Category Archives: In the Field

Behind the Scenes…

…At the Field Museum! We were so lucky to get the chance to meet with Dr. Corine Vriesendorp who is the director of their Andes-Amazon program. She is a field biologist and a plant ecologist…. and may we say – super FUN! She had just returned from a research trip in Columbia so we were extra excited that the timing worked out for us to go to Chicago (who doesn’t love Chicago!?) and meet with her.

We started our behind the scenes adventure in the Rare Book Room. We saw the Audubon Ottoman, (well, it had a cover on it, but we were able to see one of the 4 Audubon Double Elephant Folio books), a rare, historical piece that was donated to the Museum in 1969.

From there, we went to the bird specimen area. There we learned about the consistent way nature solves problems, how species are collected and how huge the Field Museum’s collection of birds is. We loved seeing all the tiny hummingbirds and the birds of paradise. They are so dramatic!!!

We also revisited the beetle room. The room where hard, detailed, and wildly smelly work gets done by flesh eating beetles, who, for a place to stay, will eat birds and mammals to the bone, ready for organizing and storing by the most patient people on earth! They sort the freshly cleaned bones, some tinier than we could believe existed, tagged them and placed them in boxes to add to their massive collection.

After our tour was complete, we experienced the Specimens exhibit and the rest of the museum, including, meeting another scientist who is an entomologist. We held hissing cockroaches, spiders and a giant millipede.

A SUPER inspiring trip to meet some amazing scientists and hear about their work. A special thank you to Corine for taking us behind the scenes of her workplace!!! IMG_3532FullSizeRenderIMG_3533IMG_3540IMG_3544IMG_3548IMG_3549IMG_3550IMG_3551IMG_3559IMG_3557IMG_3555IMG_3560IMG_3552



Move It!

Yesterday, we went to a STEAM exhibit at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. It showcases some of the work by Sarah and Jon Vanderbeek of Sweet Spot Studio.  In the room there were many dinosaur toys, cars and airplanes, and many work-in-progress toys. The intent of the exhibit was to show the development process and how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) work together to bring products to life. In the middle of the room, stood a giant word, STEAM and on it was a obstical course for a large orange ball, which once you turned a wheel the ball traveled down a ramp, through a loopy loop, up another ramp, around a large M, down through a large tube and using air under high pressure, rolling across a trigger which made a small foam rocket shoot to the ceiling! Finally, the ball rolled back where it originally started. We did this several times yipping and jumping up and down every single time! It was SO fun!!

Although fun, we only saw gender specific toys, so we would’ve appreciated just a touch of diversity! As you might know from our blog posts, we love science and building and art and math, so this was the perfect exhibition for us!



And the Mycelium Runs…

IMG_2319This week we have been learning more about fungus and mushrooms, how the work and how to find them in your own backyard, or anywhere for that matter! Did you know that the mushroom is actually called the ‘fruit body’? It is like an apple is to the tree it grows from. The mushroom is actually the fruit!

One of the first things we investigated was the anatomy of a mushroom: the stem, the skirt, the cap, the roots and the stuff under the cap, otherwise known as tubes, spines, ridges and gills! You can tell them apart by their names and shapes. Tubes are well…. little tubes that are not attached to the stem, but ridges are actually part of the underside of the cap! Cool! Spines are a type of tube but they aren’t hollow. And finally, the most dangerous and certainly the one you should NEVER harvest in the wild (unless you are a seasoned mushroom hunter) are the ones with gills. Usually, the mushrooms with gills are poisonous so don’t touch one if you happen to find a patch.

After learning about the fruit body anatomy, we went on a hike into the Saugatuck Dunes, through the forest looking all around for mushrooms of any kind. We had recently listened to a podcast by Radio Lab about fungus, mycelium and their inter-connectedness and interdependence on trees so we went looking with the keen awareness of how everything is connected by their proximity in the forest. If you have a chance, you should listen to that podcast – we LOVE Radio Lab!!

Check out some pictures of the mushrooms and fungus we found. It was tougher than we thought it would be! Sneaky little fungi :0)


Just to make things more interesting, we made mushrooms out of paper. We think they came out pretty cool! You can make them too – check out the DIY video here.


If you still want another mushroom craft, check this post on our blog from a few years back.

So! There you have it! We are starting to grow our own mushrooms in the next few weeks, so be sure to check back to see how it went!


NOTE: Featured Image was courtesy of: 4/

Tide Pools in Northern California!

A couple of weeks back,  we went to California (just a couple hours north of San Fransisco)!!!! We had a lot of adventures including our fun at the tide pools! We studied the tides before we left as well as what to expect at the pools, but were unprepared for the great fluctuation in low tides would be day to day!

As you may know, tide pools are created with the rise and fall of the tides which changes every day. For example, the first day low tide was about 6:30am. Two days later, low tide was around 9:00am – so we realized how important it was to look up the actual time of low tide in the exact location we would be visiting.

The first beach we went to was called Goat Rock, which had no goats, but nearby there are a TON of cows. Thankfully, it didn’t smell like anything other than salty ocean. At that tide pool it was super rocky. The algae on the rocks made it slippery and often difficult to walk on. Plus we had to be extra careful not to step on the sea creatures attached to the rocks. A lot to look out for! We saw many different types of shells {we now have an official collection of shells and stones!} and we even saw a pod of dolphins doing their iconic arcs in the waves. We were so excited to see so many sea animals like mussels, clams, barnicals, sea snails, sea anemones and starfish. Unlike what they show on YouTube, turns out those creatures have a SUPER strong grip and they are HUGE… it makes sense of course, since the waves are crashing onto them twice every day… holding on tight would be an important way of life! It was a BEAUTIFUL beach and because low tide was early evening, we were lucky enough to catch the sunset!

Goat Rock Beach – 6:45 PM


Biggest starfish at Goat Rock Beach!
A lovely sea anemone!


A few days later on our pursuit for cool sea animals, we ended up at Dillon Beach. Now we thought that tide pools could only occur on rocky beaches but it turns out you can find them in the sand! I know what you are thinking right now, MIND BLOWN!!!!! Anyway, there were small rock caves and gigantic rocky cliffs and large boulders which around it held pools of water at low tide which contained incredible amounts of CRABS! SEA ANEMONES! FISH! SHELLS! GIGANTIC STARFISH!!!!

It was so much easier to traverse the pools on sand compared to the slippery rocks. The day was sunny and warm, the water relatively calm and FREEZING! It didn’t stop us form walking barefoot and we stayed as the tide started to rise. It happens faster than you might think!

When we got back home to school we checked out many of the stones and shells we found (including the body of a crab!) under the microscope. Stay tuned for the “Tide Pools Up Close” post, coming soon!

If you are ever near an ocean, your visit isn’t complete without heading to the beach at low tide to check out the incredible underwater life forms – it’s a visit we will never forget!

Dillon Beach: 9:25 am


more starfish!
Gigantic crabs everywhere we looked


Sea Kelp


a crab shell in lovely condition.

Safety First!

We went to our local fire station to find out more about fire safety, tour the station and learn how to extinguish fires. It was super interesting! Our guide during our visit was Chief Greg Janik. We started by learning how he got started as a fireman. He talked to us about fire safety and making sure that we had an escape plan four our house and school and all about the fire  and carbon monoxide alarms that keep us safe. We were surprised to learn how many people don’t have them hooked up in their homes. Our fire station offers them FREE to people who need them. We thought that was pretty terrific!

During our station tour, Captain Mike Betts and First Responder, John Mileskiewicz joined in to show us all the protective gear they wear and how all the tanks and their uniform helps them stay protected. We got to climb into the fire trucks and learn what each truck does. There are a LOT of different trucks!

The last part of our visit, we went out back and with help, we learned about using extinguishers and putting out both wood/paper fires and chemical fires. They taught us about the acronym PASS: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep! Pull the tag on the extinguisher, aim it in the direction of the fire, squeeze the handle and sweep back and forth at the base of the fire.

We learned that there is a powdered chemical in the extinguisher that depending on the kind of fire, can help contain or put it out. That was great to know! We have a fire extinguisher next to our gas stove and now we understand the codes on the front tell us what kind of fires that extinguisher can take out – we won’t be using ours for type A fires.

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The last thing they showed us after the chemical fire was lit, was why we should never use water on an chemical or electrical fire to put it out. It actually EXPANDS the fire!!! YIKES!

Because we were with actual firemen, we thought putting the fires out was fun (except for the terrible smell of the chemical coming out of the extinguisher!). We are happy to know how to do it and even more appreciative of the dangerous and incredible work of a fire department!

Special thanks to our AWESOME firemen for having us come and learn about fire safety!


Alexander Girard!

Yesterday we were given a tour of the exhibit: TEXTILE PLAY: The Magnificent Eye of Alexander Girard, currently up in the gallery space at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts in Michigan. A special thank you to Jackie Simpkins (the gallery curator at the SCA) for being our tour guide and sharing so many interesting details about his life and work! These were some of the most interesting things we observed:

Alexander Girard uses lots and lots of bright colors which were very unusual  for his time. During his career, he worked at Herman Miller adding color into furniture. All of his work is completely graphic, he uses very simple names for his artwork like: international heart or knots, and here is the most outstanding one…. HE USES PINK! Amazing.

We were very inspired by Girard’s dolls he created, so this morning, his work inspired our own art project to create 2D dolls with his influence. Towards the bottom of this post you can see how they turned out –  I think they look pretty good, for people who have never done this type of art. We started with cardboard cut into the shapes of some of his dolls, then we began to paint. Just as a little tip, for the faces, we recommend a sharpie marker for the eyes and all those little black details.

So try it! It’s really fun, that’s for sure. Check out his other work and you might just get inspired! He is amazing in so many ways from his art to his craftsmanship, let’s just say he has definitely made furniture more approachable because of their patterning and colors and his textiles make people smile!




Personal Energy Transportation!

This week, we went for a business tour to the West Michigan branch of an organization named Mobility Worldwide that makes wheelchair-like carts for disabled adults and children in areas around the world.

The first thing we saw when we came in to the building was the newer and older versions of the PET carts which were sitting next to the door as we entered the building. The original cart wasn’t as durable as the new design and it was smaller and less comfortable, which isn’t good for someone sitting in it all the time. The newer design had high-tech foam on the seat {instead of wood} which is usually used for medical purposes and the back of the seat is a new stretchy kind of fabric. A cover was added for safety around the gear chain and he handles are now easier to pedal. {we know so because we tried one… WOW that is so fun to pedal around (Eventhough I don’t look very happy in the picture!}! Anyways, so many improvements!!!

We also saw the workshop where the carts are handmade, and saw some people in action! All of the volunteers who work there are retired, {what a good way to spend your retirement!} And there’s no measuring involved when putting together a PET cart, thanks to the great planning and fixturing that has been designed to help them. It comes down to a whole lot of cutting, painting, packing and fun!

Just to let all of you charity givers out there know, you can in fact donate to the company, the cost of each cart is $300. That actual cost, since the people building it volunteer, and so many of the parts and processes (powder coating, for example) are donated.  Each member of our family put money together so we could make a donation to this amazing project. And guess what? If you sponsor an entire cart, they will custom make a plaque on the back of the cart with YOUR name or someone who you would like to honor or commemorate! Isn’t that cool!!

We loved seeing the work they do there! A special thank you to Dr. Dale Dykema who did such an excellent job explaining the process to us and to Mr. Gary Wallace who helped figure out the tech issues with the video & projector :0)! Thank you for having us!!


This is the original PET.
This PET has new modifications to make it safer, more durable and much more comfortable!


One of the super happy PET recipients!!