The Festival of Lights
Nov 27th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

TMA Lighthouses, a set on Flickr.

My daughters and I built a lighthouse for The Maritime Aquarium’s Festival of Lights. It is amazing to see the talents of the local artists. The lights are on display until mid January. If you go, vote for #15!  Feel free to click on the link above to view the set and see the full pictures!

Now to some thoughts on education, creativity, and expertise .  .  .

I’ve heard of the lighthouse competition before, and thought it might be an exciting project for my daughters and I to participate.  We love the water and lighthouses and the kids have been to the aquarium. (One of the perks of the contest was a year-long membership to the aquarium.) There were several pictures of “past winners” both on the aquarium’s website and in the promotional flyer.   We elected to build one of our favorites: the Black Rock Lighthouse on Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport.  I decided we would do a scale model and we were pretty precise with measurements, angles, colors, dimensions, and the lot.  It was a challenge to decide what materials to use, how to best represent the light, and how to incorporate all of the subtle details.  We did make a few minor changes, mainly to the top portion of the light due to our inability to make certain objects with the confines of the materials we used.  Nonetheless, if you look at a picture and look at our model, it looks extremely similar. Our model is clean, representative, and majestic.

What I learned, from looking at the other models, is that ours doesn’t really tell a story.  Some of the other lights have an underlying story in their model – a scene, an imaginary sense of wonder, a connection to the viewer.  I can make a connection to those lights on an emotional level – I am drawn in to explore the story and examine its details.  This speaks to the idea of creativity and expertise.  With experience, levels of expertise develop more, and, in turn, increase the creative potential of the artist (or insert other domain here). My children and I have already begun brainstorming ideas for “next year.”  No doubt, our experience building our own model coupled with opportunities  to view other high quality work has inspired us, but also provided us with relevant background knowledge that will make us better producers on the next go-around.

We can’t underestimate the importance of giving students opportunities to produce – whether it be writing, science, music, or whatever . . . When they are producers, they increase their creative potential because they add to their experience and that expertise makes their work more innovative, higher quality, and more imaginative.

The Beauty of Long Island Sound
Nov 6th, 2010 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Matthew Housekeeper, who blogs at Soundbounder, recently posted about the season change on Long Island Sound.  I think there’s something to be said about the beauty and grandeur of nature along with the underlying biology that makes this beauty possible.

Matthew Housekeeper, Soundbounder


Here’s an excerpt:

November is lonely on the water. An occasional commercial boat is the only other vessel you may see. The shoreline in the distance seems deserted too. Gone are the crowds that flocked to these beaches just six weeks ago. Waterfront homes that overflowed with guests, look empty and silent. Their awnings and Adirondack chairs have been removed from the lawn. Only an occasional whiff from a fireplace tells you that someone is home. A lighthouse that seemed like a quaint image for artists and tourists in June, becomes a utilitarian navigation aid in November.

November is also a sad month on the water. No matter how enjoyable the time might be, you know the days are numbered. This year is no different, as my day is spent looking back in time, rather than forward. I think of my trip to the Thimble Islands, and a starry night anchored in West Harbor. Any sort of thought to suppress my approaching winter ashore. The seasons of the year have come full circle.

Rose hips . . .
Sep 13th, 2009 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

The Beach Rose, Rosa rugosa, is a plant commonly found along the beaches of Long Island Sound.  It is a particularly interesting plant because its leaves are quite textural, it produces beautiful flowers, either white or pink, and of course, it produces a fruit called a rose hip.  My main website (www.labanca.net) has a picture of the flower near the Edgartown Lighthouse, and I have a description of the Beach Rose in my “Coastal Plants of New England” Project.

Today I went to Great Meadows Marsh, in Straford because I will be teaching my Methods in Science class there this Thursday.  I usually prepare for these field experiences by visiting ahead of time to ensure that my expectations for the site are correct.  As usual, the marsh and beach areas look great for study.  The site is particularly interesting because much flotsam and jetsam washes up on shore from all of the extensive human activity and development in the surrounding areas.

I spent some time on this beautiful Sunday afternoon picking some rose hips from the beach rose trees.  Rose hips are commonly used in many herbal teas, but they also make a very nice jam.  I’ve made a small batch that I will bring Thursday afternoon.

Here’s my recipe:

1 Granny Smith Apple (everything, seeds, core, stems – lots of pectin)
1 Quart of Rose Hips
3 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
pinch of salt

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