Science in the Middle

doing 6th grade science – outside the box!

Getting the lay of the land in LA

on September 14, 2015

Sunday, the educators landed in LAX and were met by our host for the week, Coral Clark of USRA (Universities Space Research Association.) Our group consists of myself, April Whitt of Fernbank Science Center, Jo Dodds of Twin Falls, ID, Jeff Killebrew and Mike Shinabery of Alamogordo, New Mexico. The resumes of these folks are quite humbling. I’m thrilled that Ms. Dodds is also an Earth Science teacher!

For the next week, these strangers will become close colleagues with the common purpose of science education.

Getting acclimated to the time change and the space history as well as the geology of the area was the agenda for the day. First order of the day was a stop at a California staple, In-n-Out Burger.

The teachers get their first

The teachers get their first “taste” of LA

Since we had time, we had a stop at the La Brea Tar Pits which is known for fossilized woolly mammoths.  It was a smelly but awesome site – still crazily active with methane bubbling up in the tar lake and constant new puddles of tar on the lawn.  Warning – stay on the paths!

A rendition of how the mammals met their eternal fate. Nature wins, every time.

A rendition of how the mammals met their eternal fate. Nature wins, every time.

You never know when you could step in a gooey, smelly, fresh blorp of tar. This was an unexpected stop and we were glad we had the time!

The next stop got us a little closer to the reason we came to California – space science. The Golden State has a rich history in NASA , aerospace and space travel, Space Shuttle Endeavor was built here and brought here upon the last mission of the space shuttle program. It is in a temporary space at the California Science Museum and a new building is in the works which will allow it to be displayed upright.

Can you guess what this beautiful scaffolded roof actually is?

Endeavour in all her glory

Endeavour in all her glory

DSCN1112

Each tile is numbered and some have had to be replaced. They are very important to protect the space craft – comment below to guess what they protect it from!

Meanwhile, the exhibits and gift shop have something for everyone. One exhibit answers the most commonly asked question – how do you go to the bathroom in space? Here it is – and the video that goes along with it fills in all the details. If you think you aren’t aligned right on the potty – which could be messy – you can turn on the videocamera which can help you be right on target when nature calls. TMI?  Not if you are a student with this question!

When nature calls, here you go!

When nature calls, here you go

The space kitchen

The next stop was a bit down the highway, we drove along the Pacific plate (which used to be underwater) until we reached Vasquez Rocks geological formation. A breathtaking and otherworldly site, it has been seen in many Hollywood movie sets.

Beautiful Vasquez Rocks, just outside of LA.

Dramatic and alien are two adjectives which come to mind when visiting this famous site.

Does it make you think of Star Trek, the Lion King, old western flicks? It is no coincidence!

Beautiful Vasquez Rocks, just outside Los Angeles

Beautiful Vasquez Rocks, just outside Los Angeles

Millions of years ago, tectonic movement created this landscape of sedimentary rocks. There are beautiful outcrops of jagged breccia and layers of different colored sandstone.

Layers upon layers of uplifted sedimentary rock create this beautiful landscape!

Layers upon layers of uplifted sedimentary rock create this beautiful landscape!

Breccia, dotted with gneiss, quartz, olivine, and more!

Breccia, dotted with gneiss, quartz, olivine, and more!

The weather here has been warm, but clear – very nice to not have the smog and haze!  We are in the desert. There is a lot of evidence of drought both from the air and on the ground. I was surprised that most Californians drink bottled water!  I am used to drinking tap water. It tastes different here. Maybe I’ll bring back a sample so my students can try it. Comment below if you want a taste!

Now it’s off to Egress Training!

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4 responses to “Getting the lay of the land in LA

  1. Ryan D says:

    I think that the tiles are to protect the ship from the heat and debris that could hit the ship.

  2. Joanna says:

    Did you accidentally step in one of the tar pits
    are those real fossilized mammoths?

    • Mrs. Oltman says:

      We were warned to stay away from areas where tar could bubble up so we stayed on the paths and didn’t step in tar. The mammoths are not real creatures, just a really good depiction of them.

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