After the OSM yesterday morning, the kids and I looked at each other and said, “Now what?” Usually, having made the trip in rush hour traffic, more than an hour, I want to stretch out our time downtown. What else can we see?
Redpath Museum? We were there not long ago. Biodome? Maybe. Art Museum? No. Contemporary Art Museum? NOOOOOO!
What about a show at the planetarium? That sounded just right. We found street parking not far away and bought tickets for the double feature “Demain, l’espace” and “Exo”. The first one was about the exploration of space: history, present and projections for the future. As usual, it was an immersive experience, and we felt ourselves flying through space and living on a futuristic space colony. I wished it was twice as long.
We had about 15 minutes to grab a snack before lining up for the second show. No matter which show is projected in this theatre, it starts with a viewing of the star-studded sky of Greater Montreal (should there not be so much light pollution) and a review of the constellations. Although I’m skeptical of the validity of constellations (I can never see what others see, it seems), I understand a little bit more each time I sit in the Milky Way Theatre. Not only did I try to be less resistant to seeing constellations, but I also learned so much about international space programs! Did you know that the International Space Station (which took over once Mir was no longer functional) is near the end of its life, and that the Chinese are building the station that will replace it?
I also learned a new word: exoplanet. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star (like Earth orbiting the Sun), outside our own solar system. Many have been discovered, and now there is a race to find life on these planets. There’s a “zone habitable” at a certain distance from a star, where life could exist. After all this talk about temperature and other requirements, the film ended by saying that, of course, there may be life that exists without water, without hydrogen—life that has different requirements than our own. But we are limited in our search for water, because that’s the only kind of life we know.
Fascinating. There was also mention of how humans are trying to communicate with possible life forms and the biggest challenge: the unfathomable distances to be covered. But there’s one thing that links all progress made by humankind: undying curiosity.
I recently finished a biography on Marco Polo. The Venetian merchant left Venice as a boy. His father and uncle pledged him in service to Kublai Khan, and for the next two decades plus, Marco traveled all over Asia, India and Africa in the service of the mighty Mongol leader. Not only did he cover mind-boggling distances for the period, but he also penetrated into the court of one of the greatest and most powerful leaders of all time. He learned multiple languages, surrounded himself with people of many religions, and, most importantly, never said no to an opportunity. He spent his life pushing past his comfort zone and learning.
Only when Kublai Khan was near death did Marco Polo try to get home to Venice, worried about his safety in the unpredictability of a change of leadership. That man of insatiable curiosity opened an entire world (one technologically many centuries in advance of European society at the time) to people who could scarcely believe his stories. In fact, most people at the time mocked him: you’re dreaming too big, that’s impossible, you’re crazy, can’t be done. Only centuries later were his Travels compared against written records in the countries he visited and found to be (mostly) true.
From Marco Polo’s travels to space travel…to where next?
Today was a Project Day for us, so we didn’t travel far. But those explorations of yesterday were top of mind. Curiosity reigned. We did some map work about the Phoenicians from The Story of the World and then decided to try the recipe for Phoenician bread. Noah took a first stab at making a pyramid and found it wasn’t as easy as he thought to keep everything straight, especially when you’re working with straws and silly putty. He made a list for a second construction: cardboard, sand and a 2lb weight. Zahra puzzled over how to organize her lists and lists of information and decided to limit it to a certain number of animals in each kingdom. Leila was adding numbers in the millions when the doorbell rang: package delivery!
Noah’s new board game arrived (he had saved up birthday money for it), along with a box from my grandma. Inside was yarn, a ring I had brought back from Algeria for her, and this cast iron key. The wall decoration has been in my grandma’s house since 1972, and now it will be in mine.
The kids watched a documentary called “Amazing Caves” while I made lunch. The narrator talked a lot about people who crave extreme adventure, in reference to those exploring ice caves or underwater caves. There was wne thing the narrator said that especially caught Noah’s attention: just when we think every corner of the world has been explored, somewhere new is discovered—and it’s almost always in caves.
We followed that documentary with an episode of Lego Star Wars. We can’t all be space explorers, but we can all appreciate Lego Star Wars. Then, it was time for piano and violin lessons. And quiet games for Leila.
After lessons, it was time to shuffle around the kids for play dates: drop one off, pick another up and wait for a third to be brought to my house. Whoever worries about homeschooled kids being socialized clearly doesn’t drive them around.