Category: nature

Super Fun with the Supermoon

By , November 15, 2016 9:09 pm

1024px-fullmoon2010

Image: By Gregory H. Revera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Have you and your family been moongazing the last few nights to see the “Supermoon?”  Last night the moon was at its closest point to Earth since 1948 and it appeared 15% bigger and 30% brighter than usual.

We went outside to check it out.  This time we didn’t lie on the golf course wondering about the timing of the sprinklers, but we did stand in the driveway to get a good look at the moon as it rose over the mountain.  I felt I could see detailed lunar features without binoculars or a telescope (and I can’t even see what is right in front of me without glasses anymore!) but I think the incredible brightness was what struck us the most.

If your kids are moon-crazy now, here are a few moon-related resources and educational ideas that might be just the ticket to feed their interest:

 

Educational Experiments and Activities

  • Oreo Moon Phase Match Game (with free printable template) from Simply Learning: A fun matching activity to learn about the phases of the moon, plus kids can eat their work when they are done. What could be better?
  • How the Moon’s Craters Form: An easy activity involving flour and a weighted plastic Easter egg teaches how the moon’s craters are formed.  For older kids, the activity also involves experimenting with the different factors that determine the size of lunar craters, and recording the data.  There is even a free printable data collection worksheet.

 

Books

(By the way, Kitten’s First Full Moon is one of my very favorite picture books EVER!)

Pumpkins

By , November 11, 2011 6:07 pm

It’s fall and a perfect time to study pumpkins!

First I read the class Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler, a lovely book about the life-cycle of a pumpkin.  The photos in this book are gorgeous.  We talked about the circularity of life.

Next I cut open a pumpkin at school and had the children identify the rind, the pulp, the stem, and the seeds.  We then made little Montessori “Parts of the Pumpkin” books.

I explained to the children that we would not waste our pumpkin and we would be eating the pulp and the seeds.  Several of them seemed somewhat aghast at the prospect.

I roasted the seeds in the oven at school so the children could enjoy the lovely smell and hopefully be more encouraged to try them!  Only one child out of a class of twenty-five did not wish to try one, and of all those who tried, only two did not clamor for seconds and thirds.  This was a huge hit!

I took the rest of the pumpkin home and made pumpkin bread with the pulp.  That will be going to school tomorrow and I think all will enjoy it.

In the interest of scientific research we put some of the pulp and a few seeds in a tightly sealed jar.  I labeled it with the date and placed it on the science shelf.  I asked the children to predict what, if anything, would happen to it.  A few predict it will stay exactly the same forever.  A few said it would grow mold.  I told them to inspect it every day to see for themselves.

(Next year we might try this clever version of the decaying pumpkin experiment!)

We also cut the top of a second pumpkin and filled it with dirt.  We watered it and set it in a sunny window to see if the seeds would grow.  I’ll report back on the results.

NOTE (added March 4, 2012):  This turned out wonderfully!  Please see the next post, What We’ve Been Up To for details and a photo of it now!

I dyed some pumpkin seeds red, orange, yellow, and green and set them out in bowls on a tray with some black construction paper.  They have been making pictures and designs with them.

Finally, I put this simple pumpkin color-by-number on the shelf along with a laminated completed one to use as a guide.   It has been popular.

(Oh, and we also painted pumpkins at our school’s annual Fall Festival!!)

 

Sources

Growing in Pre K – Post: Pumpkins

 

Recipes

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS –

Rinse the seeds thoroughly and remove all pulp and strings.  Spread them out and let them dry on paper towels.  Put in the seeds in a bowl and add just a TEENY TINY bit of olive oil to make the seasonings stick (not too much, or they will be greasy).  Toss to coat them in oil, then add seasonings and toss again.  I use Jim Baldridge’s Secret Seasoning (yum!) but you can use anything you like, even just salt.  Some people do cinnamon and sugar, however I like mine savory and have never tried this.  Spread them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Try to spread evenly so very few overlap.  Bake in a 250 degree (Farenheit) oven (this is fairly low heat for those who do not use Farenheit).  Check them after 45 minutes, but they might take an hour to an hour and a half at this temperature to be done.  They are done when crispy seeming and crunch loudly when bitten.  NOTE: They might not brown much, but as long as they crunch, that is OK!

PUMPKIN BREAD –

Ingredients :

  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher (ie. course) salt
  • 1 and 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup plus 1 and 1/2  tablespoons canned, unsweetened pumpkin (or fresh pumpkin pulp that has been boiled, or roasted in water and removed from the skin)
  • 1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (Farenheit, a medium setting for those who do not use Farenheit).  Grease and flour an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan.  Sift together first 5 ingredients then stir in kosher salt.  Combine sugar, oil, and pumpkin in a large bowl.  Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add egg, beating until well-blended.  Gradually add dry ingredients, beating at low speed until blended.  Pour batter into pan.  Bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes or until loaf is golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (NOTE – I start checking on it early.  It will be dry if you over-bake.)  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Watch the Perseid Meteors Tonight

By , August 14, 2010 2:53 pm

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By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2632873

Last night I woke my two oldest children up at 2:30AM.  I led my confused and sleepy babies out onto the golf course behind our house armed with a flashlight and a blanket.  I spread out the blanket on the cool, damp grass of the fairway, we all laid on it facing northeast … and hoped that the sprinklers would not go off! Lol!

The children were astonished by what they saw – shooting stars, lots of them!  We also saw the Milky Way and several satellites marching in line across the night sky.

Our fabulous unplugged (and free!) show was the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.  The peak was the nights of August 12 and 13th, but you might still be able to see a pretty good display through the 22nd (especially if you are lucky enough to live in a low ambient light area like we do).  Just look to the northeast after midnight.

PS.  Most visible in the Northern Hemisphere, sorry!

LINKS:

EarthSky’s Meteor Shower Guide

Excellent Perseid Meteor Shower Expected

How-To: Photographing the Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid Photo Gallery

For another of our astronomy adventures, you might like to read: The Moon Unplugged? Not For Me!! (Part 1) and Mom Unplugged vs. Evil Sleepy Poser Mom – Lunar Dilemma Part 2.

Clam Shell Mobile – “Beach” Unplugged Project

By , August 2, 2010 2:01 pm

TURN YOUR DINNER INTO ART!

As is my pattern these days, I am a day or two late in posting our project for July’s Unplugged Project theme of beach.  Oh well!

I am such a packrat that I have had these clam shells sitting around all summer.  In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that I saved them from a fabulous meal in Upstate New York back in June and brought them all the way home with me!  (I just don’t really trust Arizona seafood.) We soaked them in hot soapy water right away after eating to clean off any grease and smell.

We used a dremel tool to drill a small hole in each one.  You’ll need a good masonry drill or dremel bit for this since, as we discovered, clam shells are quite hard.

Before we began painting, we soaked them again, this time overnight in pure bleach just to get rid of the last lingering slightly clammy smell. We then rinsed them off in cold water and let them dry.

Next we painted the outside of them bright colors. (I think it would also have been a pretty project with them left as-is, but my daughter wanted them to be colorful since this was to hang in her room.)

After the paint dried, we decided to splatter them with gold paint using old toothbrushes.  Fun but a bit messy!

We left the inside natural, but you could paint that too if you want.

After they had dried completely (overnight), we strung a piece of fishing line through each one.  My daughter brought in four sticks from the yard to make the frames for hanging them.

We tied each pair of sticks together in the form of a cross using yarn and then hung one shell off each arm of one of the crosses.  We suspended the second cross below the first using yarn to create a second tier.  We again tied one shell onto each arm and hung our final one much lower from the center.

Voilà!

Nice Day + Old Fish Tank = Terrarium

By , May 20, 2010 3:41 pm

Are you without any ideas for organized unplugged things to to do on a nice Spring day but you aren’t feeling ambitious enough for a full blown Children’s Garden?  Do you have an old fish tank, or large glass bowl?  See if your kids want to make a terrarium!

Very few children can resist the idea of their own tiny little garden.  Even I remember making one and being totally fascinated by the magic of such a small scale.  To me it was like a little doll house garden.  If you have a fairy-lover, call it a Fairy Garden.  A dragon-lover, why not make a Baby Dragon Garden!  Be creative.

Last Sunday when we had our first gorgeous spring day, I finally told my 9 year-old that she could have the old fish tank in our garage that had been gathering dust in our garage for at least 6 months.  She has had her eye on it for some time – but for me, snow and cold are not conducive to warm, green creativity.

We finally pulled it out and I told her she was on her own.

This is what she came up with all by herself (as long as you don’t count my driving her to the nursery to get her plants while I bought mine).

I LOVE the reuse of the little fairy house from our fairy garden of 2 years ago and the path of rocks that lead to it.  There is even a pond made out of a food storage container that my daughter wants to put tadpoles in.  She put some sea shells in the pond and broken terracotta pots as homes for the future frog residents.  Some of the ferns look like trees and there is a small sprig of English Ivy for which she plans to make her own twig trellis.

Very fun and easy!

– Teaches kids not only to be creative about their landscaping ideas, but responsibility in caring for their creation.

– If you don’t have a suitable glass container, try searching yard sales and thrift stores.

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