Posts tagged: educational/homeschool

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.

Fireworks in a Dish

By , March 6, 2011 4:35 pm

If you have milk, food coloring and dish washing soap on hand…

you can have impressive rainy-day science fun!

Pour some milk into a plate:

Wait a minute for any motion in the milk to settle down, then add four drops of different colors of food coloring.  Place the drops next to each other near the center of the plate.

 

Wait a minute or so until the colors get a bit blotchy-looking:

 

Take a clean cotton swab and gently place it on the colors.  What do you think will happen?

(SPOILER ALERT:  Absolutely nothing.)

Now put a drop of dish soap onto the other, clean and dry end of your swab.

What will happen when you put the soapy swab gently onto the colors?  Look!

It even continues impressively swirling and churning after you have lifted the swab out of the milk!

Try putting your swab in different areas of the plate to see what new patterns form.

NOTE:  It is very important not to stir, just hold your swab still in the milk.

Make sure you have plenty of milk and food coloring on hand for this because your kids won’t want to do it just one time.  This kept my 5 year-old entertained for at least an hour!

Many thanks to Steve Spangler’s Science Experiments for this really fun idea! Steve Spangler has a good explanation of the science behind this colorful display. You can read it here.

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This is my contribution to this month’s Unplugged Project theme of soap.  Can you come up with a soap-themed project?  If so, please join in and add a link or comment to the original project post.  You can read more about the Unplugged Project here!

Cool Math

By , May 12, 2010 5:34 pm

Do you have a reluctant math student? Unfortunately I have two of them.  My 7 and 9 year-old are stuck in that very tedious phase of math where everything seems to be all about drilling problems.  According to her recent parent-teacher conference, my 4 year-old on the other hand, currently spends much of her time in the “math environment” of her Montessori classroom.  As her proud Mom, I have of course already planned out her future career as an engineer!

The foundation of math can be pretty boring.  I remember that from my school days.  Fortunately I ended up loving math later, and even took it in college.

I keep thinking, if only there was some way to make it clear to them that math can actually be really cool later on, then perhaps they’d be willing to slog through this early stuff until the light bulb comes on for them as it did for me.

Fortunately I recently discovered the math stories by Theoni Pappas.  I bought Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales (that’s some of the cool stuff!) and The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat (my kids love cats).

I have begun reading the fractals book out loud with my oldest daughter. We have read several chapters and she keeps wanting more!  Each short chapter has an easy and creative explanation of a different complex, mind-bending concept presented in story format.  Often there are related activities to do, or puzzles to solve.  At the end of the chapter is a highlighted box with more complete information about the concept, usually involving history or practical applications.

The Möbius strip was one of the real WOW chapters that we have read so far (see our photo above).

Will these books turn my children in to math-lovers?  Who knows, but they are fun!

Join in World Math Day! (March 3rd, 2010)

By , March 2, 2010 4:59 pm

Teachers and parents, are you looking for a fun and different math activity for your students or kids?  Then you’ll be happy to learn that tomorrow, March 3rd 2010, is World Math(s) Day!

Teachers can sign their classes up to participate in this online math contest with same-aged students (5-18 years) from around the globe for a chance to win prizes.  Individual students or homeschooling families can register too. This year for the first time there is even a category for teachers and parents who want to join in the fun.  Plus, it is all COMPLETELY FREE!

Here is how it works:

“Students play at home and at school against other students around the world in live games of mental arithmetic. Each game lasts for 60 seconds and students can play up to 500 games, earning points for each correct answer. The students who answer the most questions appear in the Hall of Fame. Students cannot select their level but will move up as they progress.”

(“About World Maths Day,” from the World Maths Day website)

So far there are over 2 million students from 37,000 schools in 200 countries registered for tomorrow’s event.   The goal is to beat last year’s world record of correctly answering 452,681,681 questions!

I had fun just browsing the lists of students and classes registered from an amazing array of locations.  It would make for a great geography lesson in addition to the math fun!

Head on over right now and register your students, children, and yourself!

LINKS:

World Maths Day 2010 Website

World Maths Day 2010 Official Blog

The Enchanted Bookshelf

By , September 30, 2009 6:55 pm

There it is.  The Enchanted Bookshelf.  It looks pretty ordinary, doesn’t it?  And believe me, it is not usually that tidy.   Despite its modest appearance, this humble bookshelf has been key in inspiring my 7 year-old son to read.

The bookcase is right next to his bed, within arm’s reach.  He doesn’t even have to get out of bed to pull a book off the shelf.  I keep it well-stocked with a varied supply of books of different degrees of difficulty.

Obviously I make sure that there are many books at his reading level.  I also throw in some that are more difficult in order to pique his interest and tempt him to challenge himself.  I add a few that are below his level for those days when he wants to breeze through an old favorite.  I’d rather have him read something a little easy on occasion, than read nothing at all.  On the bottom shelf I put a few big, heavy kids’ encyclopedias and books with lots of photographs that are fun and interesting to leaf through.

The shelf’s spell has brought my son’s reading level from barely Bob Books last fall to beyond the Magic Tree House Series (by Mary Pope Osborne) in just one year.  In fact he recently devoured Vacation Under the Volcano non-stop and proudly announced that he has now read all 28 books in the original Magic Treehouse Series.  For the last few nights, he has read The Children of Noisy Village (by Astrid Lindgren).  Now he appears to have moved on to Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, which is one of the more challenging temptations on the shelf.

If you want to give this a try, here are some tips:

  • Shelf must be within arm’s reach of bed and preferably facing the bed so the titles are easily visible.
  • Keep it well-stocked.
  • Vary the reading level.  Most books should be at your child’s current level, plus some more difficult books, and some easier books.
  • A basket of children’s magazines on the top is a nice touch and adds even more variety to the reading selections.
  • Don’t let the shelf stagnate.  Keep restocking with new books as your child’s skills improve.
  • If there is a TV in your child’s room, get rid of it so reading is the ONLY available activity in bed!  (Plus, the electromagnetic waves from the TV will suck all the magical energy out of the Enchanted Shelf.  :-)  )
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