Saturday, January 21, 2012

Taking The Light Rail To Discovery

When Kat was four years old, I took her on a scavenger hunt for shapes. We took the bus to the light rail station, and then took the light rail to downtown Phoenix to embark on our quest. We found shapes in the most surprising places! It was an exciting way to explore a familiar concept of shapes with my preschooler, and have a different sort of adventure with her.

"Look Mommy! I found circles and they're on my arm!" (Kat at 4 years old)

Since then, Kat had asked me several times to take her on the light rail again so that we could go to downtown Phoenix for another adventure. I decided to take advantage of yet another spring-like day in Phoenix and go exploring! We would repeat our old scavenger hunt for shapes, but we would add a lot more fun to the mix. Not only would we look for shapes, we would also practice using directions as we were travelling through the city. We would look for parks and sculptures and talk about why they might be used in planning a city. We would look for new places and see what we could discover while taking a different route in a familiar place.


We didn't tally every single shape we saw (for example, there are a lot of windows),  but we had a lot of fun finding them!

While we were looking around for shapes to check off, we talked about what shapes were commonly used in the construction of buildings. Did we see a lot of circles? Triangles? Rectangles?

We found rectangles to be popular shapes in building design. Other shapes were often used as accents or in landscaping.

We drew three story houses and buildings made of various shapes. Which buildings looked the safest? Which ones looked like they would topple over with the slightest breeze?

Yes, it would be awesome to have a snowman house. How would you make it safe to live in?

While riding the train, I drew a map of where we were travelling. Beginning with our house, I drew lines to the train station, then traced our route, having Kat tell me which direction we had traveled along the way. Periodically, I would ask Kat which direction she thought we were going at that moment. When the light rail turned, did the direction stay the same? We found a route map and compared it to the map we had drawn. We were quite pleased to see that the map looked almost exactly like ours, and her directions matched! As we got off the train and walked through the city, we kept up our navigational practice, as I had Kat tell me the directions as we turned various corners.

North! South! North! South! North! West!

Some other things we talked about and looked for as we walked around included parks, sitting areas, and sculptures. How many parks could we find? What made parks and sitting areas special? Did a park always include a playground? Why was it neat to find sculptures? Looking at these areas in a different way made us appreciate them more.

This park may not have a playground, but it does feature statues and a fountain.

Sitting areas provided shade and relaxation for people during the heat of the desert afternoon. Flowers provided a beautiful backdrop for people, and with the trees and bushes, they also provided homes for birds, insects, and the occasional ground squirrel. Seeing sculptures while walking around the city made us appreciate the interesting culture found there. It added a different element to the sidewalks and buildings, giving people something to admire, and kids something to climb on and interact with.

Finding a quiet place to sit and think while looking at flowers is always nice.

After wandering around for quite a while, we found ourselves at our familiar hang out: The Arizona Science Center! We go here about once a week, and we never tire of the place. In fact, we've begun to make friends with the friendly and resourceful staff that work there. We saw an incredible program about the Cassini Mission to Saturn and its moons at the planetarium, played in the physics laboratory, and watched demonstrations on water density and the rock cycle.

Volcanoes and Lava Labs at the Science Center are always fun!

After a long and eventful day, it was time to head home. One thing we realized along the way, was that the cost for the light rail tickets was only slightly more than the cost of parking when we visit the science center. Considering that we had such an adventure taking the train (talking to people, rediscovering our city), it seems well worth it to take the light rail instead of the car. Not only will we have fun, but we'll have a positive impact on our environment, which is something that Kat and I both care very deeply about.

Well that, and having incredibly lots of silly adventures in curiosity and discovery.


"Hey Mom, look! I found circles!" (Kat at 6 years old)





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