Wanderlust, Part 2: Maui

We just got back from a week of vacation in Maui, and we want to share our adventures with you. We chose to attend a work convention/leadership training in Maui and then add several more days of adventure. It was a blast!

Since we live in Kentucky, it’s quite a long trip to reach Maui. It takes approximately almost a full day to get from here to there. We had layovers in Chicago and San Francisco, and then we arrived in Kahului International Airport. It was interesting to leave Kentucky with long sleeves and long pants, and have to change our clothes into shorts and T-shirts because the temperature in Maui was in the 80s (Fahrenheit).

We got the rental car from the airport and then proceeded to stop by our first adventure spot: Costco. Hah! We laughed about it, but we definitely needed to stock up on a few things such as water, fruits, and some swimsuits for the kiddos since they had outgrown their swimsuits.

The island of Maui is the second largest island among Hawaiian archipelago and is about 727 square miles, which is comparable to three times the size of Chicago, Illinois, thought not as populated. Maui has several volcanoes, but the one on the east, Haleakalā, rises to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, and measures five miles (eight km) from seafloor to summit, making it one of the world’s tallest mountains. It’s a beautiful island, and we were even more amazed by the kind people we met.

The first few days of our vacation, we stayed at Honua Kai resort on Kaanapali beach, on the western side of the island, called Lahaina. Lā hainā means “cruel sun” in the Hawaiian language, describing the sunny, dry climate. Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the mid-1800s, and when you walk down Front Street, you can see this giant Banyan tree, one of the largest in the world, that was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries.

The banyan tree or Ficus benghalensis has roots that descend or sprout from the branches into aerial roots towards the ground, where they form new trunks around the main trunk. This Lahaina giant banyan tree sprouted 16 major trunks that are apart from the main trunk, forming a large canopy with a circumference of about one-fourth of a mile, and about a thousand people could congregate under it.

Maui is also the best place to watch humpback whales between the months of February and April. These whales migrate from Alaskan waters to mate and give birth in the warm waters of Maui. You can easily see these whales from the beach and from a boat. They often congregate in pods, which is typically a group of a mother, her calf, and a few male suitors. You may also see the males fighting for the female by bumping against each other. When you snorkel or dive, you will be able to hear the sound of the whales singing for hours under the water. It’s a magnificent experience!

We joined a whale-watching ship from the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, and the tour guide gave great educational information on how whales behave, how to spot them, and how to protect these endangered animals. The kids loved it! We recommend going in the morning as the water will be calmer and it will be less windy than the afternoon would. You also should reserve your spots ahead of time as these whale-watching boats get booked up really quickly.

We got to attend a luau that exhibited amazing singers and fire dancers sharing their New Zealand (Maori), Samoan, Tahitian, and Hawaiian cultures and stories. This is one way to enrich your children’s knowledge of the world cultures while having fun at the same time!

My wife always wanted to see a pineapple plantation, so we booked a plantation tour with Maui Gold Pineapple, where we were able to see thousands of acres of pineapple fields in various stages of growth, tour the packing facility, watch how they harvest the pineapples, and taste various stages of the pineapple and tour the packing facility. The tour took about 1.5 hours and we got to come home with a box of two hand-picked fresh pineapples.

The last half of the trip we stayed at the beautiful Grand Wailea on the south side of the island, in Kihei. The kids loved every one of the nine incredible pools and beach. When you visit, you must check out the world’s first water elevator there. It is rated as the Best Kid-Friendly Hotel in Hawaii by Oyster. The view was breathtaking from any angle. You can even see whales swimming right from the beach or from their signature restaurant, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Try pronouncing that!

The one downside to this trip was the time it took to travel from the mainland USA. This creates jetlag as your body tries to adjust to local time. We would be super tired at 6 p.m. local time (midnight in EST), and then wide awake at 2 or 3 a.m., as it’s already 8 or 9 a.m. in the mainland eastern standard time. By the time we were ready to leave at the end of the week, our bodies had finally adjusted to the Hawaiian time, which means it took us a few more days to again adjust once we get back home. We all agreed that the next time we return, we will stay much longer than just a week.

This was one of our favorite trips. We got to incorporate biology and science learning (whales, climate, and pineapple growing), and then history, geography, and native cultures. The kids got to meet various kinds of people from various parts of the world.

They also learned more about people with interesting tattoos all over their faces and body (Maori and most Polynesian cultures). They learned about how kindness transcends cultures and borders. They learned how the time change affected their body functions. They learned about how different cultures eat different kinds of food. They especially loved the physical education portion of this homeschool trip: swimming and bodyboarding!

Most of all, as we got to see Hawaii as a melting pot of many different cultures and races, we learned that Jesus loves all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. We all learned that God would love for all His children to be with Him again, and that the responsibility to share the Good News is on our shoulders.

Go travel, go outside of your comfort zone. If you haven’t read my previous blogpost on Wanderlust, you should! Click here.

God bless!

Arthur

Virtual Field Trip: Greenfield Village, Part 8

Hey, boys and girls! Are you ready for another virtual field trip? I sure am! Today I would like to share with you one last post of my trips to Greenfield Village, an awesome outdoor history museum in Detroit, Michigan. If you remember from last month, I shared with you some homes of famous Americans such as Robert Frost and Noah Webster. Now let’s visit some more old homes!

***

This is the Susquehanna Plantation, a home from Maryland that was built in the 1830s. This was before the Civil War happened and slavery, as we typically think of it, ended. The owners had a very nice life, but the slaves they owned (and beat for not working constantly from sunrise to sundown) certainly did not. There were no modern-day dishwashers or laundry machines back then, not even running water in the kitchens! The slaves had to do it all.

Here are some slave quarters (albeit very nice slave quarters) from another plantation, in Georgia. The master who built these quarters was not trying to be nice to his slaves, but, from a business view, the healthier slaves were the harder they worked. And, he definitely wanted that!

The next several pictures are of the Mattox family home, from rural Georgia. They were not a particularly well-known family, but it was still very interesting to see how they lived. This home was built about 15 years after the Civil War, in 1880.

Most of Greenfield Village centers on history of the 1800s and 1900s, but there are a few homes that reach back farther in time! Below are photos of the Daggart Farmhouse, built in 1754 in Connecticut. Nearby in the Village is the oldest windmill in the United States, as well as the Plympton family home (the red one). It is the oldest home in Greenfield Village; the brick on the fireplace inside dates from 1640! It was so much fun to see all of these homes, too — especially to learn how life was different back then, but also much the same.

Finally, I would like to share with you one last building from Greenfield Village. This is the Logan County Courthouse from Illinois, and is one of the actual courthouses that Abraham Lincoln practiced law in! One trivia fact that I find particularly interesting is about the wooden cabinet in the corner. It was handcrafted by Abraham and his sister, Sarah, when they were just children. I thought that was pretty cool!

***

Well, believe it or not, after eight months we have finished exploring Greenfield Village together! I hope you have enjoyed these posts and seeing history come alive, whether through these words and pictures or even more so through my videos. Below I have included links to my videos of the homes I have shared about in this post, if you are interested in watching them.

See you next month!

~Austin

Virtual Field Trip: Greenfield Village, Part 7

Hi Boys and Girls! Have you been enjoying this series of articles on Greenfield Village? I sure hope so! It is so much fun to visit in person, and then to tell you all about the history there as well. Today I would like to share with you the final area of Greenfield Village, Porches and Parlors. That’s just a fancy way of saying, “Here’s a collection of cool old homes!” So buckle your seatbelts, pack your excitement, and let’s head home!

***

Have you ever used a dictionary to look up a hard to pronounce word? Most likely it had the word “Webster” on it, because Mr. Noah Webster was the man who wrote the first American dictionary. And you guessed it, Greenfield Village has Webster’s home! It is one of my favorite homes to walk through at Greenfield Village – not just because of the history (this is the very home where he wrote the dictionary), but also because it has air conditioning! Being cool on a hot day is very important. Here are some pictures of Webster’s home!

And here are a few pictures of Webster’s study, where he wrote the dictionary.

Another cool home in Greenfield Village is the one of Robert Frost. Have you ever studied about him in school? He was a very famous American poet.

Another famous figure of American history is William Holmes McGuffey. You may remember that he created some very successful schoolbooks for children back in the 1800’s. You guessed it – Greenfield Village has McGuffey’s birthplace home, as well as a replica schoolhouse from that time period. Here’s some pictures of those structures!

***

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this latest post on Greenfield Village! It is such a fun place to visit, and then to share the experience with you all makes the experience even more fun! If you would like to see my videos of the homes I featured in this article, check them out below. Next month I’ll finish up my series on Greenfield Village by sharing a few more historic homes!

***

Until next time, study hard and have a blast with the past!

~Austin

Our Apun Unit Study Experience

 

This wall of snow is in Kotzebue, Alaska, a town situated above the Arctic Circle.

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia — you know, that place that gets ridiculed when the occasional ice and/or snowstorm rolls through the southeast and completely paralyzes life there for several days, and where the grocery stores are sold out of bread and milk at the hint of a snowflake or freezing rain. So, snow has always been rather special; it was a much-celebrated event when it did arrive. But, I didn’t know the first thing about the science behind snow or the ecosystems where snow is frequent. My knowledge of the Arctic was vague and composed of cultural stereotypes.

In 2011 our family had the opportunity to visit Alaska for several weeks. At the time, my kids were still quite young: ages nine, four, and 16 months. My husband was working 12-hour shifts at the hospital there, which left me — a southerner with three brief years of snow experience in upstate New York — to navigate the town’s icy streets. It turned out to be one of the most fun, challenging, and meaningful experiences of my life.

The average high temperature in April is 21 degrees Fahrenheit in Kotzebue, and the average low is five degrees. It was a perfect opportunity to do a weather unit study with my third-grader, so we put up a chart on the apartment wall and tracked the temperature, precipitation, wind direction and speed, barometric pressure, and cloud formations. I had taken along a few lightweight resources, including the charts and crayons, a small poster, a rain/precipitation gauge, and the things we’d need to build a barometer and wind sock. (After our trip we compared the results with our Arizona desert environment.)

I wanted to visit the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center, but it was a little over a mile from our apartment building, and we had no transportation. Cars are used in winter in Kotzebue, but snowmobiles are more useful as they can go over the frozen ice. Some cars and all boats are half-buried in deep snow drifts until late spring/summer. (Gas is very expensive. Kotzebue is supplied by barge before the bay ices over; supplies can only come in by air until the big thaw.) I turned to our apartment neighbor for traveling advice since the wind chill was -27 degrees Fahrenheit. She willingly told me where to buy a plastic sled, then showed me how to set up a box in the back for the bundled baby.

A half-buried boat appears to be cutting through waves of snow.

We proceeded to the Heritage Center at a snail’s pace on the frozen roads, me pulling the sled with the two younger kids on it and my oldest walking behind to retrieve accidentally dropped gloves and mittens from the sled riders. We arrived some 45 minutes later, with frozen tears on the 16-month-old’s face, just as the center closed for lunch. Ack! Thankfully we were re-routed toward the bay, half a mile away, where there were two restaurants to chose from. My kids were able to try a couple of local dishes and unthaw before trekking back to the museum, which proved to be a fantastic learning experience! I even found several great resources for a snow/arctic unit study in their bookstore.

This is the start of the Kobuk 440 dog sled race, a qualifier for the famed Iditarod.

The Kobuk 440, a qualifying dog sled race for the famed Iditarod Race, started and ended in Kotzebue during our time there. My seven-year-old even met John Baker, the Iditarod champion of 2010, who lives in Kotzebue. (The following year we tracked the Iditarod online, choosing a musher and team to follow for the long race of endurance.) We were also able to attend several cultural events that included native Inupiaq dances, handicrafts, clothes, and food. The Inupiaq people were warm and friendly; I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them.

A native Inupiaq demonstrates a dance about hunting walruses.

Though there is so much I could relate about our trip to the Arctic Circle, my point was merely to pique your interest in this subject as a potential unit study, or at least a special project for homeschooling. With the resources I gathered on the trip to Kotzebue, plus a few more I ordered online, we later delved deeper into this topic. The kids love snow anyway! (Apun — in the title of this post — is the Inupiaq word for the Arctic’s snow cover, just in case you were wondering!)

This is the view from our apartment window in Kotzebue at midnight (in April). The days were about 16 hours long at that point. People were out and about until about 2 am. The grocery store is on the right, where all the cars are parked. A carton of ice cream cost $10.

 

Here are some ideas for unit study projects (resource info below):

Handwriting & vocabulary (and art!) from Draw-Write-Now Book Four: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic OR create assignments and pull vocabulary from books on the subject.

YouTube has some great documentaries and “how-to” videos. During your next big snow, you could try building your own igloo! (My neighbors did that one year, and it was great!) Nanook of the North is an older documentary my kids found interesting.

Iditarod Dog Sled Race: You can track the musher teams online and document their times each day during the race, and there are many, many resources for teachers on the official Iditarod website. We made a dog sled out of popsicles (google instructions), followed the Iditarod, learned about the working sled dogs, and read several books on the subject.

Science:

  • The sky is the limit! And the sky is so amazing in the Arctic! We weren’t able to see any northern lights during our visit to Alaska, but we read some books (see below for reference) and watched some videos of the intriguing lights.
  • The Arctic tundra ecosystem — and permafrost. (Permafrost even affects how and where buildings can be constructed in the Arctic, but you can learn about its characteristics and the animals living within it, too.) A weather unit is a great learning opportunity.
  • Whales and their migrations: Whaling is a bad word in our modern vocabulary, but for the Inuit peoples, whales provided absolutely necessary food. (And, nothing goes to waste; they have a use for every part of an animal when it is killed.) In this culture, the breaking up of the sea ice and the return of the whales, along with whale hunting, was very important. These days, there is usually one ceremonial whale hunted, and the community comes together to celebrate as it did in the old days, especially up near Barrow, Alaska. So, studying whales can be a science or a cultural learning project.
  • Other Arctic animals: lemmings, Arctic fox, polar bear, walrus, narwhal, ptarmigan, caribou, beluga and humpback whales, peregrine falcon, seals, musk-ox, wolves, snowy owls, orcas, Arctic hare… Study how they keep warm in winter, their hunting habits or camouflage, diet, hibernation habits, etc. The story of caribou in Alaska involves a bit of Scandinavian history. Tracking in the snow might be a great option if you live up north.
  • Snow: The book, Apun, the Arctic Snow, is a fantastic resource for understanding and teaching about the science of snow. Written by an expert on snow, it is scientifically sound and has an adorable line drawing of a lemming (yes, you’ll want one) and snow crystals, diagrams, and easy-to-understand text. The author weaves in Inuit terms for snow, too. Did you know there are 35 types/categories of snowflake crystals?

    A display at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Alaska shows what a cross-section of permafrost is made of.

Geography: Identify countries within the Arctic Circle, prominent bodies of water, mountain ranges and peaks, an Alaskan map (larger cities and towns), rivers. You may want to include Antarctica. It’s also an interesting project to learn about the “North Pole” and its various locations.

Literature: I’ve included a few picture books below that our family loved, but your local library probably has some books you can add to this list. Books for older children/high schoolers might include stories of the voyages to the Arctic and Antarctica, books on Inuit culture and life, the story of how caribou/reindeer were herded in Alaska, stories of early travelers and missionaries to the area. There is an interesting story of Maniilaq, who was given visions that some claim meet the Biblical tests for a prophet. He lived and prophesied before Europeans entered Alaska, and he gave a message of one day in seven (the seventh day) being holy to God. There are a couple of books at amazon.com on his life.

Cooking: We picked up a kids’ cookbook in Alaska, but be aware that recipes tend to contain meat. For vegetarians, you might try searching the internet for recipes from Arctic areas, perhaps trying a recipe from a different country weekly. Another option is to make snowball cookies (aka Mexican wedding cookies/Russian tea cookies) and snow cream (1 gallon of snow, 2 cups milk or substitute, 1 cup sugar, 1 T vanilla extract — stir until creamy).

Physical Activity: Try a new sport! Snow skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, dog mushing…

These are just a few ideas to get started on your snowy journey… Have a great time making tracks! (And, feel free to leave your ideas, resources and/or experiences in the comments below, especially those of you from northern climates!) See below for a few specific resource ideas.

Rabbit tracks can be seen in several inches of snow on our front lawn.

A few of my favorite resources:

Nanook of the North (documentary film, > 1 hour in length, available on YouTube)

How to Build an Igloo (available on YouTube)

Draw-Write-Now: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic (barkercreek.com, early elementary/kindergarten handwriting and drawing book)

iditarod.com (official website for the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, held in Alaska yearly; many resources for teachers under “education” and online games and information for kids under “students”)

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (www.walkeryoungreaders.com)

Dashing Through the Snow: The Story of the Jr. Iditarod by Sherry Shahan (The Millbrook Press, Brookfield, Connecticut)

Apun: The Arctic Snow (a book for children; teacher’s guide is available with more detailed scientific information, but does not have activity guides or a teaching plan; truly a resource or a great text for seventh-grade through high school)

The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (www.walkeryoungreaders.com)

TOGO by Robert J. Blake (illustrated children’s book about one canine hero of the Great Serum Run of 1925, the event commemorated each year with the Iditarod Race in Alaska)

Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millicent E. Selsam, illustrated by Marlene Hill Donnelly (a “Let’s Read” book, science stage 1)

Survival at 40 Below by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyke (beautifully illustrated and a great science resource for elementary)

Polar Bear, Arctic Hare: Poems of the Frozen North by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

One Small Square: Arctic Tundra by Donald M. Silver, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (book about the tundra ecosystem written just for children)

My kids were attempting long-jumping beside rabbit tracks. The rabbit won.

Virtual Field Trip: Greenfield Village, Part 6

Hi, Boys and Girls! Are you ready to go on another virtual field trip? I sure am! I am excited to share with you more of Greenfield Village, a really cool outdoor history museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Have you ever seen a train before? Today I’m going to focus on the train ride, roundhouse, and Smith’s Creek station at Greenfield Village.

***

The roundhouse here was originally built elsewhere in Michigan, but the remains were brought to Greenfield Village in 2000 and refurbished to the truly beautiful structure that exists today. It is one of only seven working roundhouses in the U.S.!

This is where all the work and repair on the steam engines is done. Plus, it’s where the engines go to “sleep” at night. Basically, it’s like a garage, but for trains. It is really fun to walk through it and see all the trains.

Below are some pictures of what was Henry Ford’s personal favorite engine, which he had restored.

You can even walk right underneath it!

There is also a fun painting on the wall, with a working wheel, that helps kids understand how the steam engine works. As kids turn the wheel, lights light up and show what exactly is going on.

You can even find a grandfather around the roundhouse every now and then! 😉

***

Nearby to the roundhouse is the Smith’s Creek train station. This is the actual station that young Thomas Edison once worked out of. For a part-time job he sold newspapers on the trains. Because he liked to experiment, he begged the train conductor to let him have one baggage car just for his experiments. Everything went well until the car caught fire, and the conductor threw Edison off at this very Smith’s Creek station! But, besides that tidbit of history, it is just neat to see inside an 1860s train station. It was a real center of activity for the community, and served as both home and office for the stationmaster and his family.

***

One of my favorite parts of the Village is the steam train ride. Smith’s Creek is one of the three stations where you can board. Here are some pictures of the train for you to enjoy!

The conductor and fireman checking to make sure everything is good to go!

Toot, toot!

 

 

…And back at the station!

***

I hope that you have enjoyed this post! It really is so much fun to see history come alive at places such as Greenfield Village, and experience in real life what you would otherwise just have to imagine. Of course, while words and pictures do a decent job of getting the point across, there is still a lot left out — like sound! And, one of my favorite parts of riding a steam train is the sounds. So, this month I have included not only my videos of the roundhouse and Smith’s Creek station (you’ll get the tour spiel from the trained interpreters rather than having to put up with me), but also my train ride video. I hope you enjoy the sights and sounds! 🙂

Until next month, keep having a blast with the past!

~Austin