Monday, March 19, 2012

Outdoor Adventures: The Sun by Erin Uda

This week is the spring equinox, where the day and night are almost the same length.  From now on, the days will grow longer than the nights and will keep getting longer until the end of June, when they start slowly getting shorter again. 

Since winter is officially gone, let’s get out and enjoy the bright warm sunshine!

If you’re science-minded and want to talk with your child about the earth’s rotation around the sun and why we have seasons and our days get longer and shorter, use the links and charts below.  I suggest sitting near a bright window in the sun, if you have one, so your child can see and feel the difference between shade and sun.  When you talk about summer, stay in the sun, and when you talk about winter move to a shady part inside and have your child describe the difference he feels in both temperature and light.

Links and charts of the earth’s rotation around the sun: 

Once you’re ready for some outdoor fun, get the following items and head to a sunny spot outside to make a sun dial.

Even better, make your child the sun dial by going outside every hour to draw a circle around her shadow’s head while she stands in the same spot (I recommend drawing a small square where she should stand).  Write the hour inside each circle as you draw them.  

Explain to your child that when the sun shines down on us, a shadow is created where we stop the sun’s rays from reaching the ground.  Shadows are used to tell time, but they’re also useful in the summer when it’s hot, and they’re very fun to step on.  Try making your shadows do crazy things, like shake hands with each other, or not touch your feet.  Outline your shadow with sidewalk chalk and make fun shapes or letters.  Go out at different times of the day and measure the length of your shadow.  When is it the longest?  When is it the shortest? 

Use your shadow (and a flashlight) to make a profile portrait of your child.  If interested, use THIS LINK from Christina Williams that I found on Pinterest to help you make a cool piece of art from your outline.

(Image found HERE)

Try making art using the sun.  Find some solar photo paper (it changes color when exposed to the sun, found HERE) and create a collage out of natural items on it.  Or just place the items on a sheet of colored construction paper and leave it out for at least a couple of hours.  The color will fade on the areas of the paper that were exposed to the sun, while the areas covered with your objects will still be brightly colored.

Talk about the different light that comes from the sun, not just the light and colors that we can see, but also UV rays, which is light we can’t see.  These rays are what make the paper turn color or make certain colors appear to glow.  UV light can be seen by certain animals, and can be seen as a bright glow if you use a black light.  Try some fun projects by going to these LINKS:
And remember, UV rays are also harmful to our skin, which is why we wear sunscreen when we go outside.

When you’re ready to wind down, talk with your child about Stonehenge and the many ancient sites built specifically for keeping track of the sun’s progress through the sky.  Talk about how much work and study (and yes, math) went into making these sites and ask your child what they think.  Go on a photo tour of these places or go to the library and get some books about them.  The study of these places is called Archaeoastronomy.

Click links to learn more about each picture:

Because the spring equinox was an important time in the lives of ancient cultures, it was celebrated with many different holidays and festivals, from religious to planting themes.  Look around and see if there are any in your area.

Recommended Books:

  • Done in the Sun, Anne Hillerman (621.471 H557)
  • Maui and the Sun, Gavin Bishop (398.297 M443)
  • How the Rooster Got His Crown, Amy Lowry Poole (398.267 H8301)
  • Ten Suns: A Chinese Legend, Eric A. Kimmel (398.267 T25)
  • The Wind and the Sun: an Aesop Fable, Bernadette Watts (398.2515 W722)
  • Guess Whose Shadow? Stephen R. Swinburne (770 Sw63)
  • What Makes a Shadow? Clyde Robert Bulla (535.4 B872)
  • The Reason for Seasons, Gail Gibbons (525.5 G352)
  • The Day-Glo Brothers, Chris Barton (535.352 B2854)
  • Light and Shadows, Brian Knapp (535 K7272)

Monday, March 12, 2012

A little something I did over the weekend...

Since we moved into our new rental home last month, Kevin and I have been trying to find ways to spruce up the place without upsetting the landlord or breaking our budget!  Here are a few little things we did over the weekend to make our office look a little less rented...

We found this chair in the crawl space under our house. It was pretty ugly but Kevin sanded it down and spray painted it white while I upholstered the top using THIS tutorial from Craftaholics Anonymous. Total cost: $10 (for spray paint and fabric, we had everything else!)

We also fixed up this old shelf that our downstairs neighbor (from our first apartment in Chicago) gave us. It was warm outside so I took it to the driveway and gave it a good sanding before using the same spray paint we used on the chair to give it some life. After the paint dried, I rubbed some sandpaper over the edges to give it an aged look. Then Kevin screwed little hooks into the bottom for me and voila!

We FINALLY have a place to hang all the running medals we've accumulated over the years! Best part, it only cost $2 for the hooks! We had everything else on hand.

What "trash to treasure" projects have you been working on lately? I would love to hear about them!