Monday, November 30, 2009

making butter experiment

My daughter and I made some bread for a science experiment - you know, yeast, infusion and chemical reactions, etc (yes, I know I am a (big) nerd). Rosemary Garlic bread if anyone is curious..

When we got finished, my daughter said it needed butter which brought us to science experiment #2 – One that I had never done before.

Turns out that it is ridiculously easy to make butter when you aren’t being forced to use a churn by your parents. I bet that adds a level of difficulty or at least boredom.

Time required for full effect – about 10 minutes (excluding the 6-12 hours of leaving the cream out of the fridge)

Items needed:
• Small container of heaver whipping cream
• A clean jar with a lid – we used a miracle whip jar
• Some salt, rosemary or anything else if you want flavored butter

Leave heavy whipping cream out on the counter for 6-12 hours (gross I know.. but imagine in pioneer days), pour into a jar and add a bit of salt or other flavoring (for taste only).

Shake in a jar for 3 minutes (about one shake per second). The goal of the shaking is not to mix the ingredients but rather to slam the milk against one end of the jar repetitively. This breaks the protein bonds and allows the butter to separate. So one slam of the milk per second for 3 minutes.


Notice the milky substance. That is where ‘buttermilk’ comes from. You pour that off (save it if you want) while talking about buttermilk pancakes and buttermilk ranch dressing.

Pour a bit of warm water and give one shake to rinse the butter. Pour that off and enjoy.


Additional discussions:
• If you were to shake the jar for a while longer than 3 minutes, you could actually make whipped cream instead of butter.
• You can do this experiment starting with whole milk but it takes a LOT longer than three minutes. My grandmother told me that I had cheated starting with cream :-)
• Almost all of our parents\grandparents used to do this for eating instead of learning which I think makes the experiment more personal. My kid was so excited to talk to my grandmother after this and she actually had an old butter churn that she showed us.

One word of warning:
My daughter who had been so excited said upon tasting the butter “it just tastes like real butter”. We had to talk about how real butter was what we just made and that manufacturers imitate what we did. It blew her mind.

Have fun with this easy experiment.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

celery experiment - how plants drink

Time required for full effect – overnight

Materials required – a new stalk of celery with leaves on it, a glass, water and food coloring

The payoff – color the water red (or blue) , cut the bottom of the celery stick as shown. put celery in the water as if it were a flower. Overnight, the celery sucks up the colored water staining the veins and the leaves.

Suggested discussions:

Preparation: how do plants grow? They need light from the sun, carbon dioxide (which we breathe out remember) from the air but they also need water and nutrients from the ground.

The roots take in water and capillary action draws that nutrient-rich water up through the veins (show them the bottom of the celery stick and notice the holes)

and just like blood in your body, that water goes all over the plant. Up through the stalk (or trunk) and through the leaves.

Put celery in the water and leave overnight for this as proof of the discussion:

Once the experiment is done, talk about how our food grows in the ground. What do you think happens if trash or chemicals are in the ground we grow food in?

Results –
before and after image:

Notice the veins running up the stalk?

Veins on the leaf bringing nutrients to the entire leaf

Good contrast of green leaf with red veins.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

geocaching - free outside fun for the whole family.

My kid is in religion education classes right now. After one of her last classes, the teacher told me that she wanted to talk to me which immediately scared the crap out of me. It is bad enough when a regular teacher tells you that but a religion teacher opens up a whole new level of “what the heck did my kid say”.

Turns out, they were asking the kids what their favorite summer activity was and mine said geocaching. They just wanted to know what it was. (phwew!)

see my links at the bottom for some of our adventures.

Geocahing (pronounced geo cashing) is basically a treasure hunt for nerds using a GPS and a website full of coordinates. People all over the world hide small containers stuffed with a log file and little toys or coins. Then they post the GPS coordinates on this website geocaching.

People like us go there and look for caches (cashes) near us. Put the coordinates in and start hiking.

The general rules are:
• Sign the log book
• Take a small toy and leave a small toy
• Sign up online that you found it
• Don’t let “muggles” (non geocachers) see you when you find it.

So it’s free fun, they get a toy, they get to be sneaky and they know a secret that not many others know. My kid LOVES knowing that we have one we can see from the house and people are walking past it all day without knowing.

Once you get good at finding them, hide one. You and your kid can read all the log entries from people who found what they hid. And for even another level of fun, you can order “travel bugs”.

Those are dogtags you attach to a toy. When someone finds a tag, they enter it’s code online and move it to another cache. In this way, your kid’s toy can go all over the world and they can watch it online. We had one that went to Hawaii and back twice and both coasts of the US. It was a lovely way to teach geography too.

Here is a link to one of my travel bugs and a photo gallery of where all he has been in his 8,000+ miles of travel. Then there is the cache cow that we hid. 124 finds and this is the oldest cache in grason county.

Mama isn’t horribly keen on this since last time she went she got covered in poison ivy but apart from that, we have all had so many good times, I thought I would share. Ps. If you keep your eyes open because you are likely to find wonderful father and daughter fishing locations.

information about this blog

I love science.  There, I said it.

Being a huge nerd has always served me well and I have always had a lot of excitement for learning. Now that I have a young child, I have someone to share that excitement with and I am afraid her mind works a lot like mine.

In an effort to keep her learning, we almost always are looking for education opportunities no matter where we are and when they can’t be found, we make them. With that in mind, I am hoping to use this blog to help other parents, teachers, uncles, aunts or anyone dedicated to keeping the spark of learning alive.

This blog will being with a post from my other site about learning while geocaching but will then take on a life of it’s own. I plan to fill it with the experiments we have done, information, lesson plans and other educational fun and ideas which are either free of very close to it.

Check back often as I will be posting like mad very soon.