Tuesday, June 30

Host an Independence Day Celebration!

I remember...just a few days post-911, I was wandering around Boston alone, looking for peace, when I stumbled upon an impromptu performance by Lee Greenwood near the State House. Two songs in, he began to play 'God Bless the USA,' and an amazing thing happened. All of these strangers began to sing together. For four minutes, we were not passers-by on the city streets, bitter and torn from the recent tragedy - everyone joined as one. It was pretty amazing...


Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could act like our founding fathers did, working through these differences to find a common middle ground? You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one... (John Lennon)

Here are some ideas to celebrate America's birthday with your family this 4th of July. (Trivia : The Declaration of Independence was completed and signed on July 2nd, but they didn't get around to a public reading until July 4th.**)


Roadschool Field Trip - Fourth of July in Washington DC

What better place to spend the Fourth of July than in the nation's capital? Granted, about a million other people are there as well, but there's so much to do and see, and much of it is kid-friendly AND budget-friendly...

We had the great fortune to have family living in the area, and are extraordinarily grateful to the kids' aunt and uncle for letting us crash at their apartment for several weeks!!! They made memories which will last a lifetime.

Our first stop was The National Mall  (where nearly everything is free).  We tried to hit as many of the landmarks from National Treasure 2 as possible.  We hit the Washington MonumentLincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial before heading inside to the museums.
  
The Smithsonian Museums (free admission) brought much-needed relief in the form of air conditioning.  We visited the Air & Space MuseumMuseum of American History, and Museum of Natural History multiple times. 
One of the trip highlights for the boys was using their Metro Pass. If you are going to be in the area for any length of time, look into purchasing one for the reduced fares. While walking is still the easiest way to get around, the Metro is quicker. Subways are not a part of their everyday world, and there were days that I was fairly certain they were more excited about taking the Metro than anything else!
 
Outside of the metro area, we visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery (free admission) and saw the changing of the guard and John F. Kennedy's eternal flame.  Kudos to our men and women who stand guard 24/7, regardless of the weather.
   
Also on the periphery, is George Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Virginia.  This is an all-day affair, but air conditioning was sparse and it was 100+, so we hustled through the tour.
 
Back in the city, we finished our "National Treasure" tour with the Capitol Building and Library of Congress  (both free).
  
As our trip came to a close, we prepared to celebrate the birth of our nation in the capital....along with a million other Americans.  This included watching the preparations for "A Capitol Fourth", taking one last stroll around the mall, and then heading out to see fireworks!
  
........let's just take a moment to reflect on exactly HOW HOT it was...

Roadschool Trip to Colorado Springs + Olympics

With the Summer Olympics coming up, we took a road trip to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs!  It's also a great chance to hike Garden of the Gods...
The US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is home to athletes and coaches as they train for the next Olympic Games.  It opened in 1978, and is able to provide housing, dining, recreational facilities and other services for up to 557 coaches and athletes at one time.  It also gives tours every half hour, for those who like to dream big!

The athletes stay in fully furnished dorms, and have access to an all-day-long all-you-can-eat buffet at the adjoining cafeteria.  It's the best of the best for the elite few who are lucky enough to be invited to train here...
The swimming pools are humongous; the weight rooms are tricked out with every possible weight-lifting technology, including some you've never even thought of in your wildest dreams!  They have some fantastic equipment here, and probably the best sports medicine facility around.  It was lunchtime, so the pool and weight room were fairly quiet during our tour.
We watched the boys' volleyball team in training games, and got to play around in one of the bobsleds...
One of the highlights of the day was springing along on the same floor that some of my favorite gymnasts have trained on!  Oh....to have one hour to play on that equipment!!!
When we told the kids we were heading to Colorado, the only place they really wanted to visit was the Garden of the Gods.  Granted, they didn't really know what else was out there, but they had a one-track mind on this.  So it was our number one 'must do.'

At the entrance of our parking area, there was a trail guide pointing out all of the various geological 'structures,' like the Kissing Camels shown in the second photo.  We had fun renaming almost all of them!
Ah, but the disappointment quickly set in when we made them get down and stop climbing.  Without a permit and (naturally) the correct gear, climbing is not allowed.  We had not come prepared to climb, but we did spend a long time watching the ones who had.
We spent a lot of time walking the trails and exploring the plant life in the area.  It's pretty different from what we're used to seeing at home and on our east coast jobs.  It was morning, not too hot yet, and the day was shaping up to be a beauty!
As we were leaving, we discovered the area that is set up for climbing.  We had watched the rock climbers from the trail, and the boys were a little disappointed that they weren't able to climb, so we let them crawl all over this area.  All four of us enjoyed that hour!!
What you can't see in this picture is that the oldest has just fallen off a rock and disappeared into.....well, apparently a mini-cave that he found.  
Isn't the view stunning??

Field Trip Resources

Monday, June 29

The Watsons Go to Birmingham + Civil Rights Movement

Imagine a world where the choices you made, and opportunities you were offered, all stemmed from the color of your skin....welcome to Birmingham, 1963.

Despite the abolition of slavery, very little had been accomplished toward equal rights for blacks and white after the Civil War ended.  Throughout the country, African Americans were often subjected to discrimination, but nowhere was it as extreme as in the South. There, many public areas, such as restaurants, schools, playgrounds, motels, bathrooms, and drinking fountains, were racially segregated.  They could only be used by the indicated race - Whites or Coloreds.  The facilities for blacks were always of poorer quality. Many states passed laws that affected African Americans’ opportunities for schooling, housing, and employment.

In 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools could no longer be segregated.  The most extreme confrontation over this desegregation took place at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.  At the time this book takes place, the civil rights movement, which had begun in the late 1950's, was gaining momentum.  Not since the Reconstruction period after the Civil War had so much ground been gained on the equal-rights front.  Black leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Medgar Evers, and Thurgood Marshall led black and white activists in peaceful protests, including marches, sit-ins, boycotts, and rallies.

On August 28, 1963, 200,000 people marched on Washington, D.C., to pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights Bill.  Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at this march.  Freedom Riders - usually college students from northern schools - rode south to help register African-American voters. (see photo above) One of the most shocking crimes committed during the civil rights movement was the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. When a bomb went off during Sunday school, four young girls were killed. This event is in the book.

Read
Watch
Make / Do
  • Newspaper - Create a front page article about something that happens in the book.  Write the story and have a picture to accompany it.  You can use this model for a historic newspaper.
  • Alternate ending - Think of a different place for the Watsons to visit (Connecticut, Mississippi, California), and write about their experiences there.  Include at least three landmarks and address how they would be treated in that location.
  • A Peek Back - Interview a grandparent or someone who lived in 1963.  Ask them about their experience with the Civil Rights movement and how it affected the local town and families.
Vocabulary
  • boycott
  • cockeyed
  • cracker
  • discrimination
  • emulate
  • grapevine
  • hillbilly
  • jacked up
  • peon
  • pervasive
  • segregate
  • seniority
  • trespass
Think
  • Why do you think the author chose to include the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, something that really happened, in a book that is mostly fictional?
  • How are the cities of Birmingham and Flint different? How are they similar?
  • What do you think is the most important theme of this book? What are some of the other themes?