Oh, how I have marveled at the balloon rising above the earth (so that's what it looks like in the stratosphere?), and of that daring step into nothingness, and of his I-make-this-look-like-a-piece-of-cake landing! But my favorite is of a precious mother looking up into the sky as her son rises 24 miles in a capsule... and then to witness her reaction as she anxiously watches him dive back towards the earth faster than the speed of sound! Can you imagine being the mom of a daredevil like Baumgartner? Whoa.
But not only that. Every time I see a picture of what's beyond us, my mind goes numb. I can't even take it in. Stuff like this makes me feel itty-bitty in this great big universe, and it makes God and His incredible design look... infinitesimally glorious!
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1And with that... we started. We started by reading the first three free chapters (about our amazing atmosphere) of Voskamp's A Child’s Geography and then made a paper model of the atmosphere to better understand each layer. (By the way, there are many activities in the download with the paper model instructions, including some great math tie-ins for upper elementary.) Coupling this activity with a fabulous diagram of the atmosphere (and this diagram, too), we later sketched in Mt. Everest, clouds, meteors, aurora, and ozone on our paper model in addition to all the NASA aircraft. We even added a picture of Felix Baumgartner. And then... we hung it on the wall.
The Atmosphere Source: Image editor, CC-BY-2.0 via flickr
Reveal Earth's Atmosphere Video (5 min)
Atmosphere Animated Diagram
Atmosphere On-Line Interactive
And we sang a silly song called Where is the Atmosphere. (We actually diverged from our science activities so that we could listen to about 20 of these songs. They are pretty funny, especially the one called Eh Canada. But maybe that's because I used to work with some good ole Canadians back in my former oilfield days. Obviously, I get distracted easily.)
This simple (Bill Nye) atmospheric pressure experiment worked much better than balancing a balloon on a stick.
Although I have a background in petroleum engineering, my knowledge stops at the lithosphere. So... we all learned:
- What ozone is and the difference between good ozone and bad ozone.
- How the ionosphere affects radio waves.
- What causes the aurora borealis.
- Where and why shooting stars blaze.
- The function of each layer of the atmosphere.
- What types of aircraft/spacecraft can be found in each layer of the atmosphere.
But what I learned most, of course, were the layers of the atmosphere, since that is our memory peg. And knowing that I will walk away actually REMEMBERING something from this study is wonderful and comforting, especially because I am "highly educated but don't know squat."
Restoring two generations... I love classical education.