Tag 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!!!


The Effect of Color…

We’ve been learning about color and our awesome friend Annie sent us a tutorial showing her making marbled paper with acrylics and water. So in addition to the pour painting project we had planned, we added this one into the morning.

Here’s how it works: Start with warm water in a bowl, dip your brush into acrylic paint of your choice and let it move onto the water surface. The water tension will hold it in place so it will just float until you add the next color. Once you have what you want, give it a little swirl and the gently place your paper on top of your design. Wait a moment and pick it up – Voila! You have marbled paper! Super fun and easy to do. Thanks Annie! :0)

The next project was trying our Acrylic Pour Painting. We learned about artist Holton Rower, a famous sculptor. Wow is it COOL! Check out the images below, super simple, easy and fun. We’ve also included a link to one of Holton’s time lapse pour projects. Check it out and see what you think!

That’s all ‘pour’ now.


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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!




Brownie Time!

We’re in luck! You may remember our Kitchen Chemistry experiments we posted throughout last year and now MIT’s Open CourseWare, program is offering an Advanced Kitchen Chemistry class! We will be using this as one aspect of our science/chemistry curriculum again this year and we couldn’t wait to get started. Enter….Brownies. Yes, brownies!

Before we started cooking we had to answer some questions, the first was: What is the  difference between cake flour, bread flour and all-purpose flour? The primary difference is the protein content which becomes gluten. Cake flour has the least amount of protein, (about 8%) while all-purpose has somewhere around 10-11%. finally, bread flour has the most protein AND it’s got a very fine texture. When your making cakes, you would want a flour that’s lower in protein.

Here’s the next question: What are the health benefits of chocolate? In milk and dark chocolate, it can give protection from disease-causing free radicals, potential cancer prevention (says the cocoa plants), improved heart health, good for overall cholesterol profile, better cognitive function, blood pressure\ blood sugar aid, and a SUPERFOOD!!! (which not much of this matters when people are adding piles of sugar on top!)

Next: What are the types of chocolate? SO MANY!!! Unsweetened, bittersweet, semisweet, milk, dark, sweet baking, unsweetened cocoa, white, pre-melted, candy coating, mexican (my personal fav!) and so much more!

Ever wonder why we crave chocolate? We learned about that in DEATH BY CHOCOLATE! an earlier post. Check it out here.

And finally: If you were optimizing the brownie recipe, what things would you examine? We decided the short answer is the type of flour, the amout of chocolate and the quantity of eggs.


We loved baking these little treats! They were cakey and delicious, but too airy for us to call them brownies. This is where the optimization of ingredients begins. Today, we will alter the contents and see if we can create the perfect brownie for us! To be clear, nothing wrong with chocolate cake, but we were striving for a true brownie. :0)

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)