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B is for Bear: A Natural Alphabet by Hannah Viano is a book that fuses science, nature, and art into one neat package. I thought it was brilliant. Unfortunately, my six-year-old daughter did not like it one bit. Sasquatch Books sent me a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion and review.
Viano takes the traditional format of an alphabet book and includes a word and a sentence for each letter. There’s just enough content that the former K-1 teacher in me thinks it could would be a great supplement for the Common Core State Standards. Vocabulary words such as “predators,” “scat,” and “investigate,” are sprinkled through the book, and the pictures provide great prompts for discussion.
I can definitely see B is for Bear being very welcome in a classroom environment. At home however, it would depend on the kid. My daughter thought it was boring, which really surprised me because she had previously enjoyed Viano’s book Arrow to Alaska. My daughter also thought it was too babyish, which I argued with her about, because this book isn’t babyish at all. There’s a lot of science!
Can’t please everyone, I guess. Pfffffft!
The kids and I had a lot of fun with this one. Be warned, it’s sticky! Thanks to Morning Hugs and Goodnight Kisses for the idea.
What’s so great about doing science experiments at home with your kids? Watching them fall in love with science. What’s even better than that? Sitting on the couch reading a book while your spouse leads the activity. 😉
For the past few weeks my husband and kids have been obsessed with a book called Candy Experiments by WA author Loralee Leavitt.
Every evening when Dad comes home, he brings new candy from the office vending machine. They’ve done over twenty experiments so far. I don’t necessarily have blog-worthy pictures of all of them, but my husband did snap a few shots:
Right now Taffy, Tootsie Rolls and a Peppermint Patty are dissolving in water on my kitchen counter. Apparently chocolate won’t dissolve in water but caramel, sugar or mint will. The kids have also experimented with cutting candy in half and then trying to dissolve it.
Really, the possibilities for experimentation are endless. Now for an extra good brush of the teeth!
Can I just say “Eeew”??! When I set off this year to do a better job helping my kids learn science at home after school, I didn’t know it would involve mold and dead rodents.
Here’s our latest kit:
This is the first kit we’ve gotten that is next to impossible to recreate at home. It came with a bunch of things I wouldn’t know where to buy: petri dishes, test tubes, Agar solution, etc. I guess you could find that on Amazon, but it would end up costing a lot more than $12.
Anyhow, here’s a look at some of the experiments we did:
The great news is my kids will hopefully have a better time remembering to use soap. 😉
For more posts about our Magic School Bus science kit adventures, click here.
My son’s third grade class has been gearing up for the Science Fair. For Bruce, this meant experimenting with conventionally grown versus organically grown potatoes.
My son was having so much fun, that I decided moms should get to do a science experiment too. So I headed to Fred Myer and bought two brand new hummingbird feeders. I also purchased Pure Cane C&H sugar, as well as the store brand.
I mixed up the hummingbird food with the ratio of 1/3 cup sugar to 1 cup water. I also added a few drops of red food dye, which I normally don’t do. Since I was “launching” two new feeders, I wanted to make sure and get the birds’ attention.
Then I set the feeders in my tree and waited. The GMO feeder was on the left, and the Pure Cane C&H sugar feeder was on the right. After one week, this is what I saw:
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. That feeder on the left is half empty. So maybe the hummingbirds like the GMO sugar, but just not as much as the other one.
It is now three weeks later. I have emptied, bleached out, and refilled the feeders three times. The birds refuse to eat from the feeder they know to be GMO.
I’ve tried filling up the “bad” feeder with “good” sugar, and the birds still avoid it like the plague. They won’t go near it at all.
That, my friends, really freaks me out. If hummingbirds won’t eat the stuff, then why would I feed it to my kids?
I’ve got two new Young Scientists Club kits to review:#26 and #36. I ordered our subscription in 2013 with a steep discount through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Now we get a new science kit every month for a total cost of about $9 a kit.
Kit #26 is about static electricity and is pretty cool, #36 was about famous scientists through the ages and was awful. If that had been our first experience with The Young Scientists Club, I would have been asking for my money back.
The main problem with #36 was that a lot of the experiments needed clay, but the clay the kit came with was all dried up and worthless. That meant that almost every experiment failed, which caused a lot of eight-year-old frustration, which caused mommy-frustration, which pretty much ruined a perfectly good Saturday morning. It was like a chain reaction of awful.
So if you engage in this science-by-mail adventure, don’t order kit #36.
Kit #26 however, was pretty good. Some of these experiments you can try at home for free. All you really need are balloons, cereal, and a comb.You just won’t have the nifty script that the kit provides.
Important science fact: When you rub a balloon on your hair, all of the negatively charged electrons from the balloon jump to your hair. Then the balloon has a positive charge. When the positively charged balloon comes into contact with something that has a neutral charge, like cereal, water, or the wall, electrons from the new item will jump to the balloon.
There are lots of other static electricity experiments you can do with balloons. Use your imagination and have fun.
Our latest Magic School Bus Science Club purchased through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op was all about magnets. Thank goodness we don’t have any babies in the house because I’ve very paranoid about small childrend eating magnets. (I get worked up just thinking about it.)
But for a four-and-a-half year old, this kit was fun.
The total time commitment for this kit was about thirty minutes. It required no unusual at-home materials and was really easy to teach.
But I must confess, I threw all of the magnets away in the trash when we were done. Just in case!
A lot of these experiments you can do at home for free. The only drawback is that you won’t have the teaching script to read from. I’m not going to lie, the script is pretty nice because it’s so foolproof. But if you go to the library and check out some books, you’ll probably be fine.
Here are some titles to look for:
Here are some experiments to get you started:
First the raisins sink because they are heavy. But then the gas bubbles (which are light) attach to the raisins and lift them up to the surface.
If we had used a 2 liter bottle this would have been better. What happens is that the baking soda and vinegar make carbon dioxide, which takes up room and forces the air out of the bottle up into the balloon. Our dinky little bottle didn’t have enough air in it to blow up the entire balloon. Note to self, buy 7-Up!
The citric acid and the baking soda inside the Alka Seltzer tablet react to produce the gas, which is lighter than water, so the bubbles rise to the surface.
The vinegar causes the protein casein to separate from the milk. The result is an ancient type of Egyptian glue.
This is an experiment you have to feel to understand. The result is not exactly a liquid, but not really a solid. It changes forms depending on how you squeeze it.
That was a lot of fun! We still have two more experiments to do before we finish the kit: making slime and a bouncy ball.
For more information about the Magic School Bus Science kits, visit the Young Scientists Club website.
Our latest Young Scientists Club kit has come in the mail! Kit 30 came with an owl pellet to dissect. There were also some food-chain pictures to cut out, but the main event was looking through poop.
If you’re interested in doing owl pellet dissection at home, you can find materials on Amazon. We’re kicking around the idea of doing an owl dissection birthday party when Bruce turns 9. That’s how much he loved this!
The real question is, how long to I have to have a dead rodent skeleton on my kitchen counter?
I think (but I’m not positive) that the yellow goggles and animal tracks activity in this picture were some sort of special promotion with our membership. I don’t believe they are actually part of Kit #6. Perhaps the blue folder doesn’t belong either?
Anyhow, kit #6 is all about making a classic baking soda and vinegar volcano. There’s also a pumice stone to examine with a magnifying glass. That’s about it.
Extra things you’ll need are:
- a box
- a bottle
- baking soda
- food coloring
- dish soap
“Santa” brought Jenna(4) a subscription to the Magic School Bus Science Club this year. It was a 50% off deal through Homeschool Buyers Co-op. That comes out to $12 a kit, which is totally worth it. (That deal expires on 1/12/14 btw, so if you’re reading this post way off in the future try hunting around on Groupon, Homeschool Buyers Co-op, or maybe the Young Scientists Club FB page for a discount.)
Here’s what the Human Body kit was like:
Some of these experiments you can easily recreate at home. Try checking out The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body from the library first, or else watching the video on Netflix.
Sorry about the dearth of blog posts recently. Our schedule right now is completely packed. The good thing is that brains are being fed, kids are being exercised, and the house is (marginally) clean.
I still want to do more science with my kids. That’s been on my mind ever since we went to the Pacific Science Center a couple of weeks ago. I just don’t have time to plan anything.
Yesterday, I saw that Homeschool Buyers Co-op has a deal going on with the Young Scientist Club. I’m not familiar with this particular kit, but we have used a lot of the other products that the YSC also carries, like the one pictured up top and The Magic School Bus kits. Those kits have been fun, educational, and engaging, but not perfect. Every single one we’ve tried had at least one thing about it that I wished was different.
But… The idea of science experiments arriving at our door every single month without me having to do anything is really appealing. Even expecting imperfection, I’m intrigued. My eight-year-old son Bruce is thrilled with the prospect.
So I went ahead and placed an order for a 12 month subscription. The grand total was $157.92. That comes out to $13.16 a month, which isn’t too bad.
On November 25th Homeschool Buyers Co-op starts a similar deal with for The Magic School Bus kits. I’ll probably sign up for that plan too, because it will be a good fit for my four-year-old daughter Jenna.
Unfortunately, shelling out all that money for science kits is really expensive. I would hate for my blog readers to think that Afterschooling is only for people who can afford it.
So here are two top-notch, lower-cost alternatives from the homeschooling blogosphere:
I also have some Afterschooling science ideas on my Pinterest Board.
As for our house, guess what Santa’s bringing? Who knew they made science kits at the North Pole!
We are all really tired, but my whole family had a lot of fun at the Pacific Science Center today. There were scientists from all over Puget Sound presenting hands-on activities as part of the Life Sciences Research Weekend.
I wish I had the energy to share more inspiration from today, but I’m pretty zonked.
Here are a couple of projects I’m tagging to look into later:
Sing about Science and Math was there from the University of Washington. I really want to find out more about them, because their project sounds interesting.
There was also a booth from the Seattle Science Foundation’s Kids in Medicine program.
The Pacific Science Center is awesome to begin with. So the Life Sciences Research Weekend was like icing on a very good cake. No wonder I’m exhausted!
Halloween is just a few days away, which means it’s almost time for rotting pumpkins!
Watching jack-o’-lanterns decompose in our front yard is an annual family tradition. This year we have a head start. One of our pie pumpkins was mysteriously stabbed, and the culprit has yet to confess.
I gathered the rotting pumpkin, as well as some other biological specimens, on our coffee table. Then I surrounded them with science books. Setting up a learning table right in our living room is an easy way to get kids interested in science.
It’s also a good lead-in for when we go to the Life Sciences Research Weekend at the Pacific Science Center.
From November 1st-3rd real scientists from all over Puget Sound are coming to meet families, lead demonstrations, and talk about how scientific research impacts our everyday lives. Entry to the event is included with an admission ticket.
Both of my kids love science, but finding time to set up experiments at home is hard. Some of the things we’ve done in the past include building atoms with marshmallows, discovering osmosis with food dye, and experimenting with desalination.
If I was a cooler mom, I’d be setting up a science experiment for my kids to do each week. In the meantime, I bet a day at the Pacific Science Center will provide lots of inspiration.