Friday, May 29, 2015

How to Make a Weather Vane

We have had some crazy weather here in the Midwest this spring: many days of rain, cooler-than-normal temps, and gusty winds. This activity was perfect for those blustery days.

Making a weather vane is a simple project; gathering supplies is the hardest part.

disposable dinner plate (a sturdy one) - an extra is optional
Small plastic food container with a lid (dig one of your recyclables)
sharpened pencil with an eraser
exacto knife
stick pin (like ones used for sewing)
plastic drinking straw
small rocks or glass baubles
hot glue
construction paper or cardstock
Compass (or smart phone)

Step 1
Draw two perpendicular lines on the bottom of the plate that intersect in its middle. I cut an extra plate in half to use as a template.

Step 2
Cut a small x shape in the middle of the bottom of your plastic food container using a craft knife (parents only). This will need to be big enough for a pencil to squeeze through, but small enough to hold it tightly in place.

Step 3
Place the container, lid-side down in the middle of the upside down plate and trace around it. In the four quadrants, write N, E, S, W for the cardinal directions, making sure to put them in the correct order.

Step 4
Add rocks or glass baubles to the container as weight. Add hot glue (parents only!) to the lid and secure it to center of the plate, using your traced line as a guide.

Step 5
Shove the sharpened pencil (lead first) into the center of the plastic container. Make sure it is straight.

Step 6
Pierce the center of the drinking straw with the stick pin.

Step 7
Put the pin into the eraser. Your straw should spin freely.

Step 8
Make small slits with scissors in the ends of the drinking straw. Cut a triangle and square shape from your heavyweight paper. Insert each into the slits on either end of the drinking straw.

Step 9
Take the weather vane outside. Use a compass to make sure your cardinal directions are aligned properly. 

Watch as the straw spins and the triangle shows you the direction the wind is blowing from.

We read two books as part of this activity. They helped explain the impact the wind has on our weather, instruments to measure wind speed, and various activities (flying kites, wind surfing, etc.).

I asked my sons why someone would need to understand wind direction and speed. Our oldest came up with lots of good answers, but his little brother (5 years old) wasn't sure. I asked him to punch the air. Then he made a fist and I put my hand around it. I told him to push. My hand provided resistance. "What if your fist was an airplane and my hand was the wind? Would it be harder to fly an airplane in the wind? Would you need to use more fuel?" This was a simple hands-on way for him to comprehend the invisible force of wind!

This activity was modified from

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Decoding the Runic Alphabet (Viking Facts Treasure Hunt)

My 9-year-old son loves codes, history, and treasure hunts. This activity combines all three.

When he got home from after school, I handed him a Viking Runes Encryption sheet and the first of six clues. 

Each clue contains facts about the life and times of Vikings as well as runes that required he decode them and a hint as to where to find the next clue.

Our oldest son read the clue at the bottom of each card allowed, giving his 5-year-old brother an opportunity to get in on the action, and guess the location of the next clue.

Clues lead them to our bathtub, my jewelry box, front door's deadbolt, refrigerator, games closet, and lastly our living room sofa. Click on the clue or encryption sheet to download my PDF free on Google Drive.

In the end, my eldest had to use the small runes in the corner of each clue to identify the location of his prize (couch), which he acquired after reading a wonderful graphic novel history book. (Think comic book meets ancient history!)

His prize was a punch card for free electronic (i.e. iPad or DS) minutes; our boys have to do chores to earn their time otherwise.

Want to make your own decoding treasure hunt? Print the encryption sheet and use it as a guide! To get kids ready for this activity, give them a fun interactive novel (think choose-your-own-adventure). I don't think I've ever seen our oldest son get so excited over a book before. He LOVED this!

My sons had so much fun with this activity and our oldest really liked the books I paired with it. After we were done, my oldest boy even wrote me a note using the Runic Alphabet that when decoded revealed "I love you." 

Monday, May 25, 2015

After School Linky (5-25)

Welcome to the party!

You can totally tell what I've got planned for my boys this summer by this week's favorite picks from last week: library visits, early reader/math skills, road trips ...

This summer is bound to be one of our best yet. Thanks to all of you for all the wonderful ideas and activities you share it's week. It's truly inspiring!

Ancient Civilization History Living Books at Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus.

5 Quick Ways to Learn Number Stories at Creative Family Fun.

Sight Word Safari at Books and Giggles.

The After School Linky is cohosted by
Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational

We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your learning week after school including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures that you are doing to enrich your children's lives after their day at school, home school, or on the weekend!

When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our after school button to include a link on your post or site! By linking up, you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board and feature an image on our After School Party in the upcoming weeks! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Marshmallow & Spaghetti Constellations

This is not our first constellations activity, and it likely won't be our last. I have always had a bit of a fascination with star-gazing and, truthfully, I hope to pass it on to my sons.

The boys had a blast with this; it combines space science and their love to build (aka the S and E in STEM). And did I mention, it provided the opportunity to eat marshmallows which we NEVER ever have in the house.

The kids were in heaven.

What You Need
Uncooked spaghetti noodles
Small marshmallows (I found some star-shaped ones on the shelf, which are probably seasonal)
A book of constellations

We used the book Constellations by Martha E. H. Rustad.

It had very little text, was simple enough for our 5-year-old to understand, and had pictures of the night sky with superimposed illustrations of what the constellations represented (because let's face it, no lady really looks like a sideways "W" like Cassiopeia). Our 9-year-old read it to his little brother.

When finished, they each picked a constellation -our oldest picked the little dipper and our youngest picked Orion. They used the book's illustrations as guides and broke various lengths of spaghetti noodles and stuck them into the star-shaped marshmallows.

This was such a fun, hands-on way to learn about constellations! I hope you'll try it with your kids.

This activity was adapted from the To Show Them Jesus blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Roll-the-Die Basketball

My 9-year-old son came up with this game. I'm not sure what the inspiration was, but we have had loads of fun playing it. It's simple enough for our youngest to play (age 5) and engaging enough that even parents will have fun.

This is a two-person game, or rather a two-team game. If you have more than two players, they can take turns rolling for their team.

What You Need
a die
paper and pen for score keeping

How to Play
Each player (or team if there are more than two players) must pick a team name.

For tip off, both players roll the die. The player with the higher number, gets the "ball" first and will therefore, roll again.

If he/she rolls a 1 or 2, it's a turnover and the other team gets the ball.

If they roll a 3, it's a free throw (1 point for the player/team that rolled, and then the other team gets the ball).

If the die reveals a 4 or 5, it's a 2-point shot (2 points for the player/team that rolled, and then the other team gets the ball).

If it's a 6, that's a 3-point shot (3 pts for the player that rolled, and then the other team gets the ball).

The first person/team to 20 points wins. Keep track of points with tally marks on a paper.

Extend play
Play to 30 points, instead of 20.

Keep track of turnovers with tally marks, as well as the points scored.

Make a bracket of teams and play games to see who makes it to the finals and wins!

This would be an excellent game to play at a restaurant while waiting for your order, or if you put the die inside a small lidded plastic container and shake to roll, it could even be a travel game for long car rides!
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