Monday, May 30, 2022

Foil Packet Meals

Yes, folks, I'm director of summer camps at our local environmental center this summer (ages 4-9). Today in our camp training we are practicing canoe rescues and open fire cooking. Open fire cooking is not my specialty (as in, the last time I did it I was a girl scout in the 80s), so I will keep track of the links I find... and what we make and what we like.

Hobo Foil Packets

14 Foil-Packet Meals That Make Campfire Cooking a Breeze
compilation of links

35 Foil Pack Recipes You Can Cook On A Grill Or Campfire
compilation of links

Any others you'd like to share?

May 30, 2022: We are trying Hobo Foil Packets tonight!

(They were super yummy! Just put the sliced potatoes on the bottom, make the stack high and not wide, and put in way more sausage than you think you will need because it really shrinks as it cooks. And yes to the ketchup.)

July 19, 2022: Today we made Baked Apples and they were stupendous! This recipe is from Forest School Activity Cards: 48 Fun Things to Do Outdoors by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton.

Portion aluminum foil into squares in advance. Make the fire and let it burn down while the children are swimming. Also, core the apples while the children are swimming. Place a Sugar in the Raw packet and an apple on each foil square and fold it gently to keep the flies away. Put all the "apple kits" in a box. When the children are out of the water, have them sit on a circle of benches around the fire. Walk around with the box and let each child choose a kit. When all the children have their kits, have them gently open the foil. Let them know the foil will be used for the cooking, so they are not to tear it. Have them tear open the sugar packet and pour the sugar into the apple. Then have them go to the stations: a trash bag (for the sugar packet), and an adult to give them a sprinkle of cinnamon and a pat of butter. When they get back to their bench, they can wrap the apple up again but like a Hershey's kiss this time. Then the apples go into the bed of coals for 20 minutes. Have available paper bowls and cutlery kits for eating the apples after they are removed from the fire and unwrapped (by an adult).

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Quality of Numbers Block - 4

My First Graders are on their final block of the school year (a Science block on the Four Elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire). For Air today we went outside and flew kites. They had a great time. Of course, the kite got stuck in a tree. And once freed from the tree it got wrapped around a power line. When we came inside to cool off and rest, we just had to read Stuck by Oliver Jeffers.

The other story we read for kites -- the one we read before the kite flying -- was Paper John by David Small.

This is a beautiful book for Air (kites) or Water (boats) but it would also be great for the Quality of Numbers block as well because of the Four Winds!

I love doing the Four Winds for the number 4, and making wavy glue dot lines in the four directions of the compass as the MLB artwork. In November when we did this, I read them Peter and the North Wind by Freya Littledale.

practicing making glue lines in advance
it's important to know how hard to squeeze the glue bottle

the Four Winds!

There is a lot you could do for four, and for any of the numbers, in fact (except maybe 11). It is so much fun to brainsorm for this block!

Ideas for 4 / IV

    4 seasons - spring, summer, autumn, winter

    4 elements - earth, water, air, fire

    4 kingdoms - mineral, plant, animal, human

    4 points on the compass - north, south, east, west

    4 winds

    The Bremen Town Musicians from Grimm

    The Four Skillful Brothers from Grimm


    four is the number of increments in tasks and journeys of spiritual significance in Native American cultures; see note at the end of Less Than Half, More Than Whole by Kathleen and Michael Lacapa

And then you have to settle down and choose one image that you think represents the essence of that number. If you are planning for First Grade right now, I have an entire Ruzuku course dedicated to this block. Tons of ideas for each number, one-on-one support with your planning (including a free consulting call), and photos of all our MLB pages. Join us!

Quality of Numbers Ruzuku Course

Lifetime Access!

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Science Club - Exxon Valdez

Saturday was our tenth and final session of Science Club! Topic:

The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters:
33 Thrilling Experiments Based on History's Greatest Blunders

by Sean Connolly

I wrote a blog post previously with my planning notes when doing this block on Zoom. Now I get to do it IRL with a group of students!

For each disaster I'll share my up-to-date notes and some photos. This time we learned about the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in 1989. This is the only one on our list of 10 that happened in my lifetime; I also remember doing an Oil Spill Cleanup Experiment in elementary school during an oil spill in 1986 (the Apex Houston).

For a fascinating (and terrifying) reverse-chronological list of oil spills that have occurred throughout the world and spills that are currently ongoing, check Wikipedia.

- recall last week's disaster (Plywood Skyscraper)

- last week during the "recall" part of our club meeting, we read a story about the previous week's disaster (Tacoma Narrow's Bridge) and the children had a lot of questions about the caissons for the Brooklyn Bridge

- brainstorm how we could set up an experiment using a plastic container and a deep pot of water to make a model of a caisson; test our ideas and check and see if the container really does trap air inside or if it traps water

They had a lot of interesting ideas, but the one we tried was to cut a strip of construction paper the height of the plastic container and tape it vertically on the inside. After we pushed the container straight down into the water, we lifted it straight back up and felt how much of the strip of paper was damp.

The top 5/6 of it was dry (although one student pointed out that the water will continue to wick its way up the strip over time and throw off our results). It was so amazing to feel that the top of the strip, inside an open container which you yourself just fully immersed in water, was bone dry!

Next time the children want to make two tweaks. One would be to use a color of construction paper that clearly darkens when it's wet. I used yellow and the color change wasn't obvious. The other would be to use a ruler to make tickmarks up the strip so that we could measure how far up the strip of paper got wet. That would also help us to measure whether the water wicks up over time.

I didn't think of this at the time,
but it would be interesting to compare
the design of a caisson to a diving bell

- look at We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and ask the class who has already read it and what it is about; many children recognized the cover and said they had heard it but did not remember anything about the story (which is too bad)

- read Oil Spill! by Melvin Berger including "How to Help Prevent Oil Spills" section in the back

- return to We Are Water Protectors and discuss the problems with one of Berger's recommendations ("oil companies should be helped to find new oil fields in the United States; they should not just depend on oil shipped from abroad")

- do experiment #27 "Double Hulls" from The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters and discuss the problems with another of Berger's recommendations ("oil tankers should have double hulls; if the outer hull is damaged, the inner one will still hold the oil")

    for each group (set up one):

    sink or bucket


    large plastic cup with no handle (about 8 fl oz)

    small plastic cup that can fit inside the larger cup but not too snugly

Sean Connolly mentions "you might need to try different combinations of plastic cups to get it to work, but the result is an eye-opener" (p.188) and he's not kidding about needing to try this one over and over. The two times that I've done this experiment it was less than stellar. Since the basic idea of this experiment is that "the second hull raises the center of mass (the point where the mass of the object is most concentrated) higher up, making the vessel less stable" (p.191), any experiment that you do with raising or lowering the center of mass would work well to prove this point, and so we just recalled our soda can experiment from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

- do Oil Spill Cleanup Experiment

    for each team (set up two):

    pan of water

    blue food coloring (optional)

    vegetable or motor oil


    cotton balls

    craft feathers

    sheep wool

    packing peanuts (biodegradable)

    paper towels

    dog hair

    human hair

    dish detergent

I had the teams work through the clean up items in the order listed. One team tried to use a piece of cotton string to make a "boom" around their oil slick and found the cotton string actually soaked up some of the oil!

We had one team do kitchen oil (I used toasted sesame oil) and one team do clean motor oil. The clean motor oil is the exact same color as the toasted sesame oil and so it was less dramatic than one might think. In fact it really confused the children, since the oil in We Are Water Protectors and Oil Spill! is depicted as being thick and black. From a teaching standpoint, I also found it extremely stressful to have the real motor oil and was constantly worried about every tiny drop of it. I wouldn't recommend using motor oil.

- share information about dog hair being used in oil spill clean ups

Oil spill clean-up gets doggone hairy
First comparison of natural-origin sorbent materials for land-based oil spills

Science News - July 15, 2020

Because I was heading to a haircut immediately after Science Club, I put my long hair in a ponytail and let Zac cut it right off with a pair of scissors. We did find that dog hair works better than human hair because the dog hair mats together nicely, whereas human hair is slipperier. The dog hair worked extremely well! Naturally, the detergent was the best chemical solution.

We discussed what worked and what didn't, and what is scalable and what is not. Dog hair is a discarded waste material (also all natural, fully renewable, and completely free) so the only costs involved would be in collecting it from grooming salons and transporting it to the latest disaster area.

- look at a few facts from Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart (anhinga, American bittern)

- pass out Science Club notebooks, have each child draw and write notes about his/her favorite experiment or about the disaster itself

- number pages, write table of contents, decorate from and back covers of Science Club notebooks!

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Consumable Supplies for the School Year

Each year families in our homeschool co-op / microschool pay an annual Materials & Activities fee. This covers all of the child's school supplies and field trip fees for the entire year. I spend the summer purchasing supplies.

From a teacher perspective, I like doing the shopping so that the kids have the exact things I want them to have (like really good quality colored pencils). I also know that some things, like Waldorf main lesson books, are hard to find so it just makes more sense to place a group order.

As a former child, I remember well that some kids had sparkly notebooks and folders with cool graphics on them when my family could only afford the plain things, and I don't want that experience for any of my students. Having things be the same makes it more fair.

From the parent perspective, it's nice not to have to wander a crowded store on a hot summer day with cranky tired kids and a long supply list in hand (1 green 2-pocket folder with prongs, 3 1-inch binders, 1 black & white composition book, 3 glue sticks, 1 pink eraser, etc.). I also know from the parent perspective that those supply lists change and you always have to go back to the store anyway because the teachers have changed their mind and issue a new list on the first day of school.

Homeschool children love the routine of buying a new backpack, lunch box, and water bottle when it is back-to-school time, so they still get to do that.

When I started the homeschool co-op I didn't allow backpacks. We don't have homework so there's simply no need for them. A group of ten backpacks is also incredibly bulky and takes up a lot of unnecessary space in your living room. However, since children LOVE to bring a backpack to school, I've slowly relented. And now, instead of keeping a bag of extra clothing at school (which so often turns out to be no longer the right size or no longer for the right season), I have the children bring a seasonally-appropriate change of clothing with them every day in the backpack. Ta da! The backpacks are useful and so everyone feels good about them.

I haven't made a post before with the list of all the consumable supplies I buy each summer for the upcoming year, so I'd like to start working on that. Office supplies like lined paper, graph paper, printer paper, watercolor paper, tape refills, glue dots, fountain pen cartridges, and so on I just replenish throughout the year as they come up. Here is what I buy in advance:


STUDENT PLAN BOOK - 1 per child

NO. 2 PENCILS - 1 color per child

COLORED PENCILS - 1 tin per child

    For many years I've gotten each child a box of Lyra colored pencils to use when writing in plan books (we color-code each subject area).

    Next year I'm going to switch to Prismacolor. I did use Prismacolor once in the past but the leads are so soft that the pencils didn't all last the school year. However, I'd like us to do a lot of Nature walks and sketching and so I think that having a wider variety of colors will be necesssary. I am thinking of going with the 36 ($31.24 per child).

    Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils, set of 36

MAIN LESSON BOOKS - 8 per child

    Our tradition has been to do eight main lesson books each year (2 Language Arts, 2 Mathematics, 2 Cultural, 2 Science) and to do a Class Play in December. I get my main lesson books from Meadowsweet Naturals. They are $4.75 apiece ($38.00 per child). Two yellow, two blue, two orange, and two green for each student.

    I usually get the kind without onion skin but for a child who writes with really heavy pressure, onion skin is nice because it prevents the colors from the illustration from staining the writing on the facing page.

    This year I also used MLBs for Science Club. An MLB with a white cover is ideal for this, since all of the other colors are used up in our color coding system.

SKETCH PAD - 1 per child

ART PORTFOLIO - 1 per chld

    I'm not sure yet about art portfolios. So much of the artwork that we do goes straight into the MLB, but sometimes we do larger pieces.

    The most inexpensive way to make an art portfolio is with a tri-fold presentation board. Rotate it sideways and fold up the bottom piece. Duct tape along the two sides of the pocket, taping the side piece (12") to the center piece (24"). Leave the top piece untaped. It becomes the flap. Voila! A large and sturdy art portfolio for $6.00.

    Pacon Presentation Boards, 48" x 36", White, 12 Count

Many of our school supplies are reused every year, like pencil sharpeners, scissors, erasers, jeweler's loupes, kangaroo pouches, etc.

In the past we've used handwork bags made by a grandparent of a former student, but I think this year I am going to switch to handwork baskets.

I buy enough supplies for 10 children each year, so it adds up very quickly! But even though the handwork baskets are $29.95 each I would only need to buy them once. I'm very excited to make my new Handwork Room beautiful!

What are you buying to get ready for the new year? Share your thoughts in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!