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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Month: June, 2011

So far, Leo and Henry do not have an affinity for bugs. They aren’t the kind of boys who go around looking under rocks and leaves for different specimens of creepy crawlies. Maybe I scared them too much with my lectures about Black Widow spiders. However, I have noticed that snails repel them but they are interested in the silk worms at school.
Then the rolie polie bug came into our lives, via a friend Leo’s age, who loves bugs. Now Leo has become a bit of a collector. I, myself, had never seen a rolie polie bug before last week. So, when I told Leo that Sid was also interested in rolie polie bugs, he wanted to know more.
I asked Henry and Leo to find our handy magnifying glass and meet me outside. For those of you out there that haven’t invested in a magnifying glass for the preschooler in your life, I HIGHLY recommend it. Henry and Leo love the tool and use it for all sorts of things around the house. The magnifying glass is great for observation, but they also use it as a prop during imaginative play.
Once the boys reported to me with the magnifying glass, I told them to start searching for rolie polie bugs. We talked about the best places to find the bug and they started stomping among the bushes in the front yard. We flipped over rocks, dug in the dirt, and looked under leaves. No luck! It’s hard to observe a bug that you can’t find.
So, we went across the street to our neighbor Jennifer’s house. (She’s the one who got our campfire going during our backyard campout!) Jennifer has a luscious garden with lots of nooks and crannies. Thankfully, she was all in for the rolie polie hunt and let us into her garden. Henry and Leo started to search in the dirt and under rocks. Leo was so cute searching around with his magnifying glass.
Science Kids on the loose picture 1.jpg
At long last we spotted one under a rock and the observing began! Henry thought that the rolie polie bug was blue, but under examination we discovered that our bug was dark grey with light spots. Leo decided that the bug’s legs look like teeny tiny sticks. We also tried an experiment. As you may know, the fun of a rolie polie bug is that the insect curls up into a tight ball as a defense mechanism. I challenged the boys to hold the rolie polie in their hand quietly and calmly…just long enough for the bug to open up again and start walking around. It was wonderful to see Henry concentrate and then delight in the open rolie polie.
science kids on the loose 2.jpg
After leaving Jennifer’s house we took the investigation to the park where the Henry and Leo continued the search with their friends. Soon the boys had 3 more rolie polie bugs, along with the attention of three other kids. They had turned a simple observation investigation into an all-afternoon adventure. It is special when science can spark an interest so captivating that preschoolers stay focused for so long. This mom is very grateful. Maybe I have some budding entomologists after all!
Do your kids like to play with bugs? What kinds of science tools or activities hold your kids’ attention?

Sid the Science Kid has a brand new show this week called: Sid’s Backyard Campout. In the episode Sid, Sid’s dad, and Gerald prepare for a campout in Sid’s backyard. The episode is wonderful and a departure from the normal school routine. The boys search for animals, appreciate the trees, talk about camping, and even experience some anxiety about sleeping outside. (Mom to the rescue!) To top it all off, there’s some really great music too!
For the Helfrich family, the episode was a call to action! We were inspired to camp out in our own backyard and recreate some of the learning from the show. Right off the bat, you should all know that I don’t camp. I am not against camping as a concept…I just didn’t grow up camping. It’s a bit foreign to me; and I love a nice hotel. My husband Gerry, on the other hand, camped every summer with his family. He has wonderful memories and is very eager to share the experience with our children. So, it is time for me to take a deep breath and make the camping plunge…right into my backyard.
Since we don’t have a tent (yet) we borrowed one from a friend and set the date for a Saturday night. When we told the Henry and Leo they were beyond excited. Many of their friends camp so I think the boys had been hearing a lot about camping adventures. We watched the Sid episode in preparation so they had an idea what to expect. Leo’s main concern was the cat, Misty, who wanders around the neighborhood…would she try and get in the tent? I had bigger worries on my mind.
Like the tent, for instance. We borrowed it from friends, so there was no box, no directions, no clue what it looked like standing. Gerry and I set about connecting rods, pulling fabric, and trying to get the thing to stand up. It took a long, long time. I actually had to walk away a couple of times to keep the peace. Henry and Leo went from very excited to very bored. However, with a phone call and Gerry’s camping spirit, we got the tent up. And it was impressive!
Henry and Leo jumped around inside, played with all the zippers and flap, and arranged their gear. I was amazed at the level of excitement. It rivaled our trip to Legoland. All in the backyard for free!! So we settled in for a campout. We made hotdogs on the grill. We searched for local critters in the yard and talked about what kinds of animals we might find out in the forest.
As it began to darken, we began preparing for the campfire. Gerry had gone out and bought a fire pit (something he always wanted). We had wood, marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers. Although I am not a big camper, I am a big fan of ‘smores. I was keen to indoctrinate the kids to the deliciousness of ‘smores!
But we forgot something very important: kindling. Gerry had purchased some nice logs, but we didn’t have anything to get them going. We had to laugh at our mistake…rookie campers! So we sent the boys out into the cul-de-sac to look for sticks that could be used as kindling. They had a lot of fun running around, but not a lot of luck. Thank goodness our neighbor saw our plight and came to our rescue. She procured a Duraflame and the campfire was on! It wasn’t exactly what we imagined, but it did the trick.
As I watched the boys toast their marshmallows and eat the gooey, sticky ‘smores, the beauty of camping hit me. There we were, the four of us, laughing and spending time outside together. We sang songs and I watched their faces in the glow of the fire. I was truly enraptured. Henry and Leo are growing so fast but for this one evening things seemed to slow down. I watched them be little boys and I was so happy. I enjoyed them without worrying about where we had to be next or what was on the schedule. I just stared at their smiling faces across the campfire and realized that I really want to go camping again…and again…and again.
When it was time to go to sleep the boys were tired and ready. They had flashlights, sleeping bags, plenty of layers, and their special stuffed animals. I have never seen them get into bed so readily. They fell asleep almost immediately as I listened to Gerry close things up for the night. Once the whole family was in their sleeping bags I fell asleep. For a while at least. I confess that at around 1am I snuck inside and up to my bed. I’ll need to get a pad for the real life campsite!
All three boys slept in and woke up with an acute desire to camp. So, we’re making plans to buy our own tent and start gathering gear. I don’t think I would have tried the backyard campout if it weren’t for the Sid the Science Kid episode. I can’t wait to see where our adventures beyond the backyard take us!
Please tell me about your camping adventures! What advice do you have for a novice like me?

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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