Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Des Plaines Disturbance

Although we are in 'the haunting season', the Des Plaines Disturbance does not refer to a supernatural phenomenon, or your noisy next-door neighbors. The Des Plaines Disturbance is the name for the crater that exists 75 to 200 feet below the surface of our town.

The bedrock underneath Des Plaines was severely fractured by the impact of a meteor or other large projectile and it created the crater that exists beneath most of the town, spanning 5 miles. It was eventually filled by glacial activity, which is why the town looks the way it does today.

As a child, I remember heading out to Yellowstone National Park just after their big fire in 1988. I remember listening to the ranger talk about how fire actually helps the forest grow, and that the trees use the heat of a fire to spread their seeds. Then, all throughout middle school, high school, and even college, I was able to recall those facts for various environmental science classes. My experiences in the National Parks helped me to develop my life-long affinity for the sciences and nature.

You can instill that kind of love in your children, a love of learning - no matter what the subject, but a great way to start is by tying the knowledge into an experience. Here is an easy example: take a walk along the Des Plaines river, and talk with your kids about the crater, glacial movements, and how the river swells every year and how it changes the soil around the it.

If you were not the best science student and you need some help, stop in the library to pick up a children's book or two about glaciers, meteors, or different types of rock. I always find that when I don't know anything about a subject, the best place to start is a children's book; they explain everything, and you don't have to look up the words they use to explain it in the dictionary.

If you think you can handle it, or your children are a bit older, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has a geological society that studies the Des Plaines Disturbance, and their findings can be found here.

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