Motivating the Student: Powering the Quest for Scientific Knowledge

Motivating young students to search for difficult answers to complex scientific questions can seem like an insurmountable challenge.  HappyMess is sharing a detailed synopsis of our Solar Energy curriculum because we really saw an evolution in the minds of our young scientific team, The SolarNauts.

HappyMess has spent 9 months guiding a diverse group of 7 students through the process of scientific inquiry.  After reviewing our incremental steps we noticed that our success was partially due to the process.  Our team used a truly multi-disciplinary approach to arrive at their final goal:  a comprehensive (grade appropriate) understanding of the fundamentals of energy, solar energy in particular.  The steps are listed here in order of execution.

Competition The SolarNauts, our Elementary Destination Imagination team, are competing in the Science Challenge, The Solar Stage.  These (young) students are learning to do their own scientific research and writing, no easy task.  They are struggling to grasp concepts such as renewable vs. non-renewable energy sources, composition of fossil fuels, creation of electricity and the existential nature of energy itself.

The competition focuses their energies, gives them specific goals and really motivates the students.  They need to work as a team, be creative, scientifically accurate and be able to demonstrate their knowledge through a theatrical production.  They are motivated because it is fun to work as a group and they want to win.  These two factors make them determined to do their very best each time they are together.

Library We began our research the old-fashioned way, at the library.  The SolarNauts chose books on energy, renewable energy sources and experiments with light and electricity.  We read these books both as a group and individually.

Unexpected Favorite Book: The Day-Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton. This fascinating picture book tells the story of the Switzer brothers who, through a combination of hard luck and tenacity, discovered the chemical formula needed to create Day-Glo paint, thus changing the color of our world and leaving an indelible color imprint on the 1960’s.  We really recommend this book.  It is totally relevant, educational and motivating.  The Day-Glo Brothers shows how science can be entertaining, fun and useful in so many diverse ways.  It will change the way you look at color as it demonstrates the chemical changes that occur through exposure to sunlight.

Engineering Our next step in the process of scientific exploration was to attempt to build a solar powered toy car.  This task proved to be too difficult (delicate wiring to be done by tiny hands) but along the way the team was able to see for themselves how a solar panel would generate power which could travel through the wires to a small engine.  The solar powered engine moved gears, thus turning the wheels of the car, and causing it to “drive” across the floor.

Art As part of our understanding of light and illumination The SolarNauts created luminaries to experiment with the way light is displayed through color and how an image changes when it is lit by background and foreground lighting, seen in the light and seen in the dark.  To create the luminaries we used black card stock.  The children left the card stock “whole” but cut designs out from within the card stock, thus creating a negative space design.  They then filled the cutouts with tissue paper collages.  When the room is darkened and the luminaries are lit from behind only the tissue paper images are visible, thus creating a stained glass effect.  The results are quite striking and the kids were pleased.

Puppetry We studied shadow puppets as part of our further inquiry into light and illumination.  In this area our very Favorite Book is William and the Magic Ring by Laura Robinson, published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  This is more than a book.  It is actually a spiral bound theater for your home.  The book describes itself as, “a shadow casting bedtime story.”  It comes complete with a flashlight.  Each page is a board that creates a shadow image on the wall of a darkened room.  The story tells the tale of a boy who is frightened by the shadows in his room only to discover later that they were made by ordinary parts of his bedroom.   We read this book, in the dark, repeatedly.  Then we got out our black paper and scissors and made our own shadow puppets.  It was a great lesson on light and dark and storytelling with a surprise ending.

Discussion Our team discussed solar energy.  The information was complicated and definitely required repeated exposure.   When we were together we read our science books aloud.  Each student had the opportunity to explain the reading to one another.  We studied energy from multiple angles and it was clear the students were still only slightly grasping the complicated topic.  We had a long way to go.

Internet What science project would be complete without Internet research?  We found multiple interactive websites on both solar energy and electricity.  Our two favorite solar energy websites were http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=solar_home-basics and http://www.going-green-challenge.com/solar-energy-for-kids.html .

The electricity website we found most helpful was http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/gamesactivities/electricitycircuits.html .  This website allows students to build virtual electric circuits and turn lights off and on with the flip of a virtual switch.  The Internet proved to be a great resource for images of all sorts of solar powered vehicles and solar panels.  These images provided concrete pictures of both current and future solar technology and allowed our students to begin to visualize how the components of energy work together.  We were beginning to understand.

Power Point Presentation One of our (slightly older) team members created his own power point presentation to explain solar energy technology.  He then presented this information to the group, becoming a team teacher as well as a team member.  His confidence encouraged the other team members.  If he could learn it then so could they.  Our team returned to the Internet and began to excitedly find new images of solar technology and do further research on child-oriented science websites.  They were beginning to understand that the information existed and that they could find and understand it..

Interview One of our fathers has a career in the renewable energy sector and made himself available to discuss current solar technology. Our group came to understand the current limitations on use of solar power and solar panels.  They also were surprised to learn that their team “invention” of collecting photons in outer space and sending them to earth via solar energy beam was actually something that scientists are contemplating for the future!

Electric Circuitry One of our favorite tools for teaching about electricity and circuitry is the Snap Circuits set.  Bounce built countless small electronic devices from this set including a light, a doorbell and a little revolving helicopter that could spin and fly. This set really teaches the fundamentals of circuitry. You can follow the directions for building 100 projects or, as Bounce did, you can create your own projects once you understand the basics. Snap Circuits helped Bounce understand how the Electric Grid works.

Prototype Creation The SolarNauts designed the Beam Machine. This prototype of the future would be a working solar photon collecting station floating in outer space.  The Beam Machine would collect photons, convert them to thermal energy, then to electricity and ultimately send the electricity from the space station (Beam Machine) directly to earth’s electric grid via a high energy laser light beam.  They built their Beam Machine out of refrigerator boxes.  These boxes were covered with various recycled materials to create solar panels and photovoltaic cells.  Plastic water bottles turn water into steam, creating thermal energy.

Display Board At the center of the Beam Machine is a scientific display board. The team created this display board to demonstrate their understanding of current use of solar space technologies.  Many space stations currently collect photons to power their stations. Future technologies are anticipating the creation of “solar elevators” which will be able to transmit electricity from space to earth. The SolarNauts board highlights these ideas while also creating a clear portrayal of how their own design, the Beam Machine would work.  Team members later took this board to their respective schools and used it to teach other students about solar energy.

Field Trip No research project would be complete without a field trip. Our SolarNauts visited a local farm which is partially powered with solar energy. This farm uses solar panels to collect energy which is then converted to electricity. The farm typically creates about one third of its needed electricity. During the summer months the farm sometimes generates excess electricity.  Excess electricity is then sold to the electric company, through the electric grid.  The farm also uses solar power to create thermal energy to heat the solar hot water heater.

Eureka!  After months of studying, reading, discussing and building the kids finally understood!  They saw real solar panels, real electric panels, real thermal panels and they understood just how they all worked. The SolarNauts happily explained the science behind the hardware and the farmer was surprised by their knowledge.

This farm also creates its own biodiesel fuel from used vegetable oil.  The farmer gave a complete description of how he can power all his vehicles with old oil from restaurants’ French fry machines. The SolarNauts were very impressed that anything as disgusting as old vegetable oil could still be useful and good for the environment.

"I learned that chickens stink!"

 Of course, the best part of the trip was seeing all the animals.

 

Favorite Science Books After all our research and our many library books we finally stumbled upon our Favorite Energy Book, The Shocking Truth about Energy by Loreen Leedy.  If you read only one book on the subject it should be this one. The Shocking Truth about Energy is a captivating picture book that describes all the most salient scientific points in simple terms using appealing and educational illustrations. This small book told the whole story and reads like a bedtime story, not a book filled with “facts”.

Our second Favorite Science Book is Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun by Michael J. Caduto.  It gives simple explanations of complicated facts and is filled with surprising and simple experiments that will inspire your children.  Our favorite:  to better understand the impact of electricity in our modern world, Spend 24 Hours Without Using Electricity for Anything!  This is the type of simple experiment that has immediate meaning to children. Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun is filled with numerous, more complicated, but equally achievable experiments.  You and your students will certainly enjoy this book.

Writing Now it is time to put it all together. The competition actually calls for all this information to be put into the context of a theatrical presentation. That means writing a script. The SolarNauts divided this task with two members writing the script and a third member writing a theme song. Remaining members collaborated on an opening song to introduce the play and provide set up time. Writing the script required creatively integrating all the scientific knowledge while solving a fictional problem. We won’t tell you the whole plot here as we can’t reveal all our surprises while still competing, but the team managed to create a story which highlights the need for solar energy while also providing a solution to current solar energy inadequacies.

Mother Earth costumeTheater So now that the script is written and the team has learned all the words to the songs they are ready, almost.  SolarNauts now need to make their costumes, sets and props.  This is the fun part.  The team each made their own costumes, designing, gluing and examining themselves from every angle.  Everything they create must be done by themselves.  A component of this competition is that part of this play must be performed in the dark.  Yes, the dark.  The SolarNauts sprayed all the clothes with glow-in-the-dark paint so they would be visible in the dark. They covered lanterns with colored cellophane to create mood lighting. They used glow sticks and flashlights to illuminate their Beam Machine.  The youngest members of the team dressed in phosphorescent clothing and posed as “photons” while other orange-suited SolarNauts tried to “capture” them as an energy sources.  The play was ready to be performed.

Running down the road with the Beam Machine"We made it!"Teaching Our team never wants the final performance to be the dress rehearsal. With this in mind, rehearsing is a key component of the competition and performance process.  The SolarNauts received permission from the local nursery school to perform their play one time for each individual class.  After 6 performances, and many question and answer sessions The SolarNauts were set for the big time:  an evening parent performance to be followed by a pot-luck dinner party.  By this time The SolarNauts were confident in their performance and also articulate about their subject matter:  solar energy.

The 5 AM UHaul

State Competition The big day is finally here. But, are we worried?  Not a bit.  This team has researched, studied, learned, written, created, rehearsed and performed.  They re-glued a few broken props, did one trial run through of the performance and they were ready.  The stage was set and this time when the lights went off the team was truly in the DARK.  Their sets glowed, the flashlights illuminated the set and before we knew it the performance was flawlessly executed and the cast members were saying their final lines,  “We saved planet Earth just in TIME!”. Hooray!  Our goals are achieved.  The SolarNauts have really learned the material and are able to teach others!

SolarNauts discuss their Solution with AppraisersAnd The SolarNauts reached their goal! 

They are now this year’s State Champions!  Next stop Global Finals where they can compete with teams from around the world!

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is using as many different approaches as possible to allow our students to be inspired by their own education.

Sharing the Love: Our Favorite Childhood Myths are as Real as You and Me

There are discussions as to whether or not there was a “real” St. Valentine, and if so, who he really was and how he became the symbol of love.  Like concerns about the validity of St. Nick, or Santa Claus, I find the discussion irrelevant.  The “realness” of these characters is not important.  What is irrefutable is the FACT that these two saints, be they real, embellished or imagined, have brought very real love and caring into our midst.

At no time is gift giving more prevalent in our predominantly secular and me-centered world than at Christmas.  Why?  Because we all believe in the importance of Santa Claus.  We do his work on his behalf.

 Similarly, there is no better love than the love we share with others.  A few days ago on St. Valentine’s Day, our Happymess Kids and their Destination Imagination team visited a local nursing home to distribute roses and homemade cards.  AT first our group was uncomfortable with the whole idea.  They weren’t sure what they would find at the nursing home and they were afraid it would be embarrassing speaking to strangers.

“Can’t we let someone else (from our church) distribute the flowers?” they whined.  And (believe it or not!), “But we have SO much homework…”, trying to appeal to me, the rabid homeschool mother.

I firmly directed them into the car and off we went.

 One of the first women we met was Emily.  She is 107 years old.  She was truly delighted to have her rose.

 Scooter was afraid to get too close but he loved giving roses.  We stayed awhile and talked to Emily.  The children quickly realized that the flower was not the real gift.  The real gift was the visit and we made sure to stay and talk with each person.

 Annette was delightful, kind and articulate.  She put her arms out to Bounce and Scooter explaining, “We’re not scary.  We are just old

In the end, after spending almost two hours at the nursing home we found that we had visited with many people and we gathered to share our stories.  One woman asked us to put her flowers in a vase by the window so she could enjoy them.  Another began to cry when she realized the rose was for her.  Still another thought they were for sale and began searching for her purse until we could explain the rose was gift.  All of the people were pleased to have visitors and we found that we had very much enjoyed talking with everyone.  The patents had become “real” to us.  They were people too.

Team I.C.E. (Imagine, Create, Empower) was humbled.  They were no longer embarrassed.  They really connected with the needs of the patients and felt that they had been able to bring joy through the gift of a simple rose and a moment of shared  kindness.

Now they are planning their next visit:  daffodils for Easter.

 Is St Valentine real?  Absolutely, every bit as real as the Easter bunny.  We could have visited the nursing home at any time, but we didn’t.  We went to honor the holiday of love.  We were sent by St. Valentine, whomever that may be.  And we are grateful.

Next we look forward to helping out the Easter bunny on his mysterious missions.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is learning that sharing love with those less fortunate is a gift we can give ourselves.

Desert Interlude: Piestewa Peak and Chihuly Glass Gardens

Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the midst of winter chaos we suddenly find ourselves with 24 hours to spend in the desert.

Desert Cactus with Distant Moon

With such a short time to spend we chose two activities.  We explored Piestewa Peak, formerly Squaw Peak, recently renamed to honor the first woman, a Native American, who was sadly killed in the 2003 Iraq war.

Nest of Thorns

The Green Armed Tree

The summit trail is a steep and rocky trail that rises 1.2 miles directly above the plains.  From the summit the brown dry desert colors are interrupted by azure skies.

The Horse-Crippler CactusThorny plants with scary names, such as this Horse-Crippler Cactus, cause us to imagine the dire circumstances that gave rise to this cactus’ name..

Our next stop was the Desert Botanical Gardens.  There were many beautiful gardens but the most captivating “cacti” were the amazing glass Desert Towers by artist Dale Chihuly.

Desert Towers by Dale Chihuly

Desert Towers by Dale Chihuly

Desert Towers by Dale Chihuly

These Towers glisten in the bright desert sun and seem both surreal and an integral part of the natural gardens in which they rest.

Next stop:  New York Botanical Gardens where Dale Chihuly has numerous glass creations throughout several garden areas.   These glass constructions are truly beautiful and really seem almost “natural” in their environment.

I never expected to be so captivated by these modern and “artificial” plants, yet they fit wholly within the landscape, adding rather than detracting from the natural elements.

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tree Arms

The most striking aspect of the desert is the torch-like sunlight which unapologetically heightens the colors and intensity of every natural object.

This is the antithesis of the “bleak” mid-winter we normally inhabit.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is transcending the ordinary at a moments notice.

Destination Imagination meets the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Our Destination Imagination (high-school level) team is hard at work preparing for their 2012 challenge.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

This year they must study the cultures of several countries and try to imagine how each would interact with one another.  Currently they have chosen to examine French Impressionism and contrast that with African art.

Truth and Manet's Haystacks

For several of the team members this is their first exposure to the original paintings of the Impressionists.

The DI team members are quickly learning that the Impressionists were a radical group of artists who abandoned the realistic style of painting in favor of creating an “impression” of light and movement within the painting.  This new style was dramatically different from previous painters who were constrained by efforts at realism.  It was difficult for our DI team to grasp that these new painters had been thoroughly schooled in realism and were adept masters of their craft.  Unlike today’s modern artists, the French Impressionists were more than capable of rendering a realistic piece.  They had come to favor a more “intuitive” approach that would capture not the physical presence but the actual or “emotive” presence of the haystack, olive trees and peopled landscapes of their new art.  The DI team was surprised to learn that many of these famous paintings began as “sketches” and in fact some paintings had as many as 25 renditions before the artist considered them “finished.”

Seurat's La Grande Jatte

The DI team carefully examined the work of Seurat.  They were delighted by the thousands of dots of color that were used to create La Grande Jatte.  The team understood these paintings better than those of Manet and Monet as they have a modern day corollary in the dot patterns that are regularly used to create digital photographs and pictures.  DI kids were almost nonplussed by pointillism because to the 21 Century student using dots to create imagery seems basic and obvious.

Van Gogh: Women Picking Olives

Van Gogh: First Steps

Van Gogh, with his thick palette knife strokes, was by far the favorite with the group.  Van Gogh clearly goes beyond technique to capture the hearts of his subjects, and thus the imagination of his viewers.  These paintings were compassionate as well as novel.

From the Impressionists room the DI team moved to the African art exhibit where most work was 3-dimensional and usually created for a specific use, either domestic or ceremonial.

The African sculptures emphasized the subjects and objects that were of greatest importance to these peoples.  They were functional while reflecting deep religious and cultural beliefs.  In this, the African art differed greatly from the European art where the main objective was personal expression and differentiating oneself from the mainstream.

 After many hours in the museum the group was relieved to “escape” into the wilds of Central Park where the Bear sculpture could be touched and climbed upon with impunity.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is studying the subject by seeing the original work.

(Home) School is Where the Skis Are

The Happymess kids have been on the road now for the past several weeks.  Throughout our travels we have tried to keep ourselves focused on schoolwork while enjoying our new environments.

We started our adventures by packing one laundry basket per child with all the “must have” school books.  This way we can drag the baskets into each new location and the kids can find their work, pencils, calculators, etc.  Homeschooling should always be this easy.

The basket system is working surprisingly well.  Everyone knows what they are suppose to be doing and where to find their work.  I allow them to pick their subjects, as anything in the basket is something worth doing.  They naturally choose different activities at different times as everyone thrives on variety.  Their choices are the basics:  math, reading, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, science, history.  I expect them to complete 3-4 subjects per day.  This is a slightly lighter work load than when we are at home…but then we have many other things to do…Also we have only one computer between all of us, and the internet only works occasionally so workbooks and pencils are a necessity.

No internet also means all non-electronic toys and games.  I am happy to include this engineering feat with blocks as a math exercise.

After several weeks in the mountains it was time to head to the grandparents house:  we took a very foggy ferry.  Scooter almost jumped out of his skin when he heard the fog horn for the first time.  It was very, very LOUD.  Note:  book baskets are stowed in back of car on ferry.

Grandma’s house was lots of fun, and one of the first activities was a fancy tea time.

Everyone enjoyed dressing up for tea time.  And they enjoyed the little tea cakes, sandwiches and unending individual pots of tea.

The highlight of the visit was an invitation to a very formal dinner celebrating the achievements of Happymess kids exceptionally famous scientist grandfather.  We are  so proud of our own resident scientist who is at the top of his field in almost a dozen different disciplines within the science-math-physics venue.  Quantum was chosen as the representative grandchild to attend the event because of his extreme interest in mathematics.  He was seated next to a famous statistician and enjoyed learning about the use of mathematics in the field of biology.

Bounce and Mommy (Allia)

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is loving every minute of life and learning to teach throughout the living.

Washington Whirlwind

This weekend was a perfect whirling dervish of art, history, science and Happymess thrills and chills.  We had our highs and lows, and now as the new week begins, we can’t quite believe it happened in just 48 hours.

Hirshhorn Waterfall, Washington DC (Allia)

Happymess kids begin their Washington, DC adventures.

 Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. 

This is the first time that all 102 of Andy Warhol’s Shadow paintings are being presented together.  They make an impressive array along the curve of the gallery, with various shapes and colors playing off one another.

Andy Warhol Shadows Exhibit

Initially, Happymess kids were slightly surprised by the modern art offerings.

“Where are the emperor’s new clothes?”

Athena, formerly Creatress, “It’s really great seeing all these paintings together.  If you just saw one or two you would assume he (Warhol) really didn’t put anything into it, but when you see so many (of the same image in different colors) you realize that he really did work hard after all.”

Allia thinks, Hmm.  If one image doesn’t impress, why then are 102 more effective? Or, mathematically speaking, what is 102 times zero?

Bounce, “The great thing about art is you really can’t do anything wrong.  You just make it (art) whatever way you want.”

Allia, “Yes, that is exactly right.  Art is whatever you want it to be.”

Scooter, shouting indignantly from his stroller, “These paintings aren’t art.  They’re just scribbles!”

Out of the mouths of babes….

In fact, we had a great time at the Hirshhorn galleries and enjoyed many of the extremely colorful and playful ways the artists expressed themselves.  We took numerous photographs and had many novel ideas for art projects of our own, including set design ideas for some upcoming Happymess theater competitions.

Modern art offers terrific freedom of thought and expression.  The older Happymess kids felt empowered by the boldness of thought.  The younger Happymess kids were relieved to see that perfection is not a requirement for artistic creation.

National Museum of African Art

Our next stop was the Museum of African Art.  Here we were truly inspired by the variety and depth of expression throughout the exhibits.  Athena is currently writing a script that takes place in Africa.  She perused every detail looking for set and costume design ideas and studied videos of African dances.

Bounce and Scooter were thrilled with the hands-on activities.  Scooter is coloring African masks and headdresses.  Later this winter we will be creating these same masks and headdresses out of paper-mache.

Bounce was intrigued by an illuminated kaleidoscope.  He is working on a science project involving solar energy and lighting with his Destination Imagination team.

The Museum of Air and Space

These exhibits really focus on man’s determination to conquer air and space travel.

Again, Bounce and Scooter preferred creating their own aerodynamic space ships and airplanes.

Athena was busy studying the Wright brothers and their first attempts at flight.

She will use this information for her National History Day competition entry.

Misadventures

It was a long and exhausting day, as you can imagine.  We were delighted to finally return to our hotel so that we could relax and plan our evening activities.  Being a Happymess family, we should have known better.

Just as we were getting ready for dinner, Scooter became very ill and we had to rush him to the hospital.  I will not bore you with the long evening I spent in the emergency room.

By the next day he was feeling much better and we had the opportunity to play Chutes and Ladders together (for hours).

Ancient Indian game of Snakes and Ladders

This game is based on the ancient Indian game of Snakes and Ladders.  The intention was to teach morals and manners while entertaining tiny tots.

The beauty of this simple game is that it encourages young children to play fairly.  The desire to cheat seems to be irresistible.  Scooter tried every which way to put himself on a ladder while sending me down the chute.  We may need to introduce this game into our regular Happymess curriculum.

Johns Hopkins Study of Exceptional Talent

Meanwhile, while Scooter and I were whiling away our time at Georgetown University Hospital, the Happymess crew had move on to new adventures.

Athena received an award at the Grand Ceremony of SET at Johns Hopkins University for her outstanding SAT scores, taken at age 14.  She received First in Country and First Internationally (tied with many other children from around the world).  We are very proud of her accomplishments.

Boy Scout Wilderness Survival

During this very same weekend, Quantum and Truth were learning camping and orienteering skills in the hills of Massachusetts.

Washington Whirlwind (Allia)

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is experiencing art, history, science, camping, an international award and the local hospital in one 48-hour period!

Witch Trip to the Past: Salem, MA

We entered the small town of Salem in search of witches and real life mentions of the characters from the Henry Miller play, The Crucible.

Scooter in the rain, Salem, MA (Allia)

Truth and Scooter explore Salem Harbor (Allia)

The day was appropriately rainy and gloomy, a perfect match for the mystery we were seeking.  How did this small town, in 1692, bring itself to hang 20 innocent people?  Why did mass hysteria combine with greed and zealous righteousness to allow the “establishment” to commit unthinkable crimes against the people they were suppose to be protecting?

Creatress surveys the marsh, Salem, MA (Allia)

We began our investigation at the birthplace of Nathanial Hawthorne, author of (among other works) The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables.  The house was small and plain, like many old New England homes.  During his beginning forays into authorship, Hawthorne was a recluse within this home.  He was insecure and preferred to keep his attempts at writing a secret from his neighbors.  Local legend believes that Hawthorne, originally a Custom House official, was inspired to begin writing after an encounter with a ghost.

The House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA (Allia)

The second home we visited was that of Nathanial Hawthorne’s cousin.  It is believed that this is the house he used as inspiration for the setting of his mystery novel, The House of the Seven Gables. This house has been restored to enhance its similarity to the Hawthorne’s novel.  It includes a secret staircase that winds around an interior chimney and allows characters (and tourists) to make surprise entrances into various rooms.

Salem graveyeard (Allia)

Hawthorne is the great-great grandson of John Hathorne, the judge who infamously presided over the Salem Witch Trials, condemning so many people to their deaths.  In his preface to The House of the Seven Gables Hawthorne asks if the evil deeds of one’s ancestors reverberate upon future generations.

Speaking in the third person, Hawthorne provides us this insight into his thinking: The author has provided himself with a moral – the truth, namely, that the wrong doing of one generation lives into the successive ones…he (Hawthorne) would feel it a singular gratification if this romance (novel) might effectually convince mankind – or, indeed, any one man – of the folly of tumbling down an avalanche of ill-gotten gold, or real estate, on the heads of an unfortunate posterity. Preface from The House of the Seven Gables

It is probable that Hawthorne is referring to himself.  Hawthorne’s themes often “center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity.”  The Scarlet Letter exposes the injustice of morality as it is applied to young women during the Puritan era.  We are now eager to read The House of the Seven Gables.

The grave tour was fascinating and creepy.

Salem graveyard (Allia)

Tomb of Mayflower Pilgrim, Salem, MA (Allia)

We enjoyed seeing John Hathorne’s grave as well as the gravestone of an original Mayflower Pilgrim.

We also saw the Salem Witch Memorial of the 20 men and women that were hanged in 1692.  Here is where we found the Crucible characters come to life (or death).

Lest Terror Be Forgotten

June 10, 1692

Bridget Bishop”I am no witch.
I am innocent.
I know nothing of it.”

July 19, 1692

Sarah Wildes Elizabeth Howe”If it was the last moment I was to live,
God knows I am innocent…”
Susannah Martin”I have no hand in witchcraft.” Sarah Good
Rebecca Nurse”Oh Lord, help me! It is false. I am clear. For my life now lies in your hands….”

http://www.salemweb.com/memorial/

Salem gardens (Allia)

Happymess kids were fascinated with the idea that they could walk on the very same streets and visit the same homes where so many famous events occurred.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is visiting the past in the present.