Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Monday, February 23, 2015

S.L.I.M.E. Class

 Joey sorts pictures with his group during S.L.I.M.E. class
    About ten years ago, I offered math and science labs to homeschooling parents. Since I had been a public school teacher with a love for science, a generous supply of manipulatives, and a relationship with the local math and science hubs, I just knew I had to share! What a blessing to discover another homeschooling mom (also a former school teacher with a love for science and great resources) offering the same opportunity all these years later! Since my youngest is surrounded by teenagers and adults all day long, it is important for him to get more hands-on experiences and healthy peer opportunities (a parent must be present during the class).
     S.L.I.M.E. stands for Scientific Learning thru Investigation, Manipulation, and Experimentation. My son meets with this class twice a month for two hours with other homeschooling children within and near his age group. Scott took Joey to his first class about magnets and electricity, and we didn't think to take pictures. This next class, I brought my husband's phone (which takes better pics) so I could share the experience and great ideas with you! What a full and interesting two hours! 
After the kids were seated, the instructor asked them questions about animal classes (mammals, birds, etc.) and their characteristics. As each child answered a question, he/she was allowed to select a mold of an animal track from a table.  Joey selected a land otter.
Baggies of plaster of Paris and dixie cups of water were distributed. The students poured their cups of water into the baggies, sealed them with assistance, and squished them around until thickened.
The teacher then cut the corner of the baggie for the child to "pipe" the mixture like cake icing into his mold. The molds were placed on labeled index cards with each child's name and relocated into another room to dry until the end of class.
 Next, pictures of random animals were distributed to the kids.
 They were lined up and walked to the gymnasium to try to match their animal pictures with their "tracks".
Joey had a mouse.  Could these be the tracks?
 Nope. Here they are!
 Back to the table to look at insects!
 Each child was given an interesting preserved creature.  
The instructor holds a large insect and reviews its characteristics.
Uh oh, better check those specimens again. The teacher purposely mixed in a few critters (arachnids) that weren't true insects!  Better double check everyone in your group. There were some spiders and scorpions mixed in.
 What does it look like when you have compound eyes like a bug? Why do they need them?
The kids received a pile of pictures and a checklist to sort the butterflies from the moths.  Which one makes a chrysalis and which one makes a cocoon? How else are they different?
 Time to dissect owl pellets! What did the owls eat?  The owls cough up fur and bones that can't be digested. The students pull the sanitized pellets apart. Yes, they still thought it was gross.
 The teacher added water to soften them up.

  The bones are matched up to a chart to identify what the owl ate. Joey's ate a mole.
     Why do sea creatures deep in the ocean need the color red for camouflauge?  After a presentation about the spectrum of visible light, the distance different colors can travel through water, and water's prism-like filtering effect, the students observed different colors on black paper through layers of blue cellophane.
Do you know what the color red looks like through a few layers of blue cellophane?  Black, like the deepest parts of the ocean. It was the best color for camouflage!  The Lord must know what He's doing, huh?
     Time to observe and touch a real molted skin from a snake.  Why are reptile eggs so leathery? So they won't crack when dropped into a hole. Joey just had a recent turtle nest experience on our last field trip. This tied in perfectly!  These weren't REAL reptile eggs.  The teacher made them out of chicken eggs.  I'll have the recipe at the end of this post.
Don't push too hard, there is still raw egg inside!
 It's time to remove the animal track casts from the molds.
They turned out great!

 Just when you thought the day couldn't get any better, it was time to celebrate a birthday.  First the candle must be blown out SCIENTIFICALLY.  A lit birthday candle was lowered into an empty glass container. It stayed lit. The teacher then added a mixture of baking soda and vinegar before the student tried again. This time when the the student began to lower the lit candle, it blew out!
Birthday cupcakes and Caprisun. What a fun class!
Simple Science Experiment: The Rubber Egg
By Steve Davala

“A box without hinges, key or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.” This is perhaps my favorite riddle from “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. The answer is, of course, an egg; the largest cell in the world. (The ostrich holds that record).
So what can we do with an egg that is science-like and fun? Why, dissolve the shell with a mild acid and turn the innards to a rubbery substance, of course.
Without further ado, let’s go. 
An egg (either cooked or raw… however brave you’re feeling), a tall drinking glass, white vinegar.
  • Put your egg into a tall drinking glass.
  • Pour vinegar into the glass until the egg is covered.
  • Put the glass aside so no one drinks and/or spills it. It will smell a bit. Vinegar has a strong odor.
  • Let the egg soak overnight. Make some observations! You should notice a lot of foam and bubbles. When it seems to have slowed, move on to the next step.
  • Rinse the vinegar and foam out with water and then cover the egg again with vinegar.
  • Wait for 6 days. That’s a long time but do it; you don’t want a half pickled egg in your hands.
  • At the end of this time, rinse off the egg and pick it up.
  • You should notice it feels slightly different than when you started… most noticeably it is missing the shell and has a weird rubbery feel to it. Shake it. Gently squeeze it.
  • Test out your new creation in the sink by dropping it from a few inches and then some more.
  • You now have a cool creation that can astound your friends and family. Place it back in the egg tray for some hilarity. The possibilities are endless.
    A chicken’s egg is covered in a shell that is made of calcium carbonate. That’s a complex arrangement of carbons, calcium, and oxygen. Regular vinegar is made of acetic acid. You all know when you mix vinegar and baking soda what a strong reaction you get. The shell is made of the same “carbonate” and will react like soda, only much less extreme. The little bubbles you see in the water are made of carbon dioxide gas; just like the bubbles from your vinegar and baking soda volcano.
    Once the shell is gone, the vinegar will cross over the semi-permeable membrane (through a process called “osmosis”) and slightly inflate the egg. This process also “pickles” the egg, by hardening it up. The toughening of that membrane is what lets you bounce it on the counter, roll it along the floor, and whatever trickery (I mean science) you want to do with it!

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea.  They are given into your hand.
Genesis 9:2

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Plankton and SeaTurtles

Joey and Emily snuggle to stay warm.

     Today and tomorrow are supposed to be the coldest two days we've had this winter.  Nevertheless, we traveled to James Island once again for a fabulous field trip at the Department of Natural Resources!  This time we had the option of keeping Joey with the older kids, so we chose to stay together.
 Yes, it was cold near that water!
First, the kids met in a classroom for a presentation about phytoplankton and zooplankton. Plankton is important and must be monitored. It is the base of the food chain and 60 % of our oxygen is produced by it. The phytoplankton are microscopic plant material that depend on photosynthesis, and the zooplankton are microscopic animals such as baby crustaceans.  Even jellyfish are a type of zooplankton, because they "drift". Although some jellyfish can "propel", they cannot steer themselves. Some plankton are toxic and destructive like the dinoflagellites that cause "red tide".
Here, the instructor holds a filter the students will use to collect their own plankton for study.
The kids gathered outside on the dock.
Emily and Joey filter the plankton.

The students look at their collected samples under the microscope.
An instructor also projects the image from her microscope onto a screen to help the students identify the different types of plankton. This technology is amazing to me. A "ruler" runs along the top of the screen and measures the plankton to "scale". The instructor can also take "pictures" of her observations as they move across the screen.  It was fascinating to see a variety of things scitter about and occasionally even eat each other.
A large, wiggly, adult copepod takes center stage.
After viewing their samples, the students used a chart to identify their plankton.

Daddy looks on.
Joey's zooplankton
The students sketched and labeled what they saw under their microscopes.

Hayden, our first homeschool graduate, listens to the presentation too.
She couldn't resist checking things out under the microscope too.
The students switched classrooms with another group for the presentation about sea turtles.

After the presentation, small groups were given a bucket representing a turtle nest and an inventory sheet.  In April, many volunteers will begin training to assist in turtle nest protection along the coast of South Carolina. If a nest is located in a dangerous place, the volunteers may have to relocate the nest or even assist the babies.
The kids sort and take inventory of their nests. The boys had a "nest" from Folly Beach.  The ping pong balls represented the eggs. "Crushed" ping pong balls ones were the "hatched" ones.  Small turtle toys represented live babies stuck in the pit-like nest that have to be rescued.  If the baby has an "x" its belly, it didn't survive.
A "hatched" egg
After counting eggs, empty shells, and live and dead babies, the students recorded how many were male and female.
The "hatched" eggs have temperatures written on them. If the temperature on the shell is under 30 degrees Celsius, the baby was a male.  If it was over 30 degrees, it was a female.  Temperature manipulates the gender of the turtles.  Eggs on the top of the nest (closer to the sunlight) tend to be female, while the eggs underneath where it is colder tend to be male. The instructor said the kids could remember this by the phrases, "hot chicks and cool dudes". I suppose that is okay for turtles..... An overly hot summer can produce an overabundance of females and a cooler one would have the opposite effect.
Emily's nest was from "Botany Bay".  After each group gathered their data, the instructor compared the combined, class results on the board to look for patterns, concerns, or surprises.

A lone egg from each nest is taken for DNA samples.  Each bucket nest had a "reading".
The students wandered around the room trying to match their DNA samples to other DNA sample readings of tagged females in various areas of the classroom. In other words, they were looking for their "mommys".
Here, a student compares her baby DNA with the mother's.
 Sometimes a female will have more than one nest.  The scientists track and record this information.
A model of a turtle nest.  The babies follow the light of the moon to the ocean.  When the babies begin hatching, streetlights are turned off, and folks who live nearby turn off their lights, so the babies don't get confused and go the wrong way.
The last activity was kind of like a turtle C.S.I.  Each group was given a large plastic turtle that had "died".  The group had to determine what had happened.  First the turtle had to be measured, and its species identified.

 The boys' case was obvious.  Their turtle had mistaken a plastic bag for its favorite food, jellyfish.  Since the turtle cannot process the bag, it would make the turtle feel continuously full and contribute to its starvation.
Emily's turtle didn't have obvious injuries, so an x-ray had been taken.  The outline of large fishhooks were seen in the x-ray. In the other groups, one turtle had a gash on its shell where it had been most likely hit by a boat, another's fin was missing from a boat propeller, and another had fish netting stuck around its head.  Although predators eat turtles, the scientists try to prevent accidental,
man-made tragedies for the turtles.
It was a fun, cold, and interesting day at the Department of Natural Resources!
Now off to Chick fil-A for some lunch!

Then God said, "Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures...." Genesis 1:20