GeekMom http://geekmom.com Smart. Savvy. Social. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 02:21:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 GeekMom Game of Thrones Recap is Back! http://geekmom.com/2014/04/geekmom-game-thrones-recap-back/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/geekmom-game-thrones-recap-back/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 02:20:28 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144747 It took a bit, but the GeekMom Game of Thrones Recap is back. This week we talk about Episode 3, “Breaker of Chains” — and it’s a doozy. Don’t forget to tune in right after the show, 10PM EST for our future episodes!

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GOT-LOGO

It took a bit, but the GeekMom Game of Thrones Recap is back. This week we talk about Episode 3, “Breaker of Chains” — and it’s a doozy.

Don’t forget to tune in right after the show, 10PM EST for our future episodes!

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Discussing Earth Day: I’m Not A Plastic Bag http://geekmom.com/2014/04/im-not-a-plastic-bag/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/im-not-a-plastic-bag/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:45:18 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144678 Start a discussion about Earth Day by reading the Archaia graphic novel, I'm Not a Plastic Bag.

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im not a plastic bag archaiaApril 22 is Earth Day, a movement that started 40 years ago and continues to grow and be a vital part of our daily lives. For our children it’s hard to imagine a life where there were no electric cars or reusable shopping bags. While these small steps contribute to a greater good, larger measures have to be taken to sustain our future.

Start talking with your kids about Earth Day at an early age. Archaia’s I’m Not A Plastic Bag by Rachel Hope Allison is a graphic novel with beautiful but haunting pictures of what is actually happening in the world around us. The tale of our own slow destruction of our planet is told through wordless drawings that almost give a Miyazaki-esque quality, scenic yet arrestingly stark at the same time.

plastic bag rainarchaia plastic bag 2archaia plastic bag 3The book also includes information about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a real phenomenon where weather patterns and pollution combine to form a massive concentration of floating consumer waste twice the size of Texas, an “archipelago of trash.” There are also easy to understand statistics and resolutions on what we can do together to prevent further ecological damage.

A picture book is a great way to start a discussion with your child about how your family can recycle, save energy and reduce on a daily basis in your home. I’m Not A Plastic Bag is a great jumping off point about how we as individuals can do our part in reducing our carbon footprint and work towards a sustainable future.

I’m Not A Plastic Bag is available from Archaia.

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Need a New Running Challenge? Try Leading a Blind Runner. http://geekmom.com/2014/04/blind-runner/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/blind-runner/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 12:00:53 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144601 Once you've run a marathon or two, what's your next challenge? Maybe helping a blind runner complete the same race.

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Photo: Becky Popie/An Unseen Run

Photo: Becky Popie/An Unseen Run

After I had my elective amputation surgery ten years ago, I had a long list of athletic things I wanted to try. Running wasn’t one of them. This may surprise you, since most of the news stories you see about amputees seem to focus on them running races of all kinds. But when I looked at all my sports options, running just seemed like a lot of work. So I picked skiing, which is basically just controlling your body as gravity throws you down a mountain.

But being in the amputee community I know a lot of amputee runners. And I know a lot of runners with other disabilities. Some of them need assistance. This is why I love the story I’m about to share with you.

What happens when an experienced runner, with no experience in leading blind runners, is paired up with a blind athlete and asked to run the New York City Marathon together, four days later?

“Mike assured me I would pick it up quickly. I wasn’t so sure, but I agreed to participate, flattered by the offer and intrigued by the challenge”, said Jonathan Stenger, in an article from Slate.com called “Running for Amelia”.

It’s a story about sharing what you love to do with someone else who has the same love. It’s about being in tune with another person’s needs and rhythms. It’s about the sport of long distance running no longer being an exercise in escaping into your own mind to get through, but stepping out of your own mind to help another person through it.

If you are a runner, or even if you are fascinated by runners but don’t participate yourself, this article will inspire you. As you see the results of the Boston Marathon all over the news this week, let it be a reminder to you, to share what you love with those around you. And maybe even challenge yourself to reach out and help.

“Running alongside Amelia, intensely watching the road and the racers all around us, listening over the roar of the crowds for any instruction or question, running for Amelia—it became one of the most emotionally overwhelming and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had.” (Jonathan Stenger, from “Running for Amelia”, Slate.com)

The Runners with Disabilities story is found here.

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The 2015 Chrysler 200 Packs Futuristic Tech To Keep Your Family Safe http://geekmom.com/2014/04/2015-chrysler-200-safety-technology/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/2015-chrysler-200-safety-technology/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:00:21 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144626 The 2015 Chrysler 200 packs some impressively futuristic tech that will help keep you and your family safe when you're on the road.

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2015 Chrysler 200

2015 Chrysler 200, Image: Chrysler

Every time a new car comes out there are new safety features and the 2015 Chrysler 200 is no exception to that rule. But, here’s the thing—what does all of that fancy tech actually do on a day-to-day basis to keep you and your family safe? In this case, it’ll actually take the wheel for a second and make sure you don’t drift off the side of the road and into a tree. The future, you’re soaking in it!

There are lots of safety features in every car and things like antilock brakes and airbags are the norm. We see them on the giant list of features, make a mental note, and move along. But some of the safety tech they’re putting in cars these days is getting downright futuristic like the Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist on the 2015 Chrysler 200.

I had the opportunity to drive the 200 at the vehicle’s recent launch in Louisville, Kentucky and tried out this feature firsthand and it was amazing. If you start to drift out of your lane, the car knows and it lets you know you’re in trouble by giving the wheel a little nudge and putting you back in your lane. Yup, for just an instant, the car drives itself down the road.

2015 Chrysler 200 Interior

2015 Chrysler 200, Image: Chrysler

There’s a little graphic on the instrument cluster that tells you when the feature is activated so you know it’s on duty and keeping track of what you’re doing. If you turn your signals on, then it has no problem with you going left or right and nothing happens. But, if you don’t signal, and start to drift it will move you back into your lane. You can actually watch the wheel move.

I tried this out and, dang, it was impressive! It knew to move the wheel just the tiniest bit to keep me from going off the road, but it didn’t take the wheel out of my hands. If I’d been doing some emergency maneuver, it wouldn’t have stopped me from steering the car wherever I wanted, but it would have helped if I was drifting. It’s a little scary to think of the car driving for you, but in this case, it was truly reassuring.

In that moment when your mind wanders, or you’re tired, or you’re simply not paying attention like you should be, this little feature could save your life.

You might be wondering how much a car that has something this futuristic costs, and the answer might surprise you. The 2015 Chrysler 200 is not a stripped down sedan but quite a luxurious car. It’s got plenty of standard and available features that can make it even more plush, but you can get behind the wheel of one for a price as low as $21,700. Even fully tricked out it’s $33,400. Not bad at all for a car that packs some impressively futuristic tech that could save your life.

Now, if they can just give it some snarky artificial intelligence like KITT and possibly David Hasselhoff as a co-driver, it’d be perfect.

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WonderCon: Kids Cosplay http://geekmom.com/2014/04/wondercon-kids-cosplay/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/wondercon-kids-cosplay/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 02:00:30 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144600 WonderCon brought out the best in fun, family cosplay! Check out these adorable kids!

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frozen

Anna and Elsa
images by Jenn F.

This weekend was the third annual WonderCon, since its move from the Bay area to Anaheim. Each year this con gets bigger and bolder both in size and popularity. The caliber of cosplay at WonderCon has been improving along with it and looks like it may reach DragonCon levels of participation. Family and kids cosplay is huge here and the attention to detail is exquisite. Kids have set poses that they must get into before their picture is taken, proving that even the littlest of this generation already understand the power of their image going viral on social media.

Here’s a roundup of kids cosplay from this weekend’s WonderCon!

Above, sisters Chihiro and Chieko make an adorable Anna and Elsa. By the way Elsa’s posing, you can tell these girls have seen the movies more than a few times.

ahsoka and amidala

Amidala and Ahsoka
image by Jenn F.

More fabulous cosplay sisters! Bella and Eva do their best tribute to the women of Star Wars in Amidala and Ahsoka cosplay. You may remember Bella as Leia from last year’s Star Wars Reads Day!

doctor who

Dalek and Doctor Eleven
image by Jenn F.

Ah, family. You love them, you hate them, but in the end you need each other—much like a Dalek and a Doctor! Giana’s Dalek dress is beautiful in person and the plunger is a hilarious accessory. Michael’s casual Doctor is perfect for a con, comfortable and easily recognizable.

lego movie

Emmet and Wyldstyle
image by Jenn F.

This was one of my favorite cosplays of the day! Again, comfort is king when you’re strolling the con halls and these easy to put together costumes were a great match for adorable siblings Michael and Lena!

apple bloom

Apple Bloom
image by Jenn F.

This is a brilliant cosplay idea for any My Little Pony Fan. As Apple Bloom, one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Sophie Hanson was working double duty. Not only was she cosplaying and posing for pictures, she was also handing out flyers at her dad’s booth, Eisner nominee Travis Hanson of The Bean!

flash cap

Flash and Cap
image by Jenn F.

HANna Solo

Han Solo
image by Jenn F.

Cons can be exhausting and everyone needs a break now and then. While Flash and Cap took a load off, this little Han Solo named Anna took a snack break.

captain marvel squirrel girl

Captain Marvel and Squirrel Girl
image by Jenn F.

More siblings! Stella and her sister Anya were showstoppers as everyone wanted to take their picture in their detailed and gorgeous Captain Marvel and Squirrel Girl costumes!

robins

Nightwing family
image by Jenn F.

A family that cosplays together…well, is the best! This family took their love of Robin to the next level in a family tribute to Robin and Nightwing. Great costumes with awesome poses to match!

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Need a Doctor Now? American Well Has You Covered 24/7 http://geekmom.com/2014/04/american-well-online-physician/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/american-well-online-physician/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 18:23:40 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144249 Life is busy. When you don't have time for an office visit American Well has you covered 24/7 no matter where you are when you need a doctor.

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Image: American Well

This post is sponsored by American Well.

The last thing anyone wants to deal with when they’re not feeling well is trying to find the time and energy to head in to a doctor’s office. It’s even worse when you have to manage the kids and drag them into a germ-filled office when they’re not feeling well.  Now, you don’t have to make the trip thanks to American Well.

We do so much online to save ourselves the hassle of having to run all over town, and now you can even visit a doctor from the comfort of your living room, hotel room, or wherever it is you find yourself when you’re in need of medical care. Any time of the day or night, American Well lets you visit with a doctor online, and you can have your virtual visit nearly instantly.

I tried out the service recently and was very impressed. I had visions of the miles of paperwork you need to fill out when you’re a new patient, but it was just a few minutes and a few key pieces of info that they required in order for me to get started. Once your basics are in, then you select your location and they will show you available doctors in your area as well as those located elsewhere.

It’s all virtual, so I can be sitting in the Northeast and have an appointment with a doctor in California within just minutes, which is exactly what happened when I tried out American Well.  It gave me choices of doctors who were available along with their pictures and a short bio so I could choose the one I thought was best for my needs.

Once you know the doctor you want, it’s the click of a button and you have face-time with a physician in under ten minutes. They also have a fantastic tutorial to help you through the video process so that’s it’s not intimidating or confusing. And there’s a button to click so the doctor will pick up the phone and call if you do have some connectivity issues with the video.

You don’t have to feel like you’re cheating on your regular doctor either because they’ll send all the info to them as a part of the visit.  That’s the only person they’ll share it with and only at your request because they are HIPAA-compliant so your personal information is safe and stays private.

Depending on the your insurance, the $49 American Well visit cost may be covered, and the doctor can even call in a prescription to your local pharmacy if they determine it’s needed as a part of treatment. American Well is a low-cost, convenient, and secure way of getting the medical care you need, when you need it and you can try a visit for free!

Not convinced? Well, simply sign up by the end of April 2014 and the code GEEKMOM will be good for one free visit within the next year. Give it a go!

If you’re tired of the hassle of scheduling an appointment in an office and finding the time to actually keep that appointment, then give #AmericanWell a try and experience the ease and convenience of online physician visits.

This post is sponsored by American Well.

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3 Toddler-Friendly Art Hacks http://geekmom.com/2014/04/toddler-art-hacks/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/toddler-art-hacks/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:00:09 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144512 Out of art supplies? Try these three quick tips for keeping busy hands and minds active.

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toddler art hacks

Tea and coffee drawings, flatbed scanner photography, and substituting play dough for bakeable polymer are three quick tips for young artists from toddlers to teens. All images by Lisa Kay Tate.

I live in a house of busy hands.

Both of my girls are on continuous searches for the next creative project. Although I am proud of my girls’ creative passion, I’m also in a constant struggle to keep supplies on hand to meet their latest whims. Not to mention, the need to come up with safe, age-appropriate ideas.

flatbed

A flatbed scanner and small found objects make some clever photography projects.

This is especially true with my four-year-old, who is extremely hard to corral when her artistic urges get the better of her. Fortunately, through working with my older daughter, repeated trial and error, and many instances of panicky rifling through craft closets, I picked up a few little “life hacks” over time.

Here are three of the simplest:

Flatbed Scanner Photography. When kids bring in their small “treasures” from outside, a regular flatbed home office scanner is a good way to display them in a more permanent manner. Place small flowers, leaves, feathers, or other flat items on the scanner and hit the “photo” setting. Make sure there’s no dew or moisture on the items. Once scanned, print out on regular letter-sized paper, or as an instant “snapshot” if the scanner includes a print setting for 4-by-6-inch photo paper.

tea paint

Out of watercolors? Brew up some tea and coffee paint.

Tea and Coffee Painting. My daughter goes through watercolor paints alarmingly fast. In those instances when no paint is available, use small cups of very thick tea, coffee, fruit drinks, or other beverages to make natural paints. Anyone who has dyed eggs with natural dyes should know how much variety in color there is from different tea types (green tea, Earl Grey, etc.). Textured manila paper works best for this, and gives the drawings a natural, rustic look. They also smell wonderful while painting.

preserve playdough

Sealing play dough with decoupage on smaller projects is a good substitute for polymer clay.

“No Bake” Play Dough Sculpture. Bakeable polymer is the best medium for small-scale sculpting, but when it’s not on hand, kids’ play dough works just as well as a “no bake” version. As this type of clay tends to crack when it’s dry, use a little school glue thinned with water or decoupage to seal it. This will preserve the projects much longer. For smaller sculptures (like clay beads, flowers, etc.), this will look about as good as anything made with bakeable polymer, minus needing to use the oven.

All of these tips take little-to-no preparation and clean up, and are quick boredom busters for weekends or after school.  Toddlers can manage these tasks with the help of parents, and older siblings will want to try as well.

Plus, kids love to tell others how they made things, and watch the impressed looks on Grandpa’s face when they declare, “I drew this with coffee!”

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DIY Vermicomposting II: Do You See Cocoons Yet? http://geekmom.com/2014/04/diy-vermicomposting-2/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/diy-vermicomposting-2/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:00:44 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144562 If the conditions are just right, after approximately 90 days, your worm population might be happy enough to reproduce.

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A red wriggler cocoon. They're very interesting things to see up close, and you can read here about how they're formed. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

A red wiggler cocoon is very interesting to see up close. Read more about how they’re formed. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

If you followed our guide from last weekend about setting up your own worm bin, you now have a new home for some worms. Now, I want to discuss some of what you might see after about three months of running your worm bin.

If you have your worm bin in the proper environmental conditions, if you are feeding the proper amounts of food, and if you are maintaining the right moisture levels in the bin, after approximately 90 days, your worm population might be happy enough to reproduce. This is a sign of maintaining a worm bin properly, and will help your worm casting process proceed even faster.

How Do Red Wigglers Reproduce?

I will simply refer you to other websites to learn more about the specifics, but it’s worth noting here that red wigglers are asexual, in that they possess both male and female reproductive systems. However, it still takes two red wigglers to produce a cocoon.

The cocoons have varying gestation periods, depending on the conditions in the worm bin. If the conditions are right, the cocoon can provide three or four baby worms in as little as a month’s time. If the conditions aren’t ideal, the cocoon can remain dormant for several weeks longer.

A baby red wiggler will be ready to reproduce themselves in 1.5 to 3 months time.

How Will I Know What I’m Looking At?

You will see several signs of worm reproduction, if it’s happening. It won’t be difficult to see, and if you see these signs, don’t change a thing. Keep the temperatures/humidity levels the same, and don’t change their diet or feeding schedule.

1. Cocoons. Red wiggler cocoons are translucent and amber colored. They are about the size of a grain of rice, but slightly fatter. The photo at the top of this post is the best red wiggler cocoon photo I was able to take in 2009. If you want to see an amazing image, check out this one, where you can even see some babies inside!

Red wiggler cocoons. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Red wiggler cocoons. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

2. Adult worms ready for reproduction. When adult worms are ready to reproduce, their clitella (the distinctive band around the worm’s midsection) will swell up. See the photo below for an example of what to look for. Two adult worms will lie side-by-side with their clitella touching to mate.

An adult red wiggler ready for a mate. Note the swollen band around the midsection. This means it's ready. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

An adult red wiggler, ready for a mate. Note the swollen band around the midsection. This means it’s ready. You can also see several cocoons in the casting material and a baby red wiggler on the right edge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

3. Baby worms. These won’t be difficult to see either. Baby red wigglers look like miniature versions of the adults you initially added to your worm bin at the beginning—like little threads, almost.

This photo shows an adult red wiggler ready for reproduction, with a baby red wiggler just to its left. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

This photo shows an adult red wiggler ready for reproduction, with a baby red wiggler just to its left. Can you see it? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Conclusion

If your red wigglers are reproducing, then you’re doing things right. Stay the course with the environmental and feeding schedules, as well as your choice of food scraps. Look for the indications in your bin as a sign of how happy your worms are!

Happy vermicomposting!

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Book Review: Women of Steel and Stone http://geekmom.com/2014/04/review-women-of-steel-and-stone/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/review-women-of-steel-and-stone/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 11:00:22 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144571 This book contains the inspiring stories of 22 women architects, engineers, and landscape designers during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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Women of Steel and Stone. Image Chicago Review Press.

Women of Steel and Stone. Image Chicago Review Press.

Women of Steel and Stone contains the stories of women architects, engineers, and landscape designers from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, in the era of the women’s suffrage movement and shortly after the Industrial Revolution. This was a time when women were struggling to prove their equal worth as employees in any profession, let alone in a profession deemed a man’s job—such as working with, well, steel and stone.

One of my favorite chapters from Women of Steel and Stone was about the architect Julia Morgan, who designed the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Being a Californian myself and having visited Hearst Castle a couple of times, I was both interested in learning more about this architect and appalled that I hadn’t heard of her in any detail yet. Morgan was born and raised in Oakland, where she finished high school—not a small feat for a woman of her time. She then went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley for engineering, and proceeded to become the first female student in architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. When she returned to San Francisco a few years later, she landed only a few architecture jobs. That was until the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed most of the city, except Morgan’s buildings! Her business boomed after that and the rest of history. Being an acquaintance of William Hearst’s mother, Phoebe, Hearst hired Morgan to build what was supposed to be a modest bungalow. As Hearst’s success increased exponentially, so did his plans for his estate. Morgan worked all week on her other contracts in San Francisco, riding down to San Simeon on the weekends to work on Hearst’s Castle. In her lifetime, she finished Hearst’s mega mansion as well as more than 700 buildings in California.

This is just a digest of one of the chapters in this book. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a woman in the book who shares a last name with me, landscape designer Marian Cruger Coffin, whose background matches my husband’s family line. So who knows, maybe one of my daughters has landscape architecture in her blood!

One of the interesting things about the women in this book is their unique opinions about being a woman in a man’s field. Some showed immense talent but quit the business in disgust for the poor treatment they reserved, some were morally opposed to the special treatment of women in architecture on the grounds that there should be no difference between male and female counterparts, and some made being a successful female architect look positively effortless.

My only negative comment on this non-fiction is that I really wish it had been designed as a coffee table book. While the book does contain some small black-and-white images, full-size color images on big glossy pages would have enticed readers and inspired awe in the beauty of these women’s works so much more effectively. Nevertheless, Women of Steel and Stone is fascinating. Its large font and abridged biographies make it perfect for teenagers or adults looking for a quick—but meaningful—read.

I can’t conclude without mentioning how much I love the title, Women of Steel and Stone. Such a powerful imagery. I don’t think the author could have picked a cooler title, pun intended.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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Earth Day Activities for Kids http://geekmom.com/2014/04/earth-day-activities-kids/ http://geekmom.com/2014/04/earth-day-activities-kids/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 19:08:26 +0000 http://geekmom.com/?p=144448 Here are some hands-on activities to help kids understand the importance of Earth Day.

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Our home. www.nasa.gov

Our home. Image: www.nasa.gov.

Earth Day is just a few days away. Here are some hands-on activities to do with young kids to help them gain a better understanding of the environment, and help them have a more genuine Earth Day celebration.

Plant a Seed

Somewhat cliche, but planting a seed indoors can be a great way for kids to connect with the environment. The fact that a plant, flower, or tree can grow from a single seed is truly amazing. The sight of a sprouting plant never gets old for kids and adults, alike. Ask your child what kind of seeds they would like to plant, or try following these steps to sprout an apple seed from a finished apple.

Make a Terrarium and Learn About the Water Cycle

What goes up, must come down—and the same goes for our planet’s water. Water from rivers, lakes, oceans, and streams evaporates, condenses into clouds, cools, and falls back to earth as rain. Human industrial activity can produce pollution that changes the acidity of rainwater. Rainwater that is too acidic can kill freshwater fish, and even erode mountains. Making a terrarium and observing the water cycle is a great way to exemplify that pollution in our air can come back down to land trapped in rain, and cause secondary damage to the earth’s landscape and its ecosystems.

Kids will enjoy making and observing a terrarium. Image: www.nasa.gov.

Grab a jar and send your child outside to collect a layer of pebbles, sand, and some dirt, then moss, grasses, and leaves. Add water, cover the jar, and place it in a sunny spot. Observe condensation forming over the next few days; you can even take the lid off and see droplets on the lid. These droplets will fall back down and water the plants, and the cycle will repeat. Watch the plants inside the terrarium thrive. Talk with your child about what would happen if the water was toxic. Would the plants survive? To observe this, make another terrarium, and this time add a water and vinegar solution. The acidic vinegar dissolved in the water will have a lower pH and can mimic acid rain.

Take a Walk and Make a Journal 

Whether you live in a city, the suburbs, or the country, plants and trees are blooming this time of year. Take a walk and try to see how many different types of plants you can identify. Take pictures of ones that are unfamiliar, and try to identify them later with the help of books and the internet. When you get home, make a drawing, painting, or clay sculpture of some of the plants you saw on your walk.

Make a Worm House

Kids probably hear the word “compost” thrown around a lot this time a year, and at Earth Day celebrations. Observe a homemade worm house for a few weeks, and your kids can gain a greater appreciation for why composting is so important and how it works.

Making a worm house can be a great way for kids to observe how composting works. Photo by Cristen Pantano

Making a worm house can be a great way for kids to observe how composting works. Photo by Cristen Pantano.

When we throw our food scraps into the garbage, it ends up in the landfill. Americans produce 34 million tons of food waste each year. Landfills are airtight, so while the food will rot, it will be anaerobic bacteria that will break the food down. This process gives off methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Alternatively, no methane is produced when food scraps are broken down by aerobic bacteria and invertebrates in soil.

Take a jar or clear plastic container and fill with layers of sand, dirt, and soil. Dig for worms and add them to the dirt. Spray the top soil layer with water, then add dying grass, leaves, carrot peels, or even cornmeal. Cover with tin foil, poke holes in the tin foil, and place in a cool, dark area of your home. Watch over the week as worms mix the layers and eat the organic matter. Eventually, all the matter will be broken down by the worms and bacteria in the soil, resulting in a rich soil. You can continue to add food for the worms or set them free. If you keep your worm house for over a week, make sure to spray with more water.

Once your child observes how worms break down organic matter, add a piece of plastic to the top layer. Can the worms and bacteria break down plastic? Could anaerobic bacteria in a landfill break down plastic? If not, what happens to non-recycled plastic?

Draw a Food Web

Drawing out a food chain, or food web, is a great way for kids to see how plants, animals, and human activity are all connected. Photo by Cristen Pantano.

Have your child pick their favorite animal, find out what it eats, and then draw a food web together. All food webs start with a green plant and end with a top predator. Any disruption to the growth of the original green plant can affect the whole chain. Additionally, any negative affects on the habitat or well being of one of the animals in the chain can also disrupt the chain. After you have drawn the chain, talk about how human activity can affect each step in the chain. What if chemicals kill the plant? What happens if some of the animals live in trees and the trees are all cut down? How does urban sprawl affect animal habitats? How can global warming and pollution affect these food chains?

Do a Little Garbage Day Math

Americans produce 251 million tons of garbage each year. Screen capture from www.google.com

Americans produce 251 million tons of garbage each year. Screen capture from Google.

On garbage day, go outside with your child and count how many garbage cans are on your block waiting to be emptied. How many gallons of garbage does each can hold? How many gallons of garbage were taken from your block that day? How many gallons of trash does your street produce in a month? In a year? This exercise can be a great way for kids to visualize exactly how much waste we as a society produce. The importance of reduce, reuse, recycle might have more meaning after this exercise.

Write an Earth Day To-Do List

Ask your child what Earth Day means to them. What do they want to do to help the earth?

Have fun, and happy Earth Day!

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