Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thurmont, MD

Another edition of how their brains work. At breakfast the other day we had toast and jam (oh, so creative aren't I?). Julius began asking questions about how high was Mt. Everest, and what was that in miles and oh, so is Mt. Everest is in the Thermosphere?

I inquired as to why he was thinking about all this. I knew his geography book was talking about the atmosphere... He pointed to the jar of jam sitting in front of him. His grandmom had bought it for us at a farmer's market in MD. The address on the jar was Thurmont, MD. He separated the two parts of that town and wondered if Mount Everest was in the Thurmosphere (=thermosphere). To figure that out he needed to know the height of Mt. Everest and then he realized since he knew the height of the thermosphere in miles, he needed to convert feet to miles. Not only was this a great "word problem" it involved conversion and the discovering the appropriate factor (5280 feet in a mile), it showed a knowledge of word roots (mount and mountain), and it demonstrated that his brain was taking in the content of the geography book. He knew Mt. Everest was high, but as high as the thermosphere?

I was impressed. Not so much in that this is my son.(As it turns out he got some of the facts wrong and thought the thermosphere was much lower than it actually is - Mt. Everest is in the Troposphere (and the book had touched on that).) Still, I'm impressed by the capacity of the human brain and its ability to make sense of things and ask good questions of itself. Wow! Something as simple as the name of a city on a jar of jam can generate this kind of brainwork! We often say they are learning all the time. Here's another evidence that it is true!

I should point out that to find some of the answers to his questions we needed to look on-line. (I have long since forgotten the height of Mt.Everest - although we were close.) That led me to discover this wonderful website of interactive panoramas! They would be a fabulous aid to anyone studying geography or history. It practically puts you right there and gives you a sense of the size and proportion that you can't achieve through normal photos. The panorama from the top of Everest let us see that there were clouds below the peak - which makes sense because Everest's peak is in the middle of the troposphere, the part of the atmosphere where all of our storms and lightening occur. From there we discovered a sister website with special themed panoramas. We spent the next hour looking at bridges from all over the world and some paragliders in France. Tech note: Open in full screen for the best effect - you'll need a fast connection (don't even try with dial-up) and updated Quicktime to view the panoramas.

Do tell which are your favorite.


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