Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ice Melt Experiment - Fail

Back in July I posted regarding an Ice Melt Experiment my daughters and I were doing.  We were testing to see how long it took to melt an ice cube at different temperatures.  Unfortunately we never stuck to it, mainly because we were busy with other activities and simply forgot.  We had a total of 3 data points.  Times are given in minutes:seconds.

79 degrees = 10:45
85 degrees = 4:58
85 degrees = 8:34

As you can see, the ice took longer to melt at 79 degrees than at 85 degrees, as expected.  However, the 2 data points at 85 degrees had drastically different melting times.  Despite the lack of data, there were questions to ask regarding the 85 degree data points.  Why the difference in time?  Was one ice cube larger than the other?  Were both cubes melted at the same time of the day?  Was one day more cloudy than the other?  Etc.

Melting the cubes at the same time of the day is very important.  As the day proceeds, the driveway absorbs energy and increases in temperature.  An ice cube melting in the morning will likely take longer to melt than a same sized ice cube in the afternoon, even if the air temperature is the same.  Also, a driveway exposed to cloudy conditions all morning will absorb less energy than a driveway exposed to the Sun.  Even if it's sunny at 2 PM when the ice cube is melting, melting times are likely to differ due to different morning conditions.  

We failed in that we had too few data points, but we succeeded in being scientists by setting up an experiment and asking questions.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Spider Monkey

Earlier this month my 4 year old had an animal project assignment at her pre-school.  She had to pick an animal, learn several facts about this animal, and then present it to her class.  My 7 year old did the same project 3 years ago and she picked a rhinoceros.  My 4 year old chose a monkey.  There are many types of monkeys so I took her to the computer and we looked up pictures of different types of monkeys.  She eventually chose the spider monkey.

We learned several cool facts about spider monkeys and her favorite pictures were those of spider monkey babies.  Very cute, I must admit.  Then she told her mom, my wife, about spider monkeys and the next day the two of them put together a craft/art project for her presentation.

Very cool!  We all had fun on this project and the best part was that not only did my 4 year old learn about spider monkeys, but so did my wife and I!  

Friday, September 26, 2014

This Blog's History: Caught in the Rain

Fall is here and you've probably found yourself caught in the rain.  Maybe it was a light rain or maybe it was a heavy rain.  Regardless, let's assume you don't have an umbrella to protect you from getting wet.  What do you do?  Do you run to your destination, thinking that you will get less wet?  Or do you walk, thinking that running makes you hit the drops faster, thus get hit by more drops?  What a dilemma!  There's an answer, one that I discussed in a previous blog post.  Therefore, This Friday in This Blog's History, I bring back to you the run versus walk in the rain post.

Is it Better to Walk or Run in the Rain?

Can science help you stay less wet?  Absolutely!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teacher Your Kids How to Vote

I try to stay away from politics on this blog, but every once in a while I feel the need to discuss politics and science.  I'm it up today because voter registration deadlines for the November 2014 elections are quickly approaching in many states.  A few states have same day voter registration, but in many states, you must be registered well ahead of time to vote.  Some of these states have registration deadlines in just a few days, well ahead of the actual elections in November.

The voting bloc by age that has the lowest turnout rate is the 18-29 year old bloc.  One of the biggest reasons for this is that the younger generation doesn't see how politics can directly affect their lives.  You can help remedy this by teaching your kids, at a young, pre-voting eligibility age, the importance of voting.  Take your kids to the voting polls!  My wife and I have taken our daughters to the voting polls with us since they were tiny babies in car seat carriers.  As they grew older, I talked to them about why I vote and how to vote.

If you need to register to vote, take your kids with you to the county building/courthouse to register to vote.  Or stay home and do it.  In many states, you can register at home online.  Sit with your child and go through the 5 minute voter registration process and explain what you're doing.  Politics plays a direct role in science, whether it's the acceptance of climate change by politician or the funding that Congress provides for basic research.  Without proper funding, proper research can't be done, and our country falls farther behind in science and engineering.

Not sure how to register or not sure if you're already registered?  Check the link below.  Click on your state and it will take you to your state's voter information page where you can find information on registering to vote and where to vote.

How and Where to Vote 

Getting your kids to be an active role in the voting process starts with you, the parent.  Be a responsible parent!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Upcoming Solar Eclipses

I recently posted on upcoming lunar eclipses, but what about upcoming solar eclipses?  What's a solar eclipse?  A solar eclipse takes place when the Moon is positioned in a direct line between the Earth and the Sun.  The Moon blocks the disc of the Sun and casts a shadow onto a tiny portion of Earth's surface.  If you are standing in that tiny portion, you'll see a solar eclipse.

Check out NASA's page of future solar eclipses:

From this list, the next solar eclipse, although just a partial eclipse where the Moon only blocks part of the Sun's light, is October 23, 2014.  Most of the U.S. will observe this partial eclipse.  Although impressive, not nearly as impressive as a total eclipse.  The next total eclipse is March 20, 2015.  Much of northern Africa and Europe will see a partial eclipse.  The path of totality sweeps through the northern Atlantic and Arctic oceans.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Day of Fall 2014

Happy Autumnal Equinox!  September 23 is the first full day of fall in 2014.  It's also an annoying day of the year if you are someone, like me, who drives directly east to work in the morning right around sunrise.  We've all heard the phrase that the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but this is a tad misleading.  The truth is that the Sun rises SOMEWHERE in the east and sets SOMEWHERE in the west.  During the summer months (assuming the northern hemisphere), the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest.  In the winter months the Sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest.  The closer the day is to one of the two equinoxes (first day of fall/spring), the closer the Sun rises directly east and sets directly west.  On the equinoxes the Sun does rise directly east and set directly west.  This poses problems for drivers.

In the United States (where land is flat), most roads run directly north/south or east/west.  The roads that run east/west will have the Sun rising/setting directly in front of you at certain times of the day.  Like me, if you drive to work between 7-8 AM and you drive directly east, you see something like this:

But instead of high in the sky, the Sun sits just directly above the road.  It appears in that space between the horizon and the sun guard in your car.  Very annoying, especially when I approach a stop light and the Sun is so bright, directly level with the light, making it very difficult to see the light itself!  It's like this for a couple of days before and after the first day of fall.  After that, the rise position of the Sun has changed enough that the Sun is no longer directly above the road.  

Who knows, maybe I'm the only one who has this problem.  :-)  I love fall because I'm usually tired of the hot, humid weather of summer, but I could do without the bright Sun in my eyes problem.  :-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chemical Free???

Following my post the other day on GMOs, I've decided to do a mini blog series on lack of science concerning food.  As I stated in the GMO post, there are a ton of misconceptions and anti-science regarding GMOs.  Unfortunately the anti-science doesn't stop at GMOs.  Another common catch phrase you may have likely seen is "chemical free".  I've recently seen this at a local farmer's market at one of the vendors selling fruits and vegetables.  Uh...chemical free?  What does that actually mean?  Let's begin with a dictionary definition of a chemical.

Chemical - "a substance obtained by a chemical process or producing a chemical effect"

In short, everything in the Universe is a chemical of some sort.  Water, air, orange juice, milk, doughnuts, etc.  To say that something is chemical-free is to ignore the fact that everything is a chemical.  I guess that farmers at farmer's markets use "chemical free" signs as a way of advertising their organic farming practices.  I assume they are trying to state that they don't use pesticides or herbicides on their crops.  That's great, but just use the phrase "organic" instead of "chemical free".

Needless to say, I won't buy anything from "chemical free" vendors.  Get the science right and I'll buy your product.  Willing or unwillingly mislead the consumer and you've lost my business.

Friday, September 19, 2014

This Blog's History: Fun With Peeps!

Still have some of those annoying, disgusting peeps leftover from Easter?  This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you my post on doing something with those peeps other than eating them or throwing them away.  Donate them to science!!!

Fun Science Experiments with Peeps

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Science of GMOs

If you've been paying attention to the world around you over the last few years, you've probably heard quite a bit about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  There's a huge push to try to ban GMOs in our food and/or require the use of GMO labels on all food products.  Unfortunately this push is filled with a ton of anti-science.  I'm bringing this up on this blog because one of my goals is to clear up science related misconceptions and it's important that our kids aren't filled with misinformation at a young age.

We often hear GMOs associated with Monsanto.  Monsanto is a very large agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology industry that specializes in GMO seeds.  Too often people look at the questionable practices of Monsanto and immediately say that GMOs are bad because of Monsanto.  This is simply wrong!  I'm not a fan of Monsanto.  There is too little regulation in the United States regarding a business such as Monsanto.  Monsanto genetically engineers seeds to be Roundup ready and we are now seeing weeds that are resistant to Roundup.  This requires the development of new pesticides that could be more harmful if they infiltrate water supplies.  This is a huge concern.  However, this is a completely different issue than the safety of eating GMOs.

Just because one may disagree with Monsanto does not immediately make GMOs bad.  Humans have genetically modified crops for thousands of years!!!  GMOs are NOT new to our society.  Nearly every crop we eat has been modified in some way over the last few thousand years.  Today the process of creating a GMO is a bit different but by no means harmful to the food we eat.  Since 1994 there have been over 1,700 peer reviewed studies on GMOs and not one has found any harmful effects to humans.  There was recently a study in 2012 that concluded that mice eating GMOs were more likely to develop tumors, but that was debunked once it was realized that the mice themselves were already pre-disposed to developing tumors regardless of what they ate.

Here are a few websites that debunk the misconceptions of GMOs.  All are trustworthy and backed up by science.

Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked

10 Misconceptions About GMOs

The Truth about Genetically Modified Food 

The fact of the matter is that there is NOTHING harmful to eating a GMO.  One can question the develop of new pesticides developed by Monsanto, and this is a legitimate worry.  However, the eating of GMOs themselves is NOT a concern.  In fact, GMOs are likely needed to tackle the world hunger issue that will continue to grow as climate change affects more and more regions.  There are several independent-of-Monsanto research groups working on drought resistant seeds, but are facing a huge backlash due to the public's misconception of GMOs.

My final advice on GMOs is to get over it.  Eat them.  They won't kill or harm you in any way.  In my opinion it's a waste of time searching for products that say "NO GMOs" on them.  I bought a bag of chips recently with a "No GMOs" label.  Yeah right.  First of all, there's no regulation on this.  Companies can print anything they want to entice consumers to buy.  Some even charge more for non-GMO products.  This is a waste of money.

Okay, the rant in that last paragraph is over.  I encourage all parents to educate yourselves on the topic of GMOs. Check the sites above and look at other reputable sites.  Readers of this blog have probably guessed that I'm a liberal democrat.  This is the biggest issue that I completely disagree on with most other liberals because of all the anti-science.  Educate yourselves and don't spread anti-science.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Coach Your Child's Sports Team

Earlier this summer I blogged about coaching my daughter's soccer team.  The fall soccer season has begun and I've again agreed to coach my 4 year old's team.  She's moved up from the U4 level to the U6 level, which means a bigger field, but coaches still run on the field with the kids and many of the kids are playing soccer for the first time.  Often times sports leagues are in desperate need for volunteer coaches and end up doing a lot of hand wringing to get parents to coach.  As I've stated before, coaching isn't for everybody, but don't immediately rule it out.  You don't need much, if any, experience in the sport you are coaching.  I had no organized soccer experience, and very little recreational experience, at all before agreeing to coach.

If you're coaching kids in the 3 - 8 year old range, your job is less about teaching skills and more about teaching kids to be active and to work well with others.  Yes, I do teach soccer skills at my practices, but it's more important that each kid is having fun and enjoying the experience.  This means a lot of games that naturally get them practicing the skills.  Maybe you have no experience at all, but if you can work well with young kids 1 or 2 nights a week and get them having fun, then you are coaching material!  Take 30 minutes to search the web for fun sports games (or maybe the league provides you with a list of games like ours did).  If the kids are having fun, then you are a successful coach at this level.

In addition, coaching your child's sports team creates a whole slew of memories and experiences that will last a lifetime!  You get to spent time with your son/daughter in a much different parent/child role.  This is a good learning experience for both parent and child.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Color of Your Snot

What does the color of your snot mean?  Actually, very little.  There's a common misconception that the color of your snot can tell you if you have a viral or bacterial infection.  Unfortunately this is not true.  Your snot can give you a variety of colors for a variety of different reasons.  For more information, check out WedMd's explanation of colored snot.

Oh, and also, the more scientific name for snot is mucus.  :-)  I really wanted to post a picture of different colored mucus, but I refrained myself from doing so.  LOL!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Iceland - Aurorae

It's probably a safe bet to say that most people on Earth never have the pleasure of seeing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) or Aurora Australis (Southern Lights).  An aurora occurs when a large number of solar wind particles get trapped in Earth's magnetic field lines.  These particles travel along the lines until they interact with Earth's upper atmosphere.  This interaction releases energy in the form of light.  This is much more likely to happen near Earth's geographic poles because the magnetic poles where the field lines originate are close to the geographic poles.  The larger the number of solar wind particles, the greater the chance an aurora will be observed at lower latitudes.

With a strong background in astronomy, I recognized Iceland, where my wife and I recently visited, as a great place to observe the Northern Lights.  Unfortunately the Northern Lights cannot be seen during daylight.  Summers in Iceland never see full darkness.  However, winter, when Iceland only has a few hours of daylight each day, is a great time to see the Northern Lights.  If you ever find yourself in Iceland (or any other high latitude country) in the winter, definitely take time to observe the evening sky.  It's a good bet you'll spot the Northern Lights.

Friday, September 12, 2014

This Blog's History: What is a Blood Moon?

This Friday in This Blog's History I bring to you a blog post focusing on the Moon.  There are so many misconceptions about the Moon that it's important to try to clear them up.  This one discusses a Blood Moon.

What is a Blood Moon?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Removing Salt from Salt Water Experiment

This past weekend my two daughters and I set out to complete several different science experiments.  I'll post all of them here eventually, but I'll start with our experiment to remove salt from salt water.  We first took a cup of water and mixed it with 4 tablespoons of table salt.  We then tasted the water to confirm that it was salty.  It was so salty that we gagged on it.  To remove the salt from the salt water we placed the pot on the stove and began to boil the water.

We wanted to capture some of the boiled off water.  Next time you boil a pot of water, take a close look at the lid.  Once the water vapor hits the lid, some of it will condense back into water droplets on the lid.  In our experiment, only the water boils away, leaving the salt behind in the pot.  To collect the boiled water, we tilted the lid toward another bowl.  The condense water on the lid slowly dripped into the bowl.  We continued to boil the water until it was completely boiled off.  What was left was very cool!

Salt!  What you see in this picture is the 4 tablespoons of salt we mixed in the cup of water.  It's all left in the pot!  Below is the condensed water that dripped into our bowl.

Look closely.  It's there.  The final test was to taste this water.  Does it taste salty or does it taste like fresh water.  It should taste like fresh water.  My daughters and I each had a taste, and sure enough, regular, fresh water.  

This was a cool experiment that only took 15 minutes to complete.  I definitely recommend it if your kids need something to do on a weekend.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Get Vaccinated

Yesterday I spoke on the need and lack of excuse for nearly all healthy individuals to get the flu vaccine.  Today I expand that to all vaccines.  Unfortunately there is a very strong anti-vaccine push out there that is increasing the number of vaccinated children and adults in society.  This is a very big concern and much of it has been and continues to be pushed by the very false claim that vaccines cause autism in children.  This is simply not true.  It has been studied extensively and there is absolutely no evidence that links vaccines to autism in children.

Vaccines not associated with risk of autism

Childhood vaccines: Tough questions, straight answers

To continue to believe that vaccines cause autism is to ignore every piece of scientific evidence out there.  I'll be blunt.  There is simply NO evidence that links vaccines to autism.

Vaccines save lives, it is as simple as that.  Is it possible to have minor side effects following a vaccine?  Yes, and this is normal.  These side effects are usually in the form of:

Several mild problems have been reported within 2 weeks of getting the vaccine:
  • headaches, upper respiratory tract infection (about 1 person in 3)
  • stuffy nose, sore throat, joint pain (about 1 person in 6)
  • abdominal pain, cough, nausea (about 1 person in 7)
  • diarrhea (about 1 person in 10)
  • fever (about 1 person in 100)

as stated by the CDC.  In much rarer cases there can be more severe side effects.  As stated by the CDC, these include:

More serious problems have been reported by about 1 person in 100, within 6 months of vaccination. These problems included:
  • blood in the urine or stool
  • pneumonia
  • inflammation of the stomach or intestines
It is not clear whether these mild or serious problems were caused by the vaccine or occurred after vaccination by chance.
Despite the possibility of minor, and in a few cases major, side effects, it is much better for you to get your vaccines than not.  Diseases that vaccines protect you against killed many, many people before there were vaccines.  Here's a great website that shows you how many people died EACH YEAR prior to the vaccine.
For example, before the smallpox vaccine, 29,000 people died each year from smallpox.  The number of people who contract smallpox (not die, but just contract) now is zero!  The power of vaccines in action!
Many people claim that choosing not to vaccinate themselves or not vaccinate their children is their choice and doesn't affect others.  WRONG!  Not vaccinating you or your children can have a great effect (negative) on society.  Some people can't receive vaccines due to weakened immune systems or allergic reactions.  The only protection these individuals have is through herd immunity.  If enough people are vaccinated in a geographical region, those individuals who can't receive the vaccination are protected because the disease can no longer easily transfer between people.  
Unfortunately some communities in the U.S. are not vaccinating themselves and the cases of previously rare diseases is quickly rising.  For example, the number of cases of measles in the U.S. has risen over the last few years and has exploded thus far in 2014.

The above graph highlights data presented by the CDC.  If you haven't already, please, please, please, do yourself and society a favor by vaccinating you and your children.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Flu Vaccine Season

Flu vaccine season is upon us and many of you have probably starting seeing signs, emails, and other messages advertising flu vaccines.  I've posted several times on the flu vaccine and you can read those posts herehere, and here.  As a parent and as someone who loves science, I highly, highly encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine.  The flu vaccine doesn't cover you 100% from contracting the flu, but it does greatly reduce your chances of catching it.  Most people who claim they have the flu, despite getting the flu vaccine, usually do not.  They usually have a bad cold, which can produce similar, but more mild symptoms.  Those symptoms may not seem mild to you, but they are more mild than true flu systems.

The CDC reports that 3,000 (low) to 49,000 (high) people in the United States die from the flu each year.  The flu can be much more than an inconvenience. Granted, this is a tiny % of the total population of the US (0.015% on the high end), but given the easy access to the flu vaccine is this country, there's very little reason NOT to get the flu vaccine.  Most flu-related deaths are the very young or very old who have weaker immune systems, but healthy adults do die from the flu each year.

Now, before anyone calls me out on it, there are individuals who should NOT receive the flu vaccine.  These include people under the age of 6 months and those who have had a prior allergic reaction to a flu vaccine.  This encompasses a small portion of all people.  A full list is available from the CDC website.

Who Should NOT Get the Flu Vaccine?

Notice I've avoided the use of the word 'shot'?  This is due to the fact that the flu vaccine is no longer limited to an actual shot with a needle.  Most places that offer the flu vaccine have supplies of the nasal mist version of the flu vaccine.  Are you scared of a 'shot'?  No longer an excuse to not get the flu vaccine.  Get the nasal mist.

So this season, I encourage you to protect yourself and protect others around you by vaccinating yourself against the flu.  For most of the U.S. population there is no excuse not to get vaccinated.

Monday, September 8, 2014

100,000 Page Views!

Yesterday The Cool Science Dad blog had its 100,000th page view!  Awesome!  This blog started at the end of May 2012 with just a hundred or so page views per month and is now in its 29th month with about 5,000 - 6,000 page views (and growing) per month.  I've always told myself that I'll continue to do this blog as long as I'm having fun and I must say that I'm having a lot of fun with this blog.

This blog has helped motivate me to constantly share the world of science with my daughters.  Last week my 7 year old checked out the book "Science Rocks!" from her school's library.  Yesterday morning she reminded me that I promised her that we'd do some science experiments from the book over the weekend.  Well, couldn't back out on that promise, so Sunday afternoon we did  couple of science experiments, which of course you'll see posted on this blog in the coming weeks!

That's it for now.  Enjoy your day and make sure it's filled with science!

P.S.  At the current page view rate, I expect this blog to receive its 1 millionth page view in May 2028.  :-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

This Blog's History: Making Crayon Shapes

This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you a cool activity:  Making crayon shapes.  Turn all of those bits and pieces of old crayons into larger crayon shapes!

Making Crayon Shapes

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Curbing Electricity Use III

More good news on my family's quest to reduce our energy use within our home.  I knew our energy use was down based on the last electric bill.  A new 2 month energy assessment arrived from the electric company the other day and continues to support our drop in energy use.

Two months ago our home was using about 15-20% more energy than a typical home similar in size to ours.  Now, after initiating several energy cutting methods, we are now using about 30% less energy than typical homes of our size.  That's awesome!  We're about 20% higher than a similar energy efficient home, so there's still some work to be done.  This latest assessment doesn't include many days after we started increasing the temp during the day when no one is home.  I'm hoping the next assessment that comes out will reflect this and we'll see our energy use more in line with an efficient home.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Iceland Glaciers

When my wife and I visited Iceland in July we had the wonderful opportunity of stepping foot on a glacier.  I've seen a glacier off in the distance, but I had never stood on one until this year.

Glaciers are produced by the slow accumulation of snow over many years.  As it accumulates, pressure packs it into a large ice mass.  Because of the mass, glaciers have the ability to slowly move, much like a river, but much more slowly.  

Glaciers cover about 10% of the Earth's land mass, down from around 30% during the last Ice Age.  However, due to climate change and rising global temperatures, glaciers across the globe are very quickly shrinking and disappearing over a period of just a couple of decades.  Soon glaciers will be few and far between on the Earth.  Places like National Glacier Park in Montana may be glacier free.  

If you've never seen a glacier, do so very soon.  If you wait, it will be much harder to easily reach one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pepper and Water Science

The other day my 7 year old got off the bus after school and we decided to search for a cool kitchen-related science experiment to test out.  We found an experiment that test what happens when pepper and water are mixed.  To complete this experiment you need water, pepper, and liquid dish soap.

First take a bowl of water and shake some pepper until it covers the water's surface.  Did your fingers in the water.  Notice anything?  Probably not.  Then coat a finger in liquid dish soap and stick your finger in the water.  What happens?  Something pretty cool!  Check the video below.

The pepper quickly moves to the edge of the bowl and much of it sinks.  Why?  Water has surface tension and the pepper flakes do not break this tension.  They sit right on top of the surface of the water, not in the water.  The liquid dish soap quickly breaks this surface tension and the pepper moves to the side and sinks.  It's a simple, yet very cool experiment!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Curbing Electricity Use II

Back in July I posted on my Family's Monthly Electricity Use.  At that time I was concerned about the amount of energy we were using each month to power our home.  As the image in that post showed, we were using more energy than typical homes our size and had been for many months.  We put in some energy cutting measures in place and I'm proud to say that the first bill since was dramatically lower.  About 40% lower to be exact.  It was our lowest electricity bill in years!!!

I have to be careful in getting too excited because this because it is just one data point.  I'll keep tracking our energy use over the next few months and if a trend of lower use develops, then I'll be satisfied.  I also have to point out that during the past month we were out of the house for 10 days on vacation.  That, in itself, will lead to lower energy use.  However, we've been our on vacation before and not seen the same drop in energy use.  Right now I'm cautious, but we continue to discuss as a family was to conserve energy, both for the environment and our pocket books.  Here are some things we've put in place.

1.  Keeping lights off when not in use.

2.  Keeping windows and doors closed when A/C or heat is on.

3.  Not leaving the fridge door open.

4.  Buying energy efficient appliances (replacing appliances when old ones go kaput).  Recently did this with our fridge when the old one decided that keeping food cool was no longer in its job description.  :-)

5.  Running dish-washer on ECO mode.  Our old dishwasher never cleaned the dishes on ECO mode so we never used it.  The new one works great on ECO mode.

6.  Washing clothes on a shorter cycle when applicable.

7.  Turning A/C or heat up/down when not in house for several hours.  Now that we're all finished with summer break and not home during the day, we've implemented this.  Thus it has not been reflected in most recent electric bill.

8.  Working to limit the length of showers, both for water usage and the cost/energy needed to heat water.

9.  Unplugging small appliances when not in use (i.e. phone chargers, treadmill, etc.).  Did this for a radio clock we never used, but had been blinking 12:00 for months!  Tried this with the TVs but for one of them, it screwed up the software too often.

Curbing electricity use is a great way to directly involve your kids in energy conservation.  There are many things they can do on their own, such as turning off lights, that they can play an active role in this.