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  • Gloria Hoffner

Celebrate St. Patrick Day

By Gloria Hoffner, creator, owner of trademarked Science for Seniors

“Hail glorious Saint Patrick dear saint of our isle…” begins the Irish hymn. In Ireland St. Patrick Day is a holy day, a family dinner day – the green beer that’s an American thing. So, what are the facts about St. Patrick and how can you celebrate and learn at the same time?? Here’s an activity!

1) Was there a St. Patrick? Answer – Yes. He lived in the 5th century. He was born in England, captured by Irish privates and forced into slavery at age 16. After many years, he escaped back to England. When home had a dream in which an angel told him to become a Catholic priest and return to convert the Irish to Catholicism, which he did.

2) Did St. Patrick remove the snakes from Ireland? Answer – No. Snakes, according to the Smithsonian website, are just lizards with no feet. When snakes first evolved – about 100 million years ago – Ireland was still submerged under water, so migrating to Ireland wasn’t an option for the serpents.

3) When was the first St. Patrick Day parade? Answer – In New York City in 1762 when Irish soldiers forced to fight for the English king held a parade in solidarity.

4) Why is the shamrock the symbol of Ireland? Answer - Shamrock is the national flower of Ireland. According to legend, St. Patrick planted the little plant in Ireland because its three small leaves represented the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

5) How did Irish inventors change the world? Answer - 1: Color photography, invented by John Joly in 1894. 2: The Guided Torpedo, invented by Louis Brennan in 1877. 3: The Hypodermic Syringe, invented by Francis Rynd in 1844. 4: The Binaural Stethoscope, invented by Arthur Leared in 1851. 5: The Induction Coil, invented by Rev. Nicholas Callan in 1836.

6) Are potatoes a native crop in Ireland? Answer – No. Potatoes are native to South America. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe. Eventually, agriculturalists in Europe found potatoes easier to grow and cultivate than other staple crops, such as wheat and oats.

7) Is Danny Boy an Irish song? Answer – No. In Bath, Somerset in 1910, English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly initially wrote the words to "Danny Boy" to a tune other than "Londonderry Air". After his Irish-born sister-in-law Margaret (known as Jess) in the United States sent him a copy of "Londonderry Air" in 1913 (an alternative version of the story has her singing the air to him in 1912 with different lyrics), Weatherly modified the lyrics of "Danny Boy" to fit the rhyme and meter of "Londonderry Air".

8) Is I’ll Take You Home Kathleen an Irish song? Answer – No. "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" is a popular song written by Thomas P. Westendorf in 1875. In spite of its German-American origins, it is widely mistaken to be an Irish ballad. Westendorf, then teaching at the reform school known as the Indiana House of Refuge for Juvenile Offenders in Hendricks County, Indiana, wrote it – apparently – for his wife. It's in the form of an "answer" to a popular ballad of the time, "Barney, Take Me Home Again," composed by Westendorf’s close friend, George W. Brown, writing under the nom de plume of George W. Persley.

9) Is Irish Lullaby an Irish song? Answer – No. The song is not authentic Irish at all, but Irish-American in origin. The music was originally written for performance on Tin Pan Alley by James Royce Shannon in 1913. Bing Crosby’s 1944 recording is the most famous rendition of the song, selling over a million copies.

10) What are some native flowers of Ireland? Answer - Foxglove. Foxglove is a drooping bell-shaped blossom. Bluebell. The flower blooms every April as well as May. Buttercup. This blossom has various varieties and some species like the bulbous buttercup as well as Iris. This blossom is likewise called yellow flag iris or Jacob’s sword.

11) What caused the potato famine in Ireland? Answer - The Great Famine was caused by a failure of the potato crop, which many people relied on for most of their nutrition. A disease called late blight destroyed the leaves and edible roots of the potato plantsin successive years from 1845 to 1849.

12) How did most Irish arrive in America? Answer - Irish Americans first came to America in colonial years (pre-1776), with immigration rising in the 1820s due to poor living conditions in Ireland. But the largest wave of Irish immigration came after the Great Famine in 1845.

13) Who are some famous Americans movie stars who have Irish roots? Answer - Brad Pitt. An actor and producer. George Clooney, actor and Johnny Depp.

14) How many American presidents have Irish roots? Answer - Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, James Polk, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

15) Why is green the color of Ireland? Answer - A combination of the Mexican Gulf Stream and a large annual rainfall help to make Irish soil fertile and the resultant vegetation is what the Irish landscape is known for. The lack of much forest cover and the large number of farms adds to this visual effect.

Experiment – How does frost kill flowers?

Part one –

Materials: straw, glass of water and scissors.

Process: Have a resident take a sip of water from the straw. Now remove the straw and cut a slit in the side of the straw. Ask the resident to sip from the cut straw.

Result: No water can be sipped from the cut straw because the cut stops pressure from drawing up the water. In a flower is an inner stem. When a spring flower is exposed to frost the water inside the flower stem freezes, expands and cracks the inner stem. Thus, while the flower appears healthy in the morning, when it can not draw water up the inner stem, by night it is dead.

Part 2:

Materials: Two white carnations, green food coloring, two clear ice tea glass, knife and water.

Process: Half fill two glasses with water. To one add seven drops of food coloring two one vase only. Cut the flowers stem with a sideways slash (cutting the flower stem bottom across seals the stem the experiment will not work). Place each flower in the vase and leave until morning.

Result: One carnation will be green because overnight it sucked up the green colored water.

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