Thursday, June 23, 2022

Science Experiments For the Kitchen - Cook and Learn by Kristen Wilkinson

Did you start a garden this summer or visit your local farmer’s market? If so, keep the learning about plants going with Science Experiments You Can Eat, written by Vicki Cobb and illustrated by Tad Carpenter. Now that you’ve grown all those lovely vegetables in your garden, you can bring them into the kitchen for some science experiments. You can run an experiment to explore how plants take in water and how water moves up the stem of a plant. You can even investigate the chemical reactions that happen with chlorophyll and cellulose when you cook plants. 
Make a delicious lemon fizz and watch the reaction as gas is formed. Use the red cabbage indicator from an earlier experiment to determine if the lemon fizz is an acid or a base. Learn about stabilized emulsions by making your own mayonnaise. Keep your fresh baked cookies crisp by determining which type of sweetener (granulated sugar versus honey) is more hydroscopic than the other. Hydroscopic means “wet cooking” by the way. This book is great for cooks of all ages (with supervision) and adults will even learn a thing or two.
The experiments in this book are easy to follow and accompanied by helpful background information on the concept you are investigating. And, as the title promises, you can eat each experiment after you are finished learning!
I have learned through my work at the Environmental Learning Center that kids are natural scientists; they are curious and love to learn about the world around them. You can encourage this curiosity at home through science experiments like these. Maybe the next time your child has one of their unending “why” questions, you’ll be able to help them design an experiment to find the answer on their own!

Kristen Wilkinson is the Program Director for the Colorado State University Environmental Learning Center, an environmental education outreach center in Northern Colorado for children and adults.
Download the FREE PDF on Tips for Connecting Books to Summer Fun. Watch for more book titles and tips coming weekly through the summer. Sign up for the newsletter HERE to keep up with articles and you will receive the free writing template for Travel Trouble.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Authentic Reading and Writing Opportunities for Summer to Build Background Knowledge

Summer is a time to put aside the constraints of the classroom, let loose, and have some fun, but that doesn't mean kids stop learning. In fact, summer is a great time to build background knowledge by exploring kids' special interests and activities through books.


Reading Rockets has put together a wonderful, free resource called Start With a Book. It includes three parts:

1. Choose a Topic to Explore - Reading Rockets provides a list of 24 different topics including Birds and Animals, Inventions and Inventors, Cooking and Food, Geography and Travel, and Nature: Our Green World. Many of these topics are also related to my Free PDF on Tips for Connecting Books with Summer Fun.

2. Find Great Kids Books - Under each topic, Reading Rockets provides links to several children's book titles, but that's not all. They also make suggestions for writing activities like Keeping a Nature Journal, Let's Write a Recipe, Building Stories where kids design a house, and Robots and Work where kids brainstorm an invention of a robot and write about it.

3. Keep the Adventure Going - Reading Rockets provides websites, podcasts, and more connected with each topic so kids can continue to build background knowledge.


Would you prefer short non-fiction articles for older students on a greater variety of subjects? Does your child have difficulty reading on their own? If so, you may want to check out ReadWorks. It is a free resource for educators and parents that provides short reading passages along with vocabulary activities and comprehension questions, on a variety of topics including STEM, social studies, poetry, and literary fiction. They include a recording of each reading passage to support struggling readers. To sign up for ReadWorks and learn more about what they offer, go to their website at  Articles are listed by grade level and length.

Through ReadWorks, kids can learn about geysers before visiting Yellowstone, read about a farmer's market in New York City before spending a day at their local venue, or investigate an animal that stirs their interest after a trip to the local zoo. These are all ways to build authentic reading experiences and background knowledge while capitalizing on a child's natural curiosity.

So have fun with those summer activities, but make those activities even more interesting by connecting them with something fun to read!

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Sunday, June 5, 2022

My Pandemic Garden and the Wisdom of Thinking Small

Does anybody else have a pandemic garden that looks like this... empty... nothing growing in it because now we are all out traveling and having grand adventures? I got so deeply into gardening during the pandemic that we tore out all the grass that was previously growing here. I even invested in a composter. See it in the corner in the picture below? I think the same gunk is in it from a year ago. I'm a little afraid to open it, to be honest. Thank goodness my husband knows me well enough to have suggested (rather strongly) that I start my agricultural project on the side of the house that no one can see. Right now it's just empty space. In a few weeks, there will be weeds to deal with. That's what happens when you take out the grass and leave nothing but dirt and bark mulch.

Gardening is one of the topics in my summer series on Tips for Connecting Books with Summer Fun. Getting kids involved in gardening is a good way to expand their background knowledge in science. Even my grown kids got involved in this garden. My son helped me tear out the grass and my daughter watered and weeded. Now they are both off to new adventures in graduate school, which is part of the reason my garden looks so empty.

Recently, I came across Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet: Inventive Ideas for Growing Food in a Small Space by DK Publishing. Many people live in apartments or may rent a house and don't have permission to dig up the grass to plant vegetables. Even if you have a large yard, there can be good reasons for starting a garden in a small space. During the pandemic, many people in my neighborhood started planting gardens. I wasn't the only one, but now many of their gardens look like mine. I forgot about the wisdom of thinking small and starting with something not only manageable in the short term but sustainable for the long term. I wish I had come across this book then.

Grow All You Can Eat provides colorful photographs and step-by-step directions for things you would expect like container gardens and window boxes, but there are also tips on planting vegetables in a reusable shopping bag and building a fence trellis out of old bicycle wheels. There are many tips that are useful even if you have more space such as how to extend the growing season, making use of the space between plants with intercropping, and planting slow crops with fast-growing crops.

If you would rather try a community garden, check out the post earlier in May about Books on Community Gardening and Pollination.

To be honest, I will most likely spend this summer enjoying the fruits of other gardeners' labor at my local farmer's market.

Download the FREE PDF on Tips for Connecting Books to Summer Fun. Watch for more book titles and tips coming weekly through the summer. Sign up for the newsletter HERE to keep up with articles and you will receive the free writing template for Travel Trouble.