Thursday, April 16, 2015

Plastic Egg Compound Insect Eye Glasses


No impromptu honey bee study would be complete without a quick look at compound eyes.  I thought, briefly, about running into town to see if I could find a pair of "bee" glasses at a toy store, but we had company coming in, and T (age 17) had a midterm scheduled, with our associate pastor coming over to proctor (meaning I had a house to clean, and thank you cookies to bake), so I opted for something the younger children and I could put together quickly.

After fumbling around our craft closet, we came across a couple of plastic eggs (this is a great time of year to pick up a package or two, on clearance, to use for projects just like this). We pulled the bottoms off of two of them, and I (it takes a bit of hand strength) poked a bunch of holes in them with a thumbtack. 


Bees' eyes are made up of thousands of tiny lenses, giving them a mosaic-type sight, much like looking through the holes in the eggs.


When we were satisfied with the number of holes punched, we taped the eggs together, glasses style, with two pieces of clear tape, sticky sides together, for a bridge...


...and a piece of elastic string tied through holes near the outside edge, to hold them on.


They aren't a perfect representation of compound eyes, but they are pretty neat to look through, and quick to make.  The only thing that might make them better would be using red colored eggs.  Apparently, honey bees don't see red, and I think looking though holes in red eggs might make it hard for the children to see red, too - that would be a nice effect.

If you're interested, you can find out more about honey bees, their vision, and compound eyes at  http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/inf2.html.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Collecting Pollen With Static Electricity



One of the interesting facts we read about bees, this week, is that the little hairs on their bodies build up a static electric charge, that attracts pollen to them, as they fly over, and land on flowers.


That sounded like something we needed to try out for ourselves. C (age 8) took a balloon outside, rubbed it on her head (to produce a static charge), and then passed it over a dandelion (coming close to the flower, but not touching it).


And, sure enough...


...it worked.  There was pollen on the balloon.


I don't know about you, but we thought it was pretty cool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Evolution of a Zoob Honey Bee




The creation above was D(age12)'s contribution to our honeybee study, yesterday.  It started out in the morning as a Kafkaesque combination of a Zoob-man meets insect.


Then, after some reading on insects, and bees in particular, it gained a couple of legs, and an abdomen as well as a thorax...


...finally morphing, by late afternoon, into a full blown, if slightly cumbersome, honey bee...


...all ready to be photographed, and labelled in Paint.  


I was very grateful for the entire process, not just because it demonstrated a good deal of thought, creativity and attention to detail on the part of a student (always nice to see), with no work or preparation on my part (even better), but also because it saved me the precious printer ink I would have needed to for the honeybee worksheet I had bookmarked (total victory).

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pollination Snacktivity


While we were out looking at ground squirrel holes, and ladybugs, C (age 8) also spotted an Apis mellifera on our Taraxacum officinale.  Although, I believe she might have called it a honeybee on the dandelions.  Or, maybe she was just screaming - BEE!!!!!


Anyway, she might not have been to happy to see the bee in its natural habitat, but all three younger children (ages 8-12) were pretty interested in the pictures of said bee collecting pollen on its corbicula, or pollen sacs (you can see the orange balls of pollen sticking out from the bee's back legs, in the picture above).

The pollen sacs, also sometimes called pollen baskets, are polished indentions, surrounded by hairs, in the bees' tibia, used to collect pollen for transport back to the hive.

We tried out our own "pollen" collection techniques with a Bee-licious, Scholastic, Bee Movie inspired snacktivity.


With plastic fork "bee legs", and banana "pollen baskets"...


...made sticky with honey instead of hairs...


...we collected "pollen" (candy sprinkles, nuts, coconut, and graham cracker crumbs) from one or two of our bowls (standing in for flowers).


After we had made (and eaten) a few of our bee-nana snacks, we began to notice, that we weren't just collecting "pollen", we were depositing it, as well...


...providing us a perfect segue from the activity of bees to the process of pollination.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

With Tuppence for Paper and Strings




Oh, oh, oh!


Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!


Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring 
Up through the atmosphere


Up where the air is clear 
Oh, let's go fly a kite!

I've had the song from Disney's Mary Poppins stuck in my head this whole windy weekend.  Now you can have it in your head, too.
 



No need to thank me, or anything.  It's my pleasure - really, truly.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Wilton Cupcake Decorating Kit - An Easy Afternoon of Fun


Normally, on the day we spot our first ladybug, we mix up a batch of ladybug cookies.  We skipped it this year, or at least delayed it, because the girls were already midway through another baking project.


The dinosaur cupcake kit from Wilton, pictured above, was another of my "moment of madness" grocery store purchases.  I can't remember if I thought I'd use it for a birthday, or if it was just on clearance, and looked like fun, but either way, it's been sitting in the back of our baking cupboard for a few months now.

I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever use it, when G (age "almost" 16) offered to entertain the younger girls (ages 8 and 10), so I could take the time to catch up on some household chores without interruption.   We've had a few work/home/family transitions lately, that have had the younger girls needing more of my attention.

Anyway, the cupcake kit seemed perfect for the girls to do together.  It was simple enough...



...for G to walk the younger girls through without my help...


...especially when paired with a boxed cake mix, and canned frosting...


...but also whimsical, artsy, and...


...cute enough to keep the younger girls engaged.


Wilton makes a number of different cupcake kits (you can find them online, if not in your local grocery store) - monsters, spiders, ladybugs, mustached faces, and more (non-affiliate links).  They are all extremely simple, just cupcake liners, small candy add-ons, and usually some kind of printed paper bit on a plastic stick. There's really not much to them at all, except for...


...an afternoon of baking-crafting-having-fun-together-type potential in a box.

My girls enjoyed them, anyway.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The First Ladybug of the Season


Have you spotted your first ladybug yet, this spring?


I love how the first spotting is always a surprise.  We were out checking out one of the holes made by our neighborhood ground squirrels, in the vacant lot next to our house...


...when a little flash of red caught our eye.


Did you know there are about 5000 species of ladybug worldwide, and more than 400 in the United States alone (per National Geographic Kids)?  Our first ladybug of the season, this year, was a Coccinella septempunctata, or Seven Spotted Ladybug...


...easily identified by its 7 spots, black pronotum (the part that looks like the head) with two large white (eye-like) spots (thanks to a handy dandy identification chart from the Lost Ladybug Project). 

How about you?  What kind of ladybugs have you spotted so far?