Move Over Boring Resolutions

There’s still a few days left in January. This means that you will still be hounded with questions about what resolutions you have made, are planning to make, have already broken, are planning to fix etc. It is tiring as conversations usually are when you have them year after year. It also leads to panic and a feeling of depression at the end of the year when you realize you haven’t really accomplished everything you wanted to. Life usually gets in the way and while that is an excellent reason, it usually isn’t enough to make the guilt go away. Sometimes I think that the question “What am I doing with my life?” is designed to be one that haunts and torments.

This year, we have a list of goals that we will set out to accomplish. It’s always good to have these little milestones to remind you of your priorities. However, we’ve decided to start a memory jar as a family. What we’ve done is taken a giant mason jar and whenever something makes us laugh or an event occurs that you don’t want to forget or just a simple occurrence that made you happy, we write them down, roll them up and put them in the Memory Jar.

I’m hoping it comes to our rescue when things are tough, when we need pick me ups and when we just need to reminiscence. At the end of the year, we plan to read them all together as a family. That way, we don’t have all our failures haunting us. Instead, we will have a nice bouquet of memories that we encountered on the journey as a family.

Hoping this works out for us!

Grade-Specific Science Fair Project Ideas

My kids love to get their hands dirty when they learn, sometimes quite literally. This makes our home that much messier and livelier. With two kids in separate grades, discussions over what to work on can turn into a rough tumble of ideas.

Over the years, I have compiled a list of science fair project ideas that I have used and sorted them out grade-wise (kindergarten to third grade so far) so that we have an easier time finding the right project (or subject) based on my kids’ curriculum, interest and relevance.

1DSC01160” by Laurie Sullivan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Kindergarten – Projects can be nature-based. Science fair project ideas that kids can explore include the weather, plants and animals. Kids can grow plants to understand what a plant needs to grow. This could be in the form of growing a bean plant in cotton wool or grouping plants and studying their growth when they are exposed to sunlight and water, and when they are not. Other simple experiments include understanding the density of fluids (oil and water) and demonstrating displacement by dropping pebbles into a jar of water. Collecting different types of leaves and flowers to understand their structure, and sorting seeds from fruits and vegetables is something kids enjoy.

2Test site 3 & 4” by Dave is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

First Grade – Kids can move beyond curiosity and start learning to make and record observations. They can perform experiments with water to understand the states of matter (solid, gas and liquid). Other experiments can revolve around the five senses. Kids can interact with objects using only one of their senses and jot down observations. Other concepts that kids can learn include rain and cloud formations, the solar system, colors and surface tension.

Second Grade – When your kids get to the second grade, they can start experimenting with electricity and magnetism, animals and lifecycles, study anatomy, and learn more about the earth. Making a bird feeder to track bird species in the neighborhood is a popular project. Apart from continuing to collect data and making observations, kids can also start making models and presentations. Drawing the life cycles of insects and their anatomy, the most popular being a butterfly, is a good way to start. Observing mold to understand the effects of heat, humidity and other factors that cause mold is another easy to put together projects that second graders can work on.

3DSC00170” by Laurie Sullivan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Third Grade – By the time kids get to third grade, they should be able to observe, collect, conduct experiments, record observations and form hypothesis. Science fair project ideas that you can consider are motion and sound, electricity and magnetism, animal and plant life, the human body, and the earth and solar system. Children can study chemical reactions like rusting and making soaps. Third graders can try their hand at making sundials, volcanoes, model airplanes and even a simple electric circuit.

4Making Marbled Paper” by Topeka Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

These are just a few of the science fair project ideas I have tried with my kids. It helps to talk to their science teacher, figure out the subjects that they will be studying, the extent to which they can explore a subject and grasp a concept, and their own interest before zeroing in on an idea.

How to Teach Yourself Chemistry – Things you Should Know

If you always wanted to study chemistry but fate willed it otherwise, and going back to school isn’t an option, I have some good news for you. It’s possible to master the basic concepts of chemistry without the benefit of a lab or a teacher. All you need is the internet and a few good sites that allow you to download printable science worksheets for free. Here’s a brief outline of chemistry concepts you will learn as a novice. Most of these have to do with conversion, units and the interaction between atoms and molecules.

Understanding Chemistry

Before you commence your studies, you need to understand what chemistry is, what chemists actually do and know why you want to study the subject. Just pick a middle school science textbook and go through the chemistry section – if you think you can deal with that, you’re all set to go!

Units and measurements

If the above didn’t scare you off, you’re ready to start with the metric system and the commonly used units in chemistry. Once you feel you’ve mastered that, I’d suggest downloading a basic science worksheet and testing yourself. This will also give you more confidence and prep you for further research into the subject.

The scientific method

All scientists, chemists included, study the world in a systematic manner. The scientific method shows you how to collect data, design experiments and analyze the results in an objective way.

Elements and the periodic table

Elements are the primary building blocks of matter. They are organized in the Periodic Table according to their properties. As a budding chemist, you will need to learn what elements are, find out how the periodic table is designed and how to use it to understand the subject better. Again, as with other chemistry topics, there are several useful science worksheets you can use to learn the elements.

Ions, atoms and molecules

Ions are made up of one or multiple elements and have an electrical charge. An atom is a single unit of an element. When atoms come together they form molecules and compounds. You will have to learn how to identify different ions, identify the parts of an atom and learn how to calculate and express quantities.

Chemical formulae, reactions and equations

Chemical formulae depict how many of an ion or atom bond with others of their kind. Molecules and compounds also react with each other in different ways. This is an important part of your chemistry education and you also have to learn to name compounds, predict whether a reaction will occur and write equations to describe them.

I hope this gives you an idea of what you can expect when you start your chemistry education.