School Projects

Fun Projects

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chronicling Our Vacation

When Aaron and I first got married and began going on vacations together I had a 35mm SLR camera which I used to take all the pictures that recorded our travels.  Two or three rolls of 36 exposure seemed to do the job of recording our memories nicely.  Of course, I wasn't pictured in many of those memories, because I was holding the camera, but that's okay, I was still there.  A few years later we decided to cave to the pressure of new-fangled technology and get a digital camera.  The number of pictures taken increased dramatically because why not take as many shots as you want if you don't have to pay to develop the ones that flop?   For the record, the increased number of pictures taken did NOT result in an increased number of pictures taken of me (not that I am complaining, mind you, I just want to be clear that I did attend all the vacations that we have pictures of, regardless of the lack of pictorial evidence).  Several vacations passed in that manner, until our next leap forward in photo-jouraling came when Aaron got a smart phone.  Suddenly he had a camera readily available to take pictures on our vacations.  Since I was no longer managing the sole picture taking device I made a sudden appearance in vacation photography.  It was a fun development.  This year, however, marks a new epoch.  This year we took FIVE cameras on vacation: Aaron's phone (aprox. 300 photos), my camera (aprox. 100 photos), Ian's camera (141 photos), Brynn's brand new camera (418 pictures), and Blair's camera (picture count unknown - the memory has room for 1000 pictures and it was full by day 2 - after that I deleted between 50 and 100 pictures of blurry kneecaps, extreme closeups of the driver's seat head rest, extreme closeups of toys, very blurry selfies and the floor to provide room for the next day's shots).  With so many cameras going we didn't miss a moment of fun this year.

For instance, this year we have pictures recording the goings-on in the children's section of the van.  Here we have one of the kids playing with a horse as we drove through Illinois.
 Here is a child coloring as we drove through Arkansas.
 Here is where Brynnie learned to take selfies, somewhere in Louisiana.
 We also got to see some great candid shots - like the top quarter of Cambo's head,
 and a lovely view up their mother's nose complete with lens flare (I just love my kids).
Still, when you have over 900 photos to work with, you are guaranteed to get a few good ones (brace yourself for quite a photo dump here):
The girls exploring a gun boat at Vicksburg National Battlefield,
 the side door of the Nottoway Plantation Mansion in Louisiana,
 Blair, taking 300 shots of a tree in the plantation garden,
 Blair, not being grumpy during the mansion tour,
 Brynn, as an astronaut at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi,
 Ian, impressed by all the warplanes hanging from the ceiling in the WWII museum in New Orleans,
 the Battleship Texas,
 Ian, manning the guns on the deck of the battleship,
 Blair, testing the sleeping accommodations on the ship,
 Cam, holding down the steps at the Monument for the Battle of San Jacinto (War for Texan Independence),
 Ian, Blair, and Admiral Chester Nimitz at the Museum of the War in the Pacific, in Fredericksburg, Texas,
 exploring Enchanted Rock State Park in the Texas hill country,
 Blair and Cam watching the shore go by on the boat tour of San Antonio,
 trying out all the activities at the Witte Museum (where we had to battle for space with 1000 school kids there on field trips),
 and finally Blair at one of the museums at Fort Hood.
It was a really fun trip, and with so many pictures we will never forget one second of it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Weekly Science Experiments #17 and 18

Last week we were sick around here, so we didn't get to do any science experiments, so this week we did a twofer (two "fer" the price of one).  Ian had a unit in his science text book on Oceans with a suggestion on how to demonstrate why the ocean is salty but rain is not.

Step one: Mix 4 tablespoons of salt into one cup of water and stir until as much salt as possible is dissolved.
Step two: pour the saltwater into a pan and heat to boiling (this is the evaporation step)
Result: the water boils away (evaporates) and leaves the salt behind.
For the second part of the demonstration, we put some ice packs into a cake pan and waited until the pan was really cold - this was to simulate the cooler air high in the atmosphere.  Then my lovely assistant held the pan into the steam above the boiling (evaporating) saltwater.  Almost instantly the steam condensed on the bottom of the cake pan and "raindrops" formed.  When we tasted the raindrops they were not salty at all.

Happy science, everyone!

PS - We are leaving on a vacation later this afternoon, so I won't be posting for a couple of weeks.  I hope you all have a lovely spring.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ian and Brynn's House O' Flowers

Every year around this time our backyard bursts into bloom.  For a city yard, we have an unusual number of wildflowers.  Consequently, each spring my little girls spend hours outside wandering from patch to patch, collecting fistfuls of flowers to decorate our kitchen table.  This year Brynnie decided that all her labor should not be without reward, so she opened her first flower shop.  She wrote up a sign: "50 Cents a flower" and waited for business.  Her faithful Daddy was happy to oblige.
After a few days, however, she realized that the backyard picnic table was not the best location for a budding business, so she moved her shop to the front yard.  She also created different price points for her bouquets.  This time Grandpa Kevin was convinced to buy some flowers.
After front yard sales stagnated due to a lack of grandpas, Brynn decided to take on a partner and take her business to the next level.  She created a brand and began marketing.
She hired staff,
built a green house,
and began offering lessons in botany and wildflower identification.
The shop is open Monday-Friday from 4:45-5pm, with special sale hours on Saturdays.

Happy spring, everyone.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Transatlantic Project

Hello, gentle readers.  I would like to introduce you to my sister.
Her name is Sonja and she is standing inside a mosquito net.  She and her husband moved to Africa a little more than a year ago now and if you don't want to catch tropical diseases you need to sleep under a mosquito net.  She is also pregnant in this picture ("No way," you say and I jealously say "Yes, she is one of THOSE people who don't show until the day before the baby comes"), and this particular mosquito net was purchased for the then future baby.   She sent out this photo because she thought it would be fun to create matching polka dot and triangular banner themed curtains and decor to spruce up her baby's nursery.  Our mother volunteered for the curtains and I got to make the decorations.  It was kinda like an intercontinental baby shower!

Before I was able to work on my assignment, Mom did the fabric shopping - doing her best to match colors and patterns to emailed photos.  I got the leftovers to use for my part in the project.  Sonja wanted me to get 4" and 6" embroidery hoops and using fabric and felt make coordinating pieces to hang on wall.  For several evenings I had fun cutting and pinning and arranging.  Several emailed photos went back and forth accompanied by questions:
"Do you like this one?"  
"What do you have in mind instead?"
"Too busy?"
"Is this one better?"
"What about this?"
Eventually we were both happy with the rough drafts and I replaced the pins with good strong fabric adhesive.  I also glued the fabric to the back of the hoops, just so it couldn't work loose, and then trimmed the extra fabric so the hoops would hang nice and flat on the wall.
Then my mom packed everything up in her suitcase and flew to Africa to meet the new baby.  The curtains and mosquito net and embroidery hoops were hung and the nursery is just the cutest thing.
Thanks, Sonja, for letting me have a little part in welcoming your baby girl into the world.  This was one of the "fun-est" projects I've done in a while.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment #16

This week's science experiment again took the nature of a demonstration: What happens to fire when it is deprived of fresh air (oxygen).  This post is rather lacking in pictures because it involved fire - when you have four little kids anywhere near lit candles it seemed wise to focus on their activities and not accidentally take pictures of them igniting their hair or clothing.  Once again this science experiment created opportunities for talking about personal safety as well as good ways to put out fires!
For this demo, each child had a lighted tealight candle on the table in front of them as well as a glass container.  Ian had a small glass votive holder, Brynn had a drinking glass, Blair had a quart mason jar, and Cam and I managed a large glass vase.  At "go" we all turned our containers over our candles and began timing.  Ian's candle burned out in less than five seconds, while Cam's candle (under the vase) lasted almost 1.5 minutes.  It was a short experiment, but illustration that fire needs more than just fuel to burn.

Happy science, everyone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cherry Blossoms in the Snow

It is officially springtime now, and all around the internet people are celebrating the return of green and flowers and especially cherry blossoms.  I am struggling with having charitable feelings towards those people because here in the Midwest we have snow flurries and not cherry blossoms and I am feeling very jealous.  So, I decided to make my own cherry blossoms to brighten up my kitchen.  I actually thought my kids would enjoy doing this, so I made my usual call: "Who wants to do a project?"  Instead of the usually enthusiastic response I was expecting, I got total rejection.   Each of my kids was involved in their own "thing" and weren't interested in projecting fun.  So, like the Little Red Hen, I said, "Then I'll do it myself."  And I did.

The first step is not pictured.  I dipped a bunch of coffee filters in water colored with red food coloring and then spread them out to dry.  Then I folded the dried papers into quarters and drew a heart shape pattern to cut out.  It took a few tries to get the right size and proportion, but this wide version worked the best. 
 After I cut out the shapes, the flowers looked a little boring, so I added dots of red marker in different places and then touched the spots with a drop of water.  The water made the red bleed into the paper and look more natural.  I also drew little lines to represent the stamens.
 Then I dressed up a Lemon Verbena shrub that I have been trying to overwinter.  It wasn't looking to good before I added the flowers (by cutting little slits and slipping them over branches), and I don't know if it will ultimately survive or not, but for the moment it looks quite cheerful!
Of course after it was done my children all said "I didn't know you were going to do THAT.  I wanted to help!"  Unlike the Little Red Hen, I let them enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Maybe they won't reject me next time.