Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pig Eye Dissection - Dissecting with Children

We dissected pig eyes.

Biology with laboratory is a subject that can be intimidating to many home educators. Some parents don't feel confident in their own knowledge of the subject, and others aren't excited over figuring out where/how to secure the materials. Fortunately, the most important part for kids is the opportunity to explore. A textbook, library book on the subject or videos such as these can be the teacher. That just leaves supplying the dissecting materials for the parents.


Human eyes are similar to the eyes of other mammals, but there are some differences. They all have optic nerves in the back which connect to the brain and muscles surrounding the eye which work to alter the shape of the lens for focusing and moving the eye within the socket. The white part of the eye, known as the sclera, is not visible on most mammals, but is clearly visible on humans.

Rods and cones are the photoreceptor part of the central nervous system located in the back of the eye. Humans have around 120 million rods which are very sensitive to light, but only about 6.5 million cones which are sensitive to color. Most fish and underwater reptiles have no cones, thereby making them colorblind.

Eyes don't grow or change size with age. Instead, the muscles surrounding the eyes change creating the illusion that the eyes grow. Most mammals have only four ocular muscles surrounding the eye, but primates have six which allows them to roll their eyes.

Filling a plastic bag with water acts like a magnifying glass and the lens of the eye. The lens actually looks just like a sack filled with water, only it's much smaller.

An important prerequisite to dissecting is preparing a dinner which contains meat. This is very important for cutting skills.

The pig eyes were obtained from a local butcher and since they were fresh, they did not have a strong smell.

Dissection of the pig eye was accomplished in only about four steps.
1. The excess fat and skin was cut off.

2. The cornea was punctured to drain the aqueous humor.

3. The sclera was punctured and then cut around the perimeter to create two halves of the eye.

4. Once the eye was separated into the two halves, the iris, cornea and lens were pulled out and inspected.

The kids found the vitrious and aqueous humor within the eye had the consistency of egg white.

Really - it wasn't gross. Several kids couldn't wait to get at the eyeballs. Handling them wasn't much different than handling uncooked meat to be prepared for supper.

 He has three eyes!

To see more of our biology unit study please visit our science page. Also on the science page are several human body science projects geared for younger children which provide a good foundation for this activity.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dance during the Renaissance

Week 17: We created dance cards and learned how western style dance evolved through the ages.

Dance has changed quite dramatically during the past 50 years. Up until the mid twentieth century, it was done primarily by couples, but today, many people dance alone or in small circles of friends.

During the Renaissance men were careful only to dance with each lady once at a ball. Dancing twice meant the man wanted to marry the woman. Women sometimes wore cards on their wrists which contained the dances they could do.

Charleston, the twist and the Lindy hop are just a few of the dances which became popular during the 20th century. This video shows a quick sample of several dances.

Those who were teenagers during the 1990's have probably done many of these dances. Parents may want to preview this video. Most of it is quite entertaining, but a few of the moves some may find distasteful.

After learning about popular dances through the ages the kids had a chance to try them out. Then the girls made their own dance cards. They were sure to write the names of dances they knew and were willing to do if asked.

This was the last week in our Renaissance History Unit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wooden Shoes

Did you know the Dutch could tell if a person was Catholic or Protestant by looking at their shoes?

Catholic wooden shoes had pointy toes, while Protestant toes were rounded.

We recently returned from a second trip to the Netherlands where we visited the Clara Maria Cheese Farm and Wooden Shoe Factory for the second time. The small operation contains a few machines which are used to produce wooden shoes and they also make their own gouda cheese. The super friendly English speaking employees happily give tours of the facility.

Traditional Dutch Ice Skates

When a wooden shoe maker was going to be married, he would make his bride a pair of hand carved wooden shoes. The project would take several months which gave him plenty of time to contemplate his future plans. His bride would wear her shoes on the wedding day and also on anniversaries.

The tours and gift shop are unique and educational, but the kids really like the farm. Clara Maria is a frequent venue for local children to have their birthday parties. Both times we visited, our children were offered a chance to meet the baby cows and play in the hayloft.

Yes! That is my husband climbing on the bales of hay.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shaded Hearts - Teaching Kids Shading Techniques

We used watercolor paint to shade hearts.

Shading makes artwork more interesting and is a fun technique to experiment with. Valentine's Day and the Heart Balloons on Art Projects for Kids inspired this heart painting activity.

Beginning with a sheet of watercolor paper, the kids were asked to paint hearts with light shades of warm colors.

Next darker tones were added to one side of the heart.

Then using water or only a small amount of paint the colors were blended together.
After the papers were filled with hearts, a cool color was chosen for the backgrounds. I was astounded at the results of this project. It was the first time any of us has tried to shade artwork and the light effects could be seen right away.

10 year old son

My Hearts

I love they way may 7 year old daughter painted two upside down hearts.

12 year old daughter

This project was perfect for experimenting with shading because the kids could choose their own colors to work to blend together. It gave them the opportunity to see how colors mix. Plus the numerous number of hearts gave the kids lots of chances to practice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mandala Geometry Challenge - Elementary School

I recreated a Mandala with my 7 year old.

After watching her 13 year old sister recreate a mandala - Mandala Geometry Challenge - 13 Year Old daughter, my 7 year old was up for the same challenge.

Obviously she needed lots more help with the steps and couldn't create the mandala on her own, but with assistance, this activity was an age appropriate, math learning extravaganza.

First, a mandala was selected to recreate using only a compass and straight edge. There was no measuring or guessing allowed in the reconstruction process, and I was happy that my 7 year old selected a fairly simple mandala.

There are several different ways to recreate the above mandala which are simple and work well. Here are the basic steps we followed:

1. Draw a circle with a line passing through the center.

 2. Create a perpendicular bisector.

3. Create perpendicular bisectors through the at least one radial segment. The bisectors are represented by tick marks in the above picture.
4. Set the compass radius from the center of the circle to the tick mark shown in the above photo. Draw a light circle concentric with the existing circle.
5. The centers of four of the circles are now known. To find the centers for the remaining four circles, bisect each of the 90 degree angles. The center points will be where the bisectors cross the small circle.

 6. Draw the eight circles.

 7. Outline.

 8. Color.

Other Mandala construction tutorials are available on our Math Page.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three Shakespeare Activities for Kids

Week 16: We made a human timeline, found words Shakespeare used that we don't use much today, made puppets of Shakespeare characters and read a few lines in original and modern language.

Shakespeare was a famous playwright, but he also wrote sonnets and poems. Venus and Adonis is a 199 stanza long sonnet written in iambic pentameter. In the poem, Venus is in love with Adonis and wants him to love her back, but all he wants to do is hunt wild boar. After she tries to tell him hunting boar is dangerous, he is killed hunting a wild boar.

Twenty of the comedy, tragedy and history plays such as A Mid Summer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello, have been rewritten for children by Elizabeth Nesbit and are free on the audio story site librivox under the title Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. We often listen to the stories two or three times to sift through the cast of numerous characters. My 7 year old and 10 year old love the stories. Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb is another excellent, although more difficult, Shakespeare resource for children. I would recommend it for 4th grade and up as the stories are challenging to understand.

I've Seen Better Days, All that Glitters is Not Gold, That's a Sorry Sight - Shakespeare is credited with adding over 3000 words to the English language and creating many sayings which are still familiar and used today. Here are a few more;

  • Laughing Stock
  • Wild Goose Chase
  • In a Pickle
  • Love is Blind
  • Bated Breath
  • Knock, Knock - Who's There?
  • Good Ridance
  • Haven't Slept a Wink
  • Eat Me Out of House and Home
To learn about key events in Shakespeare's life, each child was given a sheet of paper with a date and an event such as, the Globe Theater was Constructed in 1599.

After illustrating their event, they stood in chronological order and read their event to the group.

Next, they took a closer look at a Shakespeare Sonnet and identified words not used often today.

Then the kids each were given a few lines from a Shakespeare play both in original language and translated into modern English.

They used craft supplies and paper bags to create puppets of their character. She made a fairy from A Mid Summer Night's Dream.

A flag always flew at the Globe Theater when a play was being performed.

The kids read their lines.

To see more of our hands-on history activities please visit our History Page.

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