quick and simple electrolysis demonstration

My husband has been doing some science demonstrations with the kids recently. Here’s a picture from one of them. He used a 9 volt battery to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. All that was required was adding a bit of magnesium sulfate (Epson salt) to the water and then dropping the battery in. He positioned two test tubes above the electrodes to collect the separated elements. Can you guess from the picture (and the formula of water) which test tube holds which? He held a small candle to the hydrogen tube to hear it pop, and tried to use Continue reading

Monarch release

Our butterflies came out of their chrysalises, all four the same day, despite one having transformed into a chrysalis a full day before the others. It leaves me very curious as to how their communication and processes work. The first to come out was the first to go in, the only male butterfly of our collection though we didn’t know it was male until it came out and we could see the distinctive scent glands on its wings. A second one came out shortly after, and then the male started moving around and in the process touched a third monarch Continue reading

food regulations

A friend on facebook posted a link to this article: Michigan Officials Destroy $5,000.00 worth of Good Organic Food from Family Farm. Besides leaving me wondering whether the inclusion of the “.00” was meant to make the amount appear larger to the quick casual reader, the headline makes me think about a time when I was a teenager, and a bunch of 4-H beef was seized from a butcher’s shop because his license was as a mobile butcher and he had butchered it all on his property instead of the other farmers. There was a big outcry over that because Continue reading

something that might fail: my story of raising monarchs

There is something amazingly about watching monarch butterflies. For a while we’ve been watching the caterpillars grow up on the milkweed plants outside our house. This past few days we’ve had four monarch caterpillars inside our house. I brought them inside because some sort of black death was taking many of the caterpillars outside, and I had been cutting away frantically at the leaves with dead ones, throwing them out so the contagion wouldn’t spread. These four had all just started their fifth instar, the last part of caterpillar life and they were all unfortunate enough to have part of Continue reading

Lesson ideas using Superman comics

As a kid I enjoyed watching Lois and Clark, or at least the first two seasons of it, but I never actually read any Superman comics. It’s only been recently with my kids interested in superheroes that I’ve started to learn more about them. At first I was thrown by the discontinuity of the stories. I tried to link things together looking for a big storyline, until I suddenly realized that like Archie comics, there isn’t one. There are story lines, but not one big single one. Suddenly I could start looking at the different stories for what they are. Continue reading

Nature Study Link-Up

Today I’m co-hosting a blog link-party on the topic of studying nature. I’m curious to see what the different bloggers and hosts post about, because I think there are several different ways to study nature. I’ve seen lesson plans that involve more or less adult guidance and all different amounts of supplies. To some people studying nature means worksheets, crafts and experiments. To others it means watching insects and playing outside. Spring comes and we get lazy about schoolwork here, but we tend to spend a lot of time outside. Then there’s times when we just want to flake out Continue reading

Intelligent Design: money and PR instead of science

The book Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for American’s Soul by Kenneth R. Miller mentions this organization – Discovery Institute – which has a 4 million a year budget to promote their “Intelligent Design” nonsense. In 1998, as they were trying to get funding, a document known as the Wedge Document was written. It included their goals including a five year goal for “one hundred scientific, academic, and technical articles by our fellows.” This hasn’t panned out for them. They can’t write scientific papers because they have no real science. One of their senior fellows admitted in 2004 Continue reading

Frédéric Joliot-Curie

I was reading about Marie Curie last week, and am enjoying now reading about her son-in law, Frédéric Joliot. Many details of his life lend themselves to great discussions with children about radiation, World War II, and sexism. When Irène Curie, daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie, married Frédéric Joliot she was already a published scientist, and she choose to keep her maiden name rather than take on what in her time and place would have been more acceptable: Irène Joliet-Curie (a compromise more celebrating of her maiden identity than many hyphenated names today where the maiden name becomes a Continue reading

learning about Marie Curie and radioactivity

As I was preparing to write that blog post about comic books, there was a day when I asked my husband to grab some more comic books when he goes to the library. One of the books he brought back was called Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. It was from the adult graphic novel section, and it isn’t exactly a comic book. It’s an artistic exploration of the Curie’s life and also of the “fallout” of their discovery of radioactivity. The book tells how Marie and husband met, and how they Continue reading

Homemade Lava-lamps

My kids had a great deal of fun this past week with an old plastic bottle, some vegetable oil, water, food coloring and some antacid tables. The bottle was filled 1/4 of the way full with water, and 3/4 of the way with oil. A few drops of food coloring were added and shaken until they mixed with the water. Then they added an antacid tablet. It sank down into the layer of water and started making colorful bubbles of colored water and carbon dioxide rising to the surface. Next we decided to heat the water up, so my husband Continue reading