School Projects

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment #15

Every year around this time my children start to play outside for longer periods of time, and we always receive a rather rude reminder from the sun that we are ethnically speaking mostly Northern Europeans.  Our white (not quite albino, but close) skin quickly turns a painful red as an indicator that we don't have much natural protection from the sun's UV rays.  So every spring I run to the store and stock up on SPF 365 sunscreen in an effort to provide ourselves with some kind of protection against the burning and peeling cycle.

This week I decided our science experiment could be turned to a useful end by demonstrating to the kids what that sunscreen actually does for their protection.  We took two pieces of black construction paper outside and weighted them down with rocks.  One piece played the role of skin without sunscreen (a good chance to talk about "control groups" in science) while the other piece got a generous coating of SPF 35.
 After a few hours we came back and looked at the papers.  It was easy to see how the un-sun-screened paper had faded, while the part covered by sunscreen had stayed dark.  The kids also noticed that the paper that had been under the rocks was also still dark, but agreed that covering themselves with rocks would probably NOT be a good sunburn prevention plan.
Maybe this science lesson will decrease the amount of fussing that goes on whenever I pull out the bottle of sunscreen this summer......or maybe not.

Happy sunburn prevention everyone!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Making Brownies - a Team Effort

Yesterday my sister had some stuff going on in the afternoon, so she asked me to watch her kids for a few hours.  One of the benefits of having family that lives nearby is that the parents have built-in babysitters and the cousins have built-in buddies.  My sister has four girls, roughly the same ages as my kids, so there is always "Big Fun" when they come over.

After the obligatory screaming and shouting "The girls are here, the girls are here, Hi, how are you....did you you want to.......come and see......" the kids settled down to some serious playing.  After a couple of hours though, they hit that lull.  You know, the lull where they have run out of new games to play and maybe they are just a bit tired of each other and the bickering starts to increase?  That lull.  Well, they were beginning to lull (or would it be "they were lulling"?) and I was beginning to ponder the wisdom of a movie when the older kids appeared out of the basement bearing a box of brownie mix.  "Can we make these?  Can we?  Can we?  Pleeeeeease?"  Only a crazy person says no when other people offer to make brownies, and I am not a crazy person, so I said yes.
 It was fun to see the older kids all working together - especially for the all important step of licking out the bowl.
 The pan of brownies came out of the oven just as my sister arrived to pick up her girls, so we quickly lined up all the kids and dispensed somewhat molten treats to the mob.  They enjoyed every mouthful.
 I had one (or two) myself.  They really are the perfect anti-lull activity and treat!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment Catch Up: Weeks 12, 13 and 14

I don't really know why I got so far behind on this series of science experiment posts.  We've done the actual work each week, but I've been feeling just a bit harried lately and I just never got around to posting.  On the other hand, these posts are probably mostly for my own benefit than any of you readers - so that when the kids are bigger and voicing complaints about things we did or did not do when they were little I can pull up these posts and say "SEE??? SEE??? We DID do stuff."  Maybe that is taking advanced planning to an insane level, but that's how my mind works.  So, let's get away from my personal insecurities and move on to science.

Week 12: We made crystals using a borax solution and coiled pipe cleaners.  We set up the experiment on Thursday afternoon, and by Friday morning we crystals all over the pipe cleaners and the bottom and sides of the glass.
Week 13: During this week the weather improved greatly and the kids wanted to be outside as much as possible, not inside doing science experiments.  I gave Ian a mason jar and told him to collect some swamp water.
"Mom, what are we going to do with this muddy water?"
"Just wait and see."
After sitting still overnight, the kids were surprised by how much "stuff" had settled to the bottom of the jar and how clear the water had gotten.  Ian's comment was "Boy, I'm glad I've never gotten a drink from that swamp!"  So am I, son, so am I!
Week 14: This week we talked briefly about how sound is really made by vibration and how vibrations are made.  The obvious one - pounding on the table - came immediately to the children's minds and they acted it out with great gusto.  Then I demonstrated how air could be made to vibrate by blowing across the top of a bottle.  They had a little more trouble imitating this one, but did eventually manage it.
Then we experimented with the amount of liquid in the bottle, so see how that influenced the pitch of the sound.  The kids quickly figured out that the more air that was in the bottle to vibrate, the lower the sound.  It's too bad I didn't have enough bottles to put together a complete musical scale, but that is a lot of apple cider vinegar to use up for one science experiment.

Happy experimenting, everyone!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Marble Easter Eggs

Did you decorate Easter Eggs this year?  For some reason, Easter is a holiday that I haven't been very good at developing traditions for.  It sneaks up on me each year and then I suddenly realize "Easter is this weekend!" and I start to scramble.  This year was no exception.  We did, however, have the supplies to try a new-to-us method of egg decorating that a friend suggested to me last year, so I was able to manage that child-required project without too much trouble.

Step 1: Spray a shallow layer of shaving foam in the bottom of the pan and spread it out smoothly.
Step 2: Squirt drips of food coloring around the pan - I limited each child to three colors.
Step 3: Use a skewer or other pointy object to swirl the colors together
Don't swirl too much or you start to get muddy brownish puddles
Step 4: Set a hard-boiled egg down in one end of the pan and roll the egg through the shaving foam.
This part was a bit tricky, as the egg sort of mounded up the foam in front of it but didn't really want to roll.  It got very messy!
Step 5: Carefully lift the very slippery egg out of the foam and set it to dry.
Step 6: Wait for the food coloring and foam to start to dry, and then you can carefully wipe the remains off the eggshells.
The kids really like this one and I think, if I can remember, that we will do it again next year.  The eggs really are pretty.  I would do one thing differently, though.  The shaving foam left a slight smell on the eggshells that wasn't exactly appetizing, so I might try a different base for the food coloring.  Do you think whipped cream would work?

Happy belated Easter, everyone.

PS - If this project seems slightly familiar, the kids and I have done a similar project using paper.  You can find it here and here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Activity On Old Projects

Hello and welcome to Monday!  Did you all have a nice weekend?  We did.  It was one of those rare weekends where we didn't have any places we HAD to go or official things we MUST accomplish.  Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of things to DO (there always are), but there was no real pressure to do any particular thing.  It was productive, but in a nice and relaxed sort of way.

I decided that I was finally going to get started on Brynn's new,, Easter dress.  I don't know why I never got around to sewing this thing, since I've had the material and pattern sitting around since last October, but until Saturday it just sat untouched in the bottom of a bin.  I didn't get it finished yet, but I made enough progress over the weekend to ensure that I will get it completed in time for Easter and only six months late.
I wasn't the only one, though, who got going on a long overdue project.  Aaron did as well, and he actually finished his.  I don't want to get too excited or anything, or make a bigger deal out of what he did than I should, but to say that I am extremely pleased is not an understatement.

A few years ago we did a major renovation of our living room and entry way that included a new front door:
Unless you are very observant, you may not have noticed that the place where a dead bolt should be located in the door is stuffed with something that is not a dead bolt.  It is, in fact, a sock.  A formerly black sock that with the passing of several years has been bleached greyish-whitish-yellowish.  Please don't ask me why we used a sock to stuff the hole.  That discussion is not pertinent to this post.
 Whatever the reason for the sock, it is irrelevant now, because the sock is gone.  Permanently.  I threw it away as soon as Aaron took it out to start working on installing the actual dead bolt.
 And there it is:
 It ain't fancy, but it also ain't a sock.  That makes me a happy woman and confirms that this past weekend was a very successful one.

Happy sock-less front doors, everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment #11

Wanna be a super cool mom?  Maybe you are already confident in your super coolness, but if your ego needs a little boost than give this Rain Cloud science experiment a try.  My kids thought it was the coolest thing we have done all year and it took, at the MOST, 5 minutes.  You only need three things: a clear container mostly full of water (taller and narrower is best), regular shaving foam, and food coloring (any color will work, but blue seems more rain-like).
 First we talked for just a minute about where the water in clouds comes from and also how the water vapor condenses around dust particles.  To simulate the cloud we sprayed a nice pile of shaving cream on the surface of the water.
 Next we started squirting food coloring on the top of the cloud.  This is a great way to use up those one-quarter full containers of coloring that you have laying around (I had three, which worked out great).
 Eventually the shaving foam can't hold any more food coloring (just like a cloud can't hold any more water),
 and it starts raining out the bottom.  It was at this point that my kids got rather excited and mentioned words like "super" and "cool" and "great" and "awesome."
 In the end they couldn't resist playing with the blue shaving foam left overs and made a bit of a mess, but blue faces and fingers are a small price to pay for science experiment success.
Happy rain making, everyone.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Field Trip - Not a Project

Sorry, no project to report on today.  Since the weather took a rather pleasant turn last week the kids have been spending a LOT of time outside and haven't wanted to make anything, which is just fine with me.  I have projects I want to do, but opted instead for some spring cleaning.  When given the choice, who wouldn't want to scrub down grimy kitchen walls and woodwork?

We did, however, make time to take a walk along the river in our town.  We'll call it a field trip.
Happy spring weather, everyone!