Friday, August 10, 2012

Burning Tears of St. Lawrence, or the Perseid Meteor Shower

Look towards the Perseus constellation in the northeast sky this weekend and from it will emanate the Perseid Meteor shower. If you have clear skies, this year promises to be excellent because the moon will be a mere crescent.

Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence of Rome, the archdeacon who tirelessly cared for the sick and poor and was grilled to death for his faith, coinciding with the annual meteor shower; thus the event is often referred to as the Burning Tears of St. Lawrence.

Get a blanket and make yourself comfortable.  You'll start seeing them every few minutes streaking across the sky after night fall, but if you like middle-of-the-night excursions the peak will be between 2 am and 3 am.  Saturday night will be better than Sunday, though around here Saturday is predicted to be cloudy.  We're planning a shooting star gazing event at a friend's yard atop a treeless hill on Sunday when the weather should be clear.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Discount Code for Live Online Summer Math Camps

Homeschool Connections is offering two live online summer math camps for geometry and algebra.  You can read about them here.

For the geometry prep camp I have a discount code that you are free to share:

$20 off Geometry Prep Camp discount code nx32tg.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home in a Cave review

Check out my review of Janet Halfmann's new book Home in a Cave over at Love2Learn.

Science Olympiad Competition

I never did blog about the Science Olympiad competition, until now that is.  Our competition was back in March.  In the end we had a team of five and we competed in the following events:

  • Food Science
  • Road Scholar
  • Crime Busters
  • Storm the Castle

While it's hard to see in the picture, our team is the small group without matching shirts just about in the center of the picture.  This year Massachusetts had a record number of both regular and alternate teams, and we were the first homeschool team ever.

There's no substitute for that first experience to understand how the competition works.  For as strict as the rules portray everything, the middle school level at least was not quite so rigid.  And I had expected that I had to be with them for every competition when in fact only the competitors were allowed in to most events.

We competed against many top schools, many of which have been competing for years with not only a primary team but also one or even two alternates.  We all gathered in the gym for the final award of medals (for regular teams) and ribbons (for alternates.)  I just can't describe the shock and joy of hearing our team's name announced as the third place alternate winner for Crime Busters.  Our two competitors are in the bottom picture.

We had a great experience.  Yes, there's a lot of work.  Yes, there's a lot of stress.  Yes, it's a big time commitment. It's worth it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Crime Busters

Crime Busters is a skills-oriented chemistry event in Science Olympiad.  Students are given a scenario and evidence collected at the scene of the (non-violent) crime.  They analyze the clues in order to solve the crime.  You can see a good description of the event at  Crime Busters on SciOly, a student wiki for Science Olympiad for exchanging tips and resources.  Note that gypsum is plaster of Paris and calcium carbonate is chalk.

Half the points are earned in the analysis portion in which students need to identify an unknown powdered solid, a liquid, and a metal.

These are pictures from the powdered solid analysis.  What you see are 11 of the 13 possibilities that I actually had around my house, even acetic acid (being a bread baker.)  Sand (go figure) and sodium acetate were the only two I did not have.

Other things you need are Lugol's iodine (not alcohol-based like the stuff at the pharmacy) hydrochloric acid (HCl), and pH paper, all available along with acetic acid from Home Training Tools.  They include instructions to make a 3M HCl solution.  You may want to get a brown glass bottle to store it in as well, and a 10 ml graduated cylinder to measure it out (though not necessary.)

The coolest reaction: vitamin C (acetic acid) turns iodine from brown to completely clear.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Science Olympiad Practice Run

We went to a Science Olympiad practice meet to get an idea of how the competition goes.  This middle school, with no special Science Olympiad budget, allowed teams to come in and run through events.  Thank you!  They did not run all the events.  Of course none of the building events would be done. We were fortunate enough that two of the three non-building events we are competing in were available.

The above picture shows what I think is the most complicated event: Science Crime Busters. You need to know solid, liquid, and metal analysis, which earns half the points.  You also need to know hair, fiber, and DNA analysis.  You also examine fingerprints, tread marks, and splatter patterns.  After examining the evidence you then need to decide who dunnit.

The next picture is the other chemistry event, Food Science.  To prepare for it you need to do a lot of really bad baking to see how altering muffin recipes alters outcomes.  You also need a good knowledge of nutrition, which we found out we have not spent enough time on yet.  We have 5 more weeks to be ready...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Journey North Mystery Class 2012 Begins

Journey North: Mystery Class began yesterday for anyone interested.  This is an excellent project-based science and math study.  I have not decided if I am going to be participating this year because of all the time spent preparing for Science Olympiad.  Our competition is in March, before the equinox, so we may have time to jump in then!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Science Olympiad

This may very well affirm that I am crazy, but getting involved with Science Olympiad is a great project.  Several families in our co-op have decided to put together a Level B (middle school) team.

This is the first year that Science Olympiad has instituted rules specifically aimed to restrict homeschoolers (because we are so nefarious.)  Teams must be composed of students that live in the same or adjacent counties, and cannot be from different states.  This last provision is what is preventing our team from being a full participant this year.  Our co-op, now in its third year, has a family from an adjacent county but in another state (here in New England our states are very close.)  The national office gave an emphatic NO to this arrangement.

The Massachusetts coordinator, thank goodness, has been as accommodating as he can.  He is allowing us to participate as an alternate team, so we are unable to get an official SO medal should we win an event, but we would be awarded a state ribbon.  That's plenty good enough for us since we are unlikely to win anything anyway our first year.  We also could not advance on to the nationals, but with only 7 students (up to 15 are allowed) we could never compete in enough events to earn enough team points to win.

The Science Olympiad has 23 events divided into 3 categories: study, skill, and building.  Almost all the events allow up to 2 team members that work together on the event.  The "study" events involve knowledge to answer test questions.  The "skill" event has several stations in which both questions need to be answered and skills need to be performed.  The "building" events require contraptions to be made before the competition that are impounded that day until the actual demonstration time.

Our team plans to compete in 5 events.  Crime Busters, Food Science, Road Scholar (all skill events), Mission Possible, and Storm the Castle (both building events).  I will blog more about each even as I chronicle our adventure.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Liebster Award

Eva at Academia Celestia awarded this to me--thank you!  An award for those of use who love to blog because we love the art form, not because we have a lot of followers. Here is the description:

"Liebster is a German word, meaning dearest or beloved, but it can also mean favorite. The idea behind the Liebster Blog Award is that it is given to bloggers who have less than 200 followers in order to create new connections and bring attention to these wonderful blogs!"
Add the award to your blog.
Thank the giver with a link back to them.
List your top 5 picks and let them know they've been given an award by leaving a comment on their blog.
Hope that your followers will spread the love to the blogs you've spotlighted.

I am awarding this to:
Well, I listed 4...