Tag Archives: community

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)

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Getting to Know Mike Gallagher…

Mike is the Editor and co-founder of our local Newspaper, the Local Observer. We are working on a civics project to round out the school year (keep your eyes out for our newest adventure coming soon!) and we wanted to know more about how the press is involved in every day life in America.

We were impressed with how brave he is! It was hard to believe how daring reporters have to be and the lengths he goes to get the truth and all the perspectives of a story!! Until this week, we had no idea that a reporter is like a secret agent.

He has lived and worked in many places. We were happy to have had the chance to meet him! A special thanks to Mike for lunch and taking the time to talk with us about his job!

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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!

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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!

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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!!

 

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

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One of the super happy PET recipients!!

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We the People…

Two days ago, I was teaching the girls about crowd sourcing and exponential numbers of populations, money & projects. To better explain it through an example they could relate to, I took the girls on a tour of Kickstarter. Based on a crowd funding model, it was a perfect example of asking like-minded people to support often a ton of work to get an idea off the ground and connect with those who want to be part of it. The challenge is usually, how to get your message or idea out among all the other ones trying to do the same.

We happened across this project that we think is INCREDIBLE. Please do check it out today.  They have 5 days left before it ends… before the inauguration. We backed this project and feel, for the first time in a while, that by doing so we have a voice to help support diversity. The fact that it is through beautifully created art, makes it all the more meaningful to us. We backed it end of the day Wednesday. We were number 637. There are now almost 5,000 people supporting this project. This was the lesson in exponential numbers. The more people that know about it, the farther and faster it spreads.

In our household, we aren’t particularuly political. We believe this is a COMPLETELY non-partisan issue. It is an issue of what this country means when it says, “We the People…” Here at Water Street, we believe that means ALL the people.

 

Happy New Year!

In early December, Olive and I were asked if we would be interested in coming up with a design ideas and a proposal for the home of our friends to decorate their space for a big New Year’s Eve Party! Of course we said YES!

We immediately went online to get inspiration. We decided on using silver, gold and lots of candles, birch wood and bit of tasseling here and there. We then created the proposal. Here’s a look at it:

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They agreed to hire us and we began SHOPPING – every decorator’s favorite part! We started at Target. It was hard to know how much stuff we would need, so we found a fairly empty shelf and started mocking it up in the store. We were armed with a calculator and a lot of patience. It was hard to get everything we needed and stay in budget. We had so many IDEAS!!!

After returning from our travels for the holidays, we cut the birch platforms, packed up the decorations and headed to their home to begin the decorating. We were happy that we had the perfect amount to create a festive space for them to party in! One of my favorite parts was the fortunes we made. They were hilarious and really pretty. We heard they were a hit. :0)

Check out some of our handy work. It was great fun and awesome to see what we could accomplish! Happy New Year to one and all!!

 

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