Saturday, December 29, 2012

Science Board Book for J

We have a 1.5 yr old niece and nephew that we made a science board book for by laminating these pictures onto a blank board book. However, when putting it together, J was super excited and wanted one of his own (though we're way past the board book stage). I gave it to him for Christmas.

I thought I'd share. Stuck is my favorite:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Candy Cane Division, Addition, and Multiplication

A box of candy canes comes with a dozen candy canes. That's 12 candy canes.

If everyone in our family (mommy, daddy, and J) want the same number of candy canes with no leftovers, how many would we each get?

Who gets it? - each gets 1 per time their name appears (the number in parentheses is the # of candy cane from the box)

Mommy (1)
Daddy (2)
J (3)

Mommy (4)
Daddy (5)
J (6)

Mommy (7)
Daddy (8)
J (9)

Mommy (10)
Daddy (11)
J (12)

Now count how many are in each person's pile. Everyone should have 4 candy canes. You just divided 12 by 3.

If we combine Mommy's and J's piles we have 2 piles of 4 candy canes, or 8 candy canes altogether. Count to be sure your calculations are correct. This is addition (4+4) or multiplication (2x4).

If we combine all three of our piles, we have 3 piles of 4 candy canes, or 12 candy canes altogether. Count to be sure. This is addition (4+4+4) or multiplication (3x4).

Now, you can decorate the tree or eat the candy canes depending on your family's preference.

I hope your holiday season is full of joy and happiness and that you have a great New Year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Games and Science

As I sit here this Sunday morning, Big and Little J are playing some of our favorite old games. It warms my heart to see family time, and Little J is also learning.

The biggest thing I see today is hypothesizing, or trying to guess what the opponent is going to do next. In the gaming world, this is called strategy, knowing different ways to move next depending on what you think your opponent might do. Ultimately, the person who can see the many different ways to play the game and respond positively to those moves wins. The best thing to do is start with easy games and point out the many ways you can play when it's your turn. It helps to get your kid thinking ahead.

This has been J's favorite lately. In it, J learns about counting, 1-6. Well, he's been good at counting for a while, but actually moving his pieces without skipping spaces can be tricky for a little guy. He also learns a little bit about strategy, like moving a guy out when he rolls a 6 or moving someone to safety when Daddy's right on your tail.

Connect Four
This one is a little tough for J. It's tough for Mommy and Daddy too since we don't want to frustrate J. We bought Connect Four while we were dating to challenge each other. We both claimed to be really good at the game. Well, I claimed to be the Connect Four champ of my after school day care center, and Big J is just really good at any strategy game. Most of our Connect Four games in the household end up in a draw/tie, so we stopped playing each other. Anyways, this is a good game for pointing out the different ways your opponent can move and how to block them or prevent them from winning.

Here's an earlier post about Cooties.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cereal box marble tracks

I saw this cereal box marble run post on Pinterest and thought it would be a great science learning toy with some slight modifications. It was a hit with my 3 year old on this rainy Saturday afternoon.

The original idea is super easy, but really you can't control the tracks within the box limits. I think being modifiable gives kids the opportunity to apply more scientific principles, mainly the transfer of energy.

Transfer of energy recap:
-Items that start above the ground have potential energy since they can potentially fall to the ground.
-Once the items start falling, they lose potential energy and gain kinetic energy (kinetic is a fancy term for motion).
-Once there's no more potential (ie. no place more to fall), ideally all of the energy is kinetic and will continue in motion until other forces act on it. Other forces can include things like friction or other obstacles.

Here's what I came up with while J was supposed to be napping:

Cereal box and toilet paper marble tracks

I took a cereal box, opened it to flatten it carefully. I stuck one of the longer/larger sides of the box out behind as a base of support. I then taped the other sides so the other longer/larger side sticks mostly up. I did slightly angle it back to make sure marbles don't fly off the front.

I then cut toilet paper tubes in half as the tracks and taped them to the box with painters' tape for the marble ramps. The good thing about painters' tape is that you can reposition it a few times without ruining the tape or the box, yet it's still strong enough to hold up the tubes and marbles, allowing you to modify your designs. Feel free to test your tracks as you build.

Then tape a small paper cup at the end of the track to catch the marbles. I put a cup on top too to hold the marbles before their release.

Here's J demonstrating how it works, one marble at a time.

Work with your younger kid to make the design. If you have an older kid, let them try their designs alone. Did your design work? If not, how can you modify it so the marble tracks so the marbles don't fly out?
---Think angles of the tracks it jumps to or having backboards.

How many marbles can you release at once? How many marbles make it in the cup from your initial release?

Do bouncy balls work in your track? How do they differ in your track from the marbles?

Does the shooter marble work on your track? If not, why do you think it acts differently than the littler marbles.

After my model track became boring, Big J and I worked with Little J to make his own track. He made his turn around the box (a challenge, for sure!)

If you think your box design is ugly brown, feel free to decorate it with paint and markers.

Happy marble tracking :-)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Joshua Trees

Sorry for being MIA. We went on an impromptu trip to my favorite desert, the Mojave - yes, I'm biased. The trip was mainly for family, but I love the dusty scenery and seeing these fun shaped trees, the Joshua Trees.

We didn't get a chance to go to Joshua Tree National Park this time, but it's one of my favorites. It's one of those unique places where you can drive through two separate deserts and see the scenery change as you change elevation. I highly suggest visiting if you get the chance. However, you don't have to be at the national park to see Joshua Trees. They are all over the place down there.

I joke about my middle school, and because of their overcrowding, I ended up in Desert Discoveries (not by choice) as an elective. I actually remember a fair amount from 15+ yrs ago, especially when it comes to random facts about a place I love. As I we drove through the desert, Big J commented to Little J that Mommy could tell you all about those trees. The key is trying to keep it interesting for little minds. I highlighted its shape and how unique it is!

Joshua Trees:
  • Look like an upside down tree that has its roots in the air.
  • Are a plant UNIQUE to the Mojave desert! This is the only place in the world that they are naturally grown. The desert climate combined with the perfect elevation is the perfect recipe for these plants to grow.
  • Are related to the Yucca plant.
  • Many small critters make Joshua Trees their homes. It provides adequate shade/shelter in the hot, hot desert (it was 90+ in November!).
  • They do produce flowers, but need the cold to help them. It does get fairly chilly in the Mojave during the winter.
Stay tuned for our fun at The Living Desert and more random science bits about the desert.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Road Trip Science, AKA "I win!"

We've spent a lot of time in the car the past two months for last minute road trips (7-12 hrs each way). J is an awesome plane traveler, but we are definitely not a car ride family (bike commuters, holiday fliers, etc). In order to pass the time and keep down the whining, we came up with a brief "I spy" like game where we made up the rules as we went (nobody ever does that, right?).**

We weren't prepared ahead of time, so we didn't create a chart. If you are ahead of your game, feel free to create a chart with stickers of things you might see. You can have your kid circle or check mark what they see as they see it or place stickers on a paper as they see the animal/agricultural item. Being that we're approaching Thanksgiving, I figured I'd share our fun game.

Things we saw and talked about:
  • Animals on the side of the road (like cows in the field, not raccoons smashed on the pavement). The first one who spots the animal says the name of the animal and says, "I win!" With toddlers and preschoolers, recognizing animals in the distance is a good science lesson.
  • What sound does the animal make?
  • What does the animal eat?
  • How many did you see/could you count?
  • Did you see a baby animal? What's the baby animal called?
  • Why do we have these animals? Do we drink their milk or use milk for cheeses? Do we eat them for protein - this still might be abstract to little kids that steak/hamburger comes from cows? Does their fur/wool keep us warm (sheep/llamas)?
  • Spot the agriculture. "Hay! I win!" Guess what the trees/farms on the side of the road are. Talk about fruit and veggies in season and how fruits and veggies help our bodies grow big and strong (and keep us healthy).
  • Talk about mountains. The higher you climb the mountain, the easier it is for your body to get tired. Also, there's snow on the top of the mountain. It's colder up there than down where we're driving.
  • We have (well J has) an obsession with construction vehicles, so we had long conversations about what each truck does and why it's useful (even though we might be stuck going slowly for that stretch, ultimately, the road will be better).
  • Random statues are my favorite, but they aren't really science. I guess you can look at the structural properties and talk about how tall/wide or the colors, but by the time you realize what you saw, the likelihood your kid would still be excited is slim. We saw a dragon and a cow statue.

**Our way of making up the rules didn't cause contention since we only have one kid, and we were more concerned about keeping him occupied and not whining. I'm sure you'll have to modify the "I win" game with more than one kid, or have set rules.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

J's Finger Counting Lesson

I loved math long before I fell in love with science. However, I have no memories of learning math as a young child. I think the earliest memory was one of my elementary school friends showing me the 9 multiplication trick on the fingers (I was already really good at memorizing, but knowing the trick was useful when I started tutoring others). I think math is a lot of memorization that starts with counting. I've been having a hard time thinking of math lessons for little kids other than some brainstorming I did on counting for preschoolers, so I'm 100% giving credit to J for this lesson that I couldn't help but share.

Last week, J started holding up varying amounts of fingers and stating, "This is (fill in the blank with the correct #)." Then he went on to hold up the same amount of different fingers and state, "This is also (fill in the blank with the same correct #)." Then he counted the fingers to make sure his statements were correct.

How many ways can you find to hold up (using both hands - Left Hand+Right Hand):
*3 fingers (3+0, 2+1, 0+3, 1+2)
*4 fingers (4+0, 3+1, 2+2, 1+3, 0+4)
*7 fingers (2+5, 3+4, 4+3, 5+2)
*etc, etc

Of course, count your fingers each time you switch your fingers to show that it still is __ amount of fingers though you are holding up different fingers on different hands.

Also, remember you can also use different fingers than the standard way people finger count. For example, you can hold up 8 fingers with 5 on one hand + thumb, pointer, middle - or - 5 on one hand + pointer, middle, ring fingers.  Either way, it's still 8 fingers up in the air.

With this lesson you're introducing the concept of adding and a little bit of the commutative property of addition, along with basic counting skills.  It's so interesting to see what comes out of a 3.5 year old's mind!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

From the doctor and the scientist, may you have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kid friendly pumpkin carving

J's at an age where all of the holiday traditions start becoming fun! I really wanted him to get into pumpkin carving, but I wasn't sure of the knife aspect of pumpkin carving. Flashback ~8 yrs ago, my roommates and I found these cute pegs for pumpkins, Fright Lights; think Lite Brites but for pumpkins. I don't think I ended up with the pegs, but I bought new ones just in time for Halloween.

J's excitement builds as we open the pumpkin
Science time, how does that feel J?

Ewww, gooey!

J's turn to feel the pumpkin guts

Pumpkin's clean, now time to tape on the pattern and poke holes, which will be used for hammering in the pegs.

Hammer time!

Almost done. Instead of whacking every which direction, J figures out he can press really hard on the hammer against the pegs. It worked well!

The finished product (the pattern came with the pegs)

Kid friendly pumpkin carving

The happy carver!

Halloween light lesson: opaque, translucent, and transparent.

Pumpkins are opaque. Without carving them out, if you shine a light on them, you can't see the light through the other side of the pumpkin.

Light Pegs are translucent. Translucent items let some, but not all, light through. Another good example of this is a frosted glass shower door.

The carved part of the pumpkins are transparent. Light shines through transparent items, unblocked. Windows and clean glass are great transparent objects.

What happens if you change the quantity/quality of light?
Is it easier to see the pumpkin with the lights on/off?
Before carving, stick your lighting source in the pumpkin to see if you can see it. Can you see it when the lights are on or off?
How does the inside of a pumpkin feel?

Unplanned science lesson while prepping for the holidays? Check!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Science Saturday - Pumpkin Catapults

This was the last Science Saturday of 2012 (mainly due to holidays), but it was fun to go out with a bang! Thanks to the families that came out! We had a beautiful morning in the park.  I took some pictures of our friends and the craziness of having 10 catapults shooting at the same target, but I haven't gotten permissions from parents to post. Here's the non-identifiable rundown.

I took 10 minutes the night before to cut and paste some Halloween themed characters made out of construction paper onto the back of a 36-pack of Diet Pepsi (ya, I haven't quit my drinking habit) and made some arbitrary point system that the kids loved! Who doesn't love scoring 50 points vs 25 or 10? Yay, math!

And I arbitrarily set up three cones, which the kids moved throughout the day. As long as they were having fun, learning science, and not bored, I didn't really care where they shot their catapults from.

I covered a paper box with construction paper and drew a spider web to hold our ammo.

Here's our ammo of various sizes and weights; we also used candy corn pumpkins:

Big J and I spent the week before gluing sets of 3 Popsicle sticks together to use for the catapult structure and 5 Popsicle sticks for the launching stick, using wood glue - white glue works well too (both have to dry for ~24 hrs before applying load/playing). Catapult directions (note we only used 3 sticks instead of 4 for the structure sides to save Popsicle sticks and time and it worked well). Since we do these events at the park and there are times little kids grab things that are hot (be it knowingly/unknowingly), I invested in some Ultra Low Temp Battery Power Glue Guns. They worked well for the two hours we needed them. They use a lot of their "special" type of expensive glue sticks, but we didn't have burns or complaints. The batteries also pop out really easily, so I'd recommend taping the battery case shut. Also, since the glue doesn't do a great job (just a so-so job), I'd recommend reinforcing what you glued with masking tape.

Big and Little J launching pumpkins. Little J being a tad bit over dramatic.

A friend playing the target game.

We only had one friend who ventured outside of the example catapult design. He modeled his new design off of one Big J had 3D printed and brought to the event. I love it when kids challenge themselves.

Remember the science behind catapults? It's the transfer of energy, from elastic energy (which is a form of potential energy - it will potentially do something once you let go after stretching it) to kinetic (a fancy term for motion) energy.

Humans also need energy to "go" - can you name how we get our energy? Hint, it's not elastic.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pressure and water painting

Big J pulled this from the same book as our modified penny in a cup, surface tension experiment, Science Play by Jill Frankel Hauser, but again, we modified it for our family. Being not big into messes (and having a somewhat mischievous boy), we don't stock paint in the house. However, we have TONS of construction paper, and water "paints" very well on construction paper.

Hand prints using water on construction paper
The objective of this lesson was to demonstrate pressure and see what it does to water. Big and Little J put a large drop of water on the construction paper and blew through a straw to see how the water reacted. We noted the direction of the water spray.

Then Big J decided to put two similar sized dots of water on the construction paper (close to his hands).

He gave the one on our right (his left) a little blow (barely blowing) and blasted the one on our left (his right) with a big blow. Can you tell how the water drops reacted to his experiment?

J gave it a try too.

Then he decided water painting was much more fun. Yay, for construction paper absorbing water!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Happy Mole Day!

What kind of science loving nerd would I be if I didn't wish you Happy Mole Day!  Too bad it's a little late.  Maybe I'll be more on top of my game next year.

On Mole Day, we celebrate Avogadro's number, which is 6.02x10^23.  Some people celebrate it at 6:02 in the morning of 10/23.

What is a mole? It's a unit consisting of 6.02x10^23 somethings (that's a lot of somethings!).

In 10th grade chemistry, we celebrated by making cute little moles (see above).  Mine was Super Mole, but just recently lost his cape after he became a toy for the 3-year old.  He saved the world 6.02x10^23 times, if I remember right.  I also made a Mole Kent who had a super awesome telephone booth where he changed to become Super Mole.  My little sister reincarnated Mole Kent to Whoopi Moleberg, who was then saved by her chemistry teacher (not sure what her mole consisted of - remind me, Julie?).

What's the whole point of Mole Day??  To remember the number!  10/23 falls relatively early in the school year, and it's a number chemistry students frequently need to use, so it works very well.  I can still state the number 15 years after celebrating my first Mole Day.  Thanks, Dr. Mr. P (my high school chem teacher)!

There's no real set way to celebrate.  We made cute moles and gave them stories.  I hear a lot about eating guacamole on Mole Day (but we're picky eaters and green paste isn't on our list of things we eat).

How do/did you celebrate Mole Day?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Water surface tension - pennies in a cup

Note: We got the idea for this experiment from Science Play book by Jill Frankel Hauser.

I grew up with a scientist mom, and her favorite experiment was the drops of water on a penny to analyze surface tension of water. That's a little too hard for my 3 year old to do (I remember being somewhere around 7 for those experiments). So when I found the experiment with placing pennies in a cup of water, I figured it would work for J.

Now, being a scientist myself, I had questions of my own that weren't answered by the book, like how does temperature affect surface tension of water? I decided that could be our experiment.

To complete the experiment, I filled up clear plastic glasses with different temperature water (cold water from our fridge, cold water from the sink, hot water from the sink - ours comes out really hot!) almost to the top of the glass. While the glass was on the table, I used a clean medicine dropper to fill the glass to the brim. We started gently adding pennies, one at a time waiting for the water surface to be calm before we placed another one on there.

The set-up

Water careful filled to the brim

The adults showed J how to do it.

J was so excited to do it himself, but three year olds aren't super careful and like when things splash.

Gently add pennies 1 by 1

In general: as temperature increases, surface tension should decrease (making it harder to stick together). Our hypothesis (educated guess) was that the colder glasses of water would hold more pennies.

Our results:

Cold glass: 26 pennies (J)
Room temp glass: 25 pennies (Big J)
Hot glass: 18 pennies (Mommy)

Things to discuss:
*What shape does the water make after adding pennies?
*How many pennies did you get into the cup before it spilled?
*How did the temperature affect the surface tension in your experiment?
*Which cup of water held the most pennies?
*Repeat the experiment with different liquids (ex. juice or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol -under extremely close adult supervision). How do the different liquids act when the pennies are placed in them? Why do you think that is?

Things that could have affected our results:
*Cups might not have been filled to the same levels.
*We didn't place the pennies in gently enough, causing a splash.
*Pennies weren't fully dry between cups (adding more water).
*Someone could have accidentally bumped the table (it happens with a three year old).
*Pennies had various amounts of dirt on them. A piece of grass ended up in the cold cup, which could have affected the experiment.
*Each person did pennies in a different glass. Ideally, we would repeat the experiment with the same user for all three glasses, but we're not that patient around here and everyone wanted a turn.

Happy experimenting!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Renewed interest in space

Last night, J pulled out his space pajamas that had found their way to the bottom of his drawer.

J: I'm going to jump out of the spaceship!
Me: Mommy will not let you jump out of the spaceship.
J: Why?
Big J: Mommy was pretty nervous about watching someone she didn't even know jump out of the spaceship.
I'm thankful that my son is excited about space and science.  I'm sure we'll be watching Youtube videos of the jump over and over again for the next few weeks, and maybe find something else in the process.

Check out the information from the Red Bull Stratos page to learn more about this mission and the cool things that went down.  The gallery offers some valuable, easy to understand explanation of the science.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pumpkin Catapults

We're testing the waters for our fun Halloween Themed Science Saturday in the Park and launching candy corn pumpkins via a home made popsicle stick catapult.

I made this catapult lesson for an outreach event for middle school girls.  The main concept: transfer of energy.  Energy is stored as elastic energy (a form of potential energy) when you pull down the catapult arm. When you release, the energy is transferred to kinetic (fancy word for "motion") energy.  If you pull down further, more energy is stored (be careful though, the sticks may snap) and the item should go further and faster in ideal conditions.

J launching a pumpkin
Catapult Assembly:
*Glue or masking tape 4 popsicle/craft sticks together - lay two sticks end-to-end and glue one stick on top so it is glued to both sticks, flip it over and glue one stick on the other side.
****Please use caution when using hot glue around kids.  You can white glue them for a better bond, but you'd have to let them sit/dry overnight.****
*Repeat the stick assembly from above 5 times, so you have 6 total longer sticks.
*Assemble 3 of the longer sticks you just created (from above) to form the base - a triangle (a good and strong shape).  Glue/tape the corners together.
*Take the remaining 3 longer sticks and glue them to each corner and gathering on top (forming a pyramid shape).
*Catapult arm assembly: glue/tape 5 popsicle/craft sticks together three on the bottom, end-to-end and two on top.  Flip over after gluing so the 3 sticks are on top.  Glue a Dixie cup (to go salsa containers can work well too) to one side of the catapult arm.
*Take a rubber band and loop it around the top of one of the catapult sides using a girth hitch knot.
*Stick the arm of the catapult through the rubber band and glue/tape it to one corner of the base (we both glued and taped).
*Stick launching item into the cup, pull back on the catapult arm and release.

Launching items:
*Candy Corn Pumpkins!
*Bite sized candy bars - great because you can launch many times, unwrap and eat
*Gummy fruits
*Uncooked beans
*Small softer toys
Warnings: I don't recommend harder objects like rocks, at least indoors.  Also, make sure the flight path is clear from all faces (including the launcher).  Eat unwrapped, launched candy at your own risk.

Science play ideas:
*How far can you launch your item?
*Try different sized items.  How do they compare?
*Try multiples of the same item.  How do they compare to your first launch of only one of that item?
*Try releasing the catapult arm at different heights.  What happens if you release close to the top of the catapult vs. when you pull it all the way down to the ground?
*Play a game where you hit targets.
*Try different rubber bands (you can always stretch them over the cup to attach to the catapult arm).  How does the rubber band affect your catapult?
*What happens if you don't hold down the front of your catapult while you try to launch your item?

This is what we'll be doing for Science Saturday.  Come join us if you can!  Shoot me an email, and I'll give you more specific details.

Related Posts:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Save the Date - Science Saturday, Halloween Theme

Save the date for the next Science Saturday in the park.

Sat. Oct 27, 2012
SF Bay Area
Park location to be given upon RSVP

I'm in the planning stages and need to test-run my ideas, but I'm excited about it!

It'll involve fun science and prizes.  Kids could come in their Halloween costume, as long as they have their face showing (ie no masks, it might interfere with the project) since I like the idea of using a costume more than one night during the year.  I might even have prizes for the nerdiest costumes.

Are you excited yet?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Science Saturday in the Park: Elbows and Muscles

Wow, we had quite a turn out this Saturday to learn about elbows and muscles.  Thanks everyone for coming!

I repeated the Elbows and Muscles lesson I did at Kid's Day since I had leftover material (and it's a fun one!).  The detailed instructions on how to make the elbows are here: younger kids elbow lesson, while the more advanced lesson can be found here: middle+high school elbow lesson.

Since the science days are attended by neighbor hood preschool aged kids, I decided to add a new trick to help with conceptualizing how muscles really work.

I tied a string to a rock.

I then asked the kids to move the rock with the string (9 times out of 10 they intuitively pulled the string towards them).  I then asked them to push the rock to me using the string.  It never worked!  Strings don't push, they only pull.

Then if I still had their interest, we continued on to making elbow models (lessons described in the above links).  Some kids, depending on their interest level, got anatomy lessons about the bones and muscle names (major muscles: biceps (flexion/bending), triceps (extension/straightening); arm bones: humerus (upper arm), radius and ulna (lower arm)).  We also brought up tendons, which attach muscles to bones (our string muscle was attached to our ruler bone with a paperclip "tendon").

One participant had an awesome question about making a punching motion.  Punching motions use more than one joint!  I discussed the way the shoulder moves (many, many degrees of freedom) that helps you raise your arm forward and pull it back, combined with the bending/straightening of the elbow (+rotational degree of freedom of the radio-ulnar joint) helps you punch.  To model this, you would need two more joints on top of the basic flexion/extension elbow we just made.  Your body has many muscles, bones, and joints that work together as a team to move you in the way you'd like to move.

P.S. To the parents: I don't endorse nor did I come up with the idea of the karate chopping elbows.  Sorry if your kids have figured out they can sock their sibling with the elbow model.

Link to bulk purchase of rulers: Charles Leonard Inc. Ruler, 12 Inch, Wood, 36 rulers

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fire drill

J still plays with his nerdy airplane toy that we've had over a year now.  Today, he came up to me and talked about his "fire drill".  Silly boy.