Archive for July, 2012

Learn About Curiosity from William Shatner

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Gale Crater, where the Curiosity Rover will land. Image by NASA.

Curiosity. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity is not just a state of mind. It’s also the name of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, a car-sized rover that will land on the Red Planet on August 5th. Already, the rover has traveled 81⁄2 months and 352 million miles, but the toughest part of its journey still lies ahead. As a new NASA video narrated by Star Trek captain William Shatner explains, the rover’s riskiest moments will be the “Seven Minutes of Terror,” during which the rover will slow from a speed of 13,000 miles per hour to a soft landing that won’t damage any equipment. Curiosity’s heat shield will protect the rover as it flies through Mars’ atmosphere and prepares to land. It will aim for its target, Gale Crater, which has never been viewed up close before. Water flows downhill, and so the rover will begin its quest at Gale Crater’s lowest point in search of evidence of flowing water. With water may come signs of past life on the Red Planet, and Curiosity will spend its decades long mission searching for those signs.

Below, Shatner further describes the rover’s journey, technology, and mission. It is a great video for space exploration fans of all ages, as Shatner’s narration is clear, engaging, and easy to understand. He explains that the results of Curiosity’s research may even lay the groundwork for sending human missions to Mars someday.

To see an excellent map of the Gale Crater and a diagram of what analysis Curiosity will perform, visit the New York Times’ graphic. And if you want to watch live video coverage of the landing, tune in on August 5th to NASA’s Curiosity Cam.

Update: Success! Curiosity has landed safely, and you can now watch a video from its landing and view images it has taken so far.

Featured Album: Tumble Bee by Laura Veirs

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Laura Veirs Tumble Bee

Tumble Bee
Spring 2012 Music
Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
Raven Marching Band

What do you get when you mix rollicking and soulful folk songs with captivating vocals and a first-rate mix of harmonies, guitars, banjo, piano, percussion, accordion, brass, strings and whistles? A topnotch family folk album, shaped, layered and made shiny new by skilled musicians led by vocalist Laura Veirs, whose voice is graceful, expressive and utterly charming. Each song is a memorable little jewel, from the familiar “All the Pretty Little Horses” and a version of “Froggie Went A-Courtin'” called “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O” to Woody Guthrie’s “Why Oh Why,” Ruth Seeger’s arrangement of “Jack Can I Ride?” and “The Fox,” based on a 15th century poem about a foxy late-night poultry raid. The one new song “Tumble Bee,” written by singer and multi-instrumentalist Karl Blau, fits right in.

For an extra treat, watch the video below to learn more about how Veirs’ album was made!

And, of course, you can stream the album below.

Day at the Museum

Monday, July 30th, 2012

The 40 Under 40 exhibit at Smithsonian’s Renwick only features artists
born since 1972. Photo by Laura Fries

Given all of the events that compete for our time and attention, it’s not that surprising that a trip to the museum doesn’t elicit the same excitement as it once did. According to Nicholas R. Bell, The Bresler Curator of American Craft & Decorative Art at the Renwick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, museums are too old. Sure, museums are supposed to have old stuff. That’s not the problem. Studies show that the average museum visitor is from an older demographic. To make sure dinosaur museums don’t become, well, dinosaurs, curators are always looking for new ways to excite younger visitors. Says Bell, when looking for younger visitors, it’s important to look for younger artists as well.

40 Under 40, which opened at the Renwick mid July and runs until February 3, 2013, is a showcase of work by artists born since 1972. The exhibit looks at the changing times and notions of art while exploring diverse media such a sculpture, fashion and industrial design. Some of it is very hands on, like Christy Matson’s Sonic Structure II that invites visitors to “play” the hand -Jacquard-woven cotton and copper sculpture or Nick Dong’s enticing all-white Enlightenment Room.  This isn’t necessarily kid’s stuff, but it is a fresh and new way to look at and think about art. Do you think younger artists are a good answer? What gets you and your family into a museum? What kind of exhibits do you look for?

Can’t make it to the museum? Explore video profiles of each artist and a slideshow of featured work.

Nick News Special Covers Young U.S. Olympians

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Gabrielle Douglas, gymnast. Joe Klamar/Getty Images

Parents’ Choice has long been a fan of Linda Ellerbee’s Nick News, winner of many Parents’ Choice Awards. Nick News is now in its 21st year and is the longest-running kids’ news show in television history. Throughout its run it has tackled serious issues in episodes including “The Face of Courage:  Kids Living with Cancer” (2010) and “What’s for Dinner? Hungry Kids in America” (2011).
Recently, Ellerbee turned her focus toward a lighter, but equally fascinating topic. “Going for the Games, Glory, and Gold”, first aired in April, features aspiring young American Olympians. Interviews with the young athletes reveal how rigorous training and supportive families led to their success.  Gabrielle Douglas, gymnast on the U.S. Women’s Olympic team, talks about  her family’s cross country move that allowed Douglas to train with a better coach. Also featured are twin weightlifters Darren and Darrel Barnes, who were coached by their brother Derrick Johnson. Many more athletes are interviewed, making for a great way to spend twenty minutes during the Olympic season. You can watch the entire show below.

Nick News: “Going for the Games, Glory and Gold S1
Get More: Nick News Episodes,Nick News,Nick News Games

More Olympics coverage from Parents’ Choice: Let the Games Begin!

Imaginative Toys Use Play to Make Hospitals Less Scary

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

ECG by Hikaru Imamura

Hospitals are scary, for adults and, especially, children. A hospital visit involves intimidating machines and scary procedures that young ones might not understand immediately. Through play, children can explore and confront their hospital fears in a nonthreatening manner, and they can begin to understand what happens at a hospital and why they are there.

Designer Hikaru Imamura has designed a series of Novel Hospital Toys that allow children to playfully enact the role of patient and doctor. He designed the toys in response to his research at the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Sweden and the Beatrix Kinderziekenhuis in Groningen. He grew interested in how “hospital play specialists get children to pretend to perform a surgery on their doll, and in the process, develop a positive mind-set to receive treatment themselves.” Regarding the toys he was inspired to design, Imamura writes:

‘Novel Hospital Toys’ is a toy set consisting of toy models of machines, such as CT, X-ray, ECHO(echocardiograph), ECG (electrocardiograph), as well as picture books of explaining machines. Every toy is made so as to give light or sounds so that children can easily imagine how these ‘strange’ machines work while they are playing with them in the waiting room. Their understanding will greatly help the hospital staff in performing medical examinations smoothly in children.

Rather than assuming that the less children know about hospital visits the better, Imamura understands that hospital anxiety is best cured by understanding and action.

X-Ray by Hikaru Imamura

Imamura’s toys aren’t for sale online right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired by him to use play when confronting scary moments in life. Parents can use any regular doll or doctor kit to explain what will happen during an upcoming doctor’s visit. And of course, a visit to the doctor’s office should always be paired with a liberal dash of humor.