Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buggy Books

Our local museum is hosting a year-long book club. Each month they have a "theme" and the kids are supposed to read one book from their long list of books. This month's theme was insects and spiders and I looked through their list and picked some of my favorites. We've read a lot of these, and others I thought sounded good from their description. So, here's the list:
  • books by Himmelman - A Mealworm's Life... Butterfly's... Luna Moth's... Pill Bug's.... Earthworm's...
  • books by Judy Allen - Are You A ... Bee?... Butterfly?... Dragonfly?... Grasshopper?... Ladybug?... Spider?... Ant? (We have read and enjoyed a few of these - I'd like to read them all)
  • Becoming Butterflies by Anne Rockwell - we've read and enjoyed quite a few books by Anne Rockwell
  • books by Doreen Corin... Diary of a Worm... Fly... Spider (we love the Worm book and I'd love to read the others!)
  • The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons - this is the one we read this month - enjoyable and informative!
  • books by Charles Micucci - The Life and Times of the Ant... the Honeybee... the Peanut
  • The Magic Sschool Bus Explores the World of Bugs (we've read all of these MSB books and enjoyed them all - many times!)
  • Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive
  • Magic School Bus Butterfly and the Bog Beast
  • The Prince of Butterflies by Coville
  • Wings of Light: The Migration of the Yellow Butterfly by Swinburne

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Green Hour Challenge #1 & #2

Barb over at The Heart of Harmony has started a weekly Green Hour challenge. Since I missed last week's challenge, I decided to combine challenge #1 & #2 so I can feel caught up.
We spent over 2 hours today with some friends at our local park that has a "duck" pond and some hiking trails. I was so glad I brought my camera with the zoom lens today and finally got some great shots of the nutria.

For assignment #1, we were to choose 2 things we'd seen on our walk to investigate further. We are planning on investigating nutria and leaf buds.

For assignment #2, we were to use some descriptive words to describe some of the things we heard (1 word), saw (2 words), and felt (3 words). She also wanted to add a 4th category - 4 words about something you tasted (our snacks).
Here's Alexandra's list:
  • quacking; laughter; flapping
  • children playing; nutria swimming; ducks paddling; pigeons flying
  • rough, hard bark; soft, dirty sand; yummy, salty pretzles
  • yummy, salty, crunchy pretzles; golden, crunchy Oreo cookies; soft, chewy Walmart strawberries
We also "should" do a nature journal page. I'm not sure if we'll get to it or not, but we'll try!
Now, for the photos:

An incredibly cool duck I've only seen once before... 2 days ago at the pond near our neighborhood about a mile from this park - both times there were 2 ducks and I'm wondering if they are the same pair. I'd LOVE to identify this duck!!! It even had dark green under its wings. And, I love the eye rings!
Yeah! Finally some good shots of the nutria. How do you like those huge orange teeth? And, today, these were coming right up close to us - within a foot or so!
The first baby we've ever seen. Much cuter than his folks and about 1/3rd the size.
Notice the long finger nails on his front arms and the webbed hind feet.
One of the moms pointed out his ears - can he close them when he dives?

One of the tunnel entrances to one of their dens. (Do you call it a den?) I wish I would have been more patient and taken another shot - this one didn't turn out very good.

I also finally got a photo of a hawk flying. I'll try to enlarge it later, but you can probably click on it.
These buds (leaf buds?) were pretty large - maybe over an inch long? They were high up in the tree and none of them were within our reach. One of the other moms then noticed some baby leaves emerging from some of the buds. We couldn't even tell they were leaves without my zoom lens. I was trying to figure out what kind of tree it was - I wish I knew more about tree identification! - and then I noticed a few sweetgums still hanging around...

I also saw quite a few tadpoles in some water by a drain. I was going to tell the kids, but when I looked up, they were WAY ahead of me. So, I didn't even stop to take a photo, but hurried to catch up.
The other big event of the afternoon - the kids were playing on a dirt hill (LOTS of fun!!!) and I was talking to one of the moms. All of a sudden, we heard screaming and looked up and saw a masked man running towards us, but then he turned and ran away from us. I screamed and almost grabbed the other lady. Then, we both laughed about it. We weren't sure what had happened.

A couple came up to us and told us these 2 guys had been going around hiding and trying to scare people - one of them had a video camera. So, who knows? You might see me screaming on tv one day! (BTW, it really wasn't that scary - we were more startled. But, I'm glad the children weren't very near us and they didn't even know what had happened.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Afternoon Nature Walk

Last week, I went on an afternoon walk by myself, well actually with our dog, while Alexandra was in classes and we were waiting to leave for our weekend trip. I had 2 goals in mind - a "macro nature walk" and "signs of spring." So, here's my photo post.

New buds on a tree branch

Holes in a pine tree made by a woodpecker - I believe these holes had sap coming

out of them in the fall

Another type of lichen

This tree had this orange sap(?) coming out in a lot of places - perhaps it is sick???

The dog scared this spider, or I might have got a better shot - the spider is in the middle (off to the left a little) of the photo - "he" was sitting on his web, wet from rain, near the entrance to his tunnel, which he promptly hurried down when the dog scared him

A very lazy bumblebee - I took about a dozen photos

The same bumblebee - isn't he amazing?

Hopefully you can enlarge this, as there is a skink in this photo - a type of lizard that almost looks like a snake with legs - his head is near the top middle of the photo - I've only seen one about 6 or 7 times and this was my first photo! (well, I got 3 on this day)

Some insect eggs - hard to photograph!

This was fairly large - maybe the size of a dinner plate - another type of tree injury?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hazardous Materials

We've been so busy the past few days and I have so many posts to make! On Thursday, I did a nature walk on my own - kind of a macro walk/signs of spring. That afternoon, we went from our house to my mom's and experienced a temperature drop of almost 40 degrees!

On Friday, Alexandra went to a book club event at an art museum while my mom and I explored the museum on our own. That afternoon, we went bowling! I haven't played in years and had about 7 or 8 gutter balls on my first game. But during the second game, I had 3 strikes and 2 spares! And scored 138! That's a great score for me, and I was so shocked!

On Saturday, we went to a lake that was so beautiful. I really had no idea anything like that existed near my mom's! And, it had warmed up and was a beautiful, though still cool, day. We will be visiting this lake often when we visit my mom.

We headed home on Sunday afternoon and went on a field trip today to visit a Hazardous Materials (HazMat) mobile unit. The unit was set up after (and basically because of) September 11th and there are several memorials on the sides of their trucks.

Another memorial.

There were only 4 moms and 7 kids, so we were all able to get on the truck at once. In this photo, they were demonstrating their heat seeking device. It's like the kind used by the police in helicopters, though not as powerful.
The equipment in the yellow box uses a lazer and spectrophotometry to determine the makeup of various chemicals. They also have something that tells what kind of material a dry powder is - even down to "this is Morton's table salt."
Most of the unit's calls are for spills when semi trucks wreck. They have at least 5 different kinds of suits to wear, depending on what chemicals they will be dealing with. The suits can cost over $12,000 and are disposable!
We got to go inside this building where they practice fire fighting. The men in this unit are all fire fighters and a few were also policemen who deal with arson.

They also have a field set up with semis, cars, and train cars for training.

They just got this second "fire truck" - this one is specifically to shoot out two different kinds of foams on various types of fires. On the top is one of the ways it shoots foam - and it can all be done by remote control!
A rare photo of me - Alexandra took it. I try not to post photos of our friends and, unfortunately, all the photos of Alexandra have her friends in them, too! So, here's me driving a fire truck!

And, here's the front of their fire truck. We also got to see inside where the firefighters live - where they sleep and eat. They are on for 24 hours at a time, but only work a few days a month. For most of them, this is a "second" job.

We were so grateful they took the time to show us around. And, we were glad to learn how well we're being protected from hazardous materials! Tonight, we said a prayer for all the fire fighers who help protect us.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

what's, that???

I saw this crazy looking insect at a park earlier this week. I was so baffled. What was this thing??? It looked kind of like a cross between a cricket or grasshopper and something from the ocean. And, it wouldn't hop or fly - it just crawled. Someone suggested it was a nymph cricket. So, I went online to What's that Bug? (GREAT SITE!!!) and found it almost immediately.
So, what is it? It's a mole cricket! Here's some of what I learned from wikipedia:
Mole crickets have large, beady eyes and shovel-like forelimbs highly developed for burrowing and swimming. (hopefully you can enlarge the photo and see this!) They can also fly and spend the winter in hibernation. (I read on another site that they are most closely related to grasshoppers, not crickets.)
Mole crickets are relatively common, but because they are nocturnal and spend nearly all their lives underground in extensive tunnel systems, they are rarely seen. In East Asia, however, they are sometimes used as food (fried).

Alexandra also found this chunk of beautiful lichen! Lichens are usually a combination of a fungus and an algae living together! And, I read that lichens can be used to make dyes and in deoderant! I'll have to share more later.

Also, did anyone get to see the eclipse??? It was raining - pouring! - here. :-( I'd love to see any photos if anyone got some. And, wish I would have found this site earlier, but this is a NEAT looking model of "How Eclipses Work" - both lunar and solar! I just printed it off and we're going to have to build it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Election Study

We are really enjoying our study of the election process. As always, I'm learning so much myself! As I said earlier, we are using a unit study called HSforGOP. Today, Alexandra spent 2 hours and 40 minutes working through the study, doing research, earning points, and blogging about it! This was HER choice, not mine. :-)

She learned about the qualifications for being president. Here's her blog writing (each child can create a blog on the site):

The U.S. Constitution says that the president of the United States must be: born in the United states, at least 35 years old, and be a United States citizen and must have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years.

I would not be able to be president because I've not lived in the U.S. for 14 years and I'm not 35. I'm only 7.

My dad could be president. He has always lived in the U.S. and he's older than 35. So is my mom.

I found this information in a book called "Smart About the Presidents."

She also learned the names of some of the parties, what GOP means, the 4 steps to becoming president, about caucuses and delegates, about Super Tuesday, and much more! I really enjoyed her post about the 4 steps to becoming president.

Step 1: Many people want to be president. Lots have different ideas of what they would do as president. The people who want to be president must be in caucuses and primaries to get the nomination for thier party.
Step 2: At the end of the caucuses and primaries, each party holds a National Convention where they will narrow it down to one person. That person then picks a vice-president from his or her party.

Step 3: Now, each party has one candidate. They go to different states to try to get votes for themselves. People don't give their vote to the person they want to win, but to the electors who will go to the Electoral College and the elector will give the votes for their state.

Step 4: In December the electors cast their votes. Whichever candidate gets more than half of the votes is the new president. January 6th, they tell the people who won. January 20th (2 weeks later), the new president and vice-president get to start their new jobs.

We are now doing early voting in Texas, so "we" will have to go vote next week so she can experience that (again). She's having so much fun learning about this - and so am I!

What are you doing to study about the election process? Any great books or websites? One good site about the government is Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids.

(Book we enjoyed: If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse

Don't forget there will be a total lunar eclipse for most of us tomorrow (Wednesday) night! I was so excited to see the almost-full moon tonight. But, I just checked the forecast and we have a 40% chance of rain tomorrow evening. I'll be praying for some clear skies!!! Just in case we don't, I hope some of my blogging friends get some good views... and photos! :-)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Alexandra and I recently studied our first composer, Mozart. We read lots of books about Mozart, listened to CDs, and listened to Classics for Kids online. And, we read about and listened to excerpts of The Magic Flute.

Our "core" book was Mozart, The Wonder Boy. Besides the story book, which is a great living book, you can also buy the companion CD (which also includes Bach) which includes audio files of all the music included in the book, coloring pages for each chapter, and printable sheet music for all of the music. We also used the study guide which includes chapter questions and LOTS of "tidbits of interest." Since I play the piano, I also enjoyed playing the pieces that were in the book, especially hearing the Minuet in G that Mozart wrote when he was only 5 years old!!!

In The Wonder Boy, the author relates a story of when little Wolfgang meets Marie Antoinette. It says, "The floors are highly polished and very slippery. Suddenly Wolfgang trips and falls. Little Marie Antoinette bends down quickly and helps him up. He smiles at her. "Thank you. You are kind. Some day I will marry you."" Following this, we really enjoyed reading about Marie Antoinette, too.
Here is a list of the resources we enjoyed:
  • Mozart, The Wonder Boy (with CD and study guide) by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher, originally printed in 1934
  • Mozart: Scenes from the Childhood of the Great Composer by Brighton
  • Young Mozart by Isadora
  • Mozart Tonight by Downing
  • The Magic Flute retold by Greaves
  • Pet of the Met by Lydia & Don Freeman - WONDERFUL book we read many times - it is actually about a mouse family who lives at the Metropolitan Opera House and loves The Magic Flute!
  • Moi & Marie Antoinette by Lynn Cullen - VERY good book we read several times - I would buy this one
  • Mozart: Getting to Know the World's Great Composers by Venezia
I also posted more of our studies here where I talked more about The Magic Flute, here where I talked about the Queen of the Night's aria (and posted a youtube version), and here where I talked about the delightful Papageno (and posted a youtube version).

Friday, February 15, 2008

Photos from Kleb Woods Nature Preserve

I was just updating my blog by adding a "Nature Group" label to my sidebar and realized I'd never posted photos from our December outing to the Kleb Woods Nature Preserve. So, here are a few photos! (And, I've posted 2 or 3 posts several times this week trying to "catch up" so you might scroll down some!)

Filling out her chart

Two trees growing together

The lady in the blue jacket was our guide to the farm... and the photo is of Mr. Kleb

Sitting on a horse drawn mower

An old tractor

Raccoon tracks? We've never studied animal tracks before - can someone give me some help on how to get started? Or good books? Or a good website? Thanks!!! By the way, I did find this Eek! site (Enviromental Education for Kids), but I need to spend more time with it.

Possum tracks???

Brazos Bend Part 2

I never finished blogging about our nature day last Friday. I had used 2 different cameras, and I now have the photos on the computer. (She looks serious in this photo, but she really was enjoying petting the alligator. And, Ranger Sharon let them pet him/her for several months - not the usual "2 seconds.")

After storytime, Ranger Sharon had some things for us to look at and touch, including a baby alligator!

She also had an alligator scoot for us to see. I'd not heard of these, but they are what make up the bumps on the alligators back. The scoots have lots of holes which contain blood vessels. The main purpose is to keep lots of blood near the surface so it can be heated quickly. Remember, alligators are reptiles so they don't make their own heat - they are ectothermic (a term she taught the kids) and have to regulate their body temperature by finding heat or finding a cool spot. So, the scoots help regulate their temperature! (The thing above the scoot is an alligator's tooth.)

And, as I'd mentioned before, the kids went tree climbing which Alexandra doesn't have much experience with. They had so much fun!!! And, we enjoyed watching them.


What a busy, but fun, week! We went to three Valentine's parties and had lots of sweets - and lots left over. We did quite a bit of school, but we've really been concentrating on math.

Today, we went with our co-op friends to buy some yarn at a yarn store. Wow! There are so many to choose from! You'll have to stay tuned to see what we'll be making with this as Ms. S and her daughters teach us a few things.

Alexandra and I are hand-sewing a bunny from a kit. We cut it out a few weeks ago, and I'd made some mistakes. So, we fixed our problems tonight and got to start sewing. Alexandra helped with some of the whipstitching.

And, Alexandra whip stitched this little teddy bear about a month ago. She decided she didn't want any facial features. I got the pattern from another blog, but I don't remember which one right now! Didn't it turn out cute? I thought she did a great job!

And, our seeds we planted last week are really sprouting! In fact, we weren't expecting anything for about 10 days and the sunflowers (photographed today at 5 days) in less than 48 hours!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Getting Ready for the Iditarod

Since Robin and her son at Martin Zoo had so much fun following the Iditarod last year, we decided to give it a try! Today, we printed out our map of Alaska using Robin's tip to use the "poster" print option on our printer so it would print out on 4 pages. We also chose our mushers.

I chose 2 mushers, but after researching them, I've decided to narrow it down to one. Alexandra has chosen 2.
  • Mine: Dee Dee Jonrowe because of her faith and her love of the dogs. Her blog says "DeeDee has won numerous awards for the care of her dogs through her career, including the best-cared for team, the best dog care award (given by staff veterinarians), and the dog's best friend award." She "is the foremost female dog musher competing in the world today. She has both the fastest time of any woman in the history of the Iditarod and thirteen top ten finishes in her career." She is also a breast cancer survivor. She has come in 2nd on 3 different occasions and finished 4th in 2006. She was scratched in 2007.
  • Alexandra: Melissa Owens because she is the youngest female - she'll turn 18 on February 18th. She has completed four Jr. Iditarod races and was the 2005 champion. She raises and trains most of her own dogs and has worked closely with DeeDee Jonrowe the last several years. (That's my musher!!!)
  • Alexandra: Anne Capistrant which was also Robin at Martin Zoo's pick. Alexandra likes the fact the she has 2 young daughters who are 8 and 6 - just about her age! And, they are homeschooled!
So, we're ready to see what we do next! Is anyone else following/studying the Iditarod?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Book Club #1: Charlotte's Web

I started a book club for young girls in January and we recently had our first monthly meeting with 5 girls, aged 7 to 10, attending. I got the idea and information I needed to get started from Lettres de mon Moulin. I tried to follow her 3-part format of: book discussion, show & tell, and then a group project.

Our first book was Charlotte's Web and our discussion came in 3 stages. My first questions was "What was your favorite part of the book?" The girls were pretty silent, probably because most of them didn't know each other. Alexandra only knew one of the girls.

So, I scraped that and went on to some "Who Am I?" questions. These were a big hit.
  1. I went out and found words for Charlotte to write in her web.
  2. I saved a baby pig from certain death and raised him with a bottle.
Then, I started some other questions, some of which I'd made up and others I'd found online. Here are some sample questions:
  1. If you had a baby pig, what would you name it?
  2. Who in the story seems cruel at first, but ends up doing good?
  3. Can you think of another character in a story who starts cruel but ends up good? (ex. The Grinch) - though, in after thought, I don't think Templeton really changed - he was who he was, he just was a grouchy helper
  4. How old do you think Charlotte was and why? (We discussed how she sounds "old", but she really must be young as the book pretty much told you about the life of a spider)
  5. While Wilbur was getting his award, where was Fern?
Then, I had picked up a book called Salutations: Wit and Wisdom from Charlotte's Web at the library that had quotes from Charlotte's Web. I read various quotes from the book and the girls had to figure out who said it. This was LOTS of fun! And, I wish I'd found the book earlier so we could have used it more for copywork.

The second stage of our book club was show and tell. Each girl was encouraged to make some kind of project or study related to the book. Three of the girls drew pictures, one girl wrote 2 poems, and Alexandra retold the story "From Wilbur's Eyes." (I'll have to get her permission to "publish" it.)

The last part of the club was the group project. I had found these "string art" kits at Michael's that I thought looked like webs. This was lots of fun!!! And, they turned out so beautiful. Alexandra finished hers in the car on the way to my mom's that weekend.

We also packed lunches and had a picnic on the floor. Then, we had web-covered cupcakes. We took cupcakes and frosted them and then took icing and made concentric circles on them. Then, we took a knife and "pulled" through the icing out to the sides in about 5 or 6 places, and it looked like a web!

So, that was our first book club meeting, and I think it was successful! Our book to read for February is James and the Giant Peach, a book we've read several times and really enjoy. The CD recording of it is great, too!
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