Inventin’s the Thing

I don’t know about you, but I invent products in my mind all the time.  Better ways of doing things, at least according to me, that is.  Which doesn’t necessarily mean that my invented thing is the right thing for everyone.  I invent sayings for bumper stickers, too, but have yet to do anything about any of these masterful inventions.  Truth be told, I think my energy resources are reserved for homeschooling and photography.  Those are the two main places I spend my energy dollars.  Maybe there’s a way to ask for a raise in energy money?  Wouldn’t that be the best?  To have unlimited energy to tackle all that our active minds conjure up.  Who do I talk to about that?

Well, I admire a good invention.  Mostly I admire the thought process and ingenuity that goes INTO an invention.  To be a good inventor you need to see things differently, break away from the crowd and go your own way.  This, I admire.  Training your brain and will to go their own way might not be a bad thing!  I found several resources (surprise!) about inventions, the people who created them, and the extraordinary changes wrought because of them.  Some of this stuff is funny and fun.  Some of it is serious business, which we should try to avoid in this blog.  I’ll do my best here to detail the fun and engaging stuff.

Some kids are wonderful inventors but they don’t yet realize it.  That’s YOUR job to help them see how wonderfully their mind works!  Together you could decorate a box with a slot in the top and you could call it “_ _ _ _ _ ‘s Box of Wildly Wonderful Creative GENIUS!”  Whenever a knock-your-socks-off idea comes up, write it down, draw it out, add some notes and pop it into the box.  You just never know what could become of some of those ideas.  Well, the idea here is to encourage your child to expand his or her thinking horizons – to not be afraid to push the boundaries of thought and creativity.  Here are some resources that you could share together as part of your schooling:

You can click on any of the pictures to get more information and read reviews!

Perfect!  It’s silly, educational and hands-on.

It’s no fun to be laughed at; you have to admire the folks who were but chose to push past the laughter and believe in what they were doing.  The author, Ira Flatow, is a host of a weekly science program on NPR.  “An enlightening and fun look at scientific discoveries and the often wacky and accidental ways in which they have led to some of the most important inventions”.

“Ever eaten a Popsicle, kept your ears warm with earmuffs or resealed your breakfast cereal with the built-in cardboard tab on the box top? Thank a kid inventor, because all those things, and quite a few more described in this book, were invented by children. A great inspiration for your own young scientist.”

This books covers the process of inventing something, describing said process in smaller bits.  This would be a great resource if your child already has something in mind to invent.  Also offers many resources for further investigation – camps around the nation, websites,  and competitions.   Definitely more of a handbook to walk you through to a patent and trademark.  Go for it!

Mistakes that Worked:  40 Familiar Inventions and How They Came to Be.  Cartoon format.  Noted in the review, however, is a comment about how Eskimos, Native Americans and Chinese are poorly portrayed in stereotypic fashion, so be aware of that.  Not cool!

Just blogged about this book in the post immediately preceding this one!

Highlights some fifty inventors from the past.  Kind of a busy book – some kids might not like this format.  I can’t see reading straight through it – you’d probably get dizzy.  But it could be fun to look up different people and learn a little here and there.  It’s thoroughly researched by the author, Gillian Clements, though, so is a good reference.  It looks like she sneaks in a little humor here and there, too.  Plus she makes a point to include women and minority inventors who have done great things.

Humorous?  Yes.  The pictures are charming.  “To be an inventor you have to be as stubborn as a bulldog”!  So it says.  So it must be.  These authors also wrote So You Want to Be President/Explorer? The President book was a Caldecott medalist.

There.  That should get you started inventing, yes?  Let your child have fun with it and start filling up that creative genius box with ideas!


Revel in Grossness!

The analytical study of gross is called grossology.  Subject matter perfect for boys around the age of ten!  Some of these would make for interesting adjunct studies within a human body unit study, so they are going on the list.  Max tends toward the squeamish, so I will have to wait until he’s ready to handle some of this material, or we’ll have to pick through them and hit the high points.  In the meantime, I’ll tell you about them!  There seems to have been an explosion of ‘gross’ books of late…….but that just gives us more to choose from, though, doesn’t it?

On with the grossness!  Click on each book for further information or to exercise your purchasing prowess!

Blisters and toe jam.  Ugh.  Enough to make you want to open up and take a peek?  Lots of interesting body biology here.

A veritable treasure trove of activities celebrating the ‘grossness’ of our bodies.  It’s all in how you look at it and this book makes learning about your body FUN (and biologically educational).  This would be a fantastic material for an adult to teach to several kids in a class format – imagine the laughter!  I’m not even going to tell you about the cookie recipe in here.

There’s more than likely some overlap between these books, so take a look at their table of contents and decide which direction to take off in if you are inclined to head to Grossville – there are certainly numerous ways to get there!  You can even look at the 100 most frequently used words for each book to get a feel for content.

Extending beyond the domain of the human body.  Vomit munchers, blood slurpers, slime makers and dookie lovers.  Have you ever met one?  You probably have!  Ugh.

Sylvia Branzei is the author of the above Grossology series.  There are other authors out there who write within this fascinating genre, too:

Unusual foods throughout history and within different cultures.

Then there’s the Oh Yikes! and Oh Yuck! series – but they seem a little too strong for my tastes.  I didn’t post any of their materials here.  You can search for them if you like.

Stuff to get you started on getting grossed out.  Nothing could be more gross, which is a gross understatement.  Have fun squealing and getting squeamish!

Artful Science Thanks to Brown Paper School

This next six-week session of homeschooling is going to be a giant, wonderful MISH-MASH of activity.  I have no plans for an organized unit study this time.  We are taking a break from organization and flying headlong into impulsiveness!  So far, on Day 2 out of 30, we’ve already ended up in places that weren’t even remotely planned.  In this way I admire unschoolers and can understand how that concept in action can be effective.  I’m still a little too much of a controlling freakazoid when it comes to thinking about letting go completely, though.  Maybe next year.

Anyhoo, not that I need to bore you with the inner workings of my mind here.  I’m writing this particular post to exclaim the wonders of a book we are giving homage to this session – a book from Brown Paper School Publishing (see a former post about this publisher, one of my favorites).  Here it is in itty-bitty format (sorry for the wee picture – you can click on it to get to Amazon for more information):

It’s been sitting on the shelf for several months now and caught my attention.  Just what the doctor ordered, if there is a doctor that orders such things – art and science mixed together!  Here’s the title in case you missed it in the itty-bitty picture:  Gee, Wiz!  How to Mix Art and Science or The Art of Thinking Scientifically by Linda Allison and David Katz.

Today we messed around with chromatography, water-soluble markers, filter paper and water.  We watched colors separate and climb up the paper into some pretty terrific designs and learned how chemists use chromatography to identify compounds in a lab.  The entire first section of the book is devoted to exploding colors.  You’ll also get exposure to fantastic elastics, wet and creepy stuff, water’s weird skin, unmixables, movies on the brain, one-eyed crazies, making it big, looking alike, balancing the impossible (sounds like a mom’s to-do list, eh?), and forces that are with you.

I guess this book will more than qualify for the science portion of the next six weeks (or longer, probably).  We’re going to steadily work our way through it and see what happens.

It’s available for a penny on Amazon, used.  I say, anytime you see a Brown Paper School book, snap it up!  They are gems, the whole lot of them.

Alphabetical Science and Math. I Mean Math and Science.

David Schwartz has written many books for kids, two of which caught my eye just because of the cover design and art.  This is precisely the method I use to pick out wine for my husband.   If there is creativity put into the label, surely there is a similar zest placed in the making of the wine inside the bottle!  However untrustworthy this approach might seem, the trail generally leads to some pleasant places, so I’m sticking with the technique.

These two books serve to break down big concepts in math and science into little, digestible, tasty chunks.  How appealing!  Fit for 9-12 year olds and a nice example of a ‘living math’ approach, or science as it were.

Each letter of the alphabet introduces a different scientific term.  E is for element, O is for Occam’s Razor (Jodie Foster talked about this in her movie Contact!  That just stuck in my brain, for whatever reason, and came out now, like matter coming out of a black hole billions of years later), Q is for Quark and so on.

This book was written first by Mr. Schwartz and it assembled a nice healthy following of adoring parents and teachers.  “W” is for “When are we ever going to use this stuff, anyway?”  A question with universal appeal amongst elementary age children!

Exploratopia: Kid-Friendly Experiments and Explorations

The word ‘experiment’ seems important to Max. He often says that he wants to do experiments. The lure of discovery and play is what I think gets him every time, probably more play than discovery, but the two work well together.  I was beginning to scrape some experiments together that we could do when I ran across this fantastic tome brimming with ideas that would satisfy any child’s need to explore.  It has only just arrived and I’ve paged through it, looking for our starting point.  There is more than enough material here to keep him happily occupied for a long time!

Exploratopia:  More than 400 Kid-Friendly Experiments and Explorations for Curious Minds

It’s divided into three big parts.  Part 1 is titled “Exploring Yourself” and contains creative experiments designed to help kids understand the human body and how it works.  We’ll save this first part for a unit study on the human body, maybe next year (Max is kind of squeamish, so he says he’s not ready for that unit study anytime soon!)

Part 2 is titled “Exploring Interesting Places” and involves experiments around the kitchen, backyard, bathroom, playground and beach.

Part 3 is titled “Exploring Interesting Stuff” and this is where we’ll likely start.  Language, math, money, paper, light, color, optical illusions, sound and electricity are a few of the topics sprinkled in this section.

Looks like a fantastic used purchase, one that we’ll play with for a while.  I’m relieved to have a good resource to turn to when he says he wants to start experimenting!

Science can be so HORRIBLE!

I posted awhile back about the Horrible Histories series.  Now let’s mention the Horrible Science books!  They are published by Scholastic and written by Nick Arnold.  Tony de Saulles is the fantastic illustrator – what a team!  I’ll list most of the books here; you can click on each book to get to Amazon and explore each one further if you like.  They get good reviews and look to be fun supplements for the science bookshelf.

This one (above) is available in hardcover and covers, well……everything!

Might have missed one or two, but you get the idea!  I want them all.

Science in Story Form by some Fantastic Authors like Stephen Hawking

The more I research books such as these, the more resolved I become in my belief that if you did NOTHING else other than read to your child from many, many such books for a year or two, your kiddo would come out on the other end not lacking for much.  He or she would have a deep understanding of the world and a firm foundation upon which to build a great life.

Instinctively, I feel that Max’s best learning happens when he reads or when he is read to; I see concepts or ideas click into place and I see him reach out with questions which lead him in directions he wouldn’t normally have gone in.  These new paths almost always lead to other treasures and before you know it, an entire web of knowledge has been woven.  Reading feeds many parts of his person and satisfies his innate desire to explore.  More importantly, though, is the way in which he gets to his destination -via a natural search, one that isn’t imposed upon him, but one in which he goes where he wants to go.

A stimulating, imaginative rollick through humorous or engaging plots and interesting characters fuels all of us, doesn’t it?  And what if these plots and characters are infused with the current teachings in science or some other wonderful subject?   Sounds like a fabulous mix to me.  There are unique authors who seem to understand the absolutely natural way children learn via play and imagination, and who have gone beyond the simple story format into one of serious teaching, albeit in a fun manner.  It’s way fun to stumble upon these authors and get your hands on their books!

What I mean by all of this is that it’s feeling more and more comfortable to set the multiplication tables aside and not feel overwhelming guilt about hiding them for the time being.  Our energy can be spent embarking upon a broad journey of exploration through books like these, much like applying the philosophy of a ‘Living Math’ approach to other subjects.

Here are some examples of books you might consider adding to your shelves and this time the overriding subject is SCIENCE.

Mr. Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, have teamed up to coauthor two books which help explain the workings of our universe to children.  I am looking forward to exploring what Mr. Hawking and Lucy have to say in these two stories!  The first one just arrived today; it’s thick and is now gracing the bookshelf, waiting for its turn.  From first impressions, these look to be keepers and will be unusual supplements in our science library.

George’s parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbors: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time, and the universe. With Cosmos’s help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos? George, Annie, and Eric aren’t about to find out, and what ensues is a funny adventure that clearly explains the mysteries of science. Garry Parsons’ energetic illustrations add humor and interest, and his scientific drawings add clarity; there are also eight 4-page full-color inserts of scientific photos.

George’s best friend, Annie, needs help. Her scientist father, Eric, is working on a space project — and it’s all going wrong. A robot has landed on Mars but is behaving very oddly. And now Annie has discovered something weird on her dad’s supercomputer.  Is it a message from an alien? Could there be life out there? How do you find a planet in outer space? And if you could talk to aliens, what would you say?An action-packed roller-coaster ride into a dramatic treasure hunt across the cosmos, this terrific adventure is FILLED with the LATEST scientific knowledge about our universe, including special essays from some of the top scientists in the world!

This paperback contains two books:  Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland and Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom.  Mr Tompkins has become known and loved by many thousands of readers (since his first appearance over fifty years ago) as the bank clerk whose fantastic dreams and adventures lead him into a world inside the atom. George Gamow’s classic provides a delightful explanation of the central concepts in modern physics, from atomic structure to relativity, and quantum theory to fusion and fission. Roger Penrose’s new foreword introduces Mr Tompkins to a new generation of readers, and reviews his adventures in the light of current developments in physics today.

Book one in the best-selling Uncle Albert science/adventure series. Uncle Albert and his intrepid niece, Gedanken, enter the dangerous and unknown world of a thought bubble. Their mission: to unlock the deep mysteries of time and space…Discover why you can’t break the ultimate speed barrier, how to become older than your mother, how to put on weight without getting fat, and how to live forever without even knowing it, in this action-packed adventure story.

Book two in the best-selling Uncle Albert science/adventure series. Uncle Albert and his intrepid niece, Gedanken, make some astonishing discoveries when they set out on their next mission: to investigate the universe…Discover, in this adventure story set in deepest space, black holes that swallow up everything, tape measures that shrink when you take them downstairs, speeded-up time, and how it is that you are made of star dust.

Book three in the Uncle Albert science/adventure series in which Uncle Albert explains the physics of the very small.

All of these are on my wish list.  Hope you find some of them intriguing and worth searching for!