Worm Garden

I love my kids’ school.

The boy went to the school library and found a book about worms.  Apparently they have a whole shelf of worm books.

I note that the series title is “Keeping Minibeasts.” I wonder what else the series holds? Ladybugs? Praying Mantis?

Anyway-inside that book he saw this picture:

He ran back to his classroom after library time, book clutched in hand, and told his teacher excitedly, “I HAVE to talk to Mr. Adam about this!” A meeting with Mr. Adam (school handyman of sorts) was arranged, and they discussed dimensions and materials.  The boy told Mr. Adam, “Don’t worry about the soil and the worms.  We’ve got that covered.”

And then Mr. Adam returned a short while later with this:

And now all the kids have an earthworm garden to enjoy! Way to go, little guy! And big thanks to the school for supporting and encouraging curiosity and exploration like this.

Scientific Child

For Christmas the boy got this science experiments book, which is better for his age group than the one that I mentioned in the earlier post.  The experiments and concepts are tailored more to a 6 to 8 year old, but many of them are still fun to do even if he doesn’t completely understand the science behind everything.

First you find “dirty” pennies.  The boy made it his personal challenge to find really really dirty ones.  Mix vinegar and salt together to create a weak acid.  You really should use white vinegar so you can see the bubbles easier, but all I had was apple cider vinegar, so that it was.  This is very stinky unless you love the smell of vinegar.

Drop them in…

and see what happens after they take a bath!

Before and After

If you leave them out to dry without rinsing, they get all crusty and blue.

We then took a few nails and dropped them into the vinegar and we forgot about the experiment for a few days as work and school took precedence.

When we wondered why the house smelled like vinegar and remembered about the experiment, the nails had a slight copper sheen to it, as you can see on the 2 left nails.  I wouldn’t recommend this as a method to plate your metal jewelery, though.

Here’s a page from the Exploratorium (my all time favorite place to go in the entire world, which completely solidifies my standing as an absolute and total NERD, as if you didn’t already know) that describes the experiment that we did and the science behind it.

Obviously, the boy is too young to understand about acids and ions and things like that, but he sees the change happening and it’s the first time that he can see the effects of tiny little things that he can’t visualize firsthand, and I’d like to think it stretches his mind.  The fun is in seeing how the world around you works, how you can manipulate it, and beginning to get the gears turning.

Pretty cool, no?

Experiences

That’s what the boy calls experiments, anyway. Currently, he wants to be a scientist when he grows up and do lots of experiences.  One of our earlier adventures was here, but now we’re able to do more complex ones.

A while back I checked out a library book with some kids’ science experiments in it, and there was a whole chapter on electricity and experiments with that.  I went to RadioShack, remembering it from my  youth as a place with random wires and springs and plugs on the walls with acne-faced bespectacled nerds roaming about, and instead found that it had become a mobile phone store with tacky furry talking animals for sale as well.  As it turns out, they do still carry all the wires and such, they’re just hidden away in industrial looking drawers in the back of the store.  (The acne-faced bespectacled nerds are now running all the large software companies and laughing all the way to the bank.)  I purchased a pack of alligator clip wires, copper wire, a buzzer, a switch, a light bulb and stand, and a 9-volt battery, and gave it to the boy for Christmas.

Some of the basic stuff is just learning how circuits work–how you have to complete the loop for the electricity to flow through, starting with a simple bulb. This one is already jazzed up with a homemade switch–nails into a scrap of wood, with a paperclip around them.  Squeeze the paperclip, and it completes the circuit and the light goes on.

Then things get even fancier, with the switch from the shop:

I teach him the basic idea by having him trace his finger along the wires from one battery terminal to the next, and showing how there has to be a continuous line for the electricity to flow and for the light to turn on.  In case you’re wondering, the 9 volt battery doesn’t conduct enough electricity through dry skin to buzz you.  The girl did stick one in her mouth, but it didn’t bother her too much, either. (kidding, only kidding. Sort of.)

The next cool thing is to make a game.  Remember that carnival game where you have to guide a loop of wire along another wire without touching it? Well, that’s just a simple circuit and we have all the tools to make it! You connect a bare wire between the two nails on the block, fashion a bare wire loop to go around it, hook it up such that touching those two completes a loop with the buzzer, and you’ve got a good half hour of entertainment.

Concentrating hard:

Aw, man!

He never did manage to win, sadly, but I confess I might have made it too difficult with a loop that was too small.  Still, he loves to mess around with the wires and such and figure out how to make it all work on his own, which is really the whole point.

More science experiments to come!

Science Experiments

Remember “Mr. Wizard” from when you were a kid? No? He was this guy on TV who would do simple science experiments with kids.  I loved this show and watched it obsessively, much like every other kids science show.  “Newton’s Apple” with Ira Flatow? My heart still goes pitter-pat when I hear him hosting “Science Friday” on NPR.

Mr. Wizard

There was one experiment he did in which you mixed cornstarch and water together and played around with it.  I recently found a book of science experiments for toddlers and found this in it. Remembering how much fun it had been, I did this the other day with the boy.

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It’s pretty cool stuff.  Cornstarch suspends in water, making a substance that is a liquid when poured or manipulated slowly but will act like a solid when hit.  You can roll it into a ball but it will melt a second later.

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We had a blast, talking about what is liquid and what is solid. And, really, it doesn’t make too much of a mess.

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Okay, maybe by your standards it makes a terrific mess.  But it really isn’t hard to clean up at all.

I’ve realized that my daughter gets a bit of a short shrift in these posts.  Truthfully, it’s partly because she hasn’t been doing all that much.  She’s wickedly adorable:

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And as noted before will eat anything put in front of her.  She is starting to sign a bit–she’s got “fan” “milk” and “more” down pat. We’re working on a few others.  Her brother had over 100 signs at his peak, and it was really fun to be able to communicate with him that way. She also says “mama” and babbles a lot. We’re still working on the whole movement thing.  She has figured out how to get around by a combination of rolling and spinning, but isn’t really all that interested in crawling yet.  Who knows? She may surprise us yet and head directly for walking.