Saturday, April 26, 2014

Seeds Memory Game: Introducing Halving Numbers

Seeds can be used for more than growing plants.  Today, we used them as a math manipulative.  While we have been growing all sorts of wonderful plants from seeds this spring and learning all about what is important to make them grow, we also discovered that seeds all look different.  This came in handy for our activity which used seeds to introduce the concept of halving numbers.

To introduce the idea, I told Bug that we were going to be making a game.  It was simple to make - all we needed was a few different types of seeds (we used mixed birdseed and lima beans), two strips of card stock and glue.

I pre-drew lines on the card stock giving her lines to follow with the scissors to create almost equal sized squares.

We then emptied out our bowl of seeds (that I had pre-counted) onto the table and discussed how there were different seeds.  We sorted them into the different types and discovered there were four different types of seeds. The first group had two seeds, the second four seeds, the third had six seeds and the fourth had eight seeds (sneaking in counting by twos). We then distributed the small squares of card stock next to each group of seeds.  This way we could tell we needed two cards for each group of seeds.  This allowed us to discuss how eight is made up of four groups of two.

Take your first pile of seeds and the corresponding two cards.  Ask the child to divide the seeds between the two cards so that there are a equal number on each card.  Bug found it pretty easy when we had just two seeds but had to take care with eight seeds.

We then glued the seeds down on the cards and waited for the glue to dry.

Now it was time to play our memory game!  We turned all the cards upside down, shuffled them around and put them into a grid.  I asked Bug to turn two cards over at a time, and if they matched she could leave them up.  If they did not match, she had to turn them back down and try again.   Repeat until all pairs have been found.

Can you tell she was excited when they all matched up?!

With this activity, we made a fun game, but we also introduced dividing numbers into equal amounts.  In particular with the seeds we discussed how you are halving a number (or dividing by two).  For example, if you have eight seeds, then each of the two cards will have four seeds.  You can check this by counting the total number of matching seeds on the two cards.

Of course little Bear wanted to participate too!  She made her own "card" covered in seeds.


  • 4 different kinds of seeds
    • 2 lima beans
    • 4 corn kernels
    • 6 sunflower seeds
    • 8 small seeds (from bird feeder seed)
  • 2 strips of card stock: 1x4 inches
  • glue
  1. Cut the strips of card stock to create 4 1x1-inch pieces.
  2. Sort your seeds into matching groups.
  3. Divide your card stock so you have two pieces at each pile of seeds.
  4. Take a pile of seeds and two pieces of card stock and divide the seeds on the two cards.
  5. Repeat for all seeds.
  6. Glue the seeds down.
  7. After the glue dries: use your cards to play a memory game.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pinecones: How They Protect Their Seeds

We have been taking full advantage of our warm days before it gets too hot and humid to take walks around the neighborhood this summer.  While on our last walk, we noticed a lot of branches, pine needles, and pinecones around on the ground.  I mentioned to Jumping Bean and Jelly Bean that the winds from the storm the other night may have blown them off the trees, just like the seeds blew away in our Seeds BLAST

We decided to conduct an experiment with pinecones similar to the one I saw on Momma Owl's Lab.  Our investigation is about what happens to pinecones, if anything at all, when placed in water over time.  The water represents rain outside so this experiment can be applied easily to real life. 

We went back to our house to collect as many pinecones as we could find.  Right away, Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean recognized that the pinecones were all different.  Some pinecones were big, some were small.  Some pinecones were wet, some were dry.  I did point out that some of the pinecones scales were open, and some of the pinecones scales were closed.

Having different pinecones presented a great opportunity to throw some math into our science lesson.  We sorted the pinecones according to size and then open or closed.  You can also get a ruler and measure the pinecones.

Next, I asked them to draw a picture of what the pinecones look like in the beginning.  I loved seeing how Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean interpreted how to draw an open pinecone.  Their drawings are very different.

After drawing, we predicted what would happen to the pinecone once we placed it in water.  Both girls agreed that it would float, but that doesn't surprise me because we just completed the Will it Float, Will it Sink activity not long ago.

After a couple hours, the pinecones were ready to look at.  Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean were surprised, the open pinecones were now closed.

In nature, pinecones close when it rains to protect their seeds.  The winged seeds of a pinecone do not disperse well when they are wet so the pinecone closes up in rainy conditions to keep them dry.


  • water
  • container
  • pinecones
  • paper
  • marker
  • ruler (optional)
  1. Collect a variety of pine cones- small/big and open/closed.
  2. Sort pine cones.
  3. Measure the length of the pine cones.
  4. Predict what will happen to the pine cones when placed in water.
  5. Draw a picture of what the pine cones look like in the beginning.
  6. Place the pine cones in water for 2 hours.
  7. Take the pine cones out of the water and discuss what happened-  the pine cones are now closed to protect the seeds.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What plants need to keep growing: water, soil or both

With spring here in full swing we have been discussing how the plants outside are changing.  Some of the trees are covered in flowers; we are seeing lots of new leaves and shoots, and new plants are emerging from the ground.  We  have been focused on new growth for a while with our seeds from our Seeds BLAST but how do we keep plants growing?

We decided to do a simple experiment to investigate this question and asked if plants need water, soil or both to keep growing?

Using our test tubes from the lubricant BLAST we planted 3 plants (my girls chose pink wave petunias).  We gently removed the soil from the roots of one plant and place it in a test tube of water.  The next two test tubes were mostly filled with potting soil and the plants were placed in them with plenty of soil around the roots.

We watered the plants in water and one of the plants in soil daily.  We could see how much the water level dropped and tried to give both plants an equal amount of water. The third (right) we just left the soil.

We kept on checking our plants and talking about if there were any changes, how much water was absorbed and how our plants were doing.  After a few weeks this was our result:

The plants that had been receiving regular water were still looking good but the one that did not get any water was not fairing as well.  This was a great and simple way to show the girls why it is  important to water our plants.  It was surprising that the plant that had water only did not show much of a difference from the one that had water and soil but it may take us longer to see an effect.

  • 3 of the same plant (we used wave petunias)
  • 3 test tubes
  • water

  1. Take 3 test tubes: fill one with water and the other two with soil.
  2. Plant each plant into a test tube.
  3. Check daily and add water to the plant in water as well as one of the plants with soil.  Leave the third plant without any maintenance.
  4. Wait a few weeks and discuss the changes in the plants.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bringing Spring Indoors Part 2: Understanding and maintaining your terrarium

Now that we have made our terrariums, what can we learn from them?  They are definitely pretty to look at on the table, but terrariums are also a great way to teach about ecosystems and caring for living things.  In this post we discuss what constitutes and ecosystem and how to take care of your terrarium.

What is an ecosystem?

An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living things that relate or work together in an environment.  In our terrarium, the living things are the plants.  The non-living things are the soil, rocks, charcoal, water, air, and sunlight.  Our terrarium imitates the real world by producing "rain" inside the container to help the plants survive.  This is how it works:

  1. There is water in the soil, and the sunlight causes the water to evaporate.
  2. The evaporated water forms droplets on the sides and top of the container. 
  3. Once the droplets get too big, they fall down back to the soil providing water for the plants to drink.
  4. The process repeats again.
This is similar to the real world because there is water on the ground, and the sun evaporates the water forming water vapor in the air.  The water vapor travels up into the atmosphere where it forms clouds and can then rain back to the ground.  The process starts all over again!

Caring for your terrarium

Your terrarium contains living things- the plants.  Just like a pet, you have to take care of it in order for it to survive.   Terrariums are easy to care for, but in the first week, you need to keep an eye on it.

Watering your terrarium:
  • During the first week, watch how many droplets form on the sides and top of your container.
  • If there are a lot of droplets, you have watered enough.
  • If there are a few droplets or none at all, spray the soil with more water until it is moist.
  • If the soil is soggy, you have watered too much.  Take off the lid and let the water evaporate for a day or two.  Then put the lid back on and watch for water droplets.

Keeping your terrarium tidy:
  • Prune the plants with safety scissors once they start growing too big.
  • Rotate your terrarium once a week so the plants grow up and not toward the window where the sunlight is coming in.
Terrariums are fun for both kids and adults.  They look pretty, are educational, and are a great activity to do with your child.  It is an ongoing learning activity that encourages the love and understanding of our environment.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bringing Spring Indoors Part 1: Setting up your terrarium

Spring is finally here, but the weather sure doesn't seem like it.  We haven't been able to go outside to plant our annuals or tidy up the flower beds so Jelly Bean, Jumping Bean, and I decided to bring spring inside.  We are going to make our first terrarium!

This activity is a great extension to the seeds/growth activities we have been exploring with the Seeds BLAST.  It is also a wonderful way to show a continuation of the growth cycle exploring what it takes to maintain grown plants.   Be sure to check back later to see how we do!

Here were all our supplies before we began: rocks, potting soil, charcoal, succulents and containers for planting (for detailed instructions see the end of this post).  We chose a closed container for our terrariums because there are more opportunities to learn about ecosystems.  The girls were intrigued when they saw everything they got to play with.

First, a thin layer of rock needs to be added to the bottom of your jar to help with drainage.

Second, Jelly Bean helps Jumping Bean add activating charcoal as our next layer.  The charcoal helps prevent the terrarium from getting stinky.  Third, they fill the container with potting soil until it is about half way full.

Fourth, we add the cacti.  This turned out to be the tricky part.  The thorns are definitely sharper than I thought, and the girls kept getting pricked so mommy had to finish this part- I was a true team player with this one.

Finally, spray the terrarium with water.  This was Jumping Bean's favorite part.  If we were outside, it would have turned into a water fight for sure!

  Ta Da!  Our terrariums are finished with the help of our friends! 

UPDATE:  Part 2 of our terrarium project is available here.  Learn more about which container is best for you, the types of plants to choose, how to maintain your terrrarium, and how this ecosystem works together to stay alive.


  • container with or without a lid
  • small rocks
  • activating charcoal
  • potting soil
  • small plants - succulents are cacti work best
  • water - a spray bottle works well to prevent over watering


  1. Fill the bottom of your container with a thin layer of rock.
  2. Add about an inch of activating charcoal.
  3. Fill the container half way full with potting soil.
  4. Dig a hole big enough to fit your plant in.
  5. Place your plant in the hole and cover the roots with soil.
  6. Spray with water so it is damp, but not too wet.