Summer Fun

The first week of summer vacation has gone by quickly. We had no schedule but managed to get to the pool several times, eat at new and fun places along the coast, meet up with friends for some ‘girlie time’, and have a date with my hubby! I say we have done pretty well so far.

I was evaluating activities for the boys. I don’t want then to rely on me to schedule their every move and we have had a couple of moments where I have had to enforce the “Go out to play on your own without having to have Mommy or Daddy create interesting learning moments that will enrich your lives forever and create amazing citizens and future Steve Jobs for the world“….you know what I mean.

I noticed just how much we engage in growing, creating or experimenting. Almost all the most recent ‘projects’ are based on watching and growing. Take for instance this:

Volcano from soda

While the lumps of plastic may look like a grand old waste of time, they are actually tubes ready for eruptions of soda as we create geysers with Mentos mints. The boys are very excited to do the project and I feel bad (for the first time ever) that I don’t have soda in the house. Once I finally remember to pick some up (soda is never on our shopping list), we will have orange red, brown and green sticky liquids erupting all over! Best use of soda in my opinion. Check here for my alternatives on the stuff my kids drink. I’ll post on the actual event when it happens ūüôā

Button has added to his collection of pets again. In addition to his nine fish, who are doing very well indeed despite our completely novice skills with a moderately high maintenance tank, he now has five caterpillars. He sent off for them as we have a butterfly garden net thingy (no idea what it is really called) where one can watch the life-cycle of a butterfly. So far we have 5 rather fat caterpillars and we watch, wait and journal about their metamorphosis into the beautiful creatures we will release as soon as they become said beauties.

Growing Butterflies

Finally, Nana is over from England for the next few weeks and she has treated the boys to a very cool gift…

Venus Fly Trap grow

The boys are going to grow their own Venus Fly traps from scratch! I’m delighted because they seen pretty hardy plants (I do NOT have a green thumb) and the directions are so child friendly, the terrarium was set up without any help from me…I love fostering independence.

Fly trap terrarium

So we are all set for summer observations! Those journals are going to be filled with so much information. So far, no one has complained about not having anything to write each day. I’m a happy mommy and the boys are happily engaged. But right now, we’re off to the pool for some outdoor fun!

Snow Day Activity – Terrarium

The snow has finally arrived in our town. ¬†Peanut and Button were chomping at the bit to go sledding, I had been scrambling to find where I “safely put away” the snow gear, and the kids got bored! ¬†While the snow was really heavy, and given Button has only recently been cleared for snow play by his doctors, I decided to give them an activity to do to take their mind off the excitement of going outside to hurl themselves down hills.

Today became Terrarium Day! ¬†I had been planning on creating one with the children eventually, and now was the perfect time. ¬†A terrarium is a container, usually glass or plastic that recreates an environment or habitat for plants or small creatures. ¬†We made a closed terrarium today, and we began by posing a question to the boys: “Do you think a plant will survive if we close up the container and never water it? ¬†This caused a prolonged debate over what was going to happen to the plant, including Button’s argument that it was cruel to kill a plant just to see what will happen. ¬†I was rather proud that he cared!

We finally formed a hypothesis. ¬†The plant needed water to survive. ¬†Peanut, having already studied the water cycle did think that condensation might lead to some kind of precipitation, but he didn’t quite know why it would happen without water being added. ¬†So I guess the hypothesis was that the plant was going to live…somehow, but no one knew why.

How to build the terrarium:

1.  Select a plastic or glass container Рwe used a plastic tub with a lid that sealed tight.  The container should be transparent.

2. Place pebbles at the bottom of the container Рthis helps drainage.  Course sand could be used too but we had a nice collection of pebbles from the beach that we could use.  Keep pebbles fairly small.

3. Place soil on top Рwe used potting soil that I had in the garage.  We are not going fancy, but there are some special soils if you are growing plants like cactus.

4. Carefully add the plant – you may want to use seeds but we started with a small plant. We used Golden Pothos which is easy to pick up in any garden store. ¬†It is supposed to be pretty hardy too…a bonus!

5. Arrangement and Ornaments – given more time, we might have had a variety of plants, a bigger container and some ornaments to adorn our terrarium. ¬†Given that I threw this activity together in a flash, we had what was on hand (the plant came from a neighbor who was growing the plant in her house), we were going more for the science experiment look then a display. ¬†(That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)

Some, more advanced and less thrown together terrariums also include a layer of activated charcoal (available from any store selling aquarium supplies, as it helps filter the air.  Also a layer of Spaghnum Moss prevents the soil sinking down into the pebbles.  We had neither but, based on my attempt at this in my classroom, it should still work.
The final result was a sealed container, a little plant looking hopefully up at the boys, almost pleading to make it all work, and two kids just jumping to find out what was going to happen.  We created a quick data collection chart so we can observe the plant and the conditions inside the terrarium over the next week.  We then decided on a good location for our experiment:  the family room windowsill.  Now we just watch and wait.
What kind of learning experiences have you thrown together in a snap which have worked out successfully? ¬†Are there any projects you loved which may take more planning but are totally worth it? ¬†Let’s share some sanity savers for these cold months ahead!