Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dancing Raisins - a Magic School Bus Experiment

This Dancing Raisins experiment came from our Magic School Bus Science Club kit on solids, liquids, and gases. It involves raisins, tap water, and soda water. Concepts to discuss are density (what sinks, what floats), forces, and buoyancy.

We started out placing raisins in tap water. They did nothing. Note that I left the sound on this video. J wanted to take over and conduct his own sink/float experiment.


We didn't have soda water, but the kit came with an alkaseltzer tablet. We tried it. It was supposed to be for another experiment in the packet that we ended up observing/conducting on our own. It wasn't the best. The raisins bounced up and down a few times, but mainly it smelled as the gases were released from the tablet. J really didn't like the smell. Yay, science.

We put the experiment on hold while we walked down the street for dinner. The restaurant happened to have soda water available, so we took a cup of it home. We weren't 100% sure the carbonation would survive the 10 minute walk, but we repeated the experiment using soda water. It worked! This is what happened, note I left sound on for J's commentary:


So what happens is the gases in the soda water get stuck in the crevices of the raisins and give the raisins enough air (forces/buoyancy) to float to the top of the water. Once at the top, some bubbles pop and go into the air, and the raisin sinks back down to the bottom. Pretty neat, huh?

Notes: 
I paid for the Magic School Bus Science Club Kits and have no affiliation with them.

I'm taking a brief break from the blog to focus on my family. I'm sure we'll have tons of scientific discussions. I'll try to post some insights to our Facebook Page or Twitter as they come and catch up on the blog once I come up for air.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Garden Disaster

I guess this is our punishment for 80 degree weather in March. Something ate all of our cucumber leaves!!



This makes us all sad (J was on the verge of tears upon discovering this scene today). We'll wait a few days and see what the plants will do. I'm thinking we'd have to invest in new cucumber plants (it is early in the season)...or maybe steer clear of cucumbers this year. It was a hot item for creek rodents last year (I never saw what was eating our plants, but I have seen raccoon and squirrels in the neighborhood). We didn't need to net the plants this early before. The problem with netting/covers is that it doesn't allow for J to freely pick his produce. The netting was more annoying than anything else. The rodents chewed through it, and the cucumber plants grew through it.

I just bought a decoy owl and some Deer Off spray that should arrive by Thursday. We might have to still devise some sort of cage/cover. Sigh.

Any tips for garden disaster recovery?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gardening 2014

After a month of much needed rain (and we still need more to not see sky-high produce costs this summer), we've been blessed with sunshine and weather in the 70s - perfect gardening weather. Being almost 9 months pregnant, I debated planting a garden this year. It's hard to get up and down from the hard ground at this point and keeping another living thing alive during the summer might be overwhelming with a newborn. However, the motivating factors won: fresh homegrown produce that tastes better than what you can buy from the store and J's excitement for eating said produce. Plus, it wasn't going to be as big of an investment this year since we had made big planter purchases over the last two years.

Tackling concern #1, getting the garden started at almost 9 mo pregnant:

J is almost 5. He's become quite the helper and was super eager to help us with all steps off setting up the garden. This was probably our most successful garden shopping experience yet with him. He wanted to buy almost every sprout at the gardening store (because of our limited window space, we start most of our garden with store bought sprouts). We settled on lemon cucumbers, regular cucumbers, and cherry tomato plants, and we are germinating bell peppers and green beans. 

Here's J helping us plant the tomato plant:


He then staked the tomato plant since tomato plants like to have support to aid their growth.


Then he helped water all of the plants.


Our strawberries survived another winter and already have buds! This surprised us because we're in the middle of the worst drought in CA record keeping (and we basically ignored them all winter). This is 3 years in a row for our strawberry plants - definitely a great investment for us. I still love our strawberry planter (affiliate link).


We're trying cucumbers again this year. They were really successful last year, maybe even too successful because we saw how many cucumbers were growing, but they would disappear before we'd get to pick them (it was a hot summer last year and they are mainly water - the neighborhood critters got to them before we could). Going into gardening cucumbers last year, we didn't know/realize that they were a climbing plant, so this year, we spread them out a little more and gave them a cage to grow on. I hope keeping them off the ground will keep some of the critters away. We'll probably end up netting them again.


We just planted the green beans and bell pepper seeds. They are currently in terra cotta pots in our window sill. I'm hoping they'll sprout in time to get them in planters before the baby comes. If not, it'll be shortly thereafter.


As for concern #2, keeping other living things alive:

I think I can manage a garden, especially since I'm on maternity leave for a few months. The garden is right outside our apartment. If we had invested in a community garden plot, motivation to get out and about would be harder to find.


We're focusing on planting things that can be harvested all summer long. I love seeing J pull off green beans and strawberries, wash them with the garden hose, and pop them in his mouth. We haven't had good luck with our larger tomato plants, but we've done alright with cherry tomatoes in the ground in the past. I'm hoping we can do alright with this year's cherry tomatoes in a pot to give J the satisfaction of eating them all summer long.

If you have any tips to get the most from our plants, I'd love to hear them. How do you deal with critters? Ours are mammalian (raccoon and squirrels). How often do you replenish your soil? Do you use any plant food? Do your kids eat more veggies when they help in the growing process?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day 2014 - Family Pic and Pi Treat

I hope you had a fun Pi Day 2014!

We celebrated with Pi Cake! One of the great things about being a nerd is people give you nerdy things for occasions like these. Last Pi Day, we received a pi cake pan from one of my good friends. We made decorating it a family affair:

Undecorated

J writing on the fondant

The finished Pi Day Cake 2014!

To continue with tradition, we took our annual Pi Day Family photo:


Related Posts:

Investigating Pi for Preschoolers

Happy Pi Day to you!! Today, I'm participating in my first ever Blog Hop. Some math loving mommy bloggers and I have all written posts about Pi and/or Pi Day! Please, check the links at the bottom of the post for more fun things to do on Pi Day. Thanks for stopping by Nerdy Science's feature, Investigating Pi for Preschoolers:

While making our Pi Day Posters, we decided it would be a good time to investigate Pi: the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.

We traced a circular bowl on the paper:


Then we measured the diameter of the circle, three different times, using yarn. What is the diameter of a circle? It's a line that cuts the circle in half, which you can do many (well, infinite) ways. We chose to be satisfied with measuring the diameter three ways. We cut the length of the diameter out of string/yarn:


We compared the length of the strings to see if the diameters were the same:


The diameters are about the same length (we live in an imperfect world and yarn is stretchy and was probably cut at different tensions - and the circle was traced by a four year old).

We then thought it would be easiest to tape the yarn to the outside of the bowl that was traced, along its circumference. We asked J if one piece of yarn, that we had cut to the length of the diameter, would fit all the way around the bowl. His hypothesis: "No!"

He was correct (the string is hard to see in the picture, so we marked the beginning and end with markers, the string is going from purple to red):


Then we asked about 2 pieces of yarn we had cut to the length of the diameter. He wasn't as certain, but he answered "No," again. He was correct, again (the string is going from red to purple, sorry for the inconsistency):


It took all three strings to make it around the bowl (the yarn we used was pretty stretchy and the actual circumference of the bowl was a tad bit smaller than what we had traced).


So how many strings, measured to the length of the circle's diameter, did it take to go around the bowl? About 3! This is approximating Pi! The actual ratio of circumference to diameter length is an irrational number that goes on forever and ever. It starts out 3.14159 and keeps going. For our 4 year old, seeing that Pi is about 3 made this activity a success!


This ratio, Pi, is used to calculate many things like angles and circular motion, but it takes a lot of math to get into that fun stuff. The most common uses of Pi are found in geometry, like finding the: circumference of a circle = Pi*diameter; area of a circle = Pi*(diameter/2)^2, and the volume of a sphere = 4/3*Pi*(diameter/2)^3.

As for our Pi treat and holiday photo, tune in tomorrow to see our creation and annual family Pi Day Photo.


Blog Hop Time! Check out what these fantastic educators are doing about Pi and Pi Day!


We Love Math blog hop is hosted by