Sunday, January 25, 2015

Snowballs, Snowflakes and Snowmen: Winter-Themed Lesson Plans

"That Grand Old Poem called 'Winter'..."  Henry David Thoreau. Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015.

Building a Snowman: Engineering and So Much More!

I'm not sure what your weather is like lately, but it appears that it is finally winter here in New England. On Saturday, we enjoyed about 7" of packy snow, and delightful winter temperatures in the 30's -- great for outdoor play.

Has it been snowy where you live? Instead of staying cooped up inside, why not get everyone outside for some fresh air and winter fun? The natural excitement of fresh snow can be an instant hook for any homeschool or classroom lessons.

And it's not just kid stuff, either: fun, familiar winter activities, such as snowman building, can teach important engineering ideas, and offer great opportunities for developing mathematical language.

January 2015 OHC Blog Carnival
 



Snowmen, Snowman Stories and Fake Snow: Winter Weather in the Elementary Classroom

Building Snowmen and the Engineering Design Process

Our recent snowstorm was a great opportunity to practice the Engineering Design Process in our homeschool classroom (on a SATURDAY, yet!). Although our youngest homeschooler is a sixth grader, the engineering design process can be used with even preschoolers. Any time we solve human problems using science, we are using the engineering design process. Here are the steps:


  • Ask: Our question was, "How can we make a bigger, better snowman than last time?"
  • Imagine: We surveyed the area, and visualized how the snowman would look from the window, and from the street. Ultimately, we chose to position the snowman facing the sidewalk, for passersby to view.
  • Plan: We quickly divided the tasks among ourselves (snowball rollers {Mom and son}, materials gatherers {ditto}, photojournalist {Mom}, cheerleader and evaluator {Dad}).
  • Create: The fun part...
  • Improve: Repairing design flaws is always a part of snowman building: an unstable base that needs reinforcement; a wobbly neck that needs support.
 


Check out our engineering design process in photos! (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015


Connecting Snowman Building with Literature

Snowman building fun doesn't have to end once the snowman is built. There are many classroom connections to literacy, social studies, health and mathematics that can be used both before the snowman engineering and as follow-up extensions of the outdoor activities.

Interested in building upon the snowman experience? See "Building a Snowman: Lessons for Preschool and Kindergarten" for cross-curricular connections that can be used for young snowman engineers and other winter enthusiasts.

Enjoying Snow, Any Day of the Year

We were fortunate enough to have a warm, wonderful snow-play day, which included our dog wearing his doggy sweater (which he loves) and a sneak-snowball-attack on Dad, who was shoveling. However, some winter days just are not hospitable for outdoor play, or your snow isn't packy enough for snowballs and snowmen.

If you find your winter weather just a little too wintry for comfort, check out Isaac Saul's "12 Most Fun Activities You Can Do With Children," including winter-theme treasures as "Magic Dough Snowmen," "Rainbow Ice Towers" and "Magic Puffing Snow" - great sensory table ideas for homeschool and classroom. Try these, and other, ideas, when the weather outside is frightful, or you are thinking wintery thoughts in June!


Photo credit: (c) Microsoft, 2010


Add Sparkle to Your Winter Lesson Plans – Get Out in the Snow!

A sudden change in weather can be an exciting way to add pizzazz to your lessons in your homeschool or classroom. With a little advanced preparation, you can create powerful learning from familiar, fun outdoor winter activities. Why not plan some for your winter instruction?

Need to build a thematic library for your snowman studies? Here are some great picture books to include in your snowman activities:







More Winter Learning...

If you have toddlers in your home, Erica Loop has a great list of 10 Winter-Themed Books for Toddlers. They include some of my favorites!

Deb Chitwood has a raft of Montessori-Inspired Winter Math Activities, to use as an indoor extension to your snowman-building. 

Miss Kindergarten connects the seasonal weather to some lovely winter activities for literacy and math activities. Very cute downloadables!

Mrs. M. has amazing, creative Winter Writing Display ideas on her kindergarten blog, The Daily Cupcake. More inspiration for reflecting on our snowman engineering project!



Looking at the Weather...
"This, from the Channel 3 Weather Center: Tuesday: Periods of snow with heavy snow at times.  Windy with near-blizzard conditions possible.  Low: 22.  High: 27 inland, 29 shore."
  1. Groceries? – Check
  2. Snowblower ready? – Check
  3. Lesson plans? – Yes, indeed…


How do YOU use the winter weather in your homeschool or classroom lessons? Leave a comment below, and share your favorite winter ideas.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Studying Fruit Ripening: A High School Biology Homeschool Lesson

See more simple science experiments at Simple Science Strategies.

Kitchen Science!

Are you studying plant biology with your high school homeschooler?

Check out this easy-to-do experiment on plant growth regulators (hormones) that you can do right on your kitchen counter.

Bonus: You get to eat the experiment when you're through!



{This post was included in Teach Me Tuesday #24 Linky Party!}



Life With Garnish

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"An Apple a Day" Notebooking Pages


{First published in "Books and Blooms," 7/12/2012}

Right now, in New England, we've pretty much finished picking strawberries, and are now heading into blueberry season. It will be a minute before we will be out collecting bags of apples.

But I noticed at Wal-Mart the other day, that there are shelves and shelves of notebooks and lunchboxes on display, and I just got my son's school supply list from his fourth grade teacher, so can September be too far off?

For those of you preparing curriculum for the fall, come see my new science journaling pages.

"An Apple a Day" is the first in a series of science journaling pages that follows the  apple tree throughout the year. This first set focuses on the formation of the apple fruit from the flower.

The next set will focus on the fall colors of fruits and leaves.

For more information, see the Store at Simple Science Strategies.

See Simple Science Strategies for details!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Garden Additions! June Updates...

When you live in a family of horticulturists, plants just... happen. I spent the last week acquiring new additions to my front garden. Here they are!

My New Garden, in June...

I'm participating in the "3 in 30 Challenge", and one of my goals for June was to install a new flower bed in my front yard. My dream was a kitchen garden, where I had a smattering of veggies, herbs and flowers to bring in to the dining area for cut flowers.

Hydrangea - we're still trying to figure out
which one this is...


This hydrangea was one of a batch that was not in flower, and had not been labeled, so it was impossible to identify (or sell) at the nursery. We're still trying to figure out what variety it is -- we had thought it would turn out to be 'Endless Summer,' but the colors are wrong. You should see how it looks today! Each flower head could actually be cut and floated singly in a low dish as a centerpiece -- they are just enormous.

I have several hybrid tea roses, which I share below. The yellow is not yet identified. The red, 'Don Juan,' fairly glows at dusk -- my husband was admiring it from the front porch one night, and said it just screams out, "Alive!" Very poetic guy... The third rose is called 'Love,' and I'll have a photo of it next time -- white buds, edged in red, opening to red on the inside.

Hybrid Tea Rose -- no label so your guess is as good
as ours!

My son brought more roses home yesterday -- I don't know their names yet, but here is what will come home to Mama (!) today:

  • another yellow, with the most amazing scent...
  • a red that's nearly lavender...
  • one called 'Joseph's Coat' that my son knew I'd like, just because of the name, but it is beautiful, with yellow buds tinged in orange, and red edges to the petals...
  • a coral-colored one...
He had an orange-orange one, but, before I could point and say, "Ooh! I want THAT one!" he said, "And you can't have the orange one, because I want it!" Darn it. Those cut-throat gardeners...


Hybrid Tea Rose - 'Don Juan'

Some people avoid hybrid teas as "too finicky," but I find roses to be no trouble, at all. Sometimes you have to watch for mildew, especially on the fuller ones and especially if your weather has been sultry like ours has. But I don't consider cutting back spent flowers and removing spotty leaves to be a big chore -- it's kind of therapeutic at the end of a work day. Maybe that's what people are considering "high-maintenance?" Don't know. I call it "puttering," and it makes me happy.


New roses, cleaned up and ready for planting

I love to rescue plants and resuscitate them. I have been known to frequent places like Lowe's and Home Depot, looking for the carts where they stack the unsaleable plants. If you know plants, and "big box" stores, you know that something becomes unsaleable when it is out of bloom. I don't care if I have to wait until the next year, when I can buy up a bunch of the same things for a mass planting, and only pay $0.25 (or nothing!) apiece. I acquired an entire planting of ornamental Solidago at Lowe's one year, simply because the flower heads had gone to seed, and the employees thought they were all weeds!

My new roses cleaned up nicely. The next batch are some interesting (mis)shapes, so I'm thinking I'll cut them back hard after they finish flowering.

Siberian wallflower - a wonderful wildflower
that is easy to start from seed


My neighbor had a pot on her front step. It contained the remnants of a plant long since expired, in petrifid peat moss. She is a very nice lady, a retired nurse, and I told her one day that I was going to plant something nice in her pot and leave it on her step.


I had this package of Siberian wallflower that came (I think) as a freebie in some gardening junk mail. I never throw any of those seeds away. Usually, I save them all up (wallflower, cosmos, viola, herbs, all those other things they send you), buy a nice wildflower mix, mix them all together and then broadcast it somewhere that needs color but not gardening. Most wildflower seed shouldn't be covered, as they need sunlight to germinate. Wallflower comes up right away, but it's a nice surprise to come back a couple of years later and find a lupine or other biennial flowering.

Bidens, or Beggarticks

I have many different types of Coreopsis. This is not actually one of them, although it looks like one. This close ally is one that I bought at Wal-Mart, called Bidens, or Beggarticks. Like Coreopsis, it is very durable, and hasn't once withered or shown signs of stress during our incredible heat wave. My rosemary also has enjoyed the more Mediterranean clime we've had lately.

My middle son teased me about the containers that have placed in spots around the garden. Until the plants grew up, I wanted some more vertical elements. Plus, terracotta is cute. He later admitted that he really liked it and was just giving me a hard time.

Then he went out and installed a slammin' garden of his own. I like to think that his mother inspired him! Plus all those beautiful plants he and his brother work with all day -- it would be hard for me to bring home any money. My family would have to learn to live on beauty, alone.


Eggplant 'Black Beauty'

I love interplanting veggies, herbs and ornamentals. I rarely have insect problems, because I use companion species, such as Nasturtium (which is so tasty it lures the bugs to it instead of the veggies AND you can put the peppery flowers and leaves in your salad), the ubiquitous marigold (I'm partial to the dwarf, dark single-blooming kinds) and others. I notice that the squirrels wait until my eggplants are about the size of eggs, then, just as I'm beginning to fantasize about a good "parm," they steal them. So I planted my eggplants in the front bed, where the squirrels won't venture. We'll see.

Planting solar patio lights in pots
I planted some different herbs this year. I have the regular English thyme, and an ordinary (but wonderful) basil, but I also have licorice basil and a wild oregano, some wild monarda, and I'm not sure what else (because I sprinkle the seeds in places everywhere). Nice butterfly magnets, and the sun on the basil by the front walkway smells heavenly.

I am trying something different with my patio lights this year. Why shouldn't I get to enjoy my garden when I sit out in the evening, too? I "planted" my patio lights to highlight spots in the garden, and I love it! Here's something I discovered: if you put a patio light in a hanging basket, it acts like a porch light, without electricity! My little guy also told me the mom of one of his friends started putting her patio lights in her hanging baskets, too.

There is a little toad that hides under the pot at night. Did you know that one toad can eat 10,000 pests in three months? Love your toad -- plant a toad house.


The marigolds have not cared at all about heat, drought,
or any other adverse conditions!

Speaking of toads... Garden Toad's Companion Plant Guide lists a bunch of plants that can be planted as companions to your veggie plants, and the way that they are beneficial. Lots of my things are on there, but next year I'd love to do more purposeful planting -- I'm already excited...


My Current "Companions"

basil... catnip... cucumber... marigold... mint... nasturtium... oregano... parsley... rosemary... sweet pepper...

I am making a list for next year, though!





My nasturtiums are tumbling everywhere! I like the old-fashioned, rambly ones because they weave their way among the vegetables and flowers, providing spots of unifying color all over. This planting is in a pot that contained pansies (still doing well, in spite of the heat). My thinking is that the pansies would fade in time for the blooming of the nasturtiums, but it looks like they might co-habit, after all!

I found some nasturtiums growing in a place I don't remember planting them. It's hard to believe that I spilled those humongous seed and didn't notice. Do you sometimes plant things and forget that you planted there?

There are worse surprises!


Hypericum (St John's-wort)

I have a little creamer pitcher that I keep on my dining room table, that is the perpetual flower arrangement. The other day, I noticed these Hypericum (common St. John's-wort) flowering by the edge of the driveway, and cut a few to add to the arrangement.

If you want a field guide that is friendly to kids and people who aren't familiar with plant classification, then the Peterson guides are great. Plants are organized by color, then you use botanical features to narrow the selection. This is the wildflower guide that I used.


See my Weekly Photo Challenge blog entry for
more about this photograph

Before the St. John's-wort came to live on the table, I had trimmed some new perennials after they were transplanted, and used the trimmings to create an impromptu arrangement. Here are some of the Coreopsis that made their way to the dining area.

You can read more about this photo in Weekly Photo Challenge: Create.  If you enjoy taking photographs, and have a WordPress blog, consider participating in this photo challenge.

Another photo challenge I participate in is the OHC Summer Photo Challenge, sponsored by the Outdoor Hour Challenge.  Details about this challenge, and how to join up, can be found on the blog link, above, or at Barb's Pinterest board, Summer Photo Challenge, OHC.

Next to blogging, I love taking photographs of stuff to blog about best!

Stay tuned for updates on my garden. Until next time, happy gardening!




Even the tiniest flower bed or vegetable garden can be a rich source of nature studies for all ages. Even if you only have a sidewalk planter or a patch of vacant lot, you can learn great things about the plants that God gave us for food, beauty and shelter.

Check out the notebooking pages from my friend and fellow homeschooler, Debra Reed -- you won't be disappointed! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Winged Garden Visitors

"My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies." (Song of Solomon 6:2)

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Over a single day last week, there was an influx of all kinds of interesting moths to the garden. I took pictures of a few of them that sat still long enough. Here are my visitors:


Harnessed Moth [(c) 2012 Kim Bennett]

Rosy Maple Moth [(c) 2012 Kim Bennett]



Common Gray [(c) 2012 Kim Bennett]
Great pages for insect study!

Stay tuned for nature studies on moths and butterflies in future posts on "A Child's Garden."


Happy moth gardening!