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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why do plants have roots?

My sweet boy and mother came home from a farmer's market with these sunflowers.

We were sitting at dinner last night and discussing how pretty the sunflowers were and what they need in order to last a long time out of the ground: sunlight and water. Plants' food comes from the sun.  It takes sunlight and convert it to energy (like we convert our food we eat into energy).  Plants also need water, like we need water.

It turns out potted sunflowers around here are a hot item for the neighborhood rodents. All three of our homegrown ones never made it to where we could harvest the seeds.

Anyways, J stated that he wanted to put the sunflowers he got from the market in the ground. We had to convince him that we'll have to wait until next spring to plant/grow new sunflowers in our pots.

Here's our two minute science lesson:
  • Plants in the ground have roots, which, besides drink the water and absorb the nutrients from the soil, act like big giant feet to hold the plant up. Without roots, plants tip over and don't get the water and nutrients (like vitamins) they need, which means they won't last long at all.
  • If you have the resources, you can try to "plant" a cut flower and have your kid observe how it acts. Why isn't it working like a plant you've grown from a seed?
We're having Science Saturday in the Park this Saturday, September 29, 10a-noon, in the SF Bay Area (CA). Feel free to contact me for further details. We'll be exploring bones and muscles and making our own functioning elbow models that you can take home. This activity is good for ages 2-100.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sunset Colors

The things I miss about home (Vegas) is the year-round vivid sunsets.  I know this happens elsewhere, but it hardly ever happens here in the Bay.  When it does, I always feel homesick.  Anyways, J saw his first red sunset this weekend on our drive home from a long road trip (we happened to be in the East Bay, but I didn't have a camera handy).

J: "Mommy the sky is red!"

Here's how our two minute science lesson went:

-The colors of the sunset are due to the sunlight bouncing off of other objects on the earth (scatter).  I didn't have the reference at the time, but this article does a great job explaining light scattering and its affect on the sunset colors.
-What colors do you think the sun gives out/reflects?
-We actually watch it go from yellow to orange to red and the clouds were a deep purple. We named all of the colors we saw.  He was excited the most when it reached red.
-Clouds add more excitement, giving the sunlight more things to bounce off of.

Now I will share my love of sunset (and photos of them) to you.  Despite my desire to tell you that Southwest sunsets are the best, it seems that I have them from quite a few places.  To engage you a little bit, we'll play a guessing game.  Where was each sunset captured?  I included treelines for some hints.  Bonus points for naming the time of year.








Got your guesses?

Here are the answers:

1. Aptos, CA - June 2008
2. Rancho Mirage, CA - May 2007
3. Minneapolis, MN - July 2006
4. Yosemite - September 2006
5. Waikiki, HI - December 2005
6. Austin, TX - July 2008 - did the bats give it away?
7. Las Vegas, NV - January 2006 - it is Vegas, so no trees, sorry.  I cropped out light poles and stripper billboards (since that might give it away and it's a family friendly blog).

Looks like I need to chase sunsets more since it's been over 4 years since my last sunset picture.  No wonder J hasn't seen any.

How many did you guess right or close enough?  I'd say close enough answer for
1: CA Hwy 1 around Santa Cruz
2: Palm Springs
5. Hawaii

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Science at the beach

It was the same day as the aquarium trip.  We may be home, but I'm still on vacation mode.

We took J to his first NorCal beach experience (we don't go that often since this Vegas girl can't do cold beaches).

Science you can do on the beach:

-- Guess how far the wave will come. We guessed based on the water line.

We guessed wrong:


-- Walk along the beach:

Compare foot sizes, step width, different walking patterns (bring a measuring device or an impromptu stick).  Whose foot is bigger?  Which is right/left?  How do your footprints change with the way you walk?  Then watch it all wash away with the waves.

-- Search for sea creatures, critters, fun birds, etc.  Why do they look the way they do?  What do they eat?  What eats them?  How are they affected by the waves or other sea animals?

It was nice of them to both pose

Other things you can do at the beach:

  • Talk about tides and their association with the moon.  There are high tides, where the water comes up high on the beach, and low tides, exposing different parts of the beaches and often creatures and seashells.  The tides are due to the interaction between the earth spinning and the gravitational forces of the moon and a little bit of the sun.  If you stay long enough during your visit, you can see the differences in tides.
  • Build sandcastles and other structures.  Can they withstand the waves?
  • Compare how you run on the sand to how you run on the sidewalk?  Which one is easier?  Which one is more difficult?
  • Fly a kite.  Which direction is the wind blowing?  How high can you make it go?
  • Hold a scavenger hunt.  What's the most interesting thing you can find?
  • Plan ahead and do a treasure hunt.  Make and follow a map.
  • Clean up the beach and talk about keeping the beaches clean so the sea animals can be happy and not swim in trash.
Hope your beach trip is also full of science goodness.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

We took a break from at home science to venture out to a place J has never been before, The Monterey Bay Aquarium. I'll save you from the slideshow of family photos we took and stick to the science. Keep in mind, though I do specialize in "bio"mechanics, my marine biology knowledge ends with 6th grade life science and 9th grade biology.

J was drawn to the colorful exhibits, like the coral reefs. This one was fun because it used a magnifying glass enlarge pieces of the exhibit. J was mesmerized, as I think it was his first time realizing what magnifying glasses can do: little things look bigger!

Anything that he can touch instantly becomes his favorite. The touch pools were very nice. We talked mainly about starfish and how many legs they have, how they feel, where they live. In the pic below, he's touching an abalone.

This is a starfish hiding in an old shell of an abalone. Some sea animals blend into their backgrounds as a survival tactic.

We fought the crowds for a front row seat at the penguin feeding. J was more interested in the penguins bathing themselves (they were easier to see swimming around and honestly were cuter than penguins eating). J picked up on the way penguins eat! He asked, "Mommy, why do they wiggle while they eat?" The answer - they don't chew their food and that's how they swallow the fish, whole. He raised his hand to ask the handlers a question but was never called on. He wouldn't tell us what he would have asked.

Speaking of feedings, we saw the Kelp Forest feeding, with lots of fish and small sharks. The questions J came up with basically revolved around why the diver looked like he did and why he was breathing funny.

Answers: Why do divers wear a mask and make funny noises?  People need air to breathe, and we can't breathe air in the water. The diver brings in air from above in the form of a tank on his back. His mask is attached to this air, allowing him to breathe. The funny noises come from the way people breathe using a tank magnified by the microphone the diver was using to communicate to the volunteer during the feeding.

Why do divers look the way they do?  (This was actually in the form of about 10 questions on why the diver was wearing gloves,  pants, etc.) I had to remind J, "How did the water feel when you were touching the starfish?" Ocean water is cold. The wetsuit + gloves helps keep the divers warm. 

Why does the diver have flippers? To help them swim.

The jellies are my favorite, so I'll stick them in here and give a shout-out to my mom who was on the 2nd season of Family Feud and answered, "What animal can kill with its bite?" with, "Jellyfish!" She got X'ed and still gets a hard time from her family (and us). However, jellyfish can be extremely dangerous (though I wouldn't say they "bite"). I personally love their angelic motion through the water (of course in the exhibit - I have yet to encounter one in the wild).

The following picture was a fun site. I apologize for quality of the photo, as the exhibit was dark and the fish and hammerhead shark was at the bottom of the exhibit. J was the first to spot the shark. Then it was fun to see the shark always have a circle around him that was fish-free (smart fish). It was an excellent opportunity to bring up the food chain and that animals eat other things and animals to help them grow and stay alive.

I've always loved sea turtles, and this one seemed so friendly and playful. The children squealed with delight as they tried to reach the turtle who came down to visit a few times. It's amazing to compare their size to humans.

We hope you enjoyed our field trip to Monterey Bay. We had so much fun.