Saturday, December 27, 2008

Science Saturday: Hanukkah

This proved to be a bit difficult for me, but here are my thoughts:

- Using the scientific method, light a candle and make observations at 30-60 second intervals in the beginning and 10 minute intervals once it has been burning a bit. This will teach observation skills, allow the child to form a hypothesis, and open the door for a discussion of chemical changes versus physical changes.

- You could also discuss water and oil mixtures and even perform some experiments. Try mixing water and oil and observe what happens. Now add a little dish soap and try again, making an emulsion (vocab word)). You could also use a jar filled 3/4 with water and then top it with oil. now sprinkle some salt on top and watch as the salt draws the oil through the water. You can make it more fun by coloring the water and/or oil first.

I wish I had more for you. Feel free to share any ideas you may have.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fun Friday: Hanukkah

Field Trip
-Find a local Hanukkah celebration and attend it.
-If you have any Jewish friends, express an interest in participating in part of their Hanukkah Celebration. Many will be willing to invite your family to come.

-Make a menorah. Martha Stewart made one from a tree branch or you can craft one out of clay or any other medium you think would work.

-Make Hanukkah cards for any Jewish friends you have. Here are directions for making cards with a 3-D menorah.

-Make candles either for use in a menorah or for everyday use. Martha Stewart has directions for making beeswax candles. These are probably the easiest and least messy taper candles for kids to make at home.

-Buy some chocolate coins (check the party supply area) and hand them out to the kids as gelt. has several Hanukkah-themed printable coloring pages, online jigsaw puzzles, and online sliding puzzles. also has several fun hanukkah-themed activities.

Think About It Thursday: Hanukkah

Hanukkah is the celebration of the miracle of one day's worth of oil lasting for 8 days. Have you ever experienced a miracle, even a small one? Write about it. If you can not remember any miracles in your life, write about one that happened to someone you know or write about one you would like to have happen.

Research another Jewish holiday and write a report about how and why the holiday is celebrated.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to take this time to wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. If you do not celebrate Christmas, that's ok too, I still hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Worldly Wednesday: Israel

While Israel is a hot spot for violence, I am going to stick with the more peaceful facts when teaching about it.

Flag: Shown at top of post. The star in the middle is known as the Star of David.

Location: Israel is located in Western Asia along the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, as well as The West Bank and The Gaza Strip.

People: The majoirty of the people living in Israel are Jewish (just over 75%). Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. Although it is a Jewish state, there are many people of other religions who live there as well.

Government: The Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is the head of the government and the Knesset is the legislative body.

Capital: Jerusalem (Tel Aviv is another major city and the center of Israel's economy)

Official Languages: Hebrew and Arabic

Currency: Israeli New Shekel (ILS) (4.402 ILS = 1 US dollar)

Food: I found a page on North Carolina State University's website that lists 3 Israeli recipes: Falafel, Israeli Salad and Three Bean Salad

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Time Travel Tuesday: Hanukkah

While it is probably the best known Jewish holiday, Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday. None-the-less it is still an important one.

Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights and is a celebration that stems from a group of Jewish fighters, known as the Maccabees. After their temple was defiled by the Hellenistic Syrians, the Maccabees were able to eventually "win" the temple back. When they went to find oil to light the temple candles, they only found enough for 1 night. Miraculously, the candles all burned for eight nights from that one little jar. The following year, the rabbis designated those days (starting on the 25th of Kislev (November/December)) as a holiday to celebrated with praise and thanksgiving.

This is a brief history, but you can find more at the following websites:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Math Monday: Hanukkah

I feel it is important to study other cultures and religions in order to better understand those who are different from us and to teach tolerance. Having said that, I want to state that I am not Jewish, but will only post information that I have either learned first-hand or researched about Hanukkah. If anything I post is incorrect, or you simply want to expound on it, please feel free to leave me a comment. ALso, if any of you have Hanukkah traditions or lesson ideas, please let me know and I will give you full credit if I post it.

Now, on to the math...

Probability (and/or simple addition/subtraction)
- Make, or buy (party supply stores often have them for a reasonable price), a dreidel. Older kids can use introductory probability when playing with the dreidel. (Directions for play can be found at Younger kids can practice addition and subtraction skills as they play the game.

Word Problems
- Traditionally, gifts are not exchanged for Hanukkah, however due to the proximity to Christmas, many American Jews have come to exchange gifts. Gelt, or money, is what is traditionally given to children at Hanukkah. If Jacob receives 10 bags of gelt, and each bag holds 8 pieces of gelt, how many pieces of gelt does Jacob have?

- Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights. One part of the celebration is the lighting of the menorah. There are 9 candles on the menorah. The center candle is called the Shamash. Each night of Hanukkah, at sunset, the Shamash is lit and then, starting at the far right side of the menorah, the candles are lit. On the first night, one candle is lit; on the second night, two candles are lit; and so on. Only on the last night will all nine candles be burning. After the candles have been lit on the eighth night, how many candles will have been lit during Hanukkah? DO not forget to include the Shamash! (Answer: 2 the first night, plus 3, plus 4, +5, +6, +7, +8, +9 for the subsequent nights).

- Measure the candles on a menorah.

- Make Potato Latkes and/or Sufganiot (jelly filled doughnuts), traditional Hanukkah food.

Regarding Sunday postings

I have decided that I will not be regularly posting on Sundays any more. I believe it should be a day of rest and when I am unable to prepare the post ahead of time, I find myself stressing about it on Sunday. I will still post Scouting activities, but not every week. I appreciate your understanding. Stay tuned for today's post later this evening.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Science Saturday: Christmas

- Introduce chromatography and make a fun decoration at the same time with this fun activity that will show the colors in a black marker.

- Compare and contrast live Christmas trees versus artificial trees. Is there an environmental benefit to one over the other? What are some environmentally-friendly things you could do with a live tree after the holidays are over?

- While on the topic of the environment, find some environmentally-friendly ways to wrap gifts. You can also discuss ways to re-use the gift wrap and cards you receive this year.

- Make your own Christmas tree (or cut flower) preservative.

- Use a candy cane to stir a cup of hot chocolate. Observe what happens as you stir the drink. (Older kids can form a hypothesis first and do this in "official" scientific method format)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fun Friday: Christmas

There are so many activities for Christmas that I am only going to be able to list a small percentage of them, some will be religious in nature and others are not. Either way, I encourage all of you to have your children experience some of both the religious and secular activities to truly experience the entire Christmas experience. I know many Christians who really do not celebrate Christmas becasuse they know it is not really Christ's birthday and that the date was chosen to compete with a pagan holiday and I respect that. For me, I feel that Christmas is a way of celebrating and remembering Christ's birth, even if it is not the actual day, and it is also a cultural tradition. There are many non-Christians, both in the US and abroad, who enjoy the "secular" side of Christmas as well. I think getting together with family and giving gifts from the heart is a wonderful thing, no matter what you believe.

Field Trips
-Visit Santa, whether it be at the mall, some other retail establishment, breakfast with Santa, or any where else you may find him, and at this time of year, you are likely to find him just about anywhere.
-Find a local neighborhood that has several houses decorated and drive (or walk, weather permitting) around to see them all.
-Attend a community tree lighting.
-Stop at a local soup kitchen and serve Christmas dinner.
-Attend a Christmas Eve church service and/or a church's Christmas Pageant.
-Throw or attend a Christmas party

-String cranberries and popcorn on thread and hang on either your Christmas tree or an evergreen outside for the birds to enjoy.
-Make a star ornament by gluing 5 popsicle sticks in a star shape. Paint it yellow and sprinkle with glitter. Tie a string on it and hang from the tree. Alternatively, you could personalize it and use it as a gift tag.
-Use an old paperback book or Reader's Digest to make this cute Christmas tree.
-Thread pony beads onto pipe cleaner to make either a candy cane or a wreath.
-Make and decorate a gingerbread house. Alternatively, use icing to cover a (clean and empty) milk or juice carton with graham crackers and decorate that like a gingerbread house.
-Make a reindeer. Trace your child's socked foot on brownpaper to use for the face and trace their hands on lighter brown paper to use as antlers. Decorate as desired.

-DLTK has a bunch of coloring pages you can print off.
-Some other fun websites are and
-Track where Santa is and where he has already been on Christmas Eve with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Think About It Thursday: Christmas

Christmas is a great opportunity for research projects. Yesterday, I suggested having your child research Christmas traditions around the world, but another opportunity lies in researching the history behind individual customs or why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th (it is NOT the date that is actually believed to be Christ's birthday). You could also research the history behind a favorite Christmas carol.

Other writing projects can include: Writing about what Christmas means to you, on a religious level (if Christian) and/or a cultural level; Writing about a favorite Christmas tradition either within your family or your community; Writing a letter to Santa; Addressing Christmas (or other holiday) cards; Writing a family newsletter to go inside of Christmas cards; Writing the Biblical Christmas story from a point of view of someone else, such as Mary, Joseph, one of the 3 Wise Men, the drummer boy, etc.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Worldly Wednesday: Christmas in Japan

My girls are being assigned a research project to choose one country and find out how they celebrate Christmas. They will compare and contrast the customs with the countries others have chosen as well as with US customs. I sent them to Santa's Net to get them started.

Here is my sample country of Japan:

A very small percentage of Japanese are Christians, yet in Japan it is common to find many homes and stores decorated at this time with evergreens and many people exchange gifts. It is believed that a Buddhist monk, named Hotei-Osho, will bring presents to the homes of all the kids. It is also believed that he has eyes in the back of his head. Kids who do not like the idea of Hotei-Osho, often believe in Santa who travels with his red-nosed reindeer. I also learned that in Japan, Christmas Eve is a time to be spent with a significant other and is often celebrated in ways similar to the US Valentine's Day. As for Christmas dinner, KFC has done a remarkable job of convincing the Japanese that fried chicken is what should be served and they are often very busy on Christmas Eve with people picking up their Christmas Chicken Dinners (often ordered ahead of time). Roast Teriyaki Chicken is a common alternative. Either way, the dinner is served with Christmas Cake, a round sponge cake topped with whipped cream fruit. To say "Merry Christmas" in Japan you would say, "Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto".

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time Travel Tuesday: History of Christmas emblems

The Christmas tree: believed to have begun in Germany in the 16th century. Martin Luther is credited for starting the tradition on lighting a Christmas tree. He had been walking home one winter night and was enthralled by the sight of the stars twinkling among the evergreens. When he arrived home, he wired several lit candles through an evergreen to show his family how it looked. Candles have since been replaced with electric lights. German immigrants brought the Christmas tree to America in the 1830s.

Santa Claus: due to the long and varied history, I will simply provide a link to a child-friendly history of Santa: North Pole Santa Claus

Candy Canes: dates back to 1670 when a German choirmaster bent sugar-stick candy into a cane shape in an attempt to emulate a shepherd's hook. The first candy canes were all white and were given to the children to keep them quiet during the long church sermons. The first historical reference to candy canes in America is in 1847, when a German immigrant decorated his home with candy canes. It was around 1900 that stripes and peppermint and wintergreen flavors were added to the candy canes. While there is a lovely story relating the history of the candy cane to the Bible, there is actually no historical proof to back it up, quite the opposite in fact. Personally, if it helps remind someone of the reason why we celebrate Christmas, go ahead and tell it, just know that it is not the real story behind the candy cane.

Star or Angel on Tree Top: represents either the Star of Bethlehem from the Christmas story in the Bible or the angel that told the shepherd's of Christ's birth. The Christmas story can be found in the Bible in both the books of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20). The Christmas story that is usually told is a compilation of both of the accounts.

While there are many more emblems of Christmas, for this age, I am only going to teach these. There is also a deeper history behind Christmas itself, particularly why it is in December, but at this age, it is too deep a subject to cover.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Math Monday: Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, I have decided to study Christmas this week. For non-Christians, this is a great opportunity to learn about why Christmas is celebrated and the history behind some of the customs. However, I also want to ensure you that other non-Christian holidays will also be studied in the future as we believe it is important to study all cultures in order to promote tolerance. For my Jewish readers, we will be studying Hannakuh next week, and I encourage you to add to, or correct, anything I post. Now, onto the math.

- Learn about symmetry by cutting out Christmas tree shapes. Fold piece of green paper in half and, cutting on the folded side, cut out half a Christmas tree. When unfolded, the tree is symmetrical on the vertical plane and asymmetrical on the horizontal plane. This is a great vocabulary lesson as well (symmetric, asymmetric, vertical, horizontal, plane)

- Cut strips out of red and green construction paper and make a chain with them using a pattern of your choosing (red/green/red/green or red/red/green/red/red/green, etc).

- Younger children can help count candy canes as they are hung on the tree.

- This is a little late for this yar, but in future years, Advent calendars are great for kids of all ages. You can make your own, such as this one that uses cotton balls to create Santa's beard as Christmas nears, or this one that you fill with treats and is made from egg cartons. There are also tons of different ones at the store, from simple ones with a chocolate treat each day to PlayMobil ones where you get a piece of a nativity set each day to ones that you use your own treats to fill.

- There are tons of recipes out there for different cookies and other holiday treats. Here are a few:
Grandma's Gingersnaps
Sugar Cookies
Spiced Pumpkin Fudge

- There are also lots of recipes out there for holiday crafts such as Gingerbread play dough and sawdust clay, both of which can be molded into ornaments and left to dry.

Word Problems

- Jenna's mom wanted to make up trays of cookies to bring to each holiday party she was going to this year. She is planning on attending 3 parties this year and wants to have 3 dozen cookies on each tray. How many cookies will she need to bake? (this is a bit advanced, but this is also a great time of year to introduce the concept of a dozen) (Younger kids can look at your calendar or gift list with you and determine how many cookie trays you will need)

- Kevin's family is shopping for a Christmas tree. They have room for a 7 foot tree in their living room. Kevin's dad found a tree they really like that is 7 feet 4 inches tall(for older kids give them the whole measurement in inches: 88 inches). How much of the trunk needs to be trimmed off in order for the tree to fit in their living room?

- Jaime is shopping for Christmas gifts for his family. He has $20. He buys a candle for his mom for $3 (for older kids use more realistic amounts such as $3.82), a wallet for his dad for $5, a book about dogs for his brother for $2, and a scarf for his sister for $3. He wants to give the remainder of his money to the Salvation Army. How much money will he donate? (Alternatively, you can use your child's own Christmas shopping budget for similar word problems)

- Aimee is concerned about how many calories Santa must eat in one night. She decides to add up the calories in what she normally offers Santa. The egg nog has 343 calories and the cookies have 176. What are the total number of calories? What are some healthier alternatives (I know, not math, but school related anyway) Here is a website where you can find out the calories in different foods.

- Here is a worksheet to determine how many "nice" kids are on Santa's list.

- The Sanchez family volunteers every Christmas Eve, serving dinner at the homeless shelter. Carmen will be serving rolls. Each person is to get 2 rolls. If they serve 230 people, how many rolls will they need? The rolls come in packages of 12. How many packages do they need?

- Christmas lights use electricity. To find out how much more electricity your lights are using, do the following: 1) With the Christmas lights off, read your electricity meter and write down the number. 2) Go back 15 minutes later and read it again. 3) Turn on the Christmas lights. 4) Wait 15 minutes and go back and read the meter again. 5) Subtract the first number from the second number to see how much electricity your household uses in a "normal" 15 minutes. 6) Now subtract the second number from the third number to see how much electricity is used when the lights are on. 7) Subtract the "normal" amount of electricity from the amount with the lights on to see how much more electricity the lights use in 15 minutes. (You can multiply this number by 4 to see the difference used in an hour and then multiply that by the number of hours the lights are on. You can continue by multiplying it by the number of days the lights are on to get a seasonal total. You could also figure out the increased cost by finding out how much is paid per kilowatt and multiplying it by the increased nuber of kilowatts used.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My deepest apologies

I offer my deepest apologies for going MIA over the past month+. I was frazzled by the move and settling in and kind of mentally shut down for a bit. I missed you all terribly and hope you are still here with me. I will be getting back on track with a regular posting tomorrow and also have a few product reviews and giveaways coming up this week as well. I appreciate your patience and understanding with me.