Homeschooling S.T.E.A.M.: Dinosaurs – Week 4

We’re heading toward the halfway point of our unit on dinosaurs. The kids are really getting into it, and, well, I am, too. I had no idea there was so much potential for learning in this theme!

We’re still in Guide to Dinosaurs, reading an average of eight to ten pages a week. This seems to be a pretty good rate of progress, as the kids are retaining much of it and nobody seems bored.

We had an interesting collection of books this week, all of which the kids enjoyed. I’ve never found a topic with such a huge volume of books available. It’s made this part of the curriculum planning so very easy!

  • Our semi-nonfiction title was Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs? by Bernard Most. We talked about which of the possible explanations could actually make sense if approached logically. Surprisingly, some really did!
  • Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? is one of my favorites, and since the kids own this one, they were able to read it along with me, which was fun.
  • Our first random pull was Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff, which is a classic for a reason.
  • We ended with Too Many Dinosaurs by Mercer Mayer, which is a silly little thing with great illustrations.

The project this time is a two week endeavor, since we have to incorporate drying time. We’re making fossil casts! This week we’ll be doing the pressing, and we’ll be painting and glazing once they’re all dry.

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Originally, I had planned to do this using salt dough. However, since there are severe gluten sensitivities in this household, the use of regular flour is out. And I tried to find a substitute, but, well, it just didn’t work. Rice flour made it too gritty and coconut flour came out like mashed potatoes. Actually, I’m thinking of using the coconut flour version for a sculpture project at some point. It would work wonderfully for that. But for impressing, well, it wasn’t happening. So I gave up and bought some air-dry clay.

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An easy to use white clay, Model Air Dry Modeling Clay cost less than ten dollars for a package, which was more than enough for the six of us. I’m calling that money well spent. I elected to just open up the package and have the kids pull off a handful each of the clay, which made it fun. I did end up giving a little extra to a couple of the kiddos as they asked for it, but I still had enough left over at the end to five the kids balls of dough to form into anything their hearts desired. We ended up with a bunch of beads, a flower, and, my personal favorite, a pie engraved with the decimal for pi. Can you tell we’re working on geometry?

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I sent the kids all out into the yard and gave them five minutes to find examples of plants that they thought, based on our reading for the day, might be similar to plants that might have existed with the dinosaurs. They found some good ones. I’m grateful that there is a huge yard filled with all variety of plants from which they could choose. Otherwise I might have had to buy artificial plant stems.

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The kids then pressed their clay into a roundish shape and pushed a dinosaur figure (or two) into the prepared clay, adding plants as desired.

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They were fascinated by the way the clay took the impressions, which made my purchase of the clay feel even more justified. The biggest issue we had was trying to explain to the kids that they had to take out the items and just leave the impressions. They didn’t want to, since they really liked how the pieces looked with all the plants.

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So we compromised. We decided to vote on winners this week with the plants and then vote again next time with the plants removed and the paint added. That seemed to appease them.

We voted for the piece the kids considered the most attractive, and I had them each place a little dinosaur by their choice. It ended up looking like the dinosaurs were all trekking to an oasis, which was fun.

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Once the voting was finished, I removed all the dinosaurs and plants and set the pieces aside to dry. Some of them are pretty thick, so I’m guessing they’re going to take a few days to dry. Come back next time to see how they look all dried and painted. Have a wonderful week!

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Thursday Craft Program – Shark Week

In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of sharks. I adore swimming in the ocean, and thinking about sharks swimming around me makes me nervous. And I’ve never even watched Jaws! Still, one of my coworkers is a total shark person, so I decided to celebrate Shark Week pretty much because of her. And, as it turns out, I learned a lot about sharks in the process…and may even appreciate them a little bit more. Besides, she brought in cupcakes. So there’s that.

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There are a lot of very good shark books out there, especially in the nonfiction realm. While I tend to choose picture books be early readers, I made an exception this time and displayed and read a combination of both. Here are my favorites.

  • Amazing Sharks! was, in my opinion, pretty much the perfect nonfiction book for kids. Easy to read and with great pictures, it made me realize I had probably judged sharks unfairly. They really are pretty amazing!
  • A fun little picture book, I’m a Shark by Bob Shea is actually more about fear than about sharks, but it was a great book that had both me and the kids laughing out loud.
  • Also a picture book, Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale was a stand out title which I recommend highly for kids who sometimes just can’t be calm.

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The craft this time was such a blast! We made a trio of clothespin sharks, each one great by itself or as part of a ocean scene. You should have seen the kids swimming their sharks around and making them eat everything. It was fabulous!

I have done clothespin animals before, and I knew sharks would be perfect. But I had a very difficult time finding good templates online. There was one from the folks at Kix Cereal, though, so I used that one, then altered a couple others I found until I got something I liked. Here’s the template I used.

The supplies are so simple. Just a copy of the template, coloring tools, scissors, a toothpick, and some glue. You can add a wiggle eye, if you’d like, and I let the kids use pinking shears to make teeth on one of the sharks, but that’s optional.

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The kids just colored the sharks and then cut them out, gluing half a shark onto each side of the clothespin. I generally lined up the end of the tail so it just covers the spring portion, but you can play around with it to see what works best for you.

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They were much more creative with color than I was. And that’s always a good thing!

One of the sharks was just a cut and glue job, but the other two required just a little more work to make them super fun.

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For this shark, we added a wiggle eye and also glued the little fish to a toothpick which we glued inside the shark’s mouth. It’s actually glued on to the clothespin on the side away from the paper shark so that the fish doesn’t get in the way of the mouth opening and closing. I tried a myriad of placements, and this worked the best. After the fish is glued on to the toothpick, let it dry. Then figure out the best angle of the toothpick so the fish will be in the mouth when opened. Then glue it down and let it dry. Perfect!

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For this shark, I didn’t put in a cut line, instead giving each kid a chance to pick their favorite pinking shears which they used to cut the front half of the shark, making some very cool teeth. Regular scissor cut through the rest and it’s ready to glue. Super fun!

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The kids ended up making very cool sharks and walked away with a far greater appreciation for this truly magnificent fish.

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Homeschooling S.T.E.A.M.: Dinosaurs – Week 3

Oh, what fun we’re having with our unit on dinosaurs! Never having been one of those kids who obsessed over dinosaurs, I’ve had trouble understanding what all the fuss is about. But I think I get it now. They truly are amazing, and this unit is teaching me so very much.

We’re still working in Guide to Dinosaurs, which is proving to be a great textbook for the kids. I also pulled a few easy books to read with the kiddos.

  • First up was our selection from the “How Do Dinosaurs” series, How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen. This was a little odd since the kids don’t actually go to school, but the part about the dinosaur yelling more than made up for that.
  • Next was our nearly-nonfiction title, My Tall Book of Dinosaurs by Sandy Damashek. Super simple, I used this book to also discuss rhymes, having the little ones pick out the rhymes on each set of pages.
  • Our first random book was Max Spaniel: Dinosaur Hunt by David Catrow, a silly little early reader that had the kids BEGGING for a second read through. Success!
  • We ended with Dinosaurumpus! by Tony Mitton, a book guaranteed to get the kids moving around and very, very wound up. Luckily, it also settles them down at the end, so it worked out pretty much perfectly.

And then it was on to the S.T.E.A.M. portion. For this week’s activity, we delved into the realm of dinosaur eggs by making our own fizzy version.

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This is a super easy activity, really taking only three ingredients: baking soda, citric acid, and coconut oil. Okay. Four if you count the little plastic dinosaurs to go inside. Optional, but very nice, is the inclusion of some essential oils, which I did use to make the eggs smell yummy when added to water.

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Nice easy recipe for this one, too. Just mix half a cup or baking soda with 2 Tablespoons of citric acid. Give that a stir and then mix in 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil. Now, I was doing this project in the summer so my coconut oil was liquid, but you might need to melt the oil if it is cold and your oil is solid.

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The younger kiddos are still working on measuring, so this was good practice for them. We did find that the less-than-exact measurements achieved by a couple of the kids made it more difficult to form solid eggs, and we had to do some adjustment at that point. Also, we added the optional essential oils along with the coconut oil, and we found that using vanilla extract instead of oils made the mixture not come together as well.

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But once we got the mixtures right, each kiddo picked a little plastic dinosaur and began to press the mixture around it until an egg formed. These eggs were then set aside, since it takes a day or two for the exterior to harden up nicely. Since I knew this would be the case, I had made up a set of eggs in advance, and I let each child pick one to hatch.

 

In our case, we were hatching in bowls of water. If you’re using these in a bathtub, please be aware that the oil in the mixture can make the tub very slippery, so use caution if your little ones aren’t used to having oils in their baths.

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The kids were so excited to watch the reaction take place…what kid doesn’t like chemistry that bubbles all over the place? Of course, they were super excited to see their dinosaurs start to emerge and it did take a bit of convincing to keep them from breaking apart the rest of the egg and speed up the hatching. But they’re good kids, and all but the very littlest waited the several minutes it took for the hatching to complete.

We talked a lot about the science behind the reaction and the difference between an endothermic and exothermic reaction. The kids were absolutely amazed by how cold this reaction made their water. The littlest one kept asking me to add more citric acid to his bowl so it would bubble again and get even colder.

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The kids had make baking soda volcanoes before, but being able to produce a reaction that didn’t smell like vinegar was new to them. Plus, they got to keep their little dinosaur once it emerged. Fun!

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Thursday Craft Program – Flight

Some program ideas seem to come out of nowhere. I’ll be walking along and BOOM! I have an idea for a craft or a theme. Others, however, have a very clear origin point. This particular theme is of the latter variety. While driving home a few weeks ago, a low-flying plane passed overhead, startling some birds that were also flying around. This got me thinking about the many different things, biological and not, that take to the sky. I wanted to explore the world of flight in all its many forms, and from there was born this craft program.

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One of the best things about this theme was finding books about all sorts of flight. There are lots. Really. Lots. I ended up getting a pretty good little variety. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Airplanes: Little Louie Takes Off by Toby Morison. If you can’t fly, take a plane! And in this book, that applies to birds, too!
  • Birds: Up, Tall and High by Ethan Long. Competitive little things, birds! Well, at least they are in this book. But they do all fly one way or another.
  • Balloons: Sally’s Great Balloon Adventure by Stephen Huneck. A dog follows her nose and ends up in a hot air balloon in this sweet tale. Lucky pup!

On with the craft! We made suncatcher mobiles using images of things that fly! Balloons, planes, butterflies, birds, kites…we used them all!

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This is a super easy craft that only takes a few supplies. The most difficult one to find is the clear plastic. I used TruBind Clear PVC Binding Covers and it worked exceptionally well. I ended up getting a pack of them for another project, and I’m using up the leftovers. I think they’re going to have a repeat performance in a couple weeks, too. They’re a wonderfully versatile product…even if they’re only marketed as a way to cover folders. Boring! I can SO do more than that!

Other than the plastic, I just needed some stencils, permanent markers, string, wooden sticks in a variety of sizes, some scissors and a hole punch. That’s it!

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I’m lucky because we have a big drawer full of stencils at my library, so it was just a matter of picking out the ones that fit my theme. If I hadn’t had these, I would have printed pictures for the kids to trace. Either way would be fine. I’m not a free hand artist, but if you are, that would be a fantastic way to get some great images.

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As it was, I just let the kids pick out their stencils and had them trace the images onto the plastic. Most of the kids went with me and picked things that flew, but a few didn’t. And that’s okay. It’s all about the creative process, right?

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Once the tracing was done, they got extra creative with the markers, making some truly lovely pieces. From there it was just a matter of punching some holes and stringing it all together.

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A couple of my kiddos chose to decorate the whole sheet of plastic as a sort of mural. And you know what? That looked pretty great, too!

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Three cheers for creativity! As I always tell the kids: As long as theirs doesn’t look like mine, it’s perfect!

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Homeschooling S.T.E.A.M.: Dinosaurs – Week 2

Summer is zipping along…middle of July already? Where does the time go? We’re still learning about dinosaurs here, and will be for the rest of the summer. Not only are the kiddos enjoying it, but I’m learning a lot that I never knew. Perk of homeschooling!

We continued reading in Guide to Dinosaurs, a book which is just packed with all sorts of cool facts. The kids are enthralled. We talked about the potential link between dinosaurs and the stories about dragons, which I found fascinating. We also looked at some really amazing pictures of fossils.

On the book front, I chose four fun little books, randomly selected from the piles of dinosaur books we have at the library. Well, maybe only partially random. The four books consist of one that is at least partially non-fiction, one “How Do Dinosaurs” title, and the last books really are random. I just grab something and go. It’s fun that way!

  • We started out with How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends? by Jane Yolen. Do all kids enjoy watch misbehavior, or is it just mine? lol
  • Next up was the nonfiction piece, Dinosaurs from Head to Tail by Stacey Roderick. This was a great book. Highly recommended.
  • In the random category came our next book, Digger the Dinosaur and the Cake Mistake by Rebecca Dotlich. I thought it was fine, but I think the humor was lost on the little ones.
  • We ended with another random piece, Dinosaur Train by John Gurney. Barely about dinosaurs, it nevertheless made a wonderful read aloud and the kids greatly enjoyed it.

From there we were off to our project. Since we had been reading about skeleton fossils in our text, I decided to do this fun piece that I discovered at Pink Stripey Socks. Tape resist dinosaur skeletons!

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The instructions are over at the original poster’s site, so I won’t repeat all the steps. I did change a couple things, though, to better work with my kids.

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I used blue painters tape instead of regular masking tape, since it came off so very easily from the watercolor paper. Also, I bought a coloring book, Ferocious Dinos, and let them each choose their favorite. Once they did, they cut it out and taped it, with very small pieces of the tape, to the watercolor paper.

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They then traced around the image with pencil. Once that was done, the image was carefully removed, the blank spots filled in, and the outline traced over with a thin, black permanent marker.

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From there, each kid placed think torn pieces of tape (I helped with the tearing for the little ones.) where the skeleton would be. We had some interesting discussions about what would have been bone and what wouldn’t have been. Then it was time for the watercolors! We don’t use those very often, so this was a nice change of pace.

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The hardest part was waiting for the paint to dry. Are all kiddos so impatient? lol I ended up letting the kids free-paint for a while to fill the time. This actually ended up being a great thing, because the little one, who isn’t much for structured activities yet, but LOVES dinosaurs, joined us so he could paint his own dinosaur. I’m not gonna lie here. I was way impressed with his work. It really looks like a dinosaur, don’t you think?

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Not bad for a three-year-old! Probably better than I would have done, that’s for sure!

Once they were all dry, the kids very carefully pulled up the tape, leading to an interesting discussion about the tape resist technique.

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When the kids were all done, we talked about what we can really KNOW from just the skeletons and what is just educated guessing. Go, science!

This was a great activity that embodied the S.T.E.A.M. target, working heavily with both science and the arts. And the kids ended up with some great pieces to show off. My personal favorite? One of the kiddos used a little too much paint and tried to move the page while still wet. The result? The paint ran a little, making the dinosaur look like it’s fencing. Love that Beautiful Oops!!

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Thursday Craft Program – Baseball

I never was much of a sports person as a kid. Or a teen. Or an adult. I was a swimmer and a flag twirler, but that about did it for me. And I never could figure out why people would want to sit around and watch other people play sports. Plus, I think professional athletes are horrifically overpaid and refuse to support that. So imagine my surprise when I ended up attending a minor league baseball game a decade or so ago and found that I really, really enjoyed it! Seriously. I love everything about it! Well, except the creepy mascot, but that’s beside the point. Attending a minor league baseball game has become a tradition for me and the hubby, so I thought I would play (pun intended) off this for our weekly craft.

There are some fun baseball books out there, and I had trouble narrowing it down to my favorites. But here are a few.

  • First up was Curious George Plays Baseball by Margret Rey, a cute little story with illustrations that appear to be taken directly from the old films.
  • Next was Let’s Play Baseball! by Charles Smith, part of the Super Sturdy Picture Book series. I’ve enjoyed all of this series, and this was no exception.
  • A pleasant little surprise was The Baseball Counting Book by Barbara McGrath. It managed to give a very solid overview of the game, its rules, and its history, all in a minimum of text and with lovely illustrations.
  • Finally, my favorite on the list, Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki tells the story of playing baseball in Japanese internment camps. It’s a little long, but so worth it, since it exposes kids, in a gentle way, to a very big mistake our country made during WWII.

The craft was a simple one, but it did take a bit of work. We made bracelets out of old baseballs!

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Before we even started, I used a sharp utility blade to cut around the stitching on some used leather baseballs that I was able to obtain. This isn’t difficult for adult hands, but it does require care, and I wouldn’t recommend letting kids do this part.

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Next, we all worked together to pull apart the baseballs. We were all a little surprised at how they looked inside. I’m not sure what I expected, but layers of yarn and thread wasn’t it! The kids thought this was absolutely fascinating. Being able to take things apart is so very important for kids, but letting them do it can be hard. This was a perfect compromise.

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We cut each set of stitches into two pieces, since there’s enough length on each ball to make two bracelets.

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I let each kid pick their piece, then the kids worked to trim the extra leather away from the laces. The closer it is trimmed (without cutting through any of the stitches or stitch holes) the more flexible the bracelet will be.

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Once it was trimmed to satisfaction, the kids started pulling the stitches out on each end until the bracelet was the right length.  Then we trimmed off the excess leather, leaving the string intact.

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From there, it was just a matter of decorating the leather with permanent markers and tying on the bracelet. A loose knot works just fine, although some of the kids had enough extra string that we were able to make a bow, which was fun.

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All that was left was to show off their creations to each other and for the camera. Another successful and incredibly fun craft afternoon. Best. Job. Ever.

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Homeschooling S.T.E.A.M.: Dinosaurs – Week 1

As you may recall from two weeks ago, we finished up our unit on fruit and I decided to give the kids a chance to suggest our next topic. They came up with lots of interesting suggestions, but I was most impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the littlest one for one topic: Dinosaurs. He doesn’t usually join us for much of the homeschooling time, since he’s still only three, but I thought this particular topic might give him the chance to interact with all of us, in an educational setting, a lot more. So we’re going to be talking about all dinosaurs all the time for the next couple months. Books will be easy, but finding S.T.E.A.M. activities will, I assume, take a little more work. I look forward to the challenge!

For a basic text, we will be using Guide to Dinosaurs from Harvest House Publishers. This text is too difficult for most of the kids to read independently, so I’ll be doing the whole thing as a read-aloud. We’re looking at around ten pages a week to finish by my goal date. That makes sound like a lot, but these kids love being read to, so I’m not worried. Besides. It’s dinosaurs!

This text was selected because it doesn’t present the theory of evolution as fact, and that was an important consideration. Instead, it presents solid scientific evidence for a young Earth and for a creation event. While I know this isn’t an issue for every homeschooling family, it is for this one, and the text reflects that fact. I’ll be supplementing this text with lots and lots of great picture books about dinosaurs. I’m ever so glad right now that o work in a library! If I had to buy all these books, it would cost me a fortune!

For this first week, we read three fun little books, all pulled from the library’s collection. I’m pretty much grabbing whatever I see with the word “dinosaur” in the title, so we’re getting an interesting variety!

  • We started out with Dinosaur Dinosaur by Kevin Lewis. This is a fun little book about a dinosaur who acts and feels a lot like a child, and the kids seemed to identify with him quite a bit.
  • Next up was How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen. I’m tentatively planning to use one book from this series each week until I run out. They’re just so…fun!
  • Finally, we read Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery by Margret Rey and H.A. Rey. It’s George and he finds dinosaur bones. What’s not to love? Plus, it talked about the drudgery of paleontology, and that’s something important for kids to see: If they want rewards, they’re going to have to work hard!

Once we finished our reading, we moved on to the activity portion. As this one involved sugar, the kids were immediately excited. Kids and their sweet teeth. What can I say?

We were talking about dinosaur footprints today and showing how they could become fossilised. We had talked a good deal about that during our textbook reading today, so it was a good match. We made sugar cookie dough (gluten free and vegan so all the kiddos would get to eat some) and the kids worked on measuring skills. While the eldest is quite competent in this area, the younger ones still struggle, so cooking helps greatly in their understanding of fractions.

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Once the batter was done, we spread it into a round pan and gave at some oven time. I pulled it out when the surface was dry but the cookie-cake (as the kiddos called it) wasn’t yet cooked all the way through. Then came the fun part. I had the four oldest kids each pick any one implement they wanted which they thought would make good fossil impressions. After washing their choices, I divided the cookie-cake in quarters and let each child press in their implement into their quarter. We had a variety of choices. Fork, toy wolf, baby toy, and a spoon handle combined with a couple pieces of chocolate rescued from a melted bowl of ice cream. Each was unique and made unique impressions, just as all dinosaurs left unique footprints.

I did have to remind the kids to be careful and hold the pan myself with a pot holder since it was still quite hot. When the kids were done, we talked about what story each set of impressions might tell. They were very creative!

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In the image above, you’ll see their creations. We had ( starting at the top and moving clockwise) dinosaurs who were walking, standing, trying to outrun rising floodwaters, and taking a nap. They thought it was interesting that the impressions could be made so easily in a soft surface, and we discussed how mud makes such a great medium for that reason. Then it was time to fill in our fossil impressions, just like ancient footprints were filled. In our case, though, we used chocolate instead of mud. Because yum.

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After a little more baking time, the cookie-cake was done and the chocolate chips could be spread out to fill the fossil. Then we voted on our favorite. We do a lot of voting. There’s never a prize, and the kids know they aren’t allowed to vote for themselves. I give them specific voting parameters (which I never reveal until it’s time to vote), and they are good about following them. In this case, they were voting for the one that looked the most like the story it was trying to tell. The youngest won, getting three of the four votes, for his cookie-cake fossil interpretation of a meat-eating dinosaur with claws on his feet standing in the mud while waiting for prey. Pretty impressive, I think!

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This ended up being a very fun and educational lesson, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the unit and lot more than I expected. See you next week for more Dinosaurs!

 

Thursday Craft Program – Wind

With temperatures in the triple digits and my AC unit on the fritz at home, I find myself longing for anything at all that might give me a break from the heat. Since I can’t have the kids dunk me in ice water for our craft program, (although I’m getting quite tempted to head over to the Community Center Splash Pad on my lunch break…) I decided to do a program about the one thing that makes a hot day bearable: wind. Which we, of course, didn’t have today. Just still, hot, humid air. It really was a miserable day to be outside. I am ever so grateful for air conditioning at work!

There are a decent number of books about wind. Unfortunately, many of them seem to focus on cold autumn or winter wind. And while that sounds lovely right about now, those books didn’t feel relevant. But that’s okay. I was still able to find enough books to fill up the program.

  • First up was Whoosh Went the Wind! by Sally Derby, a tale that reminds adults to check into a child’s story before assuming it’s a lie.
  • One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Mannis, while really more about a Japanese garden than about wind, is a highly pleasing book of haiku which made a good addition to the program.
  • The classic The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins was unsurprisingly popular, and I appreciated the season-neutral setting.
  • Finally, How Does the Wind Walk? by Nancy Carlstrom followed wind as it went from season to season, making for a charming piece, perfect for summer.

And then it was time for our craft! We made beaded wind chimes today. Super easy, and a great way to use up odds and ends in the craft cupboard.

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This was a simple craft, but it was a bit time consuming, especially for the younger ones. We did end up having to let the parents help out a bit with the stringing of the beads. If we hadn’t, we could have been there for hours. Your detail oriented kids are going to take longer, too. Just be aware of that.

Supply wise, this was simple. I provided plastic lids that I begged from fellow staff members (I don’t eat enough cottage cheese to provide this all on my own.), yarn, pony beads, and some jungle bells. Add a hole punch, a bit of glue, and some scissors, and that’s it!

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I punched holes in the lids for the kids, since it was just too tough for most of them. I found that eight strands worked well. Six wasn’t enough, ten took too long to string, and odd numbers are hard to make evenly spaced on the lid. Then the kids strung a bell of each strand of yarn…about a yard per strand seemed to work well. But I didn’t measure, and neither did the kids, so we ended up with a variety of lengths. And that’s okay.

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Once the bells were in place, we put a tiny bit of glue on the yarn ends just so they’d go through the beads more easily. It helped. A lot. Don’t skip this step or you’ll be thinking very unkind thoughts as your yarn frays! And don’t worry about the fact that the ends look funny all covered in glue. We just trimmed them off at the end.

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Then came the fun part. Beads, beads, and more beads! Some of the kids made patterns. Others didn’t. Some kids made all the strands the same length. Others made them all different. I love projects like this, where anything they do still leads to a great result!

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Once the beads were strung, it was just a matter of threading the yarn through the holes in the lid and tying all the strands together in a knot at the top. Trim the glue-covered ends and your wind chime is done! Each one was unique, beautiful, and worked perfectly. A great reminder to find something to appreciate even when you’re melting in the heat.

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Thursday Craft Program – Summer

It has been far too hot out here in my neck of the urban woods. Summer has hit southern California hard and fast, and most of us spend our days trying to avoid that feeling of melting. I’m not immune. Summer has also brought about library-sponsored visits to parks and a host of outreach opportunities, many of which are outside. Because, well, it’s summer. Hot, yes, but also beautiful. And being inside just doesn’t feel right. We should be enjoying all this sunshine…right? Well, yes. And I am. But I’m still hot. So I decided to celebrate summer by letting the kids make a trip of fans to keep themselves nice and cool. Perfect for an afternoon at the beach!

I had plenty of great books about summer to choose from. Turns out that heat is a popular topic. Or maybe our collection development team just feels the heat as much as the rest of us do and buys books to match. It makes me wonder: Do places with mild summers still buy lots of books about melting in the summer heat?

  • One of my favorites is It’s Summer! by Linda Glaser, a wonderful book to read to kiddos at storytime, but also enjoyable for a slightly older audience.
  • Another favorite among the kids was One Hot Summer Day by Nina Crews. While I wasn’t as keen on this one, the illustrations really appealed to my audience, so I’ll give it credit for that.
  • Part of an always-pleasing series, Mouse’s First Summer by Lauren Thompson was a joy to read and greatly engaging for the kids.
  • I was especially intrigued by Summer Is Summer by Phillis Gershator, a book I had never read before but found both lyrical and charming. A real treasure!

And then it was time to craft! I had three stations, each stocked with everything the kids would need to make that fan.

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Station one was the watermelon fan. I can’t take credit for this idea. I found it here at Red Tag Art. I did have to interpret it a little for American ears and paper sizes, but the basic instructions were good. The video made it super easy to understand, which was a great help.

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I had to walk the kids at this station through the steps, but that’s fine. The other fans were easy to make and didn’t require much oversight on my part. Several of the parents chose to make one of these fans along with their kiddos, which I always find exciting. I love seeing intergenerational cooperation and that alone made up for the lack of individual creativity in this one.

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Next up was a super simple paper plate fan. I saw one of these somewhere and thought it was a great idea. It works well, too! Not bad for only requiring half a paper plate, a couple craft sticks, some markers, and a piece of ribbon!

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The kids had fun decorating theirs until they had the fans looking just right. This craft station was virtually self-explanatory, and didn’t require anything on my part once it was set up. And the kids liked the ribbons. 🎀

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The final station was for a watercolor painted fan. All this one took was a half sheet of cardstock, painted with watercolors and folded in half, with a colored craft stick glued in between.

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I think everyone, parent and child alike, made this one! Each was unique and beautiful in its own way, and made quite an impact considering the simplicity and inexpensive nature of this fan. Truthfully, it was my favorite, too, so I can’t blame others for loving it.

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Overall, this was a wildly successful program. The kids loved it. The parents loved it. I loved it. And I’m keeping my samples for myself. Because I love them. And I think they’ll be just the thing for keeping me nice and cool at a summer evening baseball game.

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Homeschooling S.T.E.A.M.: Fruit – Bananas

As is forever the case, all good things must come to an end. And so it was with mixed feelings that I presented this lesson on bananas. While it was a great program and the kids had a blast, it marked the end of our unit on fruit. This was probably the easiest unit I’d ever done, but it was also one of the best received. So it’s hard to let it go. But, well, I wanted to run a new theme starting in July that will take us through until Labor Day and the start of the new school year, so this one had to end. And, I have to say, it was a great unit on which to end!

Banana literature is fairly easy to come by, and I was especially pleased with the non-fiction titles available. Not all fruits has good non-fiction works for kids, but this one had several.

  • For the first non-fiction title, we read Banana by Pam Robson with the little ones.
  • A similar book, but covering a different range of information was Bananas by Elaine Landau, and I read this one with the bigger kids.
  • Then we proceeded with a couple fiction titles, starting with Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Antony, a perfect story for kids who want to do everything ALL BY THEMSELVES!
  • Our last book was Beautiful Bananas by Elizabeth Laird, a clever little trading sequence book in which a little girl is trying to get the perfect gift for her beloved grandfather.

Then it was time for our activity…Banana Art! This was fun. We started out with a discussion on oxidation and another on pointillism, and then I turned them loose with toothpicks a huge pile of bananas. Here’s what happened!

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The kids thought this was an absolutely fascinating process, and we ended up with some really great art. Of course, the greatest thing about banana art is it’s transitory nature. Try as you might, it just won’t last. So when it is all said and done, there’s only one thing to be done with banana art. Yep. Banana smoothies. Yum, yum, yum!

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One of the things I most appreciate about homeschooling is that it can be a semi-democratic process. I say semi, because I let them vote on topics and choose much of what we do, but I have the final say in what happens. So in keeping with that process, we brainstormed possible topics to get us through the summer and then crossed off anything that one of us didn’t want. Here was the list…

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That was the democratic part. But I get the final choice. What will it be? Check in two weeks (We’re taking next week off for the Independence Day holiday…) to see! Have a great week!