Halloween Science


The final part of our half terms Science project led us to look at solutions and mixtures.  The experiments in the book were not inspiring though so we opted to detour from the path and have some fun with some Halloween inspired potions and science.

We made microwave puffy paint pumpkins

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Glow in the dark putty.  We used glow in the dark paint and borax for the putty which I know others don’t like – I had some left over from about 5 years ago or I’d have tried the liquid starch version.  Here’s some recipes for borax free versions   I’m told Aldi laundry detergent is the best.

20141021_61 We finished with fake wounds.  Skin was petroleum jelly, cornflour and cocoa powder to colour, blood was washing up liquid (start with purple or clear) and food colouring.

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The Happy Scientist has some free Halloween science videos available.

That brought our study of matter to a fun end.


Science of Gases

Still very much in catch up mode!

Our tour through science of matter arrived on gases several weeks ago.

To illustrate the presence of gas (specifically oxygen) we stood a lit candle in a bowl of water and placed a jar over the top.  When the oxygen was burnt up the candle went out and the water in the jar rose.  I was expecting it to rise slowly as the oxygen burned but it suddenly goes up as the candle extinguished.


We showed how gas could be made through chemical reactions by mixing baking soda and Kool-aid (contains citric acid).  You can of course use vinegar but this smells better.


We then looked at the effect of heat on gas.  By microwaving marshmallows for different time periods and watching them expand.

We then had a bit of fun creating marshmallow faces.20141007_45 20141007_46

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We finished up the group by making hovercrafts.  Inflate a balloon and slip it over the top of a sports drink bottle lid (with the lid closed).  Attach the lid to the middle of a cd with sticky tack.  When you open the lid the air from the balloon rushes out through the centre of the cd and it slides across the table on a cushion of air.

20141007_49Final trick of the week was just playing in the kitchen later in the week.  Full glass of water with a piece of card on top.  Turn the glass over and take away hand and due to the air pressure from below, the card and all the water in the glass stay in place.  Was very pleased it worked as I would have been rather soggy had it not.



Catching Up

Not just with the blog.  It has been a busy few weeks with lots of my evening time spent catching up on Guiding stuff and starting a new course through FutureLearn, plus Scout and Cub stuff has been taking up a bit of time hence the lack of blogging.  But as I mentioned a few weeks ago we have been struggling with the pace I’d set for ‘school work’ this year and I felt we needed time to stop, draw breath and reconnect with the fun side and catch up with some of the projects that were slipping by the wayside a bit.

Last week, therefore, we abandoned those things I claim are our ‘essentials’ at least in the usual approach.

Maths, we took a concept that for some reason hadn’t clicked and dedicated our Maths time this week to it.  Sam is usually quite quick to grasp visual topics so why ordinal numbers and in particular identifying if a person is 5th in line for example how many people were before them was problematic I have no idea.  Aim of the week was to make the idea as visual and fun as possible.


We played with the cars I’d made , having races. Link is to Activity Village where they are available for download.

Did some colouring, looking for patterns.


We made a bus and played bus queues with Blue Nose Friends.


English, we spent the week looking at extracts from scary stories and identifying stylistic patterns.  I’d bought a set of books to help inspire creative writing (not Mr Literal’s strongpoint).  They come with a cd-rom and we read through the extracts and used the cd for the activities.

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We finished up to the end of the stone age on our timeline.  We added the postcards of different human species that we’d bought at the NHM and photos we’d taken of some of the important finds (Boxgrove, Happisburgh and Paviland) as well as some dinosaur pictures and a representation of the birth of the sun – just because.

20141007_21Got up to date with art and science worksheets and his nature book.


Carried on studying liquids.  Testing floating and sinking in water and salt solution.20141007_22We also managed Spanish group.  Here’s a photo for once.


Which was followed by some random body art.  We’d missed art due to going to see the BBC’s Ten Pieces at the cinema.  It was fantastic and is on iPlayer for another couple of weeks.  Home educators can apply for the dvd.

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We also managed science group, a home ed group trip up the Spinnaker and a morning of Minecraft and Simms with friends.  Oh and a wet nature walk in the most fungi free bit of woodland imaginable.

20141007_54I did get to test out the wellies though.



Liquid Science

Science group never came off yesterday due to various illnesses but we proceeded with some of the planned experiments anyway.

One of those days that illustrate that the simplest and oldest experiments are often the best.

Testing viscosity by dropping marbles (we used 4 of the same type) into glasses of liquid.  We dropped all four at the same moment or as close as you can with human error.  This made it hard to tell between the quickest 3 so we tested two at a time so we were able to compare and arrange them from highest to lowest viscosity.   We had syrup, bubble bath, red wine vinegar and vegetable oil.

20140924_2 20140924_320140924_6 We then looked at comparing density and viscosity.  We poured the least viscose into a glass and added them in order up to that with the highest viscosity.  In each case we watched the more viscose sink to the bottom showing they had higher density.  Looks pretty but fairly sure it would be horrible 😉

20140924_9 Final topic was surface tension.  After various suggestions and discussions about why/how we get rain drops and puddles we moved on to the old favourite of milk and food colouring.  Some people seem to have trouble with this.  Not sure why or how, never failed me yet.  Bowl of full fat milk, food colouring drizzled over the top.  Touch the centre with a cotton bud soaked in washing up liquid and watch the colour rush away.  Here is the science behind it.20140924_11 20140924_14 20140924_17


Science and Nature

Home education is a huge learning curve for me as well as the boy.

One of the biggest things I took from the last academic year was if we struggle to find time to fit in a subject area than the best approach to help with both our levels of motivation is to study alongside others.

The other major lesson is I find structured groups don’t work for larger numbers or for a big range in ages.  Actually I will clarify that they don’t work the way I need the group to work.  If we are studying something with a group it is probably at the expense of doing it privately (only so much time available).  Therefore I need it to have a logical flow and ideally a plan, be pitched at right level for Sam, he needs to ‘learn’ from it rather than just be there to have fun with friends (not that that isn’t important but times and places) and be a pleasant place.  Kids need to all get on and adults need compatible objectives and expectations.  I use the word compatible because I don’t think two people will ever have the exact same viewpoint.

Anyway on Tuesday we started a fortnightly Science group.  Just a couple of families – 6 children, 5 of them very close in age.

First session went well.  We are looking at matter.  The children will be producing project folders at the end but the aim is to do the reading and consolidating ourselves on non-group weeks and the messy hands on stuff together.

We started with some basic questions, then gave them all some cards to sort.  Any unsure ones were opened up for discussion.

20140910_10 We then looked more closely at solids and tested the hardness of different materials and ordered them.20140910_11 We moved on to look at how you measure density of non-regular shaped solids by making shapes out of a certain weight of plasticine, dropping them in water and seeing how much water was displaced.   My seal on the spout was not watertight so our findings were unreliable but fun was had, particularly with wet, sludgy playdough.


We finished off with testing melting points.  I learned another valuable lesson – clean the testtubes before you go out.  I have a table top hop incase you are wondering.  I wanted something the children could gather around and see.  Kitchen hob was awkward and can’t really cable up  a bunsen burner in the middle of my dining room so this was my solution ( and a good one it seems).

20140910_16 After science we have set up a nature group opened up to everyone.  Nature walks and play are one of those things that work well across the ages and the more the merrier and no size constraints of venue.  The Alver Valley Country Park is on my door step so we headed there for a wildflower walk.  Nothing too organised just a group of families with spotters guides.  I can recommend this one as sorts by colour and is incredibly clear (if anyone can tell me where I can get the fungi one at a sensible price I would be grateful)


Here is Sam’s nature diary record (can’t promise the names are all right).


Despite the relatively nice weather the river was flooded so shoes came off and there was wading.  Ducks were happy enough.20140910_20We also saw a few different types of caterpillar which took me by surprise for the time of year.