Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 Things to do in a Hurricane

Here in central Massachusetts we are experiencing the effects of Hurricane Sandy and at my house, we've been without power for a while, so I am a bit late posting this. Living through a hurricane is a windy experience. Rather than grumbling, let's have fun with all the extra wind!

Below are five ways to play with wind and learn a little science at the same time.

1. Make a pinwheel. This is is a fabulous activity for multiple ages. Check out Curious George's pinwheel template here. Sometimes I have trouble with pinwheels not spinning and the addition of a small spacer bead under the push pin can solve that problem.

2. Paint with air. Dilute some craft paint and put a few blobs on paper. Using a straw, blow the paint around the paper. If you blow hard does that change the pattern of paint compared to blowing softly?  Does how close you are to the paint matter to the pattern?

3. What does the wind carry?  Put a couple of holes in a piece of cardboard about the size of a piece of paper (8.5 x 11 in). Thread string through the holes and tie the cardboard to a tree or even hang from your porch so that it floats in the breeze. Smear petroleum jelly on one side to make it sticky. Leave the cardboard for a while and see what the wind carries by seeing what sticks to the cardboard.

4. What can the wind move? After the last couple of days I think most of us would say, there isn't much the wind can't move!  Here let's gather a few objects like a feather, pom pom, a rock, cup, keys, yarn, etc. What do think can be moved by the wind?  Make two piles: things that can be moved and things that can't. Now test them by blowing on them. Can the wind you make with your breath move the objects?  Were you right in your predictions (guesses)?

5. Make a helicopter. While this isn't strictly about the wind, it does take air and a few principles of aerodynamics that are a bit beyond preschoolers. And best of all, it is fun to make and you can do some real science with them. First make a helicopter. The pattern is here. It is a great use for junk mail. Now launch the helicopter from a balcony, the stairs, or even standing on a chair. Safety first!  What changes can you make to help your helicopter fly faster or  straighter.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Glow in the Dark Slime

A while back I posted a recipe for Slime. I first made this with a large group of kids at S's birthday party and  of course it was Glow-In-The-Dark! It is a classic and never goes out of style.

Here's the recipe. Go forth and make slime!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Theme of the Week: Glow in the Dark

As some of you know, I love all things that glow in the dark. What most of you don't know is that I almost went to study the organism that makes the red tide, Gonyaulax polyedra. As an undergraduate and graduate student, I studied circadian rhythms (daily rhythms) and Gonyaulax, a single celled organism, has loads including glowing in the dark. Yep, I almost go my PhD in glow in the dark critters.

So it is no wonder that I still marvel at all things glowing. This week I am going to suggest a few ways to play with the idea and talk about some of the science behind glowing.

To kick things off, I am going to send you to a link with Steve Spangler. Here he shows you how to make your pumpkin glow in the dark.

Unlike just painting them, which might work as well, these pumpkins will look reasonably pumpkin-ish even during the day.

The glow in the dark powder here is phosphorescent. It absorbs light energy during the day and emits  or  gives off, the light for a time after the light sources (the sun) is gone. They won't glow forever, but long enough for some fun to be had.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Animal of the Weekend: Hoary Bat

Image from: http://home.earthlink.net/~stremington/index.html

In honor of the possibility of our first frost, I thought it might be a good moment to stop and check out the Hoary Bat. They are one of the nine species of bat that live in New England and are named after a Hoar Frost.

So what is a hoar frost, you ask?  Well it is a bit complicated but essentially when objects, like the ground or grass, get cooler than the air above them frost forms. In the summer you get liquid water condensation on the out side of your frosty beverage and in the winter, you get frozen water condensation or hoar frost.

If you want to celebrate bats, here  are some extra ideas for bat activities.