Skip to main content

Unschooling The Windmill and The Railroad

 Here’s another look at what happens with unschooling. 

You set out to spend some time in nature. The eight year-old is starting an animal tracking class, so maybe you’ll commune with nature a bit while you’re out there.

Then, on the way, you see windmill blades, but not on a windmill. They’re. On. A. Train! In the middle of nowhere. Lots of them! They stretch off into the distance. Soooo many windmill blades!

And they’re on a siding! And there’s a little pull off to get over there!!! Woohoo!

So, now, you and the gang—9, 8, and 6 years-old—are going to explore windmill blades! That’ll be fun! You’ve never seen a blade up close before. This’ll be so much fun!

You and the kids head for the blades. They’re walking along the tracks, perusing them. You stop to admire the first blade. It’s gorgeous, framed up just so on the flatcar. There’s a couple of blocks of concrete on the other end of the car acting as a counterweight. Visible between the blade and flatcar, a snow capped mountain peaks into view,. You hear a clanking sound in the distance.

The kids spent maybe a minute looking at the windmill blades? They spent the rest of their time picking up so much stuff along the side of the track. By the time you get there, they've got stakes and a cranker and a flat metal plate and a hammer/bell  and a screw and a lock washer and a nut, all covered in rust. They’re busy using the hammer to drive stakes into the dirt. 

Oh well, they’re having a blast. You get to go back to reverentially studying the windmill blades, right there, in front of you, on the railroad car, just parked out here in the middle of nowhere! So cool!

A few days later, you all go on an explore again. Maybe this time, you’ll spend more time outdoors, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll get to see the blades again. On the way there though, you see something huge pulled off on the other side of the road. It’s three of the blades! They’re on trucks now. You stop, with the gang in the backseat to check it all out. They get carried horizontally on trucks, not vertically like they’re carried on trains. The truck driver gives you a bit of a puzzled look, then smiles. He sees the gang in the back. They, of course, aren’t nearly as interested in the windmill blades. It’s all good.

You’d planned, the gang had planned, on exploring next to the tracks again for more railroad tailings, but there’s a railroad truck cruising up and down the tracks this time. So, rather than searching for more railroad parts, the gang finally heads for the forest. To see nature. With their bag of railroad sundries they picked up five days before.


Popular posts from this blog

Cool Math Tricks: Deriving the Divergence, (Del or Nabla) into New (Cylindrical) Coordinate Systems

Now available as a Kindle ebook for 99 cents ! Get a spiffy ebook, and fund more physics The following is a pretty lengthy procedure, but converting the divergence, (nabla, del) operator between coordinate systems comes up pretty often. While there are tables for converting between common coordinate systems , there seem to be fewer explanations of the procedure for deriving the conversion, so here goes! What do we actually want? To convert the Cartesian nabla to the nabla for another coordinate system, say… cylindrical coordinates. What we’ll need: 1. The Cartesian Nabla: 2. A set of equations relating the Cartesian coordinates to cylindrical coordinates: 3. A set of equations relating the Cartesian basis vectors to the basis vectors of the new coordinate system: How to do it: Use the chain rule for differentiation to convert the derivatives with respect to the Cartesian variables to derivatives with respect to the cylindrical variables. The chain

More Cowbell! Record Production using Google Forms and Charts

First, the what : This article shows how to embed a new Google Form into any web page. To demonstrate ths, a chart and form that allow blog readers to control the recording levels of each instrument in Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" is used. HTML code from the Google version of the form included on this page is shown and the parts that need to be modified are highlighted. Next, the why : Google recently released an e-mail form feature that allows users of Google Documents to create an e-mail a form that automatically places each user's input into an associated spreadsheet. As it turns out, with a little bit of work, the forms that are created by Google Docs can be embedded into any web page. Now, The Goods: Click on the instrument you want turned up, click the submit button and then refresh the page. Through the magic of Google Forms as soon as you click on submit and refresh this web page, the data chart will update immediately. Turn up the:

Law of Cosines and the Legendre Polynomials

This is so cool!!! A few days ago I extolled the virtues of the law of cosines, taught in high schools the world over, and claimed that it turned up in all kinds of problems that you run into later in physics.  I gave one example of an electrostatics problem I was working on, but I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head that there were even cooler examples I'd forgotten about.  It turns out that there is a way cooler example of the importance of the law of cosines!  The law of cosines can be used to calculate the Legendre polynomials!!! OK, so what are the Legendre polynomials?  They turn up repeatedly in graduate physics classes.  First of all, they're used to solve electrostatics problems [4].  The most noticeable place I saw them was in quantum mechanics, where they were derived as a special case of spherical harmonics.  Spherical harmonics are used to describe the wavefunction of an electron in a hydrogen atom, and ultimately to come up with graphs of the wave fun