Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Power of Duct Tape

This afternoon while I was mowing the lawn I reminded myself of a skill I must teach my two daughters.  It's a skill that every successful human being has learned at some point in his/her life.  What's this ever-so-important skill?  It's the understanding of the power of duct tape.  If you understand the many uses of duct tape you'll find it can get you out of many tricky situations.  Today was a perfect example for me.  Halfway through mowing my backyard the handle of my lawn mower broke in two!  Since I couldn't push the mower with a broken handle I was faced with a dilemma.  Should I quit for the day or find a way to rig it?  I decided to rig it and try to finish mowing.  I only had about 45 minutes before a very important football game was about to begin (every time my favorite team plays it's an important game!).  My first thought was duct tape.  I shoved two screws into the handle of the mower to serve as a splint and then proceeded to wrap it tightly in duct tape.  Of course I ran out of duct tape.  I think I broke some sort of man law here.  All true men should have a backup supply of duct tape in case of emergencies.  I finished the taping with packing tape.

Duct tape (and packing tape) saves the day!

The tape job held up pretty well, at least until I can figure out a more permanent solution.  Knowing me, I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope the tape job is the permanent solution but we all know that is wishful thinking.  As punishment for not having a backup supply of duct tape my weed wacker ran out of weed wacking line with only 25% of the job completed.  No way to rig this except go to the store and buy more line.  Well, I suppose I could try to rig a man made weed wacking line with tiny strips of duct tape, but that would take several hours and as I already mentioned, I'm out of duct tape.

No way to rig this.

Today I added two things to my to do list:

1.  Teach my daughters about duct tape.

2.  Buy more duct tape.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Backyard Nature

Last night both of my daughters were playing in the backyard while I was making dinner.  All of a sudden my 5 year old comes running up to the screen door excitedly yelling "Daddy, come quick!  Look at this cool bug we found!  Hurry!  Hurry!"  So I quickly ran outside where I saw my two year old crouched over something.  I honestly had no idea what to expect, but what they found was a classic caterpillar.  They were both super excited about their discovery.  We talked briefly about caterpillars and I showed them they could touch it.  I also said that some caterpillars grow to become butterflies.  This really excited them!  They both ran to find a small cup from the sandbox and scooped the caterpillar up and put him in.  They wanted to keep him inside the house, but I stopped them there.  They settled for sitting the cup outside next to the door.  

My kids' amazing discovery!

At bed my 5 year old talked about seeing the caterpillar in the morning.  I expected this little guy to be long gone by morning, but didn't want to disappoint her before bed time.  I figured I would handle the disappointment in the morning.  When morning arrived she ran out to the porch and excitedly yelled back "he's still here!"  Sure enough, the caterpillar was still there!

Still there!

So you don't have to travel far to experience nature.  Encourage your kids to explore in your backyard.  You never know what they might find.  In addition to the caterpillar, they let a grasshopper into the house.  Let me tell you, that guy was fun to catch!

P.S.  This is my 100th blog post!!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Magazines and Books

The last two days have been pretty exciting for my 5 year old in terms of what she's received in the mail and from school.  Two days ago she received the first copy of National Geographic for Kids.  She was a previous subscriber of National Geographic for Little Kids but has begun to outgrow that magazine.  We kept the Little Kids subscription for our younger daughter and added Kids for our oldest.  She actually received two editions (September and October) on the same day.  She very quickly opened it up, skimmed through it, and started to cut out the animal trading cards that each issue contains.  Over the next month we'll sit down together and talk about some of the cool science presented in each issue.

National Geographic of Kids

Yesterday my 5 year old comes running off the school bus all excited to tell me that the teacher gave her books.  At first I thought she went to the school library, but then she tells me the books are hers to keep.  Her Scholastic book order had arrived.  I mentioned in a previous post how excited I was as a kid whenever a book order arrived and I was excited this time too, especially seeing how excited my daughter was.  If I remember correctly we ordered 6 books, one of which was a planets book.

She was excited about the planets book.  We flipped through it quickly and it appears to be an excellent book.  I'll be fact checking it as I read it with her, but I have no reason to suspect that there's incorrect information.  She wanted to read it right away (that's my daughter!) but we had to get ready for a soccer game.  It's definitely on the agenda for bed time reading this week!

I encourage all parents to take advantage of Scholastic book orders if your school offers them.  Granted, there's a cost, but many of the books are cheaper than what you could buy them for in a book store or online.  In fact, there were a handful of books on sale for $1.  Can't beat that price.  And the seeing the excitement in your child when she/he receives the books is priceless.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tooth Fairy Visit

Two days ago my daughter lost her first tooth.  Neither my wife nor I were prepared for her to lose it this soon, so we did not have a tooth pouch or a tooth box for my daughter to put the tooth in for the tooth fairy. Call it a parent fail!  The tooth came out at school.  Apparently the tooth was very loose and my daughter's kindergarten teacher wiggled it a bit and out it came.  At the elementary school my daughter attends, whenever a student loses a tooth they go to the nurse's office to get a tooth necklace to carry the tooth in for the rest of the day.

My daughter's first lost tooth!

The tooth necklace she received at school.

At home we had a kit to make small jewelry box that we turned into a tooth holder for the tooth fairy.  My daughter was super excited to make the box and had a blast painting it and putting plastic gems on the outside to make it look cool.  

Tooth holder for tooth fairy.

Once the box was completed we put her tooth in the box, set the box on her dresser, put our daughter to bed, and waited for the tooth fairy.  Before bed we had a chat about the tooth fairy and how the tooth fairy only comes at night after you've gone to bed.  As you can imagine, she was eager to go to bed!  I also learned something from her about the tooth fairy that I did not know before.  According to my daughter, the tooth fairy knows when to come to someone's house because she can smell teeth.  So there you go, I learned something yesterday.  Now how the tooth fairy distinguishes between teeth that are still in the mouth and teeth that are no longer in the mouth is another question.  

Tooth in the tooth box.

My daughter was also very excited to wake up this morning to find out what the tooth fairy left her.  She came running into our bedroom holding the box and showing us what was inside.  

$2 per tooth?  Not a bad deal!

The tooth fairy left her $2 in exchange for her first tooth.  Not a bad deal!  Those stories I've heard of the tooth fairy leaving $20 or $30 per tooth are false.  Must be a different tooth fairy in those neighborhoods!  :-)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Changes in Kindergarten

It's amazing to me how much kindergarten has changed over the last 25 - 30 years.  What I did, educationally, in kindergarten in the mid-80s pales in comparison to what kids are doing now.  I remember my kindergarten days being filled with playtime, crafts, recess, lunch, nap, snack, more playtime, etc.  I'm sure we learned about numbers and letters, but reading was not part of the kindergarten curriculum back in my day.  Reading simple books and learning 'sight' words or 'popcorn' words was not a kindergarten activity.  These were first taught in first grade.

Today things are completely different.  In fact, many pre-schools are teaching kids several sight words to learn before they enter kindergarten.  For the full year of pre-school my daughter had a couple of sight words to learn each week.  Sight words are also part of her kindergarten curriculum, but so is reading simple books.  Each week she comes home with a 7 or 8 page book with simple sentences in it that she is required to read every night.  Today I received an email from her kindergarten teacher that all kids are bringing home "Fluency Folders" tonight.  The Fluency Folders will have words that parents need to practice with their children.  The point is to get kids to recognize words quickly, so the activities are timed.

Personally I think these changes are great.  At the same time, however, there's more pressure on my wife and I, as parents, to work with our daughter on reading.  One would think that since I'm a teacher, this would be easy, but I'm not a kindergarten teacher and teaching kids at that age is not my strong suit.  But this will be a learning experience for all of us and I'm excited to see what the Fluency Folder brings to my daughter's education.

Now if only we can get schools to encourage the advancement of science teaching in the classroom.  It's great that reading is being pushed and reading is the gateway to future success, but many schools are cutting science programs due to a lack of funding or due to lack of time that is needed to focus on reading and math.    But that's a discussion for another post.  :-)

Monday, September 24, 2012


My two year old's most recent favorite question is "why?"  She likes to ask why to everything.  For example:

Me:  It's time to eat dinner.  Her:  Why?
Me:  It's time to take a nap.  Her:  Why?
Me:  Stop playing with the door stopper.  Her:  Why?
Me:  Don't eat the cheese that fell on the floor.  Her:  Why?
Me:  It's time to put your toys away.  Her:  Why?
Me:  Don't climb on the roof and pretend to be Superman and jump off.  Her:  Why?

Okay, so the last one never happened, but you get my point!

Maybe I have a future scientist on my hands?  A good scientist is always asking "why?"  She also has a big smile on her face whenever she asks why.  Another sign of a future scientist?  Scientists are happy and excited to ask the why question.  Who knows what the future may hold for her?  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Truth vs. Fiction

I was thinking a bit more about my daughter's first loose tooth and that led me to think about the truths versus the not so truths we teach our children.  Specifically I was thinking about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.  Most parents, including myself, tell our kids that the Tooth Fairy will take your tooth and leave money.  We tell our kids that Santa Claus brings presents to good kids at Christmas.  We tell our kids that the Easter Bunny hides Easter eggs for kids to search and find on Easter morning.  Obviously none of this is true.  There is no Easter Bunny.  There is no Santa Claus.  And there is no Tooth Fairy.  Here's my question...should we be teaching our kids these myths?

Is it harmful to 'mislead' kids about the Tooth Fairy?

As a Dad and a science teacher I've made it my goal to not pass along science misconceptions.  Yet I have no problems playing along with the idea of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.  Am I contradicting myself?  At first look my answer is yes.  When I tell my kids that Santa Claus is bringing them presents at Christmas I am clearly misleading them.  But then again, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are all part of a childhood innocence that all children deserve to have.  It seems cruel to tell a 3 or 4 year old that Santa Claus isn't real.  What purpose does it serve?  

I think the key to handling this issue is to not directly tell your child that Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny are not real.  All children will eventually ask their parents whether these "people" are real.  They'll hear things from other kids in school and begin to question.  So when my daughter asks me the serious question of whether Santa Claus is real, I'm not telling her no, but I'm also not telling her yes.  I want her to think it through herself so I'll ask her questions such as "Well, what do you think?"  "Why do you think he's real/not real?"  In time she will answer those questions and come to the conclusion that Santa Claus is not real, but there's no need for me to push it.  After all, she's only my little girl for so long.  Why take the 'little' away before it's time?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Loose Tooth

Last night before dinner my 5 year old says "Mommy...Daddy...I think I have a loose tooth!"  My immediate reaction was that there was no way she had a loose tooth.  I'm not sure why I immediately jumped to that conclusion.  She's at the age where kids first begin to loose their teeth.  It probably has to do with her age when her first tooth appeared.  According to various web sources, and doctors, the age range at which babies first get teeth is wide, but on average it is about 6 months.  It can take as long as 18 months.  My daughter was on the 18 month side.  There was a point where I was a bit worried that something was wrong.  But then the first arrived.  I guess with her being very late on getting teeth I assumed she would be a bit older when she lost her first tooth.  Apparently not.

I need to do a bit of research on teeth, but now's a great opportunity to teach my daughter about adult teeth. She already knows the importance of taking care of teeth and brushing them properly.  When this first tooth officially falls out, she may have some questions on why it looks the way it does.  As the parent, I need to prepare myself with answers to her questions.  I also need to prep myself on the going rate of teeth these days.  What's the tooth fairy giving out now?  I think I ended up with quarter or two when I was a kid, but inflation has probably raised that.  But then again, the value of the dollar has decreased.  :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Guinea Pig

While visiting my sister recently, my two daughters were introduced to a pet guinea pig.  We are a pet free family for various reasons, so my daughters have little exposure to pets.  In fact, my 5 year old is usually terrified of any dog that gets close to her.  My 2 year old is a bit more comfortable around dogs, although she's not a fan of cats for some reason. 

Both thought the guinea was cool in its cage, but once taken out they both hesitated.  My oldest was willing to pet it, but the youngest wanted nothing to do with the guinea pig.  The guinea pig was a fidgety little sucker with paws/feet that were constantly moving.  A dog is usually more still, so it's not a surprise she balked at petting it.

Other than talking to my daughters about pets and exposing them to pets when we possible, I'm not sure what the best solution is to get them over this fear.  Getting a pet of our own is not an option.  Well, I guess it is an option, but it's the worst option available.  Small pets like hamsters and guinea pigs are less trouble than a dog, but they bring a distinct, not so nice, odor to the house.

I think pets are great for kids and can teach them responsibility along with a bit of science, but the pet has to be a good fit for the entire home.  Right now pets are just not a good fit in our house.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Science Fail!

Yesterday I made a big Science Fail mistake in front of my daughters.  While loading both of my daughters into the car, my 5 year old started digging through this little cooler we had packed.  She pulled a drink from the cooler and then didn't close the cooler back up.  I said to her "Close the cooler!  You'll let all of the cold out!"  The moment I said that it was a palm to face moment for me.  Here's why.

Heat is the energy transfer from the hotter object to the cooler object.  Always from hot to cold.  So the statement "You'll let all of the cold out" makes no sense.  It's not the cold that leaves the cooler.  It's energy from the warm air outside of the cooler that transfers to the cool air inside.

Even the Cool Science Dad makes mistakes in the moment.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Scholastic Books!

How many of you, as kids, remember bringing home from school Scholastic Books catalogs?  I certainly do and I remember being super excited every time a new catalog arrived.  I loved books then and I love books now.  I would go through the catalog and mark all of the books I wanted.  Usually my mom went through it again and crossed off half the books because I wanted too many!  It was even more exciting to me when the books arrived and I was finally able to bring them home and dig right into them.  I was a nerd then, I'm a nerd now, and I will always be a book nerd!  So imagine my excitement when my daughter brought home her first catalog from kindergarten!

Books = Fun!

As parents, we were given two weeks to complete and return the form or submit it online.  Naturally we put it in the "worry about it later" pile.  Last night after the kids went to bed and while cleaning through the pile we saw the catalogs and realized that the deadline was ASAP!  Parent failure!  We stopped what we were doing, went online, and ordered a few books.  Next time we'll start earlier to make sure our daughter has the opportunity to pick her own books.  Looking through the catalog brought back old memories of doing the same as a kid.

After picking out a few books that we're pretty sure she'll like, I noticed that there were no science books in our cart.  How can I, the Cool Science Dad, not order a science book for her?  That would be blasphemy!  The cool thing about Scholastic is that they offer several science book options.  It was a tough choice but I went with an 80 page book on the planets.  The books are very reasonably priced so I'm hoping to sneak a science book in with every order!  Maybe I should change my blog name to the Sneaky Science Dad?!?!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fun Times at a Green Fair

This week my family went to a local "Green" Fair.  Green as in environmentally friendly, not the color green!  There were several cool activities my daughters had the opportunity to participate in.  The first was a Sid the Science Kid exhibit.  My kids have seen Sid the Science Kid and know who he is, but it's not one of the most widely watched shows in the house.  He's still cool, though, because he helps teach young kids science.  Sid was at the fair, but came across as a bit scary to my daughters.  Neither would get close enough to him to take a picture.

I don't think so!

At the actual Sid the Science Kid exhibit booth they had tubs of dirt for kids to dig in and find stuff.  One of the cool things my daughters found was a grub that they both thought was very cool!

It's a grub!

They also had a couple of tubs of water filled with sand for kids to play in.  This I wasn't so thrilled with.  The kids loved it, but Mom and Dad did not like the mess it came with.  

A tub of water and sand, a parent's worst nightmare!

There was another booth at the fair that let kids make fish out of clay.  Each kid was given a picture of several fish, a hunk of clay, and a few modeling tools.  My daughters had a blast with this!  They had a chance to see how clay works.  It's kind of like play-doh, but different to them.  

Daughter #1's fish.

Daughter #2's fish.

We had a great time at the fair and better yet, it was all free!  If you're looking for an activity for you and your family to participate in, check out local fairs.  You'd be amazed at what's out there (other than carnival style fairs).  They're a great time for kids and give them something to do that they normally don't have the opportunity to do.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why the Mask?

Yesterday I posted the this picture of me on the Facebook page.


So why am I wearing the hat, glasses, and mask?  This has been a very tough summer for me when it comes to mowing my lawn.  I've always struggled somewhat with allergies, but this year has been particularly bad.  There have been several times this year where after mowing the lawn my allergies flared up big time.  So bad in fact that after mowing, the only thing I could do was lie on the couch for the rest of the day.  Doing anything else caused constant sneezing and a constantly runny nose.  None of the over the counter allergy medications did anything. Even taking medication before mowing did nothing. I can't even imagine how many tissues I used on those days.  

Yesterday I decided to try something different.  There's a guy on my street who I occasionally see mowing the lawn while wearing a mask.  I always thought this was kind of odd, but then maybe he's using it to protect himself from grass pollen?  I figure why not give it a chance?  Thus the reason for the mask.  The sunglasses are to protect my eyes from the Sun and the hat is there to protect my precious scalp from getting burned.  

The results?  After mowing the lawn I experienced no allergic symptoms!  But was it because of the mask?  It's hard to tell.  It was slightly cooler outside, so that could have played a role.  Pollen counts could have been down too which would have played a major role, so I have no clue whether the mask helped or not.  I was just happy to mow the lawn and still be able to function afterwards.

I have many characteristics and attributes that I hope my daughters acquire, but I also have several that I hope they do not acquire.  I'm not sure what role, if any, genetics plays into allergies, but I really hope my daughters don't have to go through the allergy issues I've had deal with.  They are definitely not fun.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Soccer season has begun.  My 5 year old had her first practice and first game of the soccer season this week.  This is her second year playing, but she's still in the same age group, U6.  I've posted before about introducing science to girls since science still tends to be a male-dominated field.  Teaching kids, especially girls, science early in their childhood gives them the confidence they need to be successful later on in life.  Sports are very similar.  Studies show that girls involved in sports do better in school and have more confidence in themselves.  Granted, you can't force your daughter to play sports.  That will simply backfire.  But if she has an interest, then push her to explore that interest.

Our local soccer complex.

My daughter loves to play soccer, but this season is going to be a challenge.  Last year when she played, fall season games were played on Saturday mornings.  Spring season games where played on Thursday evenings.  These are school nights, but games are usually done by 7:15 or 7:30.  Last spring my daughter wasn't in school yet, so there wasn't a big rush to get up extra early in the morning.  This season's games are also Thursday evenings and she's now in school.  She hasn't fully adjusted to the full days at school yet and although she says she liked playing soccer yesterday I have to admit that she did very little running and quite a bit of moping around.  Toward the end of the game only 4 of our team's players were on the field (5 is a full team).  The other 4 were sitting on the sideline, including my daughter, refusing to play.  Sigh.  Hopefully as the season progresses she will adapt to school followed by soccer.

My 2 year old, on the other hand, was more than willing to participate in the game.  I think she's disappointed she can't play until after she turns 3!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Outsourcing Teaching Your Child to Ride a Bike

I was going to post about something completely different today, but then I heard a news story on the radio about outsourcing the teaching your child to ride a bike.  I'll be honest, to me this is outrageous.  I understand that teaching a child to ride a bike can be very difficult.  I'm going through that difficulty right now with my oldest daughter.  She wants to learn, but she's also very tentative and very afraid to get on a bike with no training wheels.  Would it be easier to outsource this task to someone else who has professional experience teaching others to ride bikes?  Sure.  Is it the right thing to do?  In my opinion, no.

Teaching your child to ride a bike is a great opportunity to teach your child science in action.  How do you ride a bike without falling over?  Simple, keep your mass balanced.  Can you make sharp turn going at any speed?  No, the friction between the tires and the ground isn't large enough to keep the tires on the ground.  If you turn while going to fast the tires will slip and down you go.  I learned this the hard way as a kid and still have a small scar on the inside of my elbow as my punishment for ignoring science.  :-)

Not only is there an opportunity to teach your child science, there's also the opportunity to further bond with your child.  As one of the DJ's on the radio this morning stated, teaching your child to ride a bike is a right of passage for both the parent and child.  It's a great moment that no parent should miss, and outsourcing that task takes away that bonding opportunity.

There's an interesting article about this on the Today: Mom's Blog.  There's a quote from a mom stating that outsourcing riding your bike is the same as outsourcing swim lessons, which most of us do.  I understand her point, but teaching your child to swim is far different from teaching your child to ride a bike.  First of all, most people do not have a swimming pool and do not have the opportunity to teach their child to swim on a regular basis.  That's why public pools offer swim lessons.  Even then, whenever my family goes to a pool or goes to the beach, I'm working with my children on the skills they learned at lessons.  Teaching your child to ride a bike, on the other hand, is something that every parent can do.  Granted, you need a bike and a helmet, but aside from that the only thing you need is ground to ride on, and we all have that.  We walk on it every day!

My point to this post/rant is that it's very easy for parents to give up on the difficult things with their children and pass the task along to others.  Parenting is not an easy job and it was never advertised as an easy job.  I urge all parents to carefully consider what they choose to "outsource".  Don't pass up great opportunities to teach your child science or to bond with your child.  You never know when those opportunities will be gone.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why Does Earth Have Seasons?

Why does Earth have seasons (winter, summer, fall, spring)?  The common misconception is that Earth has seasons due to Earth's changing distance from the Sun.  The Earth's path around the Sun over the course of the year is not a perfect circle.  It's slightly elliptical.  As a result, there are times when Earth is closer to the Sun and times when it is farther away from the Sun.  We are all well aware that if you bring your hand closer to a hot stove or fire it feels warmer and if you pull your hand away it feels cooler.  Therefore, common sense might tells us that yes, distance is the reason for the seasons.  Unfortunately this is incorrect.  The variation between farthest away and closest to the Sun is about 1.5%, so the difference in distance is not that great.  It's certainly not great enough to cause the seasons.  There are also a couple of common sense arguments you can use to debunk the myth that changing distance causes seasons.

1.  When the United States and all of Earth's northern hemisphere experiences summer, Australia and all of Earth's southern hemisphere experience winter.  If distance is the reason for the seasons, how is it possible for it to be summer in one hemisphere and winter in the other hemisphere?

2.  Earth is closest to the Sun in January and farthest from the Sun in July.  It's closest to the Sun in winter for the northern hemisphere and farthest during summer.  This fact alone should convince everyone that distance is not the answer.

So what does cause the seasons?  The cause of the seasons is Earth's 23.5 degree tilt of its axis.  In the image below you can see that Earth is tilted slightly on its side.

The size of the Earth and the Sun are NOT to scale.  

Notice in this image that the north pole of Earth always faces in the same direction.  As the Earth moves around the Sun, the hemisphere that is tilted toward the Sun changes.  In the northern hemisphere's summer, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun.  In the winter, it is tilted away from the Sun.  There's still a bit of a misconception here.  When people here the words 'tiled toward' and 'tilted away' they often still walk away with the impression that the northern hemisphere is slightly closer/farther away from the Sun than the southern hemisphere.  That is true, but again the difference in distance is so small that it plays no significant role in the seasons.  

The tilt causes one hemisphere of Earth to receive more directly sunlight (more energy) than the other hemisphere.  

During the northern hemisphere's summer it receives more direct sunlight.

Whenever a portion of Earth receives more directly sunlight, it receives more energy and temperatures increase giving us summer.  When a portion of Earth receives less sunlight, it receives less energy and temperatures decrease, giving us winter.  

Now you know the truth.  Earth's seasons have nothing to do with distance and everything to do with the tilt of Earth and the directness of sunlight.  When your kids ask you about the seasons you can now tell them the truth and be confident in it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blown Out Egg

As I mentioned yesterday, we didn't have the right materials at home to complete the Crystal Egg Geode experiment/activity.  We did, however, have eggs, so we completed the first part of the Crystal Egg Geode project, which is to blow the yolk out of the egg shell.  In theory this is easy, but in practice it's a bit more difficult to do without making a mess!  The first step is to poke a small hole in one end of the egg.

Used a safety pin to make small hole in the shell.

My first attempt at poking a hole in the shell was a big failure.  For some reason I thought it would be easy to use a small finishing nail.  After several failed attempts to break the shell my two daughters were probably wondering what the heck I was doing.  My lovely wife helped out by suggesting a safety pin.  She was looking at me weirdly too.  :-)

Once the first hole is made, poke a slightly larger hole on the other side.  I learned that there are special tools that you can buy that assist in removing the yolk from the shell, but I just blew on the egg like one would do with a balloon.  The pressure exerted into the egg forces the yolk out the other end.  

Egg in the process of being emptied.

This can be a little tricky, especially when your 5 year old and 2 year old want to do it themselves.  My 2 year old kept shouting "I do it Daddy, I do it!!!"  Uh, okay.  My biggest fear is that both of them would crush the egg while trying to blow into it.  We avoided that, but it wasn't easy.  I love that my 2 year old wanted to do this by herself, but a 2 year old and a raw egg are not a good mix!

After removing the yolk we ran them under water to allow water to enter into the shell.  After rinsing the inside of the shell we blew out the water and voila, a blown out egg!  We sat them on the kitchen counter to dry.  We haven't done anything with them yet, but at the very least the kids will color and make faces on them.  

Blowing out an egg is a cool activity because you don't often see an egg that's empty and not cracked.  Just be prepared for independent kids who want to handle raw eggs by themselves!!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lava in a Cup Experiment

It turns out that the Crystal Egg Geode activity I mentioned yesterday requires quite a few items that I currently do not have in my house.  My daughters and I did blow out a couple of eggs which I'll show in a future post.  Our main experiment yesterday was the Lava in a Cup experiment.  To complete this experiment you need vegetable oil, salt, water, food coloring, and a clear cup.

First fill the cup 3/4 full of water.  Next put in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.  Here you can point out to your child that the oil floats to the top of the water.  Oil has a lower density than water so it rises to the top.  This is clearly seen through a clear cup.  Add a few drops of food coloring (your choice of color).  The food coloring serves no real purpose aside from changing the color of the water.  Now take a spoonful of salt and sprinkle it on top of the oil.  You should see something similar to what I recorded in the video below.

The salt sprinkled on top sinks through the oil and falls to the bottom of the cup.  Along the way however, it takes some oil with it.  Once the salt dissolves out of the oil, the oil bubbles rise back to the top!  My kids loved watching the bubbles rise to the top.  We dropped several spoonfuls of salt into the jar.  At one point we decided to test what would happen if we stirred the mixture with a spoon.  Would everything mix together?  The answer is yes, but the water becomes very cloudy due to all the salt, so it was hard to see.

This is a great Saturday activity for young kids.  It requires few supplies, is easy to set up, and produces quite the show.

Friday, September 7, 2012

More Science Experiments/Activities

Last night my 5 year old asks me "Daddy, can we do a science experiment this weekend?"  Sure, I say!  How can I deny my daughter science when she's asking for it?  Now I just need to come up with an activity.  Fortunately my sister sent me a couple of websites that she found and has used to entertain her kids.  Here's what she forwarded:

Crystal Egg Geodes.  These look very cool!

Fizzy Fun. Another one my daughters will love.

Science Bob's Experiments.  A full list of cool science activities for kids.

I'm not quite sure what we'll do this weekend.  It will depend on the supplies we have at home.  I'm leaning toward the Crystal Egg Geodes, but that probably requires a trip to the store.

Don't these look cool?

At the very least, I know we have eggs.  The Crystal Egg Geodes require you to blow the yolk out of the egg.  I did this when I was in 6th grade.  We made egg "babies" and had to carry them around with us and take care of them as if they were a real baby.  It was part of a large project in health class.  We were graded based on how long our "babies" lived.  :-)

If you and your kids are bored one weekend, check out these links and try a few new science experiments!  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Planting Grass with my Daughter

Last fall we had to dig a narrow foot wide trench in our front yard to lay a sump pump line out to the street.  I let the ground settle over the winter and planted grass seed earlier this spring.  The grass started to grow but I was lazy and didn't keep up with the watering.  That and the 2 month stretch of 95+ degree weather with no rain killed most of what had grown.  Now that it's fall and cooled off a bit I'm trying again.  Earlier this week I took my 5 year old to the garden/lawn store down the road and did the thing that most men don't like to do.  I asked for grass growing help from one of the garden/lawn experts.

With his help I was able to gain a few grass growing tips to pass along to my daughter.  Through each step of the process I explained to her the purpose.  Here are the major steps.

1.  I grabbed a couple of rakes and 'stirred' up the top layer of dirt for the grass seed to settle in.  My daughter was an excellent helper on this.

2.  Together we dropped the grass seed.  Just like the tomatoes, peppers, and green beans we planted in our garden this year, all plants start out as seeds.

3.  Next we placed a layer of straw over the seed.  I've seen this done before but never taken this step myself.  The straw is supposed to help keep moisture on the dirt/seeds.  In the process we made a huge mess of straw pieces on the driveway.  Both of my daughters helped clean this up.  It was very cute watching my 2 year old struggle with a big broom.  When asked if she needed help, she flat out refused.  She was doing this on her own!

4.  Next came the watering.  I explained to my daughter that just like people, plants need water to grow up healthy.

A strip of what will hopefully soon be grass in my yard.

Having my daughters help me with this project turned the project from work to fun.  Obviously there are some home improvement tasks that kids, depending on their age, are not able to help you with.  But if you have a project that is kid friendly, take advantage and let your kids help out.  They'll learn some useful skills that will help them later in their lives.  Plus they get to spend quality time with you!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Comparing Distances/Sizes

As kids we learned that the Sun was many miles away from the Earth.  Kids today learn this as well and many of them learn/memorize the Earth-Sun distance in miles.  The distance between the Earth and the Sun is 93 million miles.  That's a great distance, compared to common distances on the Earth itself, but how far away is 93 million miles?  Unless you have something to compare this distance to, 93 million miles is such a large number that it is almost but impossible to understand.  Telling a child that the distance from the Earth to the Sun is 93 million miles doesn't tell them much but that it's a long ways away.  This doesn't mean that you shouldn't teach your kid the distance, but it's also important to put this distance in perspective.

In my classes I have students go through a simple activity of scaling the size of the solar system down to the size of a school hallway using toilet paper.  This gives students a visual representation of how far each planet is from the Sun.  93 million miles may be a lot, but the distance from the Sun to Jupiter is much farther than this.  The NRAO in Green Bank, WV has a very cool scaled model of the solar system using the land itself.  They've taken the road from near the entrance of the facility down to the Green Bank Telescope and scaled it to the size of the solar system.  Here's the map:

Scaled model of the Solar System at the NRAO facility in Green Bank, WV.

It's easy to tell from this map that the distance from the Earth to the Sun, although large, pales in comparison to the distance from Pluto to the Sun.

Another cool scaling activity to introduce to kids/students is one originally found on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.  This is an interactive activity that allows you to scale from very small sizes/distances to very large sizes/distances.  If you haven't seen this interactive activity, I highly encourage you to check it out.  It puts sizes in the Universe in perspective.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blue Moon Popularity

About a week ago, my Olympics, Double Amputees, and Science post from August 6 became the most viewed post since this blog's inception at the end of May 2012.  The stay at the top, however, was short for this post as the Are Blue Moons Really Blue post on August 30 quickly surpassed it and surpassed it by a wide margin.  Who knew that blue moons were so popular?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Checking My Own Misconceptions

I try my best to avoid passing along misconceptions to others, especially kids.  Despite this, there are times when I realize that in my quest to pass along the facts, I may be inadvertently passing along a misconception that I had no intention of passing along.  The size of the Sun is a perfect example.

Is the Sun a normal star?  No!

In my Astro 100 classes (for junior/senior high school students and college students) I discuss with my students that most stars in our Galaxy are smaller than the Sun.  The smaller the star, the more common it is.  However, when talking about multiple properties of the Sun, I often label the Sun as a "normal" star.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  There are stars much smaller than the Sun and there are stars much bigger than the Sun.

2.  There are stars less massive than the Sun and stars more massive than the Sun.

3.  There are stars hotter than the Sun and stars cooler than the Sun.  

4.  There are stars that live longer than the Sun and stars that live much shorter lives than the Sun.  

5.  On the visible color spectrum (red to blue) the Sun sits in the middle as a yellow/green star.  

I've never had the intention of passing along to my students that most stars are similar in properties to the Sun.  I've always tried to make it clear that cooler, smaller stars are much more common in the Galaxy than the Sun.  I fear, however, that by using the term "normal" I've unintentionally taught my students just the opposite.  When did I come to the conclusion that I might be passing along a misconception?  When I read one of a series of Sun facts posted by the Bad Astronomer.  It really got me thinking about the terminology I use in class and I can assure you that this year's discussion on the Sun will no include the word 'normal'.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Update on Blue Moon

I ran across a couple of interesting articles/pictures related to yesterday's blue moon that I wanted to share.  The first is an article about the misconception that a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.  It turns out that this is the modern definition, but there's a historical definition that is somewhat different.  The full article is from Sky & Telescope.  If you're interested in the history of terms/phrases, I encourage you to read this article.  It concludes that:

"Seasonal Moon names are assigned near the spring equinox in accordance with the ecclesiastical rules for determining the dates of Easter and Lent. The beginnings of summer, fall, and winter are determined by the dynamical mean Sun. When a season contains four full Moons, the third is called a Blue Moon."

So it turns out that a blue moon being the second full moon in a calendar month is not quite accurate.  The point I'd like to make is that regardless of your definition of a blue moon, modern vs. historical, the moon is still not blue during a blue moon.

As I mentioned in my previous post titled "Are Blue Moons Really Blue" a change in the color of the moon is the result of atmospheric (Earth's) effects.  Below is an awesome picture I pulled from the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

If you look closely in this picture, taken last night, you'll see spots of blue on the moon.  But again, this has nothing to do with last night being a "blue moon"  The Astronomy Picture of the Day website states:

"The slightly color enhanced image also brings out subtle shades of blue, a real characteristic of terrain with a high content of titanium oxide and iron."

In other words, it's possible to see these blue "spots" during any full moon.  They are not limited to a "blue moon".

There you have it.  Probably more information than you ever wanted on a blue moon, but now if your kids ask, you have the information to answer!