Monday, December 19, 2011

Magnet School

A simple electromagnet which can be turned on and off with a switch.
Played with magnets today.  Probably should have done this before electricity but that would imply way more planning that has actually gone into these classes.  Today's lesson was cobbled together with a visit to Radio Shack (thank you, Vardell!) and some experiments found on internet sources ( and had way fun.

1) The girls experimented a variety of metallic objects to see what would be picked up by a magnet (random bits from around the house: monopoly pieces, matchbox cars, tent stakes, bobby pins, coins, keys, batteries, ornament hooks, nails...some things from Bob's tool box-lug nuts? lotsa stuff.)  this took more time than I thought it would because it was fun.

2) We made compasses, by first magnetizing embroidery needles from the first activity and floating them on cork disks.  This was fun, but not a great way to find north due to all the metal objects still on the table, and the metal table frame.  It was more fun to push the little cork boats around with magnetized junk.  One interesting point--the "N" end of our compass points to the North Pole of our earth, which is itself a giant magnet.  But, we know that opposite poles attract.  Thus, we see that the earth's North Pole is actually its magnetic SOUTH pole.  I am pretty sure I never knew that. Did everybody know that but me?

3) We observed the shape of a magnetic field by dumping iron filings out on glass, and putting two attracting magnets underneath.  The filings obliged by lining up along the magnetic field lines.  This was also fun to play with, waving magnets above and below the filings.  We washed up really well after this.

Nancy Drew approves of this experiment.
4) Next, we learned that electricity and magnetism are related.  Moving electrons create magnetic fields.  We talked about electromagnets and Maglev trains.   Vardell demonstrated a simple motor and then each girl built one to take home.  Vardell had pre-drilled holes in some nice sections of cedar plank, and four heavy gauge wires went in each one.  Oh, do you like those bullet casings?
They had a job to do unrelated to their original purpose--providing a frictionless stopper for the spinning wire coil.  Vardell just happened to have some extra bullet casings lying around the house.

A cork was used to make the wire coil.
LED lights were just a little bling, not needed but surely enjoyed.  These clever devices took a little time to put together, but the girls could complete each step from coiling the wire, to attaching the batteries.  It took some tweaking and patience, but the reward was big when the motor started running.  Apologies if I am not using the right names for some of the equipment and concepts--sorry, Vardell!

But you can see it was a fun class.  How have I made it this far in life without a battery pack and a volt meter?  Dear Santa....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011


Extreme FUN.
Electricity--a subject I somehow avoided during my entire education.  Thank goodness for Vardell, a homeschoolin' daddy we are fortunate to know.   His know-how plus my...ok--I brought snack.  Snack is important!  Together we reserved a room at the local library for a small group of girls and this is what we did.

Week 1-we learned the basics of electricity (and I include myself in that "we") including the basic terms and concepts of conductivity, insulation, and resistance.  Power lines right outside the windows gave a nice illustration of current electricity and its delivery mode.  The girls were given segments of an electric cord to dissect.  We had fun playing with a volt meter.  Cassidy and Amey were pros at this.  We hooked it up to a variety of batteries (and the wall outlet!) and then used those batteries to run a motor.  Nobody got zapped, even a little.  Streaming video and a neato electricty kit to explore rounded up this first day.

Week 2-Vardell visited a 2nd-hand store last week and scooped up some junked electronics for the kids to disassemble.  They started with a motherboard.  Discovered ribbon cable, dissected (and played with) it.  Ellison thought the designs on the board itself reminded her of a map.  It was neat seeing how the electricity is delivered to all parts of the computer.  Then we moved on to an alarm clock, whose giblets included some rather interesting bits, including an internal antenna.  I know Ava really got a kick out of unscrewing the body of the alarm clock.   Now she knows she can get into the innards of a whole lotta stuff with just a screwdriver.  Mental note: hide all the screwdrivers.

Next up--and this was the pièce de résistance--a dead, remote-controlled stunt car sans remote and batteries.  We named him Sparky and opened him right up with the screwdrivers, and found WIRES!  We know what to do with these wires, now.  Gator clips connect them right up to the batteries.  Lights flash.  The girls think this is pretty cool.  But when we get the motor running, the real fun begins.  Vardell taped on the SIX VOLT battery and turned Sparky loose in our little conference room.  Who needs steering?  The girls chased Sparky around until we feared eviction.  We downgraded Sparky to a more sedate 3 volts. That worked, too, but the girls much preferred the raw POWER of six volts.  I think that spells trouble, don't you?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Girl Science Club Rocket Launch

Just in time for the end of the science club session!  We had a beautiful exciting day launching rockets in the park.  The following week we did an astronaut egg drop.  I think I have a photo of Ava's eggnaut, who came through the semi-hard landing with shell intact.  We have loved being in science club, so sad it is over!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Frangipani Worms

Hi! Thanks for all the questions..Ava and I are all current on our Frangipani Worm facts!

The frangipani worm or frangipani hornworm are common in the Caribbean and West Indies and range to South Florida.  Their colorings supposedly mimic the coral snake to warn off predators!   Our friend Rick is interested in them as a possible source of anti-cancer drugs because they eat toxic plants and accumulate the toxins in their bodies.  Gardeners hate them because they can strip the leaves right off the beautiful plants they live on.  Ava and I observed this ourselves, and that they POOP a LOT!

From the internet: "Upon emerging from the pupae, the Frangipani worm becomes the Tetrio or Giant Gray Sphinx moth.  Females, larger than their male counterparts, have wingspans of over five inches. 

Not particularly attracted to light as most moths, the Giant Gray Sphinx moth feeds upon nectar.  Due to their long, needle-like proboscis and the way they hover and dart about when feeding from a flower, they are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds." 

Our cocoon is under a leaf in the bottom of a plastic bucket on the porch.  We check it every day, not sure how long the metamorphosis takes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Caterpillars and Cuneiform

 Here is Ava practicing her cuneiform on her fake clay tablets she made from salt dough and paint.  Did you know the ancient Egyptians used salt dough?  I don't know what I did in 2nd grade, but I am sure nobody mentioned salt dough canopic jar decor.  Wait 'til Daddy finds the dung beetle protecting the pickles!  Hee Hee!

Who has time for homeschool, anyway?  I guess we do while we wait for our caterpillar cocoon to hatch.  This part of the waiting is really....boring!  This picture shows the caterpillar--we plucked it from the yellowbells in the front yard (maybe not yellowbells, but the flowers are yellow) and it IS as large as it looks--think hot dog-sized!  And it squirts yellow fluid when you pick it up.  (I had to delete some unscientific observations here.)  

Hope you are having fun and learning lots!  

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Oh, back on the island!  Life is good.  School goes on. 

Bob has volunteered to take on the math instruction.  WOOO HOOO!  So far he has kept it fun. 

I have a few more pictures to put up, but wanted to up these, where Bob is reviewing with Ava and trying to get her back into the groove after an extended holiday break.  He made up a game using his Risk pieces that reinforces place value and we added that and Banagrams the Tuesday Game Night repertoire.  Ava has been reading Lightning Thief, and has not been able to put it down!  I am glad that Hannah had given Ava D'Aulaires's Greek Myths so this won't be her first impression of the mythological characters, but that's just me. 

Our Girl Science group in Raleigh learned about microscopes last week, as a part of their introduction to the tools and methods of science.  So we have to catch up!  Our dear friend, Rick Ishmael, stepped up with the offer of a tour of one of his microscopes and some of his prepared slides...but he was poisoned by the cafeteria ladies (AGAIN) and is not yet up and about.  Hope you feel better, soon.  And let's start packing our own lunches, huh?

This spring we will be giving Ava her first standardized test, as required by the State of NC for every homeschooled child age 7 and older.  But for now, we are settling in, getting organized and seeing what the new routine will be like.