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Preschool Science: The Solar System

This week we are preparing to do a CRAFT. We’ve been steadily working our way through the 4th day of creation with Alpha Omega Horizons preschool. We kept skipping over this big craft project about painting foam balls and making the solar system, well, this next week, we are going to do the big project.

The Horizons recommendation is to buy the different sized individual foam balls, then suspend them with string and thumbtacks. As I sat pondering the strange and unfamiliar objects in the craft aisle at Hobby Lobby, I located the foam ball section and was contemplating those.

I try to be a good steward of our cash, and I coupon, so when I noticed the foam balls were not on sale, and began to tally up the cost of the solar system, I observed that it would cost somewhere around $30. This seemed steep. I wandered over to a more comfortable aisle, the pre-made kit aisle, and found this:

And it was only $8.99, which turned into $5.40 after my 40% off coupon, which I always carry from the weekly flyer for just such an occasion.

So now we have a much better craft alternative for the non-crafty. Just make the kit! I can handle it.

This past week I learned two new things about the solar system.

First, a 4-year old can learn the word orbit and demonstrate it by orbiting around things, even spinning simultaneously. A 2-year old, on observing the orbiting, will very loudly volunteer to be the moon, spin around aimlessly, not orbiting anything, and run headlong into something solid, resulting in a crying school day interruption.

Second, I learned that Pluto is no longer a planet. It used to be a planet when I was in school, however it isn’t any longer. With the advent of better telescopes and astronomical observation in general, they have been able to discover a whole mess of other objects moving the same way as Pluto. They are called Trans Neptunian Obejcts (TNOs) and they exist in a band called the Kuiper Belt, at the farthest edge of the Solar System. They even found one TNO larger and more massive than Pluto, which begged the question, “Is Pluto a planet? Or just a TNO in the Kuiper Belt?”.

They had a big meeting, and a bunch of astronomers voted on it, and they said it is now a dwarf planet. For the full story, check here, where I also learned the three criteria to be a planet:

  • It should orbit the Sun.
  • It should have enough gravity to be spherical
  • It needs to be the largest gravitational force in its “neighborhood”, so either consuming or deflecting objects it encounters.

It is the third criterion that Pluto fails, and thus, it is now a dwarf planet. It’s in the Solar System kit I bought, so we might add it in or skip it altogether.

Did you know about the Pluto thing?  Have any other good preschool craft ideas on the Solar System?  Drop a comment and tell us about it!

For more fun and interesting preschool topics, be sure to head over to The Preschool Corner!

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Preschool Science: More on the Moon

Last week I posted about studying the moon in Alpha Omega Horizons preschool. We are still wrapping up study on the moon, and I thought it interesting to point out that right away we went from a fuzzy grasp of the concept of “half of something” to a solid understanding as soon as we looked at half of a moon.

As we have been notating the weather on our calendar, we added a little sketch of the stage of the moon (helpful if you have a calendar that has one on it already). My little preschooler saw a half of a moon on the paper then ran to the window to report that is what he saw!  Lightbulb on!

It marks the beginning of an understanding of fractions, something I am not starting to teach deliberately, but which we will start to introduce as we run across it: “Can you eat half this pizza?” “Share half of your cookie with your brother”, etc.

He also right away grasped the concepts of crescent moons and waxing and waning, which we try to use in ordinary speak if possible. Although that’s a tricky one. Try it..

A fun activity we did at Alpha Omega’s prescription was to draw a picture of a suitcase of things to be taken on a trip to the moon. What a great imaginative activity!

Here is what my little guy packed for the moon:

We have:

  • an apple to eat
  • some grapes
  • his puppy to sleep with, and his brother’s bunny
  • a tent so he can sleep on the moon
  • some track, in case he wants to play trains on the moon
  • and a juice box to drink

With suitcase in hand, we pretended to blast off in our space ship, supplemented by a youtube video showing the shuttle cockpit during launch to fuel the imagination. We flipped switches and communicated with mission control.

We flew to the moon, pretending to experience high G forces for launch and then we got out and walked around the moon, experiencing lighter G forces as we bounced along and drove our moon car.

We talked about what gravity was, and that we have 1G here, 1/6 G on the moon (more fractions!) and several Gs during launch if you are an astronaut.

And another fun thing: we ate moon lunch with crescent shaped peaches and phases of the moon sandwiches. Of course, the juice box had to be there because he had “packed” it to take to the moon!

I decided we need to incorporate more crafts in our homeschool. Anyone have any moon craft ideas? Leave a comment and spell it out for us- I’m craft-challenged!

Be sure to go check out the rest of the Hip Homeschool Hop, at its new location at the Hip Homeschool Moms new website!

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Preschool Science: The Weather

Today in our homeschool we are taking a closer look at the seasons and weather.

We routinely use a calendar to talk about what month and day it is, and we are making a weather chart by drawing in what the weather is outside for each day.  I have a calendar to write on for this purpose, but you could make one on the computer very easily or get crafty with construction paper and a bulletin board.  I have limited space, so I have chosen one that can be put away with the school books.

We are almost complete with December, and here is our weather chart:

Where’s the snow, by the way???  Hoping to add some snow on the 30th. :)

Meanwhile, in Alpha Omega’s Horizons curriculum, having taken almost a month off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are studying the seasons as well.  Here’s the worksheet we did today: which things go with summer?

Alpha Omega has handily tied this in to the 4th day of creation, wherein God created the sun.  We learned how the earth spins on its axis as it rotates around the sun, and how this causes seasons.  Some of the explanation was probably above our preschooler, but we did act out the earth and the sun and spun around the room, which he found very entertaining at least!
And for our final preschool activity today, as we are easing back into school post-Christmas, we wrote a thank you note.  At the rate of one per day, we should have these complete by next week!
For more great preschool ideas, check out The Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations– this post is part of her meme, and the linkup is on her site. Check it out!