Saturday, February 25, 2012

Padilla Bay!

Today we went with Eva's marine biology class on a field trip to Padilla Bay.  We learned about estuaries and how important they are to the ecosystem.  Padilla bay is home to some of the largest eelgrass meadows in the world, providing natural nurseries for many of the big fisheries' staples like Dungeness crab and salmon.  Scientists from all over to study this ecosystem.

The mudflats seem at first glance like a bunch of squishy silt from upriver, but in fact they are a complex ecosystem teeming with life.  The eelgrass is a plant that grows in this mud.  When tide is out, it collapses onto the mud, but when it's in, the grass can float 4 feet or so tall.  Anenomes, nudibranches, countless plankton, barnacles, clams, limpets and many more call this place home.

Today, the kids explored in the blustery February weather, collecting specimens, lifting up rocks, digging in the mud and found many of these amazing creatures.  We brought them back to the Breazeale Interpretive center and were able to see their complexity up close with microscopes.  There was a strong microscope that showed the kids the plankton, so they got to see baby barnacles, snails, as well as other plantkton like copepods and amphipods.  Levi was transfixed, being my microscope lover.  He came home and looked up their website as soon as we got home.  (  

Under lower power microscopes, we were able to see barnacles send their legs out to gather food from the water, the red spaghetti like gills of some worms, and the fly like eyes of amhipods.  I had never seen these things before, though they are in the sound, just a short drive from our home.  It made me resolve in my mind to get a microscope we can use to look at 3D things, but even more so, made me realize how much there is to learn so close to home.  We have passes to park at all the state and county parks, and I know we'll be putting them to good use over the coming spring and winter.

English daisies, already blooming


At the edge of the tide...

Mud snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and a limpet.

Our collection equipment

2 hermit crabs hiding under this clam shell 

all the kids from our school, plus parents

Our full tray

baby dungeness, some eelgrass and some clam shells

levi is exhausted afterward.  :)

Lugworm under microscope.  The red stuff is gills!  You could see through its skin to see the processes happening in its little body

aquarium with anenome

Friday, February 24, 2012

100th Day!

It's hard to believe that the 100th day of school has come and gone.  We're half way through the traditional school year.  Our home studies are plugging along.  We've finished one science curriculum and are starting in on a new one that's all about inventions and electricity.  The boys love it already because we're reading about a boy like them who homesteaded with his dad in the 1800s and made all kinds of inventions.  We're studying the types of trees that live in our area, how to save seeds from our garden, learning some Latin and Greek, as well as studying the Civil War and WWI.

At our Co-Op school, second semester classes have begun.  I love that the classes are run kind of like college classes.  You study topics you're interested in learning about and are done in a semester, unless it's a year long class like Kindergarten.  For the 100th day of school, the kids brought in collections of 100 things.  Saraiah brought 100 lupine seeds.  Her friend brought 100 rocks.  There was a detailed picture drawn with 100 parts.

Also, very importantly, the Flat Stanley style kindergarten students were mailed back from all around the country and the world.  Flat Stanley is a children's book, in which a little boy is made flat enough to mail places.  The kids make a flat version of themselves and sent them away.  Saraiah sent hers to grandma Marcia in Hawai'i, of course.  There was even one who travelled all they way to the Netherlands!  Each letter returned with the flat student dressed in clothes appropriate to the place they visited, plus interesting information about that place.

Saraiah has also started a class called "Mad Scientist" this semester.  They are studying "Bubbleology," learning about things like surface testing and how to run experiments with bubbles.  It's great fun.  She gets to take a class called "Herbology" as well, learning practical uses of herbs.  Yoga class will continue, and her art class is becoming a watercolor class.  I think I like our co-op not only because the kids love the classes, but because I can't get enough of them either!   It's the same with homeschooling. I love discovering with the kids.  There is ALWAYS something new to learn, or to rediscover alongside them.

Maia will have gone through Kindergarten and 1st grade level classes before the she starts kindergarten.  She quietly attends classes right alongside her big sis, just like how we learn at home.  

Postcard that returned from Hawaii with "flat Saraiah"

Of course Maia has to be a part of it all.  That's a postcard of a Hawaiian sea turtle.  
Glitter is a part of every kindergarten class
Focusing on Bubbleology
Isaac made this in French class for Mardi Gras.

Maia in the kindergarten class

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The earth rubs the sleep from its eyes

Mini Daffodil beneath the red currant bush

Yesterday, when we went outside, I looked closely to see how much more the plants had poked their little heads up.  This is what I found. The earth is beginning to yawn, stretch and wake up for springtime.  I love this changing of the seasons, even if it's more subtle here than in other places.   It allows me to divide life into parts that make sense.  There's comfort in knowing that every year the daffodils will bloom, the lupines will grow tall and gather the dew and the whole cycle will run just as it always has.

lupines fringed with raindrops
A columbine, unfolding her leaves

Can't get enough of the lupines

We brought in some red flowering currant branches after pruning, and they leafed out and made these pretty white blossoms that smell like springtime.  I can't wait for the days they bloom outside, inviting the hummingbirds to take a sip.

An egg hunt in goat poop

Levi collects fresh poop from outside
Our 4H club will be hosting a science and knowledge fair soon, so the kids spend some of President's day working on their projects.  Eva will do a presentation on alpaca conformation, Isaac on what local plants are poisonous to alpacas, Saraiah on how to have a healthy goat, and Levi wanted to use a microscope.  So, I told him he could learn how to do fecal samples.  He didn't think that was a grand idea, but I knew he'd be interested once he got a chance to look in the microscope.  We found a perfectly detailed tutuoral on how to do this at the Fias Co Farm website:

I will not go into detail on how to do this because I'm not an expert.  This was my first time to do it with Levi, so I would direct you to use Fias Co Farm's directions.  They are easy to follow and understand and can be done with many things you have around the house, especially if you're a homeschooling family like us!  They also show pictures of the types of parasite eggs, so you know what you are looking for.

These are the supplies they told us to get, and we used most all of it!
I took pictures of each step Levi did for his project board, but I'll share them here to inspire and encourage you to do fecal floats to test your herd health.  Remember to use the Fias Co directions.

The poop
Balancing the scale so that the weight of the container is balanced
Levi had to make a saturated solution of epsom salts for a floating solution for the fecal matter, so eggs would float to the top in the saturated liquid.  Before we collected the poop, he kept dissolving salts in water until they wouldn't dissolve anymore.  They happened to be good smelling salts, which was handy when we were grinding up the poop!

measuring out the 3 grams of poopers

Levi had to mash the poopers with a popsicle stick

Pouring in the prescribed amount of floating solution.  We kept baby wipes around to clean up the area, which was later sanitized.  Ew!
After mixing well, you let it soak and make a nice little tea for a while.  
You strain it.  The tea strainer and medicine cup are now designated for fecal floating
You mash the poop, and I think it's here that you let it sit for a bit.
We had one of those flower holder things when you get a rose from someone and it needs water.  We used that for a test tube and sunk it in some foam.
We were supposed to overfill it so it would pool up at the top, allowing the eggs to float up
We put a microscope slide cover slip over the top of the test tube and let it rest for about a half hour

After the half hour, we took the cover slip off the test tube and put it on a slide.  This is what we had.
Here's the microscope.  It was tricky to find the eggs because of the various layers of focusing you can do (on the class, on the air bubbles, on the vegetation)  Levi looked at it after I got it focused for him,  
This is the only type of worm egg we found.  I don't know if it's a liver fluke or hookworm or barber pole worm or coccidiosis. Tell me if you know!  There were 16 eggs, which isn't alarming, according to Fias Co, but means we will need to do some deworming soon.  

Here's some really cool plant matter.  It was coiled up like a spring