Sunday, July 31, 2011

BUSY! Did you miss me?

So, life has been a little crazy. I have not been very diligent with my blog postings, but know that I'm still here.

I've been on the road with training sessions, I've been doing a complete overhaul of our learning space. (Cleaning, reorganizing, etc...), and We went camping!  Here are a few pics to enjoy:
Remember the great vertical gear board we saw in Cleveland? Well, here is our version I made last week! I keep forgetting to unpack the camera from my training materials, so I don't have as many photos as normal. I will however have a tutorial post coming for you very soon! The children LOVE this board. The gears are fun, but using it as a HUGE vertical geo-board has been their favorite thing to do so far.
We have been spending a lot of time out in the summer sun, and finding great places for shade too! There is nothing like a swing on your belly, everyone needs to be a flying super hero once and awhile!
Dane is gearing up for Boy Scout Camp. We went camping as a family to give him some practice before the event, and had a great time.
So, I apologize if you have been waiting to hear more from me. We are enjoying our summer, and I'll be back in the blogging world sporadically over the next few weeks with intentions of more regular appearances when fall rolls around. I'm also having the blog and website merged.... watch for new changes on the horizon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Real Mud!

When the weather is hot and humid, nothing cools you down like some nice cold mud! The real stuff, made with real dark soil, not the kind made with sand that dries up in a jiffy... but nice ooey, gooey, sticky, wet, sloppy, mud!
You know what I'm talking about.... the cold oozing kind that squishes between your toes!
The kind of mud you just can't wait to tell your friends about.... so that they can come and join in on the fun! When the patch is just right, you sink a little as you play....
 Standing in the muddy mess is fun, but you know that you just can't resist jumping!

Because jumping and splashing in the puddles is just way too much fun! Especially when the mud splatters EVERYWHERE!

Have you been playing in the mud lately?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blog Changes Coming Soon......

I'm going to be making some major webpage and blog changes in the next few weeks. I'm trying to get things a little more organized and update my online presence with more information about my training sessions and newly created web store!

I will still continue to blog about our activities with the childcare, BUT I am going to change the What Would You Do With It? Wednesday posts. My thought at this point is to use it as a platform to feature other great blogs and ideas from other folks that use readily available "trash."  Do you create things out of "trash" or recyclables? upcycling/recycling??? Would you like to be a featured guest poster?  If so, please follow this link to fill out a form and I'll get back to you with more details!

Melting Sandpaper Art

The heat and humidity around here has been a little much for some of our little friends. We've been "melting" in the heat. So, I thought it would be a good time to try some fun melting art!

We started with some sandpaper and our crayons. Drawing on sandpaper provides a fun tactile experience for the children. We took the process a step further, by melting our drawings in the microwave.
We only put the drawings in the microwave for about 45 seconds at at time. It was long enough to melt some of the crayon. We did this intermittently throughout the process so that the children could add more crayon to the sandpaper while the paper was still warm.
If you opt to try this one, note that the more crayon you use, the more visible the melting will be. Large blocks of crayons (chunk crayons) would work really well! We tried to cover the whole piece of sandpaper with color!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Butterfly Lunch

I'm off to Bessemer for another training tonight "Take It Outside! Creating an Outdoor Classroom." We have been having a lot of fun and working to combat the heat around here. I hope to get caught up with our activities and photos soon. For now, a quick photo of our Butterfly Lunch:
Hot Ham and Cheese Roll-Ups, Nectarines, and Baby Carrots! YUM!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Making Strawberry Jam!

It is Strawberry Season! We are very fortunate to have a family connection to the Crane Berry Farm in Chassell. The children love to help us with the berries. They help to wash them and to cut them for freezing or baking.
One of my little friends just can't get enough when it comes to cutting berries. She has been cutting, and cutting, and cutting. This is real work for little hands. Armed with a cutting board and a butter knife she has been cutting off the "green parts" from the "red parts" or the stem from the berries.
Today, we took the activity a bit further and made up a batch of strawberry freezer jam. We added 1 1/2 cups of sugar and one package of pectin. It is important to mix the sugar and the pectin well before adding the berries.
In a separate bowl, we mashed our berries with a meat tenderizer. We like our jam to have big chunks of berries, so we only mashed them up a little bit. Then we added 6 heaping cups of berries to our pectin and sugar mixture. (I know that the recipe only calls for 4 cups, but I always push the limit with as many berries as possible!) Stir the mixture well, and then let it sit for a couple of minutes. The jam will begin to thicken. Then, scoop it into your freezer jars/containers.
 (This can be a very messy activity for little ones... but if you provide them with a wide array of scooping activities that are less messy, they will master the technique and scooping jam will be a breeze!)
The jam will continue to set, but is ready to be placed into the freezer immediately.

PB&Js always taste best with fresh jam that you helped to make yourself! We are also drying some of our strawberry slices in the dehydrator.

What do you do with your strawberries?

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I am always running across great ideas and things that I'd love to make or have for our childcare. My list of outdoor classroom ideas is far too long to share with you in a blog post, but I thought I would share a few things that I saw at the Great Lakes Science Center and Museum of Natural History in Cleveland, Ohio when I was there at the end of last month.
First, I love this idea of a vertical gear board. We have a horizontal one, but I love the possibilities that come with a vertical one! Can you imagine, not just the gear work, but the HUGE vertical geoboard possibilities with this one? I don't know if we will make one this big, but we will definitely be getting one of these in the near future!

Look at this great fabric frame! It was in the polymer playhouse. Shiny, knit stretchy material to push your face and hands into.... watch it stretch and take the form of the object you push up against it! Again, so simple, and SO much fun!
You all know that I am wild about bubbles! Look at this giant bubble blowing machine and solution trough!
 You pull up on the string to raise the pipe and make a huge bubble film!
 You can investigate the bubble colors and patterns as the light hits it....
And you can blow seriously HUGE bubbles!
This one is a little bit far fetched, but one can wish, right? This photo luminescence station freezes your shadow against the wall! I think we tried this at least a couple of hundred times, and probably would have spent even more time playing there IF we had more time before they closed!
This one was at the Museum of Natural History. I love the manually operated conveyer belt for the block area. This was a busy station with children moving the blocks back and forth.
Check out this pulley station with a bucket on each end! 
We already have a pvc pipe building set. We will definitely have too look into adding a few interlocking wooden panels for additional play and extensions with our current set.

I have absolutely no affiliation with either of these places, we just stopped to visit them during our vacation! If you are ever in or around the Cleveland area, I highly recommend visiting both of them as they are amazing for children of all ages!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Magic Painting with Acids and Bases

I've been "on the road" training a bit again this week.  On Monday night I presented on Life Science and Life Cycles here in Marquettte. Wednesday, I presented a variety of simple science experiences in Menominee. One of the many things we ran out of time before we were able to finish was testing for acids and bases with a red cabbage indicator.  So, yesterday, I whipped up a batch of indicator paper with some of the cabbage.
You will need to cut up some red cabbage (purple in color), and place it in some hot water. I prefer to boil the cabbage for a few minutes as this expedites the process. I know that you can allow the cabbage to sit in water, to get the same result; but that takes longer!
Then, strain your cabbage so that you are only left with the colored water. It will be a deep blue/purple color. This cabbage water serves as an indicator for investigating acids and bases. You can just use the liquid, but I wanted to create some indicator strips for dipping into liquids/solutions.  So, I took regular paper and I dipped it in the "purpley" water.

You want to watch the paper to make sure that it gets fully saturated, but at the same time, you don't want to over do it so that the paper rips when you remove it. This is a process that you could easily involve the children in. However, I wanted to make this paper a surprise for my little ones, so I did this while they were napping ;).
 The paper will be very wet. I gently placed it on a towel before setting it on our table outside to dry.  While the paper was drying in the sun..... I had a brilliant idea! (I do come up with my own ideas from time to time). What if instead of cutting the paper into strips, we paint on it with various liquids and solutions to "see what happens?"  So.... We did some magic painting!
I looked to see what I had around that house that I knew would work well. I made up 3 small jars of "paint" One is a solution of baking soda and water (a base), another was lemon juice (citric acid), and the last one is vinegar (acid).

After trying the paper out myself, I decided that it made great testing strips, but the colors for painting on regular paper weren't very vibrant. So...... I grabbed a stack of coffee filters and saturated those with the cabbage juice instead! The filter paper is much more absorbent, and the magic color changes work so much better!

To see the "magic" work, I gave each child a piece of white card stock for under their filters. (On our wooden table, it is hard to see the colors!). They were pleasantly surprised to see that the lemon juice did not produce a yellow paint, but a bright pink one, and the cloudy water turned green on the paper!!! How did that happen? It had to be magic!  The vinegar also turned pink, but was slightly lighter than the lemon juice.

As we painted and painted, I did my best to answer all of the children's questions. Then, I told them how I made the paper and we talked a little bit about acids and bases. (They all remember doing the penny experiment, and they all remember what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda!) Maybe when they grow up and start learning more about chemistry, they will remember how a "magic" indicator changes acids pink and bases green, and if they don't remember, that's okay too! They sure had fun with their "magic" paper, and I'm sure this will not be the only time we paint with it!

This post was linked up over at:

PreK + K Sharing

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Finding Monarch Eggs and Larva

Monarch caterpillars have only one source of food – milkweed. If you learn how to identify milkweed, you will have no problem finding and raising your own Monarch butterflies. 

The milkweed plant is shown in the photo on the left.  Around here, you might start to see some eggs and larva in June, but you will see an increase in eggs after the plant blossoms. The blossoms on the milkweed in our area are a pinkish-purple color.(Of course when this all happens depends on our weather).

When Monarchs lay their eggs, they do it on the underside of the leaves of the milkweed plant. You will only ever find one or two per leaf.  The eggs are very small, approximately 1 mm in diameter.

The photo on the right shows a child pointing to a small egg on the milkweed leaf. 
There are other things that could be on the leaf that are not eggs, including small bugs.  Here is a close up of the egg with a microscope to give you a better idea of the small shape you are looking for:

The eggs are a milky white to off white color.  As the larva is getting ready to emerge from the egg, the egg will turn a light gray color with a black spot. The black spot you are seeing is the head of the larva, the gray the body. Fresh hatchlings or larva eat the egg when they hatch and then begin to feed on the milkweed. 

 When you are out looking for eggs, you might end up finding larva instead. Small holes in leaves is a good indication that there is a freshly hatched larva!
 (This is the underside of the leaf pictured above, it does have a small larva- caterpillar on the underside).

 Big chunks of leaves missing might indicate a large caterpillar like this one we found!
 After they are an inch long, we can hold them, but be careful! Caterpillars like to eat and poop!

Your caterpillars will need a continuous supply of milkweed for about two weeks before they are ready to form their chrysalides.  It is important that you provide enough milkweed for your growing caterpillars. You will want to wrap a damp paper towel around the bottom of the milkweed to keep it watered (or use a floral tube for larger stalks of the plant).

 It is also important that you line the bottom of your observation station with paper towel. This serves two purposes, First it makes it a lot easier to clean up after your caterpillars. Second, when the butterflies emerge it will soak up the excess fluid and provide a safe place for them to rest until they are ready to be released.

Raising Monarchs is a highly rewarding educational activity. The children will love to assist in finding the eggs and small caterpillars, feeding them and holding them once they have reached at least one inch in length. It is important that you re-release the butterflies after they have emerged to allow the cycle to continue. 

For more information on extending your butterfly study please search our archives.

I linked this post up to the Outdoor Play Link Up hosted by:

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...