Sunday, April 20, 2008

Open House/Poly Royal (same/same)

This weekend we took the girls to their first Cal Poly Open House. The event used to be called Poly Royal, but after some mishaps a decade or so ago, the college had to let it go for awhile. They reintroduced the event under a new name, but many of the old events still continue: rodeo, tractor pull, kids' carnival, club booths, demonstrations by every college, robotics competition and, our main attraction, the Chemistry Department Magic Show!

When I was in grade school, buses would carry us to campus where we'd take part in the memorable display of chemical reactions, then we'd meander through campus and ultimately take part in a fantastic carnival, then complete with Ferris wheel among other attractions. We ate ice cream made by students from the university's own dairy unit. We generally enjoyed an educational ditch day.

A lot has changed, but when we entered the lecture hall for the Magic Show, the smells brought it all back! We sat in the front row and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. There were demonstrations we just couldn't do at home (explosions involving hydrogen come to mind), but the girls were equally please to see experiments they'd already performed at home (the acid/base test, for example).

It's funny, too, how events coincide. This week, our science experiments at home centered on polymers. The girls extracted the gel powder from some diapers, then put the minuscule, dust-like particles in a cup, added water and mixed until, VOILA, it gelled! They learned about molecular chains, built their own, learned about bonds, and created those, too. So, when we left the Magic Show, we were somewhat surprised to see that the lab next door was providing, of all things, a hands-on polymer experiment: making the same slime we'd made Tuesday in our kitchen. (Recipe: mix 1/4 c. white glue with 2 T. water; in separate container mix 1T. Borax with 1/2 cup water. Add solution to slime...less solution equals more liquidy slime; more solution equals stiffer slime. Add food coloring if you please.)

We also enjoyed the math department where a variety of games were provided in several rooms. The girls (and I) really got involved in the various puzzles, and the large GeoBoard. (By the way, we found this neat online manipulatives site while looking for the GeoBoard image.) V's our puzzle girl, so we really had to tear her away if we were to see any more of Poly's special events! Anyone up for a math game day? Puzzle day?

We ended the day with a hike up Poly Canyon to the Design Village where students from throughout the state took part in the Design Village Competition. The goal: build a portable structure that can be set up on any terrain, using no A/C power tools. Many of the structures were quite flimsy, some of the entries were quite remarkable, well-constructed, creative and well-planned, but they all paled in comparison with the original structures in the Design Village. We took Mr. B on a tour of the Shell House, the girls' and my favorite structure, and imagined what it would've been like before vandals got to it. So much attention to detail. The weekend's events really illustrated the difference between student project (aka effort) of yesteryear with students' of today. (sigh)

This week: birthday planning and prep, more science, more geography, everyday stuff and the beginning of our Next Big Project (art history).

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