Tag Archives: Science

From Beginning to End

The project began last fall when we saved some of the seeds from the pie pumpkin that came in our Wild Earth Farms CSA bin.  I think it is important to not only know where your food comes from but also where your seeds come from.  Most of the plants we grow in our garden start as seeds we collect from plants we have grown or food we have eaten.

In the early spring we started some of our seeds indoors – the seedlings really liked the box window location.  The preschool table is located in front of this window so the children got to see the progress of seedlings every day.

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Once it got warm enough outside we moved all the seedling to our outdoor gardening space.  The various squash plants got planted a block away in my daughter’s back yard – she doesn’t use her outdoor space and we don’t have enough room for those sprawling plants.

Throughout the summer we often stopped by her yard when we were out for a walk.  We are supposed to do some weeding and yard work when we go but mostly all the plants are ‘wild’ and just grow however and wherever they want.  Between the squash plants and the weeds there are so many prickly things but the children are still excited to explore every time we visit.

By the end of September her yard looked more like a jungle than a garden.  The children enjoyed searching for things to harvest.

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We found quite a few on this trip over – had trouble carrying them all back.  All the drivers were smiling as they watched our little parade cross the street.

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When we got back we examined the various produce and discussed what we would do with them.

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The flowers were added to our spaghetti at lunch that day.  The zucchini was used in a stir fry the following week.The rest were displayed as decorations until the end of October when all the pumpkins had turned orange.  Then we cut open the pumpkins and scooped out the innards.

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Then I roasted the pumpkin halves to prepare them for the next phase.

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The following day the children took turns mashing the cooked pumpkin.

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We added the other ingredients – everyone got to smell and even taste some of them before we mixed them in.

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Almost done;

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We poured them in to pie shells and baked them in the oven. Afternoon snack on Friday – perfect end to a busy week;

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There were comments like “This is better than birthday cake”.  Some of the children recognized the taste or smell of the various spices – savoring every bit to pick out the individual flavours.

A year long project from beginning to end – but, its not really the end, is it;

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Stick Insect(icide)

We have had stick insects as ‘pets’ for the past six years.  When we got our first one the children were all so excited and there was a long process to pick a name for her.  It didn’t take long for us to discover that stick insects are so prolific that naming them all is impossible.

I think having stick insects is a wonderful science activity.  As with any activity some of the children are very interested – watching the insects for long periods of time, eagerly anticipating the hatching and molting stages and more.  Other children have little interest and rarely even notice their existence in our room.

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The ‘baby’ stage is my personal favourite.  They are cute when they first hatch although they can occasionally escape when they are that small;

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I only keep a few of the eggs that are laid and even then when they hatch it sometimes seems like we may have too many.  Sadly (luckily?) only a small percentage of the babies make it to adulthood and lay eggs for our next generation of insects.

Sometimes the little ones are hard to find when they camouflage on the sticks or on the lettuce leaf;

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As they continue to grow they are easier to see but they also make more mess;

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On a few occasions we have run into a problem when we have a particularly large number of insects at various stages.  The adults make the cage very dirty but the numerous hatch-lings make it difficult to properly clean and keep everyone contained.  If it is winter I will take the container outside briefly to clean it – cold insects are slow insects.

Last month we were at the overcrowded, filthy cage level but it wasn’t yet cold enough outside to slow them down.  Then something unexpected happened.  I ran out of romaine lettuce and there was NONE in the fresh produce section of the store where I was shopping.  Instead of making a special trip to another store just for insect food I decided to buy a package of romaine hearts.

Back at home I tossed two leafs into the cage for the insects.  The next day ALL of them were dead.  A hundred + infant to adult stick insects were strewn across the bottom of the cage.  I assume insecticide caused the mass extinction and I know I won’t be buying packaged romaine hearts for any reason anymore.

For the first time in six years we have no stick insects.  I managed to save a few dozen eggs when I cleaned the cage but only time will tell if the insecticide affected them too 😦

Mud and More

June 29th is International Mud Day – something we celebrate every year.  This year the school-age children were thrilled that there was no school so they were able to join in the day’s activities.  I had the water table set up full of dirt – it was up to the children to add the water and make the mud;

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I also put out another bin with plain water for hand washing but some of the children enjoyed making repeated trips from mud to hand washing and back so really there were TWO mud bins.  I cleaned the hand washing bin and added fresh water several times but it always looked like this;

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Because of this;

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We were outside all morning and the children took breaks from mud play to build bridges;

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play tag, and capture things like this;

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There was a five minute downpour which was very exciting after I reassured the children that we would NOT have to go back inside.  We do often play in the rain but because we didn’t have raincoats and boots some of the children were concerned that we were not properly dressed for the weather.  However, it was Mud Day and everyone had clean clothes waiting inside so  all that rain was just a bonus 🙂 It created some muddy puddles and the tarp became a slip and slide;

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and the mud table got soupier;

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Then, one of the children notice that the first tomato has begun to grow.  Three of the children decided to ‘watch’ it for nearly 20 minutes ‘waiting for it to turn red’.

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I think maybe it will be ready when they return in two weeks – after my vacation.  I wonder if they will remember to check, or will they be too interested in exploring all the other new things – my ‘vacation to-do list’ is two pages long.  I love vacation time but the return of the children is so exciting too!

Bees and More

We have many insects in our yard.  Our garden has several plants chosen specifically because they attract insects.  The bees love the giant hyssop and we love watching the bees;

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This butterfly was outside the yard when the children first saw it.  They called it repeatedly and finally it obliged and flew into our garden so we could see it better.

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Earlier this spring we had a nest of baby spiders by the bench;

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Those baby spiders entertained us for several days before they left to find homes elsewhere.  The children were very protective of the baby spiders and ensured no one sat on the bench and damaged the web.

Some of the children are afraid of bugs – especially spiders and wasps.  I believe that learning about the insects we encounter will help the children overcome any fear of them. When we know what these insect do we begin to understand how they can benefit us.

Even wasps are welcome to visit our yard – they have a job to do in the garden too.  We don’t let them build their nests where we play though.  When they are near we give them the respect they deserve.

Daily I am summoned to various parts of the yard by a child asking “What kind of bug is this?” That question is followed by many more.  I don’t always have the answers but we do research to find out more.

I always try to remain calm even when we discover insects that I don’t like – such as these aphids we just found on the oats in our garden;

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Where are the lady bugs – we need them now!  A strong negative reaction may instil unnecessary fear.  I’ll explain why I dislike certain insects and what we can do to avoid contact with those that we don’t like.

Earlier this week two of the girls were sitting in the garden smelling the herbs and flowers.  They were conversing quietly and I overheard one say “Ok, it’s your turn to pet him now – he’s really soft.”

I moved closer to see what they had found.  It was a bee – possibly the biggest, fattest, fluffiest bumble bee I have ever seen.  It was busy moving from one flower to the next and every time it landed the girls would PET IT!?!?

I tried to remain calm as I said “Please don’t pet the bumble bee.” but I’m sure my voice was a much higher pitch than normal.

“But we love him” the girls replied.

“Yes, I know, but he’s busy working and we don’t want to make him angry.  Watch him but don’t interrupt what he is doing.”

Love my job 🙂

Outdoor Adventures

We’ve been spending a large portion of our days outdoors.  We still come in for meals and naps but go outside for the majority of our play time.

I’ve put up the sunshade and on a few occasions I’ve opened the umbrellas too to provide shelter from the sun’s rays.  There is also a new cover for the tipi:

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We added some peat moss to our planters and planted some carrot seeds:

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The baby prefers a more hands on approach to gardening:

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‘Ben’ and ‘Jen’ – the two worm-like critters  we found in the garden last week – still have a ‘home’ even though they show no signs of life:

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Full water barrels and warm weather have allowed the opportunity for some water play too.  This is something new for the babies.  They were hesitant at first but soon realized that they were welcome to join in so they did:

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The older children made soup – of course.  This time they added a new ingredient that they called ‘vitamin R’ (rocks):

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They also cleaned the yard with ‘cloths’ and a ‘sponge’:

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That piece of bark ‘sponge’ did a suprisingly good job:

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I’ve got many more pictures of our recent outdoor adventures but I’m running low on time so I’ll save them for the next post.  Make sure you head outdoors for some vitamin N too!

Herbs & Veggies

Our vegetable gardening began in 2007 with one small raised bed and has expanded every year since then.  Our current garden is about 100 square feet and we have some planters around the yard too.

The types of vegetables we grow each year changes because we like to experiment with new ones.  Three years ago we began to include herbs in our garden too.  In the fall we had dug up the herbs, put them in pots and brought them in the house for the winter.  We got to enjoy them for a few more months but they didn’t survive until spring.

Since then we have discovered that some herbs are perennials – I didn’t know that when we dug them out of the garden.  Remember, I was learning about gardening too – I thought all our ‘crops’ were annuals.

So, last year when we planted our new herbs, I made a point of keeping the tags and noting which ones we should expect to return in the spring.  The oregano has returned and is doing well so far;

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I’m unsure about the garden sage.  It doesn’t look great but it has some new leaves and branches.  I started trimming off the dried branches from last year but it looks like the new growth is coming from the old branches so I’m afraid to trim any more in case I kill it;

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The lemon balm and the rosemary showed absolutely no signs of life.  We have since planted replacements for these two.  We also added some mint and thyme.  Every time we discuss the various scents the most common reaction is ‘Mmmm, smells minty’.  I figured maybe for comparison we needed something that actually was ‘minty’.  The thyme elicited an enthusiastic response as the four-year-old ran around the yard cheering ‘Woo hoo, we’re growing a time machine!’

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We’ve got the mandatory beans and tomatoes and this year we’re going to try two types of carrots.  We’re also trying something else new.  We have a subscription to the community supported agriculture program at Wild Earth Farms.  This will give us the opportunity to try a much greater variety of produce than we could ever grow ourselves. We’re also hoping to arrange a field trip to see the farm too.

We just received our first farm share which contained fresh oregano, thyme, green onions, swiss chard, and kale.  We examined and tasted a little of everything;

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The kale was a different type than the kale we grew a couple years back.  We immediately noticed that this kale had no holes in it.  Most of the kale we grew got eaten by something other than us.  This kale was beautiful and tasty;

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We headed outside to compare the thyme and oregano from the farm with the ones in our garden.  The children got distracted by some critters they found in the garden and had to go make homes for them instead;

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Yet another fun activity with garden ‘produce’.

Trimming Trees

One day last week as I was helping to get the toddlers dressed to go outside I told the preschoolers to put on their boots.  They looked at me and in unison asked “Are we going for a walk?”

They know the routine.  We get dressed at the front door because there is more room there but we carry our boots to the back door to go outside to play.  We only put our boots on at the front door if we are going out the front to go for a walk.

They sounded a little disappointed.  They look forward to playing in the yard and sometimes the toddlers walk so slowly that we run out of time to play.  I reassured them that we were just walking around the block and would come in the back yard to play.

There was something on the street that I thought they would like to see.  I had noticed the ‘No Parking – Street Work’ signs the day before and now the trucks were down at the end of the block.

We went out on the step;

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“What are they doing?” the children asked.

“Trimming the trees” I replied.

“Can we go watch them?”

“Yes, but not to close.”  We talked about the warning signs;

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We discussed the things we saw and heard.  The equipment was very loud.  I explained that it was easier to trim the trees in the winter when there were no leaves and the trees were dormant.  One child expressed concern that the workers would cut down ‘all the trees and we’ll have none left’.  Awww.

We walked around to the back yard to play.  I was hoping that by the time we came back inside the workers would have moved farther down the street and the children would be able to watch some more from the playroom window.

By lunchtime the trucks had only moved slightly closer – they didn’t appear to be making much progress.  I figured at this rate they wouldn’t reach my house until the middle of nap time – grrrr.

Actually, they never did come further down the street.  I wondered why.

The school bus dropped off the older children and then had to back down the street to leave because the trucks were still blocking the road.  That’s when we noticed this;

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That’s some MAJOR trimming.  Luckily they only cut down the one tree and not all of them.  We still have some left – for now.