Monday, April 30, 2012

Earning Webelo Activity Pins

 Q: What do all these objects have in common?

 A: They all contain materials mined from the Earth!

On Saturday we held a "pin day" for Dude's Webelo den.  The boys earned their Geologist and their Artist pins.  For the Geologist pin, we were supposed to "collect 5 geologic specimens that are useful to people."

 I don't know about your kids, but my kids seem to come home with "geologic specimens" in their pockets every time they go outside!  In addition to these daily treasures, we got out our boxed rock collections.  We've had these around for a while.  No idea where I got them, but they are a decent little set from Geo Safari.  We have the sedimentary, metamorphic, and fossil boxes.  (I guess I missed the igneous set.) 


We discussed the many ways we use Earth's minerals and rocks.  Just for fun, we looked at a few samples under the microscope, including a certain rock that people need to eat to stay alive!  

 Then we tried the streak test for a variety of samples and we learned about the Mohs hardness scale.  Around here, this is part of the 5th grade science curriculum, so it was new information for our 4th graders.  (Just because I like rocks and hanging around in rock shops, I had samples for nearly everything on the scale!) 

 The kids were eager to do the hands-on activities, so I tried not to bore them with too much reading!  However, this book is a great introduction to the interior structure of the planet and plate tectonics.  We discussed how our Rockies were formed, what causes tsunamis, how fossils develop, and how scientists figured out what's inside the Earth.   

Then it was time for some fun art activities!

We discussed the three primary colors, then made all the colors we needed using just red, yellow, and blue.

There were giraffes...

 ...fancy faces...

...and Teddy bears!  Oh, my!

 Earning scout pins and homeschooling go hand-in-hand.  In fact, the Geologist pin was so much fun, 
I may turn it into a co-op for my local group!  We're looking forward to working on more pins this spring and summer. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gorgeous Day for a Hike

Blue sky...


Warm sun...

Bird song...
 Cool shade...

Where will your path lead you today?

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Salty Challenge and a Crystal Chandelier

Another cool place I never knew about until I started homeschooling (my kids): Lake Issyk Kul, located in Kyrgyzstan. We read about this gigantic saline lake today in The Silk Road by Kathy Ceceri.

We watched this video and then this one, just to get an idea of what the lake and the area look like. We also learned that Issyk Kul means "warm lake" in Kyrgyz. (It's not actually warm; the lake never freezes because of its salt content.)

Then I decided to give the kids a challenge. I gave them a small bowl with exactly one cup of water in it. I told them that I had put some salt in the water. How much? It was their job to find out!

Then, I just set them free. They talked together for a moment, then got out the food scale. They asked me for the tool that I had used to measure the salt (a tablespoon), and also wanted to know which container of salt I had used.

They carefully weighed the bowl of salted water. 346 grams, according to this scale.

Then they filled a bowl just like it with a carefully-measured cup of water and began measuring salt into it...

Within a minute they figured out how many tablespoons of salt they needed to put in to get to 346 grams!

Then we tried another salt experiment. One of these bowls is salted water (our Issyk Kul "sample") and one is plain water (our freshwater lake "sample.") We checked the temperature of each bowl, just to make sure they were roughly equal, then put both bowls in the freezer.

While we waited for our "lake samples" to freeze, we read this wonderful book by Mark Kurlansky. We had read it once before, when we did our salt nature study, but I think a great book always deserves revisiting!

After an hour in the freezer, the freshwater sample was nearly frozen solid. (The thermometer was stuck!) Lake Issyk Kul had a slushy layer on top, but was still mostly liquid.

And finally, we toured the Wieliczka Salt Mine with Rick Steves. My favorite part: the salt crystal chandeliers! Amazing!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lagman Noodles

Prepare the kneading and rolling surface

Who invented noodles, the Chinese, the Arabs, or the Italians? We may never know for sure, but a 4000-year old bowl of pasta was found in China in 2005!

Mix up the wet ingredients

Wherever noodles were first made, Marco Polo tried them and found them interesting enough to tell Rustichello da Pisa about them. Rustichello included Marco Polo's account of them in The Description of the World.

Mix with the dry ingredients until it's "doughy"

Our noodle recipe comes from The Silk Road by Kathy Ceceri.  (I know, I already wrote about this book in an earlier post, but there are SO many great projects in there, I had to share again!) We had never made noodles or any homemade pasta before, but I had always wanted to try. Learning about the Silk Road was a perfect excuse!

Knead until the dough is stretchy and smooth

After mixing and kneading the dough, the kids rolled it out flat. (We actually cut it into two sections so they could both roll. Next time, we will cut it into thirds because it expanded enough to cover our two biggest cutting boards and was still kind of thick.)

Roll and roll and roll...

Best thing about this project: the kids could do it totally on their own. No, wait. The best part was that they had so much fun!

Cut the dough into strips

The kids tried cutting the noodles with a pizza cutter and a knife. Super liked using the pizza cutter.

Try to make them all about the same size

Dude preferred using the knife. To each his own.

Hang them up to dry

Here is our makeshift noodle dryer. We had to set up three similar contraptions for all our noodles!

Save a bit of dough for experimenting

Dude wanted to use some of the dough to make his version of a manti, a dumpling that was a nomad's version of fast food. (Ever since Dude saw a Good Eats episode about ravioli, he has been wanting to try this!)

Make it pretty around the edges

We found it really interesting that they would dry or freeze the manti to carry with them as they traveled. Don't people buy dried and frozen ravioli and tortellini today?

Slide the dried noodles into the boiling water

We dried our noodles for about five hours. The recipe says to dry them for at least two; ours were so thick, I thought they needed some extra time. Plus, it was art class day. And Mom needed a short nap...

Cook until they seem done

I don't know how long we cooked them. We just kept checking on them every few minutes.

Noodles, butter and salt

And here are our delicious noodles! We considered making a Lagman noodle stew recipe that I found online, but the kids were eager to try their handiwork. So, we ate our noodles with butter and salt (Mom's favorite way.) The kiddos added Parmesan cheese to theirs.

We had another fun (and yummy) day of learning about the Silk Road! Hope you had a great day, too!

This post is linked to Favorite Resource This Week at Learning All the Time!  Check out all the great resources there!

Favorite Resource This Week

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Uzbek Plov

So, we've been making our way from Venice to China in a merchant caravan (child-led learning is so awesome!) Along the way, we're getting exposed to all kinds of cultures and cuisines.

As we travel through Central Asia, we meet Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, Tajiks, Turkmen and Uzbeks. The Uzbeks introduce us to their fragrant, spicy rice dish called plov. (That's the Uzbek version of the Russian word pilaf.)

That's a whole lotta onions! (Four large ones, to be exact.)

Traditional plov calls for an entire head of garlic. You are supposed to trim the end off and steam the bulb in the middle of the rice as it cooks. I didn't have an entire head of garlic, and I wasn't brave enough to try the steaming method, so this is what we used.

By the way, if you don't have one of these nifty little garlic twisters, you should get one. I got mine from Lehman's but they are widely available.

Cook your onions, carrots, spices and garlic until the vegetables are just getting tender. The recipe we used called for cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, salt and pepper.

Measure and rinse your rice. Oops!

Put the vegetables in a tall pot and cover them with rice. Then pour in enough boiling water to just cover the rice.

Put the lid on and cook 15 minutes or so and you have delicious, hearty plov!

We learned about plov from this absolutely fantastic book by Kathy Ceceri. It's well-written, with lots of great information and fun projects. We got it at the library, but I like it so much, I'm thinking of buying a copy. (In fact, I almost had to buy this copy, after a near-miss with the olive oil today!)

We had lots of fun cooking together and learning about the Silk Road. Hope you had a great day, too! Enjoy your journey, wherever it takes you!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reading Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.