Teaching Textbooks

Home Hydroponics Experiments

Several months ago our oldest worked on a fun project to go along with one of the chapters in her  North Star Geography curriculum. We’ve mentioned several times that this class was one of her favorite classes last year, particularly because it included many hands-on activities as a part of the curriculum.

simple home hydroponics experiements using plastic bins, plastic bottles, and yarn to feed plants



The second part of the year  involved learning about agriculture and building a home hydroponics system (lesson 12). Laurianna decided to build two different types of hydroponic systems as part of her hands-on projects, one fairly simple system that used an empty soda bottle with yarn (to absorb the water from the bottom of the bottle) and another more elaborate system that involved some help for her dad to cut the lid of the bin she used. You can see the various ideas for home hydroponics systems here that she gathered while looking for systems to build.

Soda Bottle Hydroponic System

soda bottle hydroponics system using inverted soda bottle with yarn to absorb water and feed the growing plant-1

After looking through the different ideas online, Laurianna started with a simple soda bottle hydroponic system based on this pin. The pieces needed to get started were very easy to find:

  • an empty soda bottle
  • yarn
  • potting soil
  • seed or seedling
  • water

Laurianna cut the small soda bottle and inverted the top section into the lower section. She poked several holes through the cap of the bottle and threaded yarn through the holes, making sure they were long enough to be immersed in the water. The top part of the bottle was filled with potting soil and her seedling.

On the side of the bottle you may notice a blue line. This was her water gauge line to make sure the water was at a high enough level for the yarn to absorb the water. If it was below the line too much, the yarn had difficulty feeding the plant.

This was a super-easy system to implement and she was able to work on it independently and complete in a fairly short time frame as well. The hardest part for us was finding a good window with light to keep the plant growing well because many of our window sills are not quite wide enough to perch the bottle without the danger of someone knocking it off and making a huge mess.

Plastic Bin Home Hydroponic System

plastic bin hydroponics system using inverted soda bottles with yarn to absorb water and feed the growing plant-1

Based on an idea from this pin, Laurianna built a larger hydroponics system in a plastic bin using the following items:

  • a 10 gallon plastic bin with lid
  • 3 empty soda bottles (cut in half)
  • yarn
  • potting soil
  • 6 pepper plants
  • air filter our old fish tank
  • water

example of inverted soda bottle hydroponics system - bottle drops into lid of plastic bin-1

above you can see the yarn that she fed out through holes in the lid

My husband, Rick, helped Laurianna cut the holes in the plastic lid of the bin because it was a little tricky (and we also wanted to be sure all of her fingers and appendages were still in place at the end of the project. Laurianna then cut each soda bottle in half and poked holes in the caps of the tops of the bottle or holes in the bottoms of the bottles to thread yarn through (similar to this idea here). Once the yarn was threaded through, she filled the bottle half with potting soil and planted a seedling in the bottle.

plastic bin home hydroponics project - soda bottles are dropped into the top of plastic bin and fed with water from the bin-1

Water was added to the base of the bin and plant bottles were placed into the six holes of the bin lid. Laurianna measure to see how high the water needed to be in the bin so the yarn coming from the bottle bases would touch and absorb the water. At least half of the yarn needed to be in the water or it wouldn’t absorb well.

home hydroponics project using plastic bin and soda bottles - North Star Geography activity-1

The fish tank filter was added about a week after she started the experiment because the yarn wasn’t being oxygenated enough. To add the filter, she cut a small hole in the side of the bin and fed the filter through the side of the bin. That helped tremendously (she was hoping to get by without needing it).

The plastic bin hydroponics system was definitely more complicated to put together (although complicated is fine in her book), and it yielded some great a results. All six of the plants began to thrive once the water filter was added to the bin and were later transferred to our garden when they were budding and large enough to grow peppers. Since their transfer to the garden they have been producing like crazy and Laurianna is now in habanero and cayenne pepper heaven. (grins)

Hydroponic System Results

The soda bottle hydroponics system was simple to make and  overall worked well for the one plant that she grew using this method. Unfortunately someone (namely a high schooler) forgot to put water in the base of the bottle when we left for vacation, and the plant dried up and died while we were gone. The water in the bottle base needed to remain at a certain level or the yarn wouldn’t absorb the water correctly, so no water = a not happy plant that shriveled up to nothing.

The plastic bin hydroponics system was by far the favorite method of growing plants although it did require a bit more work (and cleanup – especially because salamanders seemed to think it was a fabulous place to crawl into and die). Most likely results were skewed based on the massive amounts of spicy peppers that were produced as well, but Laurianna was definitely proud of the work she put into it.

Overall the projects were both successful and now other children in the house are now anxious to have their turn at North Star Geography – and you have to love that! Quite honestly, it has me thinking about ways that we can better grow some of our favorite plants (or continue growing) through the winter months with a little less care on our part – so maybe it was good for everyone in the family.

Have you tried hydroponics at home and found a method that works well for you?

Find out more about North Star Geography HERE.

North Star Geography Online Course

We used the hardcover version of North Star Geography and are thrilled to see it is now also available as an online course from Bright Ideas Press! The new self-paced option also includes audiobook and instructor help!

”Homeschooling

North Star Geography Online Course

One of the best programs that we used last year was North Star Geography. We were just venturing into the world of homeschooling high school and hands-down it was Laurianna’s favorite class of the year. This wonderful class is now available as an online class as well, so if you have a child that needs to earn a high school geography credit, you can take advantage of this new format!

North Star Geography Online Course

 

Course Content

North Star Geography is a one-year class that offers a full high school credit upon completion. It’s more than just maps and remembering where places in the world are, but looks at how geography impacts us every day. The 16 lessons include:

  • Downloadable lessons in ebook format – students can read the lessons, and an audiobook version of the Student Reader is also included.
  • Hands-on activities and projects (this was one of our favorite parts) – each lesson has various ideas and activities to go-along with the learning. Choose what projects you would like to complete.
  • Map work, memorization, and research questions (don’t worry – they have the answers too!). We created an atlas with all of reference maps created over the course of the year.
  • Notetaking pages & graphic organizers – all the visual organizers and help you need is included in the program

    Online Course Benefits

    While the format of the physical version is wonderful, there are some added benefits to using the online course:

    • Learn at your own pace – although there is a suggested schedule for the class, you are free to work through the class at your own pace.
    • Tests and quizzes are graded for you – yes, please. It’s one less thing you have to do. Amen.
    • Support from the author – Tyler Hogan is available if you get stuck and need help. Consider him your personal helpline.
    • Immediate feedback – as soon as you take the quizzes and tests, you’ll know the results!

    If thinking of teaching a high school class scares you, the online version of North Star Geography is a wonderful way to put those fears to rest. We used the physical version of the program last year and cannot recommend it highly enough. Hands down, it is a class that your kids (and you) will enjoy because it is extremely organized and well thought out (which makes a mom like me very happy). There truly is a little something for children with different learning styles as well, from hands-on projects to auditory learners.

    Find out more HERE.

    North Star Geography Online Course

    The First Six Weeks for Our 8th Grader

    Laurianna is working on her 8th grade homeschool year this year, which has meant a larger workload for her, especially as she is working on six high school credits in addition to a few other subjects. Over the past six weeks it has been so incredibly amazing to watch her step up and take on the workload (with hardly a complaint other than typical teen emotions at times).

    This has really been such a new area for us both. Remember preschool and early childhood are my specialties and where much of my focus has been for many, many years. Making the switch to actual brain work has been – umm…interesting at times! (But it’s all good!)

    Here’s a peek at what Laurianna has been working on. For high school credit she is working on Algebra 1 (1 credit), Geography (I credit), Spanish (1 credit), Literature (1 credit), Physical Science (1 credit), Greek Mythology (1/2 credit), and an extra science class (1/2 credit). You can get a peek at our overall high school plan here.

    Here are a few highlights of the last six weeks…

    North Star Geography

    North Star Geography Experiments

    Geography has been one of Laurianna’s favorite ‘new’ subjects this year. We’re using North Star Geography, a new program from Bright Ideas Press, and she has been LOVING it. She literally has some new little tidbit she is telling me about daily, between her country fact sheets, what she is learning in her mapping time, or as a part of the hands-on projects.

    Email subscriber can click here to watch the video clip.

    The hands-on activities are probably her favorite part of the lessons (see the above project), and although it is one of her more intense classes, it is FUN. To me that speaks volumes alone! She’s also been pulling out our GeoPuzzles to work on and help her remember the various country placements.

    Not only do I love hearing about all that she is learning, but I recently discovered the Excel spreadsheet grading sheet Bright Ideas Press provides as a part of the program and am 100% in love with that. With all the lovely quizzes and mapping projects, my life just got a lot easier (and my brain has to think a whole lot less!). Amen.

    Physical Science

    Glider from Everday Exploration

    Even though she does most of the work during the week, Laurianna meets with a small group of homeschoolers (four total) to review the labs and other work in her physical science class. Everyone in the house has enjoyed watching her glider progress over the last few weeks as well. It’s a little bigger than we expected – but oh so fun! Keeping two certain boys away from it has been difficult!

    Literature and Writing

    All of her other classes have been going along well too, including her Lit class (another one we are working on as a small co-op). One thing that I have to say – I am SO very thankful for our using WriteShop 1 & 2 the last two years with Laurianna. That program gave her such a great headstart in becoming a great writer – which shows in her literature papers.

    And there have been a lot of papers – even with only four kids. Enough that as the teacher I am remembering one of the main reasons I did not pursue that last semester of my English education degree. (grins)

    The kids are taking it all in stride and very excited because many of the books and short stories we are reading this year are also movies, so we get to spend time together comparing the book to the movie as well. It’s the little things that make life fun, right? Personally, I can’t wait for the boys to sit through Jane Eyre (hee hee).

    Saxon Algebra 1

    And Algebra 1 – our switch to Saxon was mainly because a friend of Laurianna’s was using it, so she wanted to as well. Despite her misgivings about Algebra and her belief that it wouldn’t click with her, she doing great, and I’m remembering how much I absolutely love this realm of math (no, seriously I do!).

    In other subjects (Greek Mythology, History, Spanish, etc…) she is working along and doing great! That pretty much wraps up our first six weeks of school for 8th grade. How are your middle and high school adventures going?

    Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

    Little Passports Geography Sale

    image

    Little Passports is a fun geography program that we’ve used over the years (and are currently using with our youngest). Our kids have loved the special packages that they get each month in the mail as well as the activities that go along with it – both at home and online.

    Little Passports Coupon Code

    This month Little Passports is celebrating FIVE years of filling mailboxes with geography learning and I have a coupon code to share with you all!

    Sale: 15% Off New Subscriptions through 4/8
    Dates: Now – 4/8/2014
    Promo Code: HAPPY5

    About the Little Passports Program

    Little Passports is a subscription program that is delivered right to your doorstep. Children ‘travel’ the world with their imaginary pen pals Sam and Sofia. Each month a new package arrives full of special activities, souvenirs, a letter, and games to help your child learn about different countries around the world. Parents can choose between a world edition or the USA edition to learn about our country and the world around us!

     

    Click HERE to use promo code HAPPY5

    during checkout and save 15% off!

    Cherry Blossoms in Porcelain Vase Art Project – Asian Theme Art Lesson

    Last month our co-op spent some time learning about a few countries in Asia. As part of the lesson with the older group {grades 4 and up}, we worked on an art project tying in a few different themes: blue and white pottery from China and cherry blossoms from Japan. 

    Cherry Blossom in Porcelain Vase art project from Homeschool Creations

     

    After looking on Pinterest for some ideas {the vase from this one, the background from this one, and the color mixing on white/blue porcelain from here}, we merged a few projects together to put together a fun art project that the kids loved – and the results were FABULOUS! The kids learned some watercolor techniques, practiced mixing colors and shading, and experimented with several different mediums. Want to tag along on our project?

    Supplies We Used:

    Our time frame: 3 hours start to finish            


    Grades: 4th – 8th

      Learning Watercolor Techniques

    watercolor techniques

    Our first part of the lesson was spent learning how to use watercolor Paper. We used liquid watercolors {these are different than cake watercolors, fyi}. We spent time talking about how to create the right shade of color we wanted {we used yellow, blue, green, and red for our choices}.

    watercolor techniques

    Each child had a piece of watercolor paper that was 1/3 of an 11”x14” piece of paper {watercolor paper is fairly pricey}. We practiced on some scraps before tackling the actual paper. The kids learned about the watercolor wash technique and that the watercolors will adhere to the parts of the papers that are wet.

    watercolor techniques

    If you look at the backgrounds on their projects, you’ll notice there is a white border. Part of the fun was leaving an area that wasn’t wet when they applied the watercolor wash. A few kids practiced the controlled wash, while a few others tried the open drip technique. {Much fun all around}.

    Great video tutorial to learn a few basic watercolor techniques:

    Watercolor techniques
      Learning About Blue and White Porcelain

    While our watercolor backgrounds were drying, we had a short lesson on the history of blue and white porcelain and talked about the Willow Pattern story. While the Willow pattern isn’t from China, it was fun to talk about, especially to note some of the details in the pattern and how the pottery could tell a story.

    Asia Art Lesson-19

    Once the history lesson was finished, each child sketched a vase design on their Bristol Paper. Although we asked the kids to attempt a simple design, several decided to work on a more intricate pattern. The kids cut out their vases and then designed a pattern for their vase.

    Asia Art Lesson-9

    We mixed together blue and white tempera paint to make six varying shades of paint. Using their choice of colors, they painted their vases following their patterns and set them aside to dry.

    Couch Coop October - January-45

    One of the boys in our group did such an amazing job on his design. He was pushed for time {and would have done so much more}, but his vase was the most intricate {notice those thin handles and remember this was a vase that is about 3” tall} and a well thought out design including the two birds from the Willow pattern story.

    Adding Cherry Blossoms

    Asia Art Lesson-16

    Once the vases were completed, we pulled out black tempera paint to paint branches coming out of our vases. The kids each placed their vases on their watercolor backgrounds to estimate where the branches would need to be shown coming out of the vase {each child had a different vase design and the vases were not yet adhered to the watercolor paper}.

    Note: we were going to use India ink, but forgot to pick some up at the store. I would definitely recommend the ink vs. tempera for more of a ‘pop’ on the branches.

    Asia Art Lesson-37

    After the branches were in place, we used q-tips to dot pink and white tempera paint ‘cherry blossoms’ on the branches. Most of the kids did a grouping of pink dots with a single white dot center.

    Once everything was dry, we used a double sided tape to adhere the vase to the watercolor paper, and we were done! Here’s a look at all the finished projects:

    Asia Art Lesson-27boy, 4th grade Asia Art Lesson-32girl, 5th grade Couch Coop October - January-35boy, 5th grade
    Couch Coop October - January-34boy, 6th grade Couch Coop October - January-36girl, 6th grade Couch Coop October - January-43
    Couch Coop October - January-37girl, 7th grade Asia Art Lesson-42girl, 8th grade Couch Coop October - January-32boy, 8th grade

    This honestly was one of my favorite lessons that we’ve done together with the co-op – and one of those that makes me excited to do more. Hope you enjoyed it too! Please feel free to leave any questions, because it is highly possible I forgot something! {grins}

     

    Other Art Lessons for Children:

    Helpful Links:

    Amazon Animals Chalk Pastel

    Last year you may remember me sharing a few of the chalk pastel projects that we worked on thanks to Tricia at HodgePodge. This year, for one of our co-op projects, I somehow managed to sign myself up for the Amazon region art spot with the older group of kids.

    Amazon Animals Chalk Pastel

    Relying on all the fun we had last year with the chalk pastels and knowing how forgiving they can be, we pulled together a fun Amazon Animals Chalk Pastel project for the kids using a few basic supplies {see a version of this project at Deep Space Sparkle}.

    • 9×12 black paper {we used construction paper because it’s what we had handy, but in the future I would use something different}
    • Chalk Pastels
    • Oil Pastels {to outline}
    • And LOTS of baby wipes. Lots, people.

    Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-10

    Each of the children {ages 8 to 13} chose a picture of a frog, bird, or animal that had been printed out prior to the class {I printed out a few pictures via a Google image search}.

    Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-14

    They lightly sketched their version of the image onto their paper using a black oil pastel and then colored it in with the chalk pastels.

    Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-19

    Once the chalk pastels had been smudged, outlines of the picture were retraced to make it ‘pop’.

    Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-17

    The kids all had a blast creating their projects and we think they turned out great!

    Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-3 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-4
    Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-5 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-6 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-7
    Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-8 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-9 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-2

     

    Resources for Chalk Pastel Art

    Here are a few projects we’ve worked on using chalk pastels and also a few resources in case you would like to work on one with your family:

    Fall Art Tutorials Seasonal Chalk Pastel Bundle