Clouds unit

We took a brief break from our study of Jupiter and the gas giants to study clouds for science.  This was somewhat necessary because we needed to learn more about clouds and how they worked to further our studies of astronomy.  So to earth science we turned for a clouds unit.


What are clouds?

Clouds are water vapor gathered together in the sky.  We see them because the sun reflects off of dust and water droplets in the sky.  The water droplets by themselves are not visible.  Our CKE Earth and Space (affiliate link) has a great chapter on clouds which we referred to non-stop for this unit.


Creating a cloud simulation

No clouds unit would be complete without a cloud simulation, so we gave it the old college try.  And I do mean try.

clouds unit

Supplies: jar, pan, ice, water (hot and cold)

clouds unit

Okay, so here’s how it’s supposed to work.  You’re supposed to have a jar full of hot water, so hot it’s almost boiling.  On top you’re supposed to put a pan of ice and water.  You’re supposed to see the water vapor condensing and becoming a cloud.  But, that’s not what happened.  I think it’s because Austin tends to be fairly humid, and so there’s already a fair amount of water vapor.  I mean I even got a black backdrop, so we could see better.

clouds unitThey dutifully took notes of water condensation, but no cloud.  It’s almost as bad as our literally watching water boil failure.

So, we tried another way.  I did some searching on YouTube and found several great videos on how to make a cloud in a bottle.  Most I dismissed because I didn’t have the supplies or didn’t want to find them.  Then I found one using a 2 liter bottle, water, and a match.

I was pretty sure I had those.


Only I didn’t.  I had a bottle, but not a matching lid, I tried and tried, but couldn’t replicate the results in the video. And the pictures are gone, just gone. I’m hoping they’re on the laptop somewhere, otherwise…… This sums up my feelings:



Making a cloud project

clouds unit

The next step of our clouds unit is the usual part of any cloud project, make a cloud simulation with cotton balls.  This is part of everyone’s clouds unit because it works so well to show the different types of clouds.

clouds unit

Cirrus clouds are wispy bits of cloud, that look to me like someone painted the sky absent mindedly

clouds unit

Cumulus clouds are the big puffy clouds we look at for cloud watching.

clouds unit

Stratus clouds are large gray clouds that usually cover the entire sky.

clouds unit

Nimbus clouds are dark gray and almost always mean rain, rain, and more rain


As you can probably tell this project uses cotton balls, markers and glue.  the kids had a lot of fun with it, until we got to the ones requiring coloring the clouds, then the cotton stuck to the markers and the boys were getting frustrated.

clouds unit


Literature tie in for our clouds unit

This is one the kids are getting a little old for, but it’s a great book to tie-in with clouds.  It’s just a story of a couple of kids watching clouds and talking through what they think it looks like.  Since we no longer have the book, we watched the youtube video of the story and talked about the different ideas she came up with for the cloud.

clouds unit

I thought through a couple of different ideas for this, and ended up with the good old “white blob painting”  Yes that’s the official term for it.  Our super official steps:

  1. Go get blue construction paper.  Discover you’re out of it, so paint white paper blue with watercolor paint.  Then wait a few hours.
  2. Drop a blob of white paint on the paper.
  3. Fold in half and smoosh it around (notice these super professional terms).
  4. Move the paint around with your fingers to add any random details you’d like.
  5. Write your story.

Here’s their final cloud writing projects:

clouds unit

Once there was a bat who flew from his and that night he met a bird that was ???? and asked what her name was, “Glitters and I’m running away and you’re not stopping me.”  “Okay, but would you like me to come with you?  “Sure.  By the way, what’s your name?”  “Shadow.”  “Okay.”

clouds unit

Superman’s story, I forgot to label it on the picture


Batman is stopping a robbery.  He throws his baterang.  He catches the crook.  The police arrive and take the crook away.

My kid Batman took his story upstairs, but it was about two bats meeting I believe.  I’ll have to track his story down.


More clouds unit ideas

Layers of the Atmosphere unit

We’ve been having a bad luck run with our science lessons recently.  It feels like most  of our projects just go horribly wrong, and I’ve felt rather unenthused about posting them because of that.  But, I have an earth science project that went great, and I need to move forward.  So I present our layers of the atmosphere lesson.

Hands on atmosphere lesson

Layers of the atmosphere theories

There are two different theories for the earth’s atmosphere: composition and temperature.  The composition theory is rather boring: two different types, which I’m not bothering with right now.  So let’s look at the layer by temperature, that’s what we most often hear referred to.

The layers of the atmosphere according to temperature are: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere.


Layers of the atmosphere project supplies

atmosphere lesson supplies

4 shades of blue tissue paper (I save all tissue paper from presents we receive or you can buy some:Colored Tissue Pack), watered down School Glue, Marker Tower, and card stock


Making your layers of the atmosphere project

layers of the earth's atmosphere project

Cover the cardstock with glue and put the lightest color of the atmosphere over the glue.  This represents the Troposphere.

layers of the earth's atmosphere project

Tear the edges of the next lightest shade of blue (if you want go ahead and do this for all the rest of the shades).  We’re doing this to show it’s not a clear hard line between the layers, but a gradual change.


layers of the earth's atmosphere project

Slowly add the different layers, the middle two layers are double the size of the others, so allow them more space (I felt it was kind of silly to show every single step over and over, also I didn’t take pictures).  The final layer is the very darkest blue color.

layers of the earth's atmosphere project

Finally add information about each of the layers.  Here’s our shorthand we added, obviously our CKE Earth and Space book had more information.

  • Troposphere- always changing, where most of the weather happens
  • Stratosphere- temperature goes up as you go up
  • Mesosphere- strong winds
  • Thermosphere- protects us from the meteors falling into our atmosphere

layers of the earth's atmosphere lesson

We also had a bit of fun adding in our own little odds and ends of personality.

For more earth science ideas check out my pinterest board:

Follow Ticia Adventures in Mommydom’s board Earth Science for kids on Pinterest.

Our fun from the last few weeks

kiddo fun1We’ve had a lot of fun these last two weeks or so, Tara came down to visit which meant we played a lot of board games: Smash Up Game, Castles of Mad King Ludwig Board GameStar Trek Expeditions, and Torches and Pitchforks (which is out of print now).

As you can see from up above we went by the Botanical Gardens, which always makes for some hilarious pictures.

fun in the well

Including this rather fun set of pictures from my kids as they played in the pioneer village.  I particularly love the bottom one with Superman sneaking up on zombie Batman.


Easter fun

Easter was lots of fun busyness, not business, that’s different.  We started off the morning with our Sunday School class, and I need to upload pictures to the Passover in Easter post of the actual lesson.  Afterwards we had Easter dinner with my brother’s family, he was home with a broken foot on bed rest.  It was a lot of fun to see the kids playing with their cousins.  Then we headed up to Dallas to see Jeff’s parents and aunt and uncle.  It was a good visit, but rather tiring.

Most of this week has felt rather unorganized, and like we haven’t accomplished much, but I’ll leave you with this picture of an activity that went horribly horribly wrong (you’ll hear the entire story on Sunday), and why we mopped our kitchen floor 3 times.

Bible activity gone wrong

How to make an edible Roman Road

A few years ago I read a post by Phyllis over at All Things Beautiful on how to make an edible Roman road. I thought, “I’m totally doing that.” Fast forward a few years, I stalked her blog, found the post and pinned it to my Mystery of History 2 board.  Then I set about gathering supplies and modifying it to what I was able to find.

edible Roman Road

Supplies for an edible Roman Road

(some of these are affiliate links, I get a small commission if you purchase from them)

  • graham crackers
  • melted butter (I did about 1 stick, if you want exact measurements check out Phyllis’ post)
  • chocolate pudding
  • chocolate chips
  • whipped cream (or whipping cream and powdered sugar)
  • shortbread cookies

To cut down on sugar overload I’m eliminating one of the layers in Phyllis’ edible Roman road.


Mixing and creating your edible Roman road

mix pudding and whipped cream for edible roman road

First mix up your chocolate pudding and whipped cream.  Somewhat off-topic, but can I just say I love my Hand Mixer, but I’m noticing I might need a new one soon.

After you’ve mixed up the chocolate pudding let it sit for a few minutes and then mix in the chocolate chips.

first layer of edible Roman road

While those are setting up smash the graham crackers into smithereens.  Mix up the crumbs with the butter.

Now, you’ve got all the mixing done and are ready to add in your layers.

layers of the edible roman road

  1. Smooth in the graham cracker crumb layer.  After you’ve added it, take a moment and pat it down a little bit.  That will make adding the next layer easier.
  2. Spread the chocolate chip pudding mixture in.  Watch the kids start to drool as they imagine the sugar rush they’re going to get.
  3. Add the whipped cream on top.  Now you’re ready for the final layer.

final layer added for edible roman road

Add on your shortbread cookies for the final layer of the edible Roman Road.


What are each of these layers in your edible Roman Road?

Well, I’m glad you asked.  Here’s what they are:

edible roman road layers

  1. The graham cracker and butter is the sand that was laid to make the road level.
  2. The chocolate pudding and chocolate chips is the mortar stone that would be mixed together to make a strong base.
  3. The Whipped cream represents the concrete layer.  Random side point, historians believe Romans invented concrete.
  4. The shortbread biscuits represent the limestone paving stones that are the final layer.

Roman Roads were so sturdy and well put together they were used for hundreds of years after the Roman empire fell.  For years afterwards people would come and pry out the stones to use in their own buildings because they were so well cut.  Even today, over 2000 years later you can still find the remains of the Roman roads throughout Europe.

Hands on Roman historyFor the rest of our Roman posts head over to Hands on Roman History a part of the iHomeschool Network’s hopscotch.

For more Roman inspiration

Venus activities for kids

I’ve got a backlog of science activities I’m working through, and we actually completed our Venus activities over a month ago.  And like with my volcano activities, our Venus activities just didn’t feel like they went right originally.

Venus activities for kids

Venus is a volcano planet, so Venus activities are volcano based

There’s not a lot we know about Venus because of it’s location and because of its atmosphere.  We’ve sent several probes to Venus, but the probes are pretty much all destroyed upon going into the atmosphere because of its corrosive qualities.

We know Venus has lots of volcanoes, and this knowledge was convenient because we were studying volcanoes in our earth science at the time.

volcano activities for kids

So for that part of our Venus activities head over to the volcano activities post and marvel at how many ways you can make a volcano and how many ways our attempts went wrong.  Seriously, wrong in so many ways.


Venus activity: radar mapping

Venus activity radar simulation

You know what did work?  More or less….  Our radar mapping.

Supplies: empty box (I used a plastic shoe box lined with tissue paper so I could still use it afterwards), markers (I highly recommend this set of Pip-Squeaks Marker Tower, as the markers dry out I buy new ones and put them in),Bamboo Skewers, graph paper (Astronomy Notebooking Journal has one included for the Venus lesson if you are getting that), Plaster of Paris (I’ve started buying this in bulk after the Roman frescoes and our other projects in that vein), White Tissue Paper (you probably could use colored, but white works better).

Setup on the Radar activity before kids are involved:

Venus activity preparing radar measurement

  1. Pour a bunch of plaster of paris into your box.  The more you pour in the better your activity (more on that in my what I learned notes).  Make it as varied as possible, add high mountains and deep valleys.
  2. On your white tissue paper draw a grid and number it.  Preferably make the squares uniform in size.
  3. Color your bamboo skewer with different colored bands at a pre-measured distance.  I did half inch measuring.
  4. Tape the tissue paper grid over the box so they can’t see what is inside.

Explanation of our Venus activity (without this you’re just letting your kids play with sharp pointy things)

Because of Venus’ atmosphere we cannot see the planet’s surface.  If we look down all we see is a fog in perpetual motion.  So we’ve used radar to measure Venus’ surface and created a map to see what it is like.  That is what we are going to do today.  This will let us make a map of our “Venus surface.”

learning the importance of accurate measurements with Venus activity for kids

  1. Let your kids take turns poking the bamboo skewer straight down in the middle of the square to see how deep it goes. (straight up and down is very important).
  2. Record what is the first color showing outside of the tissue paper on your graph paper.
  3. Continue doing this for each of the squares on your “planet Venus.”

learning the importance of accurate measurements

What we learned from this Venus activity

  1. Measurement is very important.  Their answers were wildly different dependent on how they poked the skewer through the tissue paper.
  2. It’s a tricky job to measure things with radar.  You had to get the measurements right, you had to keep straight what area you were measuring, and you could sometimes force your way through an air bubble and mess up the readings.
  3. I learned I shouldn’t have used a leftover batch of plaster.  We didn’t have enough differentaition, so the measuring was rather boring for creating our map.
  4. I’d also say I should have made much smaller squares to get more accurate map.

Overall though it’s made for an interesting astronomy study.   I’m going to go ahead and publish this post, but later today I’ll come back with some suggestions of some more Venus activities.

Hannibal and the Punic Wars lesson

There’s some parts of Roman history that are fairly well known, people know of Julius Caesar, they know of Nero and Rome burning, they know about gladiators.  And if you say Hannibal, you’ll probably get at least a glimmer of reaction.  Hannibal is a turning point for Rome and the city of Carthage.

Hannibal and the punic wars lesson

Who is involved in the Punic Wars?

At about 200 BC Carthage and Rome were the two big cities and had quite a decent rivalry growing.  Rome had conquered the Italian ppeninsulaand were trying to decide if they were going to be an Italian empire, or if they were going to expand.

At the same time Carthage (originally a colony of Phoenicia), but now a power in its own right was expanding into Spain.

sides drawn up in the punic war conflict

As you can see in the picture up above, Carthage, the green group, had a lot more land, but it was recently conquered land and they were more traders, not soldiers.  Rome had a solid grip on their peninsula, and had a well drilled army.

The start of the Punic Wars and Hannibal’s part in it

Both sides traded fights for a bit, but the big problem came when Rome set forth and sailed on Carthage.  Carthage cried bloody murder and called their best general, Hannibal to come home and defend them.

Now Hannibal had a choice, go home and sail his army over the seas to defend his home, OR attack the Romans on their own land.  Hit them where it hurts and cause the Senate to withdraw the Roman army.

Hannibal and the Punic wars

Hannibal chose to march his army across Spain, and over the Alps to Italy and attack Rome.  In one of the most famous marches across Europe he got his army with all of those elephants over the Alps very quickly and surprised all of Rome with his war elephants.

Scipio Africanus quote to Hannibal

Scipio Africanus, Roman general for the Punic Wars

Enter Scipio Africanus.  Scipio ranks in the lore of Roman history as one of its greatest generals.  He fought Hannibal to a standstill and destroyed his march on Rome, even though Rome had no idea how to deal with the elephants.

To truly get an idea how the battle went we watched the Decisive Battles episode on the Battle of Cannae between Hannibal and Scipio.

In the end Hannibal escaped, and Scipio was recalled to Rome.  Carthage and Rome both started rebuilding their forces.  This was just a temporary truce because neither of them could let the other survive.

The Third Punic War ended with the complete destruction of Carthage.  Rome did not trust them to keep their peace treaty, so they went in burned the city to the ground, salted the earth, and destroyed any chance of the city building back up, and made its holdings into a Roman province.  This secured more trading rights, a fairly good port, and ended the threat of war for a while.  Now Rome could turn its eyes East to look at Greece.


Finishing up the Punic Wars with a notebooking page

punic wars notebooking page

After we’d gone over all of that the kids completed a notebooking page about the Punic Wars.  Bad spelling and everything.


Resources for the Punic Wars lesson

How to make a Roman mosaic out of candy

As we moved through history, we paused in our trek through Mystery of History 2 (affiliate link) to learn more about Romans.  There’s a bunch of hands on lessons I wanted the kids to have a chance with, and there was no way we could do that progressing at our normal pace.

Roman mosaic with candy

Side note, you should see how some of my Illuminations (affiliate link) schedules look by the end of the week, I write all sorts of kooky notes on them, and scribble stuff, and draw arrows.

I bring that up because to have room in our schedule, which is all too often packed ridiculously full, I doubled up one week of history to get a bunch done, and crammed in as much of the “book learning” as I could into one week, so we had a glorious week of unplanned awesomeness to do.

But the plague went through our house, that’s another story, but I just wanted to say, that’s the beauty of flexibility in homeschooling.


Back to Roman Mosaics

(I’m talking on Thursday night about teaching active/distracted kids, and you can see why I NEED to know about this topic)

Roman mosaic supplies

I gathered all of the small bits of candy I had to make our mosaics, and plates, because while it would be even cooler mortared onto a sugar cookie, I didn’t want to make cookies right then.

After taunting the kids with all of those little bowls of candy, I hauled them over to the computer to look at pictures of Roman mosaics I took this summer at the Art Institute of Chicago.  If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it.

Roman mosaics

As you can see animals and every day life were a common theme in mosaics.  You can also tell the colors are somewhat washed out, and aren’t as bright as our candy.  From everything I’ve read in their day these were very bright and vibrant colors, if you look at the restoration of some classic Renaissance artwork you can see how colors fade and change through time.

making a Roman mosaic

The kids set to work, and happily built their creations as we talked about what they were building and why they were making those particular mosaics.

Art can be a great glimpse into what you’re kids are thinking and they’re a great time to talk with your kids because everyone is forced to slow down and think about what they’re doing.

Roman mosaic craft

Everyohne’s final product.  The mostly blue one is Superman’s it’s a clone trooper.  The orange and yellow one is mine, it’s a volcano erupting (I had Pompeii in mind).  Princess has the purple one that is a dolphin jumping in the air.  Batman just had fun building a mosaic.

eat the evidence

Of course, you have to eat the evidence, it wouldn’t do for anyone to know, you’d had that much sugar.


linking up to:

History and Geography over at All Things Beautiful (finally got a history post written)


for more Rome ideas check out my Rome to Reformation board.

Follow Ticia Adventures in Mommydom’s board Mystery of History 2 on Pinterest.

Layers of the Earth lesson

This year we’re covering two sciences: astronomy and earth science.  Our first several lessons of earth science have been wonderful because it’s coincided well with our geography.  This week we started on the layers of the earth, and I was happy as a clam when Eva Varga shared her layers of the earth lesson, so I could freely steal from it.

play dough layers of the earth model

Our Layers of the Earth lesson

{This post contains affiliate links.  For more information read my disclosure page}


First off was the book work, I read them the passage from CKE Earth and Space (affiliate link) and they were all interested in the different layers, and could recite them back, but I’m not sure they got it completely.  Thankfully day 2 of the week’s lesson in Illuminations (affiliate link) was the hands on activity, and the kids really got into it.

making play dough for layers of the earth lesson

First, I made the play dough.  Well to be more accurate, I started to make the play dough only to discover we were out of cream of tartar sauce.  This led to a panicked post to the Kid Blogger Network group on Facebook asking if I could make play dough without it, because I was already halfway through measuring and mixing up stuff.  Between their answers and my google searches I decided to just leave out the cream of tartar.  I did however let one of the boys take way too many pictures of us making it.

Then I sat the kids down and started reviewing and putting together our models.  I was very surprised at how much they’d remembered because I thought they hadn’t remembered a thing, but they could tell it all to me as they put together their models.

layers of the earth, inner core

The inner core we decided should be red because it’s “red hot.”  I mistakenly told them it was liquid because it was so hot, and then I flash-backed to Star Wars Episodes I (affiliate link) and started snickering about a liquid core and swimming through it, and how it doesn’t work like that (you may have some clue why my kids don’t focus well, my mind is a truly scary place).

layers of the earth model outer core The outer core is the actual liquid part.  We chose for it to be yellow to show how hot it still is, but not as hot as the inner core.

layers of the earth mantle

We chose white for the mantle, and that’s mainly because I couldn’t convince anyone to mix colors in for another color of play dough.  They were kind of done with kneading and mixing play dough for colors.  They wanted to play.

layers of the earth crust

The crust is green or blue depending on my kid.  Batman chose green because he likes yellow and blue, and green is yellow and blue mixed together.  Superman chose blue because he likes blue best.  Princess was sad because she couldn’t put pink on the outside.  But the green represents the land, and the blue represents water.  I figure out earth is 70% water on the surface, so that’s close enough.

layers of the earth lesson printable

At the end of it all they put together the layers of the earth printable from Eva Varga’s post I linked to at the top.

I was quite pleasantly surprised a few days later when I asked about the different layers and the kids were able to tell  them to me along with what the layers were like, so lesson well learned.


If you’d like some more earth science ideas, I’d highly recommend checking out my Earth Sciences pinterest board.

Mac bath experience

And for those of you wondering what ended up happening with our dog, we washed him again in baking soda, dish soap, and vinegar, and he was not happy.  In the end he had some very soft fur, still smelled slightly of skunk, and was very unhappy with us.



I also have some rather sad news.  This will be the last Science Sunday with a linkie.  I’ve been praying and thinking over this for a while, and I think it’s time to close this down.  I’ll still be writing our science adventures fairly regularly, but I’ve noticed not as many of you linking up, and not many of you click through to check on the links that are linked up.  Next week I’ll feature the best from this month, and that will be the end of it.


Hands on Pompeii Lesson

There are sometimes your lessons go fabulously, and this was one of those times, which was nice to have happen in a rather busy month.

Hands on Pompeii lesson

{This post contains affiliate links.  For more information read my disclosure page}

“Boring” part of the Pompeii lesson (translation, not messy)

Our Pompeii lesson started when I saw the independent reading on Illuminations (affiliate link) was “Pompeii…Buried Alive!” (affiliate link).  I generally speaking really enjoy the later Step Into Reading Books and this was no different.  It has a great overview of what happened and had all of my kids enthralled.  So much so I think they finished it more or less two days of reading lessons (approximately 30 minutes of reading out loud, minus some other activities).

After all that time reading about Pompeii, I decided to skip reading the actual text from MOH2 (affiliate link) for now and come back to that later if need be.

Instead I told them to build some Legos.  I gave them a small Lego plate and sent them to build their idea of a Roman town.  And they happily did so.

Then I set them to cleaning the massive mess they’d made (which still isn’t cleaned up almost 2 weeks later, due to other circumstances), while I prepped the next part of the activity.

 The Hands on Part of the Pompeii lesson

Pompeii lesson

I went outside and started burying their city.  I threw a few rocks in there, large amounts of dirt, some ash from our fire pit, but generally was not too careful.  My goal was to knock a few things about in the burying, just as the settling of the ash and the occasional large debris that came about caused damage to the actual city.

Then I called the kids outs to see their buried town, which led to cries of dismay as they realized their gorgeous cities were buried and I’d covered their treasured Legos in dirt.  There might have been real tears.

Digging up Pompeii lesson

Slowly they dug up the city of Pompeii.  I emphasized not disturbing the layers and working to ensure they preserved how it was found.  They did some drawings, but they were much to engrossed in digging up their archeological dig to really care about perfect preservation skills.

As a side note, this is the fourth time we’ve done an activity like this, previously we’ve had an archeological dig, a dinosaur dig, and a marine recovery.  I think this was our most successful dig.  The Lego city made it much more interesting to dig for, and easier for them to visualize what it’s like to dig up a site.

Pompeii lesson for kids

After all of that, and the kids happily dug through for over an hour.  Seriously, eventually I just left them to it as I went inside to watch a Bright Ideas Press’ last G+ hangout. (I put this picture up on my facebook page).

Pompeii lesson notebooking pages

The next day we finally listened to our MOH2 lesson on the topic as they filled out their notebook pages (get the super supplemental, it is worth it).  We finished it up watching a Pompeii movie on Netflix.  I opted not to show them the romantic soap opera masquerading as a historical movie called “Pompeii” (the reviews I read said, “IF you want to watch Titanic with a volcano and random explosions, watch this,” No thank you).

What we learned from our Pompeii lessons

I almost forgot to include this, but there were so many great things to come out of this lesson:

  1. Archaeology can be very hard at times.  You don’t know exactly where things are, or what you’re looking for.  It’s easy to break items as you unbury them.
  2. It is disappointing when your hard work is buried/destroyed.  They felt sad and hurt I’d buried and messed up their Lego creations, they got a small taste of how the people who survived Pompeii felt.
  3. There are multiple ways to learn.  We tried most of the major modalities.  We got in visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and all of them helped my kids to absorb this lesson.  Not all lessons is it possible to do this on, but when it is, it’s a great way to learn more.


Solar System model review

Since we’re studying astronomy this year I knew I wanted a good solar system model for the kids to be able to look at. So, I drove down to our local Mardel’s and sat there studying the 10 different models they had.

And to make sure I had a really good comparison I then walked down the street to the Hobby Lobby and compared the ones on their “educational models” aisle. And I found our “perfect” solar system model: Geosafari Motorized Solar System (affiliate link).

Solar system model to learn about the planets


What I wanted in a solar system model

  • Sturdy, very sturdy.  I’ve bought a couple of models recently that did not hold up to my kids rough handling, and since we’ll be referring back to it all year long, it needs to be sturdy.
  • Somewhat to scale.  Nothing in the price range I’m willing to pay will be anything close to scale, but I want them to understand there is a huge size differential between Pluto and Jupiter.
  • Not Styrofoam.
  • Nice to have: motorized so they can see the planets move
  • Nice to have: light up
  • Nice to have: easily removable so they can look at the planets in more detail

(In case you’re wondering my best friends and I came up with a 10 page long list of what we’re looking for in a guy, everything from MUST have, to it’d be nice but it’s not a deal breaker, so I have a long habit of making lists like this, and much longer)

solar system model

I sat in Mardel’s for a good 30 minutes staring at all of the models, I got the salesperson to let me take them out of the boxes to examine them more closely, and finally decided on the Geosafari Motorized Solar System (affiliate link).


Putting together our solar system model

solar system model materials

That random pile of stuff is all you need for the model.  The kids looked bored out of their minds because I wouldn’t let them touch the model until I’d laid all the pieces out.  Poor Superman was not happy, he wanted to just start pulling pieces out willy nilly.


solar system model construction

And yes we have taken this apart and put it together several times since this first time.

But once we started putting planets in they were happy as clams and went took turns putting all 9 planets in.  That’s right, I’m still going to call Pluto a planet even if the national association of astronomers says otherwise.

There was some deal-making between the kids because they decided they liked different planets more than others, but in the end we had the planets all put together.

Now comes the fun part of the solar system model: playing (learning) from it

solar system model measuring the planets distance

As we put it together and looked at all of the cool pieces we learned a few things.

  1. The planets are widely different in size.  Little bitty Pluto is smaller than a marble.
  2. Jupiter is rather cool with its’ giant red spot.
  3. The rings of Saturn led to much discussion of what they could be made of.
  4. We were all fascinated to see how the planets moved around, and how they were placed on different dates.
  5. It takes planets wildly different amounts of time to go around the sun (and this is with the sizing being off significantly).

solar system model chart

Then we looked at the planetary features chart.  That was fascinating (I may have watched too much TOS Star Trek growing up).  I was intrigued by the symbols, and my kids were amazed at how long the different years are, and the length of days on different planets.

Eventually I just let them have fun looking at and playing with our new solar system model, and they had at it.

solar system model observation

Batman in particular spent a great deal of time looking at it.  He’s the reason we’re studying astronomy this year because he wanted to learn all about space.  He spent a lot of time looking at how the planets are not in a row and how they rotate at different angles.  I can’t wait for his mind to be blown to realize they don’t even all rotate in a single plane, Neptune is actually on a completely different axis.

Once I’ve put it back together again I’ll let you know about our other astronomy model, that one has not been as big of a hit, and is part of why I was so picky on our solar system model.

 Want more solar system information?

Follow Ticia Adventures in Mommydom’s board astronomy for kids on Pinterest.

  Or my astronomy tag.      Photobucket

Science Sunday


<div align="center"><a href="" title="Science Sunday"><img src="" alt="Science Sunday" style="border:none;" /></a></div>


Now link up your SCIENCE posts, new and old, and then visit some of the other posts linked up and say hi. I’m going to be pinning, commenting, FBing or tweeting all of the posts linked up as the week goes by. At the end of the month I’m going to feature the best posts linked up.

Make sure to include a link back to my blog so people can come back from your post to see what others have done.  By linking you are agreeing I can feature your posts in a round up post later (I may use a picture to feature, but will link back).

Xerxes lesson for elementary kids

Our Xerxes lesson is actually one we completed almost 5 months ago, but I haven’t been able to sit down and explain just what we did. 

Who is Xerxes?

Xerxes is important for a couple of reasons, first because he managed some rather impressive and important engineering feats, and managed a rather large empire, and second because he’s married to Esther in the Bible (or at least that’s one of the leading theories among Biblical scholars)

Xerxes’ father attempted to defeat the Greeks, but suffered a rather humiliating defeat at the Battle of Marathon, and Xerxes obsessed over this.  Xerxes decided it would take way too long for his army to march around the Hellespont, and so he built a giant bridge for his army to cross.

Xerxes and the Hellespont lesson

Just so you can understand the full magnitude of this, he is building a bridge across a sea by lashing boats together and putting sod over them.  This is a HUGE undertaking.

His army successfully crosses and he goes on to fight the Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae.  He wins decisively, and we watched the Decisive Battles episode: Battle of Thermopylae to learn more about it (my boys are now obsessed with this show, in case you’re wondering):


However, he pressed his advantage too far and pursued the fleeing Greeks to Salamis where he lost the battle.  The next year the Greeks were able to push Xerxes and the rest of the Persians out of Greece.

Xerxes was quite a competent king for his time, and achieved some truly impressive things.

Xerxes lesson for elementary

Xerxes lesson: rebuild the Hellespont Bridge

I wanted the kids to understand the engineering genius required to build a bridge on the scope we’re talking about.  Part of me wanted them to build a bridge across an entire river, but I realized that would take a lot more materials than we had, and a lot more time than we necessarily want to put in.  So our Xerxes lesson was just crossing a much smaller area.

supplies for Xerxes challenge lesson

supplies for our Xerxes lesson:

fabric, yarn, pipe cleaners, egg cartons, popsicle sticks, various wooden pieces, and a few random toys

learning about xerxes

We arrived at the park and dumped out the backpacks full of supplies I’d had them scrounge up and said “Figure out how to build a bridge across this span,” and they got to it.

They tried out a couple of different ideas before deciding the egg cartons would be the most effective way to span our sea.  The biggest challenge was securing the pieces together (they used pipe cleaners) and how to secure the bridge at the start and end of the bridge (very long pieces of yarn tied around rocks).

Xerxes lesson

After successfully building a bridge they tried out how our bridge would stand up against a storm.  While it did get covered in water, and we may have lost a soldier or two overboard, most of the bridge stood up to the splashing just fine.


Xerxes lesson: writing

The second part of our lesson was to write a WHO paragraph about Xerxes.  We’ve been talking a lot about what paragraphs should look like.  If my kids were left to themselves here is how all paragraphs would go.

Xerxes was a king.  Xerxes was important.  Xerxes as a bad man.  Xerxes fought people.

Not very interesting, is it?  It also doesn’t really tell you all that much about him either.

Brainstorm together to help reluctant writers 

First we brainstormed as many things as we could think of about who Xerxes was or what Xerxes did.  Then we talked about paragraph structure.

A “WHO paragraph” has 4 sentences.  The first sentence tells us WHO the person is.  You then expand with more details about that person, and wrap it up with a sentence about WHAT they did (I’m feeling kinda fuzzy on this right now, so I can see the kids and I both need a review for our writing).

I wrote a sample paragraph using what we’d brainstormed, and then they took turns writing about Xerxes themselves.  As I recall their sentences went something like this:

Xerxes was a king.  Xerxes hated Greeks.  He was a good warrior.  Xerxes fought Greeks.

For a quick writing lesson, it was pretty good.  We’re working on their paragraphs making more sense, because by the end of the upcoming school year I want them writing 5 paragraph essays.  We’ve got a lot of work to do on that front.


more ideas or materials for a Xerxes lesson

linking up to All Things Beautiful

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