I love that filmmaker Brad Canning thanks NASA, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL,) Mars and “Our Curiosity.” It’s a great reminder that without the public funding of science, there would be no man on the moon, no International Space Station, and no video of this amazing feat. Our nation’s boldness to go where no one has gone before is one of the things that makes us great.
Carin Bonder recently wrote a great post for Scientific American’s PsiVid about an autistic boy named Jordan Hilkowitz who is storming YouTube with his fantastic science videos! Parents will enjoy Carin’s post, and kids will love his Doctor Mad Science videos!
If you’re on Twitter, we’ll be chatting about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) tonight at 8 Central under the hashtag #STEMchat. Click here for more information if you’re interested in joining us as we talk about kids science at home and in schools.
Our recent family vacation to South Dakota reminded us that you find science wherever you go…
A ten-hour drive to the Black Hill went by fairly quickly with a requisite break at the Corn Palace, followed by a few highway rest stops featuring “Beware of Snakes” signs. We listened to Johnny Cash as flat corn fields made way for streaks of gray in grassy hills, sawtooth badlands in the distance and eventually misty mountains, black with pines. Wild turkeys and deer greeted us on the outskirts of the Custer State Park as we made our way into the foothills.
At the Mammoth site in Hot Springs, a guide taught us about spearfish shale, sinkholes and erosion while we stared into red and yellow rock littered with the bones of mammoths, ancient camels and a rare short faced bear. It seems that the majority of the victims of the ancient sinkhole were teenage males mammoths. After the tour, the kids dug in a grid for replicas of bones, experiencing first hand how paleontologists extract ancient bones.
On a Buffalo Safari in Custer State Park, we got up close and personal (in the safety of a park jeep) with bison, pronghorn antelope, and prairie dogs. Our driver captivated us with stories of buffalo charges and we learned that researchers recently discovered that the dramatic drop in the park’s elk population is the result of the increased mountain lion (cougar) population and their taste for baby elk. I couldn’t resist asking about bubonic plague (carried by fleas and sometimes found in prairie dog colonies) and chronic wasting disease (prion disease) in the elk. Luckily, neither are a problem. The kids asked question after question about the animals in the park.
Quartz, granite and mica sparkled along the sides of the trails as we climbed over boulders and hiked around lakes.
We followed the gorgeous Needles Highway to the monumental faces of Mount Rushmore on a gusty, hazy day. The wind brought traces of smoke from a distant fire -and the science of combining winding roads with sensitive inner ears brought on a bout of motion sickness in the back seat.
On a horseback ride in Custer State Park, the beautiful scenery was marred only by dust kicked up from this summer’s drought and the occasional rusty corpses of trees killed by pine beetles. Heading home, we took a detour into the Badlands National Park and stood in front of a carved landscape standing testament to the power of water, wind and time.
What science did you find on your vacation?
Katniss Everdeen had a sleeping bag to keep her warm at night in “The Hunger Games,” but what if you found yourself in the wilderness without a sleeping bag, or even a tent?
The healthy human body maintains a constant temperature between 97.7 and 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit through a process called thermoregulation. To do this, our bodies constantly produce heat and then give it off. Heat can be lost through the processes of conduction (losing heat by contact with another object, like the cold ground,) convection (losing heat to air or water moving across your skin,) radiation (loss of heat through infrared rays), and evaporation (heat loss as water turns to gas, like when sweat evaporates.)
If your body temperature gets too low, you can suffer from a potentially deadly condition called hypothermia. (Hypo=under, thermia=heat) Or, if you get too hot, you can suffer from Hyperthermia, which can lead to heat stroke. (Hyper=over, thermia=heat)
A shelter can protect you from the sun, storms and the elements and help you keep your body temperature steady as you wait for help to arrive, and one of the best items to include in your survival kit is a black plastic “contractor” bag. These large bags can be used as rain gear to keep you dry (cut a hole in the top for your head) or to protect you from wet ground below in your shelter. You can even fill one with leaves to use as a makeshift blanket. A nylon cord, or rope should also be included in a survival kit and can be used for a number of things including building shelters.
There are lots of ways to build shelters, but grab an old tarp or some big plastic bags, some rope and head to a park, woods or a local nature center to build a shelter. You’ll learn a few things and it’s tons of fun!
You can make a “bent sapling shelter” by bending a small tree down and tying it to the base of a nearby tree. Then put your tarp or bag over the sapling. You could also tie your rope between two trees and hang the tarp over that.
Make an A-frame shelter by lashing two branches together and leaning a long branch between them.
Then, cover it with your plastic bag or tarp.
You can use small sticks as stakes!
Imagine that there’s a thunderstorm coming from the Northwest and build your shelter with that in mind. Look up! Are there dead branches or rocks that could fall on you? Use existing trees, downed branches and rocks to build your shelter. Can you anchor it with rocks, sticks and your rope? Remember, you want it large enough to lie down in, but small enough to conserve heat.
Make teams and have a contest to see who can build the best shelter!
Katniss would be proud!
I have to admit it. I’m ridiculously excited!
Our KidScience app is now available on the App Store, making it easy for kids of all ages to do science anywhere, any time, or to check out KidScience watch-and-do videos and learn a little science when they (or you) need a little portable screen time.
Let us know how you like it. It’s for you!
Here’s the scoop: If you’re ready to keep the kids busy this summer doing fun, educational projects without shopping trips and complicated directions, you’ll be as excited as we are that KidScience Premium, based on Kitchen Pantry Scientist science projects, has arrived.
Available for iphone, ipod touch and ipad, KidScience Premium brings entertainment and education to your fingertips with a continually updated list of experiments to choose from using things you already have on hand. It includes both photos and watch-and-do videos that make it easy for kids to do projects on their own or you can have fun doing projects together.
A free version of the KidScience app is on the way and will include all the same experiments and photos, but have limited free videos. I’ll let you know when it joins KidScience Premium on the App Store.
There are other kid science apps, but only one KidScience app! You’ll know us by our bright orange and blue logo.
Let’s do some science!
Want to do a science project for NASA this summer? NASA scientists are very interested in learning more about how clouds affect Earth’s climate and you can help them collect data!
Although satellites can look down on the earth and study cloud cover, it can be difficult for them to distinguish clouds from other white surfaces, including snow and ice. Using your eyes, you can observe the clouds over your head within 15 minutes of the time a NASA satellite passes over to confirm what it sees from space.
Learn what’s involved and how to register on NASA’s S’COOL Roving Observation website. Or, if you’re an educator or homeschooler who wants to collect data from the same location each time, you can go to the CERES S’COOL Project website. I know we’re going to sign up!
On another note, our tadpoles are growing legs. We’ll have to put them in a taller container soon so I don’t come down some morning to find frogs hopping around our kitchen.
Although our pinhole viewers were great for watching the solar eclipse a few weeks ago, I was hoping to get a bigger projection of the sun’s image to watch the transit of Venus. (Venus is approximately the same size as earth and will be harder to see as it passes in front of the sun.)
With a pair of binoculars and a tripod, you can project the sun’s image on a piece of white paper so that it’s large enough to see even some sunspots.
DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH THE BINOCULARS!!!
Simply attach them to your tripod so that the eyepieces are pointing away from the sun and the bigger ends are pointing toward the sun. We used duct tape. The sun should be behind the binoculars.
Hold up a piece of paper and adjust the angle of the binoculars on the tripod until you see double suns (there are 2 lenses) appear on your paper. If you can, adjust the angle further so that one of the images appears in the middle of the shadow of the binoculars. This will make it easier to see. You’ll notice that the further from the binoculars you hold the paper, the bigger the image will appear. It will get out of focus if you hold it too far away though.
We taped our white paper to a shoebox that we’ll be able to set on something when we watch the transit and won’t have to hold it the entire time!
Here’s a great article from today’s Science Times about the Transit of Venus.
The kids and I have been keeping an eye on a local pond, and this week we were rewarded with the sight of tadpoles dotting the sand at the bottom like a swarm of commas. We pulled out a butterfly net, scooped up a bucket of pond water, and gently snagged a few of the frogs-to-be. Some tiny plants, baby fish, snails and a waterbug hitched a ride as well.
At home, we put our pollywogs in a bigger container (rinsed well with distilled water,) added more pond water and put some rocks in our tadpole habitat to make our visitors feel at home. A few times a week, we’ll siphon out some of the old water and add more pond water to keep our tadpoles healthy as they grow and change. When they’re almost frogs, we’ll lower the water level and be sure there are plenty of rocks for them to hop onto when metamorphosis is complete.
I’ll post a video of our tadpoles every so often so you can see how they’re changing. Eventually, we’ll release our frogs, along with the other plants and critters in our habitat, back into the pond where we found them!
Can you find some tadpoles of your own? If you do, be sure to keep them in pond/lake water and change it frequently. Chlorinated water will kill them! We’re feeding our tadpoles frog pellets and a little fish food, but I suspect they’re mostly eating algae in the pond water.
Our family trekked to the school parking lot to watch the Annular Eclipse last night. The kids ran and played, checking in every few minutes to peer through their solar viewers as the sun went from full circle to crescent-shaped. It was a blast!
Here’s what we saw in our shoebox viewers before the sun disappeared behind the trees.
Some teenagers showed up at the parking lot with a telescope and projected the sun on a piece of cardboard. It was really cool, and the image was big enough that you could see a sunspot!
Hold on to your shoe box viewers! On June 5th, Venus will pass between Earth and the sun. I’ll find out more about it and let you know how to watch it!
If you’re interested in watching the Transit of Venus, you may be able to see it better using binoculars, a tripod and a white piece of paper.
NEVER look directly at the sun, since you can permanently damage your retinas (the light sensors on the back of your eyeballs.)
That being said, you can safety view the sun with a shoebox by standing with the sun BEHIND you. All you need is a shoe box without a lid, a piece of white paper, aluminum foil, a pin and tape. It’s perfect for viewing a solar eclipse, like the one coming up this Sunday.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking the sun from view. Go to this eclipse calculator to see when and where you can best view the eclipse with your viewer! Here in Minnesota, we’ll see a partial eclipse on Sunday evening.
First, tape white paper over one end of the shoe box (on the inside.) This is your viewing screen.
Then, cut a big notch out of the other end of the shoe box and tape aluminum foil over it.
Use a pin to poke a hole in the center of the foil. If you mess up, you can always put new foil on and try again. The smaller the hole, the better the focus, but we made ours a little bigger than the actual size of the pin.
Now, stand with the sun BEHIND you. (See photo at top of post. The sun is behind her, high in the sky.) NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH THE PINHOLE ITSELF.
Hold the box upside down so the pinhole is pointed at the sun behind you. The foil should be behind your line of sight so it’s not reflecting the sun in your eyes. The idea is that the sun will shine through the pinhole and its image will be projected on the white paper as a tiny circle.
Practice on a sunny day (or when the sun peeks out between the clouds) so that you know what to do when it’s time for the eclipse. Small children should be supervised so they don’t try to look directly at the sun.
You can do the same thing using two white index card, poking a hole in one you hold nearest to you and projecting the image on the one you hold away from you (with the sun behind you.)
Enjoy! Watching an eclipse in the 70s after my dad came to school and helped us all make these boxes is one of my earliest “science” memories!