Ever Wanted to Visit Switzerland? Now You Can With Case of Adventure

Travel has always been a major part of our homeschool lifestyle and we consider ourselves to be World Citizens. We do our best to immerse ourselves in other cultures while also learning more about our own nation’s rich history and geography. When I learned of the opportunity “to travel to Switzerland” with the CASE OF ADVENTURE Switzerland Unit Study, I knew it was the perfect fit for us.

Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland unit study @EvaVarga.net

Whether your family enjoys traveling or has never traveled overseas, you’ll love how Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland makes learning come alive.

Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland is the first book of the CASE OF ADVENTURE travel series. It centers around a homeschool family that travels regularly. Upon reading the first chapter, your kids will dive into adventure with Ren, Rome, Jake, Libby and Tiffany as they discover an ancient coin and a mystery connected with a cuckoo clock which takes them to the beautiful land of Switzerland. In their quest to solve the puzzle, they unearth some fascinating history and recover a lost fortune.

Switzerland Unit Study Resources & Ideas

We’ve have always had an eclectic, Unschooling approach to educating our children. Many of our most enjoyable learning experiences have been unit studies using a novel as our spine.

Some of our past unit studies include:

We thereby relished in the opportunity to explore Switzerland in a unit study based on the novel Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland. It was a relaxed way to stay engaged in academics through the holidays.

I began each morning reading aloud a chapter or two and then the kids would dive into the investigation suggestions (IDAs) at the end of each chapter. Several videos related to the content were suggested for each chapter. We thereby learned how cuckoo clocks were made, how ropes are made for mountain climbing, relative distances, the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland (a huge part of the mystery), and the process of cheese making.

Huge metal vats of curds and whey were stirred with big metal arms and the curds cut into small blocks with wire slicers and then reheated. 

“How does the milk change into cheese?” asked Rome of Frau Von Allmen. 

“They add a culture to the milk. The culture is a bacteria which changes the cheese as you heat it,” she replied. 

cheese factoryUpon reading about the family’s visit to the large cheese houses in the village of Gimmelwald, we revisited our own experience in cheese making at a local cheese factory. Inspired, we also enjoyed making cheese fondue and sampling a variety of Swiss cheeses we found at our local grocer.

To coordinate with our science studies, I asked each of the kids to write an expository essay describing how a cuckoo clock functions – describing the simple machines within. As I shared our activities with family over the holidays, we learned that Grandma Raandi (my mother) has one she says needs a little repair that she would be willing to give us. We haven’t yet got our hands on it (she doest live locally), but we look forward to applying our new knowledge soon. We’ll keep you posted. :)

I love how living books can encourage further investigations and explorations of topics. Following these little rabbit trails are what make homeschooling so unique. After immersing ourselves in the Cuckoo Clock Secrets, it is no wonder that Switzerland has now bumped up on our “must see” countries list.

Switzerland Lapbook Activity Packs & Printables

If you are pressed for time or if you are inexperienced in putting together a unit study of your own, CASE OF ADVENTURE makes it easy. In addition to the great novel, they have also put together a wealth of activities and downloadable resources. Destination Switzerland is available now and Scotland will be available soon.

Switzerland Unit StudyVisit CASE OF ADVENTURE to purchase the Destination Switzerland Unit Study as well as download the FREE Maps Pack and Money Pack to use for your geography studies. You will also find the Mega Travel Activity Pack that goes along with any novel in their series. Filled with spy gear and codes – this activity pack will bring the mystery to life, especially for younger kids.

My kids have never been very keen on lapbooks and we don’t have a color printer. Thus, what I appreciated best in the activity packs was the teacher manual which provided all sorts of amazing tips and suggestions for integrating Switzerland studies into our daily activities.

Worldview: CASE OF ADVENTURE is not a fully secular curriculum. There is mention of Christianity, bible study, and prayer but the curriculum and activities that accompany the novel are not a Bible curriculum.

Connect with CASE OF ADVENTURE

Follow CASE OF ADVENTURE on Facebook and Instagram to learn of future titles and activity ideas. You will also find them on Pinterest. If Twitter is more your style, follow Karyn Collett, the author.

Take advantage of the Special Launch Discount of 25% off entire cart for 10 days only – use coupon code: 25LAUNCH (February 1-11, 2017) or enter to win

Please note the discount is applied to the downloadable products only, not the print book from Amazon.

Autumn Astronomy: Activities for Middle School

Autumn Astronomy: Activities for Middle School @EvaVarga.netHave you ever looked at the night sky and been amazed by all the stars? Though the nights are cool, I love stargazing in autumn. There are tremendous opportunities for night science activities throughout the fall months.

Misconceptions creep into the science of astronomy perhaps more than any other science. Would you believe that many college graduates have wildly incorrect ideas about the phases of the moon or the cause of the seasons?

You can help dispel these misconceptions by reading quality non-fiction materials and providing opportunities to engage in hands-on experiments or demonstrations designed to test hypotheses. With the help of DK Publishing, I’ve created an in-depth unit study around our autumn night skies utilizing two DK books as my spine. I hope to release the complete curriculum by years end.

Autumn Astronomy: Activities for Middle School @EvaVarga.netMany thanks to DK Publishing for providing these books to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.

Most objects you can see in the night sky are within our own spiral, disc-shaped galaxy. Did you know that when you’re looking at the Milky Way, you’re looking into the heart of the galaxy from Earth’s position on the outer fringes of one of the spiral arms? The Milky Way is at least 100,000 light years across, and contains perhaps 200 billion stars. The milky band you see in the sky is a layer of dust, gas and stars that is closer to the “galactic center”. The dust is so thick, no one has seen beyond it to the dark side of the galaxy. There’s probably a humungous Black Hole at the heart of the Milky Way, but astronomers can’t be 100 percent sure. Turns out we know more about deep space objects than we do about the center of our own little spiral, disc-shaped galaxy.

The Practical Astronomer takes you on a step-by-step journey from the basics of what can be seen with the naked eye, to how you can view more distant objects such as the planets of the solar system, and even galaxies far, far away-all in your own backyard. It is the perfect spine for a homeschool astronomy study. It provides maps of the constellations and detailed information on the planets and stars of our own galaxy.

With this book as a guide, you will be able to find planets, identify stars, track movements, find constellations, and even begin star hopping from one constellation to another. The first part of the book explains the kinds of objects you will be looking for such as planets, stars, and nebulae. Additionally, with a spherical shape in mind, it details how to navigate around the night sky. The second part of the book provides practical information regarding telescopes and keeping a log of your observations.

During the course of the year, our view of the night sky changes from month to month. Some constellations are always in the sky, while others appear and disappear over different regions.  The Night Sky Month by Month by Will Gater and Giles Sparrow shows the sky as it is seen around the world in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the perfect guide for amateur astronomers – the illustrated pictures and monthly sky guides will help you recognize patterns and track changes in the each hemisphere.

Autumn Astronomical Events 2015

      • A brilliant double planet: October 26

        For the second time in 2015, Venus and Jupiter will engage in a close conjunction, this time separated by just over 1 degree, Venus passing to the southwest (lower right) of Jupiter and shining more than 10 times brighter than the huge gas giant.

      • Full Moon, Supermoon: October 27

        The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 12:05 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon. This is also the last of three supermoons for 2015. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

      • Conjunction of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter: October 28

        A rare, 3-planet conjunction will be visible on the morning of October 28. The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will all form a triangle in the early morning sky. Jupiter and Venus will be only one degree apart with Mars just a few degrees to the east. Look to the east just before sunrise for this spectacular event.

      • Taurid meteor shower ‘fireballs’: October & November

        The Taurid meteors, sometimes called the “Halloween fireballs,” show up each year between mid-October and mid-November. The shower should peak from Nov. 5 to Nov. 12 in 2015. Meteor expert David Asher has also discovered that Earth can periodically encounter swarms of larger particles, which can produce fireball meteors in certain years, and 2015 is predicted to be one of those years.

      • Geminid meteor shower: December 13-14

        If there is one meteor display guaranteed to put on a very entertaining show it is the Geminids. Considered by most meteor experts to be at the top of the list, surpassing in brilliance and reliability even the August Perseids. The moon will be a narrow crescent and will set early in the evening, leaving the sky dark all through the rest of the night – perfect conditions for watching shooting stars.

Autumn Astronomy: Activities for Middle School @EvaVarga.netExpand Your Horizons

Hands-on activities encourage children to explore astronomy concepts in a way that is fun, yet meaningful, and to broaden their awareness of astronomy as they develop and apply new skills in other subject areas. Carefully selected demonstrations are one way of helping students overcome misconceptions, and there are a variety of resources available.

?Check out the many activities and lesson plans provided by the University of Texas McDonald Observatory to get started.

?Approximate the relative size of the earth and the moon with my free, Balloon Moon activity

?Explore how misconceptions creep into the science of astronomy 

?Take part in the Global Moon Project and learn how the moon and tides are interlinked

?Gather with fellow astronomy enthusiasts for the Annular Lunar Eclipse, the Perseid Meteor Shower, or a Super Moon Viewing Party

?Get to know the autumn night sky in the northern hemisphere with stargazing tips from BBC’s Sir Patrick Moore and his guests on The Sky at Night.

?Focus your study around the contributions of Women in Space 

STEM Club: Introduction to Body Systems

As many of you know, I teach a science class for local area homeschool students that I have come to call STEM Club.  Our focus this cycle is human anatomy or human body systems.

Each week, I will be sharing with you the hands-on activities and inquiry based labs that I use with my students. If you follow along with me and do the suggested extension activities, the material covered will be equivalent to a full semester course.

This post contains affiliate links.

humananatomy

Getting Started – Printables

The biological levels of organization of living things arranged from the simplest to most complex are: organelle, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystem, and biosphere.

To review this with my STEM Club students, I created a levels of organization printable chart and asked that they complete it as homework in advance of our first class.

The purpose of this unit is to understand that there are different systems within the body and that they work independently and together to form a functioning human body. 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.

To assess the students’ prior knowledge, I distributed a black outline master of the human body and asked them to draw and label the parts of the body that they knew.

I also created an accordion style mini-book of the body systems that we will use throughout the unit. Students were asked to print it and secure it in their notebooks for easy reference and note taking throughout the course.

Lastly, they were asked to complete the vocabulary worksheet.

The FREE download link for each of these printables will be available to my newsletter subscribers.

anatomyprintables

The Human Body Systems

Integumentary System – the organ system that protects the body from various kinds of damage, such as loss of water or abrasion from outside.  Major organs include skin (epidermis, dermis, hypodermis), hair, nails, and exocrine glands.

Nervous System – consists of the brain, spinal cord, sensory organs, and all of the nerves that connect these organs with the rest of the body. Together, these organs are responsible for the control of the body and communication among its parts.

Endrocrine System – includes all of the glands of the body and the hormones produced by those glands. The glands are controlled directly by stimulation from the nervous system as well as by chemical receptors in the blood and hormones produced by other glands.

The endocrine system works alongside of the nervous system to form the control systems of the body. The nervous system provides a very fast and narrowly targeted system to turn on specific glands and muscles throughout the body. The endocrine system, on the other hand, is much slower acting, but has very widespread, long lasting, and powerful effects.

Head to Toe Science by Jim Wiese is a collection of demonstrations that illustrate scientific principles about the human body. The projects are geared to 9-12 year olds and arranged by system (nervous, digestive, respiratory, circulatory, muscular, skeletal, reproductive, and integumentary).

Each project includes an introduction, a list of materials, procedural guidelines, and an explanation of the science involved. It is a great resources for hands-on activities and demonstrations. The instructions are easy to follow and include fun facts to keep kids interested.

It is definitely worth buying, even though the activities are not inquiry based, as it provides background information and vocabulary. Some of the activities in the book are too simple for even junior high but most are perfect for middle school age learners.

Skeletal System – includes all of the bones and joints in the body. Each bone is a complex living organ that is made up of many cells, protein fibers, and minerals. The skeleton acts as a scaffold by providing support and protection for the soft tissues that make up the rest of the body.

Muscular System – responsible for the movement of the human body. Attached to the bones of the skeletal system are about 700 named muscles that make up roughly half of a person’s body weight. Each of these muscles is a discrete organ constructed of skeletal muscle tissue, blood vessels, tendons, and nerves.

Digestive System – a group of organs working together to convert food into energy and basic nutrients to feed the entire body. Food passes through a long tube inside the body known as the alimentary canal or the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). The alimentary canal is made up of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, and large intestines.

I highly recommend Human Anatomy Coloring Book by Margaret Matt (geared for ages 13-16).  I know what you are thinking. “A color book? Really?! “

Yes, really.  Each detailed illustration in the Human Anatomy Coloring Book is accompanied by concise, informative text and suggestions for coloring.  Numerous views, cross-sections, and other diagrams are included for each of the body’s organs and major systems.

Combine inquiry based activities and demonstrations that illustrate scientific principle, the memorization of vocabulary, and daily practice tracing the organ systems with the aide of this book and will discover your students will not only understand how their body works but will be able to illustrate the organs as they share what they know.

For younger students (ages 3 to 11), I recommend the alternative, My First Human Body Book by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne. It includes 28 fun and instructive, ready-to-color illustrations that explore the human body systems. The illustrations are detailed and yet simple enough to not be overwhelming.

Excretory / Urinary System – consists of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra. The kidneys filter the blood to remove wastes and produce urine. The ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra together form the urinary tract, which acts as a plumbing system to drain urine from the kidneys, store it, and then release it during urination. Besides filtering and eliminating wastes from the body, the urinary system also maintains the homeostasis of water, ions, pH, blood pressure, calcium, and red blood cells.

Respiratory System – provides oxygen to the body’s cells while removing carbon dioxide, a waste product that can be lethal if allowed to accumulate. There are 3 major parts of the respiratory system: the airway, the lungs, and the muscles of respiration. The airway, which includes the nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles, carries air between the lungs and the body’s exterior.

Cardiovascular / Circulatory System – consists of the heart, blood vessels, and the approximately 5 liters of blood that the blood vessels transport. Responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and cellular waste products throughout the body, the cardiovascular system is powered by the body’s hardest-working organ — the heart.

Blood and Guts by Linda Allison is written for the middle school aged student and is organized well. The author devotes a chapter to each of the following topics: skin, bones, teeth, muscles, heart, lungs, cells, digestion, kidneys, eyes, ears, balance, brain and nervous system, and reproduction. She provides a basic but informative narrative for each as well as illustrations.

Numerous hands-on activities and demonstrations are described for students to try. Most are relatively simple but some are difficult and require adult supervision; others require materials that may be difficult to find.

The book uses cartoon illustrations (as shown on the cover). I would suggest supplementing with models, more accurate drawings (the Dover Publication mentioned above, for example), and photos

Lymphatic / Immune System – our body’s defense system against infectious pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and fungi as well as parasitic animals and protists. The immune system works to keep these harmful agents out of the body and attacks those that manage to enter. The lymphatic system is a system of capillaries, vessels, nodes and other organs that transport a fluid called lymph from the tissues as it returns to the bloodstream. The lymphatic tissue of these organs filters and cleans the lymph of any debris, abnormal cells, or pathogens. The lymphatic system also transports fatty acids from the intestines to the circulatory system.

Reproductive System –

The female reproductive system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, vulva, mammary glands and breasts. These organs are involved in the production and transportation of gametes and the production of sex hormones. The female reproductive system also facilitates the fertilization of ova by sperm and supports the development of offspring during pregnancy and infancy.

The male reproductive system includes the scrotum, testes, spermatic ducts, sex glands, and penis. These organs work together to produce sperm, the male gamete, and the other components of semen. These organs also work together to deliver semen out of the body and into the vagina where it can fertilize egg cells to produce offspring.

Next week we will explore the integumentary system in depth. I will share a few demonstration activities as well as an inquiry science activity that tests our sense of touch, or somatosenation. You won’t want to miss it! 

 

The Galápagos Across the Curriculum

This fall, our family will be taking a journey to the Ecuador and Perú. I am so very excited as we will be traveling to the Galápagos and Machu Picchu – two locations on my dream list.

In preparation for this excursion, I have created a multidisciplinary unit study, Galápagos Across the Curriculum,  and am delighted to share it with you.

Please Note :: This unit study includes lessons and activities on Darwin and evolution.

Galápagos Unit Study

The Galápagos islands were originally called the “Enchanted Isles” because the capricious meandering of the Humboldt Current had the effect of making the islands disappear and reappear to passing ships. The islands were discovered accidentally in 1525 by Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, who wrote of the strangeness and mystery of the Galápagos, “such big tortoises that could carry a man on top of itself, and many iguanas liked serpents … and many birds like those of Spain, but so silly that they do to know how to flee …”

galapagos unit

Come along and discover the mystery of the Galápagos for yourself. The Galápagos Across the Curriculum unit study incorporates lessons in history, literature, writing, biology, ecology, geology, taxonomy, meteorology, and oceanography.  Specific unit vocabulary is defined and an extensive list of additional reference materials is provided.

Scavenger Hunt

To help build excitement, I have also created an online scavenger hunt for my newsletter subscribers. All correct responses will be entered into a drawing to win a fun surprise package from our travels this fall. I will reveal the winner on September 29th, so if you haven’t yet entered, there is still time.

Simply hit ‘Return’ or ‘Enter’ on your keyboard to submit your email address and subscribe to my newsletter. 

Florida Ecology Unit: Free Unit Study for Earth Week 2014

It’s Earth Week and to celebrate,

I have put together a Florida Ecology Unit Study!

florida unit study

This unit study is FREE for a limited time so spread the word.

Tell your friends and family to come by and

get the 15 page eBook for themselves.

Offer is available only until midnight, April 26th.

Download the Florida Ecology Unit Study Now!

Discovering China: The Super Skyline of Shanghai

discovering chinaWelcome back!  I hope you are enjoying your city by city tour of China.  If you are just joining us, I am delighted you are here.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the seventh of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.

Teeming with international high-rollers, glittery skyscrapers and construction cranes, China’s sophisticated capital of business, Shanghai, wouldn’t seem a welcoming place for children at first glance. But it won’t take long to discover that with its many parks, markets and museums, Shanghai can captivate all ages.

Shanghai is a great city for kids to explore, from the top of the pink Oriental Pearl TV Tower overlooking the skyline, to classical Chinese gardens and zig-zag bridges, to boats on the Huangpu River, there’s always something new to see. You’ll also find Shanghai is a crossroads – the largest port in China, the city is hopping with a unique blend of old and new, east and west, Europe and Asia, the latest high-tech innovations and oldest traditions.

Maglev

Despite the crowds (the population of Shanghai is 17 million), the city is relatively crime-free. Taxis are cheap, and the subway is easy to navigate. In fact, transportation is part of the fun, which begins as soon as you land. From the Pudong International Airport, about 30 miles east of the city, you can catch the 267-mile-per-hour German-engineered Maglev, or magnetic levitation, train. It’s a scenery-blurring, eight-minute hurtle to the edge of town. One-way trips are 50 yuan, about $6.40 at 7.85 yuan to the dollar, or 40 yuan with a same-day airline ticket. From the Maglev’s terminus at Longyang Lu, you can take a taxi or the subway to the city center.

discover shanghaiYuYuan

As early as the 15th century, the heart of Shanghai was the Yu Yuan (Yu Garden) area.  From the Yu Yuan’s zigzag bridge, children can toss fish food (2 yuan a bag) into a murky pond, and the water will roil with red and gold carp and red-eared slider turtles.

This Ming Dynasty walled garden of pavilions, willows and rocks has been overshadowed by its bazaar, a labyrinth of kiosks and specialty shops overhung by swooping, Ming-style tile roofs. Here, you can buy chopsticks, silk pajamas, wigs, American fast food, guitars, kites and fermented tofu (we had tried this at the home of our tutor and knew to avoid it – sorry, Shaun), among many other items. Merchants demonstrate everything from bubble-blowers to Chinese yo-yos; others beckon passersby to sample tea and gelato.

Bund

Shanghai’s lifeline to the sea, the Huangpu River, also divides the city into Puxi, its older, western part, and Pudong, the more recently developed, flashier section. Pudong’s riverfront promenade is ideal for strolls, flying kites and views of the Bund, a stretch of early 20th-century European edifices. The hard-working Huangpu bustles with tugs, barges and freighters.

shanghaiNight Cruise on Huangu River

One of the best ways to spend a few hours in Shanghai is to take a Huang Pu River Tour. The boats depart along the Bund every half-hour and you can book short or longer tours. We opted for a night cruise which departed at dusk, when landmarks on both banks are illuminated. The tour boats take you up and down the river and you’ll see not only the fabulous architecture on either side of the river, you’ll also get to enjoy the traffic along the river – a sign of an economy in motion.

The Huang Pu River is a tributary of the Yangtze and there is plenty of traffic on it to prove its importance. You’ll see the magnificent building skylines on both the historic west side (the Bund), and the modern east side (Pudong) as well as the working area of coal boats filling barges and sending them downriver. It’s fun to see such lively river life as well as Shanghai’s amazing skyline.

Super Skyline

There’s a new building going up in Shanghai’s Pudong that is slated to be the tallest building in Shanghai and the second tallest in the world. Upon its completion, the building will stand approximately 632 meters (2,073 ft) high and will have 121 stories, with a total floor area of 380,000 m2 (4,090,000 sq ft).  The Shanghai Tower will be completed in 2014 but until then, you can take your kids up to the top of other towers in China, Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. We chose The World Financial Center because of its a fabulous sky deck.

 

Engineering: World's Tallest Buildings Unit Study

Engineering: World’s Tallest Buildings Unit Study

To commemorate Shanghai and to the delight of my daughter who desires to be an environmental / architectural engineer, I have put together an Engineering Unit Study that is sure to captivate the hearts of young engineers the world over.

Suzhou is our destination tomorrow.  For me, our excursion to Suzhou was one of the highlights of our holiday in China.  Come back tomorrow to discover why. 

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Art for All Ages: Tips & Tutorials. There are literally hundreds of posts now compiled for you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!