Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Summer Camp Planning - Precambrian

Please note, if you have arrived at this post out of chronological order, that this is part of my overall From Lava to Life summer camp planning.

At the bottom of the post I've updated with the actual lesson notes after teaching it... if you find my brainstorm-jumble frustrating, I hope this added information will help! Please feel free to contact me with any questions!

Already Owned:

Bought for Camp:


    BEFORE children come to camp, have them watch with their families: this TED talk by the amazing nature photographer Franz Lanting

    kick it off with frozen fossil excavation - rubber insects and gelatin molds - fun, easy, hands-on - but how do we really learn about the past, because it isn't always so simple as just digging it up

    Older Than the Stars

    The Big Bang - Stephen Hawking - a very tiny ultra-hot fog of energy - 13.7 billion years ago - light didn't exist yet, space didn't exist yet - then it expanded - the universe simply inflated into existence, getting bigger and cooler with every passing moment - while this was happening the pure energy of the cosmos began to cool and create matter (in the form of sub-atomic particles)

    FIRST GREAT LESSON from Montessori binder - demonstrations: black balloon with confetti stars, candle, bowl of water, hot skillet and spray bottle, and the jar with honey, blue water, and vegetable oil

    volcano models - kids are used to doing these but the lemon version is super fun and keeps them interested!

    introduce calendar project and put in information on the timeline scale (which I need to have printed in advance) and the month of January (save front cover for the end when they have experience with all that's evolved and know what they want to create)

    painting of galaxies - speckle with toothbrushes

    lunch / recess

    finger knitting, weaving layers of the Earth on hula hoop loom

    layers of the earth rug - we can finger knit if they are super into it or just use fabric, old teeshirts, could even dye the fabric, which would be fun

    smash our own geodes

    wet felted geodes?

    that's a lot of books... finish 1st G.L. on Monday (including calendar pages and museum exhibits)

    start Precambrian on Tuesday?

    read Precambrian book from

    calendar analogy from Early Humans - how many months did the Precambrian Span? guess and then reveal

    lettering book for month names - design your own fonts - represent what is evolving

    artwork on July cover with Sparkle Mod Podge - LIFE is finally here! needs pizzazz

    plate tectonics - this dynamic planet map - ring of fire - save for later

    moon atmosphere experiment will be saved for later, also the water cycle -- this helps lighten that first day and there are natural tie-ins with these things in other places as we go along

    Okay, now we are here in simple life forms

    amino acids colliding at random for billions of years until the perfect combination "just happened"? from Stephen Hawking video... intelligent design sounds more likely than THAT... but of course... we don't know for sure what went on!

    In September 2010, Hawking spoke against the idea that God could have created the universe in his book The Grand Design. Hawking previously argued that belief in a creator could be compatible with modern scientific theories. His new work, however, concluded that the Big Bang was the inevitable consequence of the laws of physics and nothing more. "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," Hawking said. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist." [from]

    hmmm... I thought he also said that gravity was created in the Big Bang? anyway, my job is to present basic facts in such a way that it fills them with a sense of wonder, and let the kids come up with their own questions without me having to answer every thing

    parts of the cell - jello mold with organelles?

    egg experiment - membrane?

    bacteria art - crocheted bacteria? multi cellular

    hot glue stencils interesting idea for algae, bacteria, early life

    make crockpot yogurt - bacteria - also good intro to quick and dirty Linnaean classification system

    animal classification activity - pipe cleaner bracelet, beads - from Cache River

    Animal evolution: Sponges really are oldest animal phylum
    article - December 1, 2015

    fossils - clay pots with shell imprints

    First Land Plants and Fungi Changed Earth's Climate, Paving the Way for Explosive Evolution of Land Animals, New Gene Study Suggests
    article - 2001

    photosynthesis lesson will be saved for later

    potato printing!!!!
    I have so many potatoes... what to use them for?

    yeast experiments? yeast and balloon thing is always fun

    yeast are eukaryotic single celled organisms classified as members of the fungus kingdom, says Wikipedia

    sub surface microbiology speaker at science center - thought provoking - what if life began under the surface and not in the water, as we have thought? we went to this. it was a great talk!

    Science Cafe - Subsurface Microbiology: Earth, Microbes and Mars

      Join us for our first Science Cafe of 2017. This month we welcome Scott Hamilton-Brehm, Department of Microbiology, SIU Carbondale. This event is free and open to the community. Come early and enjoy a cup of coffee, compliments of Gloria Jean's Coffees, one of the sponsors of the Science Cafe series. Microbes make up the vast majority of all life on Earth, yet only 1% of them can be cultivated in the laboratory. Through sequencing analysis, we’ve learned that an unseen majority of microbial life exists in every corner of our planet. Among the microbial populations of Earth are groups of microbes that live in extreme environments. Studying these so-called “extreme lovers”, or extremophiles, from boiling springs to deep underground, can teach us new answers for industry, medicine, and … how life could live on other planets in our solar system. Join us on a microbial journey of ‘extreme’ conditions through time and space, following research being conducted at SIU to help answer the questions: is there life on Mars and elsewhere?

    prep Sunday night:

    • make frozen gelatin/insect molds for excavations - rubber insects, ramekins, unflavored gelatin, teakettle, measuring cup, mixing bowl, cooking spray
    • set out Older Than the Stars and How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World
    • review First Great Lesson story and prep demonstrations - black balloon with silver star confetti, funnel, matches & candle, large glass bowl of water, golden bead & large red yoga ball, smaller jars (veg oil, blue water, honey) and a large jar with a lid, pumice from hike up Mt. Vesuvius
    • get supplies for lemon volcanoes - lots of lemons, cutting board, knife, clear dish detergent, food coloring, baking soda, art tray, popsicle sticks
    • do sample art for Jan - galaxy speckle - old toothbrushes, acrylic paint, piece of screen
    • do sample art for Feb - molten Earth - water-soluble oil pastels
    • do sample art for Mar - endless rain - cloud stencil, acrylic paint
    • get out supplies for hula hoop rug (warp with a white teeshirt so the center will be white-hot) - largest hula hoop, old white teeshirt, scissors, yarn for finger knitting (white, yellows, oranges, reds, purples, browns, greens)
    • prep geode smashing - hammer, old socks
    • get out supplies for wet felted geodes - olive oil soap, grater, tray, bowl, pure wool roving in many colors, natural colored wool batting, towels, more old socks
    • watch Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking (YouTube)

    prep Monday night:

    • gather supplies for crockpot yogurt: crockpot, plain whole milk, plain yogurt, measuring cup, large jar with lid, towels
    • set out The Precambrian Time, sponges article, fungi article
    • gather supplies for Naked Egg Activity: raw eggs, lots of white vinegar, large container with a cover, slotted spoon
    • gather supplies for crocheted bacteria: crochet hooks, selection of yarn
    • gather supplies for classification bracelet activity: pencil and paper for signs, pony beads in assorted colors, pipe cleaners
    • gather supplies for yeast experiments: balloons, narrow mouthed bottles, water, yeast, sugar
    • gather supplies for needle felted sponges: large sponges for surface, wool roving, felting needles, circular pancake molds
    • gather supplies for fossil demonstration: self-hardening clay, shells
    • do sample art for Apr - land/water - paper collage
    • do sample art for May - amino acids, building blocks of life - paint
    • do sample art for Jun - empty ocean - paint
    • do sample art for Jul - LIFE BEGINS - draw viruses, bacteria, sparkle Mod Podge over all
    • do sample art for Aug - microscopic life handmade stencils - hot glue gun and glue sticks, wax paper, freezer, chalk pastels
    • do sample art for Sep - jellyfish - liquid watercolors, chalk pastels, rubbing alcohol, eyedropper, salt
    • gather supplies for finger knitted / woven rug: yellows
    • find example of Becca's wet felted geode cut open
    • tomorrow -- some kids need to finish 1) stencil for March artwork, 2) March calendar page, 3) wet felted geodes


BEFORE CAMP BEGINS - send out email sharing link to TED talk - ask kids and families to watch it prior to the start of camp on Monday

MONDAY AM - Frozen Gelatin Fossil Excavation and Frozen Gelatin Sensory Play, read Older Than the Stars, 1st Great Lesson demonstrations (black balloon, silver star confetti, pin; stars in a dish of water; golden bead and large red ball; oil, blue water, honey, large jar with a lid; hot cast iron skillet, spray bottle of water), Lemon Volcanoes outside, introduce museum group project and calendar individual project, add calendar introduction (1 day = approx 13 million years), add January and January art (galaxy speckle with Light Buttermilk acrylic paint, toothbrush, screen, black scrapbook paper)

MONDAY PM - add February and February art (molten earth with water soluble oil pastels, dk grey scrapbook paper), warp Hula Hoop Rug and teach finger knitting (both with white for the white-hot core), read How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World, display on book holder by hula hoop loom project, add March and March art (rain/steam with 12 x 12 inch cloud stencil and a variety of blue paints on a mottled red sky background), smash geodes outside in old socks, start wet felted geodes inside

TUESDAY AM - review yesterday, brainstorm what exhibits we want in our museum for the First Great Lesson, start crockpot yogurt (1/2 gallon milk in a medium round crockpot, warm on low for 3 hours, turn off, let stand 2 1/2 hours, add 1 c storebought plain yogurt with live active cultures to warm milk, whisk thoroughly, take crock out of base and wrap with two thick bath towels and let stand overnight to incubate), finish wet felted geodes, finish March calendar page if needed, read Precambrian book, have students guess how many months in their calendar the Precambrian lasted, reveal (until the first week in November), add April / May / June to calendars, do accompanying artwork, start Naked Eggs (this symbolizes the membrane around the first single celled organisms)

TUESDAY PM - freeform fun experimentation-crochet crazy bacteria, classification bracelet* activity, briefly discuss sponges article and fungi article, Yeast Air Balloons Activity (we did three Izze bottles, one with 1 T yeast, one with 1 T yeast + 100 mL warm water, one with 1 T yeast + 100 mL warm water + one dominos white sugar packet, and put balloons on the mouth of each one), needle felted sponges in round pancake rings (the handles make it especially easy for younger kids to keep from pricking themselves with the needles), shell imprints in self-hardening clay (so they can see how much easier it is to make a fossil when you have hard parts, and why Precambrian fossils are so difficult to find), make hot glue stencils on wax paper of bacteria for tomorrow's August artwork

* discuss taxonomy (this is a nice image) and the way that scientists organize living things, the idea of branching and a family tree, review with an example or two (I used homo sapiens and gorilla), look at jar to find the scientific name of bacteria in our yogurt culture, get out pipe cleaners and assorted pony beads and index cards and a pencil, let kids take turns coming up with classification questions they'd like to ask each other and choose the color of pony bead which will stand for each option (male/female, wear glasses/not, age groupings [6 and under, 7 to 12, 13 and up], do you prefer cats/dogs, do you like a clean space/a cluttered one, do you prefer water/soda/coffee, etc), then the kids get to take a pipe cleaner and go through and answer the questions for themselves, stringing the colored beads to represent their answers, and make a bracelet then compare (no two bracelets were alike)


The small geodes took a lot longer to smash than I thought and were a bit of a let-down after all that work -- and it really does destroy the socks; next time I would purchase a large beautiful geode for kids to admire and which would be awe inspiring and make them excited to do their wet felted ones.

The kids got red food coloring all over their hands with the lemon volcanoes but the lage bowl of hot water and the olive oil soap we used in wet felting took it all off before they went home to their parents!

The water balloons did NOT work for the yeast balloon activity -- somewhere I saw this recommended -- so use regular ones. This experiment is simple but is very effective and the kids asked me to get more balloons so they can do more variations tomorrow. It's also nice to do on the same day you make crockpot yogurt, since both have to be exposed to the right temperature in order to "wake up" and thrive.

Looking back... I chose not to do the meteor activity at the beginning of camp because I thought we would get to it later, but it doesn't really fit later because our planet has developed an atmosphere. So I wish I had done it in Precambrian. It's a simple, effective demonstration which helps explain how violent early Earth was, as well as why the moon has so many craters on it!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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