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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Environment

This weekend the Helfrich Family went CAMPING. Yes, I took the plunge in honor of Sid and his campout. Some of you might remember that I am a reticent camper; I much prefer a nice hotel. Or at least I thought I did, until this weekend. We chose a spot under an hour from home and decided to rent a teepee instead of investing in a tent. I know, I know, it isn’t “real” camping without a tent, but give me a little leeway. Although the teepee had beds and a comfortable living space, it didn’t have running water, electricity, or a bathroom. (All things I can count on in a hotel, by the way.) Here is a picture of our site.
The campground was set in a pretty spot with views of the mountains on one side and a swimming creek on the other. There were tons of activities for the kids and it felt great to be outdoors for days on end. And the smores…ah, how we all love smores!
I had no idea how wonderful this experience would be for Henry and Leo. Everyone told me they would love it, but I was amazed to see it for myself. Henry and Leo were in their element. They turned into wilderness boys! The safety and size of the campground allowed them an unprecedented amount of freedom. They ran wild for three days (under parental supervision, of course.) They became wilderness boys. And in the wilderness, science finds you.
Within minutes of our setting up camp a flock strange and exotic birds wandered in. Peacocks! A mommy peacock was walking around with three baby peacocks. What do you call a baby peacock anyway? Chicks? We were all stunned and mesmerized. We warned the boys to give the birds a lot of space and the family moved on. Henry immediately went looking for a science tool in order to study the bird family.
Henry was so engaged with watching the birds and speculating about how they got there and where they nested. We observed them all weekend. They make a honking sound and nest in the trees. Gerry even saw one fly out of a tree and said it looked prehistoric with an 8ft wingspan! We also saw lots of signs and warnings about Bigfoot sightings. I am not sure that counts as science, but it made for great campfire stories.
Leo and Henry spent a lot of the weekend conquering the rock climbing wall. For a small fee they got a wristband that allowed them to climb the wall and bounce on the huge jump pad for hours on end. The wristband also allowed me to read a book in the shade! Both boys were determined to reach the top. It took a lot of work and a lot of strength. They didn’t give up! By Saturday night they had both made it up.
The best part of the campground was the creek. It was deep enough for swimming but shallow enough for walking. The boys had a blast! There were rocks to climb over and pools to swim in. We found little fish, tadpoles, and frogs. Leo and I examined moss and other plants that grew in the water. It was lovely. Aren’t these the kind of days that all little kids should have? We should all spend days catching frogs and chasing dragonflies. It is almost too good to be true.
In the evenings Dad taught the boys how to make a proper campfire. Once the fire was steady enough to leave with me (the novice) Gerry led the boys on a flashlight hike through the nature trail to see stars and the almost moon. When they got back we all ate smores. I sang show tunes and Leo fell asleep in my lap. It was heaven and I never once wished I was in a hotel.
Tell me about your favorite camping adventures! Did you find any science along the way?

I love watching the kids in Leo’s class interact with science and art experiments. Some kids, like Leo, dive right in and get messy, wet, and dirty without a second thought. Others carefully roll up their sleeves, insist on wearing a smock, and carefully examine their messy options. One girl in Leo’s class refuses to touch anything and is easily upset with messes and wardrobe changes. I think that it is great for kids to express what they need in a safe setting. But I often wonder how this is going to play out as they get older and interact with many different opportunities in their world.
I got to see their traits in action when the Mobile Marine Lab came to school last week. I was so excited for this event. We had such a great time last year and Henry was able to join us because the elementary schools are out. The basic set up is this: the marine animals arrive in containers on a truck. The truck pulls a 4-sided water table with all sorts of pumps and contraptions to keep the water cold and salinated. Before the kids come out to the parking lot the animals are placed in the water table along with seaweed, shells, and other sea props.
It is quite a set up. The owner of the lab goes to a beach every morning to collect the creatures and then returns them in the evening. I totally geeked out asking him questions about tides, water temps, and habitats. We even had a conversation about the east coast tide pool creatures vs. the west coast tide pools. It made me long for Maine. I was enthralled…but enough about me.
Leo and Henry had an amazing hands-on experience with sea stars, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers, to name a few. At the beach, I have a hard time convincing them to touch any creatures that we encounter, but at the Marine Lab, the boys were elbow deep and completely engaged. Leo couldn’t get enough of the sea stars (I call them starfish). The kids held the sea stars and used seashells to gently pour water over the animals. With patience and water, the kids could get the sea stars to relax and suction onto the palm of their hands. Very cool.
Henry was surprised by the texture of the sea cucumber. I was proud of him for touching, since he usually shies away from icky stuff (unlike his brother). All the kids in the photo below seem to be surprised and excited!
We even saw creatures that looked like hairy aliens. This crab uses bits of seaweed to disguise itself from predators. I wonder what kinds of questions Sid would come up with about this crab!
We could have spent all afternoon at the Mobile Marine Lab. Long after Leo’s class went inside for lunch I was out there chatting with the owner while Henry splashed around. He needed a complete change of clothes when we got home. I got in the car scheming about hiring the Mobile Marine Lab for Henry’s next birthday party. It would be so much better than that place with “Cheese” in the name.
If any of the creative folks at Sid are reading this…please do a show about marine life! I think it would be amazing for the Sid gang to visit an aquarium or even go to the beach. Think of all the science investigations you could dream up!
Do you kids enjoy hands-on experiences with animals? Is your kid a messy scientist or a lab coat professional?

Talking trash. That’s what a bunch of colleagues and I found ourselves doing last week. Some of our trash talk was the kind you might expect to hear on the basketball court (this group is not shy about making fun of each other!), but most of it was a discussion of trash and the kinds of activities that would engage kids in thinking about ways to care for the environment.
As part of our work designing a new preschool curriculum, we spend a lot of time brainstorming classroom activity ideas. Last week, we were all about the environment and conservation. I’m pleased to report that Dirt Detectives and Teeth Time were mentioned as models for great, engaging learning experiences by those who watch Sid and have tried the activities with kids. How gratifying that was! But, there’s always more science fun and learning to be had, so we had to get to work, gabbing about garbage.
One idea involved an activity for older children in which a class collects the garbage leftovers from, say, a week of lunches. After each day, kids put together all the paper waste and food scraps and plastic bags and bottles and weigh the pile. After a week, totals are added. It’s pretty surprising what a heavy burden just one week of lunch leftovers puts on our landfills and recycling centers! Over the next weeks, children learn ways to reduce the amount of garbage they create, and they apply these techniques to putting lunch on a diet – less paper, fewer disposable bottles and cans, fewer wrappers, and minimal food scraps. Then they collect and weigh for another week, comparing the amount of garbage generated before and after.
I love this activity because it is so clear what a difference just a few small changes can make in the amount of garbage we create. To adapt it for preschool, though, required that I spend a little time wearing my thinking cap.
First, time is not a concept that preschoolers understand too well. Collecting for a week, then waiting weeks, then collecting again just seems like too much waiting! When I try this, I’m going to go with one day of collecting garbage, then a week or so learning about ways to limit waste, and another day to apply this new knowledge to a new kind of packed lunch.
Also, although preschoolers can and should learn about measurement and also understand lighter and heavier, putting numbers on weights – especially larger numbers – is not something that they are likely to be able to do, so we need a different way to measure and compare. Two possibilities come to mind. One involves using a large plastic bin and just piling all the garbage in it on the first day. Take a digital photo to record the mountain of trash. On the comparison day, do the exact same thing, in the exact same container. Compare the photos to tell the trashy tale! Wet food scraps can be collected in a separate container (say, a plastic bowl) and compared in the same way.
You can get more math into this exploration by doing some counting. Use plastic gloves when touching, but count up how many juice boxes are tossed, how many plastic bottles are going to the recycling plant, or how many crumpled paper napkins are going in the can. Write those numbers down, then create a graph comparing before and after. Let’s hope those numbers go down!
In between, of course, we have some learning to do. I’d start by asking children for their ideas about ways to reduce the amount of trash that they create when they eat lunch. How can we solve this problem of too much garbage? Who knows what great ideas they might come up with? Engage children with books and the internet to research some other techniques for reducing garbage (see prior posts on the environment, too). Some methods you might learn about include composting organic food scraps, using re-usable bottles for juice and water instead of disposable ones, trying cloth napkins instead of paper, and using foodsaver containers instead of individual serving bags that just get tossed.
Changing how lunches or snacks get packed is going to necessarily involve families. You might get them on board by having kids create a poster of the new ideas they have learned through their research. Be sure to show it off to families or, even better, email a digital photo with an invitation to join the effort to create “less litter lunches.” It’s science in action and science that leads to action – the kind of action that empowers kids and families to change the world for the better and helps them say, “I’m a scientist. I can do this, too!”
If you give this idea – or a similar one – a try, please let us know how you do it and how it goes. After all, great ideas don’t end up in landfills, but we should re-use them anyway!

For years I have wanted to plant a vegetable garden. I have romantic notions about seedlings, planting, growing, and picking my own salad. Back in Massachusetts I tried a couple of times to grow herbs and lettuce but it was a disaster, to say the least. It seems so easy in my mind, but once I get to the garden center I am overwhelmed and leave with my hands empty.
This year, I have resolved to try again. First of all, I live in a region of California where food actually comes from and farmer’s markets abound. My friend and neighbor Jennifer grew beautiful tomatoes in pots last summer. She was generous with her bounty but I was envious. (Full disclosure: Jennifer can make anything grow and her garden is stunning.) Seriously, I surely should be able to manage container gardening, right?
Another reason is for the boys. Not only is gardening a fun activity to do as a family, but the nutritional rewards are huge. Henry doesn’t like tomatoes in their true form (he is a huge fan of ketchup) but maybe he will change his mind if he grows and picks his own tomatoes. Over the past few months I have been intrigued by the clean eating movement. Basically, the idea is to only eat foods that you make yourself from real food. No packages, no processing. I love the idea but I am scared by the commitment. It would be better for the boys but more work for me. Just writing that sentence makes me feel like a slacker…but a food garden should get me going in the right direction!
So, this weekend I dove into the world of container tomato gardening. And it was easy! Leo and I went over to the local garden center. He picked out three kinds of organic tomatoes: cherry, big boy golden, and purple heirloom. Leo loves tomatoes and he is totally on board. In fact, I believe Leo is on his way to becoming a vegetarian so I am truly giving him a valuable life skill. We made our purchases, bought pots and drove home.
The next day, Leo, Henry, and I began our project. (Dad was out at an e-cycling event getting rid of an old TV.) Just like on Sid the Science Kid we talked about what plants need to grow. We designated a sunny spot in the side yard, near a water hose. Then we got dirty. We dumped a whole bag of dirt into the pot. Leo and I dug a hole and put the first plant in. Leo got the coveted job of watering the first plant.
Then, we were stumped. No more dirt! Thank goodness for good neighbors. Jennifer came to our rescue with dirt and tomato cages. (Who knew?!) After a detour across the street Henry watered the second plant.
Our cherry tomatoes came prepotted with a cage and there are even some tomatoes ripening on the vine. I am hoping that this plant yields first and gets the excitement building as we wait for the other two plants. We also have two strawberry buckets (gifted from Jennifer) and a little lemon tree. Jennifer had a great idea about planting a salsa garden with peppers and cilantro or a pasta sauce garden with herbs to compliment the tomatoes. I think the boys would love that. Maybe I can plant my salad garden after all.
I like it when Sid activities connect with all kinds of science concepts from the show. This planting activity is from the Environment and Habitat cycle but I easily made connections to the Health cycle with nutrition. I even reminded the boys about germs and hand washing from the activity about dirt and germs. We have enjoyed so many investigations from our time with Sid and it feels great to connect to the boys’ prior knowledge as we conduct new investigations.
I will keep you updated on our little garden. How does your garden grow? Do you have any gardening advice for me? Believe me, I would love to hear it!

Sometimes an activity comes along on the show that reminds me that my work as a mom is never done. Not that I am ever expecting it to be! However, sometimes I surprise myself by not following some of the basic rules for teaching and living with young children. Mainly: repetition is your friend. Be it the ABC song, a tattered picture book, or singing You Are My Sunshine, children love to experience things over and over again. My boys never get sick of mac n cheese or playing at the same park every Tuesday. I may be bored to tears by some of these treasured experiences (I DO treasure them) but Henry and Leo happily persist with the familiar.
Some of the Sid the Science Kid activities have become familiar to us because they come up repeatedly in our everyday lives: nonstandard units of measurement, irreversible change, force and friction, etc. What made me pause this week was an activity they DID NOT remember. We were getting ready for bed and I was thinking about the Brush Em Up activity airing again this week. The activity is a clear and visual reminder for kids about conserving water while brushing teeth. After reading a story with the boys, I asked them if they remembered how to conserve water in the bathroom at bedtime. They both gave me glassy stares.
“C’mon,” I persisted. “Remember we brushed our teeth with the water on and then we shut it off and compared how much water we used?”
Nothing. They did not remember.
“It’s a Sid activity. Remember? Okay, let’s do it again right now.”
This got their attention! It was bedtime and mommy wanted to do an investigation. They are always interested in prolonging the bedtime routine!
So we marched into the bathroom and began. I modified the activity for speed and because I didn’t want to go get bowl, but the results are just as meaningful.
Henry went first. I pushed down the plug and told him to brush his teeth with the water ON. He looked at me like I was crazy. I remember the when we did this activity for the first time last year. Henry was not happy about wasting water. Clearly, he still feels that way. Regardless of his beliefs, Henry went along with me. As he brushed his teeth the basin filled up with water about ¾ of the way. We mentally noted the spot and pushed the plunger in so the stopper came out. The water drained away.
(On an aside: I can’t tell you how often I have to tell them not to fiddle with the plug in the bathroom sink. Henry and Leo love to play with the plunger and the handle to the point where we have had to replace it a couple of times. As Henry brushed and spit, he really enjoyed watching the water spill and then drain out. All he wanted to do was stick his hands in the toothpaste water. Ick. I told him to make a good choice.)
Leo’s turn was next. He would brush his teeth with the water off. We set the plunger again and turned on the water to wet his brush. Then we immediately turned the water off. Leo brushed and then spit in the little puddle. We rinsed his brush and he was done. Then we compared. Leo’s water level was a lot lower than Henry’s. He had used significantly less water, of course. The boys saw very quickly how they could save water in the bathroom.
I extended the activity over the toilet. I took the cover off the tank, flushed the toilet, and let them watch as the water rushed out and the tank gradually filled again. We talked about how much water the tank holds (a lot) and how much water we use ever time we flush (a lot.) The boys agreed to stop playing with toilet and over-flushing (do your kids do this?) and even skip the flush if the water wasn’t very yellow. That is way to save even more water!
The lesson for us was in the reminder. We always turn the water off while brushing teeth. They boys do it automatically and it is a familiar part of their routine. But what they didn’t remember was WHY they were turning off the water. By repeating a very simple activity, we were able to talk about water conversation and reinforce an important life lesson.
Do you find yourself repeating activities with your kids? What kinds of lessons need the most reinforcement?

Henry came home from Kindergarten with some very interesting and enlightened ideas last week. I noticed that for several days in a row he asked me if he could help feed the cat and take out the trash. The requests usually came in the chaos of our morning routine (dress, eat, OUT!) or the pandemonium of dinner prep (yes, I know you are hungry, can’t you see mommy is cooking?!) I allowed Henry to feed the cat a couple of times with supervision and he made a quite mess of it. But, he is learning. Then, I let him take out the recycling and I found that his help was quite welcome.
We soon had this “aha!” conversation:
“Mom, do you know why I asked you if I could feed the cat and take out the trash?”
“Why, no Henry, I don’t.”
“My teacher thinks that we should be learn to be responsible and she told us ideas of how we can be helpful at home. Like feeding pets and taking out the trash. I can do those things,” Henry said with a shrug.
“Yes you can! Thank you very much!” I replied encouragingly. Have I mentioned that I really like Henry’s Kindergarten teacher?
I am proud that Henry is taking charge and helping around the house. I should have thought of that much sooner. And since this week Sid and his buddies are learning about recycling, I thought we should put Henry’s new skills to work and get Leo involved too.
Our local recycling program does not require that we sort our recycling. They must have a magical machine that takes care of that. However, the container of recycling in the kitchen gets quite full and it is hard to the boys to carry to the big bin out side. So, I devised a sorting system to help them learn about what kinds of materials we recycle while also making the load a little easier for them.
At first we started out slow, when I realized that the boys weren’t sure about the differences between metal, glass, paper, and plastic. Although they understand the big picture about recycling and can tell me why it is important, the boys were unable to describe the details. I needed to explain that cardboard is paper and tuna cans are metal.
So, we went back to basics. I asked Leo what “sorting” meant and he answered right away “when you put things that are the same all together.” Good boy! Then they took turns sorting each recyclable.
As they sorted, I talked about where the recyclables would go and how the boxes, cans, paper, and glass would become new things. Henry thought it was quite literal and wanted to know if the milk bottle would become a new milk bottle. I had never thought about it that way, and I was challenged to come up with a list of new items that the materials would be turned into. I really don’t know very much about what happens to our recycling. Thank goodness Leo has a fieldtrip planned to visit the local recycling center. I will be sure to blog about it that week!
I also explained that materials like plastic wouldn’t decompose if we leave them on the earth, so it was a good idea to make them into different things. Both boys immediately asked if we could bury a plastic container in the ground to see what would happen over time. I said no, but maybe I should let them do it, so they can see that the plastic will be in the ground for a long time.
When they were finished sorting, I had them reorder the bags from least to most full. It was interesting to see what we were consuming. Lots of paper and lots of plastic.
One funny but sad moment came when I explained how paper was made. I explained up how trees are mashed up into pulp and then dried in sheets to make paper. Henry was truly horrified. He said he didn’t want to use paper anymore. I am pleased and proud to say that when I explained that if we recycled more paper then perhaps we would need to use fewer trees, Henry was placated and also interested. It was a really a tangible example of recycling for him since he has a favorite climbing tree in our yard.
I talk to the boys a lot about recycling, and I realize that I may not be doing a great job of making the concept accessible to their world. I am glad that Sid the Science Kid is around to remind me that preschoolers need to get their hands on science with real-world objects from their own lives.
How do you teach your kids about recycling? Do YOU know what happens to your paper and plastic once you send it off in the truck?

This week on Sid the Science Kid, the children on the show investigate Environmental Systems. It is one of my favorite learning cycles because the learning is so relevant to our world today and children can see directly how their actions can have results. In the episode called Save the Stump, Sid learns that a stump that was once a tree can turn into a new habitat for living creatures.
Funny how life can mirror what we see on TV…or is it the other way around?
Leo and I arrived home last week after dropping Henry off at school to find a man digging a big hole in our front yard. I had been expecting this, since the HOA had mentioned that work was being done on the sprinkler systems on the street. Leo, of course, had no idea. It’s amazing what little kids find exciting and interesting. I was ready to smile, say hello, and walk into the house so the man could finish his work. Leo, however, wanted to check it out. What could be more interesting than a huge hole in the grass?
Well, a lot it turns out. As we got closer and started talking with the man, we saw that the hole wasn’t very deep, but the area around the hole was very wet and very muddy. Apparently, the site of leaky pipe. The gardener showed me the culprit and sighed. I guess it was going to be a bigger job than we thought. The front lawn had to be completely torn up.
But out of the holes, dirt, and mud Leo and I started noticing the LIFE all around us. We could see rolly pollies, worms, bugs, and snails. Lots and lots of snails. To be honest, snails kind of gross me out, but all the kids on the street love to find snails. And I was about to be introduced to another gross garden creature.
“Mom! What’s that?” Leo said, pointing.
“It’s a snail,” I replied. “Look Leo, its whole body is out and it’s moving pretty fast!” We admired the large shell and the antenna.
“Look Mom, a snail without the shell! Right there.”
A what? I looked closer and saw that, yes indeed, there was a snail without a shell, antenna and all. It was yellow, slimy, and moving a good clip. We were both fascinated. I didn’t know that a snail could live without a shell. Both Leo and I started asking questions. How does a snail get a shell? Was that a baby snail? How big do snails get?
So, we went inside and started investigating. I got out the iPad and we started searching for information about snails. WOW! I had no idea there was so much to learn about snails. We learned about the life cycle, habitat (our yard to be exact), what snails eat, and how they reproduce. Our shell questions was answered when we learned that baby snails start their shells from their broken egg and it grows from there. The best part was looking at the images of snails, some beautiful and some weird. So much fun!
We also learned that the other creature we saw was NOT a snail. It was a slug. A yucky icky slug. Leo was so happy! I was horrified but still curious. So, off we went on the World Wide Web to learn more about slugs. Amazingly, there is a lot of information about how to get rid of slugs and snails in gardens. I stayed away from those sites. It was mostly the photos that had Leo and I entranced. We eventually found ourselves looking at the Giant African Snail. Go and Google this creature. You’ll be blown away. Thank goodness its natural habitat is not my yard in southern California!
It was great to conduct informal research with Leo. We learned some good facts about snails and slugs while having a great time together. We also talked about habitats and why our wet yard is just the perfect kind of place for slugs and snails. Our next stop should be the library, where we can find more information in books about the critters on our street.
What kind of animals, big and small, can you find in your neighborhood habitat?

This week as we watch Sid the Sid the Science Kid, I have a chance to remind the boys and myself about the simple things we can do every day to help the environment and be mindful of the world around us. Recycling seems to be a snap for the boys (their school environments really set them up for success) and I am often the one who needs reminding about turning off the water. What I really like about this week’s cycle is that the activities and the lessons that tie into things families do every day.
Take, for instance, gardening. My husband does most of the yard work and he can spend hours in the garden, mowing, trimming, pulling weeds, etc. I like to handle the flower boxes, container gardening, and front walkway. To be honest, it is about instant gratification for me, or at least after a morning’s worth of work. This weekend, I decided to include the boys, so we could talk about plants, water sources, the sun, and air. Also, Gerry is out of town and I needed something to keep us all busy! So, we headed over the garden center to buy materials to replant flower planters on the backyard patio.
In the car on the way over, I asked the boys some prep questions.
“What is the environment?” and all I got was silence.
After a few moments, Henry said, “It is everything in nature.”
Not bad! At that moment, I wished I had the glossary from the Sid website at my fingertips. I started talking about the water, air, earth, and plants around us. Then we moved on to dirt.
“Not dirt, mommy,” Leo corrected, “It is SOIL. Plants grow in soil.”
And so they do! So when we got the store, the first thing we did was go in search of soil.
Next we looked at plants. I explained that we needed to find flowers that liked a lot of sun. We examined the labels and pictures in various kinds of plants and came up with a cartload of flowers.
As we were wandering around and looking at all the flowers and plants it dawned on me that the garden center was a wonderful and somewhat inexpensive excursion for us. The center has lots of information, visual support for learning, and wide aisles for the boys to run up and down. I have to remember that the next time I am desperate for a simple afternoon jaunt.
Once we got home, I gave each of the boys their own planter to work on. The flowers I had planted in the spring were dried out. We discovered they were root bound. It was a great opportunity to talk about roots and how plants need space to grow. Then we opened up the bag of soil and the boys got to work.
It took a while for the kids to fill the planters with soil and place the flowers. I pointed out the sun on the patio and the placement of the pots. After the flowers were settled in their new home we soaked them with water. The boys lead every step of the process and learned about what plants need to grow: soil, sun, and water.
Soon Henry and Leo were on to other activities in the yard. I decided to do some more gardening. So I weeded, tended to the ailing lemon tree, and pruned roses. I called the boys over to look at various bugs and tickle their palms with wriggly worms. It was a great afternoon. I am starting to understand why Gerry can spend hours in the backyard. Our environment is a lovely place.
Do you garden with your children? How do you incorporate science words and concepts into you experience outdoors?

One of the most satisfying things about summer vacation is the freedom the boys and I have to pick and choose our activities every day. Without the constraints of the school/soccer/baseball/life schedule we can take each day as it comes. It can also be a trap, where we stall within our freedom and end up doing a lot of nuthin’. As I reviewed my blog post about summer activities from earlier this month, I realized we need to get moving. Summer doesn’t last forever and here in Southern CA it ends with an August 23 school start date. Oh no!
At bedtime I asked the boys what they wanted to do the next day. I suggested the zoo or a museum. Henry was quiet for a bit and then asked if we could go to the farm. The farm! The one in our very own town, so conveniently located, inexpensive, and fun?! Yes, of course we could go to the farm! It felt satisfying as a mom to let Henry take the lead and choose the activity. It made him feel good. In the morning I called a couple of our friends and we made an afternoon farm date.
Our local farm is a family destination in the LA area. Not only can kids pick all kinds of fruits and veggies, but there the farm is home to many animals: goats, cows, chickens, oxen, emus, rabbits, horses, and the biggest pig I have ever seen in my life. Not to mention a view that makes me think I have landed in a postcard.
After visiting the animals we grabbed a wagon and went out to see what we could pick. I think I was more excited than the kids. As we came up row after row of green we loved looking at the sign to see what was growing. Many times the kids had to push aside lush greens to find the vegetable below. The cucumbers were especially fun. The skin of the cucumber was surprisingly bumpy and even spiky. It was a great opportunity for the kids to use description words and a stark reminder to the moms about what happens to veggies on their way to the grocery store. How DO cucumbers get all waxy and why?
We tried to pull our some carrots, but soon discovered that they weren’t ready for picking yet. We stuck them right back in. I hope they keep growing!
The big highlight for the kids was the berry picking. We walked far out into the fields to find the most delicious and sweet strawberries. As my friend said, we should have weighed them before the picking started and then after to pay for what landed in their bellies. It was an idyllic afternoon; the weather was perfect, the sky blue, and the kids were happy.
On our way out, we came across some unfamiliar vegetables that I had to pick. One was called a sunburst squash. I have no idea what to do with it, but the kids were delighted. It will turn into a kitchen investigation soon! The other was a purple pepper. Who knew there were purple peppers! When we got to the front to pay everyone was hot, dirty, and tired – exactly what we want after a day on the farm! Look at our bounty (and Henry’s dirty face!)
Of course, I can’t sign off without reminding you all about our good friend Sid the Science Kid. This week is a great week to sit down with the kids and watch some special Sid episodes! Some of our favorites are on this week, including the camping episode and the sing-along special. As I have said before, I like to remind my kids it is okay to sit down and take a break in the middle of our busy day. I like to get them out of the hot sun and give them a chance to rest before we head out on our afternoon adventures. Why not let them hang out with Sid? I hope you are all enjoying your summer so far! Tell me what you’ve been up to with your kids!

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.
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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.
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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?

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