School Projects

Fun Projects

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Last Quarter of Our Pond Study

Most of the blogs I regularly read appear to have a common theme this week: "Best of 2014" where each blogger posts a collection of favorite, or most visited, or most pinned posts from throughout the year.  These posts allow them to continue to post on their regular schedule but not have to really actually write a post.  Not me though.  You see I don't have a brand to promote, most of my posts get almost exactly the same number of visits, I don't think I get pinned much, and since I wrote each post I guess they are all my favorite so instead of a "Best of" list, I have to write an actual post today or else go without (which would be terrible for my schedule and my brand - if I had them).

However, we have kind of taken a break from making and doing since Christmas because we were all a little burned out.  The kids have been busy fighting over - er....PLAYING WITH.....- their new toys and I have been drinking extra coffee and purging toy boxes, so I have no new crafty production to post.  Instead, I will share the last few months' worth of Pond Study photos, since we finished up that year-long school project on December 27.

Our last quarter of study got a big chaotic.  We missed a few times because of other events on "Pond Day" and also because of sickness, so I am just going to lump the photos into months, rather then label them week by week.  Here we are way back in October, when the world was still mostly green:
In November we got some snow, and it looked like winter was settling in early.  I also made a little change in that I let the kids do their study on their own a few times.  They had to make their observations without my hints and they did better then I expected they would.  It also meant I had to give Ian charge of my camera.  They probably had a bit more fun with that then they should have, but he still managed to get a few "scientific record" shots of the pond.
And finally, December, when it warmed up again and all the ice and snow melted:
Overall I would say it was an excellent year-long science study.  The kids learned a lot about how one place changes from week to week and also about the long term cycles of the seasons.  They also learned about ice safety (when my foot went through "solid" ice), got an up close look at muddy water (when I fell in), learned about pond creatures (like leeches), and discovered wild-growing food (grapes).  I think we'll repeat it in a few years when we can do some more difficult activities like collecting specimens, identifying plant and critter species, and gathering weather data.  Until then, I need to come up with a new year-long study to start after the New Year.  Any ideas?

Happy science lessons everyone, and especially Happy Christmas Break and New Year!    

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Only Right and Proper Way to Frost a Cookie

Merry Christmas!  For my last post before Christmas, I thought I would share instructions on the "Only Right and Proper Way to Frost Sugar Cookies" for all you last minute bakers out there.  Also for all you do-it-all-way-in-advance bakers whose children already ate all the baked in advance treats so you have to make more at the last minute.  Either way, here goes:

Step One: Assemble 12 cousins (ages 9 and down) in one place, preferably under the supervision of 1 Grammie, 1 mommy, and 2-3 aunties.
Step 2: Provide cookies, frosting, sprinkles and other materials on large tables
Step 3:  Run away and hide, shield your eyes, or take a coffee break.
 Step 4: Come back later and admire the masterpieces,
 noticing in particular the sculptural heights that frosting can reach, as well as the total weight of sprinkles one sugar cookie can withstand.  (Pardon the blurry photos, documenting the master frosters doing their thing was high-speed work that wasn't well managed by my low-speed camera).
 Step 5: Clean up as fast as possible to minimize the number of cookies that DON'T make it home again.

And that's how it done.  If you don't believe me, just ask these two little experts - they'll fill you in.
 Merry Christmas and happy baking to everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Busy Making

Since I am only about halfway through each of the projects I have in the works for Christmas, I thought I'd just do a quick photo dump to show what the kids have been making lately.

Christmas Decorations on Project Day:
Special notebooks for some of the special people in their lives:
But mostly lots and lots of presents:
Happy making everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Carols Are Good For More Then Singing

A few years ago I signed up for an account on Pinterest.  One of my very first pins (which I have tried in vain to find) was a link on how to make a super-humongous but cheap black and white photo print at the office supply store Staples.  It seemed like a good idea, but considering the number of "pin-sasters" the come via Pinterest pins, I was a bit too skeptical - and cheap - to try.  Then, earlier this year, I encountered the idea again (sorry, don't remember which website), only this time it was how to make a really large faux-chalkboard print.  I was intrigued.  I have long been considering how to make a display of Christmas carols to hang above my piano and I thought "What if I had a really big sheet of music printed?"  So I tried it, and I am pleased to say it really worked! 
 I searched Google images for "free printable Christmas sheet music" and found a carol I liked,  Then I went to the Staples website (Office Max does it too, but their website wasn't working for me that day) and searched for "Engineering Prints".  I selected their largest size, 36"x48" ($7.79 plus shipping), uploaded my image, followed the very simple instructions, and ordered it.  It really was that easy!  

Now, you might be asking "what kind of quality is the print?" - which is a good question.  The website clearly says "not intended for reproducing photos" and looking at my print I can see why.  The blacks are black, but the edges are a bit blurry and there are some grayish patches in the white areas.  You can't really see them from a few feet away on my print, but on a photo they might be more noticeable.  I'd say stick with line drawings (like engineering prints!), bold lettering or sheet music.

After the print arrived, I decided I needed to dress it up just a bit, so I used a kitchen knife and cutting board to make slits in the paper (I'd recommend using a utility or craft knife, but I didn't have one handy, and the smell of garlic on the knife was just too wonderful to waste) and wove a Christmasy ribbon up the sides.  It had the added benefit of stiffening up the paper a bit for hanging.

And that is it - the easiest homemade Christmas decoration I ever made!  Thank you Pinterest.
Happy printing, everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

One Last Autumn Post

There is nothing like a family Thanksgiving celebration taking place at your house to remind you of all the little projects that need finishing (or starting and finishing) around the place.  I managed to sort through a lot of closets and dust a lot of high shelves thanks to this motivation.  I was also able to get a decorating project that I have been slowly working on for the past YEAR completed, thanks to the pressure of pending house tours.

The south wall in our bedroom is the one that our headboard rests against, and it has been bare since we moved back into the room after the remodel.  I just couldn't decide what I wanted to hang there.  Then, about a year ago Aaron and I discussed an idea involving topographic maps.  I don't remember who had the initial thought, but it got my mind turning.  Eventually I moved away from the idea of topographic maps to tourist maps of major cities that we want to visit together someday.  I started searching online for vintage maps in a variety of sizes and styles, and as I gathered them I mounted them onto blank art canvases.  

I finished the last map on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but I had a little problem.  The man who provides the muscle necessary for completing my various brilliant ideas was away on a hunting weekend.  How could I get all my maps hung in time?  I started by using brown wrapping paper to make "map shapes" to help me make my gallery arrangement.  It's a good think I didn't just starting putting in screws or nails, because first it looked like this:
and then I changed it to this:
 and eventually it ended up like this:
 When my he-man arrived home after his hunting trip, he was forced to feel my intense need of completing projects and finished the installation of "our" maps with very good grace and speed.

Oh, and before I wish everyone a "happy last day of November", I need to fulfill another promise and show some of the Thanksgiving decorations the kids made for their rooms.  I think the blue painter's tape is a very special touch.
Happy Last Day of November everyone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Planning

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday for a whole list of reasons: the colors, the food, the fact that it is only one day long, and most of all the food.  Usually we pack up the kids and head to one side of the family or another to celebrate, but this year is different.  This year WE are hosting.  Generally speaking, I LOVE hosting gatherings (my husband claims it is because it is a chance for my "Field Marshal" personality to rise to the fore), but I will admit that putting on my first holiday dinner has me a bit nervous.

My son has apparently caught the fever as well, because he announced that his bedroom needs decorating - it just isn't Thanksgiving-y enough for guests to see.  First, he decided to make a leaf banner.
 He hung it above his closet.  I thought it looked nice.
 Then he decided one garland wasn't enough, and he drew up a plan (yes, a plan) of each wall in his room and added all the decor items he wanted to add.
 He also recruited labor.  
If the construction paper and tape and glue hold out, I think they will still be working as our guests arrive.  Stay tuned - I'll try and get a picture when they do the official unveiling.  Until then I am forced to pretend that I can't see anything every time I go in their rooms.

What am I doing to get ready for Thanksgiving?  I prettied up this clipboard with washi tape to hold the lists of tasks I made for each day until THE day.  If I can stay on track, maybe I can just pull this off!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  You probably won't hear from me again until it is over.