Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cloud Study Beginning

We don't have that many weeks until our summer break and I wanted to finish up our year of earth science learning something related to weather.  I searched the NASA Educators web site and found four weather-related lesson plans for grades 5 through 8: Investigating the Climate System-Clouds, Weather, Wind, and Precipitation (you can see the links for the others from the Clouds link.)

The Clouds guide is 31 pages, though only pages 3 through 11 are student-related while the rest are for teachers.  The premise is that the students have been hired  as interns in the State Climatology Office and they need to investigate a letter written to them by a 3rd grader through a series of 5 activities.  Each activity is supposed to take around 45 minutes, so this guide alone should be enough to take our co-op to the summer.

I ordered some books about clouds and the water cycle to start us out, and I was excited to find one available by Jeanne Bendick, How to Make A Cloud. I got a couple of generic children's science books, but I found what look to be a couple of nice gems, too.

Wrapping Up Journey North

Yesterday we submitted our answers to where we think the 10 mystery classes are around the globe.  We'll be starting a new earth science project next week.

We did fairly well finding our locations, except for one--class #10, for which a math error caused some pretty interesting rabbit trails.  We thought it was somewhere in central Asia between India and China.  When we got to the clue about the prefecture being on a peninsula, we were baffled.  We did find that the Kunming Wujiaba airport was located in Yunnan Prefecture, which is shaped like a peninsula only it juts into another country instead of into water.  The funniest thing is that this airport is being replaced with a larger one called Kunming Zheng He International Airport.  Well, this same student also had Mystery Class #5 and that same week he had to find out about the Zheng He statue in Malaysia--we thought for sure we were on the right track!

The final clue had to do with a monument to a shipwreck on the peninsula, so we knew something had to be wrong.  I looked again at the calculation sheet for the longitude.  Sunrise on the equinox was 6:03 UT and was at 20:42 UT the day before, and for some reason I wrote the difference to be only 5 hours and 21 minutes!!!  Why, I have no idea, but what a difference 4 hours make.  The class was in Japan and not central Asia and after a bit of searching we eventually found the place to match the clues (at least we'll see if we did on May 7th.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mystery Class Math

A major part of this project is calculating photoperiod, that is the amount of daylight at the ten mystery class locations.

We've been doing this by figuring out how much daylight was gained or lost at sunrise and sunset and then adding or subtracting from the photoperiod for the previous week.

While doing MEP with my son, I realized that it was simple enough to do this calculation in a way that extends my children's understanding of place value and regrouping, as well as introduce bases other than base 10.

Many of you are probably already aware of how to make this calculation, but if not I hope you find this as easy and helpful as I did.

Let's say sunrise is 07:26 and sunset is 20:10.  We have two place values: hours and minutes.  We can only put the numbers 0 to 23 in the hours place.  Our sunrise has 7 in the hours place while sunset has 20 in the hours place.

In the minutes place we can only put the numbers 0 to 59.  Sunrise has 26 in the minutes place while sunset has 10.  Now set this up as you would any other vertical subtraction to calculate the photoperiod:

  20  10
-07  26

You cannot subtract 26 from 10 so you borrow from the 20 hours, making it 19 hours.  That one hour becomes 60 minutes in the minutes place, so the 10 becomes 70 (60 + 10.)  Now we have:

  19  70
-07  26

70 - 26 = 44 minutes, 19 - 7 = 12 hours.  The photoperiod is 12 hours and 44 minutes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Free Smithsonian Online Conference

The Smithsonian Institute is offering Problem Solving with Smithsonian Experts, a series of free online conferences this month, several of which are science related.  Registration is required of just a basic form.

Each day they offer 3 related topics running 50 minutes each starting at 11 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm Eastern Time.  The second two days are science topics with
Unlocking the Secrets of the Universe on 4/28 and Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet on 4/29.

In looking at this site, I discovered Smithsonian Education, a web site dedicated to their educational resources.  It looks like something to check out!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My New Nature Study Blog: A Private Eye Nature

I have been so intrigued by incorporating The Private Eye into a comprehensive nature study that I have created a new blog dedicated to writing about it: A Private Eye Nature.

Admittedly our nature studies have never been much.  For whatever reason I never seemed to be able to make this into something regular and productive.  We love nature walks but never got much beyond that.  Drawing is not a strong suit for Ds#1 or Ds#2; we'll see about Ds#3.  Writing was a struggle for the older two as well until this year when some mystical switch flipped inside them, especially the oldest.  His creative writing has really impressed me!

Using the loupe, writing analogies, drawing, and asking why--the four basic steps--just seemed to make everything else come together.  It gave me a method from which to inspire the art and the writing.  It gave the boys something fascinating and hands-on to do.  I started the blog not just to record our endeavors, but to also write about tips and resources to help others interested in this approach.  Follow along and enjoy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Science Fair

We belong to a small (18 families) homeschooling enrichment group without a co-op, but we love to get together for field trips and events.  We recently held a Science Fair at the local library where our children displayed their work and we invited families and friends to come and see.

Ds#1 researched The Immune System.  He wrote about all the different structures and cells using military analogies.  He even build antibodies out of Zomes (I did help with the IgM pentamer double ring--it was difficult to figure out how to construct it.)

Ds#2 researched Light and Optics, which was a fully interactive display of optical illusions.  Some were on the board while on the table he had a 3D book, a picture changer, a praxinoscope, and a spinning color wheel.  His was a fun display to spend time at!

We had 10 entries altogether with a lot of family coming to visit. Everyone put together such interesting and different projects. I've included a slide show of the other wonderful projects.