Homeschooling Weekly Wrap-Up

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Last week was fun and rather science and art-intensive. We made a model of a lung using a plastic bottle and two balloons. The bottom (red) balloon represents the diaphragm and the blue balloon the lungs. The idea for this came from the book Body (Make it Work! Science) by Andrew Haslam. In general I like the Make it Work! books, but I borrow them from the library and we do maybe one of the projects per book. I don’t think I’d buy any of their books just because we so rarely have the materials to do enough of the projects. This time we attempted two projects. Besides the lungs, we made a model of the heart pumping water between different water-bottles. Ours didn’t work. We never got the seals well working well enough, despite trying multiple sealants. It was fun nonetheless.

I’m reading the book The Violinists Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code and I wanted to share some of it with my children. For some reason mention of the gene Sonic Hedgehog caught my attention, and I found a couple of youtube videos that explained a bit about it.  The children naturally preferred the video that illustrated Sonic Hedgehog as, well, Sonic Hedgehog, but they also were willing to watch the more sensible videos. Shh, as it is called by those that feel the name Sonic Hedgehog too silly a name for a gene that can cause birth defects, is produced by the neural tube cells and disperse outwards where the gradient of shh ends up signalling to cells what type of cell they should become. I thought the idea of gradients interesting so we took napkins and dripped food coloring onto them to watch the coloring spread out. It worked best on wet napkins but eventually transformed into an art project.

From that we had to review what the different cell organella do, and the children went on to build parts of cells out of blocks, curving the cell walls inwards to create vesicles. The conversations we had about the endoplasmic reticulum fit in well with what the children have been learning about DNA and protein formation at the local science center. I want the children to learn science (and everything else) not as something that must be remembered only until the test at the unit end but as a normal part of life.

I am learning science alongside my children. The sonic hedgehog videos mentioned phosphorylation. That’s just one more thing I need to learn about, not just to teach the children but so I can understand more of what my husband does. My seven-year old, upon hearing the word in a video, cried out “hey, dad talks about that all the time!”

Another fascinating thing from The Violinist’s Thumb is the story about how it might have come to pass that humans have less chromosomes than other primates, and about the one human identified who actually has two less than everyone else. I’m trying to figure out how to share that story with my children… perhaps making paper chromosomes? I’m not sure yet.

What else did we do this week? We went outside and fed some ants and examined them, as best we could, under magnifying glasses.

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