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!