Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wild Forest Plants

Yesterday we went on a nature hike with an awesome guide who knew all sorts of edible plants that are found wild in our local wood lands. Here are some of the plants that we identified on our hike:

Snake root:
Wild grapes that will grow up the tree (leaves and fruit are edible):
Violet (state flower for Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Illinois):
Wild raspberries (fruit is edible):

May apple (fruit is edible in June):
Wild plum tree (fruit is edible):

Black locus tree flowers that have an amazing sweet scent:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mushroom Hunting

We went on a super cool field trip this morning. We went mushroom hunting! We did not find a lot of mushrooms, but we had a blast. We had an excellent guide that knew every plant that we came across on our hike. Here is the fungus that we saw on our hike:

Unidentifiable little brown mushroom:

Rhizomorphs which kills trees, so this is bad news for our forest:

fungus that kills trees

Phellinus robiniae growing on a black locus tree:

shell mushroom growing on a tree

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Paper Mâché Bluebirds

We have been continuing to work on our bluebird studies. I decided to take a big leap and have us attempt paper mâché bluebirds.  For me this is a big step in our homeschool because I am not particularly artistic, and this is a very messy multi day project. I was nervous to say the least, but how could I turn down trying the beautiful paper mâché birds as seen on Art For Small Hands?  Little BBQ had been requesting more three dimensional projects, so I thought this would be a nice creative project to attempt. Our birds came out surprisingly cute even though we forgot to use card board for the tail feathers.

We used regular all purpose flour and water for our paper mâché, and we attempted to fill in some of the holes left by the newspaper with dryer lint pulp mixed with our mâché paste. The dryer lint pulp was also good for forming a beak. We used Crayola washable tempura paints to paint the birds which did not completely cover the newspaper which really bothered me at first, but then I realized that seeing the newspaper under the paint gave the bluebirds a Jasper Johns feel. We did not put wire legs on birds because I did not feel that Little BBQ had the coordination to bend wire right now without hurting himself. Instead we opted to put our bluebirds on nests made from paper Easter grass.

For bluebird inspiration we used the kids book from the North American Bluebird Society, a photo from the blog Content in a Cottage, and a gallery on 12 beautiful bird photos


Newspaper, cut into strips and 1 whole piece for the body
Thin card board
Half inch masking tape
All purpose flour
Dryer lint
Paint brushes
Rinsing bowls
Paper towels
Card board box large enough to fit the bluebirds
Goggles or safety glasses
Easter grass


Day 1:

1.       Wrinkle the whole sheet of newspaper into a ball to form the body of the bird. You can shape the ball into more of a tear drop shape which is close to a bird shape than a ball.
2.       Cut the wings and tail feathers out of cardboard using the scissors. Use your bluebird pictures for inspiration. We cut a semicircle for the wings which was probably not the best shape to use. Next time I think I would cut each wing individually.
3.       Tape the wings and tail feathers to the newspaper body of the bird with the masking tape.
4.       In a bowl, make a paper mâché paste with flour and water. We used 1 part flour to 2 parts water for our paper mâché paste. You can make your paste a little thinner or thicken depending upon your preferences.
5.       Dip the newspaper strips into the paste and wipe off the excess paste. Drape the newspaper strip on the bluebird.
6.       Continue with step 5 until the bluebird is completely covered.
7.       Dip the dryer lint into the paper mâché paste to form clay like substance.
8.       Use the dryer lint putty to fill in holes in the paper mâché and to form small details like the beak.
9.       Allow the bluebird to dry. We dried our bluebirds on a plate. We dried the bluebirds on their belly which was a mistake because we ended up tearing a little bit of the paper mâché when lifted up the blue birds after they dried. Net time I would have let them dry on the flat surface of their wings.

Day 2:

10.   Paint the bluebirds. We made male Easter bluebirds using photos for inspiration. In general, male Easter bluebirds have a blue head and wings, a white stomach, an orange neck and a black beak.

Day 3:

11.   Place the bluebirds in a cardboard box. Spray the bluebirds with spray polyurethane while wearing goggles or safety glasses. Follow the directions on the spray can for best results.  I did this part for Little BBQ outside because I was not comfortable with him using the polyurethane. Allow the bluebirds to dry.

Day 4:

12.   Display the bluebirds on a nest of Easter grass.

Posted on Link and Learn, Science Sunday
Carnival of Homeschooling
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