Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fall and Halloween projects for the Classroom (Plant Life Cycles and Pumpkin Math)

Here is a cute yet educational project that is perfect for the season and teaches students about the plant life cycle. It starts with the seed, then the leaf, the flower…until you have an unripe pumpkin and a ripe pumpkin. You can write the numbers of the steps to help students put the life cycle steps in order. The shapes store inside the orange plastic plates that are tied together with green yarn in three places. Just leave the label “Pumpkin Life Cycle” handle hanging out ready to pull.

Here’s the back…..

 

Students can practice reciting the life cycle steps while the shapes are inside the plate holder and “reveal” the answer by pulling out the next step.

 

Another thing I like to do in the fall is to buy pumpkins and let students count how many seeds are in each. If you wait until the day after Halloween, you can really get these cheaply (sometimes free!).

 

Before you begin, estimate the weight height and width of each pumpkin and how many seeds they think will be inside. See who is closest.  Give students some comparable weights of things to help them estimate (toaster? Dictionary? Bowling Ball?)

 

Its fun to estimate which pumpkin IS the biggest, heaviest or has the highest number of seeds inside. They are often surprised to find that asymmetrical pumpkins are deceiving and that the largest pumpkins don’t necessarily contain the largest or largest NUMBER of seeds inside. Sometimes the largest pumpkin is not the DENSEST.

Think about what tools would be needed to compare your pumpkins. Will a ruler do, or would a tape measure help? What units should we use to measure and weigh our pumpkins? A really good lesson is to measure and weigh the pumpkins in two units (e.g. inches vs. meters.)

 

After cleaning their pumpkins you can create a chart that includes the number of seeds that are found in each child’s pumpkin. You can see what the average number of seeds is.

 

There is no end to what you can discover from a project like this. Perhaps you could weigh the pumpkin before and after. Estimate how far the pumpkin seeds would go if laid end to end….

 

I recommend buying pumpkin-carving knives for children when you see them on sale during the fall season.  Many children are not allowed to help in the kitchen (even if there IS someone at home who knows how to cook) They so enjoy being able to carve their own pumpkin.

 

I believe in many Montessori principles at home and in the classroom.  Giving children the skills and tools to discover is very empowering.  As soon as my own children could stand on a kitchen chair they were helping in the kitchen with their pumpkin-carving knives. As a result, they had excellent hand-eye coordination and small motor skills in the early primary years.

 

Don’t forget to roast the pumpkin seeds for a nutritious snack!

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons butter, melted

1 pinch salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Toss seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fifteen Frugal Things I do

 

1.   I buy in bulk when I can and store things like dried beans in my pantry.  I put a bay leaf in the container to keep out the pantry moths.

 

2.   I freeze bags of beans, flour, cornmeal, cereal, etc. in the freezer before storing to kill any pantry moths that may be already in the packaging. I don’t mean to gross you out, but that is how you bring them into the house.

 

3.   If I find pantry moths in dried beans, I don’t throw them out. I freeze for a day, then put aside for planting in the garden. Yes, dried beans are just seeds that will grow plants.

 

4.   I try not to use paper towels very much. Clothes that are too worn for donation are cut in to rags and stored in those cloth containers that are sold for keeping plastic bags ( I made my own).  The buttons, snaps, elastic and zippers are removed and stored for future use.  I store the buttons in an blue antique canning jar and use it as a decoration.  No buying $5 buttons because you want to keep a shirt.

 

5.   We eat what is in season or what is growing in our garden.  For this reason, I am always adding perennial vegetables and fruits so that there is always something to eat here. By the time we retire, I want this to be our Garden of Eden.

 

6.   If potatoes aren’t currently growing in our garden and are very high cost in the stores (as they are now) we eat a lot of pasta and rice.  I google recipes that use the ingredients I have.

 

7.   I save all bacon grease and use this for seasoning cast iron.  With cooking oil so high, this has saved much money.  I’m even using it instead of oil or margarine to flavor dishes.  I believe the benefits of natural products like butter or grease are better than those for man-made products like margarine or partially hydrogenated oils. (but that’s a whole ‘nother essay!) No, I’m not overweight, don’t have diabetes or high cholesterol.

 

8.   Speaking of cast iron—I’m a big fan. All of mine has been found at yard sales and thrift stores. Usually it looks rusted, and I have cleaned them up and seasoned them and they work great. Once seasoned, you don’t have to use oil to keep things from sticking. I use my pans to make stir fry several times a week. I don’t allow any “nonstick” pans in my home after reading about EPA’s studies. Did you know that pet birds often die when these pans are used in the same room? That’s enough evidence for me that they are not worth their “non-stickiness”.

 

9.   Another reason I use cast iron is to add iron into our diets. It’s one of the best ways to do it. It’s free and a better way to get iron.

 

10.    Because we eat a very healthy diet that includes freshly picked fruits and vegetables, we don’t buy vitamins. Nutritionists will tell you that nature has made the vitamins in our food in the most appropriate way for us to absorb the nutrients. No pill is better than eating fruits and vegetables.

 

11.   Unless the skin is thick and unsightly, I don’t peel potatoes. Mostly we grow our own and these have thin skins so it’s not a problem. Why do I do this?  Because many of the nutrients of potatoes are found in the skins (see # 10 above.)

 

12.    When bananas get a little brown (or a lot brown!) I pop them in the freezer (whole) and defrost later to add to muffins and other dishes. Why throw away nutrients?

 

13.    We must haul our own garbage, so it makes you think twice (or three times) about your carbon footprint, as they say.  All paper products are recycled at home. Even the glossy colored paper is reused—that goes in the bottom of my refrigerator vegetable drawers topped with a paper towel. This makes it easy to clean up messy things that have leaked.

 

14.   I only buy plain yogurt and we flavor it as we use it with fruit, jam, or cinnamon and sugar. In this way, we eat a lot less preservatives and sugar. Store bought flavored yogurt is WAY too sweet.  Also, we are able to use the yogurt in place of sour cream—way healthier. Yogurt is important to the health of your gut.  You don’t need to buy the more expensive “probiotic” brands. Any yogurt with active culture will do. If antibiotics make your tummy feel badly, have some yogurt to restore the good bacteria that the antibiotics destroyed (while killing the bad bacteria.)

 

15.   Last but not least, we put our hot water heaters on a timer so that we are not heating it through the night. This has saved us a lot of money over the years. Hot water is approximately 40% of your electric bill, so it’s a significant savings! The water stays hot for an hour or so after it’s turned off. Ours turns off at 10p.m. and turns on at 6a.m.. We turn it totally off when we are away for more than a day.

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Bring Election Excitement to Your Classroom

It’s not too late to get your students involved in the election!  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it either.

  

University of Virginia‘s Center for Politics Youth Leadership Initiative has a large number of teacher’s resources, lesson plans and background information for schools to use when teaching about the election.  Enrollment is free and entitles you to a CD which tells you how to run a mock election at your school.

 

If you choose to do a mock election for your school, you can set up a computerized election  through YLI that will be held online between October 20-30, 2008.

 

The League of Women Voters has a great nonpartisan election guide. You can get it here.  The election guide has a section that tells all about the salary, duties, election requirements and term of the President.  But what makes this elections REALLY great is a non partisan short (read: kid-friendly) overview of the three major candidates (betcha forgot Nader!) and their take on the following five issues: global climate change, cost of health care, economic disparity and education.

  

Come to think of it NONPARTISAN is a great word to put on your spelling and vocabulary words this week! For that matter, if you want to learn other election terms and even play a bingo game with students look at this from Education World.

I really LOVE the things that Cybrary man has done with his website. I found his link at teachernet and I think he is one inspiring teacher.  Among other things I found at his site was a link to many pictures and ideas for election bulletin boards, doors and displays.  Here’s a link to his election collection, but I recommend staying to see all the other things he has gathered at his website besides the election.

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Beating Lice , Dandruff and More with Homemade Remedies

The combination of lice becoming more resistant to medications (which are usually insecticides, by the way) and the fact that many parents don’t pick out the nits, (the eggs) means that getting rid of lice in a classroom can be difficult.

An old timey remedy is to rinse hair with a 50:50 vinegar to water rinse.  This unsticks the glue the nits that stick them to the hair.  The beauty of this is greater than meets the eye. 

First, the vinegar rinse is a preventative to getting lice (remember, teachers are not immune.) Next, this rinse is great for removing a buildup of hair products from your hair—it’s a natural conditioner too.

Next, a rinse used in the shower will also combat athlete’s foot and nail fungus.  That’s because vinegar is a natural fungal agent. 

Last, this vinegar solution will cure most causes of dandruff.  One reason for this is that most forms of dandruff are believed to be caused by a type of fungus.  Whatever  the reason, it really works and is much cheaper and a natural alternative to dandruff products. Especially if you make your own vinegar!

You keep a 50:50 vinegar to water mixture in a large, recycled shampoo bottle in the shower. 

 

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Free Teacher Resources and Lesson Plans from Agriculture in the Classroom

Agriculture in the Classroom is a program started by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help students understand where their food comes from.  This is an issue near and dear to my heart. Few Americans truly understand how important and fragile our food system is.  We take it for granted.

 

But it’s not only about that—it’s MUCH more. It’s about integrating math, science, language Arts and social studies in a beautiful way.

 

You can find tons and tons of good quality k-12 lesson plans here.

 

Plus, your state agricultural extension service office has even more resources that can be purchased or rented. 

 

I was lucky to attend an all-day training session last summer that was really terrific. Many hands-on activities in all disciplines were offered.  Your state may also run these trainings for teachers.

 

I think these teacher resources are high-quality!  Let me give you one as an example that I’d like to use. 

 

It’s called “More Than One Grain of Rice: Integrating Mathematics, Geography, and (Agri)Culture” and can be used in grades 4-6.You can get the lesson plan here.

 

Among other things, students identify the major producers of grain and calculate the “Doubling of One Grain of Rice.”  What a great way to teach exponential numbers and geography! Add a little fried rice and you’ve got yourself a really cool lesson!

 

 

 

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Growing Celery and Onions FOR FREE

As I was chopping celery this morning for a classroom experiment, I thought I should share this tip: Save the bottom (root) part of the celery that you cut off. Bury an inch down in a pot of soil and in a few weeks you will have celery cutting to use in your cooking!

I freeze the celery tops in a zip lock bag  (more about how I recycle those later–yes, I AM that frugal) and use them to make broth.  When I have bones from meat that has been cooked, I add my stash of celery, some onions and whatever frozen veggies that wouldn’t be used for a side dish and simmer it with a glub of apple cider vinegar.

 

What’s that for, you say?

 

The vinegar helps to leach some of the calcium from the bones and you are left with delicious AND very nutritious broth. The BEST thing you can eat/drink when you are sick.  But I digress….

 

While I was at it, I did the same for an onion so I could post this tip too—cut off the bottom ¼” of the root end of an onion and bury about an inch down in your garden and you will have lovely, if not onions, greens to use in cooking.  I never throw out an onion bottom anymore. And I always have green onions coming up amongst my vegetables AND flowers.

 

I mean, have you SEEN how expensive green onions are in the winter? After that nasty e-coli breakout in imported green onions last winter, I am very happy to grow my own thank you very much!

 

For Free, no less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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