Children’s Garden

Several weeks ago my two youngest kids went out in the backyard with rakes and began to clear away the detritus from underneath some trees right by our back patio.  We’ve attempted to make it into a garden several times, but never had proper soil.  The weeds of north Idaho defeated us.  My laziness defeated us. But after the boys spent a couple of days raking and planning and picking up sticks and pulling weeds I didn’t have the heart to tell them I couldn’t be bothered.  So my husband went to some friends who have horses and got manure and I went to the garden store with the boys and picked out some plants. Getting the Grown-ups Involved We talked about annuals vs. perennials.  We also discussed how the area where they had planned their garden was shaded by some large poplar trees and so we would need shade … Keep on reading

A Tree For The Birds

My kids have been playing in the snow every afternoon lately.  It’s been cold and blustery, but it doesn’t slow them down much. We’ve noticed that there is a family of little birds in our front yard too.  They were too shy to have their pictures taken, but they are flitting around here and singing their little winter songs. We decided to give them a little winter treat.  Yep, we’d trim a tree for the birds.  We started by making a popcorn and cranberry garland.  Then we gathered some pinecones and spread peanut butter all over them. And then rolled them in birdseed. We tied a string around each one so it could hang on the branches of our tree for the birds. Then we went to work on some birdseed ornaments.  We mixed up some birdseed batter. It’s made by combining 1/2 cup water, 2 Tbsp. corn syrup, 3/4 … Keep on reading

Pop Bottle Ecosystem

We are going to show you how to make a Pop Bottle Ecosytem to help your kids learn about systems and how life is interconnected.  We’ll also share a little lesson on responsibility at the end.  But first . . . What Is An Ecosystem? A system is a set of interconnected processes that depend on each other for their function.  An ecosystem is a particular interconnected zone where life exists.  It includes the air, the water, the soil, the animals, the plants, and the bacteria in that zone.  The space an ecosystem takes up depends on how a person defines it.  The entire Amazon rain forest could be an ecosystem, but so could the life cradled in the water trapped in a single leaf high in the canopy of the rain forest.  When scientists start to talk about a particular ecosystem they define the area they are talking about. … Keep on reading

Reptiles Exploration

What is a reptile? Here are a few things you’ll expect to see in the class reptilia: They are cold-blooded animals. Most lay eggs (the exceptions include boas and several other snakes) They have scaly, dry skin.  Sometimes they have hard outer shells, like turtles and tortoises. They have much smaller brains compared with mammals. They breathe air. Reptiles live on every continent except Antarctica.  Because they are cold blooded they don’t need to eat as much food as warm blooded animals (like us!).  Instead they rely on their environment to maintain their temperature.  They don’t rely on their own energy to do it. Snakes Snakes are reptiles without legs.  They slither along by flexing their bodies.  Some snakes have over 300 pairs of rib bones.  Most of them aren’t poisonous, but constrictors can be just as deadly anyway.  They wrap themselves around their prey and squeeze so tightly that … Keep on reading

Life Cycle of a Spider

Spiders are arthropods.  They have a hard exoskeleton.  But they’re not insects because they have eight legs instead of six.  They are in their own class: Arachnida.  Arachnids are predators and carnivores.  They often kill their prey with poison and then spit digestive juices from their stomachs onto the body of their dead prey, dissolving it before sucking up the pre-digested juices.  Learn about the life cycle of a spider with us. Black Widow Life Cycle Black widow spiders mate in spring and early summer.  The male is about half the size of the female.  Though the black widow does sometimes eat her mate after breeding, this is not always or even usually the case.  When the female black widow does feed on her mate it is because she is low in nutrients and needs the energy. After mating, the female black widow weaves a round or pear shaped nest … Keep on reading

Parts of a Flower

 You can use this activity to teach about the parts of a flower.  It could easily be used for elementary or high school depending on how many parts you expect the kids to memorize. Materials 7 sheets tissue paper in any color cut into 6 x 12 rectangles 1 sheet green tissue paper cut into a 6 x 12 rectangle pipe cleaners in yellow, orange, and green Directions 1. Lay the sheets of tissue paper on top of each other, with the green on the bottom. 2. Fold the sheets accordion style. 3. Cut the yellow pipe cleaner in half and the orange in thirds.  Wrap the yellow pieces around the end of the green, leaving about one and a half inches on the end of the green, so that there are four yellow pieces sticking up.  Wrap the orange around the green and yellow join to make one piece of orange sticking … Keep on reading

Grass Heads: A plant growth experiment

Growing things is kind of my thing.  There’s a lot I love about summertime, but making beautiful things grow out of dirt definitely tops my list.  There’s just nothing quite like a lesson from the earth instead of just the books.  In my garden I grow all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and herbs every summer.  I do a lot of the gardening on my own, but I really love for my family to help me out in the garden too.  This year we all did the planting together, and the kids have been pitching in with a lot of the work.  Growing is lots of work, but it’s also oodles of fun! Year after year the garden provides countless lessons in botany, food production, biology, weather, canning and preserving food, cooking, hard work, patience, and all sorts of other wonderful things.   To go along with our summer plant studies … Keep on reading

Paint Bucket Terrarium

Looking for a cool way to spend a summer afternoon?  Try making this paint bucket terrarium.  Just get a clear paint bucket from a craft store or amazon and fill it with potting soil.  Then add either seeds or live plants.  You can put several small plants inside.  Give it a little drink of water and put it in a sunny window. You’ll need to water it regularly, and you can observe its’ growth too.  Eventually you’ll be able to see the roots going down as the plants grow up.  It’s really easy to see when it’s time to water too, because you can easily see the soil.  If you’d like, you can add small rocks, sticks, or other natural items to your terrarium.  If you don’t have a clear paint bucket, you can also do this same project in a large pickle jar. Additional Layers Try making another version of one … Keep on reading

Audubon’s Birds

John James Audubon was fascinated by birds.  He loved to watch them from his boyhood and, as an adult, became determined to study them and document all he learned.  He tied yarn to birds’ legs and determined that the same birds came back to nest seasonally.  He observed their behaviors and wrote down all he saw.  He was also a skilled taxidermist and helped to set up animal displays in museums. He became determined to make an accurate portrait book of the birds he saw in America.  He set a goal to paint one picture every day as he traveled and observed birds.  He made over 700 pictures and called his book Birds of America.  It was a hit and went into production to be sold in America and Europe. Try your own bird paintings.  Use a pencil to sketch, then watercolors or tempera paints and oil pastels to add … Keep on reading

Dissecting a Frog

My kids love anything they call “real science.”  Much of biology doesn’t feel hands-on and experimental enough for them, but dissections satisfy the scientist in them.  While we were dissecting a frog we even referred to each other as “Doctor” as we went.  We felt like full-fledged scientists AND surgeons.  (:  This was hands-on learning at its best. Meet Fran.  Yep, we named her and we still felt okay with exploring her anatomy.  Here she is on our operating table.  The foam square made it easier to pin securely. We started by exploring her external anatomy.  We got Fran from Home Science Tools and she came with a dissection guide that walked us through each step to take in our exploration.  We spent about 10 minutes searching for various external parts and adding them to our hand-drawn diagram. Next, it was time to cut Frannie-girl open.  We pinned her to … Keep on reading