Category Archives: Science

Gimme Some Skin!

Our skin is a busy place. Feeling the touch of the world around us, sloughing off dead skin, building new, sweating, growing hair, keeping things in a sealed space. And don’t forget goosebumps! Take a ride through the layers of the skin and then come back to check out our attempt at a model of the skin with, what else? Jello and Marshmallows!

Some of these models can be TOO REAL. There’s the subcutaneous tissue (represented by the marshmallows (fat!)), the dermis, (Jello) and of course, the surface layer of skin, the epidermis, represented by a fruit roll up (what is the deal with the printed faces on the Roll ups? Is that NEW?!) The finale was putting in the little wire hairs –  it kind of made us queasy. But we get the point now. We will never look at skin the same again! And that is the ‘skin’ny on skin!


The Skin You’re In…

Skin. The largest organ in the body. Ever wonder how much of it we actually have?  To find out, we did an experiment (of course!) and all you need is: a lot of paper (news paper would also work), tape and two or more well-mannered family members or friends.

LET US BEGIN!! For this fun project Olive decided to step up and be the star of the show, but if you don’t have an Olive handy, you can always use someone else ;0) Long story short, we covered our handy skin model in paper and tape, and carefully cut and ripped it all off in big chunks and then flattened into as close of a rectilinear shape as possible and measured it. We took the dimensions and found the area. Turns out all of Olive’s skin measured up to approximately 2,441 square inches!! I say approximately because we didn’t measure the skin between fingers and toes, into ears, eyelids, you get the idea. In case you’re wondering, average adults have around 2,800 square inches… that’s a LOT of SKIN!

From there, we figured out the pressure placed on her body. Atmospheric pressure is calculated at 14.7 pounds per square inch, which that means there’s 35,8827 pounds of force on her body from the sea of atmosphere around her! Talk about being under PRESSURE!!


Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Just a couple of days a go we learned the difference between glaciers and icebergs, and along the way we also learned how salt affects ice!

To start, we learned the difference between the two similar looking ice formations. Glaciers are formed with continual tons of snow in a place where it can’t melt, such as the arctic and they are entirely above water level. An iceberg is the broken part of a glacier which floats 10% above water level (and yes we will be learning about that little myth a little bit later!). Now, EXPIRIMENT TIME!!!

The only things you will need for this experiment is: water balloons, two bowls, large clear bowl, food coloring of your choice and salt. Lets get to it!

First we filled several water balloons with plain water and we left them in the snow to see how long it would take to freeze. After a (surprisingly) long overnight wait, we unwrapped the balloons and found really cool looking ice orbs, they had little air pockets inside which actually looked like needles as they froze in place, capturing the air within them. There weren’t any in the tops of the ice balls since the tops froze first, pushing the air downward into the bottom of the all. After admiring them for some time, we each took an orb and placed it in the center of each of our bowls, taking a pinch of salt and sprinkling it over them. Now is a good time now to add a few drops of food coloring.  As we watched, little canals formed and we could hear a slight hissing sound coming from them as the air released from the melting ice. Finally, we took a big glass bowl, filled it with water and plopped the ice in we let it sit for a minute and BAM! much like an actual iceberg, the ice ball was exactly 10% above the water level.  We tried this over and over with different ice balls and it was always the same – 10%.

The last thing we wanted to better understand was the fact that as an iceberg melts, there can be up to 1 mile of fresh water separate of the sea water. We modeled that by making a tunnel in one of the ice balls and squirting green food coloring through it. As you can see from the photos, the green part (representing fresh water) doesn’t mix with the blue water at its edge. With currents in an ocean, eventually, it would mix together, but in the area where it continues to melt it was easier to understand how that fresh water could stay fresh!




Saving Marine Mammals

Over Thanksgiving, we journeyed out to the San Fransico area to visit some friends and get out into the field to learn more about marine life at the ocean. We are so close to Lake Michigan that it was fun to see the differences between salt and fresh water and of course the size difference of 2 bodies of water.

Introducing: The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. A place where they rescue, rehabilitate and have a positive affect on conservation of oceans and marine life through research and education.

When we first came through the doors we saw a fun little exhibit full of skins, little skeletons and… garbage. Not because the people that come in are messy, but because that’s what they’ve collected from the animals that they save. We were surprised at how large a full sized elephant seal sculpture was. I hadn’t considered how terrifying it would be to see a live group of these tremendous mammals. They are HUGE!

We quietly walked up some stairs to see the rehabilitation center. There were only about 12 seals there then, but we could only see 2 from the observation platform. April is their (sadly) busy season and they have had up to 300+ seals and other marine animals in their care at one time! It takes a TON of work and loads of fish to feed and rehabilitate these little friends.  We saw the kitchen where they prepare all the food, a research lab, and my Mom went to check out the autopsy area, where they research animals after they have died. Thankfully, there was nothing there to see at that time!! WHEW!

After leaving the center, we walked down to Rodeo Beach and spent time looking at the most INCREDIBLE pebble beach and hoards of surfers. We spent much of our time looking for small, red, translucent stones that Native American folklore says if buried along with a wish it will bring you good luck! We did find a few and they are very special. They are HARD to find, but we think we are pretty lucky anyway.



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.