Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Elements Book

We have enjoyed a poster of the elements we bought which was made by Theodore Gray. He has now published a book, too, and it looks great! Alex and I have enjoyed this video.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beautiful Moths in Black & White

I have come across 3 incredible black & white moths in the past couple of weeks. I found 2 of these in a few days where Alex takes weekly classes.

It is a Giant Leopard Moth. Great name, huh? As a caterpillar, he is a "wooly bear" which should never be touched as their bristles can break off and cause a rash.

And, this one is SO gorgeous!!! I think it might be a type of ermine moth, but I'm not sure. His legs& antennae are incredible! Hopefully, you can enlarge this one.

Recent School For Us

I've kind of been blogging sporadically lately. And, I decided not to keep a separate blog for nature, so I just imported those posts onto this blog. Which, by the way, was really easy to do! We're now in our 5th week of school and things are going pretty smoothly.

We used some of Jimmie's ideas for math and worked on prime numbers by making a Sieve of Eratosthenes.

We are also currently using a new math curriculum that is online. I just print it out! I enjoyed this exercise. Using these numbers, 4, 3, 2, 0, 0, & 0, Alex was supposed to make 2 different numbers that met certain criteria. For example, she was to make two 6-digit numbers that were divisible by 100. Or, two 6-digit numbers that were divisible by 10 but NOT 100. I love how this program is really making Alex think!

Here is another activity we did in math today. The exercise was about plotting on a Cartesian coordinate, which Alex is actually pretty good at. But, the exercise had students in their desks stand up if they were seated in (1, 3) for example. Well, we set up a BUNCH of WebKinz and then Alex had to tell me which animal was at a certain location. She made up a 2nd game where we threw a WebKinz and at the "class" and had to tell what location that WebKinz was at. If we got it right, that WebKinz went in our pile. We had a lot of fun.


Here's a few more items we added to our Mystery of History timeline.


Here's a project Alex did for one of her "outside" classes. They are using Story of the World 1. They were to use heiroglyphics or cuneiform and remove some words from a famous saying and replace them with one of these forms of writing. I like the quote Alex used: "They are able because they think they are able" by Virgil.

And, here's a little science Body Bingo game we printed out from Ellen J McHenry's Basement Workshop. She has some GREAT free products to download. And, she has some great looking products for sale, too!

Family Nature Explore Club at Sims Bayou

We went to the Family Nature Explore Club's first monthly meeting this month. We had a great time!

Here's the cover of the scrapbook Alex made while we were there.

a growing pumpking

the guide said this was the last Golden Orb Weaver they've been seeing...I was surprised to see 3 baby spiders in this photo when I looked at it on the computer!

They had a lady there who was working on tagging hummingbirds. She had a cage on 2 feeders. Unfortunately, a male kept chasing them all away. So, she put up the mist net, but he just sat on top of it!
a gourd growing on a vine

The lady did end up catching 2 sparrows, though. I was surprised at how calm they were!

Alex holding the rooster, Scooter! He was an amazingly friendly rooster.

Me with Scooter.

We had a brief lesson on how to use binoculars and then went on a bird walk. We saw quite a few birds. And, a few of us saw a hawk carrying something BIG... we think it was a squirrel!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day at the Museum

On Friday, we went on a field trip with one of our homeschool groups. We went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and  saw the film Animalopolis (very funny), toured the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, and went through the insect and butterfly areas of the museum.

a reproduction of one of the warriors

Alex by some of the warriors in the gift area -you can see how they are in different positions. They also each have a different face!

The guard at the end of the tour explained to our kids that the warriors were actually brightly painted! The color has been fading as they dig up the warriors. However, MOST of the warriors are still buried and they've now found a way to preserve the paint in the future.

Here's a poster about Forensic Entomology that I shared more about  on my new nature blog,

Alex and the other children LOVED playing this insect quiz game. We could hardly get them away!
(The grownups, too.)
 There were LOTS of butterflies out this day. They were so beautiful and it was so peaceful.

I was surprised to find this beautiful millipede AND a toad! One of the volunteers was concerned, too, but when he asked another volunteer he was told they sometimes allow "other" creatures in the butterly habitat to keep the ant population in check.

I really enjoyed talking with this volunteer.

Here's the walking stick he was holding.

And, this reminds me of our nature journals! It says "Before photography, entomologists drew their subjects."
I mentioned on my other blog that if I ever go back to college, I want to be an entomologist. I just find insects so fascinating and wish I would have realized that when I was younger! But, I'm enjoying them now.

Who Dung It? and Fascinating Scat Fact

On Saturday, Alex & I went to the Sims Bayou Nature Center as they kicked off their Family Days. They will be having a Family Nature Day one Saturday a month during the school year and we're excited about it! 

One of the things we did was play a fun game called "Who DUNG it?" They actually had frozen animal & insect scat for the kids to identify!!! Alex got called up to guess this dung. She'd actually seen the lady take a bite of this one (!) and had guessed it was a brownie (because she'd seen brownie scat before), but this looked different. She wasn't sure what it was.

But, it turned out to be chocolate dung! (And, yes it was yummy... it even had some kind of berry in it! I will try to get the recipe.) We even learned some fascinating scat facts like:
  • Koala scat actually smells good... because all they eat is eukalyptus!
  • Mistle toe makes scat very sticky... so sticky that an animal will have to wipe on a tree... which is what the mistle toe needs to grow on a tree where it wants to be!
  • The largest scat in the world is from the blue whale. (Alex got this question right!)
  • Some animals, such as rabbits and rodents, have to eat their own (or their parent's) scat. This is because the plants they eat are so hard to digest efficiently, that they must digest it twice!
  • Some kind of insect (a fly) actually doesn't ever produce dung! It only lives a day. So, the book "Everybody Poops" is a little deceptive.
I wish I could remember more of the facts, but I did request the book Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable by Davies which the leaders used. It looks fascinating! And, it is a fascinating topic!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Forensic Entomology

We went on a musuem field trip Friday and I "discovered" a new field... forensic entomology. Have you heard of it? Did you know that insects could help solve crimes? Since different types of insects visit a decaying body at different times, scientists are able to find out how long a body has been dead by analyzing the insects that are present!

The above sign reads, "The first recorded instance of using insects to solve a crime was in 1235 AD China. A farmer was brutally hacked to death with a sharp instrument. The village head assembled all the local farmers, and asked them to lay their sickles on the ground. Flies clustered on one side of the sickles, attracted by invisible remnants of flesh and dried blood. In the face of this evidence, the owner of the sickle confessed to the murder."

This sign talks about the sequence of what insects come to a corpse - from blow flies to flesh flies to cheese flies. Yes, I know this is pretty gross, but isn't it fascinating, too? (By the way, if I ever return to college, I plan on becoming an entomologist!)
I don't think my daughter would be interested, but I found this neat activity for older kids called "What the Blowfly Saw". It gives clues and you are to figure out how long ago a man died. Another lesson plan, Entomology in Action, lets students help solve a case from 1986. (I haven't completed either activity, so I'd recommend you make sure these are appropriate for your child!)

Bird's Nest & Other Mushrooms in Our Backyard

I've seen these bird's nest mushrooms before, but not in our backyard! They are so tiny...less than a quarter of an inch wide. I love how it looks like they have tiny eggs in the nests.

I was once again surprised when I downloaded my photos. I realized that these little mushrooms were bird's nests, too... but most of them are still "covered!" The "eggs" are actually puffball-like packets of spores called peridioles. The nests are "splash cups" and, are scattered when raindrops hit them. I found some information about these mushrooms at American Mushrooms.

I'm not good at identifying most mushrooms, but I thought I'd share these photos of mushrooms that were in our backyard this week.

What is this?

I've started a new blog for my nature posts! It's called My Father's World. I hope you will drop by and take a look. I have quite a few posts I'll be trying to post this weekend. I'll be talking more about this gob of "spit", armadillos, a Healthy Habitat, and more! NOTE: I MERGED THIS "NEW" BLOG WITH MY "OLD" ONE.

The Stock Market Game

Enrollment is coming soon for The Stock Market Game. Has anyone participated before? Thanks!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Healthy Habitat Grant, Spittlebugs, and Armadillos

This week, I went with a group of teens and adults from our local homeschool enrichment school. This past summer, these teens wrote a grant proposal to create a healthy habitat on the 5 acres where our school sits. Last week, I decided to join in their efforts.

So, one day this week we took a trip to a nature preserve to learn from a master naturalist about how to create a natural habitat. We encountered some wonderful wildlife while walking around for several hours exploring this nature preserve.

A bunch of bees have unfortunately decided to take up residence in this bird house.

I recognized this as the "spit" of a spittlebug and asked the naturalist about it. He told us the spittlebug is actually what got him insterested in becoming a biologist! His grandpa used to tell him this was "snake spit" and he wanted to discover the truth. He found out about the spittle bug. The spittle bug nymph attaches itself to a host with its mouth. It then sucks in the nutrients it needs and bubbles come out of the other end. He uses his hind legs to cover himself and this "spit" keeps him from being spotted by predators and from drying out.

The naturalist uncovered one of the nymphs for us...
he was almost a full grown spittlebug
...and here is a two-lined spittlebug Alex & I saw at our house once. (Read more about spittlebugs here.)
TThere were also lots of mushrooms. A recent post I read at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers explained that some mushrooms go through several stages... from convex (like this one)... to the plane stage (no photo) depressed, like this one! I would like to watch a mushroom and take a series of photos some time. (These photos are actually different mushrooms.)

A mud dauber.

Paper wasps... I love how you can see inside the cells! I think I see eggs and possibly immature wasps!

And, one of the teens asked about this hole. The guide told us it was probably an armadillos den. Armadillos actually keep several dens. Leaves fall into the holes and insects bury themselves under the leaves. The armadillo then eats the insects when he visits this den before falling to sleep. That's one of the reasons they keep several homes! He also told us that a type of armadillo always has 4 identical babies... so they are either all females or all males! This makes them valuable to researchers. They are also one of very few animals that contract leprosy, so they are useful for studying that disease. Isn't it neat how God made creatures so amazing and helpful to us!!! (Armadillo Online! has TONS of info about these fascinating animals.)

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