Our First Garden

We learned a lot with our first endeavor to grow veggies in the high desert of Central Oregon. We look forward to a more successful, more bountiful garden in 2009. We already planning what we want to plant. I’m hoping to get a copy of the book, Square Foot Gardening via PaperBackSwap. If not by Spring, I’ll purchase a copy.

Sweetie helped me to create this scrapbook page. She spelled out the words, moved the photos and text elements where she wanted them, and added drop shadows. She is becoming a digi-scrapper just like me! 😀

Family Photos

We had a family photo shoot last week and I am excited to share the results.

All Photos by Kat Nyberg

Ooey Gooey Messy Art Camp

To bid summer adieu and as an opportunity to get our little friends together, I took inspiration from Shez at Homeschooled Twins and coordinated a messy art camp. We met down at the local park for two days of messy art activities. I had four projects planned for each day and as can be expected of any endeavor with children or adults for that matter, some were more successful than others.

Monday ~ Day One

Plaster Masks: The first activity we undertook was to create plaster masks. Not everyone was willing to do this – some of the kids were a little apprehensive and scared. What surprised me was contrary to their typical personalities, Buddy volunteered to be first and Sweetie opted to have her hand cast (in the form of a fist for Taekwondo) rather than her face. Despite the reassurances of those who were first, there were still a few who chose to sit this one out. The masks turned out very well – much better than I had anticipated.

Bubble Burst Painting: While the adults cleaned up after the plaster activity, the kids busied themselves with an attempt to do bubble art on a roll of paper I had hanging up between the pillars. I was unsuccessful finding a dozen or so small bubble wands – the kind that come in the small bottles of solution. I didn’t want to buy the small bottles as I had earlier in the summer purchased a gallon size jug of bubble solution – it just seemed like an unnecessary expense. In retrospect, I should have. It would have been easier had the children each had their own bottle of colored bubble solution and their own wand.
Anyway – what we used instead were large wands that were dipped into a shallow bowl (I had added food coloring to the bubble solution). While this typically makes great bubbles, it was near impossible to get the bubbles to actually POP on the paper. The kids got to slinging the ‘wands’ at the paper and making splash/splatter marks rather than bubbles. The end product didn’t turn out as I had expected but the kids had a great time nonetheless.

Marble Painting: An easy activity in concept. Place a small square of paper into an aluminum tin with a few marbles. Squirt in a few colors of paint and roll the marbles around to disperse the paint. I was busy cleaning up messes and didn’t really pay attention to how much paint the kids were squirting into their tins. Turned out – they squirted way too much. Their ‘canvases’ had to dry overnight they were so thick with paint.

Glubber: The kids loved this one! I distributed a ziploc baggie to each and assisted them with adding 1/4 cup of warm water, 1/4 cup of Elmer’s glue, and a few drops of food coloring. They mixed this around (baggie zipped of course) and to that I added a 1/2 teaspoon or so (it wasn’t exact) of Borax. They mixed this as well and soon a solid was formed. They removed the solid and played around with it for some time.

Here are a couple of links for more information if you’d like … White Glue Putty and Glubber & Glue Putty. What is great about this is that it can be adapted for many ages – for upper level students, the kids can investigate polymers… set up an experiment to determine how different amounts of Borax affect the outcome… etc.

Wednesday ~ Day Two

Painting Our Plaster Masks: I didn’t get a chance to take photos of the kids as they were working, but I did get a few photos of the end product. The masks turned out great!

Sand Collage: This was perhaps my favorite of all the activities… easy, colorful and very engaging!

Flour Paper Collage: Essentially, this project required the artist to smear flour paste onto their canvas (watercolor paper). They then tore and scrunched up colored tissue paper and placed it onto their paper in a colorful, textured collage. This was a highlight for many – but a few of the boys (surprisingly!) didn’t want to get their hands all gooey. I loved this activity and will likely do it again with my kiddos.Pastels: A simple, last minute change lead us to cancel the parade. It was really windy and we were concerned our banners would have been ripped apart and our art work carried off with the gusts. Instead, I handed out paper and chalk pastels and allowed the kids to quietly draw whatever they desired.Park Structure Play: As the kids finished their projects and between clean-ups, the kids enjoyed climbing on the structures and playing with one another.

It was a very successful camp and I am already planning for next year! Hopefully, the weather will be more cooperative and we can actually do the parade as planned.

Exploring Animal Tracks with Roots & Shoots

Sweet success! Four families joined us this afternoon at Wildflower Park for our monthly Roots & Shoots activity. The focus this time was on animal tracks; chosen specifically because we are studying vertebrate animals in our homeschool.

We started out with a read aloud. Everyone gathered around me on the grass as I read a book, titled, Whose Tracks Are These? by Jim Nail. The kids and adults enjoyed listening to the clues to try to identify the animal that left the tracks in question. We also shared a few stories of animal encounters (raccoons, deer/elk, squirrels, etc.). It was a great discussion and I was delighted that everyone sat quietly and respectful of one another. With toddlers, you never know what to expect. 😀We then moved to identify two sets of tracks that I had discreetly painted onto the ground. The kids knew right away that they were raccoon and bear. Buddy had took his flip flops off earlier so he quickly compared his foot size to that of the bear. I wish I had had a chance to photograph him.I shared with everyone a number of animal tracks that I had collected from former students (plaster of paris casts). We talked about how all of the animals we had talked about were vertebrates. [Animals with a backbone.]

I shared a couple of vertebrae that were also given to me by former students (elk and whale). I asked, “Does anyone know the 5 groups of vertebrates?” [Reptiles, Amphibians, Fish, Birds, and Mammals]

Then I shared with them a small bat specimen and asked, to which group does the bat belong? We talked about what makes a mammal a mammal.

Lastly, I shared a fox pelt that my dad gave me years ago. There were many “oohs” and “ahhhs”. This is what I love about teaching science – exciting their senses and capturing their spirit.

After the ‘show and tell’, I showed the stencils I had made and allowed everyone to decorate their Tshirts with the spray-on fabric paints. I had only 4 bottles of paint and with 9 children, I was a little apprehensive about how patient they would be. But my fears were for naught… everyone was so intrigued that we enjoyed watching others create theirs just as much as we enjoyed our own.

For more information about animal tracks, check out this great web site, Tracks & Signs.

Crickets ~ Outdoor Hour #24

We spent a wonderful afternoon with our COOL friends at a local park on Friday. On the way home, we made a few stops. One of which was Pet Smart. We needed to get crickets for our Bearded Dragon and while we were there, the kiddos asked if we couldn’t buy a fish as well. As we are studying Vertebrate Animals in science – I couldn’t refuse and I allowed them each to pick out a Betta. I’ll be posting in a few weeks the activities we do in regards to Fish – so be sure to check back.

When we returned home, rather than release the crickets in our lizard’s terrarium immediately, we took some time to observe them more closely. Coincidentally, a recent Nature Hour focus is Crickets! Sweetie drew this picture of a female cricket for her nature journal. I read aloud from the Handbook of Nature Study as the kiddos observed the crickets and sketched (Buddy opted not to sketch this time).
That evening, after the kiddos were tucked in bed, DH returned from his buddy’s house where the two grown boys were tinkering with their RC planes. He brought with him a Praying Mantid that they had found in the garage. What a treat! I couldn’t wait to share the treasure with the kiddos in the morning. I went out onto our front porch (insects converge their at night as we leave the porch light on) to capture a late night meal. The little green mantid wasted no time in capturing the little beetle I had provided.
The next morning, the kids were ecstatic about their friend. “Now we have 5 pets! A lizard, a rat, two fish and a Preying Mantis!” We observed it for quite a while and went out to capture something for it to eat, though it wasn’t too interested in eating while we observed. You can see in Sweetie’s illustration the little circle on the foreleg. We read in The Handbook of Nature Study that this is the ear on a cricket and katydid. We assume it is the same on a mantid.

While enjoying the Sons of Norway picnic yesterday, the little guy Sweetie was playing with found a grasshopper. As they brought it to my attention, Sweetie said, “It is a girl.” “How do you know, Sweetie?” “Because it has that egg laying thing on it’s abdomen.” I was pleasantly surprised by the connection she made… the ovipositor of a cricket and a grasshopper are quite different, but she was right!
Later that evening, we went out to find our mantid friend a meal and we easily captured a fly. Within a minute or two of the flies arrival within the terrarium, the mantid had it between it’s forearms. We should have observed the fly on its own for awhile – flies are the focus of challenge #25. Next time!