10.23.2014

Science, Technology, Engineering... and Mouse!


  So, there was this mouse in the house. Chicken
  feed seems to attract all sorts of little critters-
  squirrels, chipmunks, voles, and mice. (Well, the
  vole was in the compost.) The mouse was the only
  critter to make its way inside and Janie Kathryn and
  I were absolutely, positively against snap traps and
  poison. It's just so cruel!

  During my Gibson days, I used a live trap to catch a
  mouse in my office. It worked like a charm. Little
  Evander simply could not resist the temptation of
  Kix cereal. Note the hole in his little ear, hence the 
  name. (Also note that I have a photo of Evander,
  which should be indicative of my reluctance to kill
  such creatures.) So, I purchased another trap,
  confident it would do the trick.

Plan 1
As it turned out, today's mouse was much more cunning than sweet, little, holey-ear Evander. So, Janie Kathryn and I had to put our heads together and apply a little S.T.E.M. research to this situation. We decided on three alternative traps, set them up, and anxiously waited to see which one would work.
Trap #1 was the most intricately planned. Looking at our sketch, it seems very unlikely that this contraption would work. However, we found video footage of a mouse taking the bait. So, we were hopeful!

 
Plan #1 did NOT work!
...not even with a trail of peanut butter and cranberries leading up the yardstick bridge.

Plan 2
On to #2, the simple toilet paper roll trap- another google find. It was easy enough to set up, but I had my doubts. After all, our mouse showed no signs of elevating himself from the floor of the room where the chicken feed was stored.

Plan #2 was also a bust.
So, we moved on to Plan #3. Plan 3 was very Tom-and-Jerry, but it was all Janie Kathryn and she just knew it would work. We had walked in on the mouse several times, munching on chicken feed. Really, it was just a matter of getting him where we wanted him and yanking the string fast enough. We eventually took to yanking the string from another room, just in case he was in the box. He never was.


Plan 3
Plan 3 was a failure too.
I know what you're thinking if you've made it this far into our critter-catching calamity. Why didn't I just move the chicken feed to a rodent-proof location? Well, I could've done that, but not before I caught the little freeloader! If I took away the smorgasbord he might move into parts of the house that truly mattered, like my kitchen!

In the end, the mouse was caught. 
Though I feel accurate in saying that the mouse was caught by a "live trap," he didn't exactly live through his capture. He did die a very natural death and gave his life so that another Skeen House occupant could prove his value. That's right, Fritz the cat took care of business! He delivered his kill right to the end of the hallway, where we were sure to find it. 

Remember this?

10.21.2014

Learning Through Theatre

  Wiley and the Hairy Man is an African American folktale that was retold orally for generations before it
  was ever written on paper. During the Great Depression, as part of FDR's New Deal, writers with the
  Federal Writers' Project recorded many oral histories from all over the United States. Wiley and the
  Hairy Man is one of those stories.


The folktale was first published as a play in the 70s and has been a popular production ever since. We were invited to attend a special performance for A.S.A.P. students at The Circuit Playhouse. I was not familiar with the story or its history, so I did a little digging to find all of this interesting information. I also found this really great Teacher Information Packet for extending the experience beyond the stage.

Showtimes for this play are limited, but it's well worth squeezing into the busiest of schedules.
I think its likely enjoyable at any age, but of particular interest for the elementary set. 
If you can't make it to the show, you can read the story. I'll be adding it to our library!

Grade 3 Reading Level

10.04.2014

Collecting Eggs and Data


I like to think I can turn anything into a learning opportunity. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea of how to transform something we already do into a teachable moment. It's a problem, I know. First and foremost, it's a problem because I need to remember to allow time for natural learning, sans lessons, goals, or outcomes. It's also a problem because I need more sleep! I'm going to place this teachable moment in the "huge success" column and pat myself on the back a little for not complicating it.


Our chickens recently began laying eggs. We are first-time chicken keepers and this is very exciting stuff. Collecting eggs might be the only task Janie Kathryn performs immediately upon request. Since we were only getting one egg per day, we decided to save them until we had enough for everyone to enjoy an omelet. In doing so, we discovered that the eggs were changing day by day. I thought tracking the changes might be a great way to practice collecting scientific data.

I started thinking... How can I tie in the scientific method? What could the hypothesis be? How long would it take to form a valid conclusion? And then I realized I was about to ruin the project. I was complicating it. It didn't need to be a science project. It could just be exploration for the sake of exploring. It could be collecting data because it's cool to see the changes on paper. Maybe the information would lead to something and maybe it wouldn't. It was going to be great practice and great fun either way.

I made a chart for keeping the data and gathered the necessary tools- scale,our Great Women Rulers of Science ruler, lighted magnifying glass, and fan deck of colors. How else were we supposed to document color changes?

She's two weeks into data collection and still going strong!


When writing this post, I recognized my continued use of Neil DeGrasse Tyson quotes. I can't help that the man says so many great things! I thought it fitting to finish the quote that began this post.

"This is the fundamental disconnect between what's going on in the educational system and what it takes to be a scientist. People who are scientists today are scientists in spite of the system, typically, not because of it."