Category Archives: Science

Discovering Dinosaurs

Sometimes, an intense interest comes out of repeated exposure to something combined with the right timing.

Kai had a vague interest in dinosaurs off and on, but it really blossomed through a combination of factors: a dissolving “hatching” dinosaur egg seen at the science center, wanted, and received for Christmas, a viewing of Jurassic Park, a bit of creativity, books checked out from the library, a DVD of a mini-serious called Prehistoric Park (happened upon accidentally at the library), and a birthday gift of a set of dinosaurs.

So, Kai has been studying dinosaurs. And playing dinosaurs. And pretending to be a dinosaur.

Dinosaurs battling penguins.

January 7, 2014

Jurassic Park, the first.

Kai's Jurassic Park January 3, 2014

Kai's Jurassic Park January 3, 2014

Note the “J” for “Jurassic Park.”

Kai's Jurassic Park January 3, 2014

Attempting to climb over a large hill/mountain.

January 24, 2014

….and being covered in lava.

January 24, 2014

“All the other dinosaurs turned on Ceratosaurus.”

January 24, 2014

More dinosaur battles.

January 22, 2014

Using what’s around him, including the cat’s string.

January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014

Jurassic Park, the second. On the paper, he’s drawn lines dividing it.

January 28, 2014

The water dinosaur is hanging out, just offshore.

January 28, 2014

The dinosaurs bust off the island.

January 28, 2014

He has learned so much from playing. He’s gotten better at identifying which dinosaur is which. The “T-Rex with the horn on his nose” became “the Ceratosaurus.” He pointed out that Ceratosaurus sounds like Triceratops and was, with minimal prompting, able to come up with what “cera” might mean. When protested the name of the Stegosaurus and the Plateosaurs (“Why is it called Stegosaurs when THAT is the one with the plates on it?”), we researched why it was called that.

Children learn so much through play. I doubt he’d have picked up so much without the freedom to play as he wanted with them.

And the dinosaurs are STILL running amuck around here…

Kai’s Salmon Project

In June 2013, our homeschool group decided to go to the Hiram M Chittenden Locks.

At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard (Seattle)

This helped Kai become very interested in salmon. He wanted to learn all about salmon, particularly sockeye salmon. We returned to the locks several times over the next few months, watched several documentaries about salmon, and read a ton of books about salmon. Kai looked up pictures of salmon to print out and put on his bulletin board. He studied the life cycle of salmon and found out about a lot of the challenges that threaten salmon.

July 2013

Kai studied salmon in-depth. One of the questions that was harder for him to get an answer to was why salmon turned pink. He asked several people, tried to look up the answer, but most sources had no idea. However, his friend’s mother works for the locks and she was able to tell him that salmon turn pink because they eat lots of krill. She also gave him, her boys, and another homeschooler an extra special tour of the locks.

August 1, 2013

At the locks, he was able to look closely at pre-served salmon eggs and he looked at live salmon in the viewing rooms at the fish ladder.

At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard (Seattle)

Kai thinks, “It’s good that they can change to being in salt water and fresh water.”

He discovered that only the males get big humps and big hooked noses. That after salmon spawn, they die. They stop eating when they start migrating and use all their energy to reproduce.

July 2013

He decorated a bag for the library and a lot of what he did on the bag related to salmon: he drew rocks for them to lay their eggs in, several different stages of salmon (including eggs, fry, smolt, and adult salmon).

July 2013

Kai said his favorite part about learning about salmon was when he was at the locks with his friends and they learned about salmon and the locks together. When asked what he thought the neatest thing about salmon was, he said, “That they get big humps on their backs and hooked jaws.”

Kai studied salmon fairly in-depth from June through the beginning of August 2013.

First Mt. Rainier Trip As A Family.

We visited Mt. Rainier for the first time as a family this weekend.

The Family, At Sunrise View Point

The family together at Sunrise View Point
July 20, 2013

Kai has been saying he’s wanted to go and so have I (I’ve always loved going to the mountain), so after Kai went to bed on Friday, Joe suggested we go. We decided to go to Sunrise, which is the highest point on the mountain you can drive to. It’s also a place I’ve only been to once or twice, so it was new for me, too.

On the way, we stopped in to the Kasey Kahne store in Enumclaw. The guys are big NASCAR fans so it was a nice opportunity and Kai got a couple of new cars for his collection – which was GREAT because the stores near us have not had any of the 2013 cars.

At the Kasey Kahne store in Enumclaw

After leaving Enumclaw, we were on our way. We drove for quite a while. Kai spent the time until we got there reading a Garfield book and playing Animal Crossing on the 3DS.  Once we were in the park, though, we had him watch where we were going.

We made our way through the park and stopped at a viewpoint.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

When we were about to take this picture, Kai said, “Daddy, don’t let me fall!”


Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

We read about how mountains are formed from volcanoes.
Discussed tectonic plates.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

Kai pointed out this neat looking beetle.

Then, we got back in the car and drove for another five or ten minutes, up to the top of the sunrise area. We had a surprise lesson in air pressure: on the way up the mountain, we kept hearing a crinkling noise. We finally figured out it was our bag of chips. By the time we’d gotten to the viewpoint, the bag was puffed out pretty far. When we reached the top, it had stopped making noise.

This is why.

Chips That Opened Themselves

Popped Open Due To Air Pressure

We were able to talk to Kai about what caused it to open while waiting in the extremely long line of cars to get into the main sunrise area. After having lunch, we went to the visitor’s center.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

At the Sunrise Visitor Center

Originally, we’d planned to drive there, have a picnic lunch, and then head home. We ended up going on the Sunrise Nature Trail. We only made it about halfway before turning back. Kai was tired but I was having problems with my asthma and feeling like I was going to throw up. We’ll have to plan hiking better next time! Still, it was beautiful, even if we turned back early.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

Joe and Kai, coming up the trail.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

Kai, on the trail.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

Stopping to read the signs.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

On the way back down.

Mount Rainier, Sunrise Area

Kai and Joe, right before we left.

We all had a good time. We’re planning to go back again sometime soon, preparing for hiking ahead of time. I can’t wait!

Week 3 of Mystery Class (Journey North)

Kai and I have been working on a project that I heard about over on Life on a Canadian Island. She’s got a WONDERFUL post on her (older) blog telling you all about how to get started. The project, “Mystery Class”, involves tracking daylight at your home city and ten other mystery locations, along with receiving clues at/from the website, to attempt to locate ten mystery locations.

Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

We’re using the graph slightly different than they typically do on the Mystery Class website, but I like this way better, especially for younger kids (Kai is five).

Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

While we’ve been doing this project, Joe and I have been reading books to Kai about seasonal changes, daylight, time, etc. We’ve talked about geography, including the north and south poles, the Equator, and the hemispheres.

Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

Kai says the string in the middle is the equator.


Now that we’re up to three weeks of data, Kai’s been able to see some patterns. He can see that light has been steadily increasing or decreasing but that, in some areas, though it is consistent, there is very little change.

Today, I challenged him to see if he could predict, based on what he knew, what hemisphere each site belonged in, based solely on light changes. He knows that we live in the northern hemisphere, that we’re steadily getting more daylight each week, and that everything that is also getting more light each day should be in the same hemisphere. He also knows that seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite ours and so that means the light should be decreasing each day. Using all of this knowledge, he picked out which ones he thinks belong in the northern hemisphere and which ones he thinks belong in the southern hemisphere. He picked out where he thinks they belong by himself. The only thing I had to help him with were the ones that did not have much change in light one way or another and all I did for those was help him look closer (I did not provide the answer for him).

So, here are Kai’s predictions.


Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

Aside from home, he thinks numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10 are all in the north.


Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

He thinks numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 are all in the south.

After working on the project today, Kai wanted to make a video. He combined some of what he’s learned working on this with part of what he’s learned about the solar system. We had a few inaccuracies, which we talked about afterwards, but he has the overall concepts. I’d rather he get the concepts than the numbers, so I’m not complaining!

This was taken in one shot, no practice, no working together on what he was going to talk about beforehand. (In completely related news, I think I’m going to have to get a tripod one of these days. Sorry about any camera shake.)

Finished The Solar System Map And Videos

We finished the solar system map yesterday. Kai couldn’t be more pleased.

Kai and his solar system.

We also finished up the videos.






The asteroid belt:





Why does Mercury have so many craters?



He had a blast doing this and has learned so much!

As a side note: I think, since he wants to make more videos about other things, that we’ll have to find a way to get a better camera set-up. And a tripod. I’m not sure what we can do right now, but, hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to do something “better”, video-wise, with less camera shake, at least.

Working On A “Solar System” Project

We’ve been working on a project about the solar system. This has been mostly Kai-led. And he’s pretty happy about it.

First, the Solar System “map”. Still not quite finished.

20130102 Solar System Project (1)

20130102 Solar System Project (22)

20130102 Kai And His Solar System Map - not yet completed (1)

Then, he ALSO wanted to make a set of videos about the solar system. This was his first one, which is basically an intro video.

There should be a link on the side to the playlist. I’ll post all of the videos once he’s done with the project.

Really Neat Clay Class Today!

Today, in clay class, the kids made clay balls and dropped them from a stepstool, having their arms at various heights. Towards the end, they sprayed the clay with water so it didn’t roll off.

Clay Class, November 20, 2012

By the time they were done, it looked like this.

Clay Class, November 20, 2012

Bonus action video:

The kids all seemed to have a BLAST. They LOVED dropping the clay balls. They all talked about how the balls would go faster or slower depending on how high up they dropped them from, they explored using water, some were bigger, some were smaller. Overall, the experience was really neat.

A Case Of Delayed Ethics?

It was Life Science Research Weekend at the Pacific Science Center . For things like this, they set up tables to use as little stations and there’s something different at each one.

Part of this involved Kai looking at a pig’s heart. He later held a sheep’s heart.

Looking at a pig's heart.

Kai had a great time. Afterwards, we went to a laser show, looked at the new Wellbody exhibit, played in the kids area, and did another laser show. Then, it was time to go.

On our way out, Kai started ranting. Very loudly. He talked about “people killing animals just for science”. He’s FINE with killing animals for food. For science? No. Even “left over from food production”. “I WANT THEM TO GROW UP AND BE GROWNUP ANIMALS AND SAFE AND HAPPY AND -NOT- DEAD. AND PEOPLE TOUCH THEM.”

Ethically, I DO understand where he’s coming from. I’ve been a vegan before but cannot be one right now (for reasons I do not care to go into right now). I would not be surprised if Kai came to me one day and said, “I don’t want to eat animals anymore.” And I would completely support that decision.

It just seemed a little weird that it took so long for him to be upset. Maybe it had a chance to percolate in his brain and once the “shiny-ness” wore off, he was upset. Maybe he was and couldn’t figure out how to tell me before. If he had mentioned it to me beforehand, I definitely wouldn’t have tried to get him to do anything he was uncomfortable with.

Has anyone else dealt with what appears to be a case of “delayed ethics”?