Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Lyda Hill Gems and Mineral Hall at the Perot Museum

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a frequent science destination for us and the Lyda Hill Gem and Mineral Hall is one of our favorite exhibits within the museum. 

The hall has recently received some updates and while we were checking it out we had the wonderful opportunity to hear Ms. Lyda Hill speak to the guests.  That is, THE Lyda Hill of the Lyda Hill Gem and Mineral Hall!  Ms. Hill is one of Dallas' biggest philanthropists and she is passionate about promoting a love of science especially in young people.  She remembers how she loved to pick up pebbles when she was young and she wants to inspire others to pick up pebbles and explore the world of gems and minerals.  

You see, gems and minerals are a "gateway science".  Kids who might not have much appreciation for formal science will still be fascinated by interesting or sparkly rocks.  As they develop a love for gems and minerals, other doors of interest might open for them into related sciences like chemistry, geology, art, geometry, art, etc.

The Lyda Hill Gem and Mineral Hall has four signature displays.  Their 5 foot tall amethyst geode has always been an impressive site.  The Eyes of Africa is a show-stopping fluorite found in the "Alien Eye" pocket in Namibia, Africa.  It has symmetrical black outer zones framing diamond-shaped vibrant green cores.  This beautiful piece is on loan from Lyda Hill.

Stibnite, also known as Antimony Sulfide, is one of Nicholas' favorite displays.  It is a robust cluster of crystal formations recovered from an industrial ore mine in Jiangxi Province of China.  It is an amazing piece.

And finally, the monthly birthstone case displays the rough and faceted forms along with a special display of beautiful jewelry featuring the current month's gem.

We admired the Aurora Butterfly of Peace, a 240 colored diamonds, some of which fluoresce under UV light.  This piece symbolizes "a spiritual connection to Earth for all humankind".

I am in love with this Ammonite fossil that has an iridescent coating of Aragonite.  It was found in Canada.

As we were admiring this amazing piece of Tanzanite, Ms. Lyda Hill came over to speak to us!!   This is one of her pieces that she has loaned to the museum.

She talked to us some more about her passion for inspiring children and adults to learn more about nature so that they will take care of this planet for the next generation.  We enjoyed hearing her stories about a few of her other pieces on display at the museum.

There are sections in the hall based on color, based on the country where the specimens were found, and based on the type of gem and mineral.  It makes it really interesting to look at the pieces this way.

For example, these three pictures below all represent rhodochrosite but look how different they look from each other.  

There are also several interactive screens where you can see what different minerals are made of or play a head-to-head game to test you gem and mineral knowledge.

Here are a few of our other favorite specimens in the hall.  I like the rich purple and turquoise of the Azurite/Malachite piece.  The stringy slivers of silver are one of Nicholas' favorites.

We love being inspired to learn something new every time we visit the Perot Museum!

As we were leaving the museum, Rachel proudly pointed out that we actually spoke to one of the founding donors of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  

Come check out the amazing new look of the Lyda Hill Gem and Mineral Hall but make plans to come back later in February for the museum's upcoming special exhibit, The Art of the Brick, featuring the world's largest display of LEGO art!  You can bet we will be back for that!

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is located at 2201 N. Field Street in Dallas.  For more information, please visit their website at

Monday, January 14, 2019

Our Homeschool Electronics Class

One of the careers that Nicholas is interested in is Electrical Engineering.  He has always had a pretty strong knack for engineering.  He is always tinkering, creating, and building things.  It just seems to come naturally for him.  He enjoys working with electrical circuits and understands some basics about electricity but we wanted him to go a little deeper and learn more so he can really see if this is a field he would want to go into.  The beauty of homeschooling is that we have more flexibility in our schedule to let our children really explore their passions.  It also helps that our children are not allowed to have "screen time" during the school week so that allows for more free time for sparking their imaginations and interests.

One day when we were at Tanner's Electronics store just playing around with electrical components, we asked the owner if he happened to know of local classes or even curriculum to teach electronics to kids.  I'm so glad that we talked to him because we learned that they homeschool their children as well!  He gave us a great resource for a book which can be found for free on MIT's website.  It is called MAKE Electronics by Charles Platt.  It isn't a curriculum, per se, but it has lessons that build upon each other.  We even found kits that come with all of the supplies needed for the electronics lab exercises.  We even found a homeschool friend that wanted to do the course too so Stuart works through the book and the projects with Nicholas and his friend every Thursday night.  The two boys love this class and they get excited about the projects they do each week.  

Nicholas gets so excited about tinkering with electronics that when our coffee maker broke, he wouldn't let me throw it out.  Instead the boys took it apart as part of their class work and learned about how it worked.

And, when this microwave was seen at the curb in front of a neighbor's house, I was asked to pick it up so the deconstruction and investigation of it could become another extension of Electronics Class!  Note: microwaves can be dangerous to take apart so you must do some research before you try to tackle this project.

We also have a big trunk under the school table that Nicholas is using to collect other dead or broken things that I would like to throw away like an old PC, a monitor, an electric pencil sharpener, a kid's version of a tablet, and much more.  The trunk is so full that we can no longer fully close the lid on it.  I think he has enough electronic projects now to last him an entire year!  But do you want to know something cool?  Nicholas doesn't just dive into taking everything apart.  Stuart has a great understanding of electronics so Nicholas always wants to wait until Stuart is available to do it with him so he can teach him about the components and what they do.

I love listening in on Stuart and the boys during Electronics class.  I smile as I hear the excitement in the boys' voices as they learn cool new things or they successfully make their electronic projects work correctly.  Stuart, thank you for pouring your time and energy into making this class so great for them, especially when you do it after a long day at work.