Saturday, April 11, 2009

Light, Energy, and Mysterious Fowl

refracting laser light

Our kids may be on spring break but opportunities for learning never cease! We decided to spend an afternoon at the Explorit Science Center in Davis, CA. Our first order of business was to enjoy a lunch buffet in the dorm dining commons at University of California at Davis (UCD). Jennifer and I both graduated from there and have always enjoyed delicious meals when we were residents on campus. So we keep coming back for more to share the culinary joy with our kids, along with lots of hungry college students!

On the way to the dining halls, we spotted this mysterious wild fowl near one of the dorms. We discovered that it was a guinea hen. We have never seen one on campus before and now knowing they are native to Africa, we could only wonder as to how they got there. UCD has a top-notch veterinary school and the campus is surrounded by farmland, wetlands, and other natural habitats, so maybe the guinea hens were in fact residents of the area.

a guinea hen running fast

Just a mile or two from campus is the Explorit Science Center. This small non-profit science center rotates exhibits on the biological sciences and the physical sciences, and we enjoy periodic visits to learn from their fun, child-friendly, interactive displays. Ricky has been studying about the properties of light, so the timing was perfect to see their most current exhibit on light and energy.

a magnifying glass and prism at home
A curtained display allowed for the manipulation of a a beam of laser light as it traveled through prisms and bounced off mirrors. Another display called Newton's Cradle demonstrated the law of the conservation of energy, and the difference between kinetic and potential energy. A series of light bulbs, LEDs, compact fluorescent, incandescent, and halogen, compared the electrical usage of each of these household items. (LEDs - light-emitting diode bulbs, were the most energy efficient, using only 4 watts of energy compared with an incandescent at about 60 watts.) A cool kit on circuits enabled us to create some simple devices that turned on bulbs, played music, and sounded a police siren. Other displays allowed us to figure out which materials were good conductors of heat and electricity, and which materials were good insulators. Along with the rotating exhibits, the center maintains fixed exhibits as well that the kids enjoy returning to.

hmm, which light is most efficient?
setting up a circuit board
a camera that views object up close

static electricity
viewing animation on a zoetrope

We had a pleasant afternoon learning about light and energy. Lunch was yummy and filling. Now I am wondering, what are those guinea hens up to at this very moment?


Linda said...

I love Guinea Hens! We have so many of them here in South Africa, they are beautiful. It looks like you had a wonderful day, full of learning. Have a lovely Easter.

Jimena Diaz said...

I love field trips, that looks like a good place for learning, thanks for share!!!