Discovering the Joy of Maple Sugaring at Home

Most people don’t realize that the Sugar Maple is not the only tree that yields syrup. We had thoroughly enjoyed our first experience maple sugaring when the kids were toddlers. Now that we have returned to Oregon, we are delighted to revisit our sugaring experience with Tap My Trees.bigleafmaple

We received a Tap My Trees starter kit in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product.  All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

There are 13 species of maple trees that grow in the United States. The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharin), one of America’s best-loved trees, is the most well known due to its historical and economical importance.In Oregon, Sugar Maple is an ornamental and found only on college campuses and occasionally in someone’s yard. Oregon’s most prevalent native maples are Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) and Vine Maple (Acer circinatum). Learn more about Our Native Maples in my earlier post. 

bigleafOur Maple Sugaring Experience

I shared a more in-depth look at Science of Sugaring a few months ago. From everything we have read and from our past experiences, we knew that sap would immediately start to flow after tapping the tree if the weather conditions were just right. Cold nights and warm days were what we needed.

We waited. We watched the forecast. Then my dad telephoned, “This week looks to be a good time to go sugaring?!” Yippee! We gathered our gear and piled into his truck.

Oregon Geography

The Oregon Coast is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Coast Mountain Range on the east. It is 30 to 60 miles (48 to 97 km) wide and averages around 1,500 feet (460 m) in elevation above sea level. Temperate rain forests with high peaks and steep ridges dominate this region.elliotstateforest

In the southernmost section of the Coast Range where we live, you can find the Elliott State Forest. The forest is home to over 50 mammal species, over 100 species of birds, and nearly 30 reptile or amphibian species that spend significant portions of their life cycle in the mountains. It is here that the Big Leaf and Vine Maples grow.

Tapping the Trees

It took about an hour to drive up to the forest and locate the Big Leaf Maples. We found a several in the mid elevations on relatively dry slopes. As the terrain is so steep, most were out of our reach but we did manage to find a couple near the road. Sadly, when we tapped them, the sap was not running. Dad said this was an ominous sign but we hung our bucket anyway and gave it a go.

rainforestWe then drove to a lower elevation in a narrow, moist valley where we located a grove of Vine Maple. You can see in the photo above the abundance of ferns and bryophytes in the understory. When we tapped the Vine Maple, the sap started flowing immediately.

Maple sap is a clear fluid and resembles water. The collection amount may vary. Some days you will collect only a small amount and other days your buckets may overflow if not emptied.

We thereby hung several bottles amongst the vine maple shrubs that covered the hillside. For these smaller trees, we recycled a plastic soda bottle by poking a hole in the side and sliding the bottle onto the spile.

vinemaple

Collecting the Sap

We returned a few days later to retrieve our materials and any sap we collected. Much to our chagrin, the bucket on the Big Leaf was dry. It was just the wrong time. We’ve wanted to try again but the weather hasn’t been very cooperative this year. We’ve had an unseasonably warm winter and lots of rain.

The vine maples, however, were more cooperative. We collected about a quart of sap which when processed yielded only about 2 tablespoons of syrup. Enough for one pancake serving anyway. We all agreed it was very similar to the pure syrup we purchase, but with a little more tangy taste.

It is clearly much more work and effort to tap trees in Oregon, thus making the endeavor economically disadvantageous. This is due in part to the difficulty in reaching the trees but also that a larger quantity of big leaf or vine maple sap is needed to produce equivalent volumes of syrup than the sugar maple.

However, I highly recommend the sugaring experience to families, especially if you have access to maple trees where you live. It is great opportunity to get outdoors and bond together over shared memories – not to mention all that one can learn through the process.

While 2016 wasn’t a good year for tapping the Big Leaf Maple in Oregon, we’ll be sure to try again next year. Sugaring has become a lifelong hobby everyone in our family enjoys.

Maple Sugaring with Tap My Trees

Tap My Trees is the #1 provider of sugaring supplies for the hobbyist. Devoted to educating families about the practice of maple sugaring Tap My Trees has made donations of supplies to nature centers hosting maple sugar events and they’ve made quite a few products available for teaching Maple Sugaring at Home.

They offer 4 starter kits with the highest quality supplies to tap maple trees at home. You can also customize your kits by ordering sugaring accessories individually. The instructive guidebook outlines the steps to making the maple sugar and contains all the information you need for a successful sugaring from identifying the appropriate tree to how weather affects the sap run, when to collect, and how to boil down the sap.

The lesson plans also include a timeline beginning in the winter and go month by month listing the topics for each month leading to the sap collection and syrup making. Sugaring is a fabulous unit study covering botany, ecology, meteorology, physics, and even history!

Connect with Tap My Trees

Tap My Trees is committed to sugaring education and they provide recipes and other information on social media. Their products are also available on Amazon, if you prefer. Be inspired!

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Polymers Are Cool: 3 Recipes for Middle School

Chemistry is great for making many useful products. It’s also good for making stuff that’s just fun to play with. One of my favorite chemistry units is on polymers.

A polymer is a large molecule, or macromolecule, composed of many repeated subunits. In other words, they are made up of many, many molecules all strung together to form really long chains.

Polymers Are Cool: 3 Polymer Recipes for Middle School @EvaVarga.netIn Greek, Poly- means “many” and -mer means “part” or “segment”.  Mono means “one”. So, monomers are the individual molecules that can join together to make a long polymer chain.

A single polymer molecule is made out of hundreds of thousands (or even millions!) of monomers. Not all molecules can link up in this way to form polymers, however.

The atoms that make up a polymer chain essentially line up and repeat all along the length of the polymer chain. For example, look at polypropylene:


Polypropylene is made up of just two carbon atoms repeated over and over again. One carbon atom has two hydrogen atoms attached to it, and the other carbon atom has one hydrogen atom and one pendant methyl group (CH3).

In this example, the pendant group hangs from the carbon atom in the chain backbone. As you can see from the example, pendant groups usually repeat along the length of the chain as well.

But enough of the mumbo jumbo. Let’s get to the fun stuff. What is better than reading about chemistry? Doing the labs, of course!  Here are three tried and true recipes for polymers you can use in the classroom.

Polymer Recipes ~ Get Messy!

Basic Polymer Putty

This is a fun and easy polymer to make (and the one featured in the photographs).

Materials

  • Elmer’s white glue
  • Borax (find in the laundry detergent aisle of the store)
  • Water
  • Two bowls
  • Food coloring (just for fun)

Procedure

  1. In one bowl mix 1/2 cup (4 oz) glue and 1/2 cup water. Add food coloring if you want colored slime.
  2. In the other bowl, slowly mix borax into 1 cup of water until the borax will no longer dissolve (this is a saturated solution).
  3. Add the glue mixture to the borax solution, stirring slowly.
  4. The slime will begin to form immediately; stir as much as you can, then dig in and knead it with your hands until it gets less sticky.  Don’t worry about any leftover water in the bowl; just pour it out.

The glue has an ingredient called polyvinyl acetate, which is a liquid polymer. The borax links the polyvinyl acetate molecules to each other, creating one large, flexible polymer. It will get stiffer and more like putty the more you play with it.

Store it in a plastic bag in the fridge, to keep it from growing mold.

polymer recipesA Firmer Polymer

This recipe makes a firmer, dryer slime that will even bounce if it is kneaded enough.

  1. Mix 4 tsp. (20 ml) water with 5 tsp. (25 ml) Elmer’s or other white glue in a small bowl.
  2. Add 1 tsp. (5 ml) talcum powder and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Add 1 or 2 tsp. (5 or 10 ml) saturated borax and water solution. Stir four a few minutes.
  4. Remove the glob from the bowl and stirrer. Knead it for a while and it will become drier.

You will probably need to wipe off some of the excess moisture from your hands with a paper towel from time to time. Don’t be tempted to wipe the glob with a paper towel as it will only stick. You can add a little talcum to the surface if you are having trouble getting it dry enough. Store in a zip lock in the fridge.

plastics lab activityTake a closer look at plastics & polymers

Super Slime

This slime is similar to the one above, but creates a less rubbery and more transparent slime. This is the real gooey deal! (This slime is non-toxic, but still keep these chemicals away from unsupervised children and wash your hands after playing with the slime.)

Materials

  • Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA)
  • Borax
  • Water
  • Graduated cylinder or measuring cups and spoons
  • Food coloring (just for fun)

Procedure

  1. Make a 4% solution of polyvinyl alcohol: Stir 1.5 teaspoons (approx. 4g) of PVA into 1/2 C (approx 100 ml) of water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl and microwave for 1 minute, then stir. Microwave another 30 seconds and stir. Continue until all the PVA is dissolved. A slight film may have formed on top; you can remove that with a spoon. You can add food coloring if you want colored slime. Allow the solution to cool.
  2. Make a 4% borax solution by stirring a little less than 2 teaspoons (approx. 4g) of Borax into 1/2 cup of water.
  3. Pour the cooled PVA solution into a ziplock bag and add 2 teaspoons (10ml) of the borax solution.
  4. Zip the bag and knead it until the chemicals are mixed into slime. Then scoop it out and play with it.

While water is a liquid made up of individual H2O molecules, polyvinyl alcohol is formed of long chains of connected molecules, making it a liquid polymer. The borax acts as a “cross-linker,” linking the individual PVA chains to each other. The borax molecules form hydrogen bonds with molecules present in the PVA chains. The partial positive charge of hydrogen atoms attracts the partial negative charge of oxygen atoms. Since hydrogen bonds are weak, they can break and reform as you play with the slime or let it ooze on a flat surface.

Your slime will last for a while if you seal it in a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge.

Misconceptions in Chemistry @EvaVarga.net

Learn how to dispel children’s Misconceptions in Chemistry & Physics.

Helpful Hints for Success with Polymers

Gel type glues

Over the past few years several brands of gel type glues have been introduced. Most of these make excellent slimes which are very elastic and have a nice color and consistency. I have personally experimented with Elmer’s School Glue Gel, but there are several similar products available from other manufacturers. Try substituting a gel glue in the Basic Polymer recipe, above.

Slime overly sticky or runny?

If your white glue or gel glue based slime is too sticky or runny, first try kneading it for a while. Working it in your hands will help to mix things up better, as well as remove some of the moisture. If it is still not quite right, mix 1 part borax with 10 parts water. Dunk the slime into this solution, remove and knead.

Precautions

  • Polymers can wreak havoc with plumbing, so don’t throw them down the drain.
  • Always wear a mask when mixing PVA.
  • Use distilled water for all solutions for best results.
  • Keep polymers away from anything they could damage. They can dry into fabric and the dyes can stain surfaces, including wood.
  • Supervise small children when playing with polymers so they do not ingest any.
  • Some people are allergic to Borax powder. Wearing rubber gloves when mixing should help.
  • Polymers using Borax solutions work best if you pour the Borax solution into the other solution, rather than the other way around. Coloring should be added before the Borax.
  • Use metric measurements whenever possible. This will make it simpler to experiment with different concentrations and ratios.

Cool Chemistry

For more hands-on chemistry lessons like this one, check out Cool Chemistry is a ten-week multidisciplinary, hands-on physical science curriculum that incorporates scientific inquiry and a long-term project. Available today!

 

Earthworms & Tortoises: The Science Milestones of Charles Darwin

Although best known for his work on evolution, Charles Darwin was also a leading figure in establishing soil biology as a separate discipline. In 1837, Darwin presented a paper explaining how earthworms form soil. He would produce four additional papers on the same topic.The Science Milestones of Charles Darwin @EvaVarga.net

“It may be doubted whether there are any other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these [earthworms] lowly organized creatures.”  ~ Charles Darwin

In his works, Darwin demonstrated the importance of earthworms in affecting the rate of weathering of mineral materials in the soil, humus formation, and differentiation of the soil profile, accomplishments that make Darwin the first author of a scientific publication on the biological functions of soil. He was the first to recognize the importance of animals in soil production.

Earthworms were not the only organism that fascinated young Darwin. He studied marine invertebrates (specifically barnacles) and avidly collected beetles as an undergraduate. Although never a model student, he was a passionate naturalist.The Science Milestones of Charles Darwin @EvaVarga.net

A lot of controversy surrounds Darwin’s work, yet he was a deist. He believed that a creator had designed the universe and set up natural laws according to which all of nature was governed. To discover the laws by which nature operated was the pursuit of a man of science.

Biography

darwinCharles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on the 12th of February 12, 1809. He was the fifth of six children of wealthy and well-connected parents. The young Charles had a quietly Christian upbringing, but his family life was one of openness to new ideas.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he entered Edinburgh University in 1825 to study medicine. However, he found the brutal techniques of surgery too stomach-churning to handle. Fortunate for Darwin, Edinburgh was one of the best places in Britain to study science. It attracted free thinkers with radical opinions that would not have been tolerated in Oxford and Cambridge.

“I saw two rare beetles and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third… I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth.” ~Charles Darwin

Abandoning plans to be a doctor, at one time he considered a career and studied Divinity at Cambridge. Here, he had plenty of time to pursue his real passion, biology, and spent much of his time collecting beetles. He graduated in 1831 but before he could take a job as a cleric, his tutor recommended him as a ‘gentleman naturalist’ on a voyage around the world on HMS Beagle.

Aboard the Beagle, Darwin visited four continents over the following five years. He spent much of his time on land collecting specimens and investigating the local geology, including a five-week stop at the Galapagos Islands.

He married his cousin Emma Wedgwood in 1839. Darwin’s many books and articles forged a great reputation as a geologist, zoologist and scientific traveller. His eight years grueling work on barnacles, published 1851-4 enhanced his reputation as an authority on taxonomy as well as geology and the distribution of flora and fauna.

Charles’ contribution to the theory of evolution was specifically the natural selection bit, that organisms vary, and these variations can better suit individuals to their environment, thus boosting their chances of passing down these traits to future generations.

Alfred Russel Wallace, a friend and naturalist, had arrived at the same idea independently at around the same time. They’d even presented their preliminary findings to the Linnean Society of London, before Darwin published his On the Origin of Species.The Science Milestones of Charles Darwin @EvaVarga.net

Bring it Home

Ken Miller’s lecture, Evolution: Fossils, Genes, and Mousetraps has two segments that may help reduce some students’ anxiety when it comes to learning about evolution. In chapters 14 and 27 of the lecture, Miller explains how he reconciles his religious faith with evolution. It shows students that science and religion need not be in conflict, gives students a ‘place to stand’ if they are experiencing conflict, and it communicates respect for students’ beliefs.

Readings

Teaching about Darwin can be a controversial subject. I took great care to select books that depict Darwin’s life and describe his theory in a factual manner as opposed to books trying to persuade the reader. I believe the following books will help students understand the subject while also helping teachers avoid controversial topics.


A kid-friendly introduction to the life
and passions of Charles Darwin
by Deborah Hopkinson
2nd – 5th grades

A biography that highlights his
curiosity and determination to learn
by Alice McGinty
2nd – 5th grades

A biography in graphic novel format
by Rosalyn Schanzer
3rd – 6th grades

A biography with comical illustrations
by Kathryn Lasky
3rd – 6th grades

Features many creatures Darwin
encountered during his voyage
by Sandra Markle
2nd – 5th grades

Darwin’s personal life and its
role on his scientific discoveries
by Deborah Heiligman
8th grade & Up

A biography largely told through
intricate, packed illustrations
by Peter Sis
4th grade & Up

Part adventure story, part biography
detailing Darwin’s school years
to his time on the Beagle
by Carolyn Meyer
6th – 10th grades

His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities
by Kristan Lawson
5th – 9th grades

Science Milestones

Interested in learning more history of science? Check out my other Science Milestones posts.

To read more about those born in the month of February, visit iHomeschool Network’s February Birthdays.

Our Native Maple Trees: A Nature Study

Though we are in the middle of winter, we’ve been immersed in a study of maple trees. A few weeks ago, I shared a post relaying the science of sugaring.

The United States has 13 native maples, with at least one species native to every state except Hawaii. I’ve selected seven to highlight today – with particular attention to the species native to Oregon.

Our Native Maple Trees @EvaVarga.netGenus Acer

Maple trees are classified in the genus Acer in the Maple family (Aceraceae) and nearly all of the species are deciduous. Three traits that can help you identify a maple tree are:

* Leaves palmate and lobed (for most species),

* Opposite branching, and

* Winged seeds called samaras.

Acer trees and shrubs are commonly known as maple. There are approximately 128 species, most of which are native to Asia, with a number also appearing in Europe, northern Africa, and North America.

Acer saccharum

The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is one of America’s best-loved trees. In fact, due to its historical and economical importance (both in the production of maple syrup and as a timber species), more states have claimed it as their state tree than any other single species (New York, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Vermont).

The simple leaves of Sugar Maple measure from 3 to 5 inches long and are in an opposite arrangement on the twigs. They are usually five-lobed, dark green on the top surface and paler underneath. They are generally smooth on both sides, although the veins underneath may be slightly hairy.

Acer nigrum

Black Maple (Acer nigrum) is a species of maple closely related to A. saccharum and treated as a subspecies of it by some taxonomists. Identification can be confusing due to the tendency of the two species to form hybrids and to share habit, range, and quality and use of wood.

BigLeafMaple*Acer macrophyllum*

Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) is native to the Pacific Northwest and grows in mountainous regions. It is widespread in the Coast Ranges, the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, and the foothills of the Cascade Range and the northern Sierra Nevada. It is also commonly known as Oregon Maple for its prevalence in our state.

The deeply lobed leaves are generally 6-12″ in diameter but have been known to exceed this in favorable conditions. The samaras have a fuzzy head, unlike the other species in Oregon.

*Acer circinatum*

One of the most beautiful sights in our woods and forests has got to be the native Vine Maple (Acer circinatum). Found as an under story plant to tall evergreens, from southern BC to northern California and east to the Cascades, Vine Maple is a hardy species.

This elegant tree grows quickly to 10-15′ with multiple trunks and spreads to 20′ widths, much like a vine. Brilliant red and orange colors signal the arrival of autumn, while showy white flowers appear in early spring. It features 3-5 lobes and smooth-headed samaras that grow in a “V” shape.

*Acer glabrum*

Douglas Maple (sometimes referred to as Rocky Mountain Maple) is native to both sides of the Cascades, from southeastern Alaska to southwestern Alberta and south into New Mexico and California.

Its leaves feature 7-9 lobes, easily distinguishable form its close relative the Vine Maple. Hardier than Vine Maple, this tree is often multi-stemmed, with greenish-yellow flowers, and samaras that are oriented in a “V” shape.

Our Native Maple Trees @EvaVarga.netAcer saccharinum

Native to eastern and central North America, Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) gets its name from the silvery undersides of its leaves. The simple, palmately veined leaves are 3–6″ long and 2–6″ broad, with deep angular notches between the five lobes. With slender leaf stems, a light breeze can produce a striking effect as the downy silver undersides of the leaves are exposed. 

The winged seeds or samaras are the largest of any of the native maple. They are produced in great abundance annually, providing many birds and small mammals with food. Silver Maple and its close cousin Red Maple (with which it can hybridize) are the only Acer species which produce their fruit crop in spring instead of fall.

Acer rubrum

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is one of the most common and widespread deciduous trees of eastern and central North America. One of the best named of all trees, it features something red in each of the seasons—buds in winter, flowers in spring, leafstalks in summer, and brilliant foliage in autumn.

Produces red (sometimes yellow) clusters of small flowers winter to spring and features medium to dark green leaves 2–6″ in length with 3 lobes and sinuses that are irregularly toothed.

 * * *

Other Maple species found throughout the United States include Ashleaf or Boxelder Maple (Acer negundo), Canyon or Bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum), and Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum).

Sugaring?

But are Sugar Maples the only trees that can be tapped to produce maple sugar? This is a question that has long intrigued my father. Together, we’ve undertaken an investigation to discover the answer for ourselves.

Join me again in a few weeks as I share with you our own experiences in tapping maple trees on the Oregon coast.

 

 

*Acer species found in Oregon

Reader Favorites from 2015

It is hard to believe that 2015 is nearing an end, this year just seemed to fly by. As I prepare to turn the calendar page I thought it would be fun to share the posts that were reader favorites from this past year. I’ve made some annotations about each of the posts so that if you missed a post, you can catch the summary and jump over if you would like to read more.

Reader Favorites from 2015 @EvaVarga.netSome of these posts were not actually published in 2015, but they are reader all time favorites showing up on this year’s list. It is not surprising to me that many are from STEM Club, the homeschool science co-op I have directed the past three years.

Free Science Curriculum for Middle School I understand that budgets are tight and we have to make tough decisions about what extra-curriculars and curriculum we can afford. The best things in life are indeed free so in this post I have compiled a list of free science curriculum specifically for middle school.

modeling plate tectonicsSTEM Club: Plate Tectonics The theory of plate tectonics was first suggested by Alfred Wegener in 1915. It wasn’t widely accepted however until the 1970s as new information was obtained about the nature of the ocean floor, Earth’s magnetism, the distribution of volcanoes and earthquakes, the flow of heat from Earth’s interior, and the worldwide distribution of plant and animal fossils. This simple activity allow students to model each of the different types of interactions at plate boundaries.

STEM Club: Introduction to Body Systems  At the middle school level, students should begin to view the body as a system, in which parts do things for other parts and for the organism as a whole. I thereby developed this unit for students to understand that there are different systems within the body and that they work independently and together to form a functioning human body.

Autobiography Maps: Our Life as an Island  Creating an autobiography map is a wonderful activity with which to get to know students better. It is especially great at the beginning of the year.  They began by brainstorming important things that have happened during their lives, items or activities that represent them currently, and goals that they have for the future.

bromoblueSTEM Club: The Respiratory System The most popular and well received lesson in the Human Body Systems unit were those related to the respiratory system. I had several stations set up around the room and the kids loved each of the quick demonstrations in which they took part.

Building Toothpick Bridges: A Lesson Plan We have had an opportunity to build toothpick bridges a couple times and it is always a fun and challenging experience. This post describes our first foray into learning about bridge engineering. You might also be interested in learning more about Joseph Strauss, the engineer who designed San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

STEM Club: Scientific Classification and Dichotomous Keys Whenever I begin a life science unit, I begin with a review of scientific classification and how to use a dichotomous key. In this post I provide a couple of free printables you can use with your own students.

genealogy with kidsGenealogy With Kids Digging into the family tree gives kids a sense of connection within their families, as well as a sense of general history. It also can provide a context for understanding complex issues, such as war and immigration. Exploring genealogy together offers a practical benefit for adults as well. I share a variety of ways in which to integrate genealogy activities into your homeschool curriculum beginning with the youngest of learners.

How to Teach Middle School Science  I realize that not everyone feels comfortable teaching science – especially utilizing a hands-on approach. I have thereby compiled advice from homeschool experts – homeschool parents just like you and I – who have been teaching our own children for a number of years. They share their wisdom and advice for teaching science at home.

Introduction to Orienteering @EvaVarga.netOrienteering for Kids We love the sport of Orienteering which originated in Sweden. It is an exciting adventure sport that will get your kids running – and provides lots of great learning opportunities for homeschooling. It combines athleticism with geography, math, science, and technology.

What was your favorite post this past year? Share in the comments. :)

A Look at Oregon Coastal Winds: A Nature Study

We have recently moved from the northern end of California’s Central Valley at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the southern Oregon Coast. One of the most noticeable differences between these two areas is the weather.

Oregon Coastal Winds: A Nature Study @EvaVarga.net

Photograph by Jamie Crawford

In Redding, we enjoyed a hot Mediterranean climate. Here on the coast, the weather is more moderate with partly cloudy days and windy afternoons the norm. It is the perfect place to dive into a study of Oregon coastal winds.

I recently wrote an article for the Handbook of Nature Study monthly newsletter describing ways in which you could undertake a study of wind. If you don’t already subscribe to Barb’s newsletter, I encourage you to do so.

Wind results from pressure gradients, differences in air pressure from one place to another. When high pressure and low pressure areas come close to each other, air from the high pressure area will move into the low pressure area, creating wind. Because of the rotation of Earth, the air will not move directly toward the low pressure area. Instead, it spirals in, creating a cyclone. A cyclone is any weather system with winds around a low pressure area. The wind will continue until the pressure between the areas is equalized.

Students often have misconceptions about wind and where it comes from. Before beginning a unit study or lesson on wind, begin with a discussion to reveal their ideas of wind and its origins.

Oregon Coastal Winds

As Meriwether Lewis observed during his encampment along the coast in the early 1800s, it can get windy on the Oregon Coast. In the winter, storms approach the coast from primarily a westerly direction. In this case, strong southerly winds occur ahead of the storm’s advancing frontal zone, as higher pressure to the south tries to compensate for falling pressures to the north. Once the front passes inland, winds shift to westerly.

The winds from the Land brings us could [sic] and clear weather while those obliquely along either coast or off the Oceans bring us warm damp cloudy and rainy weather. The hardest winds are always from the S.W.
~ Meriwether LewisJanuary 311806at Fort Clatsop

Such an observation is completely true in the winter. However, had Lewis and the other members of the Corps of Discovery experienced a summer along the Oregon coast, they would certainly have experienced other conditions. The prevailing winds shift to northwesterly along the coast throughout the spring and falls off remarkably along the entire coast during the summer months.Oregon's Coastal Winds: A Nature Study @EvaVarga.net

High Wind Advisory

Winter is a great time to visit the Oregon coast and watch our magnificent winter storms. There are at least a few fairly nice days in between the stormy squalls and near-gale force winds.

The winter storms are one of the things I like best about living on the coast. Meteorologists have stated that several storms are excepted to hit the Northwest coast this week and perhaps through much of December. According to AccuWeather.com,

The storms, which will vary in intensity and location, will hit every one to three days with waves of drenching rain, heavy mountain snow and gusty winds.

Our rain gear is packed and we will head out periodically to measure the strength of the wind with our Kestrel 1000 Pocket Wind Meter. Our plan is to do this several times over the course of the year to get a feel for seasonal changes.

Take it Further

? Students may be interested in investigating storms, like tornadoes, in which pressure differences between two areas are very great. This would create an opportunity to talk about safety precautions that should be followed in tornadoes and strong wind storms.

? A discussion of the Coriolis Effect may also be appropriate. Important to airplane and rocket navigation, the phenomenon of the Coriolis Effect results from the rotation of Earth.

?When the children were younger, I introduced them to the concepts of air pressure and wind with a couple simple activities. As I shared in this post, the air in the balloon is pressurized. The air around the balloon has a lower pressure than the air in the balloon. When the balloon is opened, the high pressure air rushes out to a region of low pressure. This is the same principle that governs wind – though there are some key differences between the model and reality.

? Wind is an important alternative source of energy. The history of wind machines, modern wind machines, the economics of wind power, and the environmental aspects of wind power can also be explored. Challenge students to build a windmill of their own using fischertechnik or other building systems. How can you improve the efficiency of their design?

?Find a poem or musical piece that was inspired by wind or other weather. Better yet, write your own!

Who Has Seen the Wind?
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling.
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
~ Christina G. Rossetti