Monthly Archives: May 2013

Outdoor Science Adventure: Bracket Fungi




It would be very rare to go on a walk in the woods and not find a bracket fungus attached to the bottom of a tree.  While very pretty and whimsical looking, this beautiful fungus is actually an indicator that the tree is doomed.  While the tree will not die immediately, it could shorten decades off it’s life.

There are many different types of bracket fungi.  Here’s a great link that illustrates various types.

How do trees get bracket fungi?  When a tree has a sore (an open spot caused by a falling tree, metal object, storm damage, etc), it’s susceptible to fungi spores.  Once they’ve entered the unprotected part of the tree, they make their home.

How can one prevent bracket fungi from forming on an injured tree?  Opinions differ on this.  Some people think it’s best to just leave it and let nature take it’s course.  Others say it’s important to use a tree spray to keep bugs and fungi spores out of the opening.  I suppose this would make a great experiment if you had damage to a couple trees in a storm!  The most important thing is to teach children (and adults!) not to harm trees.

Next time you head out to the woods, be on the lookout for bracket fungi!  Here’s a printable you can bring with you, and put into your science journal: Outdoor Adventure Bracket Fungi.


Bracket Fungus is also sometimes known as Artists Conch, because the bottom can be etched.  Here is an example of really beautiful bracket fungi art!

Here is some artwork that the kids did.  Isn’t it cool?


If you do a bracket fungus nature adventure, please post a link to your blog post.  We’d love to see what you’re up to!

Summer Slide: Don’t Let It Happen To You!


Unless your kids homeschool or attend public school year-round, there’s a pretty good chance your kids are going to forget some of what they learned the year before, and their reading and math levels will decline.  That is why kids spend the first month or so of school reviewing what they learned during the last school year.

This is called the Summer Slide.

How can this be prevented?  Provide your children with educational opportunities during the Summer, of course!  They don’t have to spend their care-free Summer doing worksheets and math drills, no sir!  Summer is a great opportunity for kids to learn all about things they’re most interested in!  Here are some ideas for encouraging learning in your home this Summer:

  • Go to the library and pick up books about topics that interest your children.
  • While at the library, find out if they have Summer programs for kids.  Many of them have really great offerings.
  • Educational video games.  Sites like,,,, and are fun and educational.
  • Pick up a unit study from about something that interests your child.  Horses anyone? How ’bout National Parks?  Seriously, there’s something for everyone here!
  • Get outside and do nature study.  Write and sketch in a journal to keep those skills sharp.  Visit this site for inspiration.
  • Purchase a science kit that kids can do on their own.

Here’s what we’re going to do:

My kids are science nuts, so I’m going to let them go nuts over science!!

We’re going to purchase The Sassafras Science Adventures Zoology unit from Elemental Science.  It’s a living book curriculum that looks like so much fun!  My girls love learning about animals, so we’ll read the book, visit the zoo weekly, and complete the logbook.

The kids are also going to spend a lot of time at our family farm, so we’ll do a LOT of nature study.

Since we’re working on unveiling a new science kit in the near future, the kids will help with testing the experiments.  So much fun!!!

And well, being that the library is pleasantly air conditioned, full of great books, and kids, I imagine we’ll spend hours there, too.

What are YOU planning on doing to prevent the “Summer Slide”?

Embracing The Mess

I know how hard it can be for some parents to let go, and let their kids/table/floors get dirty.  Believe me, I understand!  If the mess is outside, I don’t even think twice.  But, when the kids start to make a mess inside, it’s another story!

DSCN3700[1]Here’s what usually happens in my house:  

The girls do an experiment (say, for example the Wet and Dry experiments in the Science in the Kitchen book).  We’ll read the directions, talk about what we’re going to do.  The kids will make a hypotheses and fill in their science journal.  Once we’re done, they’ll start playing around with the plate full of colored sugar water.  Pretty soon, they’re asking for a cup with water and more sugar.  Then, they want to see what happens when they mix the food coloring with milk.  Then… it goes on and on (It’s like the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie book!).  

Once they’re done with the actual experiments, they usually play-to-learn for about another 30-60 minutes (until I cut them off because we have to clear the table for dinner).  When all is said and done, I have a table with spots of colored water, sugar crumbs on floor, and lots of additional dishes to wash.  The experiment didn’t start out this way, and it could have easily ended with a nice clean table.

But, do I really want it to end that way?

There’s usually an “aha” moment where I have to allow my “must not make a mess” self  to step back, realize that the kids are now entering into a different phase of their educational experience, and let them do a little unguided learning.

They’re learning, happy, and making a mess.  And I’m OK with that!