with her.
Something about that little tiny speck of light you can see through the winding slot section really made me love this part. I think it just makes it feel like a secret little tunnel.
Here's one of those ripple-marked rocks I was talking about in this post. You can tell from these rocks that this area was an ancient beach. It is so strange to stand in this hot, dry place and imagine a sea lapping onto sand right here millions of years ago!
These smooth, sheer walls are amazing!
Teddy finally fell asleep for a short time, which was a great relief to everyone. He looks so sweet, doesn't he? Certainly not like someone who would SCREAM a bloodcurdling scream of frustration and anger every few moments while awake! Never.
More creamy, wavy scallops.
Such great colors!
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