I want an Orrery


This week at the Natural History Museum I noticed a display case for the first time.  POCKET SUNDIALS!  What a cool invention!  All the one pictured here include a compass for proper alignment. We’ve heard a lot about pocket watches, but I’d never given any thought to their predecessor.  One of the pocket sundials was calibrated to three different latitudes, so it could be used throughout Europe.

It’s always amazing to think about the intersection of science and technology with history.  Whether it’s the telegraph and railroad creating a war time advantage,  vaccines shifting population demographics, or computers making space travel possible, technology and history are fantastically intertwined.


Isn’t the orrery cool?  The time and workmanship that goes into making those is just amazing.  I would like to own something like this, but they are so expensive and typically rather large.  Other women want designer handbags, I want an orrery.


Science Olympiad Update:

What Went By? – E and his partner for the event attended a clinic put on by the local park system.  We also met at the Natural History Museum and spent some time looking at the display of local animals and talking about habitats and habits.  We borrowed a kit that had life size stamps of front and hind prints from the museum.  I think the scat identification might be difficult, but I think at least some of the questions will be about making observations about the scat without actually narrowing it to one species.  The scat of a grazing herbivore will be different from the scat of an omnivore.  Predator scat may contain bone fragments.  Some of the tracks can be narrowed done to 3 or 4 local animals and then other clues will provide more information.  Muskrats and otter slides might look similar but we might expect chewed up twigs and cattails with a muskrat.  E also worked on spelling animal names this week.

Not much happened with the Mousetrap car this week.  We need to take it up to the school to test it out.  I just haven’t been in the mood to get out in the cold.

Aerodynamics – Observations this week – (1)  It is hard for 10 and 11 year old boys to throw gently.  When throwing gliders asking them to throw in slow motion seemed to help. (2)  Those old Pamper Chef scrapers work great for smoothing airplane folds.  (3) Testing gliders is hard – big spaces and high ceilings are necessary.  (4) Making designs of their own and testing them is really part of the fun of this.

Simple Machines – The mom of C’s partner is doing the coaching for this event.  I’m impressed with what they’ve learned over the last few weeks.  They know their simple machines and are really learning a lot about calculating forces and mechanical advantage.


We went to see a local production of Shrek the Musical on Sunday.  A friend of ours has a lead role in the play and lots of kids we know are in the production.  The cast did a spectacular job.

I attended a meeting this week with a group that has formed to promote FIRST LEGO League in our area.  It is a really great bunch of people and I’m excited to see what we can do to get more kids involved in robotics.  When I asked my own kids about career paths this week, they both expressed interest in programming.  E  lists his top pick as mechanical engineering and C is considering wildlife biology or bio-medical animal science with programming as a hobby.   I don’t know if bio-medical animal science is really a thing, but I figure as much as people love their pets, it will be by the time he is in college.  He also thinks he might want to do some combination of food and science like that guy that cooks steaks in a water bath (sous-vide)  and has the huge cookbook (Nathan Myhrvold).   It’s always interesting to check in on the career aspirations of kids.

I’ve mentioned I developed a simple spreadsheet to track our school time.  In Ohio part of our homeschool notification involves signing a paper stating we will spend 900 hours covering a list of subjects.  That is approximately the amount of time children in elementary school spend in class each year.  I’m so glad I started tracking our time.  This week we reached 800 hours for the school year.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.  It’s not like anything will change when we hit 900 hours.  I’m just happy to know we are spending so many hours on learning activities even though our school time is relaxed.

This week I’m including my “What’s for Dinner?” list.  I’m always looking for ideas myself and I was reading an article this week about parents feeling guilty because even though they are cooking it doesn’t fit their ideal.  I want you to know that it’s okay to keep dinner simple.  Some of the dinners I listed took less than 15 minutes of prep and cook time.  The pulled pork dinner was probably the easiest, since it took about 3 minutes to put in the crockpot.  Raw carrots, broccoli, apple slices, and strawberries are about as fancy as we get for sides.

 What’s for Dinner?

Blackeyed Pea Dip

Salmon Mac (super quick and easy)

Corn Dog Muffins ( I know, I know, it embarrasses me that I allow any hot dogs in the house, but C loves these.  Corn Muffin mix with a 1/4 of a hot dog stuck in the middle.  I buy the preservative free ones but still.)

Pulled Pork Sliders w/ Sweet Potato Fries and Baked Beans

Butternut Ravioli

Butternut and Black Bean Enchiladas

Hope you have a great week!

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5 thoughts on “I want an Orrery

  1. Lego League! Sounds so fun. I tried to get my little guy to join ours since he loves playing with Lego’s (we’ve even visited the store where they have these massive statues), but he doesn’t want to do it. Glad your boys are enjoying it. I’m visiting from Weekly Wrap Up!

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