Author Archive

Hen and Chicks propagation

6/17
Posted by on June 23rd, 2018

FIVE Free Practice Maryland MVA Driver’s Tests

Remember going for your driver’s license? I don’t know about you, but I figured the road test would be a piece of cake. It was the written test that scared me. 

Guess what, Maryland people: you can take the practice written test for free, courtesy of your public library. In fact, the driving test site provides *five* free practice tests. And a test on signs. And signs and situations. Grab your library card and GO PRACTICE RIGHT NOW.

Link: https://montgomerymd.driving-tests.org/maryland/

Posted by on June 2nd, 2018

Math Mondays from Makezine

 

Link: https://makezine.com/tag/MathMonday/

I recently discovered Math Mondays from Makezine, which combines two things I think are required to make a great learning experience: hands on, with a practical application. Try making Escher’s famous Relativity from a single sheet of paper – go ahead, it really works!

Posted by on May 31st, 2018

Brain the Size of an Apricot

Me: “It’s time to go, now COME.”
Kid: “Mom, how come you’re giving me commands like I’m the dog?”
Me: “Because I’m operating under the assumption that if an animal with a brain the size of an apricot can follow these directions, surely you can, too.”

Posted by on May 24th, 2018

Build A Cell game!

Hey, check this out!

Build-A-Cell from Spongelab.

Posted by on February 24th, 2018

RSO Biology: Model of a Cell

3D model of an animal cell

3D model of an animal cell

Objective: Make a 3D model of a cell
Constraints: 10 kids, 30 minutes of class time

Got it.

The original project required Sculpey, which you have to bake. I found a great alternative: Plastalina, an oil-based modeling clay. No baking required, and it doesn’t dry out.  A multi-color pack is super cheap, I got mine from Michaels.

Materials:
Ping Pong ball
small fishbowl
1 multi-color pack of plastalina
clear polymer “gems” from the floral section

  1. Hydrate the polymer gems. I dumped mine in a gallon ziploc bag with a couple of cups of water and let it go overnight. My package was probably only 2 teaspoons of crystals before hydrating. It takes a couple of hours before they reach full size, so I suggest doing this in advance. When they’re ready, put the polymers in the fishbowl but don’t put additional water in yet. This is your cytoplasm.
  2. Take your ping pong ball and cut out a wedge-shaped piece. Basically, turn him into Pac-man (mouth WIIIIDE open). This is your nuclear membrane, so you need a cutaway opening big enough to show the DNA inside.
  3. A note about plastalina: it’s pretty stiff when you open the package, but if you knead it for a while it becomes pliable. It also will roll really, really, thin, so don’t be afraid to spread it out. If you keep it too thick, your pieces will be too heavy. THAT BEING SAID: knead some blue plastalina and then cover the exterior of your ping pong ball with a thin layer.
  4. Using your RSO guide, start making the various organelles. An excellent illustration guide can be found here: Blausen Medical Guide. Repeat this chant: “The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.” (It comes up again later. A lot.)
  5. When all your cell bodies are made, start suspending them in your fishbowl. A chopstick or the handle of a paintbrush is very handy here, to help position everything where you want it. Those free ribosomes can be sneaky!
  6. Once you have everything positioned the way you want, start adding water to the fishbowl. When you’re done, it should look like your cell bodies are all suspended in cytoplasm. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and enjoy!

Advance prep for a coop group: gather your materials and hydrate the gems overnight.

Posted by on February 24th, 2018

Mutant Bunnies

Posted by on February 12th, 2018

RSO Biology, Week 1

Our homeschool coop is teen-oriented. I rashly volunteered to offer a biology class for the high school students, since I was going to have to teach bio to my own 9th grader anyhow – I figured it would be more fun in a group. Our coop kids are a good bunch, for the most part.

I’d heard that the Real Science Odyssey biology curriculum level 2 could be used for high school, and that the author had posted extensively about how to use it in a coop setting.  I have read both posts, figured I could make the curriculum work, and away we go.

All my students were responsible for purchasing their own copies of the curriculum.  Our coop tech guru magically got us access to Google Classroom, so I made weekly postings about reading assignments and what papers they would need for each class.

Lecture: Characteristics of Living Things

Materials: a decent microscope (more on that later)

Because this was our first week back, half the class was given over to general housekeeping before we could get started on the book.  The idea of what constitutes “living things” does vary somewhat – some things everyone agrees on, but others are subject to interpretation. Ask a room of scientists whether or not viruses are living things, and sit back to watch the feathers fly.

She has a plot study scheduled for this week, but we pushed it off in favor of getting to know the microscope. 

About that microscope: What you get is, of course, going to be dependent on your needs and your budget. Particularly the budget.  If you’re working with middle- or high-school level, though strongly advise against purchasing the cheap “kid” microscope kits, particularly if you have a student with a reasonable interest in science.  Look on eBay or surf Camel Camel Camel for a decent quality student microscope – they can be had for under $50, and are well worth the purchase.  I’ve had good luck with AmScope, but other brands like Omax or Celestron make good products as well.

Posted by on September 12th, 2017

The dangers of Siri

Writing prompt: Disgruntled worker takes revenge by regularly sneaking into office of nemesis and using their voice activated remote controls to screw with their life (readjust household thermostat or lights, changing scheduled appointments, etc)

Posted by on June 8th, 2017

Cooking School for Kids: Chicken Paillard

Today’s menu: chicken sandwich wraps
Shopping list:
Chicken breasts
Panko bread crumbs
Egg whites
Salt, Pepper
cooking oil
lettuce/tomato/wrap filling other than your protein

Skill: paillard, touch testing meat for doneness, breading, panko crumbs

Kids seem to love chicken, so it would seem to be the obvious protein to teach. On the other hand, it can be frustrating as a teaching tool. The shape of a breast is incredibly uneven, sizing is unreliable. As a bonus, it’s the only food I can think of that, when cooked improperly, can be simultaneously raw AND overcooked. And what about cook time? A small breast can be done in 6 minutes, but a large one can take 6 minutes to a side.

So, let’s get to today’s lesson.

1) Uneven shape. The thickest part of a chicken breast can be as much as four times thicker than the thinnest portion. As a result, by the time the thickest part is safe to eat, the slender end may be approaching shoe leather. The fix: even out the thickness of the breast.

You will need:
a chicken breast
plastic cling wrap
something to pound with (I prefer a rolling pin, but you can use a small, heavy frying pan or an unopened can)

Directions:

Cut two pieces of plastic wrap, about 12″ to a side each. Place the chicken breast between the two pieces and gently strike with the pounding tool. I like to start at the thinner end and use the tool to gently “spread” the meat out as I go. Continue until the breast is an even 1/4 inch thickness all over.

2) Get the coating to stick. There are all kinds of recipes out there to “coat” a protein. Before I found this method, the crumbs didn’t stick well, and those that did always fell off when being moved. This one works.

You will need:
3 shallow dishes (pie plates or cake tins are good for this), containing:
1) 1/2 C flour, mixed with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder
2) 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
3) 1 C panko breadcrumbs mixed with 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
4) A dish or tray to receive the chicken

Directions:
Important: once your chicken is pounded flat, pat both sides dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Dredge the chicken first in the seasoned flour, then the egg wash, then in the panko. Press the crumbs into the chicken to help adhere, then rest in your tray for 5-10 minutes (it gives the flour and egg “glue” time set up).

Don’t have panko? Or just hate to pay supermarket prices for them? Here’s a secret: Japanese restaurants don’t buy panko, either. They make them fresh for use each morning.

Panko bread crumbs:
Slice the crusts off 4 slices good white bread. Tear into quarter-size pieces and run through a food processor. Toast about 10 minutes at 325F, stirring regularly, and watch so they don’t burn.

Cooking:

If you have more than 2 chickens, heat the oven to 200 degrees and use to keep finished product warm.

Heat 2 Tbs cooking oil in a 12″ skillet. When the oil is shimmering, lay 2 breaded chickens in the pan and cook, about 4 minutes to a side. Transfer to a baking sheet and pop in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining chicken.

Once your chicken is finished, you can cut it into strips and fill your wraps.

Posted by on April 7th, 2017