Tag Archives: educational activities

10 cool kid facts for a Full Moon night.

Did you know that the full moon is the only moon that comes up at sunset and goes down at sunrise? That’s precisely what makes it so perfect for night hiking. What could possibly spice a hiking up like walking in the dark of night with no need for a headlamp and your shadow trailing behind you.

Here are a few other kid friendly facts I’ve learned about full moons.

1. Is the moon really perfectly round? The full moon may appear round, but is actually shaped like an egg with the pointed end facing earth.

2. Why is the moon bigger as it’s coming up over the horizon? Well, it’s not. Scientists have long battled to explain the “moon illusion”. The phenomenon is understood to be caused by human perception rather than the magnifying effect of the earth’s atmosphere.

3. How often do we see a full moon? The full moon occurs every 29.5 days – the duration of one complete lunar cycle.

4. What’s the ‘Flower Moon’ all about? The full moon has many names. The Algonquian people had a different name for each full moon, depending on the month. Each name is linked to the season and nature. My favorite is September’s Harvest Moon, but did you know the Strawberry Moon is the name for the full moon in June? This is because strawberries are ready for picking. Here’s a list of moon names and meanings.

5. How long does it take to travel to the moon? The moon is about 238,855 miles from earth. Traveling by car that would take 130 days. If you took a rocket it would take 13 hours. And should you choose to travel at the speed of light, you could get there in a meer 1.52 seconds.

6. How fast does the moon actually move? The moon travels around the earth at an average speed of 2,288 miles per hour. Sure doesn’t look that fast! Why do you think that is…? I have a few theories.

7. Why is the moon so bright? It’s actually not, well, not really. The moon is not a light source, it doesn’t make its own light, it reflects light from the sun. We can see the moon because light from the sun bounces off it back to the earth. If the sun wasn’t there, we wouldn’t be able to see the moon.

8. Why does the moon change shapes, then sometimes disappears entirely? The moon appears to change shape but what we are actually seeing is the moon lit up by the light from the sun in different ways on different days. Check out this graphic from red-roko (to the right). It shows this perfectly.

9. Where does the phrase “once in a Blue Moon” come from? The second full moon occurring within a calendar month is called a Blue Moon. The latest was seen on 31st May 2007. And just to put this phrase into context, his phenomenon occurs once every three years on average. 

10. Why does the moon follow me? If you’re driving down your street at night, it may look like the moon is chasing you, zooming behind the treetops to keep up with you. The moon isn’t actually following you, though. It’s just an optical illusion. The moon appears to follow you because it’s so far away. As you walk or drive along, things much closer to you, like trees and houses, appear to move between you and the moon making it look like it’s the moon that’s actually moving.

Helping kids with the science fair: One woman’s story

My next door neighbor is my best friend in town.  We meet up several times a week for popsicles, hot chocolate, or chit chat about what’s been going on in our lives.  His name is Elias and he’s 11.

Did I mention I don’t get out much?

It doesn’t matter, he’s as entertaining as any adult, and full of jokes and wild ideas.  You should hear his plans for the shed in his back yard… it involves a two-story swimming pool, a fire pit, and tiles made out of natural sandstone.  He’s a whiz at doing math in his head (but not questions about time).  He loves electronics, making up stories, and mapping out routes in his head.  Elias has Asperger’s Syndrome.

I won’t even pretend to know what this means from Elias’ point of view, or what it’s like to be his mother.  He and I have a different sort of relationship… but I do know this: he struggles in school and gets picked on a lot.  So much so that he now hates school.  I don’t have to pretend that this makes me sad. (more…)

The Perseids are coming!

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The Perseids always fall around my mom’s birthday, and growing up I remember many a birthday party that involved clambering into the car and getting away from city lights.  The challenge was to see more than Dad.

We’d make dutch oven Gingerbread with Peaches and serve it with ice cream, kept cool under a brick of dry ice.  This weekend, my husband and I will be throwing a mattress out on the back lawn and sleeping under the stars (if the monsoons stay away, that is–cross your fingers!).  Join in the fun!

The stars are aligning for a perfect weekend star party:  The moon will be tiny and coming up late in the evening, the weather is warm, and it’s a weekend!  Time to throw out some blankets and stare at the night sky.

And the best part?  It’s free.

The universe is conspiring to create some fireworks (a.k.a. The Perseid Meteor Shower), and the best time to see them will be Saturday night (the peak is apparently Sunday at noon, but, that won’t work for obvious reasons).  There should be 50-100 meteors per hour (don’t be disappointed if you don’t quite see that many).  The meteors are tiny fragments of thousand-year-old debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle Comet.

Check here for more info on the meteors and other things astronomical.

Watching meteors is a great family event that develops focus in little ones.  Want to share the night sky with your kids?  Here are a few pointers on getting set up: (more…)

The exciting world of Macroinvertebrates

If there was one thing I could suggest you do with your kids this summer, catching aquatic macroinvertebrates would be near the top of my list. Nerdy I know, but in every Nature Center I’ve worked at, this activity has been the favorite of  parents and children alike (well, most parents). It involves water, mud, nets and unearthly looking creatures seldom noticed by humankind.

What’s an aquatic macroinvertebrate you ask? It’s a small water dwelling invertebrate, big enough to be seen without a microscope. Many of these critters are actually juvenile forms of well known adult insects. For example, does the picture to the right look familiar… it’s actually a dragonfly stuck in its awkward teenage years.


  1. Net for each child. This can be as simple as a aquarium net (ideally a long handled one) or as fancy as a ‘real’ aquatic net.
  2. Large shallow plastic tote. Something to dump the contents of your net into so that you can sift through it. We’ve used a variety of containers, whatever you use, just make sure the water/plant/sludge mixture is only about an inch or two deep so that you can look through it easier. (more…)

Activity: If you give a kid a meat thermometer

Ari went through this phase where he insisted on turning everything into a bar graph. It was pretty random, but pretty awesome. We graphed his weight over time, the size of his toy cars, the ages of everyone he knows, etc.

While in the midst of this phase he came to me one afternoon and said “Mom, I want to do some science and make a graph, with this!” He held up a meat thermometer.

I started off by handing him 2 cups of water. One that had been microwaved, the other straight from the tap. I told him to measure the two and see what their temperatures were. He did. Then he wanted to graph them. He then proceeded to measure the fridge, cupboard, yard, plant soil, etc. Each time coming back to me for help plotting it on his graph. He had to wait 2 minutes in between each “experiment” and had to let the thermometer sit for 2 minutes to “run the experiment”. This kept him busy for a good hour while I cooked dinner… which as you can tell from experiment #5 involved chicken. (Sorry, had I know I would be sharing this I would have written a little more legibly).

He felt like a real scientist. He was so giddy.

It also allowed us to discuss things like “why is the backyard warmer than the front yard”, “why is your mouth so warm”, “what temperature keeps things frozen” and other important ‘scientist’ topics. And you know what the big ahaa moment was for him? The van was colder than the refrigerator!! Oh. My. Heck.

We plan to take the meat thermometer on our next bike ride… I’m sure he’ll think of all sorts of things to measure, and we’ll have fun comparing the results to our inside graph.

Next time your child is pining at you for something to do while you cook dinner, hand them a meat thermometer.

Pre-K Lesson Plan: How do Seeds Move?

Our co-op preschool is in full swing again. That means every 5 weeks I’ll be posting my lesson plan. This year’s charge is to find a way to incorporate the outdoors AND the Montessori method. Here is what I came up with this week.

Note:  Fall is the perfect time to be out searching for seeds. The kids loved it! Also note that this activity took me two days. One day we did the walk (“field work”), the next day we did the sorting (“lab work”).

To introduce the concept of how seeds travel (disperse), have a good excuse to get outside and explore, and practice sorting and categorization skills.

Bags (1 for each child, for collecting seeds)
Old socks (to walk around outside and attract seeds)
Egg cartons (1 for each child, for sorting seeds)
Touch Box (box full of seeds you have previously collected)
Worksheet about how seeds travel (see below)
Glue, tape, markers.
Book: The Tiny Seed by Eric Carl.

1. Read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carl.
2. Discuss: Do seeds move? How do they move? Do they have little legs? How far do they go? What would it be like to be a seed? etc…
3. Explain to the kids that today we are going to be scientists; we’re going to try and find seeds and figure out how they move. (more…)

Use #3 for a stick: Catch a lizard

Miniature dinosaurs.  Adorable, and common.  Ever wanted to see one up close?  Feel its little heartbeat, stroke its leathery sides?  I am here to help you achieve this life long dream.

You may not know this, but lizard experts the world over use sticks and dental floss to catch lizards.  Very high tech stuff.  Today I’m going to share with you their technique.  I’m sure it is a highly guarded secret, and if you don’t hear from me by Monday, know that a branch of the C.I.A. has likely locked me away somewhere for divulging this information.

What you’ll need: (more…)

Ten things you probably didn’t know about bees

It’s summer time.  And the bees… they’re everywhere!  You’ve heard them buzzing on a lazy day, your kids have been stung, or someone has remarked on the bees busy at flowers.  They’re everywhere… and yet so misunderstood, poor things.

Here are ten interesting facts about the wonderful creatures known as bees.

How is it that I know these things about bees?  Because I’m a certified geek, and when I’m not cooking or taking pictures, I’m thinking about bees.  And okay, so I’m studying bees for my PhD.  But whatever.

Spout these little factoids off to your kids and wow them with your worldly knowledge.  Or just take a moment to marvel out how cool these little beasties are.

1. There are between 20,000 and 30,000 species in the world. In North America there are between 3,000 and 4,000.  New species are found every year.  Really.  Every year!  It’s like Lewis and Clark or Dr. Livingstone out there in the bee-world.  “Where are most bees found,” you’re wondering?  I’ll tell you:  the deserts.  Unlike butterflies, beetles, monkeys, hummingbirds, frogs, sloths, and many, many other creatures, bees love dry heat, and are most diverse in the hot and dry places of the world. (more…)

Teach Anticipation and Foresight. Plan a Hike.

I just read this fascinating article in Psychology Today that talked about what skills the current generation will need in order to be successful by the time they’re old enough to hold down a job.  The author points out that the model for our current education system was invented over a hundred years ago—when telephones were just being invented, refrigerators were blocks of ice, and television was pure science fiction.  In other words, during a time that today’s children absolutely cannot comprehend.  More importantly, the goals of education differed significantly a hundred years ago.  Today (as the author says):

“The best jobs will go to applicants who have the skillsets to analyze information as it becomes available, the flexibility to adapt when what were believed to be facts are revised, and to collaborate with other experts on a global playing field requiring tolerance, willingness to consider alternative perspectives, and articulately communicate one’s ideas successfully.”

How do we prepare our children for this future?  The author suggests encouraging activities that teach “predicting, planning, revising, and accountability”.

Here’s an idea: let your child plan the next hike. (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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