Sunday, February 27, 2011

Zoo Negara II - tram ride & animal parts 24Feb2011

After lunch, it was time for a tram ride around the zoo. Edwina, our facilitator for the zoo education programme, graciously volunteered to be our guide and she gave lots of interesting snippets of the animals we passed by.

"Did you know that the goat's iris is rectangular?"

Other little questions to pique our interest as we zoomed through the zoo...
  • Do you know the difference between a horn and an antler?

  • Did you know our Malayan sun bear is the smallest bear in the world? What is the largest bear?

Baby giraffe is 1 year old. The other 3 female giraffes are pregnant.

The guided tour was very informative and I enjoyed my 30 minute ride.

After the ride, we stopped at Children's World. Fai pulled me into a cave with grisly exhibits. Elephant shoes anyone? Comes with elastic spongy cushioning.
Note the elephant's teeth. The boys remembered playing with elephant's teeth in K. Gandah

Shrinking skulls?
The smallest skull is the marmoset's and the largest is the baboon's.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Zoo Negara Educational Programme II - Encounter with Reptiles 24Feb2011

Our second education programme in Zoo Negara for the year and I was impressed with the effort put in. Once again we had Edwina as our facilitator.

She started by asking a series of questions:

  • Why were we at the zoo

  • What are reptiles

  • Name a few reptiles

  • What are cold blooded and warm blooded animals

  • What happens when cold blooded animals get too cold or too warm

Most of the questions were answered by the 6 to 8 year olds.

First activity of the day, tying your shoelaces without using your thumbs.

Not a single one of the kids had shoes with shoelaces.
Fai took off his sandles (with velcro straps) and slid his feet back in without using any fingers.
It was to illustrate the adaptabilty of humans and how having an opposable thumb enables us to do the simplest task.
She told the group that humans have adapted very well to its surroundings. Reptiles on the other hand being cold blooded had a harder time adapting to its environment. Its body temperature depends on its surroundings.
Edwina asked "What happens when a reptile gets too hot?"
En,7, replied "Well, when it gets too hot, it will go to a cool place"
Edwina "What about when it is too cold"
Fai " It will go out to the rock"

We walked to the reptilian section. Edwina gave an overview on all the reptiles that we walked past.

Edwina: How does a snake eat its much bigger prey?
En(while doing chewing movements with her fingers): It takes small bites
Fai: Ummm..(thinking and twiddling his thumbs)....

The group found the dead mice floating in the pythons' enclosure interesting

The dead mice being scooped up.
Mr Hafiz, the curator for the Amphibian and Reptilian exhibits, was around to answer our questions. He was a storehouse of information and was very willing to share his knowledge with us.

He said that the dead mice were killed by the pythons in the glass enclosure. They had killed the mice out of the thrill of of the hunt and could have also been a way to exercise their constrictor muscles. The snakes will not eat the mice once its body gets cold.
I asked if it was possible to limit the number of live mice put in. Hafiz said that if there isn't an excess number of mice, the bigger snakes might hunt and eat the smaller snakes. It had happened before but luckily the curator could intervene and managed to rescue the smaller snake.

Sniff like a snake activity.
Han said it smells like fondant.

Han took a tortoise egg from the display table and tried to crack it open by knocking it against the table. I stopped him in the nick of time. Phew!

JY and Thea was concerned about the life that might be growing inside the eggs. They said that they could feel the egg's contents. They asked why the kids were allowed to handle and shake the eggs.

Edwina explained that the eggs were not fertilised successfully and there wasn't any life within.

Snakes' skeletons draped on a tree branch.

Worksheet activity.
Match the eggs to the correct reptilian mother.
Petting a snake.
Ean couldn't keep his eyes off the python and insisted on giving it a pat.
Han inspecting the Star Tortoise's shell.

Han: " Look there is a bone in there! Why only one bone?"

Edwina who was next to him had to explain that the tortoise died and had to be removed, so only its shell is left.
He wasn't satisfied with the answer and kept asking for the missing bones.
The kids were provided with poster paint, paper and rocks for an arts and crafts session. They were encouraged to paint a reptile in its natural habitat.
Listening intently as Edwina pointed out the difference between a crocodile, an alligator and a false gharial.

Hafiz fed the Aldabra Giant Tortoise as the kids circled around the 60 year old tortoise and patted its shell.

I was inspired by David H. Albert's Skylark Sings book to get a pair of snakes for the boys.
So I quizzed Hafiz, who thinks that pythons make the best pets, on the snake's eating and breeding habits.
He had all the facts at his fingertips.
Interesting fact 1: Small snakes need to be fed once in 1 or 2 weeks. Larger snakes can go without food for up to a year. After they feed, they will shed their skin.
Breed your own white mice if you intend to keep snakes.
Interesting fact 2: We should only play with the snake after it sheds its skin.
Interesting fact 3: Keep snakes away from each other. They are cannibalistic.
Interesting fact 4: Snakes will eat house lizards

Aldabra Giant tortoise's poo. Looks like a clump of dried leaves and is odourless. We might take part in the poo art programme next. Making paper out of animal poo seems interesting :)

Bats 24Feb2011

The night before the zoo trip, Han started jumping around the bedroom with a blanket tightly clutch around his shoulders.
He said" I am gonna sleep like a bat tonight" and lay down on the bed.
Fai said "Bats sleep hanging upside down Han"
Han asked " Why do bats sleep upside down mom?"
I had no idea.
So I said, " Would you like to go to the bats exhibit when we are at the zoo tomorrow? Maybe we can find the answer there"
Han "Ok"

The largest bat is the Malaysian Flying Fox. We saw a few clinging to the black nursery netting. They were squirming and flapping their wings.
Me: the bats do not wrap their wings around them.
Fai: Yea, I think they are hot.

What fine deduction that was!

It was about 2pm.
The heat must have been unbearable for the bats with just the nursery netting for shade.

Thea: And too bright too. Don't they sleep in caves?

JY: Look. They are fanning themselves.

Indeed they were. The bats were flapping their wings inwards, trying to direct cool air to their body.

No information on why bats hang upside down but there were a few informative posters.
Fai compared the sizes of the bones in the human's and the bat's hand.
Han matched the bones of the bat's and human's.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Delayed Instruction 23Feb2011

The first time I read that a homeschooling mom regretted teaching her child to read at an early age( the child could read The Chronicles of Narnia by 7 years old, unaided) I was taken aback.
I had the chance to meet up with the mom and she went into the details of why she had regrets. Her reasons were totally alien to me and very unexpected. I would never have thought to link early reading to early maturity and the inability to play and express emotions.

This led me to read up on Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf schools. I tried to digest his philosophy but got cross-eyed after reading one paragraph. I gave up.

After surfing a little more, I stumbled on a lovely site - Homeschool Diner that deals with delayed instruction and the research done on this approach.

Now to read the free e-book on Charlotte Mason's methods.

Not tonight however. Need to uncross my eyes first.

From electricity to DNA modification 21Feb2011

This was Fai's choice for a bedtime story. We never got to finish the book. On the 3rd page, we came to a picture of a foot with lots of circles depicting atoms.
Here's how our conversation went:

Me: Do you know that we are all made up of the same atoms? We are all just carbon, nitrogen hydrogen and oxygen.

Fai looks at me with interest.
Me: And what makes us different is our DNA which carries all the information that makes you, you. You can take your DNA and implant it into another human egg to make another 'Fai" - your clone
Fai: (Rubbing his hands with glee) Really??!!
Me: Well, yes. But it is unethical. And the scientists are not allowed to do so. But they have cloned a sheep.
I went on to explain how DNA is extracted and injected into the animals egg and implanted into the womb. It was 12 midnight. So I just gave a rather scanty overall view of how it was done.
Me: What if we all have clones that we can make use of if we need a heart or a leg or a lung transplant?

JY (who was listening in): Won't the clone be human too? Won't they have feelings? Where are we going to keep them?

Me: I guess that's why cloning of humans is unethical. But it is the norm now to clone plants. Like Kaufu's banana farm is planted with banana clones. Tissue culture they call it.
All the banana plants will be the same height, fruit the same time and ripen at the same time.
Fai was wide-eyed now. And was visibly absorbing all these bits of information.

Me: Scientists have also changed the DNA in plants and created genetically modified plants.
The kids were not interested in GMO food but in GM animals.

Fai(while stomping his feet and rubbing his hands with excitement): So that means I can make a lion with wings!!?

Fai's favourite movie is X-Men and he watches lots of animated X-Men. So mutation is a familiar subject to him.
Me: Yes
JY (out of the blue): What about plastic surgery? How is that done?

Me: Er....that involves a lot of surgery - cutting and prodding and stitching. And injecting botox to reduce wrinkles and have lips like Angelina Jolie( pursing my lips)

JY and Fai (bursting with laughter): Buttocks????
Me: Botox!!!

JY: Hahahha..... Buttocks on the lips.......

This discussion was held at nearly 1am and totally unplanned. My eyes were half-closed, thus, some information might be inaccurate.
From this, I now know where to go; in terms of science education for my kids. Skip everything and go straight into biotechnology. This is going to be exciting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia Open House 20Feb2011

This year JY intends to take up 3 cake decorating courses:
1)Pull sugar
2)Decorating with chocolate
3)Air brush painting with edible dye
We visited Academy of Pastry Arts during its Open House to check the place out.
The KitchenAid stand mixer on every table caught JY's eye.
Han looking on with interest as melted chocolate is pressed into a mould
Ean getting some assistance in decorating his cupcake
The boys having lots of fun decorating their cupcakes with lots of cream and chocolate chips

JY listening in as a French pastry chef explains how a croissant is made. I took one of the croissants from the buffet table and the freshly baked croissant was one of the best I have ever tasted. JY is definitely going for the croissant class :)

JY giving the instructor lots of room as she showed how a fondant rose is made. Most of the instructors were students in the centre.

By the beach @ PD 20Feb2011

Fai building his fort. The stick placed on the rock behind him is his cannon. It is interesting to note that the rocks used in building the A Farmosa fort in Malacca is similar to the one Fai is using in this photo.

Fai found a tiny red lobster under a rock

Ean inspecting a mangrove tree's pencil root

Han pointing to a tiny black catfish in a rock pool.

Sea grass @ PD 20Feb2011

Very low tides exposed a lot of the shoreline and it was like a treasure hunt for us as we looked for as much life as we could.

Feather-like seagrass

Frilly seagrass

More types of seagrass.
We were delighted to see seagrass growing in PD again.
Now to wait for the green turtles.....

Starfish @ PD 20Feb2011

The tide went down very low, lots of seashore was exposed. Our previous encounter with such low tides, we spotted a starfish and today, we found four of them :)

Ean was captivated

Fai taking a look at its underside.

Size of the starfish compared to Fai hand.
Fai remembered that starfish has the ability to regenerate lost limbs.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Orang Asli carvings @ Museum Negara 19Feb2011

We had gone to the national museum in search for a book on forts in Malaysia and were told that books published by the museum is sold in the museum's library that opens from Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm.

Walking back to the carpark we passed a stall selling Orang Asli crafts. The boys had a go at the wooden rattle and a few musical instruments.

Fai said that he wanted to look at the Orang Asli wood carvings, so we took him to the Galeri Seni Kraf Orang Asli located by the car park. Entrance is free.
He said he likes the stories behind each sculpture. The carving that he is looking at is that of the Tiger Spirit. There were not many tales depicted with each sculpture as compared to the Orang Asli Museum in Gombak, so I am planning another trip to the museum in Gombak soon.

I pointed out to him that most of the carvings were from the Meh Meri tribe in Pulau Carey and asked if he wanted to visit the place.

The right most statue is an example of the carvings done by the Meh Meri tribe, the other 4 are from the Jahut tribe.

Wooden masks by the Meh Meri tribe

Ari Moyang or Ancestor's Day seems interesting but the boys were spooked by the haunting music that was played in the galery, so I will have to give the event a miss.

Fai and Han came running, eager to show Ean and I this sculpture.

Bamboo coffin.
The place was empty and in the background chanting and haunting music was being played. The boys ran out in terror.

JY stayed home to make her birthday mask.
I was sent on an errand to get her feathers and more beads and gems.