Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Babies repetition and hypotheses

Miss Baby J is growing so fast! Her giggles are contagious.

She loves knowing what comes next (babies love repetition - that's how they learn). Miss Baby J loves to dance. We started singing a made up song, "a dancey dance dance, a dancey dance dance, a dancey dance dance dance ___" where ___ is "jump" or "kiss" or "dance," etc. We do the song and dance a few times one way and then switch it up saying it another way. We always get a giggle after the different one. It's almost like she's formed a hypothesis about what will happen next and giggles when it doesn't turn out to be what she predicted. Wouldn't that be fun if we all took our mistakes like that? "Oh, that was different. Ha."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Keeping critters out of gardens with a crop cage

A few months ago, I was 9 months pregnant, had just planted a garden, and then had a garden disaster where all of the leaves of our cucumber plants were chewed by a critter. The plants subsequently died. My husband took pity on me and purchased a few more cucumber plants and quickly built a crop cage out of PVC piping and leftover (affiliate link) >> protective netting << from last year.

The rectangular prism is PVC pipes cut to our custom dimensions (4 equal lengths for length, 4 equal lengths for width, 4 equal lengths for height), with eight 3-way elbows (our piping and fittings were spray painted to blend in with the netting). I recommend using PVC pipe glue to secure your structure (ours was made relatively quickly and was not glued in place, causing occasional frustration).

Each side was covered in protective netting held in place with zip-ties.

Originally, we were going to have a door that we could swing open for us to water and harvest, but there was a miscalculation on the amount of PVC pipe needed and ended up with a half door, which turned out better than anticipated, as I'll explain later. The door is 4 more PVC pipes cut to our custom dimensions (2 equal lengths for length and 2 equal lengths for height), with four 90 degree elbows. It was planned to be secured semi-loosely with zip-ties on one side and a string/latch on the other which would be used to open/close it. However, it's firmly zipped on both sides.

We were considering placing sand in the bottom PVC pipes, but my husband forgot to buy sand when he was purchasing material for the cage. We played it by ear and would have purchased some later, but it stood by itself and held up to some stronger wind gusts, probably due to the larger size. The cage was too big to remove and replace for watering every day (plus the plants eventually grew into it). However, it was lightweight enough for us to lift the sides for harvesting the hard to reach larger crops in the far corners. Some crops like the smaller strawberries and green beans could be pulled through the netting. You can also water through the netting if needed.

With a half door, we ended up not using the door at all. Instead, we draped the top section with the netting, which we moved up when we needed to water. The plants grew into the door, leaving it non-functional. The door is about hip height for me, which makes it hard to reach the stuff on the ground or beyond arm reach, but that's how I found out about the lifting of the cage to get the hard to reach stuffs. This complicated door design/access also could have deterred neighbors/strangers (we have our garden in a shared area), who, along with critters, we think were stealing some of our crops in previous years.

We were concerned about the netting and pollination of the plants. The netting was big enough to allow bees entry for pollination.

We ended up with so many cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, and green beans that we were able to enjoy many for ourselves and share with neighbors!

Plate of fresh regular and apple cucumbers

I highly recommend a crop cage if your garden is suffering from critter problems.

Do you have any hobbies you do and improve upon based on trial and error?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Look Mom! It sticks!"

Fun with friction!

Felt and fleece work really well when it comes to adhering to other materials using friction alone. This is a great, quick science lesson to hypotheses about what will and won't stick vertically on things. Would the pillow stick to the wall? What about a heavier pillow? Would silky objects stick to the couch? Would silky objects stick to the wall? What if the materials were wet? Experiment and have some fun!

What can you stick to the back of your couch?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Doing science with your kids blog

Christopher Danielson has been a reader of this blog since the beginning. He started the Talking Math with Your Kids blog where he discusses how he and his young children talk about math. We follow each other on Twitter where he virtually introduced me to Casey Rutherford. Inspired by Talking Math with Your Kids, Casey started the hashtag "#dswyk" which stands for "doing science with your kid(s)," and I promptly joined the #dswyk party. A few days/weeks (I'm oblivious to time at this point in my life, thanks to Miss Baby J) later, he created a blog: Doing Science with Your Kids, and now I'm a contributor.

My first entry is a lesson on sink or float led by my 5-year old boy, J. Does a Duplo sink or float? The answer might surprise you. Click on over to check it out!

I'll still be using this as my main blog and contributing as I can to Doing Science with Your Kids.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes via a 5 year old

A few weeks ago, J woke me up from a much needed nap telling me that he wanted to do science. I asked what he wanted to do, and he really wanted to do balloon science, particularly baking soda and vinegar blows up a balloon. Frankly, I wanted to do something else (because though fun, it is a quick experiment that we've done more than once), but we kept the baking soda and vinegar part of the science he wanted to do. I asked him if he wanted to do volcanoes. He gave us an enthusiastic, "YES!"

Being lazy and having a new baby (who at the time was content), I didn't want to spend time looking up the experiment online. We decided to experiment on our own on how much baking soda vs. how much vinegar and the size of the container we were using for the experiment.

Mountainous material for the volcano:
I admit again that I am lazy. J had been given a lot of Play-Doh for a birthday last year, so I'd figure we'd use some up by covering the paper cup in different shades of Play-Doh. I don't want to be crafty at this point in my life, but here is a homemade playdough recipe if you'd like (painted paper mache volcano might be better if you have time to plan ahead and want it to look cool). The Play-Doh got soggy, but held up. We tossed it after we were done though we were thinking of saving it before we started, which is why we only put a small amount of orange and red on our volcano. We remained lazy and just used the Play-Doh container, without any decoration, to test a smaller container. J enjoyed it just as much as the decorated volcano since the "wow" factor is in the interaction between the baking soda and vinegar.

Place volcano in a pan with high sides, or you'll have quite a mess to clean up afterwards.

Amount of baking soda:
We used 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of baking soda as a starting point. We also used 2 tbsp, but 1 was enough to give multiple eruptions with our amount of vinegar, see note below on limiting reagents. We placed the baking soda in the cup first.

Note: We started with about 1/2 of a box of leftover old baking soda from the last time we switched it in the fridge, so there was plenty to experiment with.

Amount of vinegar:
We had a little under 1/2 gallon of vinegar to experiment with though we initially weren't planning to use it all. An adult poured it into a small 8 oz cup for J to handle. You definitely don't need a 1/2 gallon of vinegar, but we buy it by the gallon because it's cheaper and we can use it in impromptu experiments.

Size of container:
It turns out that if you have limited resources (ie. minimal amounts of mountainous materials, baking soda, or vinegar), go with a smaller container. If not, the bigger container works just fine.

Let your little one lead. We let J measure the baking soda and gave him the vinegar in a kid size cup. He knew what to do from other baking soda/vinegar experiments. I thought the reaction was over after the first pass of vinegar. J's curiosity lead to the discovery that 1 tbsp of baking soda can lead to multiple "eruptions" (reactions).

With 1 tbsp of baking soda, the unmeasured vinegar (under 8 oz) poured in spurts seemed to be the limiting reagent. We poured more vinegar, and the reaction kept going. This is an advance concept for preschoolers, but you can definitely point it out and see if they follow.

After experiment free play:
I'm big on letting my 5 year old continue to play once the experiment is over. This experiment resulted in a sensory bin since there was a big glup of baking soda in basically water. However, when he transferred his pile of baking soda from one part of the tray too another, he got a sizzle. There was still a reaction left!

And apologies for the shaking camera. I was helping J with the experiment, and John was juggling the camera and this cute nugget:

She liked the volcanoes too. Well, at least she didn't fuss.

Have you experimented with baking soda and vinegar volcanoes? How did you model the volcano?