Sunday, March 26, 2017

3.14, Pi Day!

The concept of pi is not an easy one for young students, but since we've been studying the perimeter and area of rectangles, why not take a look at the perimeter and the area of a circle?

We started with a question: How does one measure the perimeter and the area of a circle? We decided that it's easy to measure the perimeter with a string and then measure the string.

But what about the area? The curves of the circle make it a lot more tricky!

So, we went back in time, to the days of King Arthur, knights, castles and dragons, to the land of Sir Cumference, Lady Di of Ameter and their son, Radius.

In this math adventure book, The Dragon of Pi, a potion has turned Sir Cumference into a fire breathing dragon! His son Radius goes on a quest to solve the riddle and save his father and the kingdom from ruin!

Can you solve the riddle?

     Measure the middle and circle around,
     Divide so a number can be found. 
     Every circle, great and small -
     The number is the same for all.
     It's also the dose, so be clever,
     Or a dragon he will stay forever. 

So we set to work, measuring around, across and dividing...

...and we discovered the number is always almost the same: 3.14! Pi!

We also learned an important formula that is sure to come in handy some day:

Circumference divided by diameter equals PI


C ÷ D = π

Oh, and SPOILER ALERT...Radius solves the riddle just in time and saves his father and the kingdom! Huzzah!!

Now we want to read ALL these books by Cindy Neuschwander!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Beaks and Feathers and Audubon, Oh My!

As a life-long bird watcher myself (thanks to my mom!) I could teach about birds all year long and never run out of things to do. But since that's not possible, I'll include a list of things to do and places to go in the Puget Sound area so that you and your child can learn more and perhaps become life-long birders as well.

Here are some of the things we did in class:


We played a game called "Busy Beaks" in which we were given one minute to to pick up a variety of "food" with a variety of "beaks". We discovered that different types of birds have different types of beaks that eat different types of food.

The "food" included seeds/cheerios, pipe-cleaners, jelly beans and raisins.
The "beaks" included spoons, toothpicks, tweezers and clothespins.

We recorded our findings. 

We made graphs using  Create-a-Graph.  Notice the labels each student chose to use.


We looked at feathers up close under a microscope.

Lots of oohs and ahs.

We read a book about feathers and learned about the different types and purposes of feathers. 

We personalized a readers theater script called "Feathers."

We made our own costumes in the MakerSpace. 

A swan:

A red-tailed hawk

We practiced and practiced and then presented our readers theater to our schoolmates at Gathering. 
Not the best picture, but notice the sled for a penguin and the snowshoes for the ptarmigan. We learned a lot about feathers and came up with some great ways to show our friends.  

She was also a peacock.


We learned about a boy with a passion, John James Audubon.

We watercolor painted our own birds (and did a mighty fine job, I might add.)

Other things to do in the Puget Sound area:

Get a bird book and keep it in your glove box! And keep an ongoing list. Or start a contest to see who can have the longest list.

Bird Cams:

Local Browns Point eagle nest:
Walk down Varco Road. It's almost at the end of the road. Be respectful of neighbors and stay on the road.

Annual Migration
May 5-7, 2017
from the webpage: 
Each spring, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds stop to rest and feed along the Washington Coast and in the Grays Harbor estuary during their migration northward. Coming from as far south as Argentina, these Arctic-bound shorebirds are among the world's greatest migrants. Some birds travel over 15,000 miles round trip! The concentration of birds during spring migration offers people a great chance to view a number of shorebird species. With luck you will also see the birds fly together in beautiful formations while trying to escape a Peregrine Falcon.

There is also a great local Coastal Interpretive Center on the tip of the Ocean Shores peninsula.

Heron Rookery in Renton
from the webpage:
The Black River Riparian Forest and Wetland is home to more than 50 species of birds, including one of the largest great blue heron colonies in the region. The site is a complex ecosystem with an abundant wildlife habitat. The Black River Riparian Forest and Wetland is a year-round bird watcher's paradise and provides an oasis and a unique view of nature within Renton's city limits.

Other bird spotting locations:
  • Point Defiance Park Outer Loop
  • Commencement Bay Trail
  • Wapato Lake Trail
  • Titlow Park
  • Owen Beach Trail
  • Bresemann Forest Trail
  • Snake Lake Loop Trail--great place for wood ducks
  • War Memorial Park to Tacoma Narrows Bridge  

  • Weyerhauser headquarters has great trails (just pretend that the sound of I-5 is the ocean)
  • Hylebos Park in Federal Way
  • Mount Rainier
  • Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
  • Olympic National Park area (I saw an albino robin there once!)
Tahoma Audubon: Lots of good resources including the Adriana Hess Aububon Center, monthly classes and activities, an art contest (, field trips and more.

It Starts With a Question: How Do Birds Fly?

How do birds fly? That was the science question we set out to answer as we studied animals.   

In order to find out the answer, we went through the Scientific Process of asking questions, observing, experimenting, hypothesizing, more experimenting, and concluding--all things that kids so naturally do. 

We had all kinds of "I think" answers:
  • wind
  • air
  • their feathers
  • flapping wings
  • the sun
  • the Equator, no I mean the magnetic field

We then did some observations and "I wonder if..." experiments:

Each student was given a piece of paper and were told to make it fly. We knew that there was a way to make a paper airplane but no one knew how (and their teacher wouldn't show them!) There was great determination, experimentation, excitement and even some angst over trying to make it work. 

We read the book, Leonardo and the Flying Boy and discovered that we're not the only ones who believe in flight!

We came back the next day eager to get “back to the drawing board” and try new designs. And we had success!

We knew we could make paper fly but we still didn't quite get the why. So we did some experiments that showed the Bernoulli's Effect. And we were greatly surprised.

We wonder what will happen when we blow underneath a strip of paper:

We observe that it blows straight out. We wonder what will happen when we blow over the strip of paper? We hypothesize that it will go down. 
What?? We observe that it blows straight out again!
Click here to see. 

We wonder what will happen when we blow between two balloons? We all think the balloons will blow apart.
But no! We observe that the balloons come together every single time!

We try something new. What do we think will happen when we blow through a straw right next to a flame? We all think the flame will either be blown out or will move away from the stream of air.
But no! We observe that the flame moves toward the blowing air!

Why do we think this is happening?

This led to some great discussion and some great ideas. As we listened to each other and as we looked at an airplane wing and a bird's wing, we came pretty close to the correct answer. 

We then watched a video on how a bird flies and had a few more aha moments. 

Ask any Navigator what the Bernoulli's Effect is and you'll find out more!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Our Terrific Scientific Science Fair

As always, the Seabury School students came up 
with some great questions for our much anticipated 
annual Science and Engineering Fair. 

This student combined her interest and skill in creativity and made an Artbot complete with a working motor. Her question was "Does the Artbot move differently if we change where the Popsicle stick is facing?" 

Have you ever wondered what happens when you heat up soap? This student's project was called Hot Soap. Everyone wanted to look, smell and touch his project!

This student was passionate about his geology project. Notice the steps of asking the question, predicting the outcome (the hypothesis), and coming up with a conclusion. He also included a journal, a prerequisite of participating in the Regional Science Fair at PLU.

 Does fire need oxygen to burn? How can we know? When asked about her 
MIT t-shirt she was wearing, she responded, 
"That's where I'm going to go to school!" I believe her!!

This student's kitchen looked like a science lab! He added his sense of humor
 to his animated presentation of expanding liquids 
by including the saga of the Lego man. 

This student's love of games and his knowledge of the web of life came through in his action-packed, hands-on project, The M&M Survival Challenge. 


Bones & Calcium was this student's practical, health-conscious project. 
She might even change her diet. 

 This student had an engineering project called Archimedes Screw. He showed his schoolmates, both younger and older, the physics of making water go up a slant. He sure did a lot of work on his own--way to go!

Science Fair was an all day event, presenting to our classmates in the morning, presenting to our schoolmates and going to see theirs in the afternoon, and presenting to our families and friends in the evening. 

A terrific scientific time was had by all!