~ Galileo the frigate bird & Galileo the scientist~
Nim's friend Galileo is a unique bird. Although he is a tropical sea bird and feeds primarily on fish, frigates are uniquely designed to be lousy swimmers. Their legs are short, preventing them from walking well, their feet are only partially webbed, limiting their mobility in the water, and their feathers actually soak in water rather than repel it like most sea birds. This causes them to become far too heavy to move well. But frigates are excellent at flying. Their forked tail and large wingspan allow them to have great accuracy. We saw some great footage of frigates in flight from BBC (warning to sensitive parents: video contains a brief mating scene - you can easily avoid this by watching only the first 60 seconds) After discussing basic frigate biology and feeding patterns I had the kids watch this video of tropical birds in a feeding frenzy and try to guess which birds were frigates. They also enjoyed looking at the cartoon below. You can click on it to read the captions.Frigate birds are called Pirate birds because of their penchant for stealing from other birds. When one animal steals food from another scientist call it "Kleptoparasitism." Klepto from the Greek which means to steal, and parsites are those who live off others, giving nothing in return. We see this in the book when Galileo and his friends attempt to steal the fish from the tourists hats and in the way that Nim and Jack can call Galileo with fish. The kids giggled as we watched a home video of someone feeding wild frigates by hand - it looks nerve wracking!
In order to snatch falling or jumping fish so accurately, frigates like Galileo, must have a very accurate sense of how quickly objects fall. I explained to the kids that there was a man named Galileo who spent quite a lot of time focusing on the same thing.
The famous scientist Galileo Galilei studied our earth and solar system with great detail. In his famous experiment (said to have been conducted at the leaning tower of Pisa), Galileo discovered that two objects of differing weights will fall at the same speed. I showed the kids this short cartoon of Galileo as a VERY simple introduction to the concept.
We conducted our own experiment to test this principle. The kids taped together various amounts of pennies, from 1 to 6. We lined them up in various combinations on our stairs and pushed them all off at the same time. The kids listened to hear if they landed at once (bang) or at different times (click, click, click). We repeated it for as long as they were interested. Some got it and some still insisted that the heavier ones landed first. I guess it is a bit much to ask of the 4 year olds.
I tore a ligament in my hip recently, so I decided to keep our crafting time to a minimum today and chose a simple embossing project. I printed off a frigate bird coloring page and had each of the kids cut out one or two details of their own choosing. We wrapped 8 inch squares of cardboard with tinfoil (shiny side down) and then taped the coloring page on top. With a slightly dull pencil the kids firmly traced their birds. When they finished we GENTLY pulled off the tape and then flipped over the foil and re-wrapped the cardboard. We used markers to add color and q-tips to remove and smear any excess ink. I think that they came out adorable!
After all this Galileo, Galileo talk, I now have the Bohemian Rhapsody hopelessly stuck in my head. It isn't even one of my favorites . . . and it is a long song too . . . I'll be singing this one for days.
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