Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friday photo


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Under construction

While exploring the nature trail in our neighborhood, we came across a construction site.  This tree was fresh and gooey with sap and had a pile of wood chips around its base. 

In the background, you can see the other tree they've started on.

Along the side of the trunk, the small branches have been bitten off,

and a couple were left close beside it.

There is a path of mashed-down grass leading to the water and a couple more pine boughs left aside.

Loook closely, and you can see some pine boughs woven into the dam.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Biosphere Update--We have surface tension!

Day 49

Day 49
When I checked on our Microbe Biosphere last night, the surface of the water had smoothed back out, and the droopy part was gone!  Hopefully, we are back on track.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Science with Peter Rabbit

In the 1890s, Beatrix Potter, the author of The Tales of Peter Rabbit, began studying and drawing detailed sketches of lichens.  She made a revolutionary proposal that lichens were a partnership between algae and fungi, and not a plant as was previously believed.

The lichens on this rock provide a sturdy surface for the tree.

On our recent visit to a wildlife education center in the mountains, we learned about lichens growing on rocks and helping to form the mountain forests.  We didn't know at the time that they were actually a form of microbe! 

Beatrix Potter with her dog Kep.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Biosphere Update--Day 46

Day 46
After being "shaken, not stirred," last week, our biosphere has managed to remain undisturbed.  The top layer floating on the water drooped down in the front, looking gel-like, right after the biosphere was shaken.  It has stayed just like that ever since--you can see it in the center near the top of the jar.  Otherwise, the black layer at the top of the mud under the water layer looks a little bit thicker, and the water is still clear.  We are wondering whether the project will be "set back" due to it being disrupted, but we haven't observed anything major other than the change in the water surface.

I found these books on our shelf that are a nice accompaniment to the Microbe Biosphere project:

Pasteur's explorations in 1856 led to our understanding of microbes today.  This is an easy-to-read book with lots of illustrations that will appeal to kids.  This entire series of "Science Stories" are really well-done.

In this Magic School Bus book, the gang shrinks down to the size of microbes and discover how they change things, like turning cucumbers into pickles.  Scholastic has a free lesson plan and Getting Moldy printable that accompany this book.

If you do a search on YouTube, you can also view the video of this episode, in two parts.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Big Wave

We recently read this book and were reminded of it with the news from Japan this weekend:

We will be spending some time this week following the news and learning more about Japan, as well as researching tsunamis and earthquakes.

The New York Times Learning Network has a comprehensive article full of teaching ideas about the tsunami in Japan.  This article is full of links to follow all aspects of this disaster.  You can print a free outline map of Japan for students to label using these physical maps of Japan.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Still Rockin'

Our field trip to the Gem and Rock store came on the heels of a recent trip to the mountains.  The kids observed that some mountains look like huge rocks and wondered how trees could grow on them and where the water came from that flows down the creeks.  These sites about  mountains and rocks are good resources for exploring further into this topic.  For some nice printables, look at the Rock Hunter lesson plans.

The Mountain That Loved a Bird, beautifully illustrated by Eric Carle, begins with "a mountain made of bare stone," and follows the changes that occur to the mountain over time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rock around the clock

We went on a field trip to a local Gem and Rock store with our support group, and came home with three grab bags of various rocks.  They boys dove into the field guides to try to identify and sort their specimens. You can recycle egg cartons as rock sorting trays, and use small cut out pieces of index cards to make labels.   We ended up with Leopard Skin Jasper, Tree Agate, Lodestone (really cool--it's magnetic,) Satin Spar Gypsum, and a few more that we haven't identified yet.

It was fun to see what everyone got in their $1.50 grab bag, and it has stretched into a whole lesson on rocks and minerals using Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study. 

And, just for fun:

With the price of gas being so high, we are enjoying some local (and free) field trips nowadays and finding lots of resources around the house on online to supplement our learning adventures.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shake, rattle, and roll...

Day 36
 We've been so careful not to move the Biosphere since we put it together.  Until today.  Crookshanks was trying to balance his big self on top of the frog tank (where he is not allowed) and decided to step on top of the jar when he tried to squeeze himself down behind the light on the tank.  The jar slid, and the top flopped.

Top flopped--Day 36

Trouble maker
He is not one bit concerned, either. 

Does science have a chance with a cat roaming around?

Will this be the end of the Biosphere?  Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Biosphere Update--Day 34

Day 34
Our Microbe Biosphere is still showing some changes.  The dirt is looking far less red and has taken on a more brownish/grayish color.  There are more black spots all around, and the layer on top of the water looks slightly thicker.  The water is still clear, and the layer on top of the mud and under the water is blacker in color and thicker--you can see the line against the glass on top of the mud layer.  The main difference between the way the Biosphere looks now and the way it looked on Day 27 is the color of the dirt. 

DIY: Homemade Nature Journals


   My boys have been using blank sketchbooks as nature journals, but lately we have found that they get too full before they are finished.  Because the boys add lots of extra items besides drawings like photos, specimens (leaves, dried flowers, pieces of bark, seed pods,) and postcards, the books get too bulky to close.  We decided to try making our own journals for Spring, and I think we will have to just start new journals with the change in seasons instead of trying to cram everything into one for the year. 

   Here's what we did:

   Our local craft store has these 7Gypsies book covers in the scrapbooking section.  You get a front and back cover for 1.99, and each of my boys used a 40% off coupon to buy them, so they were pretty inexpensive.  You could also use any recycled cardboard, which we've done before for little scrapbooks of field trips.  These covers are really sturdy, and since these journals will be handled so much, we decided to go the store-bought route this time.

   We punched holes in the sides and then measured the length and width of the covers.  Then we hit our scrap paper stash and started cutting out pages using a paper trimmer.  (This is also great practice in measuring, by the way.)  We just used random papers--some patterned scrapbook paper, some plain cardstock, and some leftover pages from albums.  We also added a few envelopes to each book for specimens (I always open junk mail to see if there is a return envelope inside and save them for projects like this and playing pretend post-office.)  There is a mix of plain pages for sketching and printed pages for pasting down photos.

   Then we lined up the pages with the front cover, and punched holes a few pages at the time.  We looped in some medium-sized binding rings from the office supply section at Target, but you could use heavy twine or yarn, loop it through, and tie it securely.  If we need to add pages along the way, it is easy to open the rings., and if they boys want to add postcards or brochures from places we visit, they can simply punch holes in them and add them in.

I think these will be wonderful keepsakes when they are full.