Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Kentucky Science Center full of hands-on exhibits
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We only paused briefly at the first-floor exhibit “Science in Play,” where younger children and families were puzzling rather successfully with strange equipment and interactive activities.
The second floor featured an area where Wayne designed a bicycle for an imaginary company looking for a more marketable design. He combined several materials and features on a screen, aided by the screen guide, which then told him it was a moderately innovative design that could be put on the market.
Taking the opportunity to create a new design for a bicycle
Another interactive area allowed you to play with differently shaped plastic and wood pieces, stacking them into a tower on a platform. Pushing buttons, the structure is subjected to different levels of earthquake-like shaking. The goal was to build the tallest tower possible that could withstand a 10-second shaking, which we accomplished.
We next entered a booth meant to simulate a space capsule where a woman on the screen offered us a chance to go into space and study the effect pollutants have on the hole in the ozone layer. With a fire button on a joystick, we “flew” ourselves into space over Antarctica, where we could view the existing hole.
When the guide showed it to us as it had been 20 years ago, we got the message we might be in serious trouble, so, of course, we headed back to earth immediately to do something about it.
At a “body watch,” a cluster of life-size mannequins with TV sets in their stomachs allowed us to see what happens in the body under various conditions, including seeing a fetus in the womb, food being digested and the cause of hiccups.
In another room, the screen guide, which was proud of the Egyptian mummy and sarcophagus on display, gave an educational presentation on how it was found, almost destroyed by a heavy object falling on it and how it ended up in the museum.
The center also features a chemistry kitchen, which is geared to children, for a show on electricity and ways of creating electrical effects.
An overhead line featured 23 products made in Kentucky and visitors tried to name them with the answers eventually appearing on a board.
The third floor has a large space devoted to “The World Within Us,” a series of displays about how our bodies work, including an especially vivid section on reproduction. We were surprised, given the number of children we encountered, how few were studying the human body that day. It would be difficult and expensive for individual schools to have anything close to what science museums have available to explain these concepts to children, making it all the more advantageous that so many cities have made these facilities available.
The interactive displays received much attention from young people but large posters simply providing information about different aspects of science were often passed by, seeming to stress the importance of hands-on learning for children.
The center also has an IMAX theater where five movies were being shown.
We are fortunate to have two outstanding science museums in Missouri. The St. Louis Science Museum has been ranked No. 5 on the Parents Magazine top 10 list, and Kansas City Union Station has made their “best of the rest” list.
A display at the Kentucky Science Center in Louisville, Ky., shows a fetus developing in the womb.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
University of Kentucky Arboretum
We have always enjoyed visiting various universities to explore unique and useful attractions. At the University of Kentucky in Lexington this summer, we stopped one early morning at the 100 acre Arboretum that is a joint project of the University and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.
The parking lot had many cars, the trails were active with mothers and one grandfather pushing baby carriages, people walking their dogs and runners keeping in shape.
The assistant at the visitor center said the Arboretum covered a hundred acres and that the two-mile trail gave a sampling of seven landscape regions of Kentucky. She stressed that they grew native plants and had 70 native species growing in the area.
A major offering of the Arboretum is the home demonstration garden. Much experimentation goes on here with master gardeners trying new or unusual vegetables and new techniques of growing them. Lessons are given on a regular basis to locals who want to learn more about growing their own gardens.
On our walk around the garden, we met a young student repainting the trim on one of the tool storage buildings. She said that the produce grown here is given to God’s Pantry as part of the national “Plant a Row for the Hungry" program. They also cooperate with minimum security federal prisoners who start seeds in greenhouses and provide them for spring and summer plantings at the Arboretum.
In some sections we especially enjoyed some of the smells from herb gardens, but there was more than herbs for foods. Some medicinal plants have been used by physicians for centuries and are still in use in modern medicine, such as St. John’s Wort, Foxglove (digitalis), Valerian, and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea).
Herbs for food and medicinal plants are gown at the Arboreturn
One of the goals of the garden is to teach and show methods of gardening that make it assessable to those with various handicaps. Some subjects covered were how to create paths that are hard enough to be assessable by wheels and how to adapt tools so they can be used by people with physical limitations.
On one side of the Arboretum stands a large memorial of 49 steel birds flying into the sky. We a asked a young man working the area, and he said it was to honor 49 citizens of Lexington who were killed in a plane crash ten years ago, that resulted from a combination of pilot error and an exhausted plane control agent. Sealed inside each of the birds was a memento chosen by the student's family. We also talked to two young students who were part of a group of 25 summer interns assisting the regular staff in the maintenance of the area.
49 birds commemorate the 49 citizens of Lexington who were killed in a plane crash
In another section of the Arboretum is The Kentucky Children’s Garden that we missed. What we did enjoy was the Story Walk along the trail, a series of story plaques with poems that children read and then give their reactions. For example, some poems over the course of the walk focus on Gramdpa baking an apple pie showing the influence of the sun, the clouds, the rain, the soil and various other factors that go into the pie that Gramdpa bakes.
The University Of Kentucky uses the area for a wide variety of classes during the school year including: forest ecology, horticulture and art. To return to the original Kentucky ecosystem much attention is being paid to the elimination of invasive species of which they listed 18, seven of which have been successfully eradicated.
All in all, we found it an informative and pleasant morning experience.
The Kentucky Arboretum serves many purposes
We have unusual luck at arriving at venues at the right time. It happened again at the largest Toyota manufacturing plant in the world in Georgetown, KY, just north of Lexington.
We had been impressed with the plant's size as we drove around to find Entrance 2 for visitors, one of seven entrances. This is an 8.1 million square-foot facility, or the equivalent of 169 football fields. The plant employs 8,000 team members and produces 550,000 cars a year that are sent all over the world.
We arrived to find tours are booked days, if not weeks, ahead. We were so informed. Then the administrator said, “We just had a group arrive one member short. Do you want the single?” Carla said, “Wayne, take it. I’ll stay and read.” A few minutes later he was motioned over and told there had been another cancellation.
We produced picture ID, underwent a security check, relieved ourselves of cameras and cell phones and were added to a group.
The first Camry built in America stands in the lobby, a 1988 car that has 26 miles on the speedometer. A brief movie provided background on the Toyota company with an emphasis on how It was partly made successful because of its use of teams workers who could exchange tasks with each other and who were free to make suggestions to management to improve both their work arrangements and the cars.
Many of their management ideas came from the American W. Edwards Deming who had trouble selling his ideas on how to use teams to improve production to the large American automobile companies. Shortly after Toyota's use of the team concept, the company established the reputation for well built cars and took over a leadership role in quality control.
Our group, divided into three smaller groups, were seated in carts with safety glasses and ear phones and began the tour in the Lexus section of the plant. Emphasis was placed on how much of the work is done in the plant and how much of the materials come from America.
This includes the steel sheets that are stamped into car parts, a mostly automated process. The largest number of robots in the plant were used to weld the metal parts into cars that were then put in a bath of paint. We were not allowed in that section because the smallest foreign particle can cause problems.
What we did see in great detail was the actual construction of the cars where human talent is still a major factor. We saw both long lines of Lexus and Camrys in all states of being put together. Over the workmen was a cord that can be pulled at any time if something was wrong or needed fixing. We were told it was often used.
The cars on the track were sometimes loaded high, sometime at mid section and sometimes low depending on what was being added to them. Engines were being installed in 45 seconds. The engines by the way are made here with an additional 50,000 to be sent to other factories.
Our guide stressed how well workers are taken care of. Overtime is measured in 6 minute segments and is frequently given because of the demands of the job. There is onsite child care and educational opportunities.
No car is built unless a request has been made for it and that car is made to fit that request. Special arrangements are made for the parts, including doors to arrive at the just right moment to be put on the car. Given the range of colors of cars that seemed remarkable. Each car is carefully tested at the end of the line, and we saw cars being driven for the first time.
We have not often seen a factory in full operation and found this interesting and in a way exciting. Although we would not want to be one of the people working on the line, we are impressed by how they are treated very respectfully.
Outside the Toyota Manufacturing Plant in Georgetown, Kentucky
Friday, November 4, 2016
EAST TENNESSEE HISTORY MUSEUM
The Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville describes life in three centuries in a 35-county region that has had a marked influence in the development of our nation.
The main exhibit, "Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee," provides an overview of stories in the words of the people who have lived there throughout the area's history.
The following exhibits with stories and artifacts focus on specific historical periods starting with "The Land Beckons," the struggles between the Cherokees and the immigrants settling in their land.
In "A Land Divided" we learned that, like Missouri, both sides in the Civil War were represented with east Tennessee being mostly for the Union. Blacks in East Tennessee were more likely to be skilled artisans rather than field slaves, making the area easier to integrate.
The Tennessee Valley Authority introduced electricity to the area with electric lights, and modern home appliances making life easier. One display shows the changes that took place in how we run our homes by showing what was used pre TVA and what was used after. A modern electric iron is sure an improvement over a flat iron heated on the wood stove.
Some major historical events occurred here, probably the most important was turning the surrounding area into Oak Ridge, a "secret city," where atomic material was processed for the first atomic bombs.
Not only the community but the workers did not know exactly what they working on. "We train you to do what is needed, but we cannot tell you what you are doing. I can only tell you that if our enemies beat us to it, God have mercy upon us." This is a quote in the section that discusses how the Oak Ridge area became a secret.
The museum takes five main approaches to capturing our attention and informing us about what has happened here.
1. The visitor at some displays can pick up a listening device and hear a re-enactor reading a letter, a diary, or a written report, sometimes short, sometimes long. The longest was of the Clinton Twelve, a group of black students who integrated a high school in the area. Some of the letters and reports from the Civil War, on the other hand, were quite short.
2. On multiple choice screens the visitor can chose to view from six people's stories of a particular event along with accompanying pictures. For example, in the Civil War section visitors are offered: For or against secession: six views.
3. Movies and TV are used to take us back to the past. At the entrance we viewed a movie about the area with background voices reading comments from people who had lived here in the past. The most complete of this kind of presentation were the films of the development of the music of the area that led to the growth of the music industry in Tennessee leading to the development of Nashville as the center for country music.
4. At many of the exhibits there are materials on posters that was written by people of the different periods along with old pictures to give a feel of what life was like.
5. Finally well chosen objects are on display to bring the visitor an even better feel for what life was like during a particular period. Among the objects are Davy Crockett's rifle, a real log cabin, a pioneer road wagon, a well stocked corner drugstore and Dolly Parton's red dress.
The multiplicity of methods used to present the history of East Tennessee makes this an especially valuable asset for enhancing the classroom experiences of schools in the area.
Country Music got its start in East Tennessee
East Tennessee took part in the Revolutionary War