Book Review: Spaceman by Mike Massimino

In his autobiography “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut and Columbia University professor describes his journey from a childhood dream of being an astronaut to actual walking in space (of which he and his team set records). As soon as I started reading this book, I was absolutely captivated by Mike’s tale.

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His manner of writing is very frank and straightforward. He just tells his story like it is, and it’s impossible to put down. His journey wasn’t always smooth, neither was it always aimed for the space. I admired his determination when he made a decision to get into space program. How he overcame stumbling blocks on his path, his personal ethics – everything is admirable. His story is full of the most important lessons in life -the value of education, the value of public service, deep desire to be a better person, true friendship.

Overall impression: Loved this book to pieces. My 11 y.o. son is reading it now, and I am sure it will make a difference in his world perception, and no doubt will inspire him . Absolute must read.

 

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Both of my children want to be scientists when they grow up. We often talk about great scientists and their contributions. It’s true that most scientists we are coming across in books are men. But it’s changing and women’s role in science is being acknowledged more and more often. The book Women in Science, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky addresses exactly that.

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The book allows a spread per scientist and covers about 50 brilliant women that contributed to the scientific discovery throughout the centuries, starting with ancient times and up to our days. Each spread features facts from a scientist’s life, her contributions and an awesome portrait illustration with additional facts surrounding her. The book is very fun to leaf through and even more fun to read. Many of these scientists I am learning about for the for the first time and some are like old friends. My daughter was delighted to see her favorite Jane Goodall featured here, and Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space. Most of the scientists covered in this book are Americans, although there are a few Europeans featured, as well as Asians. I wish there were more representatives from around the world, but we can’t have everything. There are more women mentioned in the end of the book, they didn’t get a spread, but they are there.

Overall impression: My children and I enjoy this book and found information straightforward and easy to understand. The illustrations add to the amazement of fantastic discoveries these women scientists brought to the world. This book is a valuable addition to our home library.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair an unbiased review.

 

 

 

Fall is my favorite time of the year, no doubt about that. And September, the time of transition is so much more special because the fall is nearly there, and getting closer every day. I wake up, look at the clouds and tell myself “almost sweater weather!”. Something to look forward to. September is also time when we are already in sync with each other in terms of school, but the novelty hasn’t worn out yet. And it’s a perfect time to have spontanneous outside lessons. Oh, how I love these days when the world is the classroom!

We intended just a short hike, but kids grabbed vials, zip baggies, pincers and announced they are going to have a science adventure! And so they did.

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We haven’t been to this park since June probably, and of course so many things changed, flowers are going out, and only remnants of the berries here and there, but the water is still singing its sonf, and the moss is ever so green. A light rain started to fall as we made our way up the trail, pure bliss.

D. collected water from 1)a puddle 2) creek downstream and 3)creek upstream to compare

D. collected water from 1)a puddle 2) creek downstream and 3)creek upstream to compare

wild raspberries

there were hardly any insects around, apart from some hardworking bees

there were hardly any insects around, apart from some hardworking bees

so soothing

so soothing

Autumn made her first steps in the forest

Autumn made her first steps in the forest

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At home children pulled out their microscope and compared the water they collected. So happy to see tiny grains of sand in the downstream water, cloudy bluish colors of the puddle water and clearness of the upstream water. C. mixed them up afterwards too.

microscope water

Our microscope isn’t powerful enough to see the real action, but we remembered a tiny dapne we saw at the museum earlier this week and wondered if such creatures could be living in the srtream.

dmns expedition health

And finally, our day ended with a lovely sunset

colorado sunset

More birds

We had an awesome mini lesson about birds on Monday, but weren’t very lucky locating any nests around our house. So Tuesday we headed to Audubon Center at Chatfield to try and see if we can spot some there.

We got lucky almost immediately and saw a swallow’s nest right on the eave of public restroom:

swallow's nest

Parents were nearby, one watching us:

swallow

Another one carrying things into the nest, feathers mostly:

swallow

After that we walked around in tall grass

C. seems so tiny

C. seems so tiny

Admired flowers all around us

flower

Were amazed by the amount of water that transformed a realtively calm little river. Indeed, after reading Rain by Cynthia Barnett I can’t stop thinking about blessing and horror that rain brings, and how precarious human relationship with rain really is.

It has spilled on trails even

It has spilled on trails even

a year or two ago our children could cross it hopping from rock to rock and now it's just angry mass that can sweep you up in seconds

a year or two ago our children could cross it hopping from rock to rock and now it’s just angry mass that can sweep you up in seconds

And at last listened to some amazing birdsong amongst the trees.

Audubon center chatfield

Other critters we saw: a lizard, a frog, multiple birds…what a great hike it was.

Learning about birds continued

Previously in Birding adventures we tried a Bird Walk and Bird Banding class. Today was all about nests.

I picked up another wonderful book by Sylvia Long and Dianna Hutts Aston “A Nest is Noisy”, so naturally we had to explore the subject. The book as expected is absolutely gorgeous and talks about all kinds of nests, big and small, those of birds and of beasts. Most of the information was new to kids and even to me. 5 stars as always.

a nest is noisy

Their “An Egg is Quiet” is another book on the subject

an egg is quiet

We talked a little bit more about nests, what’s inside and how to tell which nests belongs to a bird and which to a squirrel (squirrels use sticks to build theirs).  10 Facts about Bird Nests (although the video is a bit fast)

Kids then set out to look for nests around our house. Lots of birds were singing, but only squirrel mansion was found:

squirrell nestWe talked about helping birds by leaving materials for them to build nests and kids tried to make their own little “gift nests” for the birdies

D's nest includes tiny twigs, leaves and cat's hair

D’s nest includes tiny twigs, leaves and cat’s hair

C.'s also has leaves and cat's hair, plus she went for esthetics with dandelions :)

C.’s also has leaves and cat’s hair, plus she went for esthetics with dandelions 🙂

We watched a documentary called Hummingbird: Magic in the Air  (link leads to PBS episode, it’s also on youtube for those that can’t access PBS). What fascinating creatures these little birds are! 25 amazing facts about hummingbirds. I had no idea they only live in the Americas, somehow I thought they surely will be present in Asia or Australia.

We also looked at amazing close up photography of hummingbirds, which prompted our art making. Children did their best to draw hummingbirds in flight, while I experimented with my watercolor pencils to sketch one of the close-ups.

painting hummingbirds

It was a very interesting mini-lesson today, there are more documentaries in plans, as I hope to discuss different habitats with kids.

Also please check out our previous art activity “How to paint a portrait of a bird”

BOOK REVIEW: Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

It is true, there is not nearly enough mentions of extraordinary women scientists in books or other media. I, myself, am guilty of naming only a few on top of my head. And one of them is of course Marie Curie (who isn’t in this book at all). Bringing other women scientists’ stories to light is long overdue. This is why I was excited to hear about Headstrong by Rachel Swaby. This book talks about 52 amazing women scientists and their accomplishments. We learn about struggles these women faced  , how they overcome societal prejudices and chased their passions. Each and every story is unique and inspiring.

headstrong

The book is split into sections covering ladies of Medicine, Biology and the Environment, Genetics and Development, Physics, Earth and Stars, Math and Technology, and Invention. Each section is represented by women scientists from different  periods ranging from 17th century to present time. Scientists come from different countries as well (although most of them American and Western European). I was completely fascinated with their stories, from Mary Putnam Jacobi who had to write a research paper how menstruation does not actually affect women’s ability to learn (there was need to do this, crazy as it sounds) to amazing Hedy Lamar, whose life is better than a novel with twists and turns and accomplishments that made me writing this very review possible. Each entry is about three pages long, the book is an easy and engaging read. I loved how matter of fact it was, there was no need to mention their marital statuses or children, unless they were important for their work.

Overall impression: I want to learn more about each and every one of these amazing individuals. In the beginning of this book, the author states that reading about even just one woman per week will get reader through this book in a year and vastly improve one’s knowledge about women scientists. I feel that this is what I want to do when I re-read this book- to go through each woman’s story slowly, with additional research. I do wish there were pictures of these women ,  although they can be looked up, it would be nice to have them in the book as well. I recommend this book to everyone.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

BOOK REVIEW: Rain a Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

I love rain–the sound of rain soothes me. I hate rain– it’s a nightmare to drive in and there are floods, kids go crazy inside too.  I am desperate for rain– it gets so dry in the summer. I am desperate for it to stop– enough already, it’s been a week…Let’s say my relationship with rain is complicated. But generally I don’t give rain much thought other than how it will affect my immediate surroundings. When Rain by Cynthia Barnett fell into my hands, I was amazed to find out how much there is to learn about something as (at first thought) trivial as water falling from the sky .

Rain by Cynthia Barnett

The 300 pages volume contains a wealth of information on meteorology, legends, geography, history and even linguistics of rain. Barnett goes in depth to acquaint her readers with the marvelous and complicated phenomenon that is the rain. The book is split into five parts. The first part Elemental Rain talks about rain’s presence in the world and how the patterns have changed throughout the centuries, it also talks about rain in mythologies and major religions. The second part Chance of Rain talks about history of observing weather, from the very first records to modern system. This chapter also discusses the inventions to protect us from rain. The third part American Rain deals with history of American rain-watching and rain-making of the present day. The fourth chapter Capturing the Rain talks about rain in popular culture, music and literature, architecture, and even the scent! The fifth part Mercurial Rain discusses ecological issues, such as acid rain and climate change.

Wow, what a ride this book is. I am still in process of savoring it, and I can’t get enough! I truly appreciate the wealth of information collected in this volume, it touches a little bit on everything provoking new questions. The language of the book is engaging, Barnett’s writing style pulls readers right in. The books is full of fun facts that fascinated me and my children alike. Something to discuss every day. And how fitting that I got it just as a week-long downpour descended on our part of the world. I think it will be fun to listen to it in audio format too. Wonderful book. Highly Recommended. Five plus stars.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review