Incorporating geography into a homeschooling schedule when you are travelling is easy enough, easier still when you have the opportunity to visit one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls. We did the tourist thing and paid for a Hornblower cruise into the mist and, at less than $65 for all five of us, it was worth every cent. We took a 20 minute daytime cruise into the falls and got to feel the power of the water thundering down all around us. Standing on a swaying boat, drenched by the gossamer spray despite the plastic ponchos, our bodies reverberating with the roaring deluge, this was an exhilarating experience for us all. Now when we talk about hydroelectric power, the kids have a very clear idea of what that means.
Perhaps it was the receding adrenaline, or the general high of the experience that allowed the kids to persuade us to have dinner at the Rainforest Cafe before we went home. They loved the fake thunderstorms and animatronic beasts almost as much as the Falls themselves and by the time we left the water was lit up for the evening. It was indeed a magical day.
Tuesday saw us heading over to Toronto Zoo to see some real animals. Nick and I first visited in 2003 but since then the zoo has become home to two Giant Pandas and, not to be outdone by Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC, their female Er Shun had given birth to twins just two weeks before our arrival. As before, the cubs wouldn’t be on public display for many months and we couldn’t help but laugh at the co-incidence. It was beginning to feel like our family could have a very positive influence on the breeding success of Giant Pandas in captivity, albeit we were destined never to see any actual cubs!
We did have more success with the hitherto elusive moose. I’ll be honest, I was anticipating a fine pair of antlers, a la Rocky and Bullwinkle but alas, it was the wrong time of year and apparently the antlers had been shed. Still, a moose is a moose right? Certainly we’d have preferred to see one in the wild and that discussion raised all kinds of ethical questions about whether zoos are really an acceptable place for wild animals at all. It’s a complex issue not least because many of the finest zoos play an enormous role in conservation and education. Should some animals be locked up, albeit with the best that modern zoos can offer in the way of enrichment, in order to improve the chances of other species? Luckily that’s not a question on the primary school curriculum this year.
With a hurricane forecast, we made our way to the Ontario Science Centre the following day. I don’t remember ever looking forward to museum visits as a child in the way that our boys have come to love a day in a science centre. These days the exhibits are so much more interactive and the kids feel like they are playing all day long. They particularly enjoyed testing the effectiveness of an ice hockey helmet when hit at 6m/s with a sledge hammer! If their only learning outcome is the desire to wear a helmet for certain sports then I’m more than happy with that!
We all played with the giant marble run and later got stuck in (literally) to creating a pin screen for our website.
No idea what the science behind this is but it was great fun nevertheless.