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Science Summer: Part One

by Donna Godfrey

About 5 years ago, my son and I did a science summer. We did plant life, animal life, energy, the solar system, weather, and rocks and minerals. I can hear some of you think this was cramming, but for us it was fun. We did it with a journal and this is with a boy that hated writing. But my thoughts were that he needed to see we could lower the frustration level for learning concepts. We had finished a good year of science but we needed to really learn the concepts. I had hoped it would stimulate him too and it did.

I bought a sturdy notebook that had a pocket. We furnished a new back pack with pencils, colored pencils and a camera. My son learns 2 ways best -- visual and observing -- and so this was perfect.

We began with plant life. We drew a plant and labeled its parts....I was planting a garden with his help and so we made a chart with leaves, stems, roots, fruits and flowers. I asked him to find 10 different vegetables and find out what parts of the plant they are.

Broccoli is the flower
celery stem and sometimes we eat the leaves
potatoes come from the tuber root of the potato plant.
He added many..... and he chose to draw pictures of them with colored pencils.

We went on a seed hunt.....that was fun and he did a lot of seeds from fruits and taped them to the page...he named them and wrote a few sentences about each. Outside he had fun too...

We did a sock walk.

We did "seed anatomy": We soaked dried lima beans, lentils and corn all night. Then we pulled them apart at the split. I shared with him that the bean seeds are dicots and posses 2 cotyledons but corn kernals are classified as monocots and have only one cotyledon. I made a diagram the night before to show him. Than he took them apart and said which they were and drew pictures of each object and labeled their parts. He defined monocot and dicot and gave 2 examples of each.

sites about seeds:

Seed Site #1

Seed Site#2

Seed Site #3

Seed Site #4

Seed Site #5

We did a Scavenger hunt. See if you can find the following botanical objects outside and bring them in:
Blade of grass as wide as your pinkie
Leaf with saw teeth along the edges
Acorn (cap or nut or both)
A yellow flower
Maple fruit with wing
A purple leaf
A piece of bark
Cone 0f a pine or spruce
A flower
A plant with white juice inside it
A moss
The leaf of a clover
A lichen
A twig with a spine on it
What he could not put onto the page he was to take picture of to put them on a page.

Grow a Balloon Plant

seeds (radish, peas... not too big)
balloons (preferably clear or white, not too dark)

Method: Hold a balloon firmly by the neck. Use a funnel, and pour 1/2 cup of dirt into the balloon. Don't turn the balloon over. Keep holding the balloon by the neck. Add about 1/4 cup of water through the funnel. Be sure the soil in the balloon is wet but not soggy. Use the funnel to drop the seeds into the balloon (pour two seeds in each balloon). Don't turn the balloon over. If the balloon is dirty, wipe it carefully with a washcloth. Holding the balloon gently by the neck and carefully blow air into it. Keep the balloon from tipping. Tie a knot in the neck to keep the air in the balloon. Tie a ribbon around the knot. Tie the balloon to a hook or other place near a window. The neck should be the top.

A 2 Liter terrarium

Many plants do well in terrariums, and it is best to choose the ones that will fit the size of the container. This came from a site but I did not write it down.....

Some plants suitable for terrariums are:
Pilea (Aluminum Plant )
Fittonia ( Nerve Plant )
Podocarpus ( Buddhist Pine )
Aeschynanthus ( Lipstick Plant )
Baby Tears ( Very aggressive grower! )
Very small ferns
Miniature African Violets
Coffee Plant
Creeping Charlie
Boxus (Boxwood)
Wandering Jew (Aggressive Grower)
Creeping Fig (Aggressive Grower)

This came from another site....

Planting Instructions: Place a 1/2 inch layer of small gravel in bottom. You may choose to sprinkle activated charcoal on top of the gravel, but this is optional. It will help to filter the water as it drains through the layers. Test your potting soil before using it by squeezing a handful. If it clumps easily, add some Perlite or Vermiculite to help with drainage. These can usually be found in garden shops. Add a 2-inch layer of potting soil, or possibly a little more depending on the size of your container and the size of the plants you intend to use. Add your plants, again taking into account the size of the space you have to work with inside the terrarium. Be careful not to overplant - you need to leave plenty of room for your plants to grow. Push the soil aside, place a plant in the depression, and gently replace the soil around the roots of each plant. Water lightly.

Care: Neglect It! Water lightly only when the soil is dry. You should only need to water, at the most, every couple of weeks, depending on conditions. Be very careful not to overwater! Place in a bright area, but not in direct sunlight. You should have enough light to read by. When plant gets as big as you want, pinch off the newest growth to encourage bushier growth.

Do not fertilize. As the nutrients found in the potting soil get used up, the plant's growth will slow, helping to keep the plant from overgrowing the terrarium. Over time the soil can be "refreshed" by scraping off the top layer of soil, and adding some fresh potting soil. This will add a small amount of nutrient, and will spruce up the look of your terrarium as well.

Small rocks, moss and dried twigs make good decorations and add to the look of a micro-world of plant life. A terrarium can also be an ideal place to observe insects, but you will want to return them to the outside world after a few hours so they can survive in their natural habitat.

This is what he answered in his journal and he took a picture every few days to record the growth. It was on the buffet for all of us to enjoy for 6 months. We only watered the soil in our terrariums once; how did the water get on the lid?
Take your lid off the terrarium and feel the soil. Why is the soil still wet?
Do you think that any water has evaporated from the soil? Why?
If water evaporated, where did the evaporated water go?
Did it ever rain in your terrarium?
How do you know?
Where did the rain come from?
Is there anything in your terrarium that reminds you of a cloud or cloud drops?"

We designed a leafy "tree"-shirts

We went for a walk and found different leaves and twigs and came home and painted....I just spread out newspaper and fit the tee-shirt that had been washed and dried over a piece of cardboard......than I made different paper plates that had paint on them (we used paint for clothing that I got at the craft store) and he would press the leaf on the paint and than carefully on the shirt. This we did over and over because his friends like the shirts and wanted to do some.....so we did many and we did placemats for the fall and we did a tablecloth...some leaves they had with faces and one boy did a whole cartoon character from the leaves and made wonderful shirts!

Pictures of all the projects went into the journal.

We lived in an apartment and we did 2 different window boxes...one to attract hummingbirds and one for butterflies and each was a sucess...he did one of each for a elderly lady that lived across from us and she just loved hers!

Butterfly garden box:
bee balm
sweet William
white alyssum

I had a hanging pot of lantana and a butterfly bush in a big pot.


Hummingbird window box:
Trumpet vine growing from a pot and climbing on a trellis
And honeysuckle grew in the flower beds around the walk....
We took many pictures for his journal and he had to identify them and write about each.

we built a root box

He took pictures and wrote what he saw.....the way the roots grew and how tall the plant got.

On vacation my son took pictures of trees and flowers and came back and identified each and had them in his journal...the flowers he picked and pressed and we put them in a separate journal with what they were and where they grew, etc.

Part Two will follow.


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