Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Learning

In the summertime when Arizona weather is so hot we stay inside. We take mini vacations, work on projects, take care of animals and the garden and focus on the joy of learning. It isn't so much a lesson plan or recipe book of activities we use as we just following our families life's interest.
We began June with a short trip to Colorado. a 14 hour trip by car from our home to my old home in the northwest corner of that state. The journey takes us through the desert biomes of Arizona's Sonoran Desert on to Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation, to the Utah Canyon Lands and up into the western high Rockies mountain biomes.  We drive it in one day and it is an adventure. Here are some photos .

The Navajo Nation is a wide open desert with these iconic southwestern images of rocks that rise like cathedrals out of the flat desert landscape. We talk about how wind and sand form this place and how they people have lived and adopted to life here in Monument Valley. Last summer we drove over a different route of reservation area coming down from Cortez, CO in to Farmington, New Mexico and down to what is left of Route 66. This gave my son more scope to the width and diversity of this large area of these reservations in the Four Corner Area.
We got to our friend's house who lives at about 8000 feet above sea level on a beautiful ranch in the high mountains. Here is a hay barn where a Mamma fox had her pups or kits.  We tried to get photos of them but we were too loud and they ran away.  Still what a great place to raise a littler of babies. There were many different kinds of rodents too. Whistle pigs that look a bit like ground hogs had tunnels all over the ground and smaller ground squirrels and mice. The high passes surrounding us still had deep snow on them so summer was just beginning and the world was ten million different shades of green.
There were two Bulls in this pasture. They have been turn out with all the young females.  This is called rutting season. The bulls can be unpredictable and we left them alone.  In the morning the females would come up to the house and stand in the morning shade of the trees that surround the house that were planted so long ago by a rancher in the 1800's.  They are the only shade for them and they enjoy the mornings long shadows of the trees into their field. They wander away at around 10:00 AM.  Sometimes they moo at us as if to ask for oats or a treat but they have a whole valley of green to eat.
Here is a picture of the big trees planted so long ago. They are Cottonwood trees.

We also learned about sustainability housing by visiting an old friend of mind who has been designing, building and creating his own green home. Our friend Lock used straw bales and steel frame structure, facing south and using convection heating methods in the lower floor. It is a massive structure and the hay bales were not hobbed over yet but even as it is, he lived in it this year and it is coming right along.  Lock also designed a wonderful spiral staircase with a supporting sixteen sided pillar out of wood with no nails. It wasn't done yet as it had no hand rail.  We were all very impressed with our friend's ideas and work.  Conor loves Lock's designing skills.
Conor was very impressed that Lock had two TV's over his bed. These two creative builders has much in common.  Lock gave us a tour and we were off to see more.

We only had a week with friends in Colorado and it was back to Arizona. This was the sun's rays coming up over the ranch house.
We drove all the way back in one day.  I don't know why I do that?
Since we have been working on learning about astrobiology and using the ASU MARS ED NASA Curriculum I have blogged about in the past, we have been thinking about creating a colony on Mars and building a model.  Conor and his friend Ben have been using a geology map, I have from a Mars Ed ASU teacher's conference, as a mat surface to build sub stations and green houses.  They have created vehicles for Mars mission.  Also robotic helpers and a mining operation all out of Legos and Zometools.  They also made a polar sub-station to collect water and refining the atmospheric methane and oxygen with H20 to make jet fuel for the ride home.  We have talked about all kinds of possibilities of living on Mars.  I collected resources and made a Pinterest Board called Mars Ed HERE .   One of my friend's son has also joined us on our mission making his own station for colony to sleep in and eat.  His bunker substation can be found on the Pinterest Mars Ed page.
I was speaking about our porject with our Educator/Mentor Michael Bender, who is with SelfDesign Global (you can find out about that HERE) and he suggested using that group's Minecraft Server to create a Mars Colony out of a desert Biome.  I shared my Pinterest Board with him and his wife, Lori who lead a Self Designer group of Minecrafters and Michael has created a red sand and sandstone biome and the students have now created a building code. So big things are happening with learners in this group on the server.  Conor has survived a few days and nights on Minecraft Mars.   He made a first shelter, planted a garden, started tunneling and found an abandoned mine and water. His group decided on glass domed habitats and air locking doors.  Minecraft survival biomes, like our Mars are teaming with the un dead after dark.  There are Zombies and skeletons spawing in the mine. Who knew about all this undead life on Mars?  We have a rocketship around the portal so there is the idea of what you bring with you and what you can use while there and how much would it cost to go back to EARTH for a bucket of water in real life?  I'll keep updating on this project.  My son is aslo wanting to create MC biome models of the moons of Io, Europa and Titan too.  You can see the Pinterest resources board for that HERE.
Here is a little Zombie looking in at us from the outside of the glassed in habitat.

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