Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just a quick link...

to a cute food web game.

And more cool food web sites here. And here.

We're going to do a unit on biomes after Easter. I found these while planning our lessons. Have a great day!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


We are completely hooked on these after seeing them on 5orangepotatoes! They are all so good, it was hard to choose, but here is one of our favorites...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The long MARCH to Spring

Our German friends taught us an expression that perfectly describes this month: "Mr. March does what Mr. March wants."

Remember my crocus bed?

That's OK, my mom sent me some pictures of spring in the south...

I know green leaves and spring blossoms are just around the corner here. In the meantime, I'm really enjoying the birds. The snow has finally melted off all of our feeders and we have juncos, house finches, chickadees, a pair of flickers, an occasional woodpecker, and those crazy magpies, who would fly away with the entire dog food dish if they could. I'll put out the hummingbird feeders as soon as I see buds on the trees. (It seems like they always arrive before the flowers bloom, so I like to have the feeders ready for them.)

Today we'll get into a "springy" mood by starting our lettuce and tomato seeds indoors, making some colorful spring art, and watching the birds. And in another month or so, I'll probably be whining about mowing the lawn!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Science Fair Projects

Super's topic? Oh, just the entire universe...

She included a Solar System Fact File and a paragraph about Encedalus, the weird moon in Saturn's rings that has geyser fields. Of course there was information about her favorite space topics: black holes, pulsars, and quasars. She made a comet out of Model Magic "ice," gravel and rock "space debris" from our yard, pipe cleaner "dust tail," and a plastic wrap "ion tail."

We used lots of books for our research, too many to list here. But one of our favorites is Bill Bryson's A Really Short History of Everything (a kid's version of his original book.) And this video was really helpful.

She made watercolor-and-glitter portraits of the star cycle: from stellar nebula to star to red giant to planetary nebula to white dwarf. At one point she said, "I should probably include something about the Drake Equation, don't you think, Mom?" Uh, yeah. If you think so, Sweetie...

Dude chose chemistry for his topic. I wish this photo were better--he used chemistry symbols and pictures for all the letters in his title.

He explained the classic states of matter, using a water bottle to represent liquid and a helium balloon to represent gas.

(I didn't take a picture of the balloon, but you can see the string hanging down. We had to hide the balloon after taking pictures, because one of our dogs kept barking at it!)

He used cotton balls in a jar to illustrate density. One jar has 18 cotton balls, and the other has 35 cotton balls. The jars have the same volume but different density.

Here are some common elements from around the house. Our "gold" chain came from the craft store, but the other stuff is real. Aluminum foil, a silver bracelet, an old iron railroad nail, copper wire, and lead fishing weights. Oh, and the helium in the balloon is an element, too!

He drew several atoms, including this aluminum atom. He also included information about the Periodic Table of Elements, physical and chemical changes, and ions and isotopes.

The science fair was lots of fun, and I was really proud of the kids' hard work!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why I Joined the Coffee Party

My mother's conservative "Christian" friend sent her an email entitled "Prayer Request." Here is what it said:

Dear Lord, this past year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick
Swayze, my favorite actress, Farah Fawcett, My favorite musician, Michael
Jackson and my favorite sales man, Billy Mayes.

I just wanted to let you know that my favorite president is Obama....

And my favorite congressman is Pelosi...... Amen
This is beyond offensive. Is it really acceptable to pray for the death of another person, just because you disagree with his or her political opinions? I understand that this is meant as a joke, but should Christians even joke about asking God to harm another human being?

Tonight the health care bill was passed. I can't say whether it will actually improve the lives of Americans, but I am appalled that the political discourse has devolved into joking about the death of our President.

Shakespeare Playbills

I wasn't thrilled to see a foot of fresh snow on our doorstep, but the box of new books nestled in the snow cheered me up! I had ordered some fiction for the kids, including How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell and Five Children and It by Edith Nesbitt. We are two chapters into Five Children and It, and we love it so far!

Super and Dude had expressed some curiosity about Shakespeare, so I ordered Tales from Shakespeare by Tina Packer, and Who Was William Shakespeare? by Celeste Mannis. We looked up some info about the Globe Theater online, and found some great pictures of historic playbills from different eras.

The kids created their own playbills to advertise Twelfth Night.

Super put a dove and a red rose on her playbill.

Dude put a traditional fancy border around his and drew an envelope with a heart-shaped seal.

We're looking forward to reading the stories together. I don't think I've read any Shakespeare play other than Romeo and Juliette, and that was back in high school, so this will be an educational experience for all of us!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Flowers

A sunny day! And we didn't need our jackets! So we headed outside to enjoy the first bit of color in our flower bed. I spread a towel on our front sidewalk and we sketched, snacked, and soaked up the sun.

We didn't plant the crocuses in this bed--they were a pleasant surprise the first spring after we moved in. It's always so nice to see them appear in March, even when they are pushing through a layer of snow. They are a cheerful purple reminder that winter is waning and spring is on the way...

Look! A bee!

Super really liked the pale crocus with dark purple stripes. For some reason, we only had one this year.

She drew a single blossom and used watercolor pencils to make a soft yellow background.

Dude drew a crocus and last year's dried coneflower pods. He mixed watercolor pencils to match the pink rock perfectly.

I sketched this group of crocuses.

Spring arrives later here than in many parts of the country. These are daffodil leaves--no blossoms yet!

Our grape hyacinth is just beginning to bud; it's still green with a slight purple blush. (And a dandelion! Already?)

We rarely get to see our tulips bloom because the deer enjoy them so much. Apparently something already munched on this one.

These are columbine leaves. And a bit of vinca vine. It tries to take over this bed every year--looks like it's getting a head start already.

We looked up crocuses on Wikipedia and were impressed by the many beautiful varieties. I've decided to add some yellow ones to our flower bed in the fall.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A really yucky Slushee

It took us a while to do all the activities, but we finally completed our salt study today.

We love any excuse to look at stuff with the microscope, so we compared basic table salt to fancy "fleur de sel" sea salt. It was interesting to see the difference in the size and regularity of the crystals. The sea salt crystals were bigger, more diverse, and had little specks in them. The ordinary salt was very white, and the crystals were very similar in size and shape.

Just for fun, we carefully put drops of water on the microscope slides and watched the crystals dissolve.

Then we made our own salt crystals. We dissolved as much salt as we could in a small amount of water, which (I just learned) is known as a "saturated solution." I suppose we could have poured the solution on the paper, but it just seemed more "scientific" to use a pipette! We used black construction paper to make it easier to see the salt crystals forming.

We put one plate in front of our fireplace, and one plate in our unheated storage shed. While we waited for the water to evaporate, we read The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky. We really enjoyed reading A Cod's Tale a few months ago, and this book was just as fascinating. He has a real talent for taking a seemingly "bland" topic and making it "appetizing!" (Sorry.)

We checked on our crystals occasionally. The plate on the left was in front of the fire, and it was dry within 45 minutes. The plate on the right was in the cool shed and it dried overnight. Can you see a difference?

The microscope confirmed our predictions: the crystals that formed quickly in front of the fire were much smaller than the crystals that formed more slowly. We documented the difference in our science journals. It's fun to draw salt crystals, by the way. They really do look like little jewels up close!

Then it was time to attempt to freeze some salt water.

We made sure that both cups of water were the same temperature. They both were 71.3 degrees. Then we stirred salt into one cup.

After an hour and a half in the freezer, the plain water had a large crust of ice on top, and a little bit of liquid water underneath. The salt water was full of slushy ice, but didn't freeze solid. I forgot to get a photo, but basically, the fresh water looked like ice, and the salt water looked like a Slushee.

Finally, we tried the egg and salt experiment. It's hard to see in this photo, but the egg did sink in the plain water.

We took turns stirring salt into the water. I think the ripples look cool in this picture.

The salty water looks a bit milky. Super gently put the egg in the solution.

And it floated!

This experiment is a great introduction to studying density. Super and Dude offered several theories about what made the egg float in the salt water, and they almost got it, but didn't quite have the vocabulary to explain it. I really wanted them to make the connection on their own instead of just explaining it to them, so I asked them to imagine tossing a beach ball and a bowling ball into a swimming pool. Of course the bowling ball sinks, and the beach ball floats, but why? The water is dense enough to float a ball full of air, but not dense enough to hold up a dense bowling ball.

To illustrate the point, we looked up the Dead Sea on Wikipedia, and there is a great photo of a man floating in the water reading the newspaper. He's holding his head up, which would make it impossible to float in an ordinary lake. But in the dense, salty water of the Dead Sea...

Finally, we went back to the egg experiment and I had them hypothesize about why the egg floated on the salt water. Their explanations were perfect. I typed while they narrated our experiments and the results; their narrations will go in their science journals. We hadn't discussed density before, but they really got the concept after seeing it in action!

This was a fun activity, and I probably wouldn't have thought of it if I hadn't seen the suggestion on Harmony Art Mom's wonderful blog. If you haven't visited yet, you should take a look!

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Week at the Super Awesome School

We had a fun and busy week here at the Super Awesome School of Super Awesomeness...

The highlight: a trip to the zoo. Yeah, sure, we saw some animal exhibits, but the best part was getting harassed by this Canada goose while we were eating lunch. He really, really wanted our Oreos!

Isn't he a cutie? At one point, I thought he was going to grab my camera.

We read a couple of chapters of Bridge to Terabithia for our mother/daughter book club. I was very surprised when the librarian told us that it's considered a controversial book and when it was first published in 1977, some school libraries refused to stock it. How times have changed! (Can you imagine what the librarians of the 70's would have thought of the Twilight series?)

We finally got around to doing our salt crystal experiment. I'll do another post about it later.

Lots of things happening in math this week, including measuring stuff...

A decimal shopping spree...

And a homemade game of Dragons-and-Decimals...

Hope you had a great week, too!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It took 60 takes...

...but it was so worth it!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Fun, Silly, Crazy, Amusing Lesson

We added adjectives to our sentences today. Super decided to embellish her original sentences:

Dude decided to make one long, descriptive sentence:

As you can see, the chef is sick in bed with a wastebasket next to him. Fortunately, his wife had the good sense to throw the salty, bitter, sweet, stinky, wet, awful, sticky, slimy, scary, hideous, gross food in the trash!

It was a fun activity! Next week we'll add some adverbs to the predicates. I may need some longer sheets of paper!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The News from Mount Snowbegon

The plan: put adjectives into our sentence strips, then talk about articles; adding and subtracting decimals with regrouping; finish some stuff in our science notebooks; start our next Egypt project.

The reality: see above. It was 60 degrees today! And just look at that sky!

There was still a little snow on the trail.

And a wee bit of mud.

Didn't see many signs of spring yet. But here are last year's wildflowers, and if you look very carefully, you'll see some flecks of green under them.

For such a gorgeous day, very few people were out. The miner's candles kept us company.

Not a single bud on the tree, but it's beautiful nonetheless.

It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so maybe we'll get some schoolwork done. Bye!

P.S. Fifty points if you got the Garrison Keillor ref!