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Entries in science (43)


Day 281 in 2019


Day 260 in 2019



Teaching cell biology to an octopus today


Lego photosynthesis

6CO2 + 6H20 = C6H12O6 + 6O2

Hands on learning doesn't always have to mean getting your hands truly dirty. There is no easy way to put your hands on Photosynthesis. Our current science unit is about plant cells and their functions, and without a high tech lab, anything beyond viewing onion skin in a child's microscope is out of our league, but that doesn't mean we have to give up our usual hands-on approach, it just means we have to be a a little more creative in our lessons, or a little more loose in our definition of hands on.

Earlier in the week we took cuttings from plants around the yard and looked at their apical leaves through hand-held magnifiers to get a good feel for how they really grow. To cement that understanding we drew comics illustrating the process, and continued to watch our basil plants grow in the hot weather all week long. But photosynthesis is a bit trickier.

We have been using Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for about six years now. We started with Volume I in the early years and this past year we finished Volume II while beginning Volume III. Aside from the fluidity of the books, one of the things I have loved about them without reserve is the focus on physical learning. Nearly every lesson provides a clearly explained project that gives kids a chance to literally feel their way through the topic. And I'm not talking about baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. The experiments and demonstrations included by Nebel are entirely topic appropriate and devoid of nonsensical gimmicks.

So while we couldn't actually witness the enzymatic process involved in Photosynthesis, the recommendation was that we use blocks, styrofoam, or any other physical product to symbolize the molecules involved and work the process ourselves as though we were the enzymes. With the caveat that it is clearly simplified, and that more than one enzyme is required in a real plant, we still got a good feel for how the greenery in our lives is constantly at work breaking down CO2 and providing us with O2. It's a little physical, a little mathematical, a lot scientific, and entirely, educationally, fun.  


Baby owls

Another beautiful, sunny morning promising soft, enjoyable afternoon temps today. Last week we went on an afternoon hike, Jon enjoying a rare respite from work in the fresh air, to go see the baby owls in Eberwhite Woods. In a nature loving, family oriented town like Ann Arbor, it didn't take long for people to find, and then news to spread about, the family of Great Horned Owls nesting in the wood adjacent to a local elementary school. With tree leaves not out yet, the nest and its growing babies have been visible, easy to find even, and the woods has seen more frequent traffic than probably any other time in its history. On our own first pilgrimage a week ago we found the owls easily, and enjoyed watching the babies peer at us intently over the side of the nest before stretching their wings and toddling around in it. 

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is flexibility. When I planning the year out, slaving over a computer calendar poolside in Stratford last summer, I commuted our science book studies in favor of hiking time for most of the month of May. Then, when good weather arrived early, and the allure of owls was too great to ignore, I swapped some April weeks for May weeks in order to free up some time to breath in teh warming air, soak up the brightening sun, and strike out into the woods in serach of owls. So that first pilgrimage was followed by several others as we watched the owls stretch and toddle with more alacrity until the first one fell out and proceded to grow and develop on the ground. 

We learned a lot from our almost daily hikes in the past week. We looked up Great Horned Owls and learned about their development—their growth, their instincts, their learned behaviors—and we learned about the goodness, or protectiveness, of the people around us. the entire experience has been incredibly sweet.