Thursday, June 30, 2011

Science: Learning about Plants, Lesson 5: Leaves

*This lesson stretched out over several days

We covered two main areas with regard to leaves--basic leaf structure and photosynthesis (you've never heard cute 'til you've heard a 5 year old saying photosynthesis! *grin*).

First we focused on leaf structure.  We read a little bit about leaves in What Is a Plant? and a pdf book from Montessori for Everyone, All About Plants (which you can find here--under the "Botany" heading).  We went on another leaf gathering expedition, during which they enthusiastically pointed out many examples of compound leaves.

When we got home, we examined and compared our leaves, talking about similarities and differences in shape, color, structure (i.e., parallel vs. palmate vein structure), size, etc.  We chose examples to draw and labeled the main parts (midrib, veins, margin, blade, tip, petiole).  We chose some leaves to press and started that process (placed them between layers of newspaper and set heavy books on top--will check on them in a couple of weeks) and then had fun doing more leaf rubbings.
Connor's labeled leaf drawing

Brennan's labeled leaf drawing
Leaf rubbings

Setting out leaves to press

Our next lesson focused on photosynthesis.  We had already discussed that the function of a leaf is to produce food for the plant, so now we talked about the process.  Again, we read about it in What Is a Plant?, and then they watched this animated clip about photosynthesis.  Then we sat down and drew and labeled our own photosynthesis diagrams.  Connor did most of the work on his own with only a few suggestions from me about where to put labels and draw arrows.  I wrote for Brennan and helped him some, but he got quite a bit of it on his own.

Connor's photosynthesis diagram

Brennan's photosynthesis diagram (with Mom's help!)

We've only done one experiment with leaves so far: we steeped a leaf in boiling water for a few minutes, then let it sit in very warm rubbing alcohol for a couple of hours.  When we checked back, the rubbing alcohol was green--it had leached out some of the chlorophyll.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Science: Learning about Plants, Lesson 4: Stems

*This lesson stretched out over several days.

We read the section on p. 10 of What Is a Plant? about stems and discussed it.  I didn't focus on the technical terms, but we did discuss that plant stems help hold a plant up and  have tubes inside them that are used to transport water and food within the plant.  We examined a large-ish stem (some kind of a weed from outside), talking about how strong it was, and then we cut it open to see what was inside (we did a cross-section cut first and then split it down the middle.

Our big experiment medium for this lesson was celery because the tubes in the stem are visible to the naked eye.

We examined a piece of celery, and then we left one uncovered in the refrigerator for a few days to see what would happen.  When it was nice and wilted, we put it in water, and the boys were impressed with how quickly it perked up and became firm again--a great illustration that the piece of celery was transporting the water from the glass through the tubes in its stem.

We also used colored water to dye celery stalks.  We filled some glasses with water, added red, blue, and purple (combining red and blue) food coloring, and then put the celery in the colored water.

Red--you can clearly see where the food coloring has dyed the tubes


After just a few hours, the color was visible at the top ends of the stems and a bit in the leaves.  After 24 hours, it could clearly be seen in the leaves.

Red food coloring + green plant = brown!


We also had fun dyeing carnations.  We bought some white carnations and put them in colored water, and over the next few days we watched the color appear in the flowers.  We also split the stems of two of the carnations and put each part in a different color to see what would happen to the flower.

You can see the split stems here--one was in yellow (looks orange) and purple and the other is in green and red.

One day later: the split-stem flower that was in red and green--you can see both colors

Yellow and purple

Yellow--this was the clear winner all the way through.

After one week (minus the split stems--they wouldn't stand up after a couple of days)
The only thing we haven't done yet that I'd like to do relating to stems is to go out and make some bark rubbings from different trees.  It's just been soooo hot here lately (hovering around 100*, up to 103* a few days).  We'll see if we can work it in later!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Science: Learning about Plants, Lesson 3: Roots (follow-up)

We've had mixed results on our plant experiments so far.  The avocados both grew mold and didn't sprout, and in the first attempt at sprouting lima beans, I kept the paper towels too wet and they began to break down.  The second attempt worked beautifully, however!

After just a few days: the root has sprouted and is growing down.  Then we turned the jar upside down to see what would happen to the root.

Several days later, the root has turned to continue growing down.

Both boys made notebook pages about roots (Brennan dictated his info for me to write), and we've been working on our plant memory work.
Connor's notebook page (front and back):

Brennan's notebook page:

We also did an experiment to see that the roots of a plant will soak up water.  We took a plant and carefully removed it from the potting soil, brushing off as much dirt as possible.  We filled a glass jar with water, measuring the water as we filled it (5 cups).  Then we put plastic wrap across the top of the jar and inserted the roots through a slit.  We covered any exposed opening with more plastic wrap to prevent water from evaporating.  After a week, we measured the water again and discovered that the plant's roots had absorbed about 1/2 cup of water.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What we've been up to (school-wise)

It's been a month or so since I posted a school update, but we have been doing school!  We did take a week off (much needed!), but we've been trucking along pretty well otherwise.  Since there's too much to cover it all, I think I'm just going to post and explain the pics I have. 

History project--writing in Crisco to simulate how Greek student wrote on wax tablets

Examining a piece of celery to look for the tubes that transport water throughout the plant

Connor's notebook page showing how the tubes in the stem transport water, nutrients, and food throughout the plant

More celery examination

Pulling off celery for an experiment

Putting celery in colored water

Experiment in progress

Playing a RightStart addition game

10's and 1's project for math

Weaving project to go with history (ancient Greeks wove cloth; we also read the story of Arachne and Athena)

Brennan's weaving

Connor's completed project

Making a Greek gods and goddesses family tree--this was the first project that he did completely on his own.
It's kind of hard to see all the leaves, and we had to do a little tree surgery the other day.

Closeups of a few leaves--he wrote the name of the god or goddess, his/her dominion, and drew a picture

More science--studying stems by coloring carnations

Project underway!
After a week

First art lesson (about different kinds of lines) from How to Teach Art to Children

We read a book about Archimedes for history and he made several notebook pages

Brennan making a "magic e" wheel

Reading words without and then with the "magic e" with his wheel

Yet another experiment--removing chlorophyll from a leaf.  He's putting the leaf into a glass of rubbing alcohol.

The rubbing alcohol leached the chlorophyll, which turned the water green!

Making leaf rubbings

Setting out leaves to press and dry

We've done so much more, but things like grammar, reading, and spelling just don't usually lend themselves to pictures!  We've finished The Wanderings of Odysseus and just started on Aesop's Fables today.  Brennan has been improving by leaps and bounds in reading--he's reading a Magic Treehouse book out loud to me right now.  He still needs a little help, and he has a tendency to keep guessing at a word he doesn't know rather than stopping and sounding it out, which he is usually perfectly capable of doing (which drives me crazy!!).  But overall he's doing really well.

We've finished going through our story Bible, and I'm still not sure what I'm going to do next for Bible.  Connor started RS level C this week.  He's almost done with level 1 in First Language Lessons.  Brennan has been learning the phonograms for All About Spelling, and I'm planning to start that more formally soon.  He's about halfway through RS A for math.  We're still having fun learning about plants for science, and some parts of the garden are flourishing (and so are the weeds, which we need to address tomorrow!).  We've lost a few things to animals or insects, but Brennan's zinnias are still the star of the show!  I'm planning to do science and garden updates soon.  Hopefully!