E-Travel Log #2: Quito, Ecuador

[Note to teachers: Select the content and activities below appropriate for your grade level. Curriculum areas are in brackets for your reference.]

Dear students:

[Social Studies/Geography] Hello from 30,000 feet in the air! No, I'm not on top on one of the Andes mountains in Ecuador (yet); I'm in a jet, flying over the Gulf of Mexico, on my way to Ecuador. I started my journey from my home in New York State, near the Canadian border (not far from Montreal). It was snowing when I left -- kind of normal for this time of year where I live. But I was thinking as a drove off: Most of the students we'll be interacting with in the Galapagos have never seen snow. In past years, I've visited students in the Amazon rain forest region of Ecuador (where most students have also never seen snow) and when I tell them about the soft, cold white stuff and how you can even play in it, they always ask me to bring some with me next time I visit. Hmmm.

[Math] Anyway, I drove for the first six hours of my trip (yesterday) to just north of New York City, then took a train and a shuttle bus for another half an hour each this morning. My flight left La Guardia Airport in New York this morning at 9:30 and landed in the airport named after our president's father in Houston at 12:30 PM local time. The flight I'm on now left Houston for Panama City, Panama, at 1: 30 PM and we are due to arrive there at 6:00 PM. From there, we'll leave for Quito at 8:00 PM and arrive at 9:30 PM. From the airport, I'll travel another half an hour by taxi to where I'll be staying.

Are you math whizzes? I like math -- and I like writing poetry, so during the course of the project, I'm going to be sending you some math poems about Galapagos animals. In the meantime, I'll give you a couple of math problems about my trip, just for fun: First, can you figure out exactly how many hours I was traveling (just counting the time I was in a moving vehicle)? Be careful: Don't forget to consider time zones. Next, can you trace my trip on a map or the globe? If your map has a mileage scale, you can also estimate the distance I traveled.

Of course, the distance would have been much shorter if I flew in a straight line from New York to Quito. But, if you trace a line from NY to Houston and another from Houston to Quito, you'll see that I basically flew along two sides of a right triangle, with the line from New York to Quito forming the hypotenuse. Some of you in older grades who have studied geometry probably know there is a math formula that helps you to figure out the distance of one side of a right triangle once you know the distance of the other two sides. It was attributed to a man named Pythagorus who lived in Greece over two thousand years ago and is therefore called the Pythagorean Theorem (though ancient documents show it was around for hundreds of years before Pythagorus). It states 'a' squared plus 'b' squared equals 'c' squared, where 'a' equals one leg of a right triangle, 'b' equals the other leg and 'c' equals the hypotenuse. If you haven't met Pythagorus yet, you will -- and if you have, see how well you know him by figuring out the distance from New York directly to Quito using the measurements you made from New York to Houston and Houston to Quito. Then, verify the answer you come up with by measuring on the map.


[Social Studies] My trip to Quito, Ecuador, involves several modes of transportation: car, train, bus, airplane and taxi. What mode(s) of transportation do you use most of the time? What modes of transportation do you suspect students in the Galapagos use on a daily basis? How would you get to Ecuador from where you live and what modes of transportation would you use? Trace your route on the map/globe.

My partner and Project Coordinator, Lilia Cai, who I will meet in Quito tomorrow, is flying out of Shanghai, China, where she is from, to Amsterdam, Holland, and then to Quito. Can you trace her trip and estimate the distances? That's a lot of flying! I think Lilia will experience a little more jetlag than I will.


(Next Day)

Saludos desde Quito! (Greetings from Quito!) Well, Lilia and I both arrived safely in Quito. I had a good trip. Luckily, I got to sit near a window on each flight. The highlights for me were taking off from New York and seeing all the houses and apartments of the city all lined up below, like so many scales on an iguanas back; watching the sun set through the clouds as we flew over the Gulf of Mexico; looking down on maybe a hundred or more ships carrying goods from all over the world lining up to enter the the Panama Canal near Panama City; and seeing the lights of Quito, at night as my plane was landing, stretching like a long river in the valley between two rows of mountains.

[Social Studies] Quito, Ecuador's capital, has about 1.3 million residents, and though it is almost 9,000 feet above see level, it rests in a long valley, known as Volcano Alley. It's called that because the valley is flanked by mountains on both sides, nine of which are active volcanoes. (In volcano language 'active' doesn't mean that it is exploding right now, it just means that there is volcanic activity underneath the mountain and it could explode any time, though eruptions sometimes come hundreds of years apart.)

Speaking of eruptions, the word on the street today is that Reventador, the volcano sixty miles away that showered Quito with ash a couple of weeks ago, is rumbling again. But this time, there are no major fireworks: lava is just bubbling out slowly. The good news is the lava won't reach any populated areas and most likely the big explosions are over.

Here, people are still cleaning up after the ashfall and we can taste the dust in the air as we walk around. Some people are still wearing masks to protect their lungs. We heard that after the ash shower, a big cloud of sulfur came out of the volcano and floated over the city, like a giant stink-bomb, smelling up the whole place for a day (though the fumes were not all that dangerous). We also heard that some ash floated over the Andes and landed way down at the bottom of the mountains near the Pacific coast in a city called Bahia (see if you can locate Reventador, 60 miles east of Quito, and Bahia, west of Quito on the coast, using a map). And, something you might find especially interesting, school was closed for a whole week in Quito because of the ash!

I thought I would tell you a little bit about the volcanoes of mainland Ecuador because volcanoes are going to be a major project theme -- since the islands we'll soon be visiting were not only formed by volcanoes -- but also are volcanoes! You'll learnng lots more about that once we take our next flight.



This report features a few photos from Quito. One shows a plane flying into the valley where Quito lies, with the Pinchincha volcano in the background. Another shows some tropical plants typical of Quito; and another shows Lilia holding a handful of ash from the Reventador volcano.

In our next report, we'll fly to Santa Cruz Island, then hop a ship to San Cristobal Island. Till next time, learn lots!


Teachers: Here are some Pythagorean theorem links:

Proofs -- http://www.cut-the-knot.com/pythagoras/

Lessons (Middle School) --


Animated Proofs -- Very neat (help even younger students understand concept) -- http://www.usna.edu/MathDept/mdm/pyth.html


Here are some good volcano links:

Absolutely Volcanic Web Site -- This colorful site is designed to provide quick and easy access to volcanic images. Selections include the most active volcanos, eruptions and lava flows.

Volcanoes.com -- Links to many volcano sites.

How Volcanoes Work -- Explores the science behind volcanoes.

Volcano World -- From the University of North Dakota, 'the Web's premier source for volcano information,' including a Kids' Door for younger students. Find out about currently erupting volcanoes, take a virtual field trip, read an interview with a volcanologist, and read the archives of an outstanding Ask a Volcanologist question and answer service.

Index Page
Meet the Adventure Team
E-Log #1 -- New York
E-Log #2 -- Quito, Ecuador
E-log #3 -- San Cristobal Island

E-Log #4 -- San Cristobal

E-Log#5: Santa Cruz

E-Log#6: Santa Cruz
E-Log#7: Santa Cruz
E-Log#8: Isabela Island
E-Log#9: Isabela

© 2007 OneWorld Classrooms. Text by Paul Hurteau. Photos by Dennis Pippen, Lilia Cai and Miguel Mosquero. All rights reserved. Map courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps. Used with permission.