Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Make a Waterwheel

Everything today runs on batteries and electricity, but let's face it, that just wasn't the case back in the good 'ol days. The Romans used waterwheels to as far back as the 4th century AD. The most popular application is at mills, grinding grain into flour.

To show my son what the power and force of moving water was capable of, we made a model of a waterwheel. 

This activity was surprisingly simple and requires supplies you probably have on hand.

Empty plastic spool of thread
One (two if small) plastic disposable cups
Duct (or heavy-duty masking) tape
Empty 2-liter soda bottle
Strong thread or dental floss
Metal washer
Scissors (or a craft knife to be used by adults only)
Plastic drinking straw

1. Cut a strip from the middle of the plastic cup(s) that is the same width as your spool of thread. Cut one rectangle from the strip about 1 1/4 inch from the cut edge. Use this rectangle as a pattern to cut rectangles of the same size from the strip until you have 6 rectangles. These are the blades of your wheel.

2. Tape the blades onto your spool making sure to evenly space them, and that all the blades are curved in the same direction.

3. Thread the drinking straw through the hole on the spool. Position the waterwheel in the middle of the straw and use more tape to secure the spool in place on either side with more tape. Set aside.

4. Now cut the top from your empty 2-liter bottle of soda. You can use the top of the label on the bottle as a guide for where to cut. You'll want to have a tall cylinder. (Note: Adults should help or do the cutting. This is tough!)

5. Adults: Poke holes in the bottle about 1 inch from bottom for drainage. I used a craft knife to do this.

6. Cut a V shape in the top of the cylinder. Cut another V directly opposite it.

7. Now tie a strand of heavy thread or dental floss that is about 12-15 inches long to one end of the drinking straw and tape in place so it doesn't slide around.

8. On the other end of the thread, tie a metal washer.

9. Now place the waterwheel's straw in the notches you made on the 2-liter and put the waterwheel under a facet.

10. Turn the water on slowly and watch the wheel turn, and the force of the water pull the washer up.


This great idea came from Kerrie Logan Hollihan's phenomenal book on Isaac Newton. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Counting Apples {Pegboard Practice}

If you've been following my blog recently, you've seen our pegboard. Some plywood and nails are all it takes to make a great study aid.

My sons love it, especially our 5 year old. We use it to practice matching upper and lower case letters quite a bit at night before bedtime stories. To mix it up, I thought I'd make him numbers pages using some fun apple graphics I made.

Download all three apple pegboard pages for free here from Google Drive.

Our youngest son enjoyed counting the red apples, green apple cores, leaves and apple seeds, and stretching rubberbands from each grouping to the right numeral.

Afterwards, we read some great books about apples and counting. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

25 Leaf-themed Activities for Kids (+ the After School Linky)

Fall is drawing near. When it's here, why not capitalize on all the beauty outdoors with some fun, creative, and educational activities? Here are 25 of my favorite leaf-themed ideas.


1. Make some leaf figures to use when singing the 5 Little Leaves rhyme (pictured above from Boy Mama Teacher Mama).
2. Create origami leaves (from Bloomize).
3. Make leaf rubbing plates to use again and again (from 5 Orange Potatoes).
4. Find the most stunning fall colors and preserve the leaves forever (from Mama Smiles).
5. Liquid watercolors and coffee filters make the perfect medium to recreate fall leaves (from Boy Mama Teacher Mama).
6. Teach kids about cubism and help them put the principles into practice with a leaf painting (from Kids Artists).


7. Quiz kids on their leaf IQ with these free printable identification cards (pictured above from Look! We're Learning!).
8. Use leaf rubbings to explain the parts of a leaf (from KC Edventures).
9. Look! Tree leaves breathe! This science experiment proves it (from Spoonful).

10. Collect a handful of leaves and give them to your child to find the matching tree (pictured above from A Mom with a Lesson Plan).
11. Collect leaves and have kids classify them using identification cards (from Two Little Seeds).
12. Why not explore chromatography and why leaves change color? (Both Almost Unschoolers and Scientific American have experiments to do just that.)
13. Give kids a free printable leaf book, hunt for specific species of trees, and make a rubbing of their leaves (from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational).


14. Play a game of Fall Leaves BINGO with this free printable (pictured above from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational).
15. Toddlers and preschoolers will love this simple (free printable) leaf matching game (from Mama Miss).
16. Play a game of memory with free printable photos of autumn leaves (from Mr. Printables).
17. Kids will love the challenge of matching leaves with their shadows (from Totschooling).


18. Have kids practice letter sounds, basic sight words, rhyming, identifying syllables, and so much more with a great free fall-themed activity pages (pictured above from This Reading Mama).
19. Make practicing letters fun with leaf shapes (from 123 Homeschool 4 Me).
20. Rhyming skills are put to the test with this Tree Word Game (from No Time for Flashcards).
21. Kids will love the activity pages Find the Ll’s, Ll Tracing, Leaf Sentence Writing, Leaf Statement Writing and more - including math (free from 3 Dinosaurs).
22. Children use fine motor skills to practice word families when they add leaves with beginning sounds to tree branches labeled with word endings (from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational).


23. Practice addition facts with artificial leaves and a free Math Fact Tree printable (pictured above from The Educators' Spin on It).
24. Study perimeter and area with leaves (from Our Journey Westward).
25. Make a grid with tape on the floor and have children sort and place leaves by color for a graphing exercise (from Little Giraffes). 

Last week's linky had loads of great ideas. Here are my five favorites.

1. Estimating the Circumference of an Apple from Gift of Curiosity.
2. Apple Pickin' Time Math Game from Boy Mama Teacher Mama.
3. Moon Shadow from Doodles and Jots.

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!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to Make an Electromagnet

My 9-year-old son's first science unit this year is electricity. While it's usually a struggle to get him to tell me about his school day, the reports about what he's learning in science roll off his tongue easily. No nagging required.

In summary, he's loving it.

To take his school lessons further at home, I snagged an amazing book  by Laurie Carlson. Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas has everything from a timeline to detailed biographical info and my favorite - 21 activities.

Making an electromagnet is one of them. Here's what we used and how we did it.

2-3 feet of ball wire (copper wire with a plastic insulated sheathing)
Large nail
Tape (optional)
C or D battery
small metal objects (paper clips, thumbtacks, etc.)
Scissors (or a wire stripping tool)

Wrap the wire around the nail making a coil, leaving four to six inches of wire extending from each end. Do your best to wrap it as tightly as you can.

Trim about 1/2 inch of the plastic covering from each end of the wire. If you have a wire stripping tool, use it (we did) or score with a pair of scissors and using your fingernails pull the plastic coating from the wire.

Now, if you've got tape handy, cut a long strip and use it to secure the battery to the table.

Hold the nail wrapped wire and pinch the ends of the wire so they touch both metal ends of the battery. DON'T TOUCH THE EXPOSED WIRE; as electric current passes through it, these ends will become hot.

Now take your small metal objects (we used safety pins) and see if the electricity in the battery has made the ends of the nail magnetic. What happens if the wire's connection with the battery is broken? Is the nail still a magnet? (Nope.)

Electromagnets played a significant role in Thomas Edison's inventions. He used them to separate premium iron from low-grade unusable iron ore, that was collected from the New Jersey mines he owned. His discovery of the electromagnetic wave lead to the invention of the radio in the 1890s.

Today, electromagnets are still at work in coin-operated vending machines!

Want another great book to read? We liked National Geographic Kids Level 2 reader Thomas Edison by Barbara Kramer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fall Leaves BINGO

We love a good BINGO game and with the temps dropping, leaves will soon be falling as well. To mix a little natural science lesson in with our play, I made a game that is perfect for autumn (which will be here before we know it).

What You Need
Game pieces such as buttons, coins, bottle caps, acorns, etc. (We used poker chips.)
10-page PDF (download it free from Google Drive here)
Paper cutter/scissors

The game I made contains 10 different types of tree leaves randomly arranged on six game cards. There are four pages of call cards that need to be cut apart and shuffled before play begins.

How to Play
The game is played like a traditional BINGO game. Players put a game piece on the FREE space and then on all spaces called as the cards are flipped over one by one. The first player with five in a row (vertical, horizontal or diagonal) wins!

For an alternative way to play, try black-out and see which player covers every space on their card first.

Books to Pair with the Game
We read some great fiction and non-fiction after playing a few rounds. Here are our picks.

Our 9-year-old son read Ellen Rene's science detectives book that described why the leaves change color. The book really expanded his vocabulary, explaining terms like photosynthesis and chlorophyll.

I read Leaves Fall Down to our 5-year-old. This fiction book provides a basic explanation of why the leaves turn. It was perfect for introducing the science concept to my little guy, without being too detailed or advanced.

Lastly, we all read Lucky Leaf. The book begins with a boy whose mother makes him abandon his video game to play outside. It felt like a page right out of my own playbook. There's no science in this book; it's pure whimsy. Both boys enjoyed it.
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