Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thursday Teaching {Lava Cups}

Project: Lava Cups

Concept: Floating Continued!

 Today's project is a continuation of Tuesday's lesson - why things float. (So be sure to check out Tuesday's foil boats for a more thorough explanation.) We'll use the same concept to create groovy retro lava cups. Mrs. V is not a big fan of written tests, but what she does love is when students can see a demonstration and explain what's going on. So I'm putting you on the spot of how to explain this project to your kids. I'll be gracious with some hints :) One of my professors of education said his high school students referred to him as 'the benevolent dictator'. I always liked that approach.

Materials needed: glass 3/4 full of water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp salt, 5 drops of food coloring

It's debatable which is more fun - the actual experiment or the seriously cool food color art in the water!
Pour all the vegetable oil into your colored water. You'll notice that when settled, the oil floats to the top.
Why is this?

Is the vegetable oil more or less dense than water?

Slowly pour salt into the glass. The salt attaches to the oil, creating little pockets of oil and salt. So we've made the oil bubbles to be more dense now than the water. So they.... will...... now...... sink! Right, sink. Watch as the oil bubbles sink. Eventually, the salt will dissolve in the water, leaving the oil bubbles to be once again less dense than water. So they.... will....... now........  float! Again, float. Continue to add salt to achieve lava lamp-like effects.

Color number 2. I think the lighter color made the movement easier to see, although red is fitting for a 'lava' cup.

Oil + Salt > Water

See the movement?

*Special thanks to for some inspiration behind today's project!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Teaching {Foil Boats}

Project: Foil Boats

Concept: Displacement says: the weight or the volume of fluid displaced  by a floating or submerged body.

 I say for your kiddos: the amount of water that is pushed away by an object

What happens when you get into the bathtub? The water level rises a little. This is because you are taking up space where some of the water used to be. You're replacing the water. An object in water always pushes the water away and takes up that space. This is true for foil boats:

Ok, so we know the water gets pushed aside by an object. Well if all objects replace water, why is it that some objects float and some sink? Well, the simplest answer for your kids is this:
If the green space is heavier than the same amount of water it pushed aside, the object sinks. 
If the green space is lighter than the same amount of water it pushed aside, the object floats.

Think about the tinfoil. The green space of the boat is tinfoil and air, a much lighter combination than water. So the foil boat floats! But as we fill up the green space with more and more weight, the boat becomes heavier than the amount of water it replaced. So eventually, it will sink.

Experiment with different shapes of boats. Have your child brainstorm different kinds of boats they've seen. In my example, I'll show you just two: a sailboat and a raft.

Materials: 'lake', weights (I'm using pennies, but wouldn't it be fun if you had Pirate LEGO men!), foil.

Sailboat foil size (before making the boat): 9 inches x 5.5 inches

Raft foil size (before making the boat): 4.5 inches x 5.5 inches

Be creative with your design. Just make sure you don't have any tears in the foil and that the sides of the boat are at an even height.

How many pennies do you think these boats can hold? Ask your kids and get them thinking.

Let me know how you did! Send a picture and a count and I'll showcase our big winners.

Numbers to beat so far:
Mrs. V - 65 pennies in the sailboat
Mrs. V - 50 pennies in the raft
Holding strong!

And.. sunk.

Raft with pennies - Notice how they're distributed evenly? We want this boat balanced!

And... sunk.

The sunken ships recovered

Extension to this project:
Cardboard Boats. Life-size cardboard boats. This was the highlight of the year for the engineering students. Felix Slade's example here:
Cardboard Boat Race 2010

As always, let me know in the comments if I need to tweak my explanation. Also, I have been generous and loose with the terms here so your kids can make some sense of it. So teach these basics, but if your kids come up with some objects that disprove the theory or they start getting into something above your head, that is awesome!!! There are lots of other principles that affect displacement of an object, so write me a comment and I will teach, teach, teach some more!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Musings {In memory}

I have a special place in my heart for Arlington National Cemetery. I will never forget the first time I walked the grounds and witnessed the ceremonial changing of the guard. A special feeling came over me. I came knowing these men and women gave their lives for my freedom, but at that moment I felt it. I drove through 624 acres of honored sacrifice, bringing to light the addage that 'freedom is not free', and felt a reverence.
A special ceremony occurs on Memorial Day here, including the laying of American flags at each tombstone. This sight never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of
As we take this time to relax and enjoy the people around us, let's remember to have a spirit of gratitude. And we can involve our kids in lots of ways, most simply by teaching our children to be grateful. Another great thing to do with the kids is to write a card of thanks. Visit 
for an address of where to send letters of encouragement or thanks. May we honor these sacrifices and be moved to do our part in this great nation.

They are dead; but they live in each Patriot's breast,
And their names are engraven on honor's bright crest.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, May 25, 2012

Anything Else Fridays {Baby room}

My first Friday post! Fridays are going to show anything going on in my life that is not necessarily related to the geeky part of me (although you're the judge of my geekiness, I guess! :) Mostly this will include DIY projects around the house, but the Julia Child in me has been getting very brave lately so I'm sure there will be some of that too!  Once in a while, an Ellen clip might get thrown in for hilarity's sake or a shout out to other bloggers. Who knows what you'll find on a Friday.

We recently moved into a 2 bedroom apt. Round of applause! :) This is a big deal with a 5 month old! The little one has now moved on from the spacious wall of her parent's bedroom.

I've been so excited to decorate a full room for my baby. So this week has been DIY decorating, centered around the baby quilt my momma and I (well... momma quilted, and I picked the colors :) love that woman) made for the little one before she was born.

Why pick 3-4 fabrics when you can pick 13! Actually, I'm just indecisive. BUT I do love how this turned out. The bright colors and mix of patterns - oo it just makes me smile!

 The DIY art in the frames above were featured on a blog earlier this month,
but now that the memorable pink wall is gone, I wanted to put a splash more color into the frames. Luckily, I had extra fabric from the quilt so I used some scraps to cover the mat of the frame.

I love this pop of color!
I'm making a pillow to go on the rocking chair as well. Sneak preview here:

Inspired by, but I did use different measurements. Let me know if anyone wants the dimensions. The goal is to bring you the finished pillow next week!

My last project for the room will be to make curtains and I can't stop myself from getting really excited about something like this:

Amy Meier Design

Enjoy your weekend! Mine just might include baby's first time on a boat. How about yours?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday Teaching {Balancing Bird}

Project: Balancing Bird

Concept: Center of Gravity

Wikipedia says: "The center of mass is often called the center of gravity because any uniform gravitational field g acts on a system as if the mass M of the system were concentrated at the center of mass R."

Explanation for the kids:

Take a ruler or a pencil. You can find the center of gravity of these objects by balancing them on your finger. I'm sure you did this in Mr. Wengel's English class trying to stay awake, but it's probably totally new to your kids!

Well, this is relatively easy because a ruler and a pencil more or less have a uniform shape all the way around. The bird we are about to do doesn't have a uniform shape, so we'll have to make some adjustments.

Finding the balance point of a paper bird is not impossible using a steady hand and a pen, but your kids will have more fun flying around the house with their bird on their finger.

You can see that the center of gravity is not very close to the beak. How could we move the center of gravity? Well, we need to make the beak the place where there is equal weight on both sides of the bird. So, we have lots of paper on the back half of the bird, but very little paper on the front half.  We need to add something more to the front half to make both sides even. We'll add some weights. Make sense?

Use paper that is thicker than computer paper: cardstock, construction paper, cardboard, etc. In general, the thicker the better!
Draw your bird. This is a general shape, but have fun with it. The only requirement is that the wings extend past the bird's head.
Cut and color and color some more. Bow inspired by the adorable little girl sitting next to me.

Add pennies on wingtips (with tape - Gluing is illegal :))  and balance! It may take a couple tries to get it just right.

Switch pennies to the inside for maximum coolness!

For the older kids: Experiment with other animals or shapes. I've seen parrots and monkeys, so no holding back. Remember you're looking for even weight distribution. Ask if they can find a way to disguise the pennies on the outside - turn them into eggs, for example. See if you could get two birds to balance off each other. The possibilities are endless!

Mrs. V {at home}

A few months ago, I traded in my few 'teacher improvement' books for (what could possibly be) hundreds of  'mommy training' encyclopedias. While that decision has truly been the joy of my life, I do miss the life of Mrs. V. Well.. not so much the unprecedented anxiety of managing 25 11-yr olds with power tools in woodshop.  (shudder) I miss the surprising, innovative, creative results from those efforts! I miss making lessons. And the knowledge that I was really providing something for those kids - that there is more to life than TV and Angry Birds - work hard - it's worth the time to search for your hidden talents - YOU can create.

With that, I bring you Mrs. V {at home}! I am excited to share with other mommies, daddies, caregivers, babysitters, (anybody!) fun and unique projects to do with your kids. As my degree is in Technology and Engineering Education, I feel I should warn you though -

There will be a little science... (keep reading!) ... a little craftiness ... (whew) .... engineering ... maybe woodworking ... computers ... design .... technology ... anything else that would fit into an elective teacher's handbook.

Stay tuned for 
*Monday 'Make you go woah!'*
*Teaching Tuesdays*
*Teaching Thursdays*
*Anything else Fridays*

Thank you for stopping by!