Planetary telescopes

March 28, 2011

Construction paper, pins, tape, hole punch, stickersToday we’re going to teach Little Bear’s classroom about space!  The kids are 3 and 4, so we’re going to keep it hands-on and light. . . literally!

We’re going to help each kid make a “telescope” out of construction paper and point it at pictures of the planets, to see how they’re different.  After we talk about the planets a while, we’ll tape a piece of black paper with pinholes to the end of the telescope and look through it at a light — to see “the stars.”  It’s an easy craft to make, and I hope it will be a fun way to introduce these little ones to the planets and put the stars within their reach.  (Even if they’re not allowed to stay up late enough to see the real ones!)

I can post instructions and a debrief afterwards — but now, I’ve got to run — Widget and I have a date to teach Bear’s class about the planets and the stars, and I am SO HAPPY.

The idea for this craft came from Marissa, at Our Daylight Adventures, who did the toilet paper telescope craft with her son for Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair last April.  The Virtual Science Fair was such an amazing gift — I read through all the projects again last week, and I still can’t believe it.  I wanted to go through and leave comments everywhere, since I was too sick to do it April 7 after my surgery (though I read and loved them all!), but who checks comments on year-old posts?


We like the moon!

November 4, 2010

We like the moon!  Cause it is close to us….

Elle asked me on twitter this afternoon how to encourage a four year old’s interest in the moon.  Well, some friends and I have a proposal in to NASA to help teach just that.  The product’s not ready yet, but here are some thoughts off the top of my head:

1. Go outside.  That’s right.  Just go outside after dinner with your child, find a quiet spot, and look up.   Talk about what you see.  You don’t need to know the names of the constellations yet, or how to find the north star.  You don’t need to wait for a meteor shower or anything special. Just go outside and enjoy the night sky with your child.

2. Talk to your child about what you see.  As you both get comfortable with the night sky, teach her the phases of the moon (new, crescent, quarter, half, three quarters, waxing, full — and then back down, although waxing “getting larger” becomes waning “getting smaller” on the way back to the new moon, which you can’t see at all).  Ask her, “How big is the moon tonight?”

3. When your child is comfortable with the phases of the moon, and about 4 or 5 years old, graph the phases of the moon and chart the changes.  For little kids, when you come back inside each night, ask him to draw the moon on that day’s space on a calendar.  After a couple weeks, you (and he!) will be able to see how the moon changes over time. 

4. A moon will change through all the phases and return to the phase you saw the first night in about a month.  Figure out why that is so, and then talk about whether you think it’s a coincidence that each month is about one lunar cycle.  (Extra credit: Read stories about what ancient peoples thought about the moon to your child.  Ask your children’s librarian or visit SkyTellers, at the Lunar and Planetary Institute for books and additional activities.)

For a hands-on activity, set up a demonstration of why we see different phases of the moon.  Start with a flashlight, an apple or an orange, and a grape.  The orange is the Earth.  Set it on the table, or let your child hold it.  The flashlight represents the light of the Sun, shining on the Earth.  Set it on the table, shining on the orange.  Now take a grape and move it around in a nearly flat circle around the orange, just as the Moon orbits the Earth.  (Hang tight, we’re almost there.)  Have your child stand next to the orange, and look at the light shining on the grape, from the perspective of the orange.  What does she see? 

Notes for the parent:

  • When the grape is between the flashlight and the orange, no light shines on the surface of the grape that the orange can see.  This is called a “new moon.”
  • As the grape starts in its circle around the orange, the orange can gradually see light shining on the edge of the grape closest to the flashlight.  This is called a “crescent moon.” 
  • At 1/4 of the way around the circle, half of the grape is illuminated, from the orange’s perspective.  This is a “half moon.”
  • As the grape moves toward the halfway point, it is more and more lit up.  We call this process “waxing.”
  • Halfway around the circle, the side of the grape facing the orange is fully illuminated by the flashlight (if you don’t see the light shining on the grape, you may have to hold the grape off the table a little more, to avoid an eclipse!).  This is a “whole moon.”
  • As the grape moves onward from the halfway point, the side facing the orange is less and less lit up.  We call this “waning.”
  • At 3/4 of the way around the circle, half of the grape is illuminated, from the orange’s perspective.  This is a “half moon.”
  • As the grape continues in its circle around the orange, the orange can gradually see light shining on the edge of the grape closest to the flashlight.  This is called a “crescent moon.” 
  • As the grape concludes its orbit around the orange, the orange can see no light shining on the grape, as the grape is between the orange and the flashlight.  See if your child can figure out/remember that this is once again called a “new moon.”

Does that make sense?  If your child is of an age/temperament where holding still is an option, try the demo again with your child as the center of the system (in the Earth’s place) and see if he can see the phases of the moon on the grape (or a small ball) even better — and maybe name the phases himself!

Enjoy the night sky with your child.  The moon is just one of the many wonders of our solar system, but it’s one that is accessible to all, and as close as the end of your driveway.

Wordless Wednesday

July 14, 2010

Mama’s first PIC line.

I’m home from the hospital now and resting, with this thing still in my arm. More later.

The awkwardness of swag

June 7, 2010

First, I know this is a terribly first world problem, and a first blogger world problem at that. I do realize that there are terrible things in the world today, especially on the Gulf Coast, near my hometown (oh, Ship Island, my heart hurts for you). I realize that people are sick and dying of cancer (1500 Americans a day) and other illnesses, and that we who have the luxury of blogging are the luckiest of the luckiest … but I simply must say something about swag.

Yes, swag. The “stuff we all get” at celebrity events as fancy as the Oscars and as homegrown as a blogger conference.  I get the point. I know that if companies encourage us to try their products, we’re likely to write about them, and they get huge “word of mouth” or “return on investment.” I get it. I do.  And I won’t go so far as to say I don’t like swag. I do! Who doesn’t? For me, I don’t get out much, so it’s my chance to finally try a Georgetown Cupcake, to learn about Bitdefender‘s antivirus package, or to see just how small the new iGo charger is (see what I did there? I’m not anti-swag).

But here’s the thing. I can’t carry it all. I’m starting to feel like a packhorse at these blogger meetups, and it’s counterproductive.  We have these blogger events to cement these relationships that we all have, and to make connections with each other, blogger to blogger at Momzshare, and brand to blogger, blogger to brand at events like SVMom’s D.C. Metro Brand/Blogger Symposium yesterday.  But if it really is all about relationships, then shouldn’t we be spending our time talking to each other?

Shouldn’t we be encouraged to spend our time talking to the vendors and talking with each other, making new connections or really catching up, rather than carrying around four or five big bags of stuff, which forces the conversations to the shallow end, as we ask each other how we’re holding up, or how we’ll possibly get all this home?  Shouldn’t the moms who are carrying babies, already laden down and with a body possibly stressed by nursing, not have to worry about also carrying bags of stuff?  Can’t they be full participants by simply talking, perhaps picking up a coupon or card, but not also worried about juggling the blue bag and the white bag and the red bag and the cream bag and the … well, I think you get my point.

If this sounds ungrateful (and it may), I’m sorry.  But here’s the thing.  I have a disability.  Because of all my treatment, and the giant (7 pound!) tumor I had in my breasts a few years ago, I have a great deal of trouble with my back.  I can’t open heavy doors by myself, or carry a purse that is more than 3 pounds.  I simply can’t.  If I do, my ribs pull out from behind my spine and I’m in a great deal of pain.  For days.  Those sleeves you see on my arms and hands?  Those are necessary to control my lymphedema.  If I carry more than a small purse, hang out outside in the summer, or even stand too close to a hot stove, my arms swell up like balloons, and I have to go back into lymphedema therapy.  For weeks.  So I protect my body, use push buttons for heavy doors (or wait for someone else to open them), and say no to events that I think will stress it.

I took steps to manage my disability yesterday.  I tried not to complain.  I smiled sweetly and said thank  you (as I know that marketing metrics include how many bags of swag are given away), and then walked back to a booth I had called my home base, depositing the box or bag behind a curtain, with the gracious permission of the Lawry’s seasoning folks.  But I know it wasn’t just me.  I know that other blogging mamas struggled, dumping their swag in various spots around the room, too, and it became an issue.  It became an issue for moms with babies, moms with bad backs, and moms who wanted to build relationships, without having to worry about where they left their stuff.

There are other events coming up, particularly at BlogHer 10, that will face the same problem, and they will decide to handle it in different ways.  Last year, the Blogalicious party organizers really made a good impression on me, as they encouraged us to talk to each other, to experience the brand (Lush), and to have a good time.  The swag wasn’t brought out until the end, as we were leaving, and it was a nice surprise.  The experience was about the experience.

In contrast, other parties had limited amounts of swag, tweeting and blogging and teasing about the fantastic swag (misnamed, if you ask me) that would be there for the first 50, 100, or 200 people, and that you better get there early to get their stuff.  What happened at these events?  People lined up early, as they were told, to get their stuff.  They stood in line instead of building solid relationships and planning partnerships around a table.  They angled to be one of the first, to get the goody bags, some of which had $500 and up of product for a select few.  Guests were encouraged in a “me first” mentality … and with predictable results.

How do we create a good atmosphere for brands without overloading the bloggers?  Not everyone will agree, but here are three suggestions to consider:  1) Bring coupons if you want us to try your product at home and write about it.  That totally worked for Trop50 and Ragu last year.  2) Put your product in the big bag that we all get at registration.  3) If you bring product to an event, and it truly is swag, stuff we all get, then let us pick it up as we’re leaving, so we can spend our time at the party building relationships.

When you make it all about swag, it becomes all about … swag.

Disclosure: All the brands mentioned in this post were sponsors of the respective parties, and sent me home with free samples of various kinds.  Oh, and my friend Jessica carried them home for me.