Math :: Squares

I found this book at the library, called Shapes in Math, Science and Nature.  I love it.  It’s organized, it has a project/lesson per page or two.  Something we can do briefly each day.  I like books that look simple, have color, are clear, and concise. I think this book is all that.

We started from the beginning, and started with squares.  I thought this activity was a fun one.

You cut it into pieces of certain shape, to make a puzzle, that turns into a square. DSC_0157 copy DSC_0165 copy

It is so much more difficult to figure out, than we thought it would be.

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Spoiler Alert!!! Here’s the solution. Don’t continue if you don’t want to know how to solve it.

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It wasn’t me who figured it out first.

Simple Machines

We got one of those great Discovery Kits from our local library to start us off this year, Simple Machines.  It comes with a couple of books and hands on materials, I think mostly targeted and more interesting to the younger kids, but it’s been working for us to get us started and going in a new direction, adding a little something different to our main unit.

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We played a little with the materials, and then  gave something to do a little more research on.

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We read this book and decided to do a little more research than the book gave us at times, depending on what seemed interesting at the moment.

When reading about screws, we had fun, and posted about it here.

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When we read about gears, we checked out a new Discovery Kit from our library about gears and posted about it last month, here.

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Working with pulleys was fun too, though this kit in particular was a little tippy, but still fun I think.

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We also checked out some books and videos that gave us a little more insight in each one:

We found this narrow house, The Wedge from Scotland.  It is 47 inches wide in the front, making it the slimmest house in the world.  I wonder if they have as much trouble finding a washer and a dried fit through their door, as we have in our own house!  The good side of it, is that there is only one of each that we can actually buy.  No decisions issues here!

All these projects and thoughts in physics reminded me to Mark’s assignment while we were at Scindia School in India,  in his teaching semester.  His Physics Club decided to do a Rube Goldberg Machine, which by no means one can rely 100% on it, because that is the part of science that is not 100% certain.  It has uncertainty, it hace a margin of error, it has many possibilities that can go wrong not making this machine work, or do what is suppose to do.  But it doesn’t make it any less science.  It doesn’t make it a failure or something you can’t learn about, or less scientific.  No, I don’t think so. At least I don’t. Wow… just thinking about it brings me stress remembering all the worries and stress that brought to Mark and his students having to make it work this one time, for the show.  Wow… phew! I’m glad it’s over.


a is for astronaut

Maybe I should have been an astronaut because of all the beauty you can see from up there.  But not that I could manage or handle being up there, in a closed space.  Oh no… I don’t think I’d do well up there.  But I can’t get enough of all these amazing images shared with us, down here, below.

Please watch this video of the first Italian female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti.

There is also this video of a tour of the ISS.

And of course, if you want 5 more minutes, here’s the video when Suni Williams (who made the other tour video) leaves the ISS to go back to Earth.  It just seems so unreal, we (humans) can be filming, moving, living up there in space.  It is so foreign to me that always, always amazes me of all the research and happenings in technology.

Or if you have 18 more minutes watch this one of the actual landing.

Amazing.  And more photos taken and shared by Scott Kelly from the International Space Station these past few weeks.

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New Zealand by Scott Kelly from ISS, 2015.
The Sun by Scott Kelly ISS October 2015
The Sun. Photo taken by Scott Kelly from ISS.

I am waiting his return to Earth next year and hoping for a coffee table book with all of his amazing images.

London + France from ISS Scott Kelly
London and France. Photo taken by Scott Kelly from the ISS, October 2015.

Simple Machines : Screws

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We are reading and doing the activities from this book that came with the Simple Machines Discovery Kit from our library.  We’ve used another book of the same series before, and we really liked it.

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This one is fun too.  It divides the studies in the simple machines, and we are reading chapter by chapter and doing the projects that look more fun.

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When we got to the chapter in screws I thought I’d skip it, thinking I wasn’t sure I wanted to read 5-6 pages about screws and its history.  But the pages make it look pretty simple and with fun facts so I decided to go ahead and read a little.  And I am so glad we did.

It mentioned this American artist, Andrew Myers who does portraits using screws.

Taken this photo of Andrew Meyers work from this website.
Taken this photo of Andrew Meyers work from this website.

We read also that the largest drill bit (a type of screw) in the world was the one used to make the largest and deepest tunnel in the world that will cross the Swiss Alps.  Look at this Tunnel Boring Machine.  It is three stories long.
From this website.

Then of course we had to read and learn more about the tunnel.  The Gotthard Base Tunnel a train tunnel that will cross the Swiss Alps, to help congestion in the cities, because of its massive traffic issues, mostly due to trucks going through the country, which is in the middle of Europe, needing to go from one side to the next.  The project was passed in votes in Switzerland in 1992 and the construction began in 1996.  That is 20 years ago.

Of course we found a youtube video (there’s videos online for everything , right?  I love that.)  We first watched this one, of the breakthrough of the tunnel with the giant drill bit working.

But then we watched this one was the most entertaining and informative and I think made our travel juices flowing.

We really liked learning more about it and of course, there’s a great field trip idea for next year.  Wouldn’t it be a great idea to see that tunnel in person?  Not sure I’d like to ride it though… for someone claustrophobic like me, that’s more like a nightmare, but I’d go see it and be there for the news for the opening day.  Hmmm… now I just need to figure out how to make that field trip work into our budget.  Ha!

Perseid meteor shower

Yesterday we went to a Star Party offered by OMSI at a park on the Columbia River, not far, just about a 30 minute drive out of the city.  It had been a hot day, so I wanted to get there earlier, so we could go swimming.  But swimming in the pool with friends, playing, watering, gardening, resting, summer-ing got in the schedule first, so we headed out a little later than we first thought of doing.

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When we arrived there, we met some friends and went down to the river to check it out.  The sun was still up, but not for long.

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Aaaahhh, what a sight.  I was reminded of how lucky we are to live here.  It is such a beautiful place.

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It was still warm and there was no wind.

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The water was clear and warm enough but cooling.

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And the colors… I wish you could have been there.  It was such a clear, beautiful night.  I am glad we made it in time to enjoy it.

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Do you see these two kids, friends playing?

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Yes, that’s what they did indeed.  Played and jumped and played in the water.

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They had swimsuits on, they were smart.

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Until it was getting too cold.

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So, we went back up to wait for the stars to come out and we promised we’ll be back there on another day soon.

DSC_0124 copy DSC_0125 copyBecause it was just so pretty.

DSC_0128 copyAnd we waited for darkness.  To begin our stargazing night, we saw a Fireball, a meteor so bright that left a tail of yellow and red behind that stayed bright in the sky for few seconds.  Something I had never seen before.  I believe it was the most beautiful one of the night.  The Perseid meteor shower was going to be at its best after 2 am, but we left at 11:30 pm, when everyone was ready to get to our own beds.  We did get to see some meteors and the International Space Station go by.

(By the way… have you’ve seen the photos that Astronaut Scott Kelly posts every day on Facebook? I don’t do Facebook very much but I check on what he’s posted.  I really hope he makes a book with them.)

A fun night out of doors with friends.  Laying on the grass on our backs, with the kids telling stories, laughing, sharing their lives, getting to know each other, a nice evening with a sky show right above us.  A fun summer evening.

Charles Darwin’s life in Shrewsbury

DSC_0051-small DSC_0622 copy   DSC_0549 copy We went to go see some of Darwin’s places from his youth, where he was born, Shrewsbury, south of Wem.  We did a self walking tour that Ros had printed out from the internet.  Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury on February 12, 1809.  The Father of Evolution, and such an influential scientist. DSC_0407 copyThe Darwin Gate is a modern homage to Charles Darwin.  Three poles with metal figures, claw-like, on top.  It says the design was inspired by the church Darwin attended growing up, St. Mary’s Church. DSC_0408 copy When Mark and I came to England 15 years ago, we went to Darwin’s house outside of London, The Down’s House.  I really wish I could have had a digital camera back then, so I could put all these photos together.  This time in England, we visited the house where Darwin was born.  In the early years of his life. DSC_0432 copy DSC_0431 copyThe Bellstone. DSC_0437 copy DSC_0434 copy

DSC_0444 copyOn Morris Hall Courtyard, this stone was founded here, and it was the first introduction to Geology for Darwin. He was taught as a kid, that this stone was only found much further north, in Scotland and Cumbria, and there was no explanation on how it got there.  Today, there is an annual toast in Charles Darwin’s name, on February 12. DSC_0446 copy It was a cold day, cold for wearing shorts.  A jacket or sweater was needed for us to feel more comfortable.  Though walking around helped us stay warm. DSC_0351 copyThe Darwin shopping mall,  was not there when Darwin lived in the city. DSC_0368 copyNeither was the Darwin’s Sandwich Evolution restaurant. DSC_0472 copy DSC_0455 copy DSC_0459 copy DSC_0462 copy DSC_0461 copy DSC_0463 copy St. Chad’s Church was the church were Charles Darwin was christened.  Seems funny to me, that this church is the venue for the annual Darwin’s Festival.  Seems to me that here everyone is much more open to him and his studies, unlike us in the US, where his evolutionary ideas are not to be mixed in any way, with creationism. DSC_0464 copy DSC_0465 copy DSC_0467 copy DSC_0469 copy DSC_0471 copy   DSC_0487 copy DSC_0486 copy   In the back of the church it is the graveyard.  It his here that a scene in the movie A Christmas Carol was filmed. DSC_0473 copy DSC_0474 copy DSC_0476 copy DSC_0479 copy DSC_0480 copy DSC_0482 copy DSC_0483 copy DSC_0484 copy DSC_0485 copy From here, we are heading towards Darwin’s house, but it is not in the map.  I am not sure why, because it is one of the places we really wanted to visit.  We walked through the quarry.  A beautiful place. DSC_0492 copy DSC_0498 copyIt is here, the Dingle, in these waters where young Charles Darwin would catch newts and make his observations.  A beautiful place, with water sounds and amazing gardens.DSC_0499 copy By now, the sun was shining and the heat was getting to us.  So we stopped for an ice cream break.  But continued our journey uphill towards Darwin’s house. DSC_0501 copy DSC_0521 copy Siena ate her ice cream and discovered this.  Birthday and 25 on the other side.  Exactly her date of her birthday, and this was on the 24th.  It felt crazy!  And certainly a special treat for the one-day short birthday girl. DSC_0503 copy DSC_0502 copyOver the Severn River.  DSC_0505 copy DSC_0508 copy DSC_0510 copy Here we are.  All of us.   DSC_0527 copyContinued our way through narrow sidewalks and throughout the city’s walls. DSC_0530 copyUntil finally finding the house where Charles Darwin was born. The Mount.  Without these signs, I don’t know if we could have found it.  I still wondered why there is no signage in the maps or the guide to this. DSC_0532 copy DSC_0536 copyAnd once in here… I realized it is not a tourist attraction.  There is no gift shop, no lines, no people at all.  It is just us, and the cars parked of people working at this building today. I feel relieved though.  We enjoy few moments here under the shade of an old tree. DSC_0539 copy This large Georgian house was built by his parents, Robert Darwin a well respected doctor, and Sussanah, a member of the Wedgwood family. DSC_0542 copy DSC_0537 copy DSC_0543 copy DSC_0544 copy DSC_0545 copy DSC_0547 copy DSC_0548 copyNow, we are ready to leave.  happy we had found the house, and happy to have seen it.  Wondering what it must have felt to grow up here.  What did it look like 200 years ago. Where these trees just planted? Were there other trees? I imagine it to have been much more rural feeling, and probably as the stories say, what sparked the curiosity of Darwin as a young boy. DSC_0553 copyDown the hill, on narrow paths, all the way to the Severn River again.  This time to another bridge. DSC_0591 copy DSC_0596 copy DSC_0599 copy DSC_0601 copy DSC_0607 copy Now, towards the Library, what used to be Shrewsbury School.  This is the school where Darwin went starting at age 9.  A boarding school in the middle of the town. DSC_0621 copy DSC_0626 copyMark, being a teacher, and respecting Darwin’s life and his work, I am sure feels the circle of his own learning of such an important scientist in the world.  Getting to see Darwin’s house where he was born and raised.  Then, visiting this school where he spent his younger years of his education.  Fifteen years ago, we were in Edinburgh where Darwin went to the university.  Having navigated the waters in the Beagle Channel, probably has given Mark a connection to Darwin’s studies and his life.  I think The Galapagos might be a trip we do need to take some day.  Yes, maybe some day.  For now, we are here celebrating Darwin’s youth, and learning about his life.  A real hands on science/history unit. DSC_0628 copy Darwin didn’t really enjoy his days at the school here, saying there was too much Latin and Greek.  He even says in his autobiography that “nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than attending the school.”  That’s why they say maybe that is the reason they positioned his statue with his back to the building. DSC_0635 copy DSC_0623 copy DSC_0627 copy DSC_0632 copy   And finally we head back towards the car. We walked by The Lion Hotel. Another landmark in the guide.  Darwin’s adventures started at The Lion Hotel.  He came here to catch the coach south to London to meet Captain FitzRoy to join the trip on the HMS Beagle down to Tierra del Fuego (Chile.)  Five years later, Darwin returns in the coach to this hotel, to then go to his family home. DSC_0337 copy It is three years later after his voyage that Charles Darwin marries his cousin Emma Wedgwood, and moved to their house in Kent. That’s the house Mark and I went to see last time we went to England, 15 years ago.  It is there where he does most of his writings and studies that makes him so famous and controversial.  Darwin lived in Shrewsbury until he was 27 years old. And I feel so lucky to have been able to do this tour with our friends, and Siena and Lucas.  And of course, so much more fun to do with Mark and learn and see much of Darwin’s life, in all these years together.  We are learning together as we travel this world of ours.  The world is my classroom. And if you’d like to hear this story in British English, and do the tour in just 4 minutes, you should watch this great video.

World Unit : France : scientists

In our World Unit we started studying France.  We looked at the geography, and have a map that we look at when a new place is named.

We are reading this encyclopedia, and reading about France in choronological order with all the historic events that come up.  We are adding other books when is something we want to learn more about, and of course looking online for more resources.

Such was the case of few scientists we wanted to focus on, like Louis Pasteur, and Marie and Pierre Curie.

Louis Pasteur

To study Louis Pasteur, we experimented a little.  Louis Pasteur came up as someone we wanted to study because of the Jack and Annie book we read first.  It was the perfect way to introduce us to French history.  I love how it brought our curiosity to Louis Pasteur, his institute and his studies.  This is what we did.

DSC_0025-smallOur experiments were with crystals, as he had done.  First one, we dissolved table salt with warm water, and then they drew on black paper.  We then put it in the warm oven to dry for few minutes and saw their secret message.

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Another experiment we did took few days to finish because we had to wait for the crystals to form.

DSC_0006-small DSC_0008-smallWe mixed water in one jar with table salt and waited for few days to see what happened when the water evaporated.  We put a strip of black construction paper to the edge, so the crystals could form on it.


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We also mixed epsom salt and water and poured it into a pie dish with a piece of black paper to see it better when crystals were formed.   Waited about 2 weeks to see what happened.

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This is what we used to learn about Louis Pasteur.

Marie and Pierre Curie.

An amazing couple.  We took one day to study them and their lives in French and World history.

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Notice the glowing around them? I am thankful for their discoveries and their hard work.   Because of them we know now what scientists and doctors use today, but it makes me sad to think they were getting radioactive as they were doing all of their research.  Thank you Marie and Pierre Curie for everything you did and sacrificed for humanity.

Note from June 9th: We also read about Jacque Cousteau, and watched one of his TV shows that I grew up watching.  It brought memories, mostly from the music they use and the photography, because his voice was dubbed in Spanish by someone else of course.  So he didn’t sound the same this time.  I’ve added the books we read in the main France Unit post I’ve posted later. 

Our Body : nutrition : fats + grease

Fats.  The smallest portion of the food pyramid and why it should be like that.  This is what we did to study this.

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You put water in a glass and then few drops of vegetable oil.  We made observations on what happened and how it looks.

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Then we added few drops of dishwashing liquid and drew and wrote what happened.

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Another experiment we did was to make butter with whipping cream.


We counted how many shakes it took to turn into butter.  We used two different sizes of jars.  We learned that the taller jar, with less cream, had more space to shake, so it took less shakes than the shorter, fuller one.


With dinner, we ate the butter with warm home made bread.  For a treat, it is so good.


To practice how to make tables, we made a table of percentage of fats in different foods.  We wrote 0% to 100% on the left side, and then we checked different foods and wrote them down in a column.


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We found most foods with 3%, 4% up to 8% fat, few with 20%.  Now we are in search, at the stores and everywhere, what is the highest percentage we can find.   We’ll see where we find it, and hopefully not something that ends up at our table!

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And finally, we rubbed some foods in a piece of heavy craft brown paper.  We waited for a while for the liquid to try.  If it was just water (in the case of apples and lettuce and raw potatoes) it dried up.  If it had fats, the paper stayed stained.

With this, we finished our unit of Human Body and Nutrition.  We had fun and we have already started a new unit, that I’ve shared a little a while back.