Category Archives: Science

Wigglin’ Gummy Bears!

What do you know about GELATIN!? Most people know about it because of Jello but it is used in all kinds of product besides that, including some manufacturing processes. As we  learned about the properties of gelatin, to our surprise, it is made of collagen, the stuff in bones, ligaments, skin and connective tissue! (Oh dear!!)! It is the most abundant protein in mammals. It is generally collected from cows & pigs for creating gelatin. It’s colorless, odorless and tasteless (well, we think it has a little taste, but we are sensitive to flavor). Wonder where the famous wiggle comes from? It originates in the structure in the protein strands which tangles and traps the water inside it. Structure + water = jiggle!

To get hands on experience with this, we moved into the kitchen to make tiny gummy bears. They are SO CUTE! For this cooking adventure we used: vegan gelatin, two flavors – grapefruit and apple, little gummy molds, a pipette to be extra exact when filling, and a pot and boiling water. Let’s get COOKING!!

We made 2 flavors. Apple lemon and grapefruit honey. We made the recipe, piped them into the molds and whacked them in the fridge for about an hour of so. The grapefruit one didn’t set, and they didn’t taste so great… The apple gummies set up great, but again, not such terrific flavor.  It was cool to know that inside those jiggly little bears were tiny microscopic mesh holding pockets of flavored liquid! Now that’s BEARY cool!!!


What? I Can’t Ear You!

So! We’ve been learning about ears, sound and how they work.

To start, we learned about the parts of the ear: the pinna (the outside of your ear), the ear canal, the ear drum (a thin membrane that vibrates the occicles), the ossicles which are three tiny bones called the hammer, stirrup and anvil. And the cochlea which is a small tube filled with fluid and tiny hairs that detect vibrations from the ossicles and the ear drum, which is then sent messages to the brain and translated into sound! AWESOME!! To make it more 3D we made a model to show where things are placed.

As a little follow-up to that project, yesterday we tried to make big animal ears out of paper! First, we chose an ear shape to mimic and cut it out of colored craft paper, then we taped them into cones to amplify the sound and finally we cut ear holes, turned on some rad tunes and put them on our actual ears. We found that we looked very silly in bigger ears – it’s much more noticeable when you wiggle your ears in gigantic paper ones rather than your own and that the blue mouse ears and the red fox ears worked best. But they didn’t work how we expected them to, it made the sound more hollow rather than louder. But even so it was a really fun experiment!

the dark blue coil is the cochlea, the deep yellow is the stirrup, anvil and hammer, the light blue circle is the ear drum and its obvious what color the ear is!




Topographic Maps…

A cold wind is blowing fiercely. Her blonde, plastic hair “flips” in the wind while she treks up the 5 whole inches of this steep, mountainous terrain. If only she had looked at her handy-dandy topographical map to find the easiest way up, she wouldn’t have almost fallen off to her demise

That’s right everybody we are learning about TOPOGRAPHIC MAPS!!!!

To go with our last lesson about maps, it was time to learn a little bit about elevation! These maps offer more specific information about height and steepness of geographical forms. Of course there is other information included on these maps, like depth of water bodies, populations, camp sites, waterways and other natural formations. The lines that are on the map represent elevations. To understand this better, we went for the Play-Dough to see it in a more 3D way.

This was our process: first we grabbed a nice big hunk of dough and shaped it into a mountainous terrain. Then, we poked holes evenly up the side. We grabbed some fair, innocent citizens of the United Vintage Polly Pocket Nation and sprinkled them across the range (making sure they had their phones in case they got lost!) to remind us of the potential hazards humans can face when traveling without a Topo (that’s lingo for topographic) map! We then traced a line around the base of the mountain and with a piece of thread, cut on the first dotted line (closest to the bottom) and lifted of the top of the doughy fortress. Then we removed to bottom and set it aside but didn’t squish it… If you’re doing this yourself repeat the last couple steps until you’ve cut on every dot. TRACE! CUT! LIFT! SET ASIDE! TRACE! CUT! LIFT! SET ASIDE! WHOOP WHOOP!!!!! Once you’re done tracing, cutting, lifting and set aside-ing, you can see that on the lines on the paper have left a 2D representation of the doughy mound. After doing this project, it was much easier to understand which would be the easiest and also, the most dangerous path of travel for our Polly Pocket hikers. Lines closer together – STEEP! Lines further apart? Better.    Much better.

The wind continued to blow. Blonde, plastic hair still whipping in the wind, she reached the summit. Only to find her tea had gotten cold and her Biscoff biscuits had frozen. No matter. With her topo map in hand, she found the quickest and safest route down to the vintage civilization and headed straight to the cafe for a slice of rustic pumpkin pie. 



One Stomata… Two Stomata…

One of the many things we have learned about leaves is the complex process of photosynthesis. You probably already know a lot about how that works but did you know that within the leaves and stem, there are tiny pores called stomata? They are circular in shape and protected on either side by little kidney shaped cells. These tiny stomate are responsible for allowing gas and water vapor to pass into the leaf which is part of photosynthesis.

We found a really cool way to see these little cells for ourselves here. Basically, you choose your leaf, make a line with clear nail polish, let it dry and then use scotch tape to lift those tiny samples off the leaf and its ready to view under the microscope. It was a super simple experiment and we were VERY excited to see the little cells up close and personal!  Each leaf had a different arrangement and color of the cells. Sometimes even when we know what we hope to see, when we actually DO see it, it is fun & surprising!

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Would you Be’leaf’ it?

The past 3 weeks we have been learning all about leaves. We took a course at the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland, Michigan with 2 naturalists to learn more about leaf and tree identification.

The first week we focused on flowers (aster family).

We started a journal y identifying parts of a flower and then headed out to the trails to collect finger size specimens. We found things like golden rod, New England Aster, Queen Ane’s Lace and much, much more! Back in the classroom, we taped the flower samples and added detailed information about their family and locations next to them to catalog everything we found. We also were given a guide booklet of the families of flowers and trees to keep, much to our delight! The next week was… Trees!

This was an interesting day. We learned about leaf types and took our knowledge along with an identification list on a tree scavenger hunt. We learned about the parts of a leaf like the midrib and the veins, alternating and opposite leaf patterns, lobes, teeth and what a whole leaf shape looked like. As a group we paired up to see if we could name the trees on the preserve. That is tricky business!!

The 3rd week, we focused on seeds and dispersal. Once we were out on the trail, we learned about milkweed, witch-hazel, dogweed. Once dogwood dries up, the seeds are projected out of their casing, shooting up to 5 feet in distance! If you are in a really quiet room, you can hear a very distinct popping sound when they erupt! Seeds can disperse via flight (think dandelions), water (think coconuts), poop (think berries) and attachment (think burrs). Often it is one of these methods of transport that aids in non-native plants becoming invasive like, Autumn Olive (aww, poor Olive).

We learned a lot! A funny thing about our particular group – they were obsessed with milkweed seeds and were throwing fistfuls of them everywhere to watch them fly. At least the Monarchs next year will appreciate their enthusiasm! Time for me to ‘leaf’ now. :0)




Air or Water?

Which is greater? Air Pressure or Water Pressure?

We did this experiment to find out… first we submerged two glasses with water and then we put them edge to edge as we pulled them out of the sink. Next we carefully put the tower of glasses on a tray and gently inched the top glass just slightly to the side so we could see the water but it wasn’t gushing out. If you look a little closer, you can see that there’s just a tiny slit between the glasses which would make you think that water would be pouring out, but no! It proves that the air pressure keeps the water inside the glasses making it the greater force. If you take a straw a blow into the crack, air will push its way into the glass displacing the water. Air then fills the glass, and forces the water out! If you are doing this project just beware – the glasses can get kinda tippy!!

A fun way to show that air and water pressure are not equal.


We decided it could see it better if it was blue! so we did the experiment again just for laughs!
here you can see the offset we placed on the upper glass. Water should have dripped out but air pressure saved the day! Pretty cool!






Air, Water & Friction!

A couple of weeks back we went on a beach adventure to learn about the evidence air, water and friction in nature, such as the title says!

Driftwood is is one such natural phenomenon that all 3 can be seen. The air moves the water, (along with other forces) which moves the water which pushes the wood. The sand moves up and down and over time – a long time – it abraids the wood, wearing it down. Same as beach glass and, well, stones throughout the rock cycle – which we also love to find. All these things are changed, worn down over time by air, water and friction.

After collecting our favorite pieces of wood, we came back from the beach and started our project. We used twine, a few hooks in the wall, a drill, some white and blue paint, driftwood (there’s a song about that you know!), a big branch and a warm fuzzy blanket to sit on!

We drilled small holes in the tops of the pieces of wood but only the tops. Then we painted the ends white and blue and hung them from the larger branch attached to the ceiling. Now it hangs happily in our learning space, reminding us about the power of the forces of nature!