Tag Archives: hands on learning


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)

Flower Tracking

Spring is such a fun time to be outside and see things growing before our eyes. It happens so fast! One day there is snow on the ground, the next tulips are in full bloom. We used this opportunity to track the growth of bulbs we planted last fall. Every other day, for 10 days, we observed the changes, measured the plant and documented the process. We were amazed that on average, the flowers grew in overall height 1/2″ per DAY! That’s a lot of work from a little bulb!



*Featured image found on inhabit.com


How Sweet it is!

Hey! So it turns out that we forgot to put a post up from 2015!! It was finished we just forgot to post it… so we thought “now is as good’a time as any! So without further ado, Go forth brave soldier! Learn about sugar and its glory!!!!

Sugar has been a topic of discussion this week. We were also covering changes in states of matter. Combine the 2 and you get this experiment!

Our materials for this experiment were: domino sugar cubes, a paper towel, a big flat bowl filled with warm water and food coloring.  The first round of fun was putting 2 single cubes of sugar into the shallow bit of water and quickly placing a single drop of coloring on each. Within less than a minute they had completely dissolved!

We then make it even more exciting: we stacked 3 cubes and put one drop of food coloring on it. Then we quickly transferred the tower into the water of the bowl and a rainbow explosion of color went everywhere! {not the walls and ceiling just the bowl. :0) Less than 1 minute later the dots had dissolved and we were left with some dishes to do…

A cool experiment. Fast. Fun and very colorful!!


notice how much better the iPhone 7 camera resolution is rather than the iPhone 5’s! Amazing!!!



Spinning Dirt!

For the past several months, Olive has been taking pottery lessons with Jeff Blanford, a Nationally recognized ceramicist. We have admired his work for years and are most grateful to be spending time with someone with his creative and positive outlook on life, creativity and nature.  What fun it has been!! We will try and do a better job of keeping up with future projects, each one is more exciting than the next. In the meantime, we will take a trip back in time and post some of her work for you to see until we catch up with where she’s at :0)

The focus of the studio time is learning how to throw pots on the wheel but we have taken many side journeys, learning about crystalizing metals, glazes, glass and many other forms of art. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Always by her side, Jeff is an incredible teacher, always attentive and grounded, but allows Olive the freedom to explore clay in ways she will learn the best. 


Practice, practice, practice!!

The first try at painting stripes. Tricky!

Learning how to paint near perfect stripes on the Griffin Grip! 

A lovely cup with stripes – ready for the kiln!

Magnetic Oobleck!

Along with magnetics, we also learned about non-neutonian fluids. (Those are fluids that behave either like solids or liquids – they’re tricky that way!) What a better way to understand them then making the awesome, oobleck goo… But this was no ordinary oobleck – we made ours magnetic!!

We made this magic oobleck with the following things:

20 mule team borax, elmers glue {preferably white}, water, magnets, magnetite or iron shavings, two\three plastic cups {to mix things together} and stir sticks.

The first thing you do to make this amazingly clean slime, is mix a half a cup of glue and water together then mix a full cup of water and a teaspoon of borax. Once all the ingredients are together, mix it with your hands until it stops being gooey and drippy. if you want to make it magnetic, then add iron filings or magnetite bits to the mix. Fold it in well and get out your magnet!!!

If you are feeling really wild, you can ball up your goo, insert a straw, close the hole around it and gently BLOW! Now you have a non-neutonian bubble… let it pop and it turns back into liquid. Now, that is COOL!

Click on the movie at the end of the post to learn more about non-neutonian fluids.


Magnetic Fields…

Check out this experiment we did with the magnetite we found at the beach the other day. If you don’t know, this mineral has the highest level of iron which makes is a lot of fun to experiment with! Check out more information on this mineral on geology.com.  We were amazed by the patterns and responsiveness of the tiny bits on the tray!! We also tried putting it in water to see if it responded differently.

We moved on to conduct a density experiment using oil, corn syrup and 2 temps of water and a neodynium magnet… The density of the liquids definitely had an effect on how strong the magnetic forces were!

Further refining the magnitite from the sand we collected at the beach.


See the 2 ‘circles’ in the middle? Those are the magnetic fields from the horsehoe magnet underneath the tray we were using.



That magnet had to work pretty hard to get through the dense corn syrup, but it finally made it!

The Migration Begins…

For the past 4 years, we have been finding Monarch caterpillars in the wild and raising them. This not only increases their chance of survival, but we get to see their amazing life cycle up close.

This year we found, not one, not 2, but THREE monarch caterpillars! We also found a swallowtail caterpillar, but we will post that process once it emerges (which has no specific time frame…). Now, back to the Monarchs.

Their life cycle starts with a tiny egg on the underside of a milkweed plant. This is the only food they will consume during their entire life. Once it hatches, the bitty, bitty caterpillar will eat its egg and then begin on the leaves. It will continue to grow through 5 ‘instars” (shedding of its skin), the final instar is when it turns into a chrysalis (not a cocoon – those are what moths create). Check out the gold dots on it!! It is AMAZING! From there, we wait about 2 weeks until it emerges. Just before it comes out, the chrysalis turns clear and you see the wings of the butterfly right through it!

The monarch pictured here, is a male (see the black dots on its lower wings). It will be one of millions that migrates all the way down to MEXICO! Hasta luego Señor Mariposa!