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Mold and more Fun and educational activities for children

June 18, 2004

Ed Hazlett, head teacher at Fairview Outdoor Education Center in Clear Spring, gave the following suggestions for fun and educational nature-related summer activities:

-- Sprouting wild seeds

The kids will need seeds, baggies, glass or plastic drinking glass, paper towels, water.

Collect wild seeds - such as dandelions' puffy white seeds - from yards and fields. Dry the seeds out by placing them on a paper towel and laying them in the sun away from wind. Put a paper towel inside a glass so that it is up against the side of the glass; put the seeds between the towel and the glass. Add just enough water to the glass to wet the towel. Place the glass in a dark spot, such as a basement or closet. Keep the towel moist, but not wet. Watch the seeds sprout. The towel also can be carefully removed and the baby plants transplanted to a pot. Repeat the experiment with such food seeds as peas and cucumbers.

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-- Mold gardens

Kids will need crackers or bread, saucer, water, resealable bag.

Moisten a few crackers or slices of bread; place on a saucer. Black, green, even pink mold will begin to grow within a few days. Place the mold in both sunny and shady locations to gauge where the mold will most effectively grow. Use a hand lens to check out the small mold plants. Notice the spores that enable the mold to spread. Dispose of the mold garden by placing it in a resealable bag and throwing in the trash.

-- Camera safari

This one's a little more high-tech. It requires a camera (digital or regular), computer or scrapbook.

Take a walk with your camera. Take pictures only of animals, including insects. Make sure to get as close as possible before snapping the picture. Download digital pictures on your computer, and store them in a "Safari" file. Have regular photos developed, and put them in a scrapbook.

-- Animal tracks

They'll need plaster, cardboard, scissors, tape.

Search your yard in the morning for wild animal tracks. Make a plaster cast of the print like this: Cut a strip of cardboard about 2 inches wide and long enough to form a circle around the track; circle the track with the cardboard strip; tape the ends of the cardboard together so the circle stays in place; mix together a cup of plaster of Paris with water; and pour the plaster into the cardboard circle. In about two hours, you can pick up the hardened plaster and remove the cardboard. You can paint the plaster cast to make the track more visible.

To make a cast of what the animal foot looked like: Coat the cast with petroleum jelly; form another cardboard circle with the cast on the bottom; and pour plaster on top of the original cast. When the plaster dries, you'll have a plaster cast of the animal's foot.

-- Star window

The kids will need clean window, washable magic marker, ruler, clock or watch.

Select a window that's OK to mark. Go to the window after the sun sets; close the door to the room, and turn off any lights. Look out the window and choose a star that's easy to find. Note the time; this activity must be done at the same time every night. Put a dot on the window where your star is. Use different color markers to mark different stars, if you want. Every night, record the position on the window of your star or stars. Look for a pattern, and try to explain what you find. You might also do the same experiment with the moon, comparing the results to those of your chosen star.

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