Monthly Archives: May 2017

Fun and Games: Science Activities for Kids, Part 2

This was a blog I originally did for the lovely Darlene Beck-Jacobson that was originally posted in two parts – part one is here. I know summer is almost in full swing, so here’s some more ideas to keep your mind active over the school break . Check out Darlene’s blog here.


– Egg Geodes Experiment (from tinkerlab.com):

You will need:

  • Eggs
  • Rock Salt
  • Sea Salt
  • Borax*
  • Other substance that could be tested for crystallization such as sugar, epsom salts, cream of tartar, baking soda, or alum*
  • Mini-muffin pan
  • Food Coloring

* Borax and alum are not food products, and using these ingredients with small children should be closely monitored, as ingestion can be fatal. Please use common sense and close supervision with such substances.

Procedure:

  1. Tap a knife around the top of the eggs to remove a bit of shell, and then empty the eggs and clean them with water. Using a finger, it’s important to gently rub around the inside of the egg to remove the membrane because the membrane can discolor crystals as they form.
  2. If you happen to have a mini-cupcake pan, it’s like they were made for this job.
  3. Heat a pot of water (not quite boiling) and then pour 1/2 cup into a mug. Add 1/4 cup of kosher salt into the first mug and mix it until it dissolves.
  4. In the next mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup sea salt. The sea salt dissolves quickly, so you may want to add a bit more. The idea is to saturate the solution without putting in too much of the dry ingredient.
  5. And then the final mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup borax. Dissolved.
  6. Add a couple drops of food coloring to each mug to differentiate between the solutions. Make a chart so you can keep track.
  7. Pour the liquid into the eggs. Each solution made just enough to pour into two eggs. Perfect!
  8. And then you wait. 5  days for the liquid to mostly evaporate. Salt crystals will start to evaporate through the egg shell to create the geode.

– Elephant Toothpaste (from navigatingbyjoy.com):

You will need:

  • 6% Hydrogen peroxide (1/2 cup)
  • Yeast (1 tsp)
  • Hot water (2 tbsp approx) in a small dish
  • Food colouring
  • Washing-up liquid (dish soap)
  • Empty soda/water bottle (small)
  • Tray to stand the bottle on to catch the foam
  • Funnel (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the bottle
  2. Mix the yeast into the water
  3. Add the washing up liquid and food colouring to the hydrogen peroxide in the bottle
  4. Add the yeast mixture to the bottle
  5. Stand back and admire the reaction!

– Oobleck! (from housingaforest.com): If you have never made it before, Oobleck is a mixture of cornstarch and water.  When played with fast it acts like a solid…when allowed to relax it acts like a liquid.

You will need:

To make the oobleck: about 2 cups of Corn Starch to 1 cup of water

To make the oobleck dance:

  • Subwoofer
  • a thin metal cookie sheet
  • a MP3 of an audio test tone ~ you will have to play a bit to see what works best with your equipment.
  • Food Coloring

Procedure:

  1. Place the cookie sheet onto the speaker of the sub, and pour in the Oobleck.
  2. You can download different test tones and play to see what works best for you.  We used 40 Hz, 50 Hz, and 63 Hz, and found that we needed to turn the volume way up.  We tried a number of different frequencies but these three seemed to work the best.  We did a search for subwoofer test MP3.  There are a number of different sites that you can use.
  3. Before you play the MP3 you will need to place your fingers on the edge of the cookie sheet with gentle pressure.  It took a bit of playing to see what worked the best, but the results were amazing.
  4. We decided to add food coloring to see what would happen.  I love how the colors dance together and you can see all the layers of each color.  This was the kids favorite part!

Tips and Tricks:

  • A thicker consistency of Oobleck works best.  Although with that said you don’t want it too thick.  We used a ratio of 2:1 (cornstarch to water).
  • If your oobleck is not dancing, you may need to change the volume on your subwoofer.  You can also try digging your finger in Oobleck to start the movement.  In the video the kids do it a few times just to get everything started.
  • Keep experimenting until you get it to work.  Honestly we played around for a bit until it worked for us.  Everyone will be working with different equipment so what worked for us might be a little different for you.

EVEN MORE fun science-y things can be found on these websites:

lemonlimeadventures.com: blog from a mom passionate about being able to share her relatable successes and struggles with the world. There’s more than just science stuff here, but search the tag “Science Saturday” to pull up everything science-related.

stirthewonder.com: activities and games for toddlers and preschoolers along with teaching tools for parents and educators

pbskids.org/zoom: Site for the PBS Kids show, ZOOM, which features activities and games by kids and for kids. Also has resources for parents and teachers.

fun-a-day.com: meaningful and fun learning activities for kids

igamemom.com: games for learning for kids of all ages!

learnplayimagine.com: outdoor activities, indoor activities, and so much more

growingajeweledrose.com: blog with fun and educational activities for kids

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The Dark Prophecy Review

trials_of_apollo_2The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-1484746424

Synopsis: After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Somewhere in the American Midwest, he and his companions must find the most dangerous Oracle from ancient times: a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again–if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate, a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame. To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of son of Hephaestus Leo Valdez, the now-mortal sorceress Calypso, the bronze dragon Festus, and other unexpected allies–some familiar, some new–from the world of demigods. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book in this series, so I was hoping the second would help me come around.

Why I finished it: Mkay, so, Apollo is still annoying. A little bit less annoying, but still annoying. He seems to have developed a little bit of a conscience, but he’s still just as self-centered and selfish as he was when we wasn’t an acne-plagued teenager. Riordan delves a little more into the mythology of the Hunters of Artemis, introducing the reader to Britomartis the goddess of nets and traps. We also get a glimpse at some of Apollo’s past mistakes – leaving his son Trophonius to die, killing Commodus after giving him his blessing – and it helps to fuel the plot. The cast of characters continues to grow, adding two former and a handful of current Hunters, Lityerses the son of Midas, and former emperor Commodus, who is bent on killing both Apollo and Meg. As the stakes continue to stack themselves against Apollo and Meg, it looks like it will take a miracle from the gods in order to save them. The plot is much more fast-paced than the previous book, and Riordan manages to up the ante for our heroes in a big way. I am happy to say that I have warmed up to this series a little bit more and I’m eager to see if Apollo succeeds in his mission.

Other related materials: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian Review

artemis_fowl_8Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl, Book 8) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2012. 978-1423161615

Synopsis: Having been cured of his Atlantis Complex, Artemis is released to find that the fate of the world is yet again at stake – thanks to an elaborate plan masterminded by none other than Opal Koboi. Using dark magic, she has awakened the dead warriors that once found on the grounds that are now the Fowl Family Estate and plans to use the dormant magic of the estate to destroy humanity. As things go from bad to worse, Artemis, Holly, Butler, Mulch, and Foaly race to find a solution that will be able to save the world once more.

Why I picked it up: Final Showdown. Cue the music.

Why I finished it: This is, of course, the ultimate showdown we were hoping for and didn’t really get much of a lead up to in the previous installment: a battle of wits so intense that the fate of the world rests on which genius can outwit the other. Thankfully, Artemis is back in his right mind and so his genius is on full display. Opal is still the evil genius she ever was, but her character has grown sort of tired now that she has had to execute large portions of her revenge herself. Even the Berserker spirits she bonds have a strong desire to maim her. The plot is a good blend of action and strategization, and Colfer uses this last book as an opportunity to showcase some of the other secondary characters that were previously mentioned in name only: Caballine and Mayne, Foaly’s wife and nephew. It was refreshing to me to have that character development, even though this is the last novel in the series and so it appears this is the only little bit the reader will get. I liked Caballine and the reader can easily understand how well matched she is with Foaly. What he lacks in brawn, she more than makes up for with her own study of martial arts; and she has a quick-witted mind to boot. Mayne is just as annoying as previously described in previous books, but he still has a function within the context of the larger story. Artemis’s final solution to saving the world is both bold and selfless, characteristics that the reader might not have used to describe Artemis on our first meeting but we see that he has certainly grown into a more compassionate individual. It’s a magnificent end to such an epic series, and while I am sad to see Artemis go, I’m looking forward to one day reliving the adventures of the boy genius again.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4) by Eoin Colfer; The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) by Eoin Colfer; The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer; The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7) by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano, colors by Paolo Lamanna; Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf by Eoin Colfer; W.A.R.P.  books by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Max Powers and Project Gemini by Keith Philips; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

 

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Feature Presentation: How To Train Your Dragon 2

dragon_2How To Train Your Dragon 2 starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kirsten Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harrington, Kieron Elliot, Phillip McGrade, Andrew Ableson, and Gideon Emery

Dreamworks Animation/Mad Hatter Entertainment, 2014. Rated PG.

Synopsis: It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. – from Twentieth Century Fox

Dragon 2 has everything we loved about the first film and then some. I’m willing to admit that it isn’t better than the original, but I appreciated that it expanded the world and the characters that were established in How To Train Your Dragon. The world has gotten a lot bigger now that the Vikings have the dragons to travel around and beyond the boundaries of the island, and with a larger knowledge of the world comes new discoveries and complications. Hiccup is still struggling with the notion of doing the right thing, this time in regard to whether he will become the chief his father Stoic wants him to be and if he can solve a conflict without it resulting in an all out war between tribes. Hiccup is more of a man of words while his father is heavier on the action, resulting in a clash between the father and son that helps fuel the plot. He has enough daring and tenacity to go again what Stoic wants, and yet Hiccup knows that he can rely on his father to have his back when things start to get rough. We are introduced to a host of new dragons in this film of varying shapes, sizes, and colors that seem to lighten up a lot of the dramatic elements. I loved the bits with the baby dragons – sure, they don’t listen as Hiccup points out, but they are cute and their introduction becomes important toward the end of the movie. The bond of friendship is showcased once again between Toothless and Hiccup as well as between the other dragons and their riders. It makes us feel good to see such a strong connection between the Vikings and these potentially dangerous creatures and reminds us with the bond we have with our own friends and pets. It’s a fun family film with a heartwarming message and a well-balanced story.

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Zombie Mommy Review

zombie_mommyZombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2011. 978-1416986416

Synopsis: Not wanting any harm to come to her daughter, Mrs. Gefelty decides to take a vacation in Todburg, town of the Undead. She’s very concerned that Lily is going to end up sad and alone without a mother like one of the characters in all those assigned reading books she’s given at school. But upon her return, Lily finds that her mother isn’t actually her mother at all – she’s been possessed by a ghost who yearns to stage a stage and screen comeback that’s  (hundreds) of years overdue! Will Jasper’s new Astounding High-Pressure Holy Water Extruder Gun be enough to extract the ghost? How could Drgnan not realize that he and Katie were going out?! Is Katie’s cousin Madigan Westlake-Duvet part of the problem or part of the solution?

Why I picked it up: I’m enjoying the very serious degree to which this series takes its humor.

Why I finished it: If Agent Q was a spoof on spy novels, Zombie Mommy is a take on horror novels (evidenced at the start of Chapter 23, in which our author/narrator tells the reader this is, in fact, a horror novel. In case we hadn’t picked up on that in the previous 22 chapters.). The hilarity seems to ensue much faster than in the previous books, starting with the awkward conversation Lily and Mrs. Gefelty have about BOOKS and progressing to the rather haphazard journey Mrs. Gefelty takes to Todburg (which involves a lot of narrow escapes, mostly from a rather put-out tarantula). After a possessed Mrs. Gefelty’s return to Pelt, our heroes must go to Todburg themselves in order to investigate what exactly happened, in which more hilarity ensues – this time involving an unfunny comedian, the cast of Warm Bodies, and our same perturbed tarantula. I continue to be amused by the random footnotes and the wall breaks within the text that are likely intended to give the reader clarification, but the good intention is lost and the reader is left with a humorous anecdote instead. One particular gag involves Madigan’s clothing, which must be described in exact detail by a man who may or may not have his shirt on backwards. The action and the anecdotes are well timed, providing a sense of foreboding as well as hope that our heroes can find a way to exorcize the ghost inhabiting Mrs. Gefelty.  Cyrus’s illustrations continue to haunt and amuse the reader, using thick lines to give the art a somewhat gothic feel. Fans of the series will continue to enjoy the further adventures of Lily, Jasper, and Katie as they continue to fight for truth and knowledge…or something like that….

Other related materials: Whales on Stilts! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; He Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; Ungifted by Gordon Korman

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