Monday, October 7, 2013

Building Bridges

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen this, but I haven't had a chance to share on here yet.

The kids are at a new school this year as part of a pilot Talented and Gifted program for the lower elementary. It's been a adjustment on various levels, but Davin and Abby are pretty go-with-the-flow kids, so it has been fairly smooth. They love their teachers and are making friends. The curriculum is a little different but they are settling into things pretty well.

Davin's class has been working on STEM projects, which is a new experience for us. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathmatics. These kinds of things are right up Davin's alley - he loves them! The first project had very simple instructions: Create anything you like out of unsharpened pencils.

He started brainstorming. Race car? Helicopter? In the end we decided on a suspension bridge. Michigan has quite a famous suspension bridge, the Mackinac Bridge:

We have a soft spot for this bridge, since it marks the halfway point when we drive "Up North" to visit Andy's family. "Halfway" is about 5.5-6 hours of driving, by the understandably, we are happy for a chance to get out of the car and stretch our legs a bit! :)

We spent a bit of time learning about suspension bridge engineering and physics. This website was really helpful to us as we learned how they work and the names of the various parts.

We then made a list of supplies for our own bridge and headed to our local Michaels! We needed:
Thin Balsa wood for the platform
Popsicle sticks
Paint (I have plenty of craft paint, but Davin wanted to pick out his own special color)
Pencils (which we already had, leftover from school supply shopping)

We got home and measured the lengths we needed. Thankfully, Balsa wood is very thin and can be cut with normal scissors. The pencils, however, took a little more muscle to cut, but eventually we got everything to the right length. I used a Crop-A-Dile to punch holes in the balsa wood for the string. Davin did a great job painting his pieces, while I used a hot glue gun to put together the two towers with pencils and popsicle sticks.

We then strung the black string (embroidery floss) through the holes and over the tops of the towers. I cut slits in the erasers at the tops of the pencils as anchors for the string. Once everything was dry, Davin had to test it out with a few of his Hot Wheels cars.

Everything worked great! The next day he carefully and oh so proudly carried it on the bus and delivered it to school. He has a new STEM project to work on, this time the assignment is to make anything he likes using toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls. He's already cooking on ideas, and I am sure will have just as much fun as he had with this project.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Visit to the Apple Orchard

It's fall. Finally.

The leaves are starting to turn, the evenings are cool (darn right cold sometimes) and the light has that special slant in the afternoon that just makes me happy.

It's a crazy time of year with the start of school, but we are settling in to our new "normal". This weekend we decided to make an impromptu visit to the apple orchard. Just hearing the word "orchard" put a smile on everyone's face.
We got to the orchard and started to check out the sites. This orchard has a few of the typical things...wagon rides through the orchard pulled by tractors, a few obligatory barn cats, a calf, a turkey, an ostrich...yes, an ostrich! :) After peeking around a bit we purchased our bushel bag and tromped out into the orchard. This orchard doesn't have a large selection of apple varieties, but they had some of the classics. Andy requested Golden Delicious and I wanted to find a few on the tarter side.

Davin and Abby were very helpful in picking and the trees obliged with loaded trees. Andy was helpful in coaching the kids..."Big apples, not the tiny ones!" :) He was also our resident sampler...though we all had a taste of a couple crispy could you resist apples fresh from the tree and slightly warm from the sun. Sooooo good!

After our bag was full to the point of bursting, we had to reward ourselves with cider and donuts. There is something special about cider donuts...I love that they are dense and the cinnamon sugar is perfect with a cup of cold cider. Funny thing though, I only like cider cold at the orchard. After that, I prefer my cider warmed up with a dash of cinnamon.
All was good, and we were enjoying ourselves very much until the kids discovered how much the bees were enjoying the cider and donuts as well. They both get nervous around bees...I wouldn't say an all out fear like some people have, but a bee buzzing around their cup put them in a bit of a sour mood and they were ready to go home. I think they were also a little tired of all my picture taking:

Once we got home, Abby put some of our apples on display on the dining room table, which looked very festive. We made some homemade apple sauce and this morning each of them asked to bring an apple in for their teachers. They boarded the bus, proudly holding their apple to prevent it from getting bruised. :)

By the way, did you notice that Andy and I are wearing rival shirts? :) We are a split household...he went to the University of Michigan and I went to Michigan State University. Turned out that we also went to rival high schools...obviously it was a match that was meant to be! lol Now, to be honest, I didn't go to MSU for the football team and don't really follow how the team is doing, but I'm still a Spartan and have to show my team spirit for my school - Go Green! :)

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