Saturday, January 28, 2006

Behind the News

Our family had an interesting experience this past Wednesday. We got to watch my brother-in-law and his family on the national tv news. They live 12 hours away and we don't see them often, so it was nice to see the kids in motion. All week NBC had been doing a series on the "sandwich generation" - baby boomers with kids who were taking care of one or both parents. That's where how the news is made started to become revealed to us...Andrew and his wife aren't baby boomers, they were born after 1964.100_1425.JPG

As the 180 seconds of the story played out it appeared to us as if the story was written before the reporter had ever met them. The intro was pure fiction, they never thought about the kitchen table in regard to planning for a family. The interview with the psychologist was done BEFORE the filming with Andrew. So, his comments are not in reponse to them, but generic comments that were carefully placed into the piece.

At one point the reporter steps of the front porch of a home. A home you would assume was Andrew's, unless you had been there. Apparently they had a certain look they were going for in that shot and, well, Andrew's home didn't have the white picket fence thing they wanted. No problem, they just drove around the neighborhood and filmed the shot from someone else's front porch - the residents weren't even at home.

It was hours of shooting over an evening and morning which was edited down to about 3 minutes. Of course one isn't compensated for all that time - but you do prioritize cleaning the house when a news crew is coming, so that was a nice benefit.

We are proud of them, not just in how they carry themselves off in the piece, but in the ways they care for Bill every day. Here's the link to the transcript with a link to video.

What does yeast eat?

So, how do we measure how much carbon dioxide is being produced by yeast? Well, we don't measure it absolutely but we can compare how much yeast is being produced by one sample relative to another sample.

Here's what we did:
Put equal amounts of warm water (115F) and the substance being tested into a clean soda bottle. Add 2 teaspoons of yeast and put a balloon on top. They will look like this.
As long as the balloons are the same size you can compare how much CO2 gas is coming off of the mixture. In 15 minutes or so you should have some filling up and looking more like this:
We tried grated apple, grated potato, sugar, salt and flour. My K'er drew pictures of the balloons at different points in time; that was the measuring part for her. Guess which things the yeast will eat and why, emphasize only changing one thing at a time (water temp, amount of yeast, water and testing material stays the same) and you'll have yourself an honest to goodness science experiment! And from that smile you can tell - it's even fun.

If you give it a shot, let us know your results!
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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Learning in the Kitchen

As I've mentioned it is science fair time. For the next couple of days we tackle the kindergartener's project. She'll be finding out what yeast eats.

Today we read a little bit about how bread is made, talked about the ingredients and observed that there were lots of tiny little holes in bread. Then we took half a cup of very warm water and mixed in a teaspoon of sugar. On the top we sprinkled 2 teaspoons of yeast. After about 3 minutes we took a spoon and played with the bubbles on top. Wow! There were tons of them. I explained a little bit about fermentation to Sadie (although I didn't use that word at first). The yeast "eats" the sugar and makes a gas called carbon dioxide. She took a sniff and then a little taste. I explained to her that the bad taste was the other thing the yeast makes when it eats the sugar, alcohol. We came up with a few things to test to see what else yeast eats - flour, salt, honey, apples and potatoes.

I'll show you how we measure the carbon dioxide tomorrow. In the meantime, take a look at the story of yeast and other experiments you can do.
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Friday, January 20, 2006

Happy Chinese New Year

Nine days until the first day of Chinese New Year, but the UPenn museum has their annual celebration tomorrow, Saturday Jan 21st. All the details are here and I have it listed on the calendar. I don't think we will make it this year as we are deeply involved in science fair time. It has been science fair all week this week with my 10 year old. She's trying to find Fibonacci numbers in fruit. Turns out that there are about and equal number of Fibonacci numbers in the seeds of fruit and the sections of fruit. But, non-citrus fruit always had a Fibonnacci number in the number of sections. (In the ones she's tested.)

But back to Chinese New Year. For the last two years our family has put together a little shadow puppet show to perform at a Chinese New Year party for children adopted from China in our church.
Last year was the year of the rooster and we adapted a Romanian folk tale from a book (The Impudent Rooster) written by an old friend from college. This picture shows a scene. We gave the rich man a Chinese name and instead of eating corn mush, the peasant ate rice. This year is the year of the dog and I've found a tale that explains why dogs and cats don't like each other. That's the easy part. Making all the puppets can be a challenge. As we use a razor blade for the cutting, I do that and my 10 year old colors them and attaches the sticks to control them. My husband tells the story. My 8 yo son provides percussion interludes and my 5 yo daughter usually gets to move one of the minor characters while the oldest and I operate the other puppets. So, it is a real family affair. In 2004 we used the Ed Young book The Rooster's Horns. If you want to make your own shadow puppet theater to celebrate Chinese New Year he'll tell you how to do it and even provide patterns (that are easy enough to cut with just a scissors). Why not invite a few friends, order some Chinese food and make it a party?

Chun jie kuai le!

Monday, January 16, 2006

An Unusual Craft

Originally uploaded by Fieldlearning.
At last year's farm show I was intrigued by the PA Gourd Society's booth, but only picked up a paper announcing an upcoming show. This year we spent a little time talking with a gourd enthusiast. (I made that name up, I don't know what they call themselves.)

She showed us many different gourds including a rainstick made with a snake gourd and this lovely South American gourd. It is small, about 4 inches in diameter, and all across the surfaces designs are scratched depicting life in the village. Part of what I enjoy about craft is learning what it reflects about the culture from which it comes. I hope my children are beginning to appreciate that as well.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006


Originally uploaded by Fieldlearning.
The high school rodeo competition is a must see event for us at the Farm Show. This year we waited til the evening competition. There is no admission to the event (although some of the entrances are reserved for VIPs) so get there early if you want a seat. As you can see from the picture, our seats were rather high; we arrived about 10-15 min early.

For almost an hour and a half we watched high schoolers ride horses around barrels, or ride bulls, or bucking broncos or tie up a goat (girls) or calf (guys). It doesn't look fun, but it is fun to watch. I didn't know rodeo was big in PA until I started watching this. A most different flavor than the mainline horse shows, but just as serious. Of course, the kids have purchased their requisite cowboy hats (in black, blue and pink) to wear to all future rodeo events!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Something to try at home?

Originally uploaded by Fieldlearning.
Butter sculpture at ag fairs has been popular since the 1920's. Every year the PA Farm show has one. Built and sculpted on a metal frame in a refrigerated case it is considered contaminated and destroyed after the show. Jim Victor from Conshohoken is a sought after food sculptor; he works all over the country. It is facinating to imagine 1000 pounds of butter (donated by Land O'Lakes) turned into a work of art. But if you live in PA you don't have to imagine, just get to the Farm Show by Saturday!

Read about Jim's 2004 Farm Show sculpture of Milton Hershey with 2 cows in chocolate and butter here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ahh! Peach Tea!

Originally uploaded by Fieldlearning.
On a practical note, how do you find bathrooms, drinks and food at the farm show?

Well, the drinks and food are easy to come by but can be very expensive. Since we are cheap folks, who refuse to pay $3 for a bottle of water, we have learned to tough it out until we find water fountains or beverages within budget!

Okay, we haven't really learned to tough it out; it became obvious on Saturday. We were all thirsty, very thirsty, so thristy that we began to care more about our thirst than each other. We knew where there was cider by the gallon but it was at the other end of the complex and we needed drinks now! After an arguement about who should have brought water bottles if they wanted access to water wherever they were, and who should have stopped looking at sheep hair so we could go get the cider, we called a truce and started toward the cider.

We went back into the main exhibit hall and took a few steps to the left. Well, what do you know, this year they have a mini-food court in the exhibition hall. And look at that, Turkey Hill Peach Tea for $1!! Sadly, we were still too mad to laugh at our anger. But after half a bottle of tea we found ourselves to be ridiculous and had a good laugh! God allowed the lack of tea to show us what was inside, and then proved his goodness by providing what we needed both practically and spiritually.

Farm Show tips of the day: bring your own water, bathrooms are in the center of the main exhibition hall and near the
maple display in the food court, go while there. (There are others, but use these while you are there.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fancy Show Chickens

Originally uploaded by Fieldlearning.
One of our favorite areas is the poultry. The birds are easy to see (not hiding in a stall) even for little people, and it is the least stinky. The poultry area also has a few displays just for kids - a duck pond where you can see the cutest little yellow ducklings and a display of incubated chicks at various stages of hatching.

The variety of chickens, ducks and geese is better than most zoos and although, of course you should not touch them, they are so close you could. More poultry pics at my Flickr.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Do you know where your tractor is?

Originally uploaded by Fieldlearning.
It's at the Farm Show of course! We went to the 90th Anniversary of the PA Farm Show on Saturday. I'll be blogging about things we saw until we get around to do ing something else interesting. If you want a sneak peak go right to my flickr by clicking on the picture.

Although it was later in the day, we did make the requisite detour to the tractor area. Even my 10 year old girl still gets excited about sitting on a big green, blue or red tractor. (Why no other colors?) What educational value can there be in that? Well, the actual sitting on the tractor part, not much. Unless they notice the pedals and gear shifts and gauges. They might also ask what this huge machine is used for. Or maybe if they are five they see a familiar shape, namely an "E" that is part of their name!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Free 2006 Astronomy Guidebook

Always on the lookout for great free resources, I think this one is worth the bandwidth to download (although I'd like to see them offer it in paper form from lulu).

I'm waiting for word from homeschoolblogger friend Jay from Cleveland to give his opinion. (He's a bonofide astro expert.)

In the meantime, you can browse this pdf book with information about an object in the sky and usually a little astronomical history thrown in for every day of the year. I like the format and the bit I've read is interesting and engaging. But you'll need definitely need access to a telescope for most of the objects.

It is written by Tammy Plotner and found at the Universe Today website. The direct link to the free book is here. I found out about it on a listserve from Bob Riddle, who has his own informative website of what is going on in the sky, Current Sky.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

10th, 11th, and 12th Days of Christmas

The 10th, 11th and 12th Days of Christmas have been cancelled due to illness. Spent the entire day in bed today. Eldest daughter was there, sick as well. We have to make sure we are better to go to the PA Farm show on Saturday!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas the Fieldlearning blog gave to me, nine websites about notable Pennsylvanians.

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, PA.

John James Audubon's first home in America was at Mill Grove, in what is now Audubon, PA.

President James Buchannan was born and raised in Pennsylvania.

Artist, Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny City and raised in Philadelphia.

President Eisenhower had a home and farm in Pennsylvania.

Robert Fulton
, inventor of the steam engine, was from Lancaster County.

Baseball great, Reggie Jackson was born in Wyncote, PA.

C.F. Martin established his guitar factory in Nazareth, PA. (They give tours!)

Fireworker Antonio Zambelli traveled from Italy in 1893 to establish the Zambelli Fireworks Manufacturing Company in New Castle Pennsylvania.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Eighth Day of Christmas

On the Eighth Day of Christmas the Fieldlearning Blog gave to me eight (or thereabout) websites about classical music.

Cincinnati Classical Public Radio has a wonderful radio show for children about composers and classical music. You can listen to the show on-line (anytime- they are only about 10 minutes long) and there are downloadable lesson plans. Want to know what a dulcimer sounds like (or any other instrument?) try this page on their site.

Read a story about Mozart on-line.

The Los Angeles Chamber Music Society has a nice little area with on-line activities.

Try the New York Philharmonic's Kid Zone where you can learn about composers, instruments or compose your own minuet and send it to a friend! (How cool is that?)

Read a short little piece about a homeschooled pianist who entered college at 16 and listen to him play some pieces.

From the Top (the site that had the piece about the pianist) is a great show featuring young musicians. The host interviews them as well, which shows that despite their exceptional musical gift they are regular kids.

I've mentioned this in a past post, but Naxos Radio would be a great way to get all the classical music you want for only 9.95 per year via the internet. If you want to pick exactly what you want to listen to you should go to their home website and subscribe to listen to their library of music (7000 recordings) for $19.95 or listen for free (but only to 25% of a track). (I don't receive anything for plugging this, I just think it is a nice option.)

Seventh Day of Christmas

Forgive me while I catch up on the days of Christmas - I was outside DC for a few days visiting family!

On the Seventh Day of Christmas the Fieldlearning blog gave to me seven websites about words.

Merriam-Webster On-line
has some neat features, including audio pronunciation, a word of the day subscription and a new dictionary for teens and adults learning English as a Second Language.

The American Heritage dictionary has words indexed by whether or not they have notes in certain catagories like: word histories and synonyms.

If you really need to know a word history, try here or here (a monthly word origin webzine).

Onto the Eighth Day!