Hohokam Shell Etching

overview-iiIndigenous Peoples’ Day approacheth–and that’s not the only reason I’ve been thinking about the native peoples of the United States recently. The Dakota pipeline controversy erupting through the midwest is a reminder that a long and bitter legacy of disrespect continues.

I chose this particular activity because it was from the Hohokam people–of whom I’ve never heard, not even once. Since the Hohokam lived in what is now central and southern Arizona from around 200 to 1400, let’s hope I would have studied them had I grown up in the Southwest. Note: I include a pathetically brief overview at the end of this activity.

Hohokam people gathered shells from the nearby Gulf of California, and were highly skilled shell artisans. In particular, they are known for etching shells, and are probably the first people to ever etch objects of any sort, despite Wikipedia’s apparent ignorance on the matter. Traditionally, they would cover a shell with a protective substance—sap or pitch from the trees—and use a tool to scratch off the design they wished to create: animals such as lizards and frogs, or geometric patterns, for example. These shells were then soaked in an acidic liquid (probably fermented cactus juice) to eat away the exposed areas. Finally, the pitch was scraped off. The shells might be painted as a finishing touch. You can read more here.

 

From Ancient Lost Treasures.

From Ancient Lost Treasures.

To recreate their craft, we will use supplies more readily available these days, and our process will actually work in the reverse. Instead of etching the design into the shell, our design will be in relief, while the rest of the shell is worn away by the acid.  Continue reading

Glowing Bubbles and the Great Black Light Smartphone Hack

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posted by Beret

A few weeks ago, I was on a plane watching an endless parade of Buzzfeed clips. My  hour of debauchery was made possible by Virgin Airlines, who gave my kids an entertainment IV, and gave me an adult beverage and my own remote. That doesn’t happen often at home.

In between raw eggs dancing on a speaker and men trying to walk in high heels, I learned about glow in the dark bubbles.

As some of you may have noticed, I like things that glow. Last fall’s obsession was glow-in-the-dark pumpkin bowling. Very festive.

But this time I was dubious. Glow in the dark bubbles sounded great, but the Buzzfeed hipsters made them using highlighters–which don’t glow in the dark. This wasn’t going to work without a black light. LobeStir to the rescue!     Continue reading

A Motley Valentine’s Greeting for You

From National Geographic.com, where they have lots of great photos of hearts.

From National Geographic.com, where they have lots of incredible photographs of hearts.

posted by Beret

With age (and wisdom?) I have discovered why so many classroom activities from days of yore revolved around holidays and seasons. For teachers, parents, after-school program directors–anyone who has to look regularly into the eyes of expectant children, anyone who has to fill the time with something, anything to avoid mutiny–the creative well runs only so deep. Sooner or later, we look at the calendar and gasp. “February already! February? What can we do in February? Let’s see: winter, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, African American History Month. Boom.”

These were desperate times. After a prolonged absence on LobeStir, I wanted to come back with a giant, fabulous valentine full of amazing projects and ideas for you, dear reader. Only I didn’t have any. Or time. And in my harried search for anything interesting and loosely tied to Valentine’s Day, I discovered that my spouse may be right–this is a distinctly lesser holiday developed primarily to sell greeting cards and candy.

I did find out how to float the letters off of m&ms and Skittles, however.

It’s not rocket science, but it is kind of cool, in a five-second minor distraction sort of way. Continue reading

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Part II

posted by Beret.

Ring of Kool.

Ring of Kool.

Several weeks ago, I posted a few project ideas for that strangely bewitching chemical tonic called Kool-Aid. As my friend Peggy explained to her uninitiated daughter: “Kool-Aid is a hair dye that people drink sometimes.” Cheers to that.

For your enjoyment and edification, here is Part Two. Included are:

  • Better-smelling volcanic eruptions
  • Moon Sand

There were supposed to be a bunch of other fabulous projects included in this post, which I will explain in my sob story at the end. On to the successful projects!

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Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Part I

posted by Beret.

koolaid

I never really cared for the taste of Kool-Aid, but oh, how I have always loved the smell of it. That aroma smacks of childhood, warm days, and cheerfully destructive running pitchers:

I don’t really want my kids drinking Kool-Aid, either; luckily, there are plenty of other things to do with it. For the first installment of this two-part series, I hereby present the following projects: scented play dough, hair dye, tie-dye, and slime. Continue reading

Color Explosions

posted by Gina

Welcome back, everyone!

I bring to you one of those experiments that can be a brief moment-of-awesome or a longer predict-and-experiment-and-try-again hootennany. The amazing MILK COLOR EXPLOSION.

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Soap Clouds

posted by Gina

Were you cloud-inspired by Beret’s DIY Clouds? Have you been wishing there were more sort-of-cloud-related activities to do with your kiddos? Have you ever wondered what happens when you put Ivory Soap in a microwave? I am here to help.

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This. This is what happens.

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DIY Clouds

posted by Beret

Ages: 4 and up

For me, clouds recall lazy summer afternoons spent splayed in the cool grass, searching for sky sheep. Since I have moved to the FOG ZONE, however, summers are mostly frigid and gray. On rare clear days, the blue above is nearly always spotless. Sunsets are quick and unremarkable.

Imagine my excitement to discover that I could make my own clouds!

This experiment is fast and easy, but the science and dialogue can go as deep as you wish.   Continue reading

Get Outside!

The grip of winter has left New York.

Mostly. It was kind of chilly yesterday.

BUT! The flowers are blooming, the cats are sneezing, and I can leave the apartment without 20 layers of clothing. Bliss!

Which gets me thinking about spring time, and the start of summer, and how those of us living in the cities can get that desperate craving to reconnect with something green. As I was scouting about these internets, continuing to put off the massive, massive research paper I have due next week, I found this nifty website. And you should scope them out.

To get you started, here’s a page I particularly liked, especially in light of needing to commune with trees again. Have you ever hugged a tree? For real? I did it in a college science class, and I will tell you, it was actually kind of amazing. Go hug one. And then adopt it. Then do some of this other stuff.

Happy Spring!

ENVIRO KIDS Games & Activities

Kids living in urban centers, or even suburbs, are often disconnected from the nature. Here are some activities you can do with kids with nature and our environment:

Outdoor activities for kids and parents

Adopt a Tree

While taking a walk or hiking, have your child to pick out a favorite tree in a  park or forest and “adopt” it. Essentially, your child will take on the role of being   the tree’s caretaker. Do bark rubbings with crayons and paper; leaf collection and pressing in the fall; and look for flowers and fruit in the summer. Each year, take pictures of your child standing beside the tree. You can even bring   along measuring tape to track the tree’s growth. Kids can also research the tree on the internet: where the tree is commonly found, usual life span, height, etc.

Clean Up the Earth

A good way to teach our children about taking care of our…

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Smart Phone Macro Lens

posted by Gina

Who knew there were so many ways to hack your smartphone? If you missed Beret’s Smartphone Projector, you’ll want to go straight to that post and catch up.

Are you back? Great. So, you know what’s neat? Super close up stuff. Like this photo of a coffee bean:

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