Category Archives: Hands on Learning

The World of Lapidary!

Ever stroll along a beach or in a park and see a beautiful stone? Us too! It’s one of our favorite things to do and that activity just got a lot more interesting after a visit to the Livingston Gem and Mineral Club in Howell, Michigan. Geology has never been so fun. There we were, guided by our (Aunt!) Olga Lampcov and rock and gem expert, Ann Marie. Between the 2 of them, they left no stone unturned ;0)

We met people who were (understandably) CRAZY for opals, saw rocks and gems being cut and learned about cracks, types of stone, both natural and synthetic. Ann Marie even takes JEANS, layers them up with resin and turns those into ‘stones’. And then, before we knew it, steady hands in place, we learned to polish our own pieces into shining, beautiful versions of their former selves!

It was super fun, wet and exciting. We didn’t want to leave and can’t wait to go back!

Using templates to create our shapes.
Some of the members of the Gem and Mineral Society.
The beginning of the shaping process… A long way to go from here!
Adding the support sticks to the stones for better grip.
Ready for more shaping & polishing!
Once the domed shape is complete, it’s time for polishing.
Final buffing and polishing on the 3,000 grit diamond polishing wheel!
3 Petosky stones, 1 Amethyst, and a Blue Mountain Jasper stone, polished and ready for something special!
This cool material is called ‘Fordite”. It comes from the Ford paint line during manufacturing. The paint builds up on the racks after countless parts have been painted different colors. The end result after cutting and buffing are beautiful stone like patterns. Check hem out! They’re super cool!!
Layers of the paint.
More buffing and polishing!
Viola! beautiful Fordite Cabochons!

Welcome to the Paper Doll Era!

Since we’ve been little, me and Olive have always created little paper dolls and animals that we either taped on a wall or left in a folder for later inspiration. But there were problems with those dolls – their clothing often ripped and the overall look was pretty tacky (not to be judgy, we did make them after all). Plus, if you wanted someone to hold something you had to tape it, otherwise it’d probably be lost. Recently, I tried laminating every individual piece, but amazingly, the tape pulled each piece of clothing apart.

So…I came up with a solution! Digital dolls – it’s basically the same but instead of coloring, cutting each piece, I simply drew my character, made a few outfits and then popped her (A.K.A Carly) into Illustrator! Fashion wise, it’s very useful because you can have the one t-shirt, but then change the color or add a print and then suddenly you have 7 different shirts made out of the one outline! Not to say paper isn’t great, I don’t think I’ll switch over to an iPad to draw in the near future, but using the computer really solved quite a few problems.

Moral of the story: Although modern conveniences are cool and quite frankly, super useful, it’s better to find a balance in-between… using technology and our wonderful minds to work together to create something RADICAL!

Have a nice day y’all, and keep a look out for more awesome posts coming your way! (;

This is one of the fresher dolls I’m working on, her name is Alice!

And The Winner is….

Ever since I’ve been little, I’ve loved Hot Wheels cars and Monster trucks, so when the holidays arrived this past year, we were shocked to find itty-bitty versions – I basically fainted in the store. They came with baby size tracks and just like when I was little, we named them something totally RADICAL! (like Scary, Blu Angel, Pinkerstinker, etc.) But as usual, we turned the delightful little toy into an accidental school project about weight, velocity, friction, probability and a competition in physics!

We have a lot of tracks and we used that to our advantage! We rolled out paper on the floor, taped it down, set up the track, re-thought the names we gave them and assigned colors to each car. Then we sent them down the speeding track for SCIENCE!! We mapped out were they landed and saw if that correlated with each car’s weight. Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than the company that created them! Able to be sold to a traveling tourist in under 10 minutes! LOOK! ON THAT RACING TRACK! It’s a bird! It’s invisible.  NO!! YOU’RE ALL WRONG! IT’S RED ELEVEN! (thats another car we named.)

Whew! I got a little carried away with my imagination there. Anyway, I’ll let the pictures tell you basically what happened but in the end, our hypothesis of which cars would have the greatest potential of making it the farthest was correct!


It all started with Kickstarter.

We were browsing through Kickstarter, appreciating people’s ingenuity when we saw this. Andy and Keith Johnson had an idea. Wonderstructs! A marble run made out of wood. Didn’t take much fur us to sign on as a backer and some time later, after what we imagined to be long hours and months of work on their end, our box filled with excitement arrived!

We have been focusing on physics and movement the past several weeks (and for the next few coming) so this was a perfect project for us to take on. We’ll let most of the photos tell the story but to say the least, it’s a wonder we could construct it! There was a stack of laser cut wood pieces that needed to be punched out and assembled, stacks of magnets, wiring, a motor, tons of little rubber bands, marbles (of course) and the instructions, which was an amazing accomplishment for the inventors to develop! They gratefully, had great assembly instructions (thank you!) and once constructed, there were over 100 parts to use in creating our marble run. It took us roughly 20 hours of the course of a week to get the whole thing put together and installed but it was worth it.

In the end, our first working design has a bowl, 4 switches, 2 funnels, 1 giant conveyor belt, some chimes and many turns and straights. There were a few pieces that broke or fell apart and sometimes it was tricky to get all of the pieces correctly seated, but for the most part, the entire installation is miraculous! Overall we are quite impressed with this ‘king of all kits’ and we intend to change the installation every few weeks. We didn’t include one of our favorite pieces, the tipper arm, so next version is sure to include that one! We’ll update the blog occasionally as we reinvent this awesome invention :0)

Pit Fire Time!

It was a cool but damp late October morning when we arrived at Jeff’s Studio. Pots had been thrown the week before and bisque fired, now it was time for the glaze. We were trying our hands at a pit fire. We gathered all types of wood from around the farm, sprinkled and piled dog food, egg shells, seaweed, and salt into and over the pots, hoping to have color and texture merge onto the waiting surfaces. Jeff lit the fire and instantly, it was a blaze! The fire was then covered with wet cardboard and wooden boards and after hovering around the warmth of the fire, back into the studio we went so Olive could throw more clay.

After about an hour, the fire had died down, wood was cinder and we went to the pit to see the results among the still smoldering ashes. See what you think! We were very excited with the outcome – the texture and mottling appears to be galactic and the depth of the black is beautiful. We are already planning for another one. Very fun and interesting to see the reactions (and non reactions) that showed themselves on the final pieces. What a great way to spend a fall morning in West Michigan!


Circuit Bending 1.0

Welcome to tech class! Before we begin, a brief over view of what circuit bending is: A man named Reed Ghazala created circuit bending in 1966 when unexpectedly, a toy shorted-out when it touched a metal object in his desk drawer. This created surprising types of unusual sounds. Circuit bending today is when people (like us!), customize the circuits in electronic devices, like toys and digital synthesizers to create new musical or visual instruments! WHEW! Now that you know what circuit bending is, let’s move on.

Over the last couple weeks we’ve made changes to over 8 different toys! We’ve changed things like the color of the lights inside, on toys that spoke we shifted the pitch of the words and even the speed of the sentences! By far the most complicated toy was Reggie the rooster. He has all sorts of springs, wires, lights, speakers and buttons which are all controlled by the circuit board inside. Plus, he sings great little songs… One thing that was particularly interesting with some of the toys that we first opened, is that some of them (the ones that have buttons that we could press and it starts talking or making noises) have these little plungers that are connected to the button, so when they touch the mother board, that triggers the lights and sounds! Cool right?

We used a jump wire to find circuits that made new sounds or glitch. By doing this we could make the lights change color, sounds go deeper or turn the board off or on entirely. We then took sounds and worked with Dad to loop them into his audio system. Now, we can use it to make MUSIC!

As an ongoing project, there will be more updates on this especially if something groundbreaking happens, but be sure to keep your notifications on and if you’re not willing to do that, keep an eye out for our next post!



There’s dear little Reggie! (May he rest in peace.)


Heres the inside of Todd- we ended up temporarily changing the color of his lights!


Later, we hooked up one of the toys to dad’s music-ing machines and it made some pretty spooky sounds!

We have ‘Egg’straordinary News!!

After 7 months of hatching, choosing, feeding, watering, coop building, holding, singing, walking, admiring and loving our small flock of chickens, the first eggs have been laid! They are tiny and absolutely perfect!! We are so proud of our little hens and lucky to have them as part of our family. We love our feathered friends!


A comparison of a standard hen egg and our little banty egg!