Monday, November 28, 2016

Review & Projects: Science Comics: Volcanoes

One day as I ambled through the book store (on my way to Ursula Vernon's book signing!) a snazzy cover and the words SCIENCE jumped out at me off the shelf. Like, practically fell on my head! I thought to myself, my kids like science! And comic books!

Flipping through the book, Science Comics: Coral Reefs: Cities Under the Ocean, I was impressed. I might have bought the book right then except that, sadly, my oldest has expressed a disinterest in ocean life (maybe they switched him at birth?). But, seeing that this was to be a series of awesome comic books, I snapped a photo of the cover and sent it to myself, and when I got home later, actually remembered to look it up and get a copy of the next book to review.

Here's the review of the latest, Science Comics: Volcanoes: Fire and Life on Learning Tangent Homeschool Magazine!

My favorite part about the book is that it was actually too advanced for my 7yo--I mean, he read it and liked it, but I'll be encouraging him to read these (again) when he's older. This surprised me because we've done plenty of hands-on experiments and read other books about volcanoes, because he likes them so much. I didn't expect to learn more! These books are solidly middle-grade because they provide a lot of technical detail and terminology. These give you a better sense that there is so much more to learn out there. And of course they are more entertaining than a text book. So now, the next time my kids ask to do a volcano experiment (again, hahaha!) I have more information to draw from and lovely illustrations to show them from the book.

So buy the book for yourself if your children aren't old enough yet (I'm serious!), and then use this handy-dandy vocab list to tie-in science experiments and the like with what the book teaches. Let me emphasize that the comic book depicts/explains these in a way that my google searches and other research for my kids up to that point simply did not:

Layers of the Earth:
  • Crust
  • Mantle
  • Inner core
  • Outer core

Plate Movement:
  • Oceanic and continental plates
  • Convergent boundary
  • Subduct
  • Divergent boundary
  • Geotherm

Lava & Eruptions:
  • Magma
  • Magma chamber
  • Lava
  • Mafic, felsic
  • Viscous
  • Lava haze
  • Pillow lava
  • Convection currents
  • Pyroclastic flow
  • Outgassing

Types of Volcanos:
  • Shield volcano
  • Composite volcano
  • Stratovolcano
  • Parasitic volcano
  • Hotspot

Examples of Hands-on Learning:

Layers of the Earth with homemade play dough
Model different types of volcanoes with your play dough.

Make a volcano "explode" and talk about chemical reactions.

Observe how temperature affects the volume of a gas with this balloon experiment.

Use colored marshmallows and toothpicks to model molecules in the book.

Blow out a candle using CO2.

Test the viscosity of different liquids by pouring honey, water, etc.

Model plate tectonics with graham crackers and frosting, or by cutting a show box in half, fitting one half over the other, filling with sand, and shoving the two halves together.

Model an earthquake and the damage to structures using jello.

Get your hands on pumice and other rocks to compare: test that they float, their mass displacement in a jar of water, their weight etc.

Have fun!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Melissa and Doug Monster Puppets

If you're looking for a gift for young children that's NOT battery powered and that fosters imaginative play, check out these Monster Puppets with removable velcro features. My kids have had these for a couple of years and they still love them. I like the thick, sturdy feel and the endless possibilities.

One game we like to play is "My Monster Needs a..." which we sing to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell."

My monster needs a nose! My monster needs a nose!
Please help me [Name] -- my monster needs a nose!


My monster needs a nose! My monster needs a nose!
Thank you, thank you, [Name] -- my monster has a nose!

Another game we like is to stick the pieces in a container and pull them out for a surprise, or for the puppet creator to surprise the audience with their creation.

You can sometimes find these for a good price on [ Amazon ]. Have fun!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Constellations and a Review: Artec Paper Craft Planetarium

Finally, we found a star projector that was actually educational! However, it fell apart after two weeks. If you use any of Artec's products, be prepared to supplement their glue and sticky tape with better glue and tape. Because this particular one had some impressive features, I went ahead and wrote up this long review anyway, and at the bottom I'll mention a few other books and printables about Constellations.

Usually I see projectors that project random stars and we wanted constellations, or I see DIY instructions that involve removing the mirrors from flashlights and that kind of thing. This Planetarium shows you what the constellations look like at different times of the year so I was excited to try it out.

However, this kit is not for everyone.
At the ArTec Website

Long story short, it says 8+ for a reason! More like 30+ if you are not used to putting things like this together. Expect this project to take at least an hour to build. "We" used a hot glue gun to reinforce the double-sided tape that came with the kit. We did not even attempt the school glue because I hate that kind of glue. The tubular part of the projector was the most challenging.

On the other hand, the "craft" part is one of the things that I find appealing. Talk about developing motor skills!

I LOVE that this thing is not a hunk of plastic that you just switch on. My oldest was very excited about wiring up the battery compartment (!!!) and the lightbulb. When you wire something like that yourself, it's even more magical when it works! I've looked into designing our own electronic experiments without a kit like this and my brain imploded. The downside is that the final product is more delicate than a pre-made product.

The instructions were adequate... We did get the thing together so they can't be that bad. I felt that the print was a little small (haha, I'm old!) and the diagrams could be clearer. But reading instructions like these is not my strong point. Just know that your child may need help with this aspect if they're like me.

We also LOVE that each constellation is numbered and there is a corresponding list in the instructions. We'll be having fun looking up each constellation to expand this topic.

You also use a push pin, not included, or a safety pin like we did to punch all the holes in the constellations. This was oddly satisfying for us both.

So, this may not be the best kit to start with if your child is still developing fine-motor and instruction-reading skills.

Shipping is expensive on their website. Some of these kits are also available at regular stores at a slightly higher price, which is much less than you'd pay for shipping. There are many kits available on amazon as well like this obstacle-avoiding robot (not to mention The Robot Book which we like for DIY projects) and these constellation playing cards... aaahhh! Excuse me while I go add to the childrens' wishlist!

We checked out some neat books, including Find the Constellations by H. A. Rey. My kids love Curious George and this book is a higher reading level which is perfect for my seven-year-old. This book is very thorough.

Our other favorite was Glow-in-the-Dark Constellations by C. E. Thompson. This one is a field guide, so it's wonderfully concise while still packing in a lot of information about what constellations to look for in different seasons.

Now we're printing out constellation dot-to-dots from Almost Unschoolers where you can find more book recommendations as well. has a good overview of the basic constellations. Enchanted Learning has more constellation dot-to-dots although you do have to be a member. With the books we have, I think I'll make a few of our own dot-to-dots. When we went to the science museum's Astronomy Days, they had a neat activity where they taped illustrations of the constellations to the inside of a tent's roof, then sent us in to identify/match the constellation handed to us.

Then there's this easy paper telescope craft with printable constellation cards - no flashlights necessary.

Constellations are so much fun!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Review: The First Drawing by Mordicai Gerstein #Homeschool #History #Lascaux

The First Drawing by Mordicai Gerstein asks your child to imagine if they were the first person to invent drawing, way back when the woolly mammoths walked the Earth. A wonderful concept with great execution.

My second-born has always been highly imaginative and sees faces in the ceiling, so he connected with The First Drawing.

If you live near the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, get your hands on this book now and then attend their PaleoPalooza event (This year it's Nov 14th, 2016)! Last year they had a display talking about Lascaux Cave in France, as well as an area where kids could make their own 'cave drawing.' Perfect!

Also worth mentioning:

Mordicai Gerstein also wrote How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps. (You can take a breath now!) This book is as silly as it sounds and my kids laughed every single time we read it.

Visit Mordicai Gerstein's website to learn more about the dozens of works that he has written and illustrated.