San Francisco: The Exploratorium

“The Exploratorium is a twenty-first-century learning laboratory, an eye-opening, always-changing, playful place to explore and tinker. For more than forty years, we’ve built creative, thought-provoking exhibits, tools, programs, and experiences that ignite curiosity, encourage exploration, and lead to profound learning.” – From the Exploratorium website (www.exploratorium.edu) The Exploratorium is the ultimate playground for the mind, a must-visit for anyone who’s into building and creating with … Continue reading San Francisco: The Exploratorium

Silent Saturday: Nature Journaling

“The most important thing we can teach our children is to observe well.” -Ernst Mayer, Evolutionary Biologist Learning about animal tracks and signs, and journaling their observations. *** An awesome, free, naturalist-led class! Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley *** Interested in learning more about nature journaling?  I highly recommend the book, Keeping a Nature Journal:  Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You, … Continue reading Silent Saturday: Nature Journaling

Solar Cooking Science: Melting Marshmallows

We had a bit of fun on Friday afternoon, melting marshmallows to make s’mores, using the Thames & Kosmos Solar Cooking Science kit. After a week of higher than 100 degree Fahrenheit heat, the weather finally cooled down to a high of 80 degrees on Friday…. cool enough for us to head outside for a solar energy experiment. First, we built the solar oven provided … Continue reading Solar Cooking Science: Melting Marshmallows

Geology for Kids: Crystal Mining Excavation Kit

My son recently received the 4M Kidz Labs Crystal Mining science kit for his birthday.  He LOVES these excavation kits (see this post about a similar kit, also made by 4M.. Paleontology Play:  Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit – Velociraptor). My son is super into rocks and minerals these days, so this was a timely gift.  The kit comes with eight different kinds of crystals, hidden … Continue reading Geology for Kids: Crystal Mining Excavation Kit

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

On Friday morning, I noticed a tiny green caterpillar crawling up the stem of a plant in our back yard.  Saturday afternoon, my son and I went outside to see what the caterpillar was up to and found it spinning around on a thread, building some kind of nest.  Sunday morning, when we went out to check on the progress, the caterpillar had completely enclosed … Continue reading Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

Observe: Insect Activity

What cool insect, arachnid (spider), or mollusk (snail) activity can you find around your yard? Has your child watched a spider spin a web? How about ants marching along on a mission? What about a snail eating a plant? Give your child the time and space to observe these small creatures in their natural environment… your back yard. Here’s my five-year-old, completely fascinated, watching a … Continue reading Observe: Insect Activity

Kid Science: Make a Seed Viewer

Seeds… how incredible that plants of all sizes can grow from such a tiny thing.  If you’ve gardened with a young child, you’ve witnessed their fascination and wonder at the mystery of plants.  To give your child the opportunity to actually witness the growth of a plant from the first roots shooting out of the seed to ultimately pushing through the surface of the dirt, … Continue reading Kid Science: Make a Seed Viewer

Kid Science: Owl Pellet Dissection

Owls are fascinating creatures.  They have a special organ (gizzard) that stores the undigestible parts of their prey, preventing these parts (bones, teeth, fur, feathers) from proceeding through the digestive tract.  The gizzard compresses these parts into a pellet which is later regurgitated.  This is a pretty simplistic explanation.  If you’d like to learn more, check out this page from the website, The Owl Pages,… … Continue reading Kid Science: Owl Pellet Dissection

Sausalito: San Francisco Bay-Delta Model

Apparently, back in the 1950’s, engineers were considering building two dams in the San Francisco Bay to create fresh water reservoirs, right in the bay.  Luckily, the US Army Corps of Engineers decided it would be a good idea to study the potential impacts that such a huge undertaking might have, both environmentally and economically, on the surrounding communities.  So, in 1957, they built the … Continue reading Sausalito: San Francisco Bay-Delta Model

Paleontology Play: Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit – Velociraptor

My son has played with a few of these kits in the past, and he absolutely LOVES them.  This one, Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit:  Velociraptor,  is made by 4M Kidz Labs, and it was exactly what my son was hoping it would be…. a plastic dinosaur skeleton hidden in a block of plaster.  The kit came with a plastic digging tool and a brush.  In … Continue reading Paleontology Play: Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit – Velociraptor

Fun for Little Astronauts: Chabot Space Center

I’m surprised I haven’t written about the Chabot Space Center before, as we’ve been members for two years and visit frequently.  I’m frequently asked the question, “Is the museum OK for 3-year-olds?”  Yes!  My son has always loved our visits here.  The museum is filled with hands-on exhibits, which children enjoy. In the Beyond Blastoff  and the One Giant Leap:  A Moon Odyssey exhibits, a … Continue reading Fun for Little Astronauts: Chabot Space Center

Citizen Science: FrogWatch 2013

As I sit here at my computer with the backdoor open to allow some fresh air into our home, I’m listening to the lovely sound of frogsong.  The chorus is coming from the creek on the other side of our backyard fence.  Up until today, we’ve only been hearing one frog at a time.  Suddenly, this afternoon,I can’t distinguish how many I hear.  Has the … Continue reading Citizen Science: FrogWatch 2013

Paleontology Play: The Magic School Bus Fossil Science Kit

For those of you with kids in the 5-12 age-range, I highly recommend you check out The Magic School Bus Science Club, offered through The Young Scientist Club (www.theyoungscientistclub.com).   By joining the club, you’ll receive twelve Magic School Bus science kits, one mailed each month of the year.  The cost is about $240/year, but you might be able to find a 50% off membership … Continue reading Paleontology Play: The Magic School Bus Fossil Science Kit

More Fun with Animal Tracks

This past weekend, we attended a fun nature class at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.  This free class for children aged 5+ and their family, called Family Nature Hour, is held on Saturday afternoons throughout the year.  Each week a different concept from the natural world is covered.  The one we attended on Saturday was about animal tracks. We were fortunate to have the … Continue reading More Fun with Animal Tracks

Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center, located in Santa Cruz on the bluffs above the Monterey Bay, is a true gem.  Don’t expect the grandeur of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but be prepared for a smaller, quieter, more intimate experience here.  The location is phenomenal.  On a clear day, the views can’t be beat. Inside the center, children will actually have time to experience the touch … Continue reading Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz

Rockin’ Experiment 3: Make Metamorphic Cookies

The final project in our three-part geology series, tailored for early elementary aged kids, is about metamorphic rocks.  The focus of this experiment is to show “rocks” can change through heat, compression, and time.  The “rocks” in this project are actually cookies.  We made cookies, making some observations about the “minerals” (ingredients) we put into them. *** Here’s what you’ll need:  A cookie recipe (with … Continue reading Rockin’ Experiment 3: Make Metamorphic Cookies

Rockin’ Experiment 2: Make a Sedimentary Sandwich

This the second in our three-part exploration of rocks.  I’m teaching my 5-year-old about the three kinds of rocks (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic), what they are made of, and how they are created.  All three science experiments are being conducted in the kitchen.  Today, we’re learning about sedimentary rocks. *** First, discuss with your child what sedimentary rock is made out of… mud, sand, and … Continue reading Rockin’ Experiment 2: Make a Sedimentary Sandwich

Rockin’ Experiment 1: A Lava-licious Igneous Meltdown

I found each of the experiments in this three-part geology series for young kids in the book, Kindergarten Success,  by Jill Frankel Hauser. The first, from the book, is “Igneous Meltdown”, an exploration in how magma (rock melted deep in the earth from heat and pressure) flows out of the earth as lava, which, as it cools and hardens, becomes igneous rock. Note… this experiment … Continue reading Rockin’ Experiment 1: A Lava-licious Igneous Meltdown

It’s Earth Science Week!

Earth Science Week is going on right now, this week, October 14th-20th.  This international “event” is put on by the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) “to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth Sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth.”  Sounds like a great time to teach our kids a bit about the earth! Not sure where to start?  We’re … Continue reading It’s Earth Science Week!

Devils Postpile National Monument

If you’re ever in the Eastern Sierras near Mammoth Lakes, you’ve gotta check out Devils Postpile.  This place is incredible, and unlike anywhere else I’ve visited in California.  The only other place I can personally compare it to is the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland.  Both places have these fascinating basalt hexagonal columns.  You have to see them to truly appreciate them. What’s so special … Continue reading Devils Postpile National Monument

Project FeederWatch

As I wrote the other day (Let’s Count Stars!), we enjoy participating in citizen science projects.  It’s a fun way to contribute to scientific research and learn about science at the same time.  I wrote earlier in the week about participating in the Great World Wide Star Count.  Perhaps stargazing isn’t your thing, but you’d still like to take part in a project.  Well, here’s … Continue reading Project FeederWatch

Let’s Count Stars!

I’m always on the lookout for citizen science projects that would be fun to do with my son.  I believe it’s a great way to teach science and get kids involved in a real-life project.  Of course, this isn’t just for kids!  Participating in citizen science projects is a wonderful way for people of all ages to contribute to scientific research. For kids (or adults) … Continue reading Let’s Count Stars!

Going on a Bug Hunt

While my husband was warming up for his bike race on Saturday (see post here… Cyclo-Cross, Monterey Style), my son recommended we follow one of the nearby trails and go bug hunting.  Excellent idea!  We keep exploration tools (bug viewer, magnifying glass) with us at all times, so we’re ready to go whenever inspiration strikes. Photos taken on Saturday, September 22nd, on the frisbee golf … Continue reading Going on a Bug Hunt

Top 5 Nature Activity Books for Families

Looking for a book filled with activities and advice to help you get into nature with your kids?  I’ve listed five of my favorites here.  I refer to these often in my daily outdoor activities with my now 5-year-old, and have been using a couple of these books since he was two or three.  While it’s important to provide children with lots of free playtime … Continue reading Top 5 Nature Activity Books for Families

Take a “Signs of Fall” Walk

Saturday is the first day of Autumn.  While it doesn’t quite feel like fall yet here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I know the seasons will begin to change soon.  This is a great time to head outdoors with your child to look for the first signs of fall.  This walk can be taken just about anywhere… around your neighborhood, through your local park, … Continue reading Take a “Signs of Fall” Walk