Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 2: Draw Bridge

My son built a draw bridge model.

Do you think a draw bridge is a beam bridge, arch bridge or suspension bridge?

Well drawbridges are a type of movable beam bridge. They were used extensively during the middle ages to prevent entry into fortifications. Before cannons were invented, residents could simply pull up the bridge, and it was very difficult for invaders to enter.

Here is a medieval draw bridge turned permanent bridge from William the Conquerer's castle in Normandie, France.

Draw bridges are also used today, but they are not quite so common. In my town, there is a drawbridge that raises to allow boats with tall masts to pass underneath and enter the channel. Most of the time it stays down, but during the summer months it often goes up and can cause some minor traffic back-ups.

After reading about draw bridges in the book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test (Kaleidoscope Kids), my son followed the directions to create his own using an empty cereal box, string, and a straw.



 It's a pretty simple design. Just punch four holes in the box and lace the string through. Put the string through the straw and cut the string to the desired length for opening and closing.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Native American Unit Study - Lesson 7a: Southwestern Indians

My daughter made a ring toss game, a bull roarer toy and a silver armband.

The ancestors of Native Americans of the southwest lived in houses carved into the sides of mountains. Their pueblo homes were like apartment buildings with different families living in each room. To escape enemies the houses were difficult to access. The Indians used ladders carved into tree trunks which the pulled into the houses when at home so unwanted guests could not easily visit.


The two living books Pueblo Storyteller and Pueblo Boy: Growing Up in Two Worlds focus on real natives from the southwest.

Ring Toss Game
Native American tribes played a variety of games. After learning about the ring toss game played by the Zuni tribe of New Mexico in the book More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life (Hands-On History) by Laurie Carlson, my daughter decided to create the game.

First she cut two ring shapes from paper plates making sure that one was larger than the other. Then the plates were wrapped with yarn to cover all of the paper. The game is played by trying to toss the smaller ring inside the larger ring.

Bull Roarer
The Navajo along with several other tribes of the southwest made wind sticks used to pray for rain. They are basically sails on a strings that makes a wind-like noise when spun around in a circle.


First my daughter cut a rectangular shape from cardboard. Then a string was attached and the cardboard was decorated with marker.



Silver Armband
Silver and turquoise stones were naturally available in the southwest. Tribes often made jewelry from the silver. To make this simple armband a portion of a plastic water bottle was wrapped with aluminum foil. Since the bottle was curved, the bracelet fit perfectly.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 1: Concrete

Lesson 1: Concrete

My son made concrete, built two model bridges and tested them to see which one was stronger.

I couldn't be happier with the book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test (Kaleidoscope Kids), which I purchased to give my son another hands-on engineering experience. With two parents holding engineering degrees, it's only natural that my son would have an engineering mind.



The book begins by describing the three main types of bridges: beam, arch and suspension. It gives examples of each, explains how they carry loads and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Perfect! The book starts with the big picture, explains in simple language and builds with each chapter so that kids come away with a thorough understanding of bridge construction. Although it is written for educators to use as a spine for group lectures, I just gave it to my son, instructed him to read it and do any activities he thought would be interesting. He jumped right in.



One of the first projects he did was make concrete.

To make concrete he needed to gather some sand, and some rocks.

Then he added some cornstarch and water and used an old pot to heat the mixture.

Following the directions in the book, he took the mixture and formed it into an arch bridge and a beam bridge.


Once it cooled down, he placed a load onto each bridge and added coins for weight.



Eventually the beam bridge gave way. Super. He learned the ingredients in concrete and that arches are stronger than beams.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Native American Unit Study - Lesson 6: Southeastern Indians

My daughter made fruit leather and owner sticks.

Like the Scythians who lived in  Asia (Russia, China), the southern Indians were mound builders. The natives who lived near the coast made jewelry from shells. Unfortunately, many of these tribes were pushed westward onto reservations in Oklahoma. Many fought at first, but later surrendered. All except for the Seminole tribe in Florida. The Seminoles were made up of Native Americans of many different tribes, as well as runaway slaves and others living on the outskirts European settlements.

Owner Sticks
Have you ever left a note on the couch to reserve your seat for a movie? Have any of your children claimed a left-over slice of pizza as theirs? Owner sticks were used label property as belonging to an individual. They could be large or small depending on the item. Each individual had a unique set of sticks.

My daughter made a set of sticks using craft sticks, ribbon, glue and feathers.  




When they were complete, she used them to claim the prized seat on the couch.

Fruit Leather
Fruit could be preserved and eaten when not in season by mashing and drying it into sheets. As a child, I called this a Fruit-Roll-Up, although I'm not sure it contained much real fruit.

 My daughter had her grandfather help her use the blender to make fruit leather from blueberries and grapes.


 Plastic wrap was placed on a cookie sheet.



The blended fruit was placed in a warm spot to dry which took several days.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Make a Paper Gun

Tinkering and Learning

My son made a paper gun that actually shoots. It's pretty cool for just paper and glue, but it took quite a bit of adjusting to get it to work properly.

Tinkering is one of the main ways my son learns and therefore, there have been several posts on Highhill Education that involve tinkering and learning.


Bike Tinkering
Google Sketch-UP 
Flying a Kite 

More of these types of posts can be found on my Science Page. Especially towards the bottom when the activities become more engineering oriented and free form.

He began by watching How to Make a Paper Gun that Shoots - With Trigger on Youtube.

Next, he made a mess of the kitchen.

Then he rolled paper and used a hot glue gun to attach it together.


A few hours and adjustments later he had his paper gun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Native American Unit Study - Lesson 5b: Midwestern Tribes

My daughter made a vest and cape.

On the plains and in the Great Lakes region, many different tribes wore vests made from animal skins. Capes were made to go over the shoulders of dresses of women in the Great Lakes region.

The book More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life (Hands-On History) by Laurie Carlson is full of Native American craft ideas. Most projects call for materials such as paper bags and plates. We often modify projects to use fabric especially when the historical material for the item was leather. Regardless, the book is a wonderful guide for completing projects in a Native American unit study.

My daughter made her vest and cape from fleece. First she cut rectangles by laying one of her tank tops on top of the material to get the sizing close. Then she sewed the material together at the sides and shoulders.


 Since lots of clothing contained fringe, she cut fringe into the base of her vest.

Tribes in the midwest used beads and porcupine quills to decorate their clothing, but my daughter used the embroidery sewing machine to add decoration to her vest.

He cape was made by cutting a large circle from fleece with a hole in the center for her head. Fringe was cut into the outside circle and decoration was added using fancy stitches on the sewing machine.

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