Monday, January 24, 2011

WInter Challenge #3 Winter Night Sky Observations

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This was our most challenging Outdoor Hour for two reasons.  

1.  It has been snowing in upstate New York for about a  

2.  We have had sub-zero temperatures.  
     (We woke up to 22 below this morning.)  

We decided to modify our plans and work from the window.  It was finally clear early this morning, so my husband and I decided to drag the boys out of bed to do some night sky observations shortly before sunrise.  It was absolutely beautiful.  So crisp and clear.  The pictures do not do it justice, as they were through an open window.  

We were able to observe the moon and Venus.  If you look at the photograph of the tree, the planet is just above the middle branch.  We have very limited window viewing as you will understand later in this post.  

The darker western sky showcased the waning gibbous moon.  We had a lengthy discussion about planets and our moon.  Here are ten of the facts that three years olds find interesting. 
1. The moon has no air
2. Rocket ships have been to the moon
3. Men have walked on the moon
4. Astronauts wear special suits and breath air from tanks   in space
5. The moon changes shape
6. The moon is made of dirt and rocks and has craters
7. Venus is a planet 
8. Venus is covered in clouds
9. Venus and earth are close in size 
10. Astronauts drove a truck on the moon

We used the NASA website and wikipedia to view various photographs of astronauts and Venus.  Here are some of the books we have been reading to build our background knowledge.  

We followed up our observations by drawing the moon in its phase on black paper with white crayon.  The boys traced half a cereal bowl and then completed the shape.  They added craters, astronauts, and space shuttles.  The recorded their thoughts by dictating to me for the notebook page.  

Due to the fact that we do science every Monday, and it is too cold to venture outside, we expanded out study today to include some ice observations.  This is what it looks like out of most of our windows- it was an obvious choice.  

We have lived in this house for ten years.  We have never seen icicles like this.  We have a slate roof, so most of the time the snow comes flying off when the temperatures warm a bit.  The problem is that the temperatures have not warmed up all that much.  I won't allow the boys near the house while they are outside.  These things make a mother shutter! 

For language arts this week we are doing "I" is for icicle.  This morning we tried an ice experiment to see what materials make good insulators.  

The procedure for the experiment is to take five ice cubes and insulate them in various materials to see how fast each of the cubes melt.  Our control cup just had one naked cube.  
Then we wrapped the other four cubes in these various materials...

and wool. 

We made predictions about what we thought would happen.  "I" thought that the wool would make the best "coat."  While "T" thought that the newspaper would perform the best.  We waited a few hours to see what would happen.  

We began by looking at the control cube.  

Then we unwrapped the other cubes and compared the sizes.  

We found the the wool was the most effective.  Paper was not far behind.

The boys put the cups in order from the least effective to the most effective.

We left the cups to sit for several more hours.  The wool continued to do an excellent job.  This was a fun and easy experiment.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Challenge #2 Winter Tree Observation

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Our temperatures have been frigid, only high in the teens, so it was a very short outing for us this morning.  Our focus was on our towering maple in our yard.  Here is a picture of it in the fall in all its majesty.  
I showed this picture to the boys before we went out into the yard so they had a fresh image in their head for comparison.  Here is what it looked like this morning.  
We examined the structure of the tree, comparing it to a weeping willow across the street.  The boys had never noticed the difference before.  We also talked about what may be living in the tree and what animals are using it this time of year.  
We found ourselves talking about chipmunks and hibernation, squirrels, and birds that we often see using our tree.  We also tap this tree in the spring as it is a sugar maple.  The boys are really looking forward to that season.  We are waiting for the cold nights and warm days, before that fun begins.  

What was difficult for the boys to grasp is a bud.  What is a bud, how can you identify a bud, and why do trees have buds.  We were unable to see the buds from the ground, but from the second story of our house the buds are clearly there.  I am planning on doing a little more with this next month, with the forcing activity.  We have a forsythia bush that will be perfect.  Then they will be able to first had understand buds, and budding.  

When we returned inside the boys tried their hand at the notebook page.  It was there first attempt at drawing a tree.  Both agreed that the bark has a grey-brown color.  They also noticed some dried up brown leaves still attached to some branches.   
Here are our final drawings.  Not bad for a first try.  Both boys includes the brown leaves, upward branches, and grey-brown bark.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Wednesday Outdoor Challenge - Snow

Last week we awoke to yet again the sound of the plow rumbling down the road.  When we peaked out of the frosty windows of our old farmhouse we were delighted by the sight of eight fresh inches of snow.  We had a storm the previous week dropping a foot, but we needed a fresh storm for this week's challenge.  The Lord always provides!
The boys scurried down to the mudroom to fish out their snow pants while  I refreshed my memory for the activities that Barb selected for the Outdoor Challenge.  Once they were dressed, I handed them a metal tray to collect fresh falling snow to filter.          

They carefully placed it in a spot that would not be contaminated by the road or driveway.  I then handed "T" a measuring cup to collect one cup of fresh snow for the melting experiment.
He brought it into the house thoroughly packed.  We dumped it into the "perfect beaker" to watch it melt.

 The boys were a bit confused by the final results.  Even though we kept going into the kitchen at times to check the melting snow, they asked me where the snow went when it was all finished.

We discussed at length what happened and made connections to our melting snowmen that we made a month ago.  A warm snap made them melt in a matter of days.  This really helped with understanding the principle of what was happening here.   Our packed one cup of snow melted into a quarter of a cup of water.  How fun!  On to the filtering...
We brought in our container of snow and allowed some of it to melt.  Next we pulled out our coffee filters to pour some of the liquid through.
First we used an unbleached filter.  This was not too swift on may part.  We quickly realized that you won't find too much because you are looking on a brown backdrop.  We switched to a white filter.  We used our hand lens to look closely at the filter.
I was very surprised at what we were able to see.  Multiple specks of brown and black, and some strange grains of white chunky residue were present.  The boys were unimpressed.  I wished we had a microscope to examine even closer.  

I wrote in the information on the notebook page this week, as it was a bit above them.  We are yet to complete the last experiment with colored paper.  We are hoping to do that tomorrow.  Overall the boys really liked setting up the collecting and completing the work.  The melting made the greatest impression, so the colored paper may strike a cord as well.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Challenge #1 Cattails

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It was a bit snowy and chilly this morning, but that did not hinder us from diving right into today's winter challenge.

We just got about a foot of snow, a big contrast from last week's snow-less outing.  All bundled up it was challenging for the boys to walk across our field to the cattails.  Fortunately it wasn't very far.

Even the baby was up for it,as long as she got to ride. 

When we approach the area of our yard, the boys were surprised at how we could walk right into the usually wet and mucky brush.

Our cattails were still looking pretty good, as not many had burst open.  

This one was fully opened.  Much different looking from the others.  

We noticed that the cattails were not in water, and that the stalks, leaves, and undergrowth all looked golden tan.  We selected a few samples to bring inside for investigation and to complete our notebook pages.
We discussed the texture, shape, and color of each cattail.  The boys descriptions varied from a fuzzy tail to a hot dog.  Both agreed that the open flower was very fluffy.  I once read about a man who made boots out of birch bark and lined them with cattails.    We pondered how this plant could keep someone warm.

T noticed that every time he picked up the cattail it would release its "fluffies."  We took a closer look at each noticing the seeds.  We learned how this plant uses the wind to distribute them.

Here are our final notebook pages.  Our drawing is getting better and better!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Wednesday Outdoor Challenge - Winter Colors

Outdoor Hour button I have been very excited to get back to our Outdoor Hour studies.  Barb has created a new e-book to go along with last year's book.  We have not used either book, and I am feeling like we have been blessed two-fold with these resources.  We will hopefully be adding a second formal day to our nature studies to cover the material.  If you have not seen Barb's site here is the link.

We focused on winter colors for our first outing.  We had a little warm snap that melted most of the snow, so it was not the white blanket effect I envisioned.  Our cattail study which will follow this entry, was completed in a foot of snow.  It was a much different experience.

For our color study we headed down to the banks of the beautiful Hudson River.  We actually drove to a small island that is usually teeming with bird action-  from bald eagle nests to droves of Canada geese.  I have been planning our outings to be quick outside exposure, due to the fact we are dealing with three and under here and the weather is mostly in the teens each morning.  I am pleased to say they have all proved to be pretty hardy so far.  
The first colors we noticed were the beautiful blue crisp sky and sparkling water, the puffy white clouds and golden brush.  

We noticed the red berries and pink and purple brambles in the woods.  

As we walked I was thinking how much this seemed like a late autumn color study, but then we noticed some things that changed my mind.

Steely grey-blue...

and white ice.

But then it even seemed spring-like due to the snow melt, as patches of chartreuse poked their head through the white. 
We noticed these bits of green as well...

We observed our old friends the black, white, and grey, Canada geese on the water....

but then a new bird discovery....the colorful Common Merganser.

Here is our field guide close up of the male and female.  We spotted both on the river, but the females are just stunning.  The head is a feathery rust color.

When we returned home we completed the notebook pages while we warmed up with some hot drinks.

Overall a great study for us.  Really no modification needed for preschool age children.