Flower

The Total Solar Eclipse and Scientific Literacy

On August 21st, around 1:24 pm Central Standard Time, on the historical Orchard Dale Farm just outside the little hamlet of Cerulean, Kentucky, there will be a few curious humans wearing all manners of strange sunglasses staring up in the sky to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event: a total solar eclipse.

Path of Totality

Animated Video of the Path of Totality (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Unlike the thousands of other eclipse worshipers in the nearby town of Hopkinsville, where there will be a well-planned festival with live music and parades, the few hardcore eclipse fanatics who are precise in their geographical coordinates will visit this farm because it is the spot where the eclipse’s greatest coverage, and one of the longest in duration, can be viewed. A total solar eclipse is where the earth crosses the shadow of the moon, completely obscuring the sun and cutting off all direct rays of sunlight to earth. Stars will appear, the earth will cool, and the moon’s black disk will exhibit a halo around its edge from the sun’s corona.

This spectacular eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1991 and the first coast-to-coast in nearly 100 years. The path of totality will cast a shadow 70 miles wide and will first present itself on the Pacific coast of Oregon near Salem, and then proceed across the heart of the country before exiting the Atlantic coast near Charleston, South Carolina.

Events like solar eclipses are great teachable moments for educators to not only teach students about eclipses but also for students to become more science literate. Science literate students, whether or not they go on to science-related careers or not, become a more informed public, and a more informed public means better decision making.

One of the goals of science literacy (and by extension, the scientific method) is to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. For science educators teaching astronomy, science literacy is not not just about explaining the world around us, but also explaining and predicting the behavior of other objects in our solar system, such as the sun and our moon, and our relationship with those extraterrestrial bodies.

Today, astronomers can now easily predict such things as the precise times and places of various celestial events such as meteor showers, comet visitations, and of course solar eclipses; not only the precise time an eclipse will happen at a particular location, but also where and when the longest duration and greatest extent of an eclipse. eLibrary can assist science teachers toward the goal of helping students become science literate. It has a wealth of information on all things astronomical, including its Research Topic on solar and lunar eclipses. Be sure to check out these and other resources at the end of this blog.

So, where will you be viewing the solar eclipse? Can’t be there? Too far away from the path of totality? For those who can’t watch the eclipse live, you can visit NASA’s Total Eclipse website and view their Eclipse Live Stream page here.

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse (Wikimedia Commons)

If you decide to view the total eclipse in person, there are a few safety precautions you should take before attempting it. First, if you plan on looking directly into the sun, be sure you have the proper solar filter sunglasses for viewing. Using anything else will risk severe eye damage or blindness. If you are within the path of totality you may remove your solar filtered sunglasses briefly when the moon completely covers the sun but be sure to replace your solar viewers soon after to watch the departing eclipse. An alternative method for viewing the eclipse is the pinhole projection. Simply punch a hole in an index card or a sheet of cardboard and project an image onto a nearby surface. Alternatively, hold out and cross your hands in front of you with your fingers of both hands slightly stretched open to project the sun onto the ground in front of you and watch the projection of the spaces between your fingers change as the eclipse takes place. For more indepth safety tips for viewing the solar eclipse, visit NASA’s eclipse page on viewing safety here.

Finally, for those of you who plan to view the eclipse along the path of totality: Happy sun gazing and here’s wishing for clear skies!

Here are some eLibrary Research Topics and other helpful articles that will assist you in viewing and understanding the upcoming solar eclipse:

 

CultureGrams Teaching Activity: The World Game

Looking for new ways to incorporate CultureGrams into the classroom? Look no further than CultureGrams’ collection of over 75 teaching activities! This collection of educationally engaging activities is organized by grade level and activity type. Each activity includes an objective, curriculum standard correlations, a list of materials needed, the amount of time required to do the activity, instructions, and extension activities. These activities help promote critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving.

If you don’t have access to CultureGrams, enjoy this free teaching activity today and sign up for a free trial of the product to access more.

The World Game

Grade level: K–5

Objective:
Students will develop basic map skills and learn about the worldwide appeal of soccer.

 


Time requirement:
Preparation: 40 minutes
In-class: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Materials:
CultureGrams Kids Edition
CultureGrams Online World Edition regional maps:
North America
South America
Europe
Africa
Asia
Oceania

Instructions
1. Divide the class into four groups, and assign each group one of four regions:

  • North and South America
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • Asia and Oceania

2. For each region, print out a list of the countries in the Kids Edition. Have each group locate
these countries on the regional maps (listed above).

3. Have students access the “Games and Sports” page for each country on their list. Have them determine in which countries soccer is popular and highlight these countries on their regional maps. What number or percentage of the countries on their lists play soccer?

4. As a class, discuss their findings. Explore some reasons why soccer is such a popular sport around the globe (inexpensive to play, introduced by colonial powers, etc.).

5. During an international soccer competition (e.g., World Cup, UEFA European Championship, Africa’s Cup of Nations) assign each student a country to follow during the competition. Use the success of particular teams to launch a discussion about those countries. Internet sites that may be useful include:

International Football Federation (FIFA)
Union of European Football Associations
U.S. Soccer Federation

Image from CultureGrams Mozambique Slide Show “Homemade Soccer Ball.” Photo by Salym Fayad

 

Let’s Debate…Education Reform

Education reform, particularly federal spending on public education, has been a political hot-button issue since the 1960s. Questions that were asked then are the same that are debated now: Do the funds provided by the Department of Education improve students’ learning environments and opportunities, or do they simply allow states to decrease money allocated to education? Does federal funding advance education in public schools, or does it stifle public schools with regulations and oversight?

Check out Let’s Debate…Education Reform below for an overview of the topic. Also visit the SKS Spotlight of the Month, which explores the 2017-2018 National High School Debate Topic: The United States federal government should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the United States.

 

Library Showdown: Cats Vs. Dogs

My coworker Jaclyn Rosansky and I collaborated on a post about 50 unusual things you can check out from libraries besides books. While researching that post, I learned about libraries that offer therapy dogs that university students can check out to relieve stress during final exams. For example, Countway Library of Medicine, an alliance of the Boston Medical Library and Harvard Medical School, lets students check out a Shih-Tzu named Cooper for 30-minute sessions.

BOW WOW!

Being that we are in the dogs days of summer and also because I am a dog lover and a fan of libraries, I wondered, aside from literature, what else could I find regarding libraries and dogs?

Lots, it turns out.

I found canine sculptures, a dog with its own library card, and much more. Reading therapy dogs seem to be especially popular with many libraries. Read on to learn about four libraries and their canine connections:

Knee_Hi

Knee-Hi, the Free Library of Philadelphia mascot (Photo used with permission by Sandra Horrocks, Vice President of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation)

Knee-Hi: According to Sandra Horrocks, Vice President of External Affairs at the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  the charming little dog pictured above was posed in front of the library to be their mascot and also may have been used to promote Summer Reading. These days, therapy dogs can still be found at various branches of the Free Library. The Andorra Library has a Tail Waggin’ Tutor where kids can read to Charlie and the Whitman Library features PAWS for reading where kids can ready to Bella the Frech Bulldog. Ms. Horrocks also mentioned to me that they have a dog that goes to their Chestnut Hill Library branch for children who are reluctant readers and “they love reading to him!”

Ruff

Ruff, a plush puppet that can be checked out at Randall Library. (Photo used with permission by Christine Morrison, Youth Services Librarian, Randall Library, Stow, Massachusetts)

Ruff and M.U.T.T.S. Club: Youth Services Librarian Christine Morrison of Randall Library in Stow, Massachusetts, has a plush dog puppet named Ruff that can be checked out by patrons.  The library features a page on their website dedicated to Ruff’s adventures, including a visit to a farm to see goats, bumper cars at a fair and a trip inside a washing machine. Ms. Morrison also mentioned that the library has a M.U.T.T.S. Club for teens. The club, which is currently on summer vacation, offers teens an opportunity to help shelter animals in need and become involved in programs that promote animal welfare.

 

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Rufus at Kids Opening Day 2016 (Photo used with permission by Lisa Mauch, Content Specialist, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio)

Rufus the Reading Dog: I learned about Rufus the Reading Dog from Lisa Mauch, Content Specialist at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Rufus is named after Rufus King II, the founding father of the library and has been keeping very busy as the library mascot for 10 years. You can view his photo page on Pinterest. Rufus isn’t the only dog at the library. On Fridays at 3 pm, the Main Library offers a Tales to Tails program in which children practice reading aloud to a certified therapy dog.

Read to a Dog Program

Child reading to a dog in Oshkosh Library’s Read to a Dog program. (Photo used with permission by Lisa Voss, Head of Library Development, Oshkosh Public Library, Oshkosh, Wisconsin)

Read to a Dog Program: Oshkosh Public Library in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, also offers a program in which trained therapy dogs are used to improve literacy skills in children. The dogs are trained through the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, a division of Intermountain Therapy Animals. “Reading to a dog is a fun and effective way for children who struggle with reading to build both skills and confidence,” notes Lisa Voss, Head of Library Development at Oshkosh Library.

Vs. MEOW!

After all I had learned about dogs and libraries, I thought, what about cats? Sure enough, there are libraries with kitty connections, too. And, I’m not talking about World Cat. There are hundreds of libraries around the world that house cats, including, even, the spooky ghost cat, which I mentioned in a Halloween blog post. Below are four cat-loving libraries, past and present:

Calling Miss Gertrude: A search in ProQuest Historical Newspapers revealed a Hartford Courant story on January 25, 1959, about a library cat named Miss Gertrude Bronson. The cat was reported as being listed in the Waterbury, Connecticut, city directory as an assistant at the public library.

ProQuest Historical Newspaper article

Screencap of a ProQuest Historical Newspaper article from the January 25, 1959, edition of the Hartford Courant.

 

 

Stacks on a Book Cart

Stacks the library cat (Photo used with permission by Sara Zumwalt, Library Director, Litchfield Public Library District, Litchfield, Illinois)

Stacks the Library Cat: Litchfield Public Library District in Litchfield, Illinois, is home to a celebrity. The purrfectly named Stacks has been featured in Cat Fancy magazine, the Springfield Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. A long-haired domestic female cat, Stacks has been living at the library since 2009, when she was adopted from Adopt-a-Pet Shelter in Benld, Illinois. Sara Zumwalt, Library Director, considers Stacks to be a great asset to their library, with people coming in all the time to ask “where’s Stacks?”

 

 

 

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Trixie the Library Cat (Photo used with permission by Young Adult Services Coordinator Brittni Trytek, Independence Public Library, Independence, Kansas)

Trixie the Library Cat: Trixie, who lives at the Independence Public Library in Independence, Kansas, has much in common with Stacks. As with Stacks, Trixie arrived at her library home in 2009. Both cats are approximately eight years old and have been written about. Trixie, who was once featured in a magazine in Germany, is a social media star with a blog that details her younger years and also a Facebook page. According to Young Adult Services Coordinator Brittni Trytek, Trixie is well loved and very playful. She notes how some mornings, the custodian will find craft supplies (yarn, pom poms, and feathers) dragged from the third floor to the first floor.

Kitten Kuddle

Kitten Kuddle (Photo used with permission by Lisa Voss, Head of Library Development, Oshkosh Public Library, Oshkosh, Wisconsin)

Kitten Kuddle: Cats and dogs in the same library? Oh, yes. Not only does Oshkosh Public Library have a Read to a Dog program, but Head of Library Development Lisa Voss also let me know that they also partner with the Oshkosh Area Humane Society (OAHS) to offer a Kitten Kuddle event for teens. OAHS brings in five or six kittens to the library for kids to help socialize the animals by playing with them. The teens also make crafts that the OAHS sells as a fundraiser.

Take Our Poll

(If you can’t view the poll below in your browser, you can also view it on Playbuzz.)

 

Tweet Us!

Have you spied a cat or a dog in your library? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us a picture at #ProQuest!

New York Public Library Lion

Fortitude, one of the lion statues outside the Main Branch building of the New York Public Library by Ken Thomas [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Unlikely Friends: Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant

Last Photograph of U. S. Grant

The Last Photograph of U. S. Grant via Library of Congress [Public Domain]

On Monday, July 20, 1885, after 11 months, two volumes, 1,231 pages and 291,000 words, “he put aside his pencil and said there was nothing more to do,” Mark Twain remembered. Twain was referring to Ulysses S. Grant’s heroic task of finishing his memoirs before succumbing to throat cancer.

History teachers know Grant as the general who saved the Union during the Civil War and as the 18th President of the United States. Teachers of Literature know Mark Twain as the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other great works.  What many may not know is that the two men were friends, and Twain was the publisher of Grant’s memoirs. Both Huck Finn and The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant were published in 1885, and neither book has gone out of print since that time.

A little background: After leaving the presidency in 1877, Grant made a series of financial miscues. It seems he was a much better general than financier. He became a partner in and invested a substantial sum in a Wall Street firm called Grant and Ward. The firm collapsed, leaving Grant and his wife Julia with $130 Julia had stored in a cookie jar and Grant with only $80 in his pocket. Desperate for funds, Ulysses agreed to write his memoirs to be published in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. Century offered Grant only a 10% royalty for the book, a sum much smaller than even a novice author would have received.  Mark Twain, knowing that his friend was being cheated, contacted Grant and asked him to not sign a contract with Century. Twain convinced Grant to sign with Twain’s own publishing outfit, Charles L. Webster & Co. Twain offered Grant 75% of the sales and a small advance which enabled Grant to write without worrying about money.

Mark Twain Research Topic

Mark Twain Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Shortly after beginning the book, however, Grant was diagnosed with advanced, terminal throat cancer. Grant knew he was in a race against time to finish his project, hoping that it might sell enough to provide for Julia and his family after he was gone. Doctors moved Grant and his family to a resort on Mount McGregor in the Adirondacks, hoping the fresh air would prolong his life. He suffered terribly during the writing of his memoirs. Working against the clock, he sometimes hammered out 25 to 50 pages per day. As his condition worsened, he wrote propped up in his chair by pillows, too weak to walk or even talk above a whisper.  “I am sure I will never leave Mt. McGregor alive,” he confided to Julia. “I pray God however that I may be spared to complete the necessary work upon my book.”

Grant Writing His Memoirs at Mt. McGregor 1885

Grant Writing His Memoirs at Mt. McGregor, 1885 Library of Congress [Public Domain]

 

Grant finished the book on July 20, 1885, and he died just 3 days later. Twain himself worked furiously during that Summer and Fall following Grant’s death to get the two-volume autobiography/memoir published.

 

Grant could not have known that his memoirs would sell enough for Twain to give some $450,000 to Julia (over $10 million today), making her one of the wealthiest women in the country.

 

Today, Grant’s autobiography is still considered by many scholars to be one of the greatest military memoirs ever written.  According to his friend Mark Twain, “General Grant’s book is a great, unique and unapproachable literary masterpiece.”

History and literature teachers should let their students spend some time searching eLibrary for more information on these two great figures from America’s past.

If you do not have a subscription to ProQuest products, you can request a free trial here.

EXTRA:

*Grant dedicated his memoirs to “the American soldier and sailor” – both Northern and Southern. “As it is, the dedication is to those we fought against as well as those we fought with. It may serve a purpose in restoring harmony.”

*A quote from General William Tecumseh Sherman: “Other books of the war will be forgotten, mislaid, dismissed. Millions will read Grant’s Memoirs and remember them.”

*Among the last words in Grant’s memoirs were the words that would eventually be engraved on his tomb: “Let us have peace.”

*Twain visited Grant on several occasions in the months prior to his death. After one such visit, Twain noted: “One marked feature of General Grant’s character is his exceeding gentleness, goodness, sweetness. Every time I have been in his presence–lately and formerly–my mind was drawn to that feature. I wonder it has not been more spoken of.”

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Tuvalu

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of Tuvalu, via CultureGrams

The new Tuvalu report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Tuvalu:

  • Tuvalu (pronounced too-VAH-loo) means “eight standing together” in Tuvaluan. This refers to the nation’s eight traditionally inhabited atolls (ring-shaped reefs) and islands.
  • The only mammal native to Tuvalu is the Polynesian rat, though early settlers brought pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats with them. However, there are hundreds of species of fish and other marine creatures.
  • There are no rivers or streams in Tuvalu, since the islands are made up of coral gravel and sand. People must catch and store rainwater or desalinate (remove the salt from) ocean water.
  • Tuvalu owns the internet domain name .tv, which is a popular alternative to .com for companies worldwide.

Read about life as a kid in Tuvalu, traditional games, and the importance of family relationships, all in this colorful new report.

9 Baseball Museums for Fans of America’s National Pastime

Map of Baseball Museums

9 Baseball Museums for Fans of America’s National Pastime

On Sunday, July 30, the Class of 2017 will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Three former players will take their place among the greats who have played the game before them. While Cooperstown is one of the most well-known baseball museums in the world, it is not the only one dedicated to America’s pastime.  In no particular order, here are 9 other museums for the baseball fan.

1. Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, Louisville, KY: The Louisville Slugger factory has been providing baseball players with its wooden bats since 1884. The museum highlights the role Louisville Slugger plays in baseball’s past, present and future.

2. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City, MO: This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of African-Americans in baseball. Visitors can view exhibits on the founding of the Negro Leagues, integration with Major League Baseball, baseball in Latin America, and current African-American players.

3. Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Library, Greenville, SC: Located in Joe Jackson’s former home, this museum displays records, artifacts, photos and other memorabilia associated with one of the few baseball players to receive a lifetime banishment from the game of baseball.

4. Field of Dreams Movie Site, Dyersville, IA: Fans of the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams have been flocking to this site ever since the movie’s release. Visitors can tour the family farm that served as the Kinsellas’ home in the movie and step foot on the same field where Ray Kinsella played catch with Shoeless Joe Jackson.

5. The Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, St. Petersburg, FL: Located in Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, this museum includes artifacts and exhibits on one of the greatest hitters in the game. While Ted Williams is the centerpiece of the museum, other hitters on display include Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and David Ortiz.

6. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Collection at the History Museum, South Bend, IN: The History Museum hosts a permanent exhibit dedicated to the women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The collection includes photographs, programs, film footage and playing equipment used by the teams.

7. World of Little League Museum, South Williamsport, PA: This museum tells the story of Little League’s past and shows how Little League baseball has been intertwined in U.S. history. The museum also includes an exhibit on Little League baseball programs across the world.

8. B’s Ball Park Museum, Denver, CO: While not as well-known as many of the other museums on this list, the Ball Park Museum hosts a collection of artifacts from some of the greatest ballparks of the past and present.

9. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Ontario, Canada: Dedicated to preserving Canada’s baseball heritage which dates back to 1864, the Hall of Fame includes more than 100 inductees who have left a mark on Canadian baseball, and the museum includes information on current Canadian-born major league players.

Have you visited any of these museums? Share your thoughts on Twitter with #ProQuest or leave us a comment below.

TDIH: First “Test-Tube Baby” Born

“I’m not a wizard or a Frankenstein tampering with Nature. We are not creating life.
We have merely done what many people try to do in all kinds of medicine–to help
nature. We found nature could not put an egg and sperm together, so we did it.”
Patrick Steptoe, who with Robert Edwards, perfected in vitro fertilization
of the human egg and delivered the world’s first “test-tube baby.”

In Vitro Fertilization via Pixabay [Public Domain]

It’s hard to imagine now, but when the first baby was born as the result of in vitro fertilization (IVF) on July 25, 1978, it was highly controversial. The birth attracted opposition from scientists and religious leaders, and international media attention. Louise Brown, the world’s first so-called “test tube baby” was conceived in a laboratory and born at Oldham General Hospital in England. The term “test-tube baby” is actually a misnomer, since IVF is usually performed in shallower glass containers called Petri dishes. After the birth was announced, her parents received bags full of hate mail from across the globe, as well as fan letters. While some are still opposed to IVF for ethical and religious reasons, more than 5 million children have been born worldwide through its use. Nearly 68,000 babies were born using IVF methods in the U.S. alone in 2015.

Louise Brown Holding the 1000th Bourn Hall Baby, 1987
Courtesy Bourn Hall Clinic, via National Library of Medicine [CC BY 4.0]

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 10% to 15% of couples in the US are infertile—meaning they are unable to conceive through natural means. The IVF technique was pioneered by two doctors in Cambridge, England–gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and reproductive biologist Robert Edwards. Their research led to the successful fertilization of a human egg outside the body and the transfer of the resulting embryo to the womb of Lesley Brown. A healthy baby girl was delivered to Lesley and her husband John after they had tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child for 15 years using natural methods. Two years later Steptoe and Edwards founded the world’s first IVF clinic, Bourn Hall Clinic, near Cambridge, England. The techniques and drugs now used around the world were first developed there.

Today, despite objections to its use (for example, Catholic hospitals often prohibit doctors from performing basic reproductive services including IVF), it has become much more widely accepted. For the most part, the ethical debate going on now is not so much about IVF itself, but the on the limits or constraints that should be placed on its use. Since the first IVF baby was born only 39 years ago, the long-term risks are not known. If a couple divorces, who gets custody and control of their frozen embryos? IVF enables single women to become mothers, same-sex couples to have a child of their own, and older women who are past menopause to become mothers. (In 2016, a 70-year-old Indian woman became the world’s oldest mother by using IVF.)

The average cost for IVF in the U.S. ranges from $12,000-$15,000 and can go much higher depending on individual circumstances and variables like the mother’s age or whether a surrogate is used. Although some insurance companies cover IVF procedures, many don’t. As a result, only people with the financial means to afford costly assisted reproductive technologies are able to take advantage of them, shutting out lower-income people who also want to become parents.

Screen Cap from SIRS Issues Researcher

Educators, direct your students to the new and updated SIRS Issues Researcher to dig deeper into the topic of Human Reproductive Technology. This Leading Issue explores these issues in-depth by asking users the Essential Question, “Does the use of human reproductive technology challenge the basic ideas of conception?” Background information, a timeline, viewpoint articles, multimedia resources and questions for critical thinking and analysis and are provided. They can also explore these other related Leading Issues:

Anonymous Eggs and Sperm Donation

Genetic Testing

Human Cloning

Stem Cells

Surrogacy

SIRS Issues Researcher supports state, national and international learning standards. Don’t have it? Request a free trial.

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Where in the World: Swimming

We’re deep into summer and in many parts of the United States temperatures are topping 100°F. What to do? What people all over the world do to relax and cool down in hot weather: get wet! Whether it’s at a public pool, a local river, or the nearest beach, swimming is a favorite pastime worldwide.

The following photos are from the CultureGrams photo gallery.

Can you guess where each photo was taken?

1.

2.

3.  

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

We’ve posted the answers in the comments section of this post. Check them out and tell us how well you did!

Don’t forget that CultureGrams has thousands of pictures gathered from around the globe. Photos in the CultureGrams slideshow gallery and photo gallery can be used for educational purposes (as long as they are not posted on the open web).

I Used ProQuest Products to Enrich My Summer Vacation — in Amsterdam!

One of the things I love about working for ProQuest is how much I learn and how I have been able to incorporate some of what I’ve learned into my personal life, including, most recently, my summer vacation.

Last summer, I blogged about the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), and while researching RAGBRAI, I learned how local libraries helped make lives easier for the cyclists.

Hearing the enthusiastic responses from the librarians in Iowa about the RAGBRAI summer cycling event inspired me to plan and partake in my own bicycle adventure.

From Inspiration to Reality

This summer, I took my son to Amsterdam, a city famous for cycling. There, we spent eight days biking around the city and getting in touch with our Dutch roots — our ancestors immigrated from Holland to New York, some 300 years ago, when it was called New Amsterdam. (And, yes, I even learned a bit about New Amsterdam via a ProQuest eLibrary Research Topic page called Dutch Colonies in America!)

House Boat Living

House Boat Interior

View from my bedroom window on our house boat on the Amstel River in Amsterdam. The boat had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining area and stocked kitchen. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Before our trip, I remembered something else I had learned at work. From ProQuest’s CultureGrams, I had read about how some Dutch people live in house boats (CultureGrams has a neat slideshow and video on house boats in the Netherlands.) So, for our grand adventure, my son and I decided to do as the Dutch do and stayed in our very own house boat. (And, it even came with bikes!)

I was told by an Amsterdammer (or Mokummer, the nickname for a person born in Amsterdam) that the weather in their city can be quite unpredictable and that you must always have these four things with you: an umbrella, a rain jacket, a sweatshirt (or sweater) and comfortable shoes that can handle getting wet. But I already knew all that from my ProQuest research.

That said, as prepared as we were, we still managed to get drenched one day while boating in Giethoorn, a charming village of thatched-roof homes near Amsterdam. (Giethoorn is mostly car-free as the locals get around by boat instead.)

We had gotten caught in a downpour like the ones we’ve experienced in our hometown in South Florida, only the weather in Holland was much colder. But, no worries, because some restaurants will give you nice, fluffy blankets to warm up in while you eat!

Cycling in Amsterdam

Every time we parked our bikes in the city, we took a picture of our bikes and the location so we wouldn’t forget where to find them. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

As for the cycling in Amsterdam, if you’ve never done it before, you are in for a shock at the sheer numbers of bicycles (more than 800,000)! Nearly everyone rides bikes there, no matter the weather or the season. I asked a local if she even biked in the winter and she said yes, through snow or rain.

With all those cyclists, it is important to be careful and always look in all directions and especially keep an eye out for mopeds, which also share the roads and paths (fietspaden) designated for bikes.

Babboe Cargo Bike

Cargo bikes are common in the Netherlands. Some have seat belts in them for hauling children. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Our biggest regret about Amsterdam is that our trip ended too quickly, but we will be sure to return. In the meantime, we really miss the food there, so we are making plans to try some of the Dutch recipes on CultureGrams.

RAGBRAI 2017

Oh, and coincidentally, this year’s RAGBRAI in Iowa opens on July 22nd in Orange City, Iowa, with the theme Dutch til’ Dawn, reflecting the city’s Dutch heritage.

More Pictures


Clockwise from left: Supermarket purchase, Unusual house boat on the Amstel River, Marsh land outside Giethoorn (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Epic Video

After our trip, I found this cool music video created by a Silicon Valley family that is moving to Amsterdam. Check it out here: http://www.sfgate.com/travel/article/family-leaves-SF-epic-video-11275244.php

What Inspires You?

Learning from librarians about a cycling adventure and reading about different cultures at work inspired me to take a trip of a lifetime. What have you learned in the classroom or at work that has enriched your life in some way? Tweet us at #ProQuest.