Category:The World Around Us’

Head Lice: How to avoid them and what to do if you get them.

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Human Head Louse: Check out those hooks they use to grasp hair!

It’s overwhelming and disgusting to find a bug in your kid’s hair, but chances are pretty good that most parents will have this experience.(Some estimates say that 1-3% of grade schoolers are infested.)
It happened to me last year. I’d been expecting it, since we get a nurses note at least once a month that someone at school has lice. Since I hate the idea of putting pesticides on my kids’ heads, I decided to head over to the Minneosota Lice Lady to see what she could do. Thanks to her, the lice were removed, the rest of us were checked and declared lice-free, and I discovered that Gonner Asser is an expert on the tiny creatures. Since then, I’ve taken two microbiology classes of nursing students on field trips to visit her studio and learn about the tiny parasites.

Gonne Asser, the Minnesota Lice Lady, shows us a hatched nit through the microscope in her studio.

We looked at nits (lice eggs) on hair (they look and feel like tiny brownish knots,) observed lice in all life stages under the cool microscope she has set up for kids and learned how to treat and avoid head lice. Here are my Cliff Notes, but she shared many other amazing facts and studies! Check out myths, facts and lice study references on her website.

1. Lice move from hair to hair, head to head and hygiene has little to do with it.  In fact, they may like clean hair better! To avoid getting lice, long hair should be pulled back into braids or a bun so lice can’t use their claws to crawl from ponytail to ponytail while kids are head-to-head reading, talking or playing Temple Run.

2.Lice are a social disease. If your child has lice, chances are, they may have passed it to a friend, so don’t be shy about calling other parents and the school nurse. You’ll be doing everyone a favor. Likewise, if your kid’s friend has lice, check your own child carefully! They don’t always itch. A lice comb is the best way to check for the brownish nits and bugs, which can be seen by wiping the comb on a white paper towel.

3. Lice do not move from the environment to your head! If someone in your family has lice, you need to have that person treated and everyone else checked, but don’t bother bagging stuffed animals, pillows, etc. Lice cannot live away from the human head for long. They essentially dry up and die. Nits (lice eggs) have to be incubated 1/4 away from the scalp to hatch. Even a fever can kill them. Check out this study from a school where 450 students were infested and they didn’t find even one louse on classroom floors.

Nits (louse eggs) on a hair look and feel like a tiny knot.

4.Pesticide head treatments often won’t kill lice. Many lice have developed resistance to these pesticides which often only kill 20-50% of lice and many of them contain chemicals which are considered hazardous. The best way to remove lice is with a lice comb and conditioner. Nits can take almost 3 weeks to hatch, so you have to keep combing and checking for a month to make sure all lice have been removed and no more are present to lay eggs. Or, go to a professional like the MN Lice Lady and make sure they’re willing to recheck and guarantee their treatment.
5. Finally, good news. Although they’re gross, lice don’t carry disease. Head lice only infest hair on the head, and they’re generally not even found on hair in hairbrushes. Kids tend to get them since they spend more time head-to-head, but braids and buns, and even sprays or shampoos with plant products (like tea-tree oil) can discourage them from climbing over.

Tornadoes, Lice and Muse

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Tomorrow, we’re heading out to see Tornado Alley at the Science Museum of Minnesotas omintheater. We’ll get to check out the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) and meet film maker and storm chaser Sean Casey while we’re there. You can meet him too from 12-2 on Sat. Sept.29 and Sun. Sept.30I’m pretty sure we’ll be blown away.

My microbiology class just had a great field trip to the Minnesota Lice Lady.  We looked at nits and lice through a microscope, learned about the parasite’s life cycle and heard that braids or a ponytail can keep your friends’ bugs from crawling over to your head.  I’ll be posting soon  about these little monsters!

Cricket magazine has been around for a long time, but I just discovered a kids’ science imprint called Muse magazine, for kids from 9-14, which I’ll be getting for every kid on my list this year!  I have no affiliation with the magazine, but learned about it as the result of a science online meeting I’ll attend later this year.  I’m co-moderating a session with Elizabeth Preston, who is the magazine’s editor and writes a great adult science blog called Inkfish.



Mars Curiosity Landing Video

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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.

STEM Chat and Video Inspiration

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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.

Vacation Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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?

Survival Science: Shelter

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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!

What if you don’t have a tarp? Try building a shelter from branches you find and weaving tree branches or birch bark through the sticks.

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!

KidScience app is on the App Store!

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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!

Kid’s Summer Science Activity: Cloud Observation for NASA

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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.

Homemade Transit of Venus Solar Viewer

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Our viewer is working really well! See Venus? We put a piece of paper behind the binoculars to get a bigger dark area on our viewer.

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.
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.

Tadpole Experiment

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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.