Saturday, April 19, 2014

What is soil? Science experiments and activities for kids on Saturday Science!

Welcome to this week's Saturday Science link-up! The co-hosts for this are Little Bins For Little Hands, Lemon Lime Adventures, Stir The Wonder, Suzy Homeschooler, The Joys of Boys, P Is For Preschooler, and myself!

This week, we took a look at Case 2 in the free curriculum The Great Plant Escape, and learned lots about soil.

soil experiments and activities for kids
This post may contain affiliate links for books and products that we love.

First, I showed him how much of the total Earth actually grows all the food that humans and animals are dependent on. We took a kiwi (we were out of apples!) and cut it into quarters.
illustrating the earth's usable surface

We took away 3/4 to represent the water on the earth's surface.

We cut the remaining quarter in half again and took away one of the eights to represent the part of the land that is unusable for human habitation.
illustrating the earth's usable surface

The remaining eighth, we cut into 4 pieces and took away three of them to represent areas unsuitable for growing food, because of poor soil or other factors such as development.

illustrating the earth's usable surface

The last tiny 1/32 of the kiwi, we peeled and I explained to D that this teeny piece of peel represents the area of land available in total that the entire earth depends upon for growing food. Mind-boggling, isn't it?
illustrating the earth's usable surface

Next, we looked at what makes up soil itself. We learned that soil is made up of rock particles, water, air and organic matter such as decaying leaves. We learned that soil scientists describe soil types by texture...clay, sandy, loamy, and so on. If it's too high in one component, it can affect the ability to grow life properly because it might not drain properly or contain enough nutrition to help plants grow. The combination of different sizes of the particles make a big difference too.

Think of the sizes this way:
soil particles visual image

We can finally get some dirt up out of the ground, so we got a handful and examined it. Good soil will squish together in your hand but can be crumbled again afterwards, and you should be able to see pieces of plant matter in it. If it won't hold together in the first place when you squeeze it, or will clump but not crumble, you need to make some additions to make it workable.
testing our soil

testing our soil

D's conclusion was that our soil looks pretty good for growing plants, but it could maybe use some extra drainage in the parts of our land that have slate slabs not far under the surface.

I reminded D of our discussion about what plants require to grow, then we read that the three nutrients plants need from soil are nitrogen (for leaf growth and dark green colour), phosphorous (which encourages plant cell division so they grow flowers, roots, and seeds), and potassium, which helps protect plants from disease and is needed to make chorophyll. I knew that D had understood when he compared it to getting the vitamins you need out of food in humans.

There's a lot more to learn, so we'll share the next part in another post soon.

I also found a fantastic resource for my US readers from Nutrients For Life.  They will send you, free, a homeschool curriculum for elementary level,middle school level, or high school,with fertilizer samples, lesson plans, and more. Julie, their education specialist, was good enough to send me pdf versions of the curriculum so I could look it over before sharing with you, and it is so well put together that M, 13 has asked to try it out. There are even tests included if you need to grade for your state.

Saturday Science Blog Hop 2
Don't miss the great science posts from my co-hosts:

Air Pressure from Suzy Homeschooler
Preschool Books about Recycling from Stir the Wonder
Engineering Egg Drop Project from Lemon Lime Adventures

Link up your science posts below! We read and pin them all.
Linky code: April 19th

Friday, April 18, 2014

10 Books About Seeds

With all the seedlings in sunny windows inside our house, and garden boxes being built outside, seeds have been a big topic here. I've made a list of the ten best books about seeds that we've read in case anyone else is looking too.
10 books about seeds
This post contains affiliate links for books that we loved.

1. We have owned How A Seed Grows since my 21 year old was younger, and it has been the #1 hit with each of my children. Highly recommended!

2. From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons. If it's one of her books, you can't go wrong!

3. Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move is a great kid-level look at seed dispersal. It can be hard to get hold of new, but it's worth it to get even a used copy.

4. The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A book about how living things grow. Adult level science explained in a way that kids can really grasp it.

5. One Bean. The illustrations alone make this book worth reading. Luckily, the science it contains is well explained too!

6. A Packet of Seeds. This one is fiction, a pretty and charming story about a child on the prairie in pioneer times, who wants to grow flowers to make their mother feel happy again. It was a lovely read!

7. Glenna's Seeds. A random act of kindness transforms an entire
neighbourhood, starting with a packet of seeds. This may now be one of my all-time top children's fiction....really a feel-good story!

8. Miss Rumphius. Another story that all my children (biological and daycare!) have loved. How can they resist a tale of making the world more beautiful?

9. Ten Seeds A counting book with a wonderful nature study approach!

10. Jack's Garden This story is told on the frame of "the house that Jack built" but with a garden theme. Kids love chanting along and remembering the previous page! The illustrations are super appealing, too.

Any other books you'd add to the list? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lapbooking and Notebooking: What's the difference?

With all the terms thrown around, terms like “lapbooking” and “notebooking” can seem baffling, especially to a new homeschooling parent! So what's the difference? And how can you use it with your own kids? Here's the basic information you need.
This post may contain affiliate links for products or books that we use and love.

Let me break this down for you: The basic difference is that lapbooks tend to have bite-sized pieces of information presented as folded paper and cardstock pieces within folded file folders, and often take less time overall. In other words, it’s (usually) more of a supplement and not the main event, especially for an older child.

Notebooking is done -well, in notebooks! - even though it may also contain some of the small lapbook pieces. It typically covers a topic more in-depth than a lapbook (but not always!) and relies on your child's sense of what is important in what they've just learned. Often people use a binder for notebooking and just add pages as they’re created.

These can both be really great to use if you have children of varying ages or abilities. To show you why, I’m using as an example a unit study we did last year on germs and microbes.

My kids are grade 1 and grade 7. Obviously, they aren’t going to cover all the same stuff! Also, I expect my 13 year old to work a lot more independently than the 6 year old.

Since I wanted to look at germs and microbes with both, though, I chose lapbooking for my 6 year old, but planned some research and mini-essay assignments for the 13 year old to work on for her notebook. Science experiments are done together….they grasp the information at different levels, but we all have fun.

Here is a picture from my younger child’s Germs and Microbes lapbook:

free germs lapbook

Here is a notebooking page done by my 13 year old on the same topic. 

germs notebooking page

Can you see how both learning methods are great, but that you can modify according to the time available, age, and ability so that everyone works to their own particular best standard? It lessens frustration, makes your planning easier, and nobody feels left out.

I have lots of great stuff pinned on my notebooking and lapbooking Pinterest boards, so you might want to follow them if either is something you're interested in using for your homeschool.

Do you use lapbooks or notebooking in your homeschool? Share how you use it! I'd love to hear.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

5 Easy Easter Science Experiments For Kids

Welcome back to Saturday Science! This is a science linky party co-hosted by Lemon Lime Adventures, Little Bins For Little Hands, Suzy Homeschooler, The Joys of Boys, Stir the Wonder, P is for Preschooler, and myself. We also have a great Saturday Science Pinterest board.

This week, we played around with some Easter science experiments for kids that we found online.
5 easy easter science experiments for kids
This post may contain affiliate links for products or books that we use and love.

It turns out that fresh eggs and heavy-ish crystals lead to very messy lifting, so I can't show you. You'll just have to take my word that it looked really, really pretty before I accidentally smashed it. When you try it, use supermarket eggs and maybe hard-boil it first!

make an egg float

make an egg float
Obviously the costume of choice for science experiments!

 This one took steady hands and several tries dues to canine assistance from under the table!
Balancing eggs

4. Grow Peeps in the microwave  -we couldn't try this one because we don't own a microwave, but it looks like so much fun that I'm including it for those of you who do!

5. The Naked Egg - I've done this one with each kid and it never gets old! It comes from the book Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes: Unforgettable Experiments That Make Science Fun by Steve Spangler, a really entertaining source of experiments that we finally got back out of storage this past weekend. I'm not showing you the end result; you'll just have try try it out. :)

Saturday Science Blog Hop 2

Check out the great science posts by my cohosts: 

Potential vs Kinetic Energy from Suzy Homeschooler
Science Table: Recycling from Stir the Wonder
Fizzy Planet Earth from Little Bins For Little Hands
Chromatography for Preschoolers from P is for Preschooler  
Scented Science Experiment For Kids from Lemon Lime Adventures
Then link up your science posts below!

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