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Plants and Human Body

Have your children make a list of all the foods they eat today, which come from plants. For instance: bananas, oranges, apples, tomatoes, carrots, celery, potatoes, corn, peas, green beans, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, etc. Explain, or have your child tell you, how the fruits or vegetables grow on these plants, e.g., oranges and apples on a tree, peas and green beans on a garden plant, carrots and potatoes underground. How do the specific fruits or vegetables help the human body? Oranges provide Vitamin C, carrots provide Vitamin A, Bananas provide Vitamin B, etc.

Watching "Heat Rise"

Objective: To observe how warm air is forced upward

Items needed:

* Light Bulb in a Small Lamp

* Aluminum Foil or Paper

* Scissors

Create a spiral-shaped spinner from the aluminum foil or paper. You can do this by tearing off a nice-sized square of foil or paper. Using scissors and starting at the outer edge of the foil, cut in a circular pattern toward the center, cutting in smaller and smaller circles to create a spiral-shaped spinner.

First, with the lamp turned off, have your child hold the spiral spinner quite still over top of the cold lightbulb. What happens to the spinner? If no other air movement is in the vicinity, it should not have moved much. Now turn on the lamp and allow the lightbulb to warm up. Have your child carefully hold the spiral spinner above the warm lightbulb, avoiding contact with it. What happened this time? If the bulb is warm enough, the spiral spinner will begin spinning around and around, above the lightbulb!

The air around the lightbulb has been heated and is expanding. Since cool air is heavier, it displaces the warm air, and causes the warm air to be forced upward. As it is forced upward in this experiment, it moves the spinner, making it rotate. Children enjoy the opportunity to see evidence of something which is basically invisible -- in this case, the warm air.

Making Soil

Objective: To see how soil is formed

Items needed:

* Plastic container

* Soft rocks

* Shells

* Sand

* Clay

* Dried leaves and plants

Collect several of the above items and add them to the plastic container. Use a fingernail or penny to scratch off sediment and flakes from the soft rock or shells, allowing the flakes to mix with the items in the plastic container. Rub the soft rocks and shells together over the container to disengage more sediment from each. Sprinkle some sand (which is made up of tiny grains of shells and rocks) into the container. Crumble some clay into the container. Crush the dried leaves and plants, and add them to the mixture in the container. Mix all the items together well. Continue collecting the items above and adding them to the mixture each day. After several days, observe the amount of rock fragments, sand, clay, and dried leaves and plants that have been accumulated. With a generous amount of each item, the container should be filling up with rich organic soil that would be good for growing plants. As plants grow and decay, and as rocks and shells tumble about and are weathered, more soil accumulates on our earth for more plants to grow and thrive, helping to keep the life cycle going.

Create your own terrarium-aquarium ecosystem!

Place a deep, clear, plastic tub, filled with rocks, sand, soil, and seeds, inside a larger deep, clear, plastic tub, filled with gravel, water, the proper water conditioner, a small filter, and fish. You now have an island within a pond! Make sure the fish have plenty of room to swim around the "island".

Your children will be able to observe the growth of new plants and can nurture them in their island habitat, as they also observe and care for the fish and pond life inside the simple aquarium. As changes begin taking place, encourage your child to research them. For instance:

* What caused the algae in the fish pond?

* What could be added to the aquarium to eat the algae?

* What caused moss to grow on the island?

* What has begun eating the leaves of the plants?

* Would adding a lizard to the island take care of what eats the plants?

* Can water from the aquarium be used to water the plants on the island?

* If the water cycle of nature could develop over the terrarium-aquarium, how might it work?

Adding plants to the aquarium will provide oxygen for the fish. Visit your local pet store and see what plants would work best for the fish in the pond. The plants will also provide a sheltered area for fish to rest or to eventually lay eggs.

Tiny bugs and worms from the soil may make an appearance from time to time on the island. Discuss the importance of these critters, i.e., mixing and aerating the soil.

How do they survive in the soil?
What do they eat?
Where are their homes?

Take advantage of this hands-on summer project to learn more about pond life, the environment, and ecosystems. Find some books at the library on these topics and share them with your child. Have him write about the project and some of the things he learned in his Writing Journal.

You might like to save some notes on this project to place in your child's upcoming portfolio. A worksheet or two from a book on ecosystems, pond life, insects, or the environment might also be helpful. Enjoy your home-made terrarium-aquarium with your child, along with the mysterious life forms that develop!