Friday, February 23, 2018

Homeschool Science: Testing for Organic Compounds in Food

A few years ago, when I was doing a biology unit with the kids, I began working through an MIT OpenCourse biology class. It wasn't long before I was stymied, however, as it turned out that biology was all chemistry, and the professor kept assuming chemistry knowledge that I didn't have. So I switched to an MIT OpenCourse chemistry class, and was quickly stymied there because it turns out that chemistry is all math, and the professor kept assuming mathematical knowledge that I didn't have.

So I switched to Khan Academy to fill in those gaps, but that's a whole other story, and I'm only telling you that so that I can tell you that I was not surprised when the children's biology textbook went exactly one chapter before moving to chemistry.

Because biology is all chemistry!

Chapter 2 of CK-12 Biology explains the role of carbon and its many organic compounds that are crucial to life. I supplemented this chapter a LOT, and I'll tell you the other resources and activities we used another time, but for this particular activity, I found myself turning to Teachers Pay Teachers for hands-on activities and science labs that contextualize the material and give it more depth. I don't usually like to pay even a few dollars for resources that I could make myself, or have the kids make from scratch, but we're a busy family this year and I appreciated the shortcuts!

After reading 2.1 and completing the questions at the end of the unit, I gave the kids this organic compounds foldable to create. They could mostly find the information in their textbook, although they did have to do a little outside research, and instead of making the foldable exactly as instructed, they ended up cutting it up and placing it piecemeal in their science notebooks--you can spy it in the photos that I took of the lab, as they used it for reference.

When the kids were solid on organic compounds, we cleared off the kitchen table and did some biochemistry!

I bought this lab, Testing for Organic Compounds in Food, and bought the chemicals that I needed for it from Home Science Tools. While I was shopping, I went through our lab manual, The Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments, put the procedures that I knew I wanted the kids to do onto our syllabus, and also bought any supplies that I needed for those. So fun to get a little box full of test tubes, rubber stoppers, and dangerous chemicals in the mail!

As I mentioned earlier, I almost always create our resources from scratch, but it WAS nice to have everything all set up and already written down for me! The lab included step-by-step set-up instructions for me, and step-by-step instructions for the kids, as well as charts for them to fill in, comprehension questions, and questions that got them thinking beyond just the procedures, as well. All I really had to do was supervise, make sure they kept up their safety standards, and enjoy watching my young scientists at work!

Here's Will halfway through explaining that real scientists ALWAYS drink from their test tubes.

Don't worry--she didn't actually drink from a test tube... that I know of.

The process feels enough like chaos with two kids and one adult at one table that I shudder to think of what this looks like in a classroom.

Actually, it's probably super well-organized when it's in a classroom! Our homeschool is just chaotic by nature.

And yet even though it feels like there's a lot going on, I love to see how intently each kid focuses:

This lab, and the chemicals needed to perform it, were well worth the money. Although the kids completed the entire lab, and then completed a second lab in which they were required to come up with new substances to test, you could repeat this lab tons of times and still find new things to explore. It's repeatable even later in this very biology study, because I know we'll touch on nutrition when we're in the human biology units. It's repeatable when we study chemistry, and there are even a couple of Girl Scout badges that this lab could apply to.

It turns out that there are LOTS of scientifically sound reasons to experiment on your food!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Homeschool Science: CK-12 Biology Chapter 5--The Cell Cycle, Mitosis, and Meiosis

The kids and I are using CK-12's 9th/10th grade Biology textbook as the spine for this year's biology curriculum--for Will, who is in the eighth grade but who is taking high school-level coursework, this will be recorded as Honors Biology on her transcript.

In addition to that textbook, we're using The Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments as our lab manual, and of course we've got a plethora of other reading/viewing/listening resources and hands-on activities to enrich our study.

The kids read chapter 5 in sections, completing the questions at the end of each section. At the end of the chapter, they took the test (from the CK-12 Biology Quizzes and Tests book) with an open book.

For Chapter 5.1: Cell Division and the Cell Cycle, they completed the first page of this Cell Cycle Coloring Diagram, and used it as a study guide.

For Chapter 5.2: Chromosomes and Mitosis, Syd watched the BrainPop video, "Mitosis." The CK-12 Biology textbook can be a little challenging for her (it's written at the 9th/10th grade level, and she's in the sixth grade), so these BrainPop movies are particularly useful for making sure she understands the topic. She's expected to pass the quiz, and then she usually plays around on BrainPop for a while longer.

After reading Chapter 5.2 (and watching BrainPop!), the kids completed Procedure IV-3-1: Observing Mitosis, from The Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments. We used prepared slides of mitosis in an ascaria egg and mitosis in an onion root for this, although you can also prepare your own own root tip slides. In this procedure, I did not ask the kids to answer the review questions or follow the instructions completely; instead, I required them to identify, if possible, and sketch a view of each of the stages of mitosis. They're both still getting used to using our new, upgraded microscope, so this was plenty challenging, and at times frustrating, for them both. Using a microscope is such an exercise in patience!

Will supplemented Chapter 5.3: Mitosis and Reproduction with a reading on Meiosis from The Biology Book (I assign this often in this study to add historical context to what we're learning), and then both kids went back to the microscope for the more challenging task of identifying the stages of meiosis in a prepared slide of lilium pollen. I referred them to this website illustrating the stages of meiosis in lilium pollen to help with the identification.

And then we did something fun! The kids could have been more scientifically accurate in their creation of these stages of meiosis cookies--

--but it turns out that meiosis is delicious, regardless!

Here are the YouTube videos that I used to supplement this chapter:

I could not find any stellar supplemental reading (other than The Biology Book) for the cell cycle, although whenever we study any aspect of cell biology, the kids and I are always reminded of A Wind in the Door, the last of the Wrinkle in Time quintet that we were able to slog through together.

Let me know if YOU find any supplemental resources that bring the cell cycle alive for children, lol!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Homeschool Field Trip: Clayshire Castle Medieval Faire

This field trip happened back in the fall, when our combined AP European History/World History Grade 6 studies both just happened to wrap up the medieval period in time for the Clayshire Castle Medieval Faire.

What better way to celebrate?

Now, what you must know about the medieval period is that all interpretations of that period, from the Renaissance to now, are technically "medievalisms," or just that--interpretations. They're ahistorical in that they tell us more about the culture in which they were created than the culture that they're meant to represent, but as long as you take what you experience in with a grain of salt, and you listen carefully to the woman next to you with a Master's in Medieval Studies (hint, hint: she's your mother!), you can happily immerse yourself in A Knight's Tale, or The Name of the Rose, or yes, even an Indiana Medieval Faire!

On Will's syllabus (I don't write syllabi for Syd, but Will, who is doing high school coursework this year, needs a written syllabus, book list, and portfolio for each subject), these types of experiences are referred to as Contemporary Interpretations.

There's a lot to take in at, and quite a lot to take from, an Indiana Medieval Faire!

Here are The Knights of the Rose, an all-female jousting troupe:

Women wouldn't have jousted officially in the Medieval period (that we know of... see? That's a medievalism!), but otherwise, these performances are pretty accurate. And also full of powerful women!

And of course you get to pet the horses afterwards.

The tall, tall horses...

A turkey leg is also an anachronism. Come on, you know why! Can you tell me? Think about it...

The turkey is a North American bird! And yes, I know you're going to tell me about that painting of Henry VIII holding a turkey leg, and that's why we have turkey legs at Ren Faires, but Friends. That painting is a myth. Nobody would have painted a member of the royal family nomming.

Henry VIII eating turkey legs is a myth. Troll bridges, however? Clearly not a myth!
OMG I just noticed Matt is still holding his turkey leg in this pic. Sigh...
 Syd made a friend, and this is pretty accurate to the Medieval period, two little girls sitting around on the grass playing with a pet bunny:

Get to the Point, the bullwhip performance duo, are not particularly medieval in tone, but that's okay because they're awesome:

There's also fire breathing:

Also not particularly medieval, but who particularly cares? They breathe fire!!!

I have a huge soft spot for stage combat, having done a little of it in college, so we for sure watched the stage combat show by the Shattock Schoole of Defence:

I think the kids might have liked it, too, don't you think?

I was pretty well getting sunstroke by this point in the wildly unseasonal day-- 

--so we sat in the shade-ish for a while and learned some truly authentic facts about medieval falconry, thank goodness:

Syd helped:

Okay, now I really had just the teeniest bit of sunstroke:

If only Medieval women wore baseball caps! Or covered their bosoms better!

Going to dress as a Medieval man next time, I swear. They looked so comfy and well-shaded.

I was so dizzy and sunburnt and pestered by flopping skirt folds that when this stage combat show asked for a volunteer to swordfight with one of their actors, I couldn't even volunteer! Worst letdown of my life. The guy who did volunteer did an okay job, but I am sure that if I'd been wearing pants and a hat, my fencing skills would have taken that knight down within seconds.

Well... after reflecting on their fighting style, maybe not...

We bought Syd a present:

 And on the way out, look what we found! Stocks! EVERYONE loves to pretend that they're locked up in the stocks, right?!?

Hmpph, children. Here, you do it like this!

Although much of a Medieval Faire is intentionally silly--I mean, of course!--if you keep your eye out and keep your Medievalist near, you can find some moments of good authenticity. For us on this day, it was jousting and falcons.

Although if I'd had some rotten fruit at hand, I could have made the children's experience in the stocks more authentic...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

One More Kid + Cat Photo Shoot

The kid and cat photo album and/or framed photos did not happen at Christmas, because it turns out that mermaid tail blankets and shark blankets take an infinity of time to make.

Good thing the kid has a birthday in early May!

Here is one more photo shoot that I did before abandoning the project for the winter. I just happened upon Syd and Gracie snuggling on the window seat in front of a sunny window, and fortunately, Gracie didn't even notice that I was there, so didn't give me any stink-eye:

I haven't completely decided how I want to present all of these so-sweet photos of Syd and her kitty. A photo book, definitely. A couple of large-format prints, perhaps--I have a canvas-wrapped print of Syd that my in-laws gave me several years ago, and it's my favorite look for a photo. But here are some DIY ideas that I've collected, as well.

Let me know if you have any advice!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How We Completed the Cadette Book Artist Badge

We're finished! We drew this Cadette Book Artist badge out for quite a while, because we all enjoyed it so much that I added several extra activities to it, but last week both kids finished the last of their projects and are now fully certified Cadette Book Artists.

Here's what we did, as a troop and individually, to earn the Cadette Book Artist badge:

Step 1: Explore the art of bookbinding.

Fortunately, our local university has a stellar special collections library (at which I used to work!), and so our troop took a field trip there to explore the art of bookbinding. We have Juniors in our troop, as well, and they used the trip as enrichment for the Junior Scribe badge--how much more fun is it to write stories and poems when you can then put them in your very own handmade book!

When I arranged this field trip, I forwarded the librarian a pdf of the entire Cadette Book Artist badge book, and told them that although, of course, the children would be delighted with whatever they wanted to present, I would especially appreciate it if they could cover the requirements for Steps 1 and 2. The librarian came back to me with the plan that they would do not only that, but would also mediate a hands-on workshop for the children in which the kids would get to assemble and hand-sew their own five-hole pamphlet, learning the basic stab binding technique in the process. 

In other words, I HIGHLY recommend that you find a library with rare books that is in driving distance for this step. There is nothing like actually seeing the books in person to really help you understand how beautiful bookbinding can be. The kids are still talking about the handmade, decorative binding and case for the Lord of the Rings trilogy that they saw there.

Y'all, the binder incorporated the Eye of Sauron! And the book's case was the Tower! And you could take the book out of the case and fit it on top so that the eye was looking out from the top of the tower! It was INSANE!!!

Step 2: Get familiar with the insides of a book.

You could do this one yourself, or watch YouTube videos, but this was also covered in our library field trip. It might be hard to find a library, even one that contains rare books, that also has a department for book repair, so you could look for private book repair businesses or antique booksellers. 

Step 3: Try out book artist techniques.

We spent most of our time on this step, as I wanted the kids to learn several ways to make books, and become comfortable enough with those methods that they could happily use them in other projects. I firmly believe that Girl Scout badges are about mastery, not simply checking off steps, and I try to make sure that I don't award a badge to my own girls until I feel that they truly have mastered the skill that the badge is teaching.

Thus the children didn't just make a sewn book in the library, under the direction of the librarians, but they also had to do it independently at home, to show that they could remember the steps without prompting and complete them without help:

The kids had to become proficient with the paper cutter--

--the awl--

--and they had to be able to follow the stitching guide to correctly sew their binding:

On another day, I taught the kids to make a glued accordion book. I meant to teach them how to use my spiral binder to make spiral-bound books, but it's dead simple to learn and use and I could tell that the kids were ready to move on--after all, they'd each made several sewn and glued books by then! We'll spiral-bind another time.

4. Focus on function.

I let the kids loose for the final two steps in the badge. I pulled out all of the supplies that they weren't already familiar with, so that they knew all of their options, and told them that they were each responsible for creating a book that fulfilled a specific function, and a book that was creative.

Will made another sewn book for Syd, who you'll see in a minute uses the heck out of them for her stories, and Syd made a 2018 planner, which she mostly uses to note the dates of her French class and how much she hates French. Sorry, Tatiana! *I* think you're great!

5. Focus on style.

Style simply sounds more fun than function, and the kids both did have a lot of fun with this particular step. Syd got really into using her handmade books to tell a series of stories about a fox war, and two foxes who meet cute from opposite sides of that war.

I was also SUPER impressed by Will's creative book. She made another sewn book, but instead of paper she used fleece, red fleece for the cover and white fleece for the pages. Essentially, she made herself a book stuffie. Doesn't that just suit her to a T?

Optional Activities

Those steps may sound as if we didn't really spend all that much time on the badge, after I told you how much we'd drawn it out. But actually, much of our time was spent doing optional enrichment activities. We made paper by hand (several times, as I required the kids to master the steps)--

did several art activities using old book pages, and made these super cute Book Artist badge SWAPS:

They are ridiculously cute, right? I can't even stand them, they're so cute.

Need more ideas? Here are some more options for some of the steps:

Step 3

Step 5

Want more adventures in Girl Scouting and handmaking? Follow my Craft Knife Facebook page for links and pics and WIPs!


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