Saturday, February 22, 2014

CA History - New Almaden Mine Museum Tour

Last December, I was at a celebratory Christmas lunch with a colleague from a local community college.  In conversation, she recommended checking out the town of New Almaden, a historic community near San Jose.  I followed up and arranged for a docent tour... and off we finally were!

I've posted before about bad docents, the type who dumb down their presentations.  We couldn't tell with John; he seemed pretty stoic during the introductions.  As soon as he squatted down with the kids on the floor and began, it sounded bad - that tone, the exaggerated speech, a little condescension implied.  I saw G look at the friend next to her with a little smirk of concern....

But that was it!  He started asking questions and when he got answers, his respect went up.  The tour was fascinating, from the history of the Ohlone's use of cinnabar to the Mexican discovery of the mines to the description of the miners lives and the way that technology advanced over time in mining. We were impressed too... our kids have really been absorbing California history this year and they get it.  One of many reasons why it was a lovely, awesome day.

G holding cinnabar - heavy and pretty darn toxic, as it turns out!

Hands up!  Great tour, the best I've ever seen for bringing a static museum to life.

K looks pretty excited to hold the dynamite as a friend prepares to set it off.

More excitement over detonating dynamite

The lovely remains of a pagoda that the Emperor of China sent as a gift after a tour of the mine.

Checking out Victorian-era toys.  We also got to play "Almaden mine bingo" before we left.

After the tour, I drove home happy and relaxed, thinking about the things that made the day so great.  In no particular order, this is what I remember:

1.  Enjoying the day with friends whom I never see enough.

2.  Knowing the kids feel the same way, joy to see their kids.  When we approached and saw one friend's car, both of my kids started giggling in happy anticipation.

3.  It was such a beautiful day - temperature, blossoms, location... being outside in beauty is important for my soul.

4.  I was so appreciative of getting to have this experience as a small group.  I don't think I'd have one iota of fun with a large school group and it was one of those experiences that highlight the advantages of homeschooling.

5.  I love being on hand to watch and learn with the kids.  So much I didn't know!

6.  I love hearing how every single one of the kids, with all of their differences and idiosyncrasies, is willing to participate and in the process demonstrate how much they have learned about Ca history.

7.  It was awesome to watch the kids self-organizing in games afterward, handling inevitable problems themselves and having fun together and in small groups. Executive function!

8.  That they had time to do that was another advantage of homeschooling.  We all had obligations that had us leave before we were quite ready, but we did have more time to play, talk, and be than most school kids seem to have.

9. John (the docent) himself was a happy surprise, adjusting his approach almost immediately when he saw that they kids were enthusiastic and informed.  Love finding great teachers, love learning so much new stuff.

10.  Looking forward to next time!

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