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Volcanoes, rocks and crystals

I asked Murphy what he wanted to learn about this week, and he replied, “volcanoes!” Easy enough – I decided to incorporate the rock cycle and crystals into the mix as well. With the volcano project needing drying time between steps causing the lesson to spread out over a few days, it seemed perfect to also grow some crystals.

 

Volcano Construction

Finding the Right Lava Recipe

Exploring Pumice

Building a Seismometer

Building a Tiltmeter

Painting a Volcano

Making Sedimentary, Metamorphic and Igneous “Rock”

Sediment Jar

Cracking Geodes

Epsom Salt Crystals

Epsom Salt Window Frost

Rock Candy

Salt and Vinegar Crystals

 

Volcano Construction

Instructions: Take an empty bottle, and cover it with construction paper (tape in place) to create a basic volcano shape. Cut strips of newspaper or light weight paper, and mix 1 part flour and 1 part water to create paper mache paste. Dip the paper strips in the paste, and cover the cone. Let dry completely, and paint!

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Finding the Right Lava Recipe

Instructions: Add baking soda, warm water, food dye, dish soap and (always last) vinegar to create a reaction. We started with 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/4 c. warm water, 4 drops red food coloring, 1/2 t. dish soap and 1/4 c. vinegar. We did this many times, changing individual ingredients, until we came up with a recipe Murphy liked.

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Why does it work? When an acid (vinegar) and base (baking soda) mix together, they neutralize each other and create carbon dioxide in the process. The CO2  that is trying to escape the solution is heavier than air, so it bubbles up (with help from the dish soap), and flows down the volcano.

 

Exploring Pumice

Instructions: Use a magnifying glass to examine the surface of pumice and other rocks. Weigh it and compare with another similarly sized rock and drop them in water.

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Why does it work? Pumice is the only floating rock. It is made from the frothy part of lava, which traps gas, causing the holes in the rock. Its weight is lighter than the liquid it displaces, so it floats.

 

Building a Seismometer

Instructions: Cut a hole in the bottom of a paper cut and insert a pencil. Weigh the cup with some beans and tie the cup to the top of a box, with the pencil tip touching the bottom of the box, lightly. Place paper under and have one person pull the paper, gently, while another provides movement to the box. Do it again with no movement to the box and compare the readings.

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Why does it work? A seismometer is a tool that measures the movement of the Earth. It is one tool used by volcanologists to help determine if a volcano might explode. It detects ground motion and records it’s movement as does our seismometer.

 

Building a Tiltmeter

Instructions: Poke holes in two paper cups at the same distance from the bottom of the cup. Connect with a straw, and seal around the straw with some play dough. Place on a cookie tray. Place equal amounts of water in each cup (you can mark the level with a sharpie to make it more obvious). Raise each side of the tray and see what happens to the water levels in the cups.

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Why does it work? A tiltmeter is another tool used by volcanologists to help determine if a volcano might explode. It measures the tilting of the ground on the sides of the volcano (which swell under pressure before erupting). The idea is that water always seeks its own level. That means that regardless of the shape of the bucket, the water level will be the same on both sides. If you add more water to one side, it will balance out. If you raise up one side, the water levels will stay the same in both buckets.

 

Painting a Volcano

Instructions: We used acrylic paints, and Bob Ross’s lesson on basic mountains using a palate knife.

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Making Sedimentary, Metamorphic and Igneous “Rock”

Instructions: Grate some old crayons. Cut three pieces of tinfoil. Place a tablespoon or two in the center of TWO pieces of tinfoil. Fold up tightly. Make the third piece into a similarly shaped rectangle mold. Place a tablespoon or two of grated crayons in an old tin. Take the first packet, and stand on it. Explain that sedimentary rock is formed from built up layers of sediment that cause weight and pressure to form the sediment into rock (we used the example of pages in a book – one page weighs nothing, but the whole book gets heavy). Take the second packet, and iron it for a little while, explaining that heat and pressure cause the rock to change into metamorphic rock. Take the tin of grated crayons and melt them over the stove, explaining igneous rock gets the full magma. When melted, pour into the third foil packet. When cool, open each sample and explore the differences.

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Sediment Jar

Instructions: Gather sand, small rocks, dirt, etc., in a jar. Fill with water and put a lid on tightly. Shake it up and watch the layers settle.

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Why does it work?  The settling rate of sediment depends on its size, density and shape.

 

Cracking Geodes

Instructions: We got a dozen geodes from Oriental Trading. You put one in an old sock (it will get destroyed – use one of those ones that’s sitting there because you KNOW the minute you throw it out, the match will turn up). And hit with a hammer. Some of ours needed a light tap, others needed significantly more strength. We only did 6 (the bag says 90% have crystals), but all ours had crystal (matter formed in an ordered arrangement) formations.

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Geodes are formed in igneous and sedimentary rock – either by trapped gas (igneous) or decomposing animals (sedimentary) creating a pocket in the rock. The hole then fills with water and minerals, the water leaves and leaves the minerals behind forming the gorgeous crystals inside.

Epsom Salt Crystals

Instructions: Mix equal parts epsom salt and water (as hot as it’ll get from the tap, but don’t boil – the heat affects the crystal formation) in a glass. Mix it up to dissolve most of the salt (not all will dissolve). Place it in the fridge, and check on it’s growth over a day or two.

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Why does it work? When you dissolve epsom salt in warm water, then leave the solution alone – water begins evaporating, leaving behind the salt which forms into long crystals.

 

Epsom Salt Window Frost

Instructions: Mix 1/3 c. Epsom Salt, 1/2 c. hot water and a couple drops of dish soap (to make clean up easier). Wipe it on glass and examine the next day.

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Why does it work? The crystals form on the glass like frost because it’s a thin layer of liquid, and when the water evaporates, there is not enough water remaining for the salt to remain dissolved – if there were more water (like in the cup), it would eventually grow into crystals.

 

Rock Candy 

Instructions: Boil 1 c. water. Add up to 3 c. sugar a bit at a time to dissolve the sugar (add some coloring if you like). Pour into a jar. Tie a piece or two of string onto a knife, straw, etc., and dangle into the mixture. Check daily (ours definitely stuck to the bottom a bit, so we’d check on it a couple times a day to keep from attaching completely) until you have enough candy to eat!

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Why does it work? Two reasons for this one. This is a super saturated solution – contains more sugar than can stay in as a liquid, so the sugar comes out of the solution. It also uses the same evaporation principle as the salt experiments.

 

Salt and Vinegar Crystals

Instructions: The last crystal recipe we tried was a salt and vinegar recipe – 1 c. hot water, 1.4 c. salt and 2 t. vinegar (food dye, if you like). Put some sponger in a container and put just enough solution to cover the bottom of the container.

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Why does it work? When you dissolve salt in warm water, then leave the solution alone – water begins evaporating, leaving behind the salt which forms into cube-shaped crystals.

Toddler School: Blueberries for Sal

One of my biggest challenges in homeschooling is making sure all three kids are engaged (or at least, not being blatantly ignored) while one is learning. When Dexter was about 1 1/2, he would cry every time we started school with Murphy. He’d climb into Murphy’s seat, so we got him his own desk, but he still wanted to do “school,” too. So, we started toddler school with him. I love the idea of BFIAR – reading one book a week, daily, and doing activities based on the book – but I have a terrible book addiction and didn’t need another curriculum which wanted me to get even MORE books, so we simply use our own library of kid books and Google/Pinterest for inspiration.

Some of the activities we do are Dexter-only while Murph is working on his schoolwork. Other things, Murphy assists me, and for others, Murphy also participates. He’s still in that transitional age where he can find fun in things that are geared toward younger kids, so the activities we can do where I get two or even three kids participating are a huge win. This week we worked on Blueberries for Sal.

The activities we did:

Pretend Blueberry Picking

Bear Masks

Role Playing

Berry Smashing

Making Play Dough

Counting Cards

Frozen Berry Snacks

Line Practice

Scissor Practice

Pie Craft

Blueberry Lacing Card

B Coloring

Berry Basket Craft

Berry Prints

 

Pretend Blueberry Picking

Murphy and I hid blueberry pom-pons around the room for Dexter to find. We did this several times, and then he just ended up counting and playing with them on his own.

 

Bear Masks

I found bear masks for super sale on Oriental Trading a few weeks back, so we happened to have these on hand. Like most OTC crafts, they were peel and stick crafts which took about 15 seconds, but transitioned us nicely into…

 

Role Playing

We acted out Blueberries for Sal and just got our bear on for a while.

 

Berry Smashing

Instructions: 1 part flour + 1 part water (1/2 c. each = 20 coated cotton balls), mix and add food dye (if desired). Coat cotton balls and bake 300F for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Smash. Dexter was allowed to use a hammer for this, though he doesn’t have quite the strength to break through the shell. He’d hit one and they’d go flying, so after I grabbed a photo, I held them in place for him with chopsticks which he had far better success with. It was our first time doing the baked cotton balls, and they were a huge hit with both older boys.

So, one of the reasons we are doing Blueberries for Sal in January and not the more appropriate August is because Murphy is currently reading Sarah, Plain and Tall. Sarah is from Maine, and Blueberries for Sal takes place in Maine; I like to tie in the boys work as much as I can. Because they are so far apart in age and ability, I feel the tie to his current school work allows Murph to participate in some of the younger activities without them seeming so babyish.

Also, bears have nothing to do with Sarah, Plain and Tall – he just got some extra research work because of Blueberries for Sal:)

 

Making Play Dough

Instructions: We used this no-cook recipe.

 

Counting Cards

I made and laminated counting cards, so we rolled blueberries out of our dough (well, Dex did) and tried to correctly count out 1, 2 and 3 blueberries.

Arlo is our climber and desperately wanted to eat Dexter’s play dough, so he was getting it any way possible. And then we just played with play dough for a while.

Meanwhile, Arlo got pretty busy collecting pom-poms, emptying out the bucket and repeating.

 

Frozen Berry Snacks

We do blueberry muffins on a pretty regular basis, so we decided to go with a recipe out of my *ahem* Game of Thrones Cookbook, Iced Blueberries with Sweet Cream for our tie-in snack this week.

 

Line Practice

I know there are about a billion line practice and cutting practice printables out there, but we actually don’t have a color printer. I simply draw practice sheets for Dex on the backs of Murphy’s work, which allows him to have some color, but also saves the printer ink for something that’s slightly more important than a 15 second activity.

 

Scissor Practice

We started with the hand-drawn cutting sheets, but this always devolves into cutting everything in sight. Dex LOVES cutting, so we cut a couple pages worth before we transitioned to the play dough which is significantly less mess to clean up and also has the reusability factor.

 

Pie Craft

We did this awesome blueberry pie craft.

 

Blueberry Lacing Card

As it turns out, blueberries are the easiest lacing cards to make:)Circle cutter, hole punch and some string, and Dex was a lacing machine. Also, that’s the Triforce he’s drawn on himself in permanent Sharpie. Just in case you were wondering.

 

B Coloring

 

Berry Basket Craft

Easy enough – paper weaving, blue card stock and a hole punch, glue stick and a stapled on handle from the side of the basket Arlo edited for us:)

 

Berry Prints

To finish up our week of activities for Blueberries for Sal, we did one of my favorite prints for littles – bubble wrap prints. We simply painted it blue, rest white card stock on top, gently rubbed it and ended up with a great print of blueberries.

Polar Vortex Day 2

After our first day of activity-based school, Murphy looked over at me and said, “Mom, school was really fun today.” Which is both fantastic and sucky – sucky because he’s only said that a handful of times in his life. To be fair, he’s never been to school and doesn’t realize some of the amazing field trips and group activities we do that he loves ARE school for him. At the same time, the more “school-y” schoolwork we do at home went from an initial interest and moderate excitement level to pretty bored, fairly quickly. We’ve had our fair share of tears over schoolwork and threats to go to school in a building, and I realized that as much as I wanted the curriculum I picked for him to work, it wasn’t. I chose wrong, and I think it’s a lesson most of us homeschool families have to learn at some point – when you’re in love with the idea of something and it’s just not working for your kid, you have to let it go.

So, we are continuing on with our quest for more fun in our learning – day two of Polar Vortex Snowmageddon! We woke up, and it was significantly warmer than the day previous (12F, whoo hoo!), but the wind had died down, so we decided we definitely wanted to try to freeze bubbles again. Since I hadn’t had coffee yet, (but mostly because the grownups in our house were super excited for it) we decided to start the day with the Mythbuster’s Star Wars Special. Obviously, it wouldn’t have anything to do with our current Snow Day lessons, but then realized they were going to test the Tauntaun myth! For the thee people on Earth who aren’t giant Star Wars fans, Han shoves Luke into a Tauntaun’s belly to keep him warm on crazy cold Hoth. Which led perfectly into a Snow Day lesson on insulation!

So, for day two of Polar Vortex, we did:

Ice Insulation

Frozen Bubbles

Snow Play

Adaptation

Surface Area Heat Transfer

Heat Transfer in Differing Temperatures

Blubber Insulation

Snow Table

 

Ice Insulation

Instructions: Gather some insulating materials. Place two ice cubes on a tray and build a protective layer around one. Compare their melting times.

Murphy’s hypothesis: “It will trap the warm air in and melt faster.”

We gathered shredded paper, cotton balls, feathers and packing peanuts for our protective layer.

28 seconds in, and we have a nice dome. Murphy predicted the unprotected ice cube would melt in 15 minutes in our 66F home. He watched, intently, for five minutes. By minute 10, he was running laps around the kitchen with Dexter. By 20, he’d lost all interest and I found him and Dexter in an epic lightsaber battle.

Finally, 40 minutes after we put our ice on the table, we could no longer see any remnants of the ice.

So, Murph was pretty surprised he was wrong, having just watched a show where insulation helped something stay warm, but after I mentioned coolers, he instantaneously realized his mistake.

Why does it work? Insulation slows the transfer of heat (heat ALWAYS travels from hot to cold), so it slows the heat of the room to the ice. Air is a terrible conductor of heat, so most of the insulating materials we used trapped air around the ice and slowed the heat of the room to the ice in comparison with the unprotected cube.

 

Frozen Bubbles

Instructions: Blow bubbles in cold weather

Murphy’s hypothesis: “I think we should try hot bubbles so they freeze faster.”

After Tuesday’s hot water to snow experiment, Murph wanted to try hot and cold bubbles, and the hot bubbles definitely got away from us or popped before we had a chance to observe them. The cooler bubbles, however, definitely frosted over, and a couple lasted long enough to observe for a few seconds before shattering. This definitely works better in super cold – ours took nearly 20 seconds to freeze over, which is an incredibly long time when there’s a bubble popping-ready two year old nearby.

Why does it work? A bubble is made of water and soap and will freeze at 32F. The lower the temp, the faster it freezes, but because we’ve blown hot air inside, it will cool and reduce in volume, collapsing the bubble.

 

Snow Break

Since it was no longer -2F and we could tolerate the outdoors, our bubble freezing experiment quickly devolved into a snowball fight…

snow tasting…

 

and snow angels.

 

Arlo Hard at Work

 

Adaptation

Instructions: Get three bowls of water – cold, room temperature and warm. Place a hand each in the cold and warm, hold them there for a few seconds and place them both in the room temperature bowl.

Murphy’s hypothesis: “Are we doing the blubber experiment??” “Focus, bud. What do you think will happen?” “But can we do the blubber experiment again, please, please, please??”

Murph was pretty surprised that the water in the middle felt differently to each hand. He did it once and was satisfied. Dexter decided some water play would be fun and spent a good 20 minutes playing in the different temperatures.

Why does it work? This is an example of adaptation in our temperature receptors. We have both hot and cold receptors that adapt very quickly. When you put your hand in cold (or hot) water, the cold (or hot) receptors in your hand adapt quickly to the temperature change. When you move that hand to another temperature, the cold (or hot) receptors don’t respond very strongly, but the hot (or cold) ones do, thus a perception that the temperature in the other bowl is warmer (or colder) than it actually is.

 

Surface Area Heat Transfer

Instructions: Smash up an ice cube and compare it’s melting time to a whole ice cube.

Murphy’s hypothesis: “That one will melt faster… because of all the surface area.”

Luckily this one melted within two minutes, so we had full attention through the experiment.:)

Why does it work? Heat transfers from hot to cold. So the hot air of the room transfers to the cold exterior of the ice cube, melting it. The rate of heat transfer is directly proportional to the size of the surface area. More surface area = faster melting.

 

Heat Transfer in Differing Temperatures

Instructions: Get two cups of water – one cold or room temperature and one hot. Place an ice cube in each and observe the melting times.

Murphy’s hypothesis: “The hot one will melt faster.”

Why does it work? Heat wants to create equilibrium. So, when two objects are at different temperatures, heat transfers from the warmer object to the cooler object to even out. Heat transfer is directly proportional to temperature difference, so warmer water = ice melts faster.

 

Blubber Insulation

This was not a new experiment for us – we did this last year when studying the arctic, but Murphy loved it and wanted to do it again. Since we were talking heat transfer and insulation and had a bowl of ice water ready, it was a perfect addition to the day.

Instructions: Get a bowl of ice water. Wrap one hand in plastic wrap and cover it in vegetable shortening, with no cracks. Place both hands in water (keep the water level below the top of the blubber) and observe the difference. (obviously remove unprotected hand as soon as it’s bothersome!)

Murphy’s hypothesis: “I know I’ll stay warm!”

Why does it work? A solid fat is an insulator, and your hand is a heat source. The insulator prevents the heat from transferring to the cold water as quickly as it would with a bare hand. A solid fat works better than a liquid fat because the molecules in a solid aren’t flowing around like they do in a liquid, so it’s harder for the heat to transfer.

 

Snow Table

Instructions: We use a wrapping paper plastic container as our sensory table. Today was snow day – Murphy picked out some measuring cups and spoons for the babies to play with. While this is a lot of fun, my two year old immediately turned it into “Snowball fight!” So, it’s probably not a good activity for someone with carpets or who gets stressed out by mess. We definitely made a mess, but it’s a relatively low amount of water, even with a full table of snow to start, so I just mopped it up as we went, and it stayed pretty clean.