Wednesday, August 15, 2018


--- School away from school ---

Libraries, museums, parks, zoos, gardens...I think that most people thing of them as entertainment, and I guess they are, but they think of themselves as having educational missions. The difference is that they are not compulsory education. Children are subjected to grades K through 12 whether they want to be or not because society has deemed it important that citizens be prepared with the basic skills needed for personal and vocational success. After high school, people have some freedom of choice. They decide what they want to do with their lives and they "give themselves" for 3 to 12 years to some institution that is paid to train them in some field - vocational program, apprenticeship, technical school, college, university.

Personal education is different. If you want to know how to fix your broken plumbing, you can go to your local library and check out a book or a DVD that explains what you need to know. If you want to see animals, you can go to the zoo or aquarium. But many of these places also have classes - like in school, but you can pick and choose.

Many of the parks in the Denver area even give guided tours that teach about plants, animals, and the environment in this area. Some have informative plaques that offer self-guided tours.

The library in my neighborhood offered a "Space Party" that presented information about space science and tips for watching the upcoming Persied meteor shower. I thought it was an adult program - it was a childrens' program - but that was okay. I'm not doing astronomy right now; I'm doing social science, and education is a social science.

Actually, education is somewhat of a hybrid. How we learn is definitely in the domain of psychology, but much of education is what happens between teachers, the student, and the other students - not to mention the organization that is the school.

So I settled down to watch the show, and a show it was. The presenter had his act down well. Meteors, the solar system, rockets, and mars exploration - the children were fascinated as much by the information (which was surprisingly substantial) as by his theatrics - acting, choreography, sleight of hand, special effects (demostrations). And the kids asked great questions. They showed themselves surprisingly knowledgable about space science ($11 and million dollar space dollars were handed out for correct answers).

So, it was a fun time for all. The program (SpaceTimeKids - if you're curious, they're on the Internet at https://www.spacetimekids.com) is particularly appropriate for this area. Denver has long been a center for the space program with Lockheed Martin nearby in Littleton, and a new focus in the Colorado School of Mines is space science and space  mining.

Does libraries, museums, zoos, gardens, and parks in your area offer educational programs or tours? Often they will have websites that provide schedules or calendars of events.



--- Evans to Broadway ---

The hike from Evans station to Broadway station is short but there are some interesting highlights along the way. Pasquinel's Landing and Overland Park takes up the length of the Mary Carter Greenway between Evans and Mississippi Avenues along the South Platte River. On the other side of Platte River Drive is Ruby Hill park.

The light rail station at Evans is a short walk along an overpass over Sante Fe Boulevard. As an example of how Denver has ornamented its public places, here is some of the art on the overpass.  Denver has encouraged the public expression of art in murals and sculptures.

                                                                    [Evans overpass]

Pasquinel's Landing is directly across Evans Boulevard from Grant Frontier Park and begins with a fitness park with a set of exercise equipment. I investigated them but didn't use them. I still had Ruby Hill to deal with. Still, with the trail itself, they looked like a pretty complete workout.

Fitness parks seem to be a feature of our landscape now. The Rails-to-Trails trail in Valley had one as did the park near the stadium in Selma and I knew of several other city parks in Alabama with exercise stations.


                                                            [Pasquinel's Landing]

This is also a boat landing for people who want to canoe or kayak on the river, and the water birds seem to like this area. I saw these herons and also a snowy egret (I couldn't get a good picture of the egret because it kept its back to me.)


                                                                           [Herons]

Along the river, the area has been planted to provide examples of ecosystems in the Denver area from the southern hills to the alpine regions above 900 feet in the Rockies. Plaques along the trail offer a self guided tour.

The land to the west of the river is hilly and a couple of the hills really stand out. The panorama for this blog was taken from Loretto Heights and is one of the best views of the area around. Ruby Hill is also a popular prominence, especially in the winter when it provides gentle, clear slopes for snow sledding. The lawn is kept well maintained but the slopes at the bottom near the river are allowed to grow in a more natural state.  The several varieties of trees provide nesting for raptors like eagles and hawks.

A trail circles the hill to the top and back to the base where Florida Avenue crosses Platte River Drive. Denver has themes. Further South, the streets are named for colleges. Here, they are names for states. To the north, in Denver proper, they start getting numbers.


                                                                        [Ruby Hill]

The crown of Ruby Hill offers good views east across the plains, and the tall buildings in downtown Denver.


                                                                        [Vistas]

There is also a large pavilion on top with picnic tables and a modernistic Stonehenge type sundial. This day was not sunny, so I didn't get a picture of it working, but you can get an idea of how it works from these pictures. When I start writing blogs about astronomy in a couple of years, I'll have to revisit the many sundials in the area.


                                                             [Pavillion and sundial]

Sanderson Gulch is the northernmost point that I've hiked on the South Platte River to date. Like Harvard Gulch, it is a man made canal created to drain storm waters off the slopes of the river valley. It runs about five miles from Lakewood, through North Harvey Park, to the Platte River at Ruby Hill. This is where it empties into the river.

                                                                [Sanderson Gulch]

This time, I continued a little further to Mississippi Boulevard. Here is a view of downtown Denver from the bridge over the river. I'm getting close.

                                                  [Denver from Mississippi Boulevard]

I grabbed a bite at the Breakfast King on Mississippi before continuing to Broadway Station. Until recently, I've associated the colors of the apartments in this picture as "Denver colors", but I've learned that they are the colors of a major construction company in Denver that builds apartments around light rail stations. It seems a lot of people don't like the colors. I don't mind them - they sorta look autumnal.



                                                  [Apartments near Broadway station]

Broadway station is a hub for several of the lines on the RTD system. The train overhead lines and the rails create interesting patterns where the different lines come together.

Power is delivered to the RTD trains through structures that sweep these overhead power lines. Other systems use third rails to deliver power. The motors on these trains are 620 horsepower electric engines that run on 25,000 volts of alternating current. They can reach speeds up to 79 miles per hour.


                                                               [Broadway station]

From Broadway, I take the train to University station, and the bus from there back home. The summer is still on us but the overcast skies kept the temperature somewhat less than brutal.

Denver is all about art. Most of the railway stations are decorative and many areas sport murals, sculptures, outdoor art exhibits and art museums. What kind of art is on display in your area? Does your town support local artists?

Denver is on several migration routes for birds. Also, raptors seem to like the area. It's a popular place for bird watchers. Most areas in the US have interesting features for bird watchers. Even New York city and many other large towns have their falcons. What kind of bird populations are in your area?

Do you have a light rail system in your area? In addition to being a fun means of transportation, they are interesting engineering achievements in their own right.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018


--- Schools along the trail ---

In a way, I've been blogging about education on the Bear Creek Trail the whole time. I started by looking at museums, libraries, and computers (at least my smart phone, which is a pocket computer.) Then I looked at psychology and philosophy using the trail as a "natural laboratory". This year, I have been looking at the sociology and religions of the trail. Along the way, I have taken side-trips into science (for instance, wildflowers and weather), industries, food on the trail, art, and history.

But other people use the trail for educational purposes. I have seen three school field trips on Bear Creek Trail and a group from one of the local colleges at the nearby Morrison Museum of Natural History studying paleontology.

There are several schools along Bear Creek Trail. Most of them are along the eastern part of  the trail, so I hiked from Wadsworth Boulevard to Oxford Station and visited a couple of them: John F. Kennedy High School and Mullen Catholic High School. These are within view of the trail.

It's summer, so I was hoping I could catch staff on campus when students were not around so I would not interrupt their studies. In both cases, that worked.

This is a large town, so the schools tend to be large. Enrollment  in Kennedy High School runs about 1500 students and that for Mullen is about 800-900 students.

The people I talked to did not know of any use of the creek as a resource but said that they thought that the science classes did have field trips to look at things like life in the creek. Kennedy students use the creek as a hangout. I have seen families of graduating students in the park celebrating.

One of the classes I saw at the creek were, indeed, looking at life forms in the creek. One of the others was testing the creek waters for impurities.




                                                     [John F. Kennedy High School]




                                                             [Mullen High School]

Does your local schools use parks and other outdoor sites for educational purposes?

If you see a group on a field trip, you might ask them what their doing and let them teach you something.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018


--- Sociology in the colleges ---

The social sciences cover a very large conceptual area. Any situation in which more than one person is interacting is social. Even when there is only one person, the way they think about other people is social. So, it's no wonder that I can't just tell you what the universities around here focus on in the social sciences. From what I've said about psychology, philosophy, and religion in the area, you probably aren't to surprised that a lot of it is about social justice.

I didn't travel to Boulder for this one but I did look over the School of Sociology website. I noticed that they do have a focus on criminology, like Denver University. It lists four working groups that come together to discuss topics in sociology and I assume that those give some idea of what's going on there in research - what's in vogue. Those groups are:

Criminology and Criminal Justice Working Group
Culture, Power and Inequality Working Group
Political Economy Working Group
Population and Health Working Group

I did walk down the street to the Denver University and had a nice day of it. A major emphasis there seems to be criminology. For instance, one of the professors, Jared Del Rosso is doing some significant work about the public perception of torture.

The main building for sociology is the Strum Hall. The School of Sociology and Criminology is the largest on campus, consisting of 15 schools and departments.


                                                                  [Sturm Hall]

Sturm Hall also houses the Denver University Museum of Anthropology. The public part of the museum is one small room but museums like this are my favorite. It is a teaching museum. Students interact with items in the less public museum holdings to create installations displaying their academic work. The study is ongoing, the information is current, and the displays deeply consider the items, the people who created them, the students who study them, and the visitor who views them.

When I visited, there was an installation about Korean shadow puppetry. The text on the wall emphasizes the importance of the shadow in the human psyche.

                                                                        [Shadow]

The displayed artifacts were primarily Asian and North American (much was Hopi).

                                                                      [Display]

"Activating the Collections" makes explicit what this museum is about. I'll let the museum, itself, explain.

                                                  [Activating the Collections]

The museum offered a book written by a professor at Denver University. I didn't expect much - I got much more. Sarah Milledge Nelson's Spirit Bird Journey is an engaging, very well written, but odd little story that weaves three threads together. It is a fascinating description of Korean culture that tells of an archeologist's research in Korea, and also tells of her spirit journey as a bird to paleolithic Korea. Part scientific expedition, part shamanic fairy tale, this novel is informed throughout by the author's own archaeological expertise, knowledge of Asian history and culture, and an excellent handling of narrative.

I decided to buy a copy for a friend and found that new paperback versions are hard to find - perhaps out of print. The original publisher was RKLOG Press in Littleton, Colorado but all I could find were used copies, hardbacks, and digital copies.

I also noticed that the author has written other novels and academic books. I will have to check them out.

Leaving the museum, I was treated to a stroll through the water gardens.


                                                                      [Water gardens]

The semicircular plaque looks like a sundial or some kind of astrolabe but it actually points out the mountains that you can see from this point in the gardens. As you can see, in the summer, there are too many trees. Most of the campus is an arboretum.

                                                                   [Mountains]

I have been passing a small wine bar for some time. Hiking, I'm not drawn to wine or espresso, but this time I stopped in and was delighted to be reacquainted with Italian sodas - the perfect drink for a hot summer day. I'm now identifying all the places around town where I can get Italian sodas. La Belle Rosette, on University Drive just south of the campus is now a favorite stop - friendly people with Italian sodas in the summer and specialty espresso drinks in the winter. What more could I ask for?

Are there any teaching museums in your area? They often are on college campuses but, not always. My favorite paleontological museum in the area is the Museum of Natural History in Morrison, which is also a research site. Again, it's a small museum but the staff is on the cutting edge of paleontology and the tours are packed with up-to-date information about fossils in an area where fossils are big.


Saturday, July 28, 2018


--- Englewood to Evans ---

July 9, I hiked from Englewood Station to Evans Station, not a long hike, maybe a couple of miles, and not particularly picturesque. This leg of the light rail is through an industrial area. Mary Carter Greenway is a ribbon of green through grays and browns, metal and brick.

The South Platte is wide here but shallow. I could probably wade across. I have seen it during spring thaw when it could (and will) sweep cars off the road. I've seen two cars in the South Platte in this area.

                                                               [South Platte River]

There are several industries in this area and, when I begin looking at Dewey Decimal 600 (Applied Sciences). I will certainly be coming back to this area.

                                                                  [Brick yard]

Southwest Generation Arapahoe Power Plant is here. It is a 125 megawatt, gas fired with eight generators. It looks like it would make an interesting tour.

                                                            [Arapahoe Power Plant]

By the way, Arapahoe County is a southern part of the Denver Metro Area. I have been hiking in Arapahoe County since Waterton Canyon and am now in Denver County.

                                                                    [Thistle]

There are 15 native and 5 non-native thistles common in Colorado and despite their reputation as prickly weeds, they sport beautiful blooms. You can find a guide book at:

https://www.summitcountyco.gov/DocumentCenter/View/11988

                                                                  [Water feature]

Floods and erosion have been inconvenient realities for Denver since it's founding. The normally tame South Platte can get quite vicious during the spring thaw, and dams and sluices like this one are now common along the stream.

I've had photos of the eastern section of Harvard Gulch before on this blog. It collects rain runoff from the valley slope and deposits it into the river here.

                                                             [Harvard Gulch outlet]

A trail runs along the canal, paralleling Yale from near Colorado Boulevard down to Rosedale, where it disappears underground near Broadway.

At Evans Avenue, the Platte River trail passes through a long park called "Grant Frontier Park". This area was a short lived town - Montana City - which served as pastureland and a city dump for what would become Denver. Established in 1858 during the gold rush, it was the first pioneer settlement in the area. Here are some pictures of the park.





                                                                 [Grant Frontier]

After leaving Mary Carter Greenway, I am obliged to walk a short distance up the valley rim to Evans Station, which is nestled under the Evans Avenue overpass.




                                                          [Denver city streets]

I didn't see any food places, so I took the light rail back to Englewood and, surviving 90+ temperatures, I was ready for an Italian soda at Nixon's Coffee Shop in the Englewood Arts District. It's a friendly place to cool off in the summer and warm up in the winter.

After some errands at the local shopping area, I boarded the Yale bus for home.


All of the United States were, at some time in the past, frontier. Do you have any memorials near you that commemorate the first settlers in your area?

Industries provide some exciting adventure opportunities. They often offer tours for groups and, sometimes, individuals can visit their plants.


Sunday, July 15, 2018


                                                             [Eugene Field library]

Friday, the 13th (my day!), the Eugene Field branch of the Denver Public Library hosted presentations by Bike Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation about the future of transportation in Colorado. I'm not a bicyclist so the Bike Denver presentation was just interesting. If you would like more information they have a website at www.bikedenver.com and the provide many services to encourage people to use the bike trails more including lessons and people who volunteer to help folks get use to the area.

The bus trip down University Boulevard gave me the opportunity to visit an area that I have been through several times but have not been able to spend any time at. The Bonny Brae Ice Cream Shop is a local landmark and I've been wanting to check it out. It's understandably popular, and did I mention that I'm crazy about milkshakes?

The CDOT had a lot of information to share. A big item was that they are trying to find ways to manage traffic congestion without widening roads and they are investigating some serious technology to do it. Of considerable interest to me was that the CDOT has their own transportation system that has buses that run to Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins (it's called "Bustang") and they're looking at expanding the bus lines to other areas. That gives me a lot more travel opportunities.

Does your local library offer presentations of information of local interest?

What are the transportation opportunities like in your area? Sometimes there are services that you have to look for but investigation is fun.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018


--- A Day at the Zoo ---

I spent a day at the zoo with some friends and family. It's hot here and many of the animals are trying to stay out of the sun. One giraffe was hugging the side of a building trying to stay in the thin shade.

But the most populous exhibit was well represented and visible. Humanity was out in force, and, of course, there are really few better places to observe human nature than the zoo.

Well, but I'm not going there in this blog. You might have noticed that I rarely show pictures of recognizable humans.  They're there and I enjoy watching them and talking to them, but the only time I will include an interaction is when everybody involved has given me the go ahead. And, it's a small world, yes, it is. I could easily get someone in trouble by publishing their image and it would be purely accidental - so I just don't do it.

But I'm pretty sure that the following pictures won't get my subjects into trouble, and there won't be a lot of narrative here. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

                                                              [Pinstripe horses (zebras)]


[Fat polar bear]



[Poison dart frogs]



[Snakes]

[Capybara - this one's not from Georgia]


[Lion fish - wonder if they know the poison frogs]






[Lizards and turtles]


[Tiger]


[Okapi]


[Elephant - he knows he's the center of attraction]

There were zoo staff wondering around that were plum happy to tell you about they're favorite animals, and then there were shows. I couldn't get a good shot of the tapirs (they were trying to stay out of the heat) but a proud zoo staff told us about their many children and where they are. (He sounded like he was one of the parents!)



[Headless monkey - actually, he was just keeping his head down.]

[It's hot here. Rhino knows hot]


[Gorilla - trying to ignore the other primates]



[Grizzly bears]

[Dahl's sheep]

Do you have a zoo close to you? Zoos usually offer more than just a stroll among the animal enclosures. The shows are educational and often tell you about current research in biology. Many zoos double as botanical gardens. And you can always peoplewatch there.