Posts tagged: nature projects

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.

Don’t Forget The Birds! (Homemade Bird Feeder Ornaments)

By , January 23, 2010 7:37 pm

Today we sit stranded at home after a week of snow days and over four feet of snow!  The hungry birds hop busily about the bird feeders trying to fuel up before a cold night’s sleep.  It seems a good day to write that post about edible ornaments for the wild birds.

As I mentioned not long ago, every Christmas Eve the kids and I sit down and make edible tree decorations to hang on our trees outside as gifts to our wild birds.  We call it our Bird Christmas, but you could have fun making these at any time of year.  The squirrels often make off with many of our treats, but I don’t mind!

(By the way, although wire and dental floss are easy, if I can, I like to use natural cotton yarn or string for hanging since this is recycled by birds in the spring for cozy nests!)

Classic Pinecone Feeders: Send the children out to collect pinecones.  The bigger and more open, the better.  Mix peanut butter and bird seed together in a bowl.  Tie string or yarn around the pinecones to use for hanging (I find that it is a bit less messy to do this step before covering the pinecones in peanut butter).   Roll the pinecones in the mixture using a spoon to push it down between the scales if necessary.

VARIATION:

  • No pinecones where you live?  Then use bagels!  Spread with peanut butter, sprinkle on birdseed, and the hole makes them really easy to hang.

Orange Cup Feeders: An adult should prepare the cups. Cut oranges in half and scoop out the insides to set aside for a healthy snack or a fruit salad (a grapefruit knife makes this job easy).  Use a metal skewer, knitting needle, or large darning needle to poke three approximately equidistant holes around the edge of the orange cup, near the top.  Thread string or yarn through the holes forming a hanger made of three strings.  Now for the kid part: Fill the cups with a peanut butter/birdseed mixture.

VARIATIONS:

  • Fill with softened suet and birdseed, although peanut butter is more kid-friendly.  Suet is a great alternative for kids with peanut allergies though.
  • If you have orioles in your area, fill the cups with grape jelly.  Orioles like jelly and they are attracted to the color orange!
  • Easiest option – Don’t hollow out the oranges and just hang orange halves as is.  Orioles, robins, mockingbirds, tanagers, grosbeaks and cardinals like the fruit.

“Bird Tinsel”: Decorate shrubs and trees with strings of cranberries and popcorn (no salt or butter).  Thread the treats using a large needle and string, heavy duty thread, or dental floss.  Our popcorn didn’t string so well this year for some reason (perhaps our needle was not sharp enough) so we ended up just doing cranberries.  Use frozen or fresh berries.  I prefer frozen.  Frozen are less messy to string and thaw quickly once threaded.

VARIATIONS:

  • Try dried fruits such as cherries, craisins, blueberries, papaya, apples or apricots.  How about peanuts in the shell?
  • String fresh orange slices.
  • Try other fresh berries such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or rasberries.
  • Raisins come in many colors and sizes.  Experiment with different varieties to make pretty patterns.

FUN TIP:  When threading a variety of foods, have your children create repeating patterns.  The garlands will be pretty to look at and your children will exercise their art and reasoning skills!

Bird “Cookie” Ornaments: You can use cookie cutters to make shaped ornaments for your wild birds.  The easiest variety are made with stale bread (although fresh is fine too, but might be harder to cut).  Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of the bread.  Poke a hole near the top using a skewer or straw. String yarn, string, dental floss or wire through to make a hanger.  I have even hung these using a wire Christmas ornament hanger poked directly through the bread.  Very easy.

VARIATIONS:

  • If you want to get fancy, you can decorate your “cookies” with peanut butter and sprinkle on birdseed designs.  The seed will stick to the peanut butter and you’ll have instant “fancy” ornaments that the birds will love!
  • For those with peanut allergies, or for a change, brush the bread shapes with egg white.  Sprinkle with bird seeds and bake on a baking sheet at 300 degrees for about 5 minutes (this will cause the seeds to stick to the bread).
  • Melt suet, mix with birdseed and pour into greased, shaped molds (or lined muffin tins).  Put in freezer to harden, or outside if it is very cold.  Use a skewer to poke a hole through when they are getting solid but not yet truly hard.  Remove from molds when frozen and hang outside.  (NOTE:  You can use commercially available rendered suet, get some from the butcher, or make your own suet mix from a recipe in the links below.  Be careful of vegetable based fats, they are not supposed to be as healthy for birds.  Also, ordinary animal fats can spoil and melt easily if the temperature is not cold enough.  Think – greasy mess on your deck and birds with indigestion.  More on all these issues here:  The Great Crisco Debate).
  • Try wiping your bread ornament in bacon grease.  I once read somewhere that Blue Jays and squirrels love this.  Perhaps a good way of recycling sink-clogging bacon grease?  The bread plus bacon grease would probably work a lot better in summer than straight bacon grease which melts very easily.  Also, since bacon grease is salty, it is advisable only in moderation and when a fresh supply of water is available nearby.  I have a heated bird bath that is hugely popular with my birds in winter, since it provides fresh water when all other sources are frozen.

Bird Goody Bags: Save your nylon mesh produce bags (the kind fruit, tomatoes, or onions come in).  Stuff them with suet, seeds and dried fruit.  You could even put in shelled peanuts or other nuts, unsalted is best.  Make sure they can fit through the holes – crush them if necessary.  Hang outside.  You can decorate these with fancy bows if you want them to look festive.

VARIATION:

USEFUL LINKS:

Flip a Rock Today!!

By , September 20, 2009 8:55 am

Today is the 3rd Annual International Rock Flipping Day!

Bored? Need something to do because your TV is off?  (Yes, today is also the first day of Turnoff Week!)

Then go out and flip a rock to study what is underneath.  Record your results via photos, poetry, art, diorama, cupcake replica, in other words, anything at all!  Post on your blog.  Or, add your photos to the International Rock Flipping Day Flickr Group.  Read more about it here.

It is a gorgeous fall day here, perfect for rock flipping.  We’ll head out later and I’ll post the results here on Unplug Your Kids.

Flip a Rock on September 20th

By , September 8, 2009 1:18 pm

As I am sure you all know, September 20th, 2009 is the 3rd Annual International Rock Flipping Day.

Oh, you didn’t know that?  Well, on September 20th take your kids outside, choose a rock to flip, then:

1)  Record what you find. “Any and all forms of documentation are welcome: still photos, video, sketches, prose, or poetry.”

2)  Replace the rock as you found it; it’s someone’s home. But if there are critters underneath, move them to the side before you replace the rock and let them scurry back.  You don’t want to squash anyone.

3)  Post on your blog, or load your photos to the International Rock Flipping Day Flickr group.

4)  Send a link to Susannah at Wanderin’ Weeta. Her e-mail address is in her profile.

5)  Susannah will collect the links, e-mail participants the list, and post it for any and all to copy to their own blogs.

6)  She also says: “Maybe we can Tweet it, too, this year. Use the hashtag #rockflip.” (NOTE FROM ME:  This information is totally beyond my comprehension, but if you understand Tweeting, then give it a go that way and I will be impressed.)

(All instructions are from Wanderin’ Weeta’s blog – edited slightly by me)

I love this idea because it reminds me of something I did in very early elementary school (Kindergarten? 1st Grade?).  We went out and measured a one foot by one foot square of dirt behind the school, and then we had to look closely and draw what we saw in that square.  Obviously it made an impression since I remember that lesson VERY many years later!

So go ahead, take the badge, the link, and the instructions, and pass it on.

It’ll be fun and interesting, so please join in! We’ll be there! (…and September 20th is even my sister’s birthday…)

NOTE:  More on the history of Rock Flipping Day at Wanderin’ Weeta’s.

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