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.

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.

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.
Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 

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.

Make a Slot Machine - Kid Project

My son made a slot machine.

This is a great hands-on thinking project especially for those future engineers who love to tinker. There are not right or wrong answers, just a million different ways to do something similar. In fact, the challenge can be modified to meet the project goals too.

The Challenge
Using cardboard, tape, glue, string, straws, and whatever else you want to include here (recycle bins are wonderful), ....................

Create a machine that will randomly return coins.
Create a machine that will sort coins based on size.
Create a machine that will return one item of the customer's choosing (vending machine).

Here is one my son created.
Beginning with a cardboard box, he created multiple points where citizens could donate money to either Vanilla or Hega Vega, his two stuffed hedgehogs.

 Bills could be placed into the wide slot, coins into the small slot, and wads of cash could be inserted into the money drain.

 Coins could be retrieved through the special access panel at the bottom of the box.

But here's the cool part. The inner workings. Inside the machine, there were levers and rails where money could be channeled out different slots by pressing or pulling on certain levers on the exterior of the box. In the photo above, the quarter rolls down the middle rail and out the slot.

In this photo, a dime drops to the bottom rail and rolls out.

Native American Unit Study - Lesson 5a: Midwestern Tribes

My daughter made maple candy.

Midwestern tribes who lived in the forests of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota were dependent on the trees. They made containers such as pouches, and boxes to store food from birch bark. Canoes were made from birch trees and the bark covered the exterior of homes. Sweetener was made from maple tree sap.

They were fishermen and hunters sneaking up on ducks by swimming underneath using a hollow reed as a snorkel. The book The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering (We Are Still Here : Native Americans Today) describes how boys became men after participating in the annual wild rice harvest.

After reading about birch bark containers, wigwams, duck decoys, wild rice and maple sugar candy in the book More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life (Hands-On History) my daughter was thrilled to make her own maple sugar candy.

Maple Sugar Candy
The treat was made from butter, powered sugar and maple syrup, so it was more like a candy bar than a cookie.  

My son was very happy to try her candy too.

Looking for more activities to do with children? Be sure to check out the pages of this blog; Math, Language Arts, Science, History, Geography, Arts and Crafts and these other great Blog Hops.

Teaching Homeschool Chemistry

We are tackling the intimidating subject of chemistry with lots of success.

As I see it, there are two main issues when it comes to teaching chemistry. One is finding the necessary resources, and the second is tackling the material.As we are a secular homeschool family, finding resources for teaching science throughout the years has been a bit of a challenge. For the most part, we have used a variety of science based story books available at libraries, on-line and through Amazon. It has worked well.

Following the living book approach for chemistry, we are reading the Mystery of the Periodic Table, but that book alone is just not enough. After all, we are covering material at a high level. In addition to understanding the history of chemistry, it is necessary to do lab work and problems associated with chemistry to really understand the subject.

When it comes to highschool level science classes, many homeschool parents begin to doubt their teaching abilities. Fortunately, there are kits and resources available. For lab work we purchased the CK01A Chemistry Laboratory Kit from The Home Scientist, LLC. The kit is wonderful. It comes with just about everything required: tons of small bottles of chemicals, beakers, testubes and goggles. Also included is a lab manual of highschool level experiments.

The trick for us was finding a text book. After looking at popular homeschool chemistry curriculum, I began to wonder what Michigan Technological University, uses for chemistry.... It turns out they use a text called Chemistry by Raymond Chang, the tenth edition. Well the book sells for over $200 on Amazon. After thinking a little more, I decided to check out earlier additions of the same book. After all, how much do you think chemistry has changed in the past few years? Well the eighth edition only cost about $1 plus shipping. Perfect!

Chemistry by Raymond Chang is an extensive college-level chemistry textbook. It covers at least two full semesters of chemistry and begins covering organic chemistry at the end of the book. We are covering one chapter every week or two and doing lab experiments each week. It is intense, but now that my daughter is older, she can work quite independently. I'm currently trying to keep up with her weekly chemistry reading in order to help answer questions. So far it's working well.

At the end of the year, or when we are through the book and labs, she will take the chemistry CLEP exam. I'll do an update post then to let you know how it goes.

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