Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spreading Seeds from Pods: a Second Water Balloon Experiment

We have loved exploring that the parts of a flower and pollination are important in producing seeds. We also know from our floating seeds experiment that it is important for the seeds to spread away from the plant for new plants to grow.  We also know from our Seeds BLAST that seeds can be spread by wind and animals.  We wanted to explore another way that seeds can be spread - by exploding pods!  We started by watching this short film showing a seed pod exploding and spreading the seeds and thought that it looked like a balloon bursting.  So we made our special blue pods that exploded out of water balloons.



For each of our pods we used a water balloon that we added some flour (seeds) and then blew them up to represent the pods.  The flour was added by attaching a water balloon to the bottom of a funnel, then each girl put about a half a teaspoon of flour in the funnel and used a straw to smoosh it into the balloon.  We had to be careful not to push to hard or the balloon came off the bottom of the funnel.


Then mommy VERY carefully (so as not to get flour in her mouth) blew up the balloon and tied it shut.  We made two very big balloons and two smaller balloons to see if size would make a difference.  Then the fun started - the girls launched the balloons off the back deck (under adult supervision).  This would represent the pod falling from the tree.


When some of the pods landed they would burst (especially if they landed on the grass) which would be like the pod bursting and spreading the seeds.  Some would land and roll away, but we could pop them once they settled and saw how the pod could protect the seeds to take them further away from the plant.


We did notice that the smaller balloons tended not to pop and the larger would pop.  We spoke about how this might be like the mature seed pod that was stretched thin and ready to spread it seeds while the younger (smaller) pod would protect its seeds until it was time to spread them.


It was a little hard to see just how much the seeds spread when looking down on the grass so we put a towel out on the table.  First we put a lump of flour in the middle and it just sat there and did not move anywhere.  Then we put a balloon with flour in it and popped it!   You could see just how far the balloon spread the flour or seeds and how this could work to spread seeds in nature.



We had a lot of fun exploring this way of spreading seeds.  We hope you will have some exploding seed fun too!

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Supplies:

  • 2 water balloons
  • funnel
  • straw
  • flour
  • knife


Directions:

  1. Attach the water balloon to a funnel.
  2. Place about half a teaspoon of flour in the funnel and force into the balloon using a straw.
  3. Remove the water balloon from the funnel and carefully inflate and tie off.
  4. Make one balloon very big and make the other smaller.
  5. Launch your balloons onto grass and see what happens.
  6. Take a balloon that did not pop and place it on a surface and pop with a knife to see the seed dispersal.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day: Make Your Own Water Color Paint

Earth Day is approaching and the weather is perfect for nature walks so Jelly Bean, Jumping Bean and I have decided to make our own water color paint using flowers collected on our excursions.  Making our own paint is a great way to teach the girls that there are natural resources all around that we can use instead of buying things at the store and made for a fun Earth Day activity.

First thing first- collecting our flowers.  We used some flowers we picked from our nature walk when we talked about the parts of a flower.


Once we collected our flowers, Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean picked off the petals from different color flowers and placed each color in separate bowls.


Once the petals were picked off, Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean used pipettes to cover the petals with hot water, and then used a spoon to smash the petals down.


The girls loved squeezing the petals and watching the water drip into the bowls.



The petals sat in the water for a bit, and then I picked the petals out.  We were somewhat surprised at our water colors.  The red petals were more of a brownish red, the yellow petals were gold, and the purple did not turn the water purple at all.  Since the red and yellow petals were not similar in color to the actual petals, we were surprised that the pink flowers actually turned the water a similar pink color.



Even though the water color paints were not a vibrant color, Jelly Bean and Jumping Jean loved the fact that they made the paint- especially from flowers!  What a fun activity to teach how to use the resources around us!



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Supplies:
  • variety of different colored flowers
  • cups (one for each color)
  • hot water
  • pipette or spoon
  • paper for drawing
  • paint brush

Instructions:
  1. Collect a variety of different colored flowers on a nature walk.
  2. Pick off the petals and place them in a cup.  Keep all the colors in the same bowl.
  3. Use a pipette or spoon and add water to each cup.  Add just enough water to cover the petals.
  4. Let the flowers and water sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Squeeze the petals to leach out all the color.  Discard the petals.
  6. Create a water color masterpiece!
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bees and Pollinating Flowers: Craft and Experiment Together

While outside this spring we have noticed that our blueberry bushes have a regular visitor - a friendly bumble bee.  He is there all the time and the girls have even named him Buzzy.  Since we spend so much time watching him it was a great opportunity to explore what happens when he visits the flower - in particular what his role is in pollination.  Of course any experiment involving Cheetos is also a win!



To learn more about bees and pollination we started by making our own bee sock puppets.  This took us a few days (hence the outfit changes) as we would have to wait for the paint to dry.  We started by each girl painting a sock yellow.


Little Bear (2) really enjoyed the painting and wanted a super yellow bee and so we had to leave our socks overnight to dry.


The next morning we painted black stripes onto our bees.


They were all dry later that afternoon and so we glued on the googly eyes and wings (made of cardstock).   I then poked small holes through the socks for the antenna.  This was easy to do as the sock was stiff from all the paint.  We slid black pipe cleaners into the holes and shaped them to look like antenna.



Again we left everything to dry overnight so that the eyes and wings did not fall off.   The girls were so excited when I setup the bees for the experiment the next day.  It had been hard for them not to play with their new puppets up until now.   We setup flowers that I had drawn on cardstock.   In the middle of each flower I put a pile of crushed Cheetos!   The girls put on their sock puppets and flew the bees onto their flowers.




When the bees took off we looked under the bees and saw that some of the "pollen" had stuck to the bees.


Our bees then flew to the other flower carrying the pollen from the first flower with them!  In this way the bees could cross-pollinate flowers.


Of course we wanted to look at how this could work in a real flower.  So we bought some lillies at the store.  These flowers were wonderful to see all the parts involved in pollination.   Our little bees landed on the lillies and when they took off they had been covered in pollen. 


We could also see how the bees knocked the pollen off the anther and onto the stigma of the flower that we had discovered when learning about the parts of a flower.  {Warning: After doing this activity I discovered that lillies can be poisonous.  Please don't use them if your child will put them in their mouth and make sure you wash hands afterwards.  A better option may be to use a tulip}.

This was a really fun way for the girls to make something (their bees) to use in an experiment and to introduce the words pollination and cross-pollination.  The girls favorite part was eating the leftover Cheetos!


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Supplies:
  • sock
  • yellow paint
  • black paint
  • paper plate
  • paint brush
  • googly eyes
  • cardstock 
  • glue
  • black pipecleaner (cut into quarters)
  • sharp scissors
  • ziplock bag
  • cheetos
  • tulip/lillies (optional - see warning about lillies above)

Instructions:
  1. Paint one side of a sock yellow and leave it to dry.
  2. Paint black stripes on your yellow paint and leave to dry.
  3. Cut out wings from cardstock and glue to the back of your bee.
  4. Glue on googly eyes.
  5. Take sharp scissors and poke two small holes between the eyes and wings.
  6. Slide the pipecleaners into the holes and bent towards the front of the sock to secure (towards the front means that they won't poke little fingers when they go into the sock).
  7. Leave the bee for the glue to dry.
  8. Draw a flower on a piece of cardstock.
  9. Crush cheetos in a ziplock bag and pour into the middle of the flower.
  10. Put your sock puppet bee on and have it land in the middle of the flower.  Lift the bee and see how the pollen is stuck to the bottom of the bee.  Have the bee fly away taking the pollen to a new location or flower.
  11. Optional: have the bee land on the lilly and show how it knocks the pollen onto the stigma and carries the flower pollen away.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Parts of a Flower: Pollination


Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean learned about the parts of a flower- petals, stem, leaves, and roots while learning about seeds last spring, and now that spring is in full bloom, they have more questions about nature.  For example, why is there so much green stuff on our cars right now, and what is it?  This was the perfect opportunity for us to explore the inside parts of a flower and introduce them to pollination.


After looking at our pollen covered car, we went on a flower hunt.  We grabbed bags and scissors to collect flowers in our neighborhood.


Next, we went home and dumped our treasure of flowers on the table to see what different varieties we found.


The tulip we collected was a great example showing the different parts inside the flower- anther, filament, stigma, style, and ovary.


Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean then investigated the rest of the flowers by pulling off the petals, comparing the different colors and shapes of the petals, and using a magnifying glass to get a closer look. 


After taking everything apart and investigating the flowers, we had another great example of the male and female parts of the flower that play a part in pollination.



My explanation of pollination to Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean was pretty minimal.  I explained that there are male and female parts- I called them the daddy and mommy parts.  I showed them the petal was still holding the anther and the filament.  The anther has all the pollen on it.  Next, I showed them that the long stem has the female parts on it- the stigma, style and ovary.  During pollination, the pollen comes off the anther and flies around getting on our cars turning everything green.  It will also get onto the stigma and go down the style into the ovaries.  This is where new seeds are made for fruits, vegetables, and other plants. 


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Supplies:
  • scissors
  • bag
  • magnifying glass
  • variety of flowers
Instructions:
  1. Go on a flower hunt to collect a variety of flowers.  Cut the flower off the bush or from the garden and place it in a bag
  2. Place all the flowers on a table and look at the different types of flowers- discuss similarities and differences between the flowers. 
  3. Find a flower that shows the male and female parts.  Discuss the different parts.
  4. Pull apart the flowers and use a magnifying glass to get a closer look.
  5. Discuss how the male and female parts work together during pollination.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How Strong is an Egg?

With Easter fast approaching we have been preparing lots of eggs - from dying them to making geodes.  We are discovering that these are pretty fascinating structures and made for some great structural exploration and a fun set of Easter science activities.  In particular the eggs shape proved to be a pretty important factor in its strength.

Egg Shape Experiment 1:  Can You Walk on Eggs?


We started by looking at the shape of an egg and talking about how it is almost oval in shape.  Then I asked the girls if they thought they could stand on an egg.  They both immediately said no.   So I suggested we test that idea and setup our experiment {we did the experiment outside and I put garbage bags down to catch any broken eggs as I was not sure how this would go!}.


The girls were very nervous at first and carefully placed a foot on the eggs without any weight.  None of the eggs broke!


They started to get more confidents so I asked if they could walk across them like a balance beam!




To their surprise they were able to walk across them!  None of the eggs broke.  But do notice the careful foot placement of my 4 year old.  She has her feet in the middle of the eggs so she has about 5+ eggs under each foot.  Her weight was definitely distributed.   When my 2 year old walked on the eggs the eggs did break.  Most of the time this happened when she had her heel on one egg and her toes on a second egg.  Her feet were so small that it was hard to distribute her weight across enough eggs.


After a few times of walking across the eggs the eggs did begin to break with either girls walking on them so there is a definite limit on the number of times you can walk across.  This all lead to a great discussion why the eggs broke and in particular why our bigger child was able to walk on the eggs and our smaller (and lighter) child was not.  The girls learned a lot from this!

Egg Shape Experiment 2:  How Strong is the Shape of the Egg?


So we wanted to know just how important the egg shape is for the strength of the egg.   We noticed that all the eggs in the containers were pointing up (and apparently hens sit on them this way as well).  To test this we cut a hole in one end of four eggs.  We then cleaned the eggs out and finally cut the eggs in half so that we had an arch standing on the table.  We placed the four egg shells on a cookie sheet and took it all outside to test how many pieces of wood they could hold.


This looked like a pretty interesting setup and even attracted some of the neighbors to watch and help!  We started by placing a plastic container on top of the egg shells.  The girls were pretty impressed that the egg shells did not break.  


The kids all took turns then adding logs to the bucket.  We had to be a little careful as the logs could cause the container to fall over if they were put to one side.  Next time I would use a flat surface to place the logs on.  


The eggs still held up when we added the logs to the bucket.  We kept on going, adding a few more logs.  The kids put the logs to one side and one of the egg shells broke so we removed the broken egg and placed the bucket on the three eggs and kept on adding logs.   {Be very careful when putting the logs on the eggs as the eggs will crack if they move.}


We kept on going and even had to get some more logs (they were pretty dry and light) until one big log was added to our pile and crunch - all the eggs collapsed.




In total we were able to put six logs on top of our bucket before the eggs broke.  It showed just how strong egg shells really are.  After all they have to be strong enough to be under a chicken.  So why is the shape so strong?  Well the shape of the egg is an arch or dome shape - it does not have any corners.   Therefore there are no points on the surface of the egg that will get focused weight applied from the top.  The arch or dome shape evenly distributes a force applied to the top over the whole structure.  This makes it one of natures strongest shapes!


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Supplies:
Exp 1:

  • Two dozen eggs
  • Garbage bags

Exp 2:

  • 4 Eggs
  • Kitchen shears
  • Cookie sheet
  • Bucket/flat wood sheet
  • Logs


Instructions:
Exp 1:

  1. Place two dozen eggs in their container on top of garbage bags.
  2. Encourage your child to walk across the eggs 

Recommended for ages 3 and up.

Exp 2:

  1. Take 4 eggs and make a hole at the bottom of the egg to empty the egg.
  2. Cut the egg in half so that you have an arch (big or little endian).
  3. Clean the egg shells gently and place open side down on a cookie sheet.
  4. Place a bucket/flat wood sheet on the egg shells.
  5. Carefully keep on adding logs to the bucket until the eggs break.  


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