April 16, 2014
Learning Homeschool Science Through Photography
is just one of the many intriguing articles in Homeschool.com’s latest e-Magazine, Science Anyone? It’s certainly worth a read!
This article was written by Robert Krampf
One of the most common questions that I get from homeschoolers is, “What one piece of scientific equipment would be the best investment for our science studies?”
Let me start by saying that I have lots of toys…I mean pieces of scientific equipment. The list includes several microscopes, a telescope, a geiger counter, UV lights, lasers, Tesla coils, Van de Graaff generators, cabinets full of chemicals, a human skeleton (reproduction), infrared thermometers, and those are just the things I can easily see as I look around my office. Any of them can easily lead to hours and hours of scientific exploration and discovery, but if I had to pick the one piece of scientific equipment that I use the most, learn the most from, and that has had the biggest impact on my understanding of science, the decision is easy. My camera.
A camera? How can a camera be a piece of scientific equipment? Here are just a few of the scientific uses that I find for my camera.
Imagine that you walk out into your backyard, and hear an unusual bird song. Looking around, you spot a small, brown warbler singing in a nearby bush. You get a quick look through your binoculars, and then it flies away. You rush to your bird books, and quickly realize that there are a LOT of small, brown warblers. Was there a white marking just above the eye? How many bars were on the wing? How good is your memory?
Now imagine the same situation with your camera. In those same few seconds, you can take several photos. Even if they are not beautiful, crystal clear pictures, they usually have enough detail to let you make an accurate identification.
I use my camera for identifying many things besides birds. Photographs of wildflowers are much easier to identify than the wilted remains of a flower collected on a long hike. Photographs of insects also let me identify the plant they were eating, which is often a valuable clue in identification. On a hike with my camera, I can identify dozens of plants, animals, and fungi without collecting a single specimen. Even better, I have documentation of my sightings. That can be especially useful if you see something rare or unusual.
Once you start identifying things, the next step is to put them into a collection. When I was in school, we had to make an insect collection. That involved collecting one hundred kinds of insects, killing them, identifying them, and pinning them on a board with a label. While we learned some about the insects, this was far from ideal. Many students are disturbed by having to kill the insects. Once the insects were dead, the colors often faded and soft bodies shriveled. That makes identification difficult. The final result was a box of dried up insects, often missing body parts that was thrown away when it was time to move on to the next topic in science.
Digital collections have tremendous advantages. You don’t have to kill the insect. Your photographs have the true colors of the living creature, usually in the environment where it was found. If you are patient and observant, you can often capture the same insect at different stages in its life, following it from larva to adult.
Your digital collection does not have to stop at insects. I have digital collections of local plants, birds, mammals, snakes, lizards, spiders, clouds, weather, fossils, rock structures, protozoa (taken through my microscope), and animal tracks, just to name a few.
You can learn a tremendous about of science by keeping a science journal. My wife keeps our garden journal, recording when new birds show up, when different flowers bloom, etc. Even if you don’t keep a written record, you can use your digital collections as a science journal, thanks to something called metadata.
If you take digital photos, you probably use software to keep track of all the pictures. If you dig around in that software, you should be able to find an option to show you the metadata for each photograph. Metadata is a wonderful array of information that your camera stores inside each photograph. The metadata tells you what the camera settings were, but it also tells you the date and time when the photograph was taken. The metadata from my collections helps me keep track of everything from when specific plants bloom to when migratory birds come through. I can look at the metadata from all my photographs of Rufous hummingbirds and get an excellent record of when these birds migrate into our area, and when they leave each year.
More and more digital cameras, especially the cameras in cell phones record GPS locations in the metadata, making it incredibly easy to tell exactly where a photograph was taken. I find this especially useful for geology. One quick photo lets me easily keep track of the exact location of new fossil or mineral sites.
Probably the best part of scientific photography is that you see so much more. A short hike that would take most people thirty minutes can often take me several hours when I am hiking with my camera. I may stop to photograph a new flower, and notice some aphids feeding on the plant. Getting closer, I might see ants moving among the aphids. As I move to photograph them, I might find an unusual mushroom growing nearby, lichens growing on a rock, or footprints from a raccoon. One discovery leads to another and another and another. It is not unusual for me to spend an hour in one spot, photographing things that I never would have noticed without my camera.
Robert Krampf, also known as The Happy Scientist, has spent the past forty years helping people see that science can be exciting and understandable. He and his wife Nancy live in southwest Utah. His website (http://thehappyscientist.com) has a wide variety of videos, experiments, the Science Photo of the Day, and many other science resources. He uses a variety of cameras, ranging from a Nikon D7000 to the camera in his phone.
April 15, 2014
Adding DIY Projects to Your Homeschool Science
is just one of the articles in Homeschool.com’s latest e-Magazine. You might want to check it out! :)
Finding inspiration, planning a project, making the project, and sharing what you’ve made with your friends is a blast!
If you think about it, tackling a DIY project is quite literally project-based learning!
And adding DIY projects to your Science curriculum – it’s a GREAT combination.
So, in the spirit of DIY education and home learning, here are some links to some great do-it-at-home science projects:
What are you interested in? Just enter your search words!
Instructables.com is a place for people to share what they make. Billed as the world’s largest show and tell, the site has more than 100,000 DIY projects ranging from cupcakes to robots (and also robotic cupcakes.) Plus, Instructables.com offers many fun contests .
April 14, 2014
How to Teach Science during Breakfast… Soggy Cereal Science
This is just one of the FANTASTIC and INTERESTING articles in Homeschool.com’s latest e-Magazine.
It always amazes me to see so many people think they need expensive equipment to teach the basics of science. Newton did not need a digital scale to study the effects of gravity and Einstein did not even use a calculator to construct his famous equation – E=mc2.
In fact, many of the historical giants of science never had access to expensive equipment and used nothing more than a pencil and some paper. It was ideas that made their science come alive.
And you can do that too! All you need is a curious mind and the following four concepts that will change the way you look at the natural world:
- Atoms: Everything is made of atoms.
- Density: The amount of atoms within a specific area of an object.
- Diffusion: Areas with lots of atoms tend to move to areas with fewer atoms.
- LawofConservation: Atoms cannot be created or destroyed, only rearranged.
These four simple concepts can be easily applied to nearly every scientific explanation that you encounter. Let me prove this to you over a bowl of cereal. Go grab a box of Cap’n Crunch or Cheerios and let’s get to work!
Atoms for breakfast
First, you should know by now that everything within a bowl of cereal is made up of atoms. The bowl, spoon, milk, and cereal itself are all made up of atoms. Within each solid piece of cereal you may find billions of atoms, all vibrating against each other. That’s right! All atoms within a solid, even the ones that bind together to make Corn Flakes, are moving a little bit.
Atoms within liquids act a little differently – they move around a lot faster because they contain a lot more energy.
Density Dilemma or “Why does my cereal sink so quickly?”
To begin with, what happens when you pour your milk over a bowl of cereal – does the cereal sink or float? It probably floats! But why?
Well, if you compare a spoonful of milk with a spoonful of dry cereal, the number of atoms within the milk would be far greater than those of the cereal. This is because the density of the cereal is less than the density of the milk. When you mix two objects together of different densities, the one with the lower density floats.
Quick!!! Eat your cereal before diffusion takes over!
You can thank diffusion for the unfortunate (and soggy) end for those last few pieces of cereal in your bowl. This squishy transformation takes place when the huge amount of fast-moving atoms inside the milk slams through the vibrating atoms within the cereal. Simply put, the atoms within the milk diffuse into the atoms within the cereal.
And with all the milk being absorbed, it quickly increases the density of the cereal. This is the reason why your cereal sinks to the bottom of the bowl as a spongy pile of goo.
Now if you choose a more sugary cereal you may have a few more minutes until your bowl becomes filled with a dissolved gummy slime. Why? It takes a little longer for the milk to diffuse into the cereal because it has to dissolve the sugary coating first.
That’s why your Cap’n Crunch will float on top of your milk a little longer than your Cheerios!
You can’t break the Law at the breakfast table…
All those soggy chunks of cereal may sink to the bottom of the bowl, but they cannot disappear after soaking all day in the sink. They might break apart and change shape, but your soggy Corn Flakes will never lose a single atom. Don’t forget the Law of Conservation – atoms cannot be created or destroyed, only rearranged into new structures.
Written by Scott McQuerry. During the day, Scott (aka – Mr.Q) is your average, everyday high school science teacher humbly going about teaching the masses for the past decade or so. He loves hearing from families who use his Classic Science Curriculum and looks forward to providing many more resources in the years to come. Check him out at The Lab of Mr.Q – www.eequalsmcq.com
April 11, 2014
Rock Nature Study is just one of the GREAT articles in Homeschool.com’s lastest e-Magazine, entitled Science Anyone?
It is written by Kathy Balman–she actually has TWO articles in this edition!
Do you have a little geologist? My kids are fascinated by rocks. They have jars and containers full of them. We recently moved into a house with a very nice backyard. In the back corner of the yard is a retaining ditch which the children have turned into their personal excavation site. They don’t find anything too exciting, but they have tons of fun digging in the GA clay finding large pieces of quartz and granite (the two most common rocks in GA). Recently during a cold, rainy day we decided to explore the children’s rock collections more closely. Armed with some of the helpful resources below, our rock collections and helpful tools (magnifying glass, nail, penny, piece of glass, measuring tape, and a magnet) we were ready to get to work. We had lots of fun and covered science, history, geography, math, reading and writing in 2 hrs.
Here are 10 awesome resources to help you conduct you own rock study!
1) I made this Rock Observation Journal page for my children which you can grab for FREE
2) Rock treasure box idea and free printable from Handbook of Nature Study
3) Types of Rocks & Rocks Cycle Video for Kids by makemegenius.com on YouTube
4) Fun rock craft idea
5) History Scribe – Rocks and Minerals on CurrClick
6) The Students Elements of Geology and Geology and Minerals Unit Study (Kindle)
7) Rocks and Minerals Unit Study from Homeschool Den
8) Interactives Rock Cycle
9) Geology.com – great website for investigating rock and mineral types
10) Rock lapbook
Kathy Balman quit her full time job in July 2011 to become a stay at home/homeschool mom to her two children. Besides being a full time mother she is also a devoted wife, blogger and a social media manager. She lives in Georgia just north of the hustling and bustling city of Atlanta. When she is not tending to children she enjoys blogging, scrapbooking, hiking, geocaching, arts/crafts, traveling and watching movies. Read more about her homeschool journey on her blog, http://www.kathysclutteredmind.com.
April 10, 2014
Get Outdoors and Hands-On with Science
is just one of the GREAT articles in Homeschool.com’s newest e-Magazine entitled Science Anyone?
Springtime is a great time of year to take learning outside. Your children will be itching to get out, and you can build their science skills by helping them observe nature the way scientists do.
Have you ever seen a young child get down on the ground to see ants marching into their hill or heard them squeal with delight at the sensation of cool mud squishing between bare toes? Children are great observers, but they may not connect their own explorations with the work scientists do.
Help your children make the connection by taking a nature walk. As they explore, encourage your children to use their senses of smell, hearing, sight, and touch to observe changes in springtime. Feel the mud. Listen to the birds. Look at the bright green of new leaves. Smell a lilac or an apple blossom. Then, talk about what your senses helped you discover.
Ecologists, botanists, and other scientists who spend time in nature keep field logs to help them remember their observations over time. Before your second nature walk, make or find a field log. It can be a special notebook, pages on a clipboard, or simply a few sheets of blank paper folded and stapled along the crease.
When your field logs are ready, take a plant walk. Have children date each page as they work. Use words and sketches to record observations. If the children’s language skills outpace their writing skills, let them dictate observations to you. Remind children that field logs are a tool to help them remember. Entries don’t have to be perfect. The words don’t have to be in sentences. The sketches don’t have to be masterpieces. They’re simply a way to remember what was seen and observed.
Here are some tips for making great entries in a field log:
Use Adjectives. Adjectives help describe the particulars of what students are observing. A new leaf may be “yellow-green” or “fuzzy.” A tree may be “tall and straight” or “short and bent.” Its bark may be “rough” or “peeling.” These adjectives help distinguish one plant from others.
Make Comparisons. Encourage your children to make comparisons as a way to give clear and memorable details about the plants they see. A seedling might have leaves that are “as small as the nail on my pinky.” A tree might be “taller than a house.” A flower might be “whiter than the snow.” With each comparison, your children will be strengthening both their observation and language skills.
Sketch what you see. Use some pages in the field log for sketching. It’s often easier to convey the shape of a leaf or the configuration of branches by simply sketching them. Ecologists and botanists use sketches as an important part of their field logs.
Collect samples. Many botanists collect samples of the plants they’re studying and press them in their field logs to examine in greater detail later. Before children start collecting, make sure they understand that samples should be taken only from plants that are found in abundance. Since plants get their nourishment through their leaves, these must be collected sparingly to allow plants to survive.
Compare observations over time. Take field logs along for walks once a week or more. It’s a great way to compare the changes in plants that take place over time. Compare leaf size on one bush or tree over the course of several weeks. Measure a seedling each day or each week to note its growth. Observing and recording will help your children learn about plants while developing great science skills!
Children can build strong science skills from a young age by learning to think like scientists.
In the Science4Us.com K-2 science curriculum, young learners are encouraged to build a science foundation through a combination of interactive, online learning activities, offline resources and hands-on activities. Look for more fun science activities at Science4Us.com.
April 9, 2014
Brightstorm is celebrating its 6th year anniversary by inviting you to sign up for a free 1 day trial to its site. Over the years, Brightstorm has done an excellent job of meeting both parents’ and students’ demands for a better educational website and it looks forward to continuing to do so in the years to come.
What has allowed Brightstorm to remain ahead of the curve in online education is its commitment to hiring the most talented educators in the country and creating high-quality videos of them teaching.
Because all their video lessons are specifically designed to help students improve their depth and breadth of high school subjects, Brightstorm has become a great resource for homeschooling families.
Some of the many reasons for the company’s widespread popularity include:
- Over 3,500 video lessons in math, science, English, and test prep
- Mobile-friendly site that lets you study from your smartphone or tablet
- Proven by millions of students and thousands of teachers
With a well-structured homeschool program and the help of Brightstorm, there’s no limit to the success that a child can achieve.
And with the growing number of homeschooled kids going to college, Brightstorm’s services have never been more important. In addition to videos that address math and science, Brightstorm also offers in-depth video lessons of popular college entrance exams such as the SAT and the ACT.
Becoming a Brightstorm member is easy and affordable. You can pay as little as $19.99 a month when you subscribe for a year or you can pay on a month-to-month basis for only $29.99. It’s a great bargain any way you slice it.
Sign up for your free 1 day trial with Brightstorm now. Also, if you subscribe to Brightstorm BEFORE the end of your free trial, you get 20% off your first month!
April 8, 2014
I just read a great book from Compendium Incorporated–www.live-inspired.com. I’m a big fan of their books, including Tickle Monster, Boogie Monster, I Love Monkey, Care for Our World, and Grandma is a Superhero. ALL of these titles have made our Holiday Gift Guides!
Their newest illustrated children’s book, What Do You Do With an Idea? is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, the idea comes to life and opens the door to a world full of color and depth with endless possibilities–this one idea changes the world!
What Do You Do With an Idea? is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed too big, too odd,or too difficult.
It’s a great book.
But I’m biased – I like ALL their books! :)
April 7, 2014
Boardshare ™ is an unlimited (you can have 15 or more boards going at the same time—so there is no need to erase a board), interactive whiteboard that you can use anywhere, and for almost any purpose. It is a really great device.
- transforms any hard surface or LED/LCD TV into a virtual, interactive whiteboard
- this makes it easy to present your educational materials on a large screen surface
- it lets you create hundreds of pages of drawings and documents and toggle among them (this means you never run out of room and you don’t need to erase a board—this is one of the coolest aspects of this device!)
- it lets you open/display any existing documents on your computer (only much bigger-and lets everyone see them easily—great for homeschool and co-op teaching, and for meetings too)
- it lets you display web pages from your computer (only much bigger and lets everyone see them—great for homeschool and co-op teaching, and for meetings too)
- works with interactive education software (again, only much bigger and lets everyone see—great for any and all homeschooling endeavors)
- allows users to annotate on any screenshot, whether it is a blank digital whiteboard page, a webpage or an existing computer document, such as a PDF, a spreadsheet or a word processing file (this is really cool)
- it lets you save your whiteboard work on your computer and digitally share it with others or work on it later—this is by far my favorite aspect of the device. Great for saving important info, and sharing it with those that aren’t good note takers. You can just e-mail or print out work that was created in a meeting/class
- minimalizes the need for class or meeting handouts due to the above
- it lets you interact in real-time with remote teams using existing web conferencing tools—great for educational and work situations
- is portable so you can move from one location to another and create a virtual intelligent whiteboard almost anywhere
You can see a video of Boardshare™ here
Other interesting aspects of the device—
- it offers an array of tools, including virtual pens, erasers, highlighters, and colors—all fun, and easy to use
- the digital stylus is a writing tool and it also works just like a mouse
- the wand is an extra—and very nice to have, especially if teaching groups, or using in a work environment.
As mentioned above, the Boardshare device is small and portable—which is nice—but I did have to do the following:
- install Boardshare to mycomputer
- download Microsoft .NET framework to my computer
- get a projector
- purchase a cord to connect Boardshare to the projector
There is a GREAT video here that walks you through the set up process. This video is very helpful, and should be watched. All of the set-up is worth it, the first time you use Boardshare and you realize you can capture, store and distribute all your work.
To use a real-life work example—
- Our conference room is only big enough for three white boards—with this device, you can have 100 boards or more!
- Often during a meeting, we fill all three whiteboards and have to erase one to keep going. So we ask everyone if they have the info they need written down before we proceed. Sometimes we take a picture of the board with our phones before we erase. Sometimes we forget. As you can imagine, a white board has been erased once or twice, that we wish we could have back. “Did you get that?” “No—did you?” With this device, you no longer have to erase a board to make room for new ideas or more to-do lists. You just “make” a new one—and it’s easy peasy. No more erasing something REALLY important by mistake!
- And that person that NEVER takes notes, that should—no problem! We can e-mail the white board notes to him!
I can certainly see how this would be a great device for homeschooling, co-op classes, church classes and more. Because really, this device is SUPER!
April 4, 2014
When I was notified that Rosetta Stone® wanted me to review a product, I admit, I panicked a bit—as I don’t speak a foreign language, and I thought having that knowledge would be helpful in any Rosetta Stone review. Imagine my surprise when I found out the product is in ENGLISH—and is a reading program for kids Pre-K-5th Grade.
That sounds GREAT!
The Rosetta Stone® Reading for Homeschool product is a web-based reading program that provides instruction, targeted practice, immediate corrective feedback, multiple levels of scaffolding, and personalized learning paths (homeschoolers love personalized learning paths!) required for students to learn to read/develop reading skills. Rosetta Stone® Reading for Homeschool is a version of Lexia Reading Core5 (in case you didn’t know, Lexia Learning Systems LLC, is a Rosetta Stone Company) and is adapted for home use.
With this program, students work independently to develop reading skills in a structured, sequential manner with a focus on foundational skills that develop automaticity and fluency, listening and reading comprehension, and vocabulary.
If a student struggles with a particular skill, the program automatically reduces the complexity of the task, and provides scaffolded support on the specific skill or task the student is having difficulty with. Depending on the skill, and the student’s success with the skill, learning might encompass three steps: Standard, Guided Practice and Instruction:
- The standard step is composed of on-grade level material. All activities require the student to be at least 90% accurate at this step in order to advance to subsequent units.
- The practice step is a scaffolded version of the standard step. It removes a level of complexity by simplifying the task or providing support to help the student.
- Explicit instruction on the particular skill or content is the last step. Students are asked to apply the rule/skill by completing a simpler version of the task.
This scaffolding process individualizes the learning and instruction for the student.
The program includes Instructional Materials (Lexia Lessons® are scripted lesson plans for teachers/parents to print and use with students who are struggling with activities); Practice Materials (Lexia Skill Builders® are offline activities for students to use to reinforce and extend the skills they have mastered); as well as Training Materials (including how-to tutorials).
Because explicit instruction is only provided when needed, the program allows kids who have mastered skills to move quickly through units and move onto more advanced skills.
Parents receive data-driven action plans and reports (progress, usage, and skills reports)—again, unique to each student—that are easy to interpret and that can be used to drive individual instruction.
You can see a demo of the product here – just scroll down the page a bit.
Lexia Reading Core5 is available on:
The system requirements can be found here.
The program is aligned to the Common Core, but that makes sure you meet the minimum requirements….and allows you to surpass them as well. And the program lets you focus on instruction—without having to stop and test your kids—because it uses norm-referenced, embedded assessment.
I went through and tried a number of lessons in a number of grades. For example, in Grade 1 – Hard and Soft Sound of the Letters C and G—I kept making mistakes (on purpose). I liked how the program corrected me, how it went into more and more detail the more mistakes I made. I was really making a lot of mistakes, yet, there was no frustration….no exasperation, no “Why aren’t you getting this?!”—just more and more detail until the program knew I had the concept down pat.
As I was worked through 5th Grade Complex Analogies, every time I answered correctly, a bee flew just a ways, and flowers bloomed—letting me know I made the correct answer. The first time it happened I laughed. Then I wanted to make the bee fly. The humor of this didn’t escape me—I’m way beyond the 5th Grade—but I was motivated by the graphics. I certainly imagine kids would be as well.
So, if you’re looking for an online reading program, this is certainly worth a look-see! I certainly liked it!
April 3, 2014
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Birdhouses: Pick in Accordance to Bird’s Habitat
Ask any birdwatcher and he or she will tell you that the first and foremost thing that matters while building or buying a birdhouse is to pick one that fits not just the birds’ needs, but also their behaviors. The best thing to do before purchasing one is to study about their behavior and to particularly do research on the types of habitats that different bird species stay in. An owl, for example, looks for the oldest of oak trees to build his nest in. Similarly, a sparrow stays in platform My Spy birdhouses that are made out of wood.
Those people who live by the countryside are particularly blessed because they are able to enjoy the chirping of the birds every day. If you love listening to birds and watching them leave as well as return to their nests, you should consider getting a birdhouse. This way, you will be able to observe them even more closely. Watching birds can be more fun than listening to them sing. That said, even if you live in a developed city, you can try your luck at attracting a few species of birds.
Your chances of doing so are higher if you have a garden or backyard at home. Birds pick their habitats very wisely. If they need water to swim and bathe in, they will build a nest on a tree that is located near a lake or pond. Therefore, when placing a birdhouse, think about the needs of the birds. Replicate the conditions of their natural habitat and make a nesting haven for them, instead of merely building them a home.
SOME IDEAS THAT MIGHT HELP
Are you planning to make the birdhouse by yourself? Well, there are innumerable things that you can collect from your own home to make a fantastic home for the birds. Some of the ideas for creating a birdhouse are mentioned as follows:
- Have a board game at home that you don’t bother to play now because you have more interesting versions of the same online? Why don’t you glue these board games together into a thickness enough to build the walls of a bird’s house?
- If you think that the birdhouse that you have made looks a bit shabby and untidy from the outside, take some soothing colors and paint the birdhouse. But remember that you must use only organic paints to paint the birdhouse. Also, do not paint the inside walls of the birdhouse.
- You can use a simple plank of wood, something that you used to paint on, as a material to make a birdhouse. Make a flat, open birdhouse out of this flat board of wood. Decorate it the way you like. The most important thing, however, is to provide something for the birds to perch on.
See to it that wherever you place the birdhouse that there is a complete arrangement for food and water. The area where you place the wooden birdhouse must not be completely deserted, yet should be remote and safe.
About My Spy BirdHouse
As the name suggests, My Spy Birdhouse is an intelligently manufactured bird house that allows you to spy or keep a watch on the tiny birds through a two way mirror. One of the special features of this product is a ‘Do Not Disturb’ curtain that can be placed over the window. To read more about this product, you can visit www.myspybirdhouse.com. There is a 30-day money back guarantee.