Tag Archives: Activities

Science Weekly: Yeast Experiment

I was recently making soft pretzels at home and realized I have a huge tub of yeast. Since the dough was rising while Cam was asleep I thought she might get a kick out of experimenting with the yeast by itself.

Our question was, what are the best conditions to get yeast to activate? I set out a number of bowls and put yeast in each of them. I also set out some salt and some sugar. Cam added salt and sugar and nothing to the yeast in the bowls. Then we poured in hot, cold and warm water. Technically you don’t need to have sugar in the water, but without adding anything else the yeast never activated. 

It took a good five to ten minutes to really start seeing results, but once it got going, it got going. She had lots of questions about what was going on and wanted to start mixing sugar, salt, and yeast to the bowls and doing a little experimenting of her own. She realized the more sugar you add, the quicker you see results and the more foam you get. 

I think the most interesting take away from this was an interest in our own digestive system. Cam asked where the gas from the bubbles was coming from and I explained that the yeast was eating the sugar and producing gas. That was funny to her because it’s basically a fart. :) But it lead to A LOT of questions about how our bodies work to process food. I explained a little and then got out our Eye Wonder Human Body book to read more. 

Science Weekly: Making Crystals

I kind of fell apart this summer on Summer of Science. Oh well. I’m picking up the thread and instead of trying to do one thing a day I’m going for one thing a week. Last week (as this series will run a week behind) we did a little experiment with making crystals. If you follow me on Instagram you will recognize the pictures and the activity. The series here on the blog is intended to document what we’ve done and make it possible for you to recreate it at home. 

Why I chose this project: Cam found her rocks and crystals and has been playing with them. We started talking about minerals and rocks and reading up about them a bit. I thought she might be interested to see how crystals form. 

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What we did:

The set up was pretty simple. String tied to a stick and dangled in a jar. I mixed equal parts hot water and three different substances: table salt, sugar, and Borax. I had Cam help mix up the solutions and then dip the strings into the jars.

We left them out for a week and she would check them periodically throughout the day, every day. The top right picture shows the Borax crystals after about 30 minutes. The picture on the bottom shows them after a week. The sugar solution only developed mold, no crystals. I think next time I would go for another type of salt, kosher or sea, instead. Either that or made the sugar solution more concentrated. 

I had Cam draw pictures of the results in a journal and dictate comments to me about what had happened. She enjoyed that part of the experiment too. Next up is talking about how this relates to actual rock and crystal formation.

Summer of Science: Round Up 5

This week ran a little less efficiently. I was teaching a makerspace class in the afternoons which compressed our day into a couple hours. I let stuff go and didn’t stress about it. It is summer after all! Please see the widget in the sidebar for pictures from each day. 

Day 1: Garden Harvest

I didn’t get a picture this time, but there were more tomatillos, squash, tomatoes, and peppers waiting for us in the garden.

Day 2: Lego Building

Our neighbor came over to play with Cam and they got out the Legos to build with together. Cam has told me she wants to be a builder when she grows up. 

Day 3 & 4: Machi Koro

I bought this card game at Target for Tom and I to play, but Cam saw it and wanted to give it a try. There was a lot of practical math and economics involved with it and she won the first game. She ended up asking to play again and again. 

Summer of Science: Round Up 4

Again I didn’t go with a theme or anything this week. I also let some of our science “lessons” emerge organically from what Cam was doing on her own. Please se the widget in the sidebar for pictures from each day. 

Day 1: I See a Pattern Here by Bruce Goldstone

This is an awesome book for slightly older readers. It’s more than a concept book about shapes or patterns and has good vocabulary and lots of different types of patterns. I had checked the book out a few weeks ago and, while I was enticed by all the bright colors and patterns, Cam hadn’t clicked with it. Then she saw it sitting out and asked to read it. Hooray!

Day 2: Pattern Play

Inspired by one of the pages in I See a Pattern Here we got out these little quilt-like fabric puzzle pieces I had made years ago (if you’re interested in the pattern I used you can find it here). For the longest time Cam was using the little squares as blankets and pillows and rugs for her My Little Ponies and in her barn, but we used them as the puzzle today. She really enjoyed making patterns and having me copy them. 

Day 3: Garden Harvest

Our garden is going gangbusters right now. There are a lot of peppers and tomatoes ripening or needing to be picked. There are squashes growing and hopefully we’ll see some beans soon. Today we went out and harvested what was ready. One teeny tiny strawberry made it. The plants are leftover from last year (they were shoots that the plants sent off the bales and into the ground) and because they are growing on the ground they are being munched by slugs. Yuck. 

Day 4: Train Set

Cam got our her wooden train set today and Went. To. Town. Building a town. I think I had misconceptions about what age she would start really using her building materials. They seem to have taken off in popularity with her in the past six months or so, but I had expected it sooner. Either was we have a TON of these wooden tracks, trains, and buildngs (thanks to my husband’s grandmother who saved every last toy of his and IKEA who makes them super affordable). 

Day 5: Poetry Friday

I am really liking this idea of reading STEM based poetry on Fridays. We often eat out on Fridays (it’s the one day I work and it’s often much less stressful to let someone else do the cooking, especially considering we still have all our farm responsibilities on Fridays in addition to a working mama). It’s so easy to pop a poetry book in my bag and bring it into the restaurant to read while we wait for our food. It is also getting us to get out our poetry collection and read the books. This week it was Turtle in July by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. The cover features a red-eared slider and we have one of those so there was hook for Cam. The poems themselves were short and simple and follow through the seasons (one of my favorite kinds of books)

Day 6: Another Garden Harvest

 There were more tomatoes and tomatillos waiting for us today. And an ENORMOUS squash. 

Day 7: Homemade Tinkertoys

Tomorrow I start teaching my Makerspace class and I’m going to begin with some construction activities and challenges. Today I have to make some homemade Tinkertoys with toilet paper tubes and a hole punch and I’m going to have Cam help me test them out before I put them out tomorrow. If you want to make your own check out the instructions here.

Summer of Science: Round Up 3

I didn’t really go with any type of theme this week. We just sort of found science in our everyday lives. For pictures see my Instagram feed to the right. You can click on it to bring up the website and see larger images. 

Day 1: Polymer Science

Cam had a friend over today and I amazed them both by sticking pencils through a water-filled plastic bag. I got it all set up and then asked them what they thought would happen if I stabbed a pencil through the bag. Of course they thought it would burst or leak, but it didn’t. Read about why and see where I got the idea here on Tinkerlab.

Day 2: Sick Day

Cam was sick all morning so all plans went out the window. 

Day 3: Telescope

We got out the telescope tonight and looked at the moon and Mars. Tom is still figuring out how to use the telescope so sometimes it’s easiest to just point it at the biggest, brightest thing in the night sky- the moon. 

Day 4: Garden Harvest

More of our tomatoes and tomatillos were ready for picking. We’ll be making salsa this weekend!

Day 5: Poetry Friday

I love the idea of combining the language arts piece with science! I recently bought the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science to use with Cam and in the library this next year. 

Day 6: Legos

Cam has really been into Legos for the last few weeks. We’ve been getting the little $5 sets at Target when we go and she comes right home and builds them. To me it’s amazing. She sits down, opens the packages of pieces, lays them out, puts out the direction booklet and then builds. We recently swapped out her Duplos for the smaller traditional Legos, but she hasn’t been as interested in building from scratch and her mind. I know she will get there though watching how she loves to build and play with these sets. 

Day 7: Aerospace Museum of California

Today is Father’s Day and we’re two of Cam’s four grandpas to the Aerospace Museum of California. We went two years ago and even at almost three Cam had fun looking at all the planes and models. I think she’ll be even more excited this year.

Summer of Science: Round Up 2

This week we did a bit with water. It is summer after all. For pictures see my Instagram feed at the right.

Day 1: Moon Phases

Today was the first day of Ramadan. Since the Muslim calendar runs on a lunar cycle you know Ramadan has begun when the new moon is sighted. Today we read a little bit about moon phases so she would understand how the month of Ramadan would progress. It gave us some good new vocabulary too- waxing, waning, crescent, etc. 

Day 2: Shaving Cream Clouds

This was a very simple but exciting experiment the combined a chat about weather and about color theory. Fill a glass with water and spray the top with a pile of shaving cream. You then drip food coloring into the “cloud” and slowly it leaks through into the water. The color initially swirling into the water is fascinating and beautiful and if you do more than one color they mix together in a very dramatic way. I got the idea of Pinterest and it was a hit.

Before we started I asked Cam if she knew why/how clouds rained. I was very surprised to find that she does. I suspect she got it off one of her PBS videos, but I was impressed she recalled it. During the experiment we made predictions of what colors would form if we mixed red and yellow, red and blue, and blue and yellow. Most of the time she had no idea so I might try some other fun color experiments this summer. 

Day 3: Do Oil and Water Mix?

We explored how oil and water repel each other using an ice cube floated in a glass of oil. This was fun because to make the water more visible floating in the oil we dropped food coloring onto the ice cube. As droplets melted the food coloring mixed with the water and dripped into the oil. The end result looked a lot like a homemade lava lamp. It helped that I poured the oil into wine glasses. :) 

Cam is into the experiments where you do the initial set up and maybe even a bit of observation then come back to them over several intervals and make more observations. 

Day 4: Thursday

Thursdays are tricky. If I can plan something very quick and simple and Cam wakes up early enough, gets breakfast and over her process of waking up, then we can do something. This week after getting up late we had swim lessons again and then Cam went to my mom’s house for the afternoon. We didn’t manage to do anything especially science-y today.

Day 5: Water Sings Blue

Today we did a little Poetry Friday. I read several ocean themed poems from the beautiful book Water Sings Blue. I love the blend of information and imagery in this book and it’s very appealing to young audiences. Cam can sit through several poems before wanting to move on to something with a bit more narrative, but those few poems are so worth it. This was perfect too because I brought it with us to the restaurant where we ate dinner and it gave us a few minutes of something to do while we waited for food.

Day 6: The Save Water Game

 A fun little board game in our book How Things Work. Water is always a big deal out here in California and our family likes to talk about conserving it. This was a good little reinforcement of that. 

Day 7: Harvesting

I started our tomato plants from seed way back in January and today we will harvested the first fruits!!! Home-grown, homemade salsa here we come!!!!!

Summer of Science: Round Up 1

I decided to do some light exploration and experiments this past week because Cam had been watching an episode of Curios George that featured rainbows. In the episode one of the characters shows George how to make a rainbow with a bowl of water, a piece of paper, and a flashlight. Cam was totally fascinated and completely without prompting or any input from me, wandered off after the episode was over and tried to do the experiment herself. She was a little disappointed it didn’t quite work, but I promised to help her out with it the next day. Instead I thought we might take some time this week and explore light in number of different ways. 

For pictures see my Instagram feed to the right. 

Day 1: Reading

I bought this new book called How Things Work (there are several books with that title, but this one is new and more at a preschool level). It just so happens that it has a couple pages dedicated to light, so we read the introduction to understand a little bit more about light. 

Day 2: Shadow Play

After learning a bit about light we went outside with a stuffed rabbit and set her up on the driveway. I traced her shadow and we came inside. Thirty minutes later we went back out to retrace the shadow. Before coming inside the first time I asked Cam if she thought the shadow would move (she said no). Then I reminded her of the question when we went back out.

She was amazed that it had moved and we talked about what was happening. I asked her if she knew what the light source was outside that was helping cast the shadow (she knew it was the sun). I asked is she thought the sun moved across the sky or stayed in the same place. After some thought she said she thought it moved. I explained that this was why the shadow appeared to move across the driveway and that the distance the shadow had moved was also the distance the sun had moved across the sky in those 30 minutes. She was hooked. We had to come back out several more times (before the sun dipped behind a tree and obscured the shadow). We were also able to notice that the shadows lengthened and changed shape. The reason why was a lot harder for her to understand, but the more we discuss it I’m sure she’ll begin to grasp it better. 

She wanted to do it again the next day with some other toys. 

Day 3: Spectroscope

This was kind of a flop. The device is a little bit like a periscope, but is supposed to help diffract light so you can see a rainbow Cam had a hard time seeing the rainbow in the spectroscope and she wasn’t as engaged with it. The thing is, you don’t really need the “fancy” set up with a paper towel tube and paper slit to see a rainbow in a CD. Just put it in a light environment and move it around. I thought she would like this experiment more because it was very similar to what she saw and attempted on Curious George. I was wrong. 

We did end up getting out the prism and made some more shadow outlines with My Little Ponies and she was a into those for a little while. 

Day 4: Water Wall

We ended up upgrading our water table. Cam hadn’t been overly interested in setting it up and playing with it so we got a water wall. It allows her to dump water into the top and then there is a variety of cups, strainers, buckets, chutes, and funnels that fit into holes in the wall. They catch the water and divert it down the wall into the bottom pool. It’s very cool and a neat experiment in playing with gravity and water. 

Day 5: Moon sighting

Today we are going to head out and look for the moon. It rose this morning between 5:30 and 6 and will set sometime around 9 which means it’s really only up when the sun is up. Ramadan, the Muslim holy month dedicated to fasting and reflection, begins tonight at sundown. The start of the month is begun by sighting the new moon. This is an interesting discussion to have with Cam as it ties in history to the science of time in talking about using the lunar versus the solar calendar. 

Letters!

A few weeks ago, maybe even a month ago now, Cam suddenly took an interest in letters- learning their names, their sounds and writing them. She was carefully watching me one evening as I filled in a crossword puzzle in a puzzle magazine I had just bought. I can’t remember the exact question she asked, but I responded that one day when she learned her letters she would be able to do puzzles like mine. She went back to whatever it was she was doing. She must have been chewing that over in her mind because a few minutes later she got out some index cards and a pencil (or grabbed them off the table, I can’t remember) and started to write what looked like capital “e”s. After a few attempts she turned to me and asked if I would help her write letters. 

From there I began showing her a picture of the letter and how to form it and she would then copy the letter onto the page. She’s been a letter and word fiend ever since, asking to write names and words. While I think this is great practice I also thought she might benefit from being able to form words less laboriously (it takes a lot for her to write any given letter since she has to really think about how it’s formed and what it looks like, not to mention keeping the letters all about the same size and in a line).

IMG_2992I pulled out a cookie sheet I had bought at Wal-Mart several years ago for just this purpose. I also got out our magnetic letters which until this point she hasn’t been overly interested in. Now she tells me words she wants to spell and I tell her the letters in order. She finds them in the bin and arranges them on the tray. I ended up having to buy more letters because the set we had didn’t have nearly enough letters for her to keep a few words on the tray while spelling more. 

I also have some letter cards that have the upper case letter nice and big on the back. They are awesome for showing her what each letter looks like. On the back there is a labeled picture for each letter and both the upper and lower case letter. Thankfully they have appropriate pictures for the letter sounds (I HATE it when alphabets have, say, a giraffe for the “g” since that really reinforces the “j” sound not the hard “g” sound which is too much information for a child just learning the letters). I only wish these cards didn’t have the picture label spelled out in lower case. 

I did make a conscious choice to do only capital or upper case letters. They have a lot more straight lines and it seemed a little easier for her to form. Plus I didn’t want to quash her enthusiasm by making it more a of school lesson than something driven by her own interests. Requiring her to learn both upper and lower case letters was probably going to derail her. 

It took about two weeks, but she has learned to correctly identify each of the letters and say the sound they make. Plus she’s applying those skills to writing words. In another few weeks I suspect she will be sounding out words. Which of course will eventually lead to her reading and that’s pretty exciting for her!

Tradition: Candlemas

This is the first year we will be celebrating Candlemas on February 2nd. Traditionally (i.e. religiously) it is the celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple. Since we aren’t particularly religious we celebrate the more pagan tradition that I think the Feast of the Presentation is supposed to obscure- it’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Basically it means the days are getting noticeably longer.

I have noticed that out on our walks and in the evenings when I head out to take care of our flock and creatures outside. I’ve also noticed it in the mornings when I head out to take out treats and open the run for the chickens. I don’t mind winter at all, which is in part probably due to the mild winters we have here in Sacramento, but I’m always glad to see the longer days. 

To celebrate we are going to read two poetry books that I got from the library that celebrate the passing of the seasons. A Circle of Seasons and A Brighter Garden. I am also going to put out candles during dinner and we may even read the books solely by candlelight. 

Spring is coming!

Activity: Weaving

Pipe cleaner weavingOftentimes when I sew Cam really wants to join me. Unfortunately she needs lots of help and doesn’t quite have the running stitch down. To help her develop the concept of the running stitch (where you put the needle down through the top, up through the bottom, down through the top, up through the bottom…) I set up a little provocation with plastic canvas and pipe cleaners.

I figured the pipe cleaners are stiff enough that it will be easy for her to push them through and not have to deal with a needle. The plastic canvas (which is available in all kinds of shapes and sizes) has holes all ready for her to put the pipe cleaners through. It will keep her stitches straight and she can practice not looping over to the other side (creating a whip stitch). 

I set the tray out last week and she started it, but didn’t come back to it. I decided to leave it out for another week even though I’m trying to get out a new provocation each week. Today it’s raining and I have some cataloging to do for the library so I think I’ll invite her to sit next to me and help scan barcodes and weave on the canvas. I also started a rainbow example, something I hadn’t done last week and think may have made it less flexible, but more inviting. 

This would be a great activity for kids practicing their fine motor skills as well as for patterning, counting (count the holes), and as a start to sewing.