Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pretend Play Stations Invitations

The end of the school year is approaching quickly for us and I've been slowing trying to devise a plan for the summer months. Last year, we did a few thematic mini-units, spent time with family and friends who came to visit us and traveled a bit but this year, other than the preparative work required for Adrian to transfer from German school to an "English" school, I'll probably be giving the kids a "summer off". It'll give me to time to prepare for the upcoming preschool year for the little one and will also allow for everyone to relax (including me!). That being said, I am a very organized person who loves planning and couldn't help but start drawing charts and monthly/weekly planners of possibilities! :O One thing I'd like to explore this summer is pretend play (that ain't school, now is it?). This household is mostly following the Montessori philosophy when it comes to education and as such, pretend play is not a huge part of our daily lives. I still think it's important though and I can see my children improvising in that area more and more everyday, so this summer, I'd like to provide more in that area to help them get their imagination going.

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12 Pretend Play Stations Are to Be Set Up This Summer!


Here is a list of pretend play dramatic art stations I intend to put together this summer. I believe I'll invite them to participate in one every week and take it from there. Zahavah will be 3 and a half at that time and  Adrian will be turning 6 during the summer so their level of involvement will of course differ a bit but having a partner to play with will at least be a possibility. I also want to mention that as much as possible, these stations will be set OUTSIDE! There is no reason why these should remain indoors after all...

Pretend Play Stations Line-Up 
(in no particular order)

Car Wash
Flower Shop
Bakery
Post Office
Farmer's Market or Grocery Store
Doctor's Office or Veterinarian's Office
Library
Museum (Art Gallery or Natural History)
Restaurant or Pizza Parlor
Hair Salon or Grooming Salon
Science Lab
Shoe Store or Hat Store

As time goes by of course, I'll look deeper into each station and see if some need to be cut off the list or added...and I'll keep you posted as we explore pretend play ("pretend play" just doesn't sound like the right wording somehow...)! :)

So what do you think? Are there any pretend play stations you feel were left out? Any you'd like me to set up and share on the blog over the summer? Share your comments below. I love hearing from you!


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fun Thematic Family Nights

I must say that considering the time at which my children start getting ready for bed, it doesn't leave that much time for family fun nights. On top of that, "daddy" is usually the entertainer after the entire dinner has been gobbled up but when he happens to be away for a while, I find myself having to fill in the void and usually try to spice things up a bit once a week or so (hey, roughhousing is sadly not my strong point...). I present you here a few activities we did not long ago. They are all simple and easy to prepare and caused a lot of excitement in this household!

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CHOCOLATE FONDUE NIGHT

I had not had a chocolate fondue in YEARS. The kids...well, I don't believe they ever had chocolate fondue. I chose to offer mine with mostly fresh fruit (a colorful array please!) and added a few mini-marshmallow (something they've never had before...unless maybe in a Rice Krispies treat once?) and some dry crackers. For the chocolate, I simply melted a good baking bar and added a little bit of milk to the mix. It was divine. Even more divine? A fondue takes a long time to eat. It's the perfect opportunity to find out what's really going on in your children's lives! It can also be a good time to convince your children to try fruits if they usually won't eat any. Next time, I most definitely will be adding fruits they've never had before! :)


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MOVIE PREMIERE

Well, this one might not seem anything special for many of you but for my kids... it's a real treat. We don't premiere movies very often and screen time is accounted for. The thing is, children really enjoy watching the same feature over and over again and can actually learn from repetition too. Also, we're not one of these households where TV is on all the time. TV is on from 8p.m. until 10p.m. at which point both kids are in bed. That's right...the kids do not watch TV. At all. They do get to watch carefully selected DVDs though but only at specific time and for a specific amount of time. A new movie will usually be introduced to the house only when it's time for me to trim my son's hair (my way of preventing him to move for half an hour!) so they come by only every 6 weeks or so. Occasionally, new movies will also be gifted to the kids and I space out their introduction. To make the most out of movie premieres, I make a big deal out of every single one of them! I usually prepare a movie ticket, prepare a special snack, arrange the room differently (seats in front of the TV with snacks, dim the lights, etc. The excitement is palpable by the time the TV set turns on. By the way...if you are unsure what movie to premiere, check out Common Sense Media. They review movies and give you lots of details as to what to expect from the reviewed movie: violence?, bad language?, great role models? They cover it all. And don't forget that a lot of libraries let you borrow movies for free. Movie nights don't have to be expensive! 

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GONE NUTTY EVENING

By all means, if anyone has nut allergies or might, do not attempt this. And be aware that some people can react to the mere scent of a nut too! If, like us, you are blessed by having no nut and/or food allergies, then, proceed...and use caution and common sense. Technically, nuts are still pretty small and can pose a choking hazard under the age of 6. 

For our evening, I chose a sampling of as many nuts as I could and poured a few on separate plates. Each variety had a tag identifying the nuts, their point of origin and a small "fun fact" about them. You'll notice that I also included peanuts. I had too. Peanuts are practically part of every nut mix made even though they are not even a nut so I knew the children would inquire as to the peanut. I also thought it'd be a good time to explore why the peanut is not a nut!

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Nutty Night Score Card

Each child had a score card with coloring pencils for the night. Each time a nut was introduced, they had to score whether they liked it, disliked it or simply didn't dare try it. Fun times! In the fall, a lot of these nuts were presented in their shells and I wish we still had some of these around but at this time of year, I couldn't find any anywhere so I stuck to the edible part only. 

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Fresh peanut butter made with the kids that night

The last "nut" presented was the legume "peanut" and you'll notice the bowl was filled. We actually discussed other byproducts of nuts so when this one came up, and we smelled it and tasted it, it was no surprise that it reminded them of the beloved peanut butter! So...we made some! Using the bowl of peanuts, a few drops of canola oil and a bit of honey, we processed it in our food processor and we had own homemade peanut butter! The kids quickly made some peanut butter cracker sandwiches! :) Gone Nutty Evening had been a success. Each child had learned more about themselves and their likings, about nuts and...their favorite toast spread! :)

BOARD GAMES

How traditional! Well, in many ways, board games are classic because they have been loved for so long...and still are. Maybe you won't like Candyland as much as when you were a child but it's often a child's first board game and they love that they can finally play a "grown-up" game. I remember how much Adrian loved this game at 4 years of age. He could have played non-stop for days. Get the kids moving by making a giant version if you feel bored with the traditional board. Buy or make a giant die and use construction paper taped to the floor to make a lifesize version (or colored chalk squares if you play outside).  

Adrian & Zahavah's Recommendations for Board Games:
Candyland
Hi-Ho Cherry-Ho
Sequence for Kids
Chutes & Ladders


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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pets Unit for Toddlers

I realize I haven't posted much about Zahavah's units lately. Truth is, I've had to scale them back to both my and her disappointment. We still do activities but they are not condensed into units as much (although she does take part into Adrian's a lot). Until the fall, things will probably remain the same too unfortunately, at which point, I am hoping out situation will be more stable and allowing us to really start her Montessori beginning.

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Art: Popsicle Stick Kitties

Cats are one of my daughter's favorite animals. I HAD to find a craft that she'd be able to make and keep, and enjoy on a daily basis. This mini wooden stick one was relatively easy. She painted the sticks  one color and once dried, she added stripes or white paws and belly (these cats are inspired by the neighborhood cats!). Once dried, she applied liquid glue with a Q-tip on top of 8 sticks and then I personally placed the sticks together. Once dried, the head I had pre-drawn was attached and so was the tail. Original idea: Making Friends.

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Sensorial: Dog in the Backyard

I thought about making a sensory tub filled with pets and then remembered that we had a pre-made one filled with doggies! "Santa" brought this "My Sandbox" to my daughter and although she plays with it every month, she does not play with it every week so the novelty hasn't worn off yet. Lots of accessories for the sand in this one.

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Practical Life: Lacing Pet Cards

Made by Melissa & Doug, these lacing cards are the right level of difficulty for a 3 year old but there are a lot of holes! My daughter starts and rarely completes a card in one sitting despite her desire to do so. She usually gets back to it later in the day once her hand-eye coordination has had time to rest a little.

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Math: Pet Puzzles of Various Kinds

These puzzles ar getting to be too easy for my little one yet the giant floor puzzle are still a little too much work for her. She completed these in no time and didn't linger. Seen above are two Melissa & Doug's and one Infantino's Where's My Tail? puzzles. 

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Sensorial : Play Dough Birds

Play dough birds is something Adrian did last year during his Angry Bird week. From memory, he loved it far more than Z did. Considering she is a play dough lover, this activity did not seem to click with her. :( She loved playing with the bird I made alongside her to encourage her to try but she just preferred rolling the dough around. Well, that happens...

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Zoology: Pet or No Pet?

Older children often know the difference but for toddlers, animals are sometimes just that; animals. I wanted to see if Zahavah could sort these animals into two groups: pets and not pets. I didn't want to label the other animals zoo animals or anything because really, after visiting zoos around the world, zoo animals are quite different from country to country and well, these animals also happen to run free in their homes. What is she gonna think the day she visits Kenya and sees a giraffe roaming about? Will she think the long-necked creature escaped from the local zoo? Anyhow, it was difficult for some animals to be sorted. She sorted as best as she could and left a third group, undecided where to put them. That's when I asked her if the animal would make a good pet. Would it fit in the house? Does she know anyone who owns such an animal? That cleared the third group completely and sadly, the tiger had to move from the pet group...:)

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Language: Guess Who and Stamp your Answer!

Who can tell we own a lot of Melissa & Doug products? Haha! These are big stamps with two big ink pads we used to play a little game of "Guess the Pet!". I'd ask a question and Zahavah would stamp her answer down. She loves these games and is always excited to know the answer. Questions examples:  "Way up high in the sky is where I like to fly.", or " "Ride on me and I might Neiiiiigh."

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Math: Match by Size & Order by Size

Made these little felt bones for Adrian during his Pet week. I certainly didn't work so hard not to reuse them! :) Zahavah was delighted to see these. First, she matched them by color. Then, she ordered them from smallest to biggest bone. Finally, it was time to go bone hunting in the yard! :)


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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Volcano Unit for Kindergartners - Part 2

Do you happen to live in a volcanic area? We unfortunately don't. I mean, Germany isn't exactly known for its volcanoes, right? Amazingly though, it does have quite a few (about a hundred) but sadly, they do not look the part anymore being that they have been extinct and worn down for millions of years. That doesn't mean my son wasn't thrilled to hear that we had one dormant volcano or that we'd climb to the top of one! Here is the latest on our volcano unit!

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Writing in "Volcanic Sand"

We've written in sand, salt, shaving cream  and such before so this time, we wrote in "volcanic sand". I wish it were real but sadly, little me didn't think ahead and didn't bring back any black sand from the Canary Island beach we lounged on a few years back. I guess I was too busy getting my feet off of it (black sand is really hot by the way!) I made this "pretend volcanic sand" using salt and black food coloring. The plastic rock and volcano are decorations from a toy my son has. We used this tray to practice writing numbers mostly but I also saw my son borrow it to practice writing CVC words.


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Volcanic Versus Non-Volcanic Rocks


Now these rocks are real! :) We haven't studied rocks yet so this is a new topic and it has opened a HUGE interest in rock collecting! :) With these few rocks, Adrian had to try and determine whether they were volcanic or non-volcanic rocks. Just by looking, it is not so easy. I let him sort and then I gave him a bit of information on how each rock formed to help him decide whether the rock was in the right place or not. The best part of course is simply handling the rocks...and knowing that some of these might be pulverized and laying on a black sand beach somewhere...


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 Plate tectonics & Volcanoes

We learned a lot about volcanoes during our unit...How they grow, what comes out of them, but one question really remained: why are there so many volcanoes in some areas and none in others? It's a tricky question for the younger crowd but with the help of some creme sandwich cookies, it somehow seemed easier to explain...Thus, a big thank you to Prof. Lillie at Oregon State for providing an excerpt of his book into which he explains how plate tectonics work with the help of the delicious cookies. 
I started with a simple flat map of Earth stating that Earth's surface is like a big puzzle of 7 big pieces and several smaller ones. These pieces are called plate tectonics. These can and do move. Most of the time, we don't feel them shifting but sometimes we do; for example, there might be an earthquake! Of course, earthquakes, like volcanoes happen more in some places than others. Looking at the first plate tectonic map, I asked my son to point out our location. Ah, we were not close to any of the lines called plate tectonic boundaries. The boundaries is where most of the movement of the Earth is felt. For example, the plates sometimes grind together or pull apart. Now was the time to bring in the yumminess!
We pretended each cookie represented Earth's mantle (hard crust on top, softer mantle in the middle, lower harder mantle in touch with the liquid core of the planet at the bottom). The first cookie simply allowed me to show that a plate can slide around. They are not tight fitting. There is wiggle room. Then came a second cookie to represent a divergent plate. I broke the top, pushed it in the cream a bit and up again and left a crack. We now had a ridge. Iceland has lots of those! How many are deep enough to even let magma through? We moved on to the second plate; a transform plate. Broke the top of my cookie and made one piece grind against the other. This grinding gives us many earthquakes. A bit of the West Coast in the U.S.A. is located at the boundary of a transform plate. No wonder there are so many earthquakes in California! Finally, the last type of plate is the one that was most interesting for our study: the convergent plate, located pretty much all over the Ring of Fire... This cookie was fun. I cracked the top in two and slid one piece under the other broken piece. It did touch the bottom cookie and broke it too...allowing imaginary magma to come to the surface from the liquid core of Earth...
We now knew how plates work, where they are and why volcanoes happen more in some areas. With the plate tectonic maps, Adrian was able to locate lots of volcano sites... and assumed the volcanic islands not at boundaries were born from hot spots. Hello Hawaii and the Canary Islands!

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Ring of Fire Map & Highlighting

Adrian being the volcano lover that he is, he's known for a while that some areas are more prone to others to being host nations. Having explored tectonic plates, I wanted him to discover what effect these really had on the development of volcanoes so I printed a map of the famous Ring of Fire in black and white, showing where the volcanoes are (would provide link but it's already broken...). Adrian then had to "find" the Ring of Fire by highlighting the possible corridor. Of course, he didn't want to leave Hawaii and Easter Island behind so he covered those parts too but overall, he really did find the ring. Then, comparing with the plate tectonic boundary map, I asked him if these volcanoes had developed due to hot spots or due to tectonic plate movements. Without a doubt, he answered that these were located at the boundaries of various plates. These were caused by convergent plates shifting.

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Location & Status of the Decade Volcanoes

Sixteen volcanoes have been identified as particularly interesting by the IAVCEI. Apparently, these volcanoes should be known to the public and more closely monitored because of their location (close to populated areas) and because of their potential for destruction (they tend to be very destructive). Using a map providing the location of each of these volcanoes, Adrian and I work together to identify the current status of each as of right now. Adrian was very excited to work on this. We went through the map by continent/country and then, color-coded by status (VolcanoDiscovery is great to check out statuses and much more!). It was good geography work. Once the map was completed, we played a little game where I'd ask him to tell me how many of the decade volcanoes are erupting today or how many decade volcanoes are located in Africa, and so on.

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Volcano Eruption Experiment

Active volcanoes are spectacular to watch for kids. Whether it's a picture, a video or even in real life, it's simply fascinating for them. Being that we live far from most active volcanoes, I resorted to prepare our own! That is something we did last year during dinosaur week so it wasn't going to be new but it was so well received last year that surely, Adrian wouldn't mind...and he didn't. Neither did his sister. I prepared the volcano as I did last year, following Beth's instructions but going a bit heavier on the soap this time (hehehe). Adrian loved making the volcano erupt himself several times and he and his sister loved having the dinos join in the fun.

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Playing with the bin

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Melted Wax Crayon Volcano Craft on Canvas

Of course one piece of art for such an extensive unit was not going to cover for it so we tried this one as suggested by Ms. Lemons. I purchased a small canvas for the kids and let them paint a nice sky and ground with tempera paints and we let it dry overnight. The next day, we picked four "lava-colored" crayons and taped them to our landscape using masking tape. It was now time to make the volcano erupt. With the use of a hair dryer, we melted the crayons. It didn't take that long. It's a slow start but once it's going, it's flowing! I let my oldest try with the hair dryer but he thought it was a bit too noisy and heavy and preferred to cover his ears while I melted the crayons under his fascinated eyes. He somehow did not believe this would work! :) While the wax cooled, the kids each drew a cone shaped volcano on a small paper bag and cut it. Once the wax was completely cooled, we glued it to our crayons and landscape. This craft was, to this day, one of my son's favorites. He is asking to melt more crayons almost everyday now! :)

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Famous German Volcanoes

Of course when studying a topic as fascinating as volcanoes, children will often wonder if there are such "mountains of fire" close to them. My son had asked and I thought I'd prepare a small booklet of Germany's Top 3 volcanoes for him. In the folder, he found a map showing where each volcano was but also where he lives as well as a file for each volcano. Together, we read a bit about each to find out their status and type.

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Field trip to a German Volcano!

"Visiting" a volcano will of course not be possible for everyone but if it is, it makes for a wonderful field trip. My son was oh-so-happy to hike to the top of this very extinct volcano and see all these basalt rocks. Even better, he got to bring one back and the one he picked clearly shows the path the lava went 24 millions years ago! 

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Adrian in front of a basalt column

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A volcanic lunch

To complete your unit, what's better than an "eruptive" luncheon? Sandwiches are rarely served here because leftovers are usually what's for lunch but when nothing's left, soups and sandwiches are usually the fillers. During our volcano unit, the sandwich was not just any sandwich: it was a volcano; an active one with a ketchup and cheddar cheese lava on a bed of fresh lettuce. Needless to say, the sandwiches had never been so appealing! :)


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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Volcano Unit for Kindergartners - Part 1

Shortly after my boy fell in love with dinosaurs, he started associating them with volcanoes. It really seemed like every book he looked at combined them both when trying to illustrate one. Now last year, his focus was really onto the Stegosaurus and Triceratops but this year, it started shifting a bit. Curiosity had grown and he just had to know a little bit more about these mountains of fire standing in Argentinosaurus's background. Of course this unit was entirely unplanned but these can also turn out to be the most fun as we all know. Even younger sister Zahavah, a mere toddler, squealed at the many demonstrations she saw and demanded to take part into most crafts. Here I share with you all today, some of "stuff and fluff" we went through during our study of volcanoes. Enjoy!

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Volcano or Mountain?

What is a Volcano? After gathering some thoughts, my son's final answer was that volcanoes were mountains shaped like a cone spitting out lava. From then on, we discussed whether some volcanoes sometimes stopped spewing lava and simply looked like mountains. To this he agreed. But were all mountains volcanoes then?  My son was pretty sure they weren't. With a set of pictures printed from the Internet, he went on to sort volcanoes from mountains. Mount Kilimanjaro was the only one mistaken for a mountain (who can blame him?). Once this work was finished, I explained that a volcano really is only a crack into the Earth's surface; a crack that allows magma to come through.

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Paricutin is Born - A Read & Measure Story

But just how do volcanoes grow? They are born from an opening into the Earth's crust but how fast do they grow and how do they build up from a simple fissure? For this, we read an eyewitness's account of a volcano birth. My son was impressed to hear that someone had seen with their eyes a volcano start from a crack and then went on to grow right then and there. He loved hearing about the smells and noises that came with the birth of Paricutin. Once we finished reading Dioniso Pulido's story, we used a measuring tape to see how much the volcano had grown in front of that man and then, well, the tape wasn't long enough to cover for even the next 24 hours! :) 

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Birth &  Growth of a Volcano

Now that we knew how Paricutin had grown from a crack to a big cinder cone volcano, it was time to learn more as to what exactly made it grow... Per an idea seen on I.Science Mate, I used a cereal cardboard box to pre-make two volcanoes: a well-known stratovolcano and a simple fissure (poked a hole in the cardboard) aka a volcano being born. With some shaving cream, I demonstrated how the magma came to the surface of the Earth through the crack (hole poked, pushing cream through from underneath). As the cream accumulated, our newly born volcano started to grow and to build up. The "lava" was piling up. We did not really enter the details but I did mention the occurrence of lava bombs, ash, tephra and such coming out as well. As for the stratovolcano, well, I chose to demonstrate with that one as well to show that even big volcanoes will keep building up and will only get bigger as they erupt time after time. I also explained the role gas played into the expelling of the magma. After all, volcanoes do stop erupting at some point (well, most of them do at least...)

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Types of Volcanoes and Playdough Volcanoes

Having looked at different pictures of volcanoes, my son was well aware that not all volcanoes looked alike. It was time to talk about the three main types of volcanoes. We knew how they were born, we knew what made them  grow but we did not know why they grew differently. Did it have anything to do with their eruption style? Gas levels? Magma viscosity? Yes indeed! With some logic, we were able to determine that shield volcanoes were gentle "erupters" since they did not have the "traditional cone shape" and that their lava must have been very runny to spread so far and create such long and large volcanoes. On the opposite spectrum, a stratovolcano had to be explosive and shoot up in the air to produce such a cone. The magma also had to be thick and sticky to stay up on the "cone mountain". But what about a cinder cone? An "in betweener"? Sort of. A bit explosive...Actually kind of runny lava. Main difference? Gas levels! Once we sorted it all, the major hands-on fun began: making all three types of volcanoes using play dough and if desired...pipe cleaners for eruptions! Learn more about the three types of volcanoes here and here.

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Lava Viscosity Demonstration

Is mama making a mess? Oh did the kids love this one! All this food making a mess on the floor! It certainly triggered a lot of laughing...and it was all in the name of science. Earlier in the week we had talked about magma being of different thickness and lava traveling at different speeds, thus participating in the creation of various shapes of volcanoes.  For this demonstration, I gathered, 5 liquids (all representing lava), a thick sheet of paper (usually for fingerpainting) and a huge plastic tray (usually for fingerpainting as well but I turned it around and taped the sheet to it) which I inclined and put  a taped mark on the floor in case it shifted during the demo. One after the other, the substances were poured from the same spot on top of the sheet at about the same speed. Which was the fastest "lava"? Which was the slowest? Was it the one you thought prior to the experiment? Some actual lava is sticky and runny like honey apparently. Wouldn't want to be around that volcano when it erupts but I'd run faster if it were a "milky" eruption!  

Substances used (all in the same quantity!):
Honey
Olive Oil
Ketchup
Corn Syrup
Milk

Once more looking at the shapes of our volcanoes, it seemed like shield volcanoes could very well fit the "milk" kind of lava...Spreading kind, the kind that creates islands! :)

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3D Volcano Craft

Although it will take you several hours/days to complete this volcano craft (depending on your drying time), it is, as you can see, well worth it. The process is very hands on and enjoyable for children and the product is just as great. Start with a thick sheet of paper or even a cardboard. Have your child draw a basic cone shape volcano or any other volcano shape he/she'd like for that matter. Once that is done, time to cut in 4 pieces several sheets of toilet paper. These will then be scrunched into little balls and dipped into slightly watered-down liquid glue to finally be pressed into the drawn volcano shape. When everything is dry, more of that glue should be painted over the volcano so that later on, the paint can be spread easily. When everything is dry, the sky can be painted (we used watercolors) and finally, the volcano itself (we used dark grey tempera). When all is dry, "lava" can be added using Q-tips and red-orange tempera paint. Let dry again and apply (for fun and extra effect) some red and gold glitter glue. The craft seen above was entirely made by my 5.5 year old. My 3 year old made hers as well and hers was just as nice. She didn't paint the sky entirely (got tired) but thoroughly loved every minute of the volcano craft creation. Original idea: Our Worldwide Classroom.

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Are Volcano Eruptions a Good Thing or Not?

Needless to say to a child who loves volcanoes, volcanoes are spectacular! Of course, Adrian being 5, he also knows that volcanoes come with their share of problems. The goal of this activity was for Adrian to sort through 8 effects of volcanoes and decide whether it was a positive or negative effect. Not problems with the sorting whatsoever, even if some were more obvious than others.


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Parts of a Volcano - 3 part cards

Haven't done 3 part cards in a while it seems. Couldn't resist this freebie from The Helpful Garden though. It helped reinforced the concept of volcano vent, crater, magma chamber and other terms we used during the unit so I was happy when I found them! :) 

Looking for more volcano activities? Of course you are! Part 2 of this volcano unit should be published soon! :)


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