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camp invention rocks

Camp Invention is a week long summer program offered at many schools throughout the United States and is absolutely wonderful. The best part of having your children attend the well organized camp is the innovation and excitement they bring home to continue or start new projects. It was all about inventing. It opened the door to some great activities for the summer time, which is hot for us in Arizona and indoor ideas are welcomed. They offer the program in many states and your school can start one by going to their website for information.

The themes change every year to keep the repeat camper interested and challenged. the day is also split into blocks. In this particular part of the day, children took “upcyclables” and made a city called magnetroplis with a group. There were lessons and plenty of information that went along with the whole idea as well. Then, they created a city using magnets and recycled items. the bottom, base of the city was propped up by styrofoam so that they could design cars and other things to move if they used magnets. The moving cars along the streets were a big hit with the kids. Teamwork , listening to others and respect was also part of the lesson.

In this picture you will notice a theater, bridge, leaning tower that actually had a light bulb on the top, a city water fountain, a puppet theater and more.

This part of a city had a city fountain and statue, sports field, hockey arena and convention center.

Magnets with paper clips were used to design statues to decorate the city.

At home, you can use any of your recycled items to make a city of any size. I chose to cut a smaller cardboard for the sake of space.

Examples of materials: shoe boxes, cereal boxes, lids, cups, blocks, pipe cleaners, office supplies, cardboard rolls (paper towels), any left over art supplies.

Here is a smaller version of what they did at camp and was done as soon as my children came home from their last day.

This was completely done by my son who envisioned a town with a grand hotel with lakes and plants as well as a statue in the center.

Apparently, all you need is a great place to stay and sports.The rest of the town is full of sports fields.

The  best things about art and creative camps is that the children can take the ideas home. I love having my children enjoy the time during the summer to create and have the time to make what they want.

Leaf Activities

Guess what I woke up to? A beautiful and colorful plant! My daughter decided that we needed some color in the desert. Luckily our home is not in need of more color!

Besides the artistic look of our new plant, we discovered the cool veins of the leaf.

So, what is a leaf and what does it do?

Leafs are very important to the plant. They make the food for it to survive, the whole process is called photosynthesis. Within the leaf there are structures that convert the sunlight energy into chemical energy that the plant is able to use as food. Chlorophyll is the molecule that uses the energy in sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide gas into sugar and oxygen gas. Note: This is a great time to ask what we need to survive and an open ended question about why plants are important to us and the earth.

The leaf has an epidermis that is a tough skin cell. In between the two outer layers are several other layers such as the spongy mesophyll. The epidermis excretes a waxy substance that is called the cuticle. this is important as it leaves a protection on the leaf against pests and bacteria. Take a look at a leaf and the veins. The veins support the leaf and have vessels that transport food, minerals and water to the rest of the plant. Leaves can be found in many shapes and sizes.

Leaf Hunt:

Search and find many leaves from around the community. If it is not the right time of year or there are no trees, find a book. Younger children can draw or tape leaf on a large board and write describing words for each leaf. They can also sort the leaves by a trait such as round, pointy, small or large.

Vocabulary Tree:

Individual children can make a tree out of construction paper and then write a vocabulary word on a  leaf with the meaning. a classroom or homeschool children can make a larger tree out of butcher paper and add on a leaf and it’s meaning as they are discussed. if there is not the time for this activity, it is possible to add words to a science journal or a small book titled Leaf Vocabulary Words. Many definitions could also have drawings and diagrams.

Label a Leaf:

Have child draw and label a leaf. This is a better way to have child remember and discover all about the leaf.

Four Seasons Paper Plate Craft

How to Make a “Four Seasons” Paper Plate Craft

What you will need:

White, plain paper plates

Construction paper (green, brown)


Cotton balls

Crayons or markers

Hole punch

Yarn or pipe cleaners

Tissue paper

This is a fun craft project to go with learning about the seasons. It can be done over several days or as you speak about each season and then display the while craft at the end. This would be appropriate with help for preschool age kids and also for kindergarten and first grade students. Classroom teachers could use this lesson in center time.

To make the Craft:


Cut out tree with brown construction paper, color background black and ground white (leave blank), glue cotton balls or torn white construction paper for snow.


Cut out trunk in brown construction paper, color background, crumple small tissue for new buds and glue on branches.


Color background on paper plate, cut and glue brown tree trunk and cut out green tree tops.


Color background, cut out brown tree trunk, green leaves and glue falling leaves.

Hanging the paper plate season craft:

Hole punch the top and bottom of paper plates, have children use pipe cleaners to attach together. For younger students, the parents or teacher may need to tie the plates together. On the top plate make a loop to hang on the wall. These hang nicely at home or in the classroom.

Books and Poems:

There are many books, songs and poems about the seasons and each can be used for literature and the thematic unit. Children can make their own poems for each season, which can also be displayed along with the craft or made into a seasons book. Teachers can create thematic books and folders to compile all of their thematic papers and art to take home neatly at the end of the seasons study.

Four Stories for Four seasons by Tomie dePaola

Arctic Winter, Arctic Summer by Reid and Canizares

Scholastic offers many choices

Moonstick: The Seasons of Sioux by Eve Bunting


Listen to Vivaldi during craft time. For further discussion, have children listen to corresponding season and dance and feel the music and discuss how it reminds them of certain month or season.

Studying the seasons of the year has science and more behind it, this craft and introduction to the seasons is ideal for younger students at home or in school.

Simple Flower Science

This is s a simple experiment for children of all ages. The visual of how water travels through a plant is amazing and would go along well with any study of plants.

First, you need to gather the materials:

White flowers such as carnations or daisies

Flower vases, glasses or jars

Food coloring (any color you want)


Science notebook if desired (see note below)

White Flowers (before)


Fill the glass about one quarter full with water.

Add plenty of food coloring (try about 15 drops and see how dark it is, you may need more if your using larger jars.)

Have an adult trim the flowers at an angle.

Put a flower into each filled jar.

Observe, discuss and journal.


What is happening? Do some colors seem to show more? What part of the flower do you see the color in?

Science Notebooks:

If you already have a science notebook for your classroom or children at home, utilize that book. Otherwise, take two pieces of plain white paper and fold it in half. Staple together to make a small booklet. Have the child design the cover and write name on it. the title could be “Flower Science” or “Colorful Flowers.” On the first page, write or draw what the flowers look like before the activity. the next few pages can be used for observation drawings, marking the hours, time or date. the final page can be for written results and explaining why the color can be seen.

What Exactly Happens?

For Younger Kiddos:

Plants, flowers and trees drink water from the ground through their roots, kind of like a straw. The water moves up the stem and travels into the leaves and flowers. The plant will use this water to make food for itself. Explain that the roots are no longer on cut flowers, although it would be good to show a picture of a flower with roots.

Older Children:

The food coloring and water goes through the sap tubes that produce the required capillary force. Capillary action carries water from the beakers to the petals of the white flower, which causes it to change color. It is the same thing that causes water to rise up in plants and trees. It goes through the roots, trunk or stem and then on to the flowers and leaves.

Transpiration-It is the loss of water vapor from the leaves, stems, flowers and roots. It is part of the water cycle.

Two Colored Flowers:

Another version of this activity is to split the stem and use two colors on one white flower. You would fill two glasses with water and use two different colors of dye, one in each glass. Split the stem in half. place one half in each glass. Check it out in a couple of hours.

This is also just a fun decoration for any holiday or celebration. St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, President’s Day and birthdays would all be great times to make colorful flowers either as decoration or as gifts!

Bird Watching

In Our Own Backyard....A Mama Hummingbird

Birds are a fun and small creature that most of us can find in our neighborhood or backyard.  Enjoy a few of these simple activities with your little ones for just an afternoon or for a whole thematic week.

Homemade Bird Feeders

Coffee Can Bird Feeder:

Open both ends of the can with a can opener, then use a string to string through both ends of the can.  Tie both ends of the string to hang the feeder when complete. Take the plastic cover of the coffee can and cut it in half. Take each piece and place on each end of the can to hold all of the food in the feeder.  This can be done with any can that has a plastic cover on top.  Fill the feeder with bird seed and bird treats such as corn, apple pieces, cooked rice, berries and dry cereal. Hang the feeder in a place where you can observe the birds enjoying their new hangout!

Peanut Butter Pinecone:

This classic bird feeder is still tons of fun and was always a great one to do with a class or large group like scouts.  If you are with other children make sure no one has peanut allergies, i would choose another activity all together, or use lard or shortening in the place of peanut butter.  choose a pinecone, make a mix of peanut butter and a small amount of oats or cornmeal.  Then roll in bird seed.  With a piece of yarn tie it around the top portion of the pinecone to make a hanger for the bird feeder.

Fruity Treats:

Cut an orange in half.  Use a needle to get yarn through the orange to hang from a branch. This also attracts butterflies!

Other Activities

Bird Watch:

Now that you have made a bird treat, just hang out and observe. Children can sketch, take photographs or take notes in a journal of the experience.

If you have older children you may want to have a field guide to try and identify and learn about birds in your area. (For example: National Audubon Society Field Guide)


Young children may want to make binoculars out of cardboard tubes to prepare for their bird watching experience.  Get two equal size cardboard tubes, toilet paper tubes or paper towel tubes cut to size. Lay them next to each other and tape together at each end.  choose a side to tie the string or yarn through and punch two holes. Tie a knot at both ends at the hole punch to make a strap to carry the binoculars.  Have the children decorate with markers, stickers or paint. Set off for your next adventure!

What is a Sunset?

Sunsets are such a beautiful picture of color and we often stop to enjoy those moments of nature.  But, what is a sunset?  This simple experiment can help explain this gorgeous mixture of colors in the sky to children.

First ask the question, what is a sunset?

*This could be in a science journal.  Older children can write their answers and younger  children can draw.  Keeping a science journal is not just for the classroom, it can be a great way to document and cherish your child’s thoughts, writing and learning as they grow.

Then, “We are going to make our own sunsets in a glass of milky water.”

You will need:

Glass of water (beaker if you have it)





1. Shine the flashlight through the glass of plain water. Ask, “What does it look like?”  (It looks white, like the sun when it is high in the sky.)

2. Pour a little milk into the glass of water and stir gently until it turns slightly white.  Have the children talk about what is happening.

3.  Ask what will happen when you flash the flashlight through the glass this time? then, Shine the flashlight through the water glass again. Observe, take notes and discuss what they see.  The light looks orange-red, just like the setting sun.

Explain: Particles of milk in the water cut out some of the colors in the light coming from the flashlight. Only the orange and red rays get through.  It is just like the dawn and dusk that we see with the real sun.  When the sun is low in the sky (morning and evening) its light passes through more air than at other times of the day. Tiny particles in the air stop a lot of the sun’s light.  The red and the orange light gets through.

If you are using a science journal (or writing this as a group on a board) write the question will adding milk change the light coming through?  Write your hypothesis and discuss as a group. If there are younger children or children that like to draw they can draw the experiment as it happens.  It would look like a step by step illustration. Complete the experiment and draw a conclusion.  After the results, have each child write if their hypothesis (or guess) was true.  Using this process even with the little ones drawing gets them acquainted with the scientific method.

Magnet Fun

Magnets have long been a mystery to children. They can push other magnets away and pull things towards them.  When I taught first grade, I always looked forward to the magnet science unit because the children just loved it and were engaged with the discovery of pushing and pulling.


This power drives the electric motors that are inside many common machines we use such as hair dryers and trains.

The earth is a huge magnet.  If you use a compass to find the direction it uses the earth’s magnetism to always have the needle point north.

A magnet can pick up objects made of iron or steel. The objects will stick to the end of the magnets.

Activity:  Is it Magnetic?

In a science journal, large board or paper write “Magnetic” and “Not Magnetic.”  Write it so they are on the top of the paper (board) making two columns.

Choice one:  Have items already chosen and out on table for children to experiment. (Write these objects on board.)

Advantage: This is good for smaller children that may need help with writing and spelling, shy children that may need help with the assignment (they can get the assistance of a friend) and easier to have control if you have a large group of children or children that cannot handle the responsibility of wandering a house or class.

Choice two: Have the children go on a hunt to find six magnetic items and six non-magnetic items.  The advantage of this choice is the children get to move around, make their own choice, be original and get to share their findings with others.

Next, have the students or your own children test which items are magnetic, recording each item in the appropriate column.

Last, share the finding as a group and discuss what they have found out.

Activity: I am Stronger!

Some magnets are stronger than others, you can test the strength of magnets.  Magnets can be purchased at teaching stores or hardware stores. Have different types of magnets in front of child. With each magnet see if they can pass the following tests.  Keep a note about each magnet to make a conclusion at the end on which magnet is strongest.

Test 1:  Using card board, draw a curved or squiggle line.  Placing the paper clip on top of the cardboard and the magnet under the cardboard.  Move the paper clip to the finish line.  You can mark the line on the cardboard to show where the paper clip stopped.

Test 2:  Can you get a paper clip out of a glass of water without getting the magnet wet?  Fill a glass with water and drop the paper clip in the glass. Next, place the magnet on the outside of the glass close to the paper clip and try to work the paper clip out of the water, without getting wet!

Magnets can travel through water.

Why Does the Moon Shine?

Have you ever been asked or wondered why the moon shines? This simple demonstration will show children of all ages why the moon shines!  When demonstrating to a child, do not give away any answers…instead ask them questions and let them discover the reason why the moon shines.  This discovery gives them ownership and usually more excitement about learning.  I always try to remember it is all in the presentation and allowing them to discover the answers so they can take ownership of their learning.

You will need:


bike reflector


This experiment is done at night time. Point the flashlight at bicycle reflector and then turn it off.

Questions to ask:

What did you notice?

Is the reflector glowing?  (Ask when flashlight is on and off.)

Does the reflector give off light?

How are the moon and reflector the same?

For younger children ask specific questions such as what do you think the flashlight is supposed to be?  (The sun.)  What is the reflector in our activity? (The moon.)


The reflector only glows when the flashlight is on it.  The reflector, like the moon, does not give off light.  It reflects light  in different directions.  The moon only reflects light from the sun.  Without the sun, there would be no moonlight.

The moon revolves around the earth so sometimes we can see more of the “lit up” side and sometimes we can see less.  This all depends on where the moon is in it’s orbit and how much of the lit up side is facing us.

Cool discovery!

To extend this idea:

Younger children can draw a picture of the moon and if able to write…write a sentence or new fact about the moon.  Also, a perfect night to read “Goodnight Moon” by margeret wise Brown.

Before the experiment:

If you keep a science journal at home have your child or children write the question, “Why does the moon shine?” and then a hypothesis as to why they think the moon shines. If you prefer to discuss the guesses and then have them write down the results. sketching a picture with the journal entry will help the to remember the experiment when reviewing their journal.


Have children make a model of the Earth, sun and moon. A shoebox would work well for them to hang their models.  Or have them use dough to shape the Earth, moon and sun according to size. (Have them research size so they can have the proportion correct.)


Spread out some blankets or chairs on a clear night and just observe the moon. This may lead to more questions, observations and discovery.

Older Children can do more detailed research:

This simple experiment gives a glimpse into the reason as to why the moon shines, have your older kids research more about the moon.

For example, the moon is actually dark and the reflective coat cannot be seen up close.  They can look up about Albedo which is the measure of an object’s reflection of the Sun’s radiation.  There is much to learn and have the older children present their findings.  Allow them to be creative with their presentation.

Do The Stars Shine During The Day?

This fun and easy lesson demonstrates that the stars are always shining!

You will need:

paper hole punch, index card,white letter envelope and a flashlight


Punch about eight holes in the card

stars lesson

Place the index card into the envelope

Hold the envelope in front of you with the flashlight about two inches from the front of of the envelope and over the index card (Do this in a well lit room.)

Do you see the holes?

(The holes in the index card are not seen when the light shines on the front side, away from you.)

Now, move the flashlight behind the envelope, holding the flashlight about two inches from the back of the envelope.

(The holes are now seen when the light comes from behind the envelope and towards you.)


Light passes through the holes no matter where the flashlight is directed, but only when the surrounding area is darker than the light coming through the holes can they be seen. This is true of stars. They shine during the daylight hours, but the sky is bright from the sun’s light so the stars just blend in.  That is why stars are most visible on dark nights and away from city lights.

Rising Water!

How is water affected by different objects?

Young Ones:

Use a bath tub crayon or some sort of marker and fill tub with water midway. Have each child enter tub and mark where the water line is after the slushing of the water calms down.  With bathing suits on have the adults participate to really see the difference of the water levels.

Fill a tub or bucket of water outside and have different objects for child to play with using the same skill of watching the water level. Discuss and ask lots of questions and have fun.

First Grade and Up:

You will Need:

Bucket, Glass jar with lid, Water

Fill bucket about three quarters full.

Place empty jar with lid on into the water. Do not push down yet. What happens?

Slowly push to bottom of bucket. Looking at sides of bucket and water line ask, does the water rise, fall or stay the same?

NOW, fill the jar with water and repeat.


Look into the ancient mathematician/philosopher Archimedes. He discovered the law that the volume of water displaced equals the volume of the object placed in the water.

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