Saturday, July 3, 2010

What a Week! Part I

My teaching partner, Vicki, and I have had lots of adventures.
Here, we got to meet and visit with Patricia Polacco --- one of our favorite children's authors.

We've been to seminars, science camps, reading conferences and classes.

We have traveled to New York, New Hampshire, Iowa,
 Massachusetts, Maine,  Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming.

We have also been to Canada.

But this week, we had some of our most memorable travels right in our own backyard.

About two months after Mom died, Vicki's mother passed away as well.
We decided that we were going to take the summer completely off.

Then, we got an e-mail from our curriculum 
director about a week long geography conference.

It sounded intriguing and was only a week long.

It was limited to twenty applicants so we filled the 
application form out, got our principal's blessing and sent it in.

We were both accepted into the 2010 GEON Frontier IV Summer Institute.

GEON stands for Geography Educators of Nebraska.
The group consists of people who are concerned about the status 
of geography education and is aimed at improving
 the teaching of geography at all levels.  

The institute ran from Sunday, June 28th through Friday, July 2nd.
The organizers packed each day as full as they possibly could.

We met out at the college dorm at about four.

They had an icebreaker activity and then hopped into two vans and 
headed out to the Scottsbluff National Monument.

This is a shot of Eagle Rock which is the most 
photographed formation at the monument.

However, it usually is photographed with the covered wagon in the foreground.

I hate to admit it, but I didn't know until this year that there were five major "rocks" that made up the monument, hence the name of the amphitheater in Gering.

The five rocks are: Eagle, Sentinel, Crown, Dome and Saddle.

This is the view from the amphitheater looking toward Mitchell Pass.
(The photo was taken by Alan Dutton and posted on Yahoo Images.)

Our park ranger interpreter, Eli Wenger, did an exceptional job.

Did you know that this is the only national park system in the United States
with both a canal and rail system within it's boundaries?

Of course we traversed to the top.
Fortunately it was by vehicle and not by foot!

 We first followed the north foot trail and were treated to this view.

Then we went to the south trail and saw this:

We had taken the Germans (Doobie, Chris and Hansi) to the monument in early June.

At that time we were lucky enough to see a deer which was a first for me.

 After we finished up at the Monument, we all went to a local park for a barbeque.
A pioneer woman traveled forward in time to enlighten us about the trail.

She read excerpts from journals and diaries to us and answered our questions.

They delivered us back to the dorm and advised us
 to get a good night's sleep because the next day was very, very full.

Breakfast was served the next morning at seven, and then we went to 
the Harm's Center for presentations by teaching consultants.

Our first speaker was Dr. Randy Bertolas, a professor at Wayne State College.
He is the coordinator for GEON who doesn't get enough credit for his hard work.

 Next, we heard from Lonnie Moore, the workshop director.
He outlined OSAE, a methodolgy we would be employing during the week,
and provided us with background information on teaching geography.
He outlined the five themes and some teachers indicated that this was new to them. 

Vicki and I felt pretty good because our kids learned the five themes last year.

After that, Mary Crawford came to talk to us about Adrian Smith's congressional district.

I knew it was large.  I knew he had lots of constituents.  
But I had no idea how big it really is.

It encompasses:

 68.5 counties (Cedar is split)
65,000 square miles
2 time zones
351 villages and cities
226,000 occupied households
570,000 constituents

It's the 4th largest congressional district in the US, excluding the at large seats.

Tom Allen, the project cook, presented an intriguing lesson on water.

I won't go into it because we are going to use it next year. There are several
of my students' parents who read this blog and I don't want to spoil the unit.
After the lesson, he gave us a DVD entitled, "The Price of Water."

Our next speaker, Shari Frost, was a teacher consultant from Overton.

In all fairness, you should know that this picture is not at all indicative of Shari. 
 It was taken later in the week at Fort Laramie in the jail,
but I didn't have another picture of her that wasn't  in a group.

At any rate, she demonstrated the Chore Relay for fourth grade history.

It was a great lesson.  
We plan to use it, but we 
have already modified it. 

Did you notice that the picture 
didn't include me in the sunbonnet?!!!

From there we took a short break and traveled to the UNL Research Center.

Tom Holman and Gary Stone talked to us about agriculture in Nebraska.
Did you know that Nebraska has:
 5,560,000 acres of pasture,
2,319,000 acres of dryland crops, and
692,760 acres of irrigated crops?

Every year Nebraska exports approximately:

 650,000 head of cattle on feed,
285,000 beef cows,
45 million bushels of corn,
30 million bushels of wheat,
2.5 million cwt (hundred weight) of dry edible beans,
1,430,000 tons of sugar beets, and
 300-500 cwt of potatoes.

While we ate lunch, we viewed two videos outlining how sugar beets are processed.
Did you know that sugar beet tap roots could dig down six feet?

After lunch we headed outdoors to the research plots.

There we saw canola in bloom.  Did you know that canola oil
was introduced to the world by the Canadians?  It is actually pressed from
the rapeseed plant.  Do you see the marketing dilemma?
So they simply renamed it.

The blossoms are pretty up close.

 Bees were buzzing all over the place.  
When I asked about the decline in bee population and whether it affected their crops,
I learned that they keep their own hives because they are more interested in water amounts.

Here Lonnie is asking a question regarding drip irrigation from center pivots.

 Gary Stone is showing us how they measure the water level in the ground.

One of the plots was planted to wheat.

Our next stop was the Kelley Bean Company in Minatare.

They were on their last day of inventory, but they showed us how it worked anyway.

Here he is demonstrating how they divide their sampling.

This shakes the beans and sorts them by size.

View of the sizer from above.

They are cleaned using red eye technology.

After being sorted and cleaned, they are put into a 
bin and either bagged or loaded onto a rail car.

Lonnie showing off one of the packages.

What the heck are they looking at?

Just above the doorway, beans were growing.
Not surprising, given the abundance of dust at the plant.

Moving beans to pallets.

After the tour, we received a ballpoint pen and a cookbook.
You know who was thrilled with the cookbook when I got home.

Doesn't it sound like we've already had a full day?

We aren't even close to being done.

Our next stop was the Farm and Ranch Museum in Gering.

We were lucky enough to get a tour from
one of the founders, Charlie Fenster.

Having watched the video about the processing earlier was very helpful.  I've been to the museum several times and had tours, but things fell into place.

If you haven't been to the museum, I highly recommend it.

I marvel that so many pieces of equipment still exist and are operational.

A close up of the face plate on the steam engine.

Our final destination for the day was the 
Oregon Trail Wagon Train for the steak cook-out.

We checked in and then decided to run over to Chimney Rock.
We were going to check out the cemetery and then hike up the back to the base.

Instead, Dr. Bertolas led us in the opposite direction and pulled into a yard.
He went up and knocked on the door and ultimately a weathered old man came out.
They jumped into an ATV and yelled at us to follow in their tracks exactly.

We take off across a pasture following a faint trail.
Keep in mind that we are in vans.

It seems that Dr. Bertolas had befriended Gordon Howard 
and we were being allowed a front row view of the famous Oregon Trail landmark.

Gordon Howard explaining to us that he wanted to be like
 George Burns and have a beautiful woman on each arm.

Instead, he settled for the signature cigar and began, "Let me tell you a story...."

We could have listened to him for hours, but time didn't allow that.

Before we left he gave us each an uncirculated quarter
 featuring the Nebraska design, which he designed.

Did you know that if you saved that quarter for ten years and kept it really nice and clean and then took it into a bank, that you could get twenty-five cents for it?

Of course, we took a group photo.

Then we went back to the wagon train and 
checked on the status of the steaks.

The fire wasn't yet hot, so we enjoyed wagon trail rides.

The driver enthralled us with tales of the trail and the Pony Express.

We had time so we went to the cemetery .... for real this time.

There are about 35 or 40 graves in the cemetery ....

ranging from the very old to the very new.

We got back to the Wagon Train just as the steaks were being put on to cook.

Before long, our meal was served.

16 ounce steak, creamed green beans, boiled/baked potato,
 dill pickles and fresh sourdough bread.

It just doesn't get any better than this.

"You two go ahead and smile for the camera, 
I have serious business to attend to here."

After supper, we gathered around the campfire for a sing along.

Several of the institute participants were musically inclined

and readily participated.

I, on the other hand, can't carry a tune in a bucket

so I watched the sun set and enjoyed the fireflies.
Eat your heart out, Sister Two.

It was very, very late when I got home and 
I had to get up very, very early the next day.

I'll post days three and four on Monday or Tuesday.


Ruth said...

What a great report! Sounds like an interesting class/adventure :)

Sue said...

Can't wait for the next installment. Great pictures!!!

Mardell said...

I am sooo jealous. I would love to have been there.

Mary said...

The story was going along swimmingly until you mentioned creamed green beans.....seriously are they not bad enough all on their own??? Oh ya...and I too am jealous over the fire flies!