Category Archives: Hands on Learning

Monarch Watch!

Lucky us! Today we joined a local horticulturist, Hannah Nendick-Mason to participate in the University of Kansas’s citizen science program, Project Monarch Watch. You might remember an earlier post where we shared our experience on raising monarchs in our home. If not, check it out here. This made it extra exciting to experience the next level of the monarch journey.

We were quite surprised to see how many Monarchs were at the site where we met! It took some patience and many, many tries before we got the hang of the best way to catch them in the butterfly nets. Once caught, careful handling was in order, a sticker applied to their hind wing and data was collected and recorded. Then, with a good luck wish and blink, they were back on their way, fueling up for their epic flight ahead.

Special thanks to Hannah for having us “tag” along with her on this super fun adventure!



Into the Fire!

A much delayed post, Olive had an amazing chance to participate in a wood kiln firing along with about 8 professional potters at the end of April. She had been learning from Jeff about ‘imperfection’ and how perfect it can be. For so many months, she had been striving to create balance and clean lines on her pieces and now, it was more about texture and the unexpected. Poking, carving, adding, pushing her pieces to see how this form of firing affected her work. She learned more about glazes and temperatures and the unbelievable amount of wood (check out the photo – that is only a portion of what would be used for this single firing) preparation, and labor it takes to fire in a wood kiln. It was exciting to know that the wood ash would create a glaze that varied based on the air flow and were the pieces where located in the kiln. The result was an entirely new aesthetic than what either of us had known about until now! We loved it!




Maker Time!

As one of our final end-of-the-year projects, we’re learning to create 3D PRINTS on our MakerBot!!! How cool is that?!?! We’ve been making “simple” things on the computer on a professional design program called SketchUp. We’re designing all kinds of things.

For her first print, Olive created a yacht for her minuscule Polly Pockets complete with outdoor seating, a kitchen and guest bedroom! I started by designing a cute character for my ‘cute character collection’. I have since started working on prostsetics for dolls with lost arms or hands. We are learning so many things about math… scale is a big one (no pun intended!)… when we built our first models, we had no idea that they were actually 64 FEET tall! We reduced them down to a size that would actually work with our toys. Can you imagine a 64′ tall Polly Pocket yacht !?

The fact that your own designs can magically appear in a matter of hours is so impressive! As we learn more about the complex program to create things, the next challenge is to create something that ‘fits together’. More on that when our project gets further underway.


This is the MakerBot in action!


This print took about 3 hours to print.

This is Olive’s Party Ship for her Polly Pockets!

This little baby took over FIVE hours to print!


Sphero’s First Outing!

This week is all about Spinning! Interita! Friction! Momentum!

What a better test for all those concepts than to take our Spheros on their first outing to the beach. It was a very windy day at Lake Michigan, that is for sure!  We got Nubby covers for them so they could handle the terrain, but they didn’t work at all…. Sphero just spun inside the cover – a good demonstration of a very low coefficiet of friction – not what we were looking for, so it never really got any traction at all on the sand and therefore, never moved. So we came up with a different version of the cover – we call it the PLASTIC WRAP PROTECTOR!!!! Made with two simple layers of plastic wrap. Amazingly, the PLASTIC WRAP PROTECTOR worked better than the $15 nubby cover.

With tech in hand we began our grand journey up and down mini sand dunes, across the parking lot, jumping through mountains of sand, and (here’s the scary/ unnerving part) through the WATER!!! AAAAHH!!! Nuts, I know but as students, we seemed to handle it fairly well… seeing it going into the base of the waves, it just tempted us to jump in after it. The water seemed like it was in the mid 40’s, so a quick rescue would have to be in order. Technology in WATER. It was WILD! Happily, we never had to rescue it :0)

After the lovley morning at the beach with our both our Sphero friends, practicing our spelling words in the sand and getting plenty of exercise, we are looking forward to a morning when the wind is still, the lake has no waves and we can take them back to the beach and see them swim!


going for a nice dip in the lake… BRRR!!


here are our two brave explorers! how nice!!



The Great Sphero Challenge!

Quite recently, we heard of a programmable robot called Sphero. After trying one through our Tech Club connection we thought it was SO COOL we purchased one of these awesome robots for ourselves! As a week-long project we were assigned Challenges to test Sphero’s abilities (and ours!) by coding it through obstacle courses! These were the first 4 we were given.

Sphero challenge #1

CODE Sphero through the obstacle course: maze must have 3 left turns and 4 right|must have at least 1 ramp throughout the maze. Seems simple doesn’t it? Well sometimes simple is hard… and that was the case here it was outstandingly difficult to code directions… but we did it! WHOOP WHOOP!!!

Sphero challenge #2

Build a chariot for Sphero out of pipe cleaners, straws and tape that will hold two passengers – must have 8 turns 4 right 4 left|make the maze out of blocks| must have at least two ramps. BIG TIP!!! When sphero is driving by itself, the turning radius is different then when there’s a chariot on the back and it takes more power. We ended up making many different chariots but because of the turning radius we never made it through. But we did teach Siri to tell a story on command!

Challenge #3

Create a maze. Use measuring tape to define the edges, maze should have 8 turns: 5 right, 3 left, 1 at a 30 degree angle. Create a ramp. Sphero should be able to go backward through the maze.  That was proved too difficult to solve. The backwards part was impossible at the point of what we know, the maze was cool, but backwards… maybe next week!!

Challenge# 4

Drive Sphero up a 12″ ramp. We ended up making several different designs and at one point we were so desperate we tried to make an elevator to the top! With a little help from Mom, a little extra speed, a bit of traction and BOOM we made it to the top only to fall right back down the ramp! As you might imagine there was a whole lot of shrieks of joy, leaping, dancing and a couple of tears of happiness!!! It was really fun and we learned so much about slopes, coding, friction and velocity. Stay tuned for more Sphero adventures!!!





As many of you may know, about a year and a half ago we hatched chickens and gave them to a friend who wanted them for eggs. You can see that post here. That was so amazing that 20 days ago, we started a new project as part of our Life Cycle and Biology area of study….

QUAILS! Fourteen eggs – set, incubated, turned and finally after 17 days development time, they were ready.

As of Tuesday afternoon last week, they began to hatch. First one, then the next, then it seemed like popcorn, one after another, after another. The first one came at 1:37PM. The last one emerged around 8:35PM. 11 baby chicks out of 14 eggs. We had 2 that didn’t pip but were fully developed and sadly died in the shell, another wasn’t viable and the last one which strangely, was the first one to pip, couldn’t make it out of the shell, so a recovery mission was set into motion to get it out of it’s shell.  The membrane had started to ‘shrink’ around the baby quail which happens when the air from the original pip opening starts to dry out. Without help, the baby will get stuck and die. Here’s the thing. The last part of a healthy chick’s formation is once it gets outside air, it begins to absorb the blood and all the nutrients in it from the vascular system in the membrane. It’s final process is to absorb the yolk, (which will serve as a protein pack for 2-3 days) into it’s tummy. If you help a chick too soon, those things can’t happen and some tragic results can occur. We waited about 10 hours and saw the lining of the shell drying up before we decided to start a rescue mission. Happily, it was a success and that last chick out into the world is fine!!!! WHEW!

The quails are TINY!!! The chicks only weigh about 6-7 grams when they hatch. It’s like holding air!

So! We have 11 babies in the house. :0) We love every single one of them and they are little pooping machines! Their wings are growing by the day – time for a cover on the brooder so they don’t start flapping their wings and take off… This week they will fly our coop (brooder) and head to their new, forever home a few miles away at a friend’s farm.

Another awesome adventure here on Water Street. Thanks for checking out our post to learn more about the amazing world of quails!!

This is the quail development chart we referenced each day.

On the 14th day, the egg turner is removed from the incubator, the humidity is raised and the eggs are set on a cloth for hatching. We color the water in the channels blue so we can see when it is running low. A duck family offered to oversee the hatching since they were familiar with the process ;0)

The first pip! This was the chick that had to be rescued from it’s shell 10 hours later.
The first one!


Many friends and neighbors came by to meet the new chicks and see them hatch.


It was a busy afternoon having all those eggs hatch over 10 hours time! The next morning, after spending the night in the incubator, we saw the rescued chick needed help getting the now dried membrane off. Under a heat lamp, a little water, a towel and a gentle touch was about all it took to get this little guy to fluff up like the rest of the crew. Once it did, it was time for the brooder box.


What fun nature can be!!!!


How Egg-citing!!!

This week, we eggs-amined our Mom’s egg-stremely large egg collection! She has everything from ostrich eggs to to finch eggs, she even had some super rare ringneck pheasant eggs with an alligator texture. They occur 1 in every 500-1000 eggs laid! There is a wild variation of color and shape of the eggs, even from the same species of birds. Speaking of alligators, she has one of those too!

While looking through the collection, we also explored the thickness of the shells and how the birds crack open, the ostrich egg was of course, the thickest but the thinnest was the itty bitty finch egg. The shells thickness is directly related to how big the bird is inside of it and the strength it will have to break through when it is time to hatch. Did you know that Ostrich eggs are the largest living single cell currently known!? Dinosaur eggs would have had them beat, but, well you know how that story ended. As for the the smallest now egg, that would belong to a bee hummingbird which weighs just 1/2 of a GRAM! Hard to imagine a BIRD coming out of something that small!

My Mom started collecting eggs when she was 9 so many of the ones you see in the photos are over 35 years old. They have become more brittle over time, so we were even more careful with them than we would be with a normal egg – we were afraid they would turn to dust!

Some of the eggs weren’t blown out so we got to see some nature MAGIC!! The dried and very old yolks usually sits at the tip of the egg creating a super cool illusion, it sits on the narrowest end of the egg which made it balance on its tip.

Maybe in a future post we will share the eggs that she decorated when she was 9, inspired by the famous Faberge egg man,  where she cut shutters into the eggs and created little scenes. Her next door neighbor, Mrs. Goodman was her crafting partner way back when.

That’s all for now – Stay tuned for more egg-citing news!!


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So many eggs! Pheasants, duck, chicken, chukar, guinea hen, partridge, quail, button quail (the tiny on on the end!)
All goose eggs, we were impressed by the size differences!
Alligator texture on pheasant eggs. Rare to see this texture – only 1 in every 500-1000 eggs are laid with this feature.