Saturday, November 14, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Christmas is coming and I am a Christmas scrooge...

For me, Christmas holds memories of working late helping my immigrant parents work in the family business delivering flowers. The roads were frozen in Michigan and we worked until very late at night on Christmas Eve. Our family was too exhausted and tired to care or enjoy this most sacred of holidays. I am trying to reform myself but it takes time. Please be patient...

My husband and children tease and chide me over this most sensitive topic. Two years ago I was in the hospital during Christmas and it was so nice having a good excuse for evading my responsibilities! This year will be different. I am going to do all my shopping online EARLY! Presents will arrive at my door wrapped and ready to go with a click of the mouse attached to a vacuum pump sucking money from my bank account.

Some of you have asked me for advice regarding science related gifts for their children. I am by no means an expert on this topic but I do know what I like and what works for me. If any of you would like to add your favorites to this list, please write them on the comment link below so other parents can benefit from your expertise. Here are some things I would grab first if the house burned down:

Lortone Rock Tumbler

Rock tumblers can be a bit of a pain at times. These past few years I have destroyed several of them. For this reason, I am writing this article to save you the heart ache, the pain in your neck, and the trauma of stress related rock tumbler angst.

I started off with my rock tumblers running and spinning in the kitchen. My husband and children begged me to put them somewhere else. I took them to the laundry room. That was too close to my husbands office. He couldn't hear himself think.

We put the rock tumblers in the garage but with both cars in the garage there was not much room. Also, I didn't go in there a lot and did not keep up with the tumblers to see if they were still running.

So... they went to the back porch. That worked for me because I can see (and hear) them every time I come home reminding me to check on them and best of all they are not in the house! Now everyone is happy.

Here are the tumblers that did not work for me (a.k.a. they are at the dump or back at the store at this moment).

#1 This beauty from Hobby Lobby really disappointed me. I opened it up only to find out that it can hold just a few ounces of rocks at a time. Definitely not for me. If I'm going to go through all the trouble of polishing rocks I want to know that I can polish a bunch of them. I took it back without even trying it out. It should be called, "Tiny Pebble Tumbler" in stead of a Rock Tumbler...

#2 This Chicago Tumbler came from Harbor Freight. I love that store but their rock tumbler is not my favorite. I have burned up two of them... They look a lot like my favorite (keep reading) but the motor has a lot of plastic parts.

#3 This tumbler came from Big Lots. It was a good price but again, did not last. I love the space age design and the programing. I purchased two of them and they both went on the blink. The first one ditched after about a month. The second one died after about 5 months. I liked the space age type programing and the fact that it can hold a lot of rocks but, the fact remains that they both "spaced out" on me. Ok, next...

#4 This is the Lortone Tumbler my favorite and most dependable rock tumbler. I purchased it from the Dixie Rock Shop near Cherrydale. It cost me about $65.00 and is worth every penny. It has lasted about four years now and I use it for several months every year. I put lots of rocks in there for my students. It is "fairly" quiet.

So there you have it. Learn from my mistakes and don't think you can save money by purchasing a cheap rock tumbler. And oh, keep it far away from the kitchen!!

QX5 Microscope

The QX5 is an affordable way for students to capture, magnify, and modify microscopic images. Included activity guide, CD-ROM, and microscope slide set.
  • Comes with a 188 page Curriculum Guide, complete with step-by-step operating instructions; 36 hands-on lab investigations for life, earth, and physical science; along with illustrated background information.
  • Presentation and assessment software allows you and your students to use the images you capture to create and deliver custom presentations and computer-based assessments!
  • Bright top and bottom illumination allows viewing of microscope slides or larger specimens like insects, wood, and small rocks
  • Capture and manipulate high-resolution microscopic images and video clips on your Windows computer!
Now let me tell you how easy this microscope is to use. It is ridiculous. Even I can use it with very little effort. I shamefacedly must report to you that I and my students have knocked it to the ground more often than I care to admit. It keeps on humming. This is a great digital microscope and I don't know how I ever managed to get along without it. Be sure to check your computer's software to see if it is compatible with the QX5. It does not support Window's Vista.

Veho Microscope

Recently, Cody came into my classroom with two antlions that he found on the golf course. Much to his Dad's dismay, Cody was having more fun catching antlions than learning to play golf.

Now that's my kind of kid!

I ordered a new computer microscope and I think I am really going to like this one. It is a Veho VMS-004 Discovery Series 400x USB Microscope.

Here are some pictures of a Monarch Chrysalis that I took with the USB Microscope.

This is a really "kid friendly" microscope. It is sturdy and moderately priced. I am very happy that I found it. Amazon has it for a reasonable price. This computer microscope is compatible with Windows Vista and many other computer software programs. If you buy this for your child they will never step on an insect again, I guarantee it. The world is a different place under the lens of a microscope...

Ant Works

Students in the Space Lab had an opportunity to win a space age ant farm developed by NASA. AntWorks is based on a 2003 NASA Space Shuttle experiment to study animal life in space and test how ants successfully tunnel in microgravity.

I recently purchases one of these from Amazon for my grandson, Peter. He LOVES it! Those ants never stopped tunneling and moving. Every day is an adventure as the ants are constantly making new tunnels and connections.

I purchased the ants from Edmond Scientific. They came in a little tube.As soon as I released the ants, they began to get busy. Watch out; one got on my finger and bit it really hard! Make sure you drop the ants in the Antworks antfarm really quick. If you accidently let them loose in the house, run for th hills!

Wild Republic Audubon Bird Nest
Audubon "Singing" Birds - Bird Nest Collection
I have used these birds with my K4 students and they LOVE them. This is a great way to increase auditory skills in children. I had 20 different birds and hid them in a box. When I squeezed the bird they recognized the sound and named the bird correctly. Hopefully, this will help your child listen to you when you tell them to clean their room. Well, maybe...

Butterfly Larva

We had a lot of rain this year and the butterflies couldn't get out long enough to lay many eggs in our Butterfly Garden. I had to purchase caterpillars for our Butterfly Labs. Shady Oak Butterfly Farm has very reasonable prices and shipped on the HOUR of the day they said the items would arrive. They also sell host and nectar plants. The website is very educational. I was very impressed with the quality of the larva as well as their great service over the phone. Also parents, you don't need to spend a lot of money on butterfly cages. Just go to your local discount store and purchase a fold up laundry hamper.

Flip it upside down and put your caterpillar in it for much less than the conventional butterfly cage.

Neodymium Magnet
Here's what Steve Spangler says about them: "Hey, these magnets are strong! Stick one in your pocket and accidentally walk by the refrigerator, and your family will find you stuck to the door! Just one of these magnets will hold a small phone book to a steel filing cabinet (the things we do when we're bored!). They can even detect traces of iron in an ordinary $1 bill. We need to remind you to keep these magnets away from your credit cards, computer disks, videotapes, small children and anything else of value. Recommended for children ages 8 and up."

This is me with Steve Spangler at the Atlanta Science Boot Camp

Neodymium magnets contain Iron and Boron, making them some of the strongest magnets in the world. You can find them at Steve Spangler Science and many other places on the web. I plan to climb up to my gutters and use them to find micrometeorites. The neighbors will really be talking about me now!

Last Child in the Woods

Bookcover - Last Child in the Woods

This is not a children's book but if you read it and let it change the way you think, your child will get the best Christmas present ever. My heart breaks for today's children who are shuffled from house to car to school to indoor sports and back home again, never to enjoy and experience the wonders of creation. I am on a mission to reform one parent at a time. Watch out parents, I'm coming for you!!!

From my familyto yours! Have a blessed Christmas.

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