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Month: June 2011 (page 1 of 2)

roadside americana, local controversy, and free art

During a recent jaunt up to the north woods, Aidan (7) finally convinced us to pull off the road between Munising and Marquette, MI on M-28 to pay a visit to Lakenenland–a one man sculpture park made noticeable only by a sign peaking through the trees on the side of the road that reads “Junk Art.” It’s the sort[singlepic=910,300,300] Aidan meets a woodland friend of place you drive by many times taking only casual notice. But this time, thanks to my seven-year-old son, we took in an amazing experience with this diversion from the beaten path.

The park consists of approximately eighty scrap iron sculptures, ranging from the political to Seussical, all created by one man–Tom Lakenen. Lakenen, a local union welder and pipe-fitter apparently started making sculptures as a hobby to adorn his backyard, but before long members of the Chocolay Township (where he lives) cited him for crossing the line from backyard art to violating the sign ordinance. Tom then purchased the current 37-acre track of land off of M-28 to hold his sculpture collection, which he has opened to the public. His battle with township officials evidently continues, though, based on the hand-written sign at the front of the driveway that reads “Chocolay Board Members No Trespassing, All Others Welcome.”

As long as you don’t hold a seat on the township board, the park is free to either drive, walk, or snowmobile in winter. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There are no tickets and nothing to buy–just really cool iron art positioned in a woodland setting. Tom even provides a rustic shelter and outdoor kitchen on the property (stocked with grill supplies and condiments) where signs welcome passersby to make use of it for picnicking, grilling, or just sitting for a spell.

Next time you’re speeding by between Marquette and Munising, take a few minutes to check out Lakenenland to see what Tom’s been up to. Err, unless you’re a Chocolay board member in which case you best keep driving.

occupational hazards, student-teacher interactions

A colleague sent this one to me recently, and it’s dead on. Most students (well, a lot anyway) are very pleasant to work with, but there are a few that make you want to jam your thumbs in your eyes. All teachers have had their share of such students. A typical exchange is illustrated brilliantly in the following piece.

science saturday

I was awakened the other day by my boy wanting to jump right into doing a handful of science experiments. I’m all for experiments and projects, but his eagerness and persistence was literally brought upon me as I rolled out of bed, and was all before my first cup of coffee! Luckily I was able to get my coffee brewed[singlepic=892,325,325] Aidan the mad scientist starts his day. first and then the two of us settled in to become mad scientists for the morning.

Our first experiment was to find the DNA of a banana. Yes, you can actually do this right in your own kitchen, and it can even be done without the use of a microscope. I found this experiment on the neat Scientific American web site, which has a number of cool looking experiments that you can easily do at home with common objects. We gathered up our supplies–a banana, hot water, salt, dish soap, rubbing alcohol, a baggie, a coffee filter, and a glass. By now I had a few sips of coffee and the sleepiness was out of my eyes, and I was matching my son’s excitement. We mashed, measured, mixed, poured, and then waited. After about 8 to 10 minutes we started to see this stringy substance in the glass. This is the banana’s DNA. It was interesting how each material (the soap, the salt, and the rubbing alcohol) plays a role in extracting the DNA from the banana. The one thing that I wish we would have done was to put some of this DNA onto a slide to try to see more details of it under our microscope–we’ll have to do this next time. Overall, this was a pretty cool experiment to show some pretty big ideas about cells, DNA, genetics, and how many living things are really similar to each other by being made up of the same basic material.

My son’s enthusiasm didn’t wane after this first experiment, and he dove right into another experiment from a book we brought home from the library called, Awesome Ocean Science by Cindy A Littlefield. He found an experiment in the book on how to simulate clean-up after an oil spill. He gathered up the necessary materials and started in on creating an oil spill in a pan  (pouring veggie oil in a baking pan full of water). Then he proceeded to make a boom out of straws and string and tried to contain the oil spill. After containing it (or trying to), he attempted to recover the oil from the water using cotton balls, a spoon, and finally some corn starch. I sat by watching him take charge of this experiment and listened to him discuss his results with me (the corn starch worked best to cling to the oil and then allowed you to remove it a bit easier than without the corn starch, but it still didn’t get all of the oil out by any means). Again, this was a fun experiment using common day items that really illustrated some important concepts. From this experiment we then talked a bit about fossil fuels, drilling in the oceans, and recent oil spills that have occurred and the impact this has on the environment, animals, and people.

After cleaning up  our experiments, I poured myself a second cup of coffee. It was a great way to start the day.

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