Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pollinators Nature Program

We went to a wonderful program at a local nature center yesterday.  They do these programs periodically - our river wading a couple months ago was at the same place.  I'm hoping to do more of these next year.

We started out in the education center with a variety of information stations about what animals are pollinators, what pollinators like which plants, and some crafts.

George made a "Stampy CATerpillar".

Vicki made "holiday colors" caterpillars - red/green/white, purple/pink/yellow, and orange/black/purple. 

They also had wings and hats for dress-up while waiting to start the hike.

Along the trail, they had cut-outs of various butterflies and caterpillars for the kids to find.  Once one was found, the naturalist would talk about that particular species.

We hiked out to a meadow where we planted milkweed that the center had received as part of a grant.  The kids had a good time planting them, but it was hot and sunny so Squidy had to take a break to sit in the shade for a little while.  He also had to borrow a hat from a friend that came to the activity with us.  We aren't Mets fans ;-)

The kids haven't done a lot of nature stuff in the past couple of years, and Squidy doesn't really care for heat or mud or water or cold or..... but I'm hoping to build up his tolerance by spending lots of time outside and doing many more of these programs.   Another mom and I are also considering starting a nature/geocaching group in the fall.
At the end of the program, they gave out native plants to everyone.  They want to encourage planting species that will help the native wildlife.  Our yard is pretty much a native wildflower meadow anyway but we took home milkweed and heartleaf aster to plant, as well as two varieties of milkweed seed to plant in the fall.  Maybe we'll start seeing more butterflies.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Our life continues with the crazy.  

Steph graduated college!!!  She is now the possessor of a Bachelors Degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice.  She will be taking a year off then returning to graduate school.

The day after her commencement ceremony, the kids and I headed down to Florida to assist with a family situation.  We didn't do any of the vacation/tourist stuff, except swim in the pool a lot.

We took the autotrain down (not as good as it used to be!).
and did some nature study when Vicki caught an anole that was running around the condo.

But other than those somewhat interesting things, the kids primarily did school while we were down there.  We are still working on finishing up after all the disruptions this year and I didn't want to take another two weeks off.  The main thing they accomplished a lot of (thanks to no WiFi!) was reading.

Squidy completed books 1-5 in the Harry Potter series.  I'm going to pick up the last two books shortly so he can finish the series.   He also read all three books in the Mysterious Benedict Society series, The Phantom Tollbooth, and some books for our history unit.

Vicki read the Fudge series by Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great, Fudge-A-Mania, etc.) and LOVED it.   I haven't seen her that excited about any books other than her Thea Stilton series.   I still have to pick up the last book for her, and I'm going to dig out my old Judy Blumes to see how she likes them.

Both kids still have a week or two left of their current grades.  We are going to start slowing down for the summer, at least on school work.  We will be plenty busy with other things this summer.  Vicki is joining the swim team at our lake for the first time.  This is the last year she can swim 8 and under so it's a good point for her to join, when the rules aren't quite as strict.  We will be exhibiting and working at the county 4-H Fair in July.  The kids will be continuing with Tai Kwan Do through the summer, and we will be doing lots of nature activities at the local county parks.

We will continue to work on our Westward Expansion unit (started this in Florida but won't post until we're done) and move on to the Civil War.  I also want to get back to our Evolution unit.  I didn't bring that to Florida since much of it is online activities and we didn't have WiFi there.

We've had three 4-H meetings since I last posted - Rube Goldberg machines, Rockets, and an Egg Drop Challenge.  Those activities can be seen here.

4-H - Rube Goldberg Machines, Rockets, and Egg Drop Challenge

We've had three 4-H meetings since I last updated here.

Back in April, we attempted Rube Goldberg machines.  After showing some videos of sample machines, discussing simple machines, and a demonstration of my machine, the kids were set lose with a variety of recycled materials to create their own.  To keep it simpler (theoretically) all the machines were to have the same end result - popping a balloon.

Unfortunately, while we had some great possibilities, we ran out of time before any of the machines were successful.  It definitely wasn't as easy as it looks.  Even my sample machine only worked 2 out of 3 times.  :-/

While I really liked the idea of using recycled materials, I think using pre-made tracks and toys might have made it easier for the kids.

After the lack of success with our Rube Goldberg machines, Rockets were a HUGE hit.  We first had a discussion of propulsion and how it relates to Newton's Third Law of Motion - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  

Since our first rockets were Alka Seltzer rockets, we also discussed the chemical reaction that takes place when Alka Seltzer is dissolved in water.  Some of the sites that demonstrate these rockets, suggest using a piece of tissue to hold the tablet on the lid until you flip it upside down.   When I tried this, the launch was really lame - only about 2 or 3 feet.   It really is easy to do it by plopping the tablet into the water and then putting the lid on.  It takes a good 30-60 seconds for the reaction to hit the point where the lid pops off.   Our best results were with a film canister (I ordered them from Amazon) about 1/2 full of water with one tablet.  Some of the rockets went over 20 feet.

We let the kids decorate their canisters with sharpie markers if they wanted to.

We also shot off this plastic rocket using vinegar and baking soda (donated by one of the moms in our group!).  This flew about 40 feet up in the air but cracked when it came down so we were unable to do it more than once.

We finished up with an ignition model rocket that George set off over the lake.  We lucked out since despite it having been a windy day, the rocket went fairly straight up (probably 75-100 feet) and came straight down.  We were able to retrieve it by having one of the kids wade out into the lake a few feet.

Our most recent meeting, we did an egg drop challenge.  We provided a variety of materials and, after a discussion about airbags, seatbelts, parachutes and protective cages, the kids were challenged with making something to protect their eggs.  We had about a 50% success rate with this activity but the kids all seemed to have fun whether their egg survived or not.

We have one more meeting left this year and then we will be working on projects for Fair in July.   I think our first year with the club has been very successful and I'm already thinking about all the fun things we can do next year.