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Sunday, January 19, 2014

BIG HAIRY DEAL--The Perfect Activities to go with WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!?

WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? lets you imagine what it would be like to have a wild animal's hair on your head. 

Wild Hairy You

What if you could have a wild animal's hair on your head for a day? What kind would you like to have? Why?

Write a short story about what happens to you on that day you have wild hair. Does it save the day for you? Get you into trouble? Make you wildly popular? What happens?

Now, jump into these activities to investigate human hair--what's really on your head.

Mane Line

Do blondes have more fun? No, but they definitely have more hair. If you're a natural blonde, you have about 140,000 hairs per square inch on top of your head. Brunettes have about 110,000 hairs per square inch. 

Redheads only have about 90,000 hairs per square inch. One reason for this is probably that blonde hairs tend to be skinnier than brown or red hairs.

Check out one of your hairs by gently tugging it free. Don't worry about losing this hair. Every day, you just naturally lose as many as a hundred hairs. Those are old hairs that are pushed out and replaced by new hairs.

Take a close look at your one hair with a magnifying glass. The shape of the shaft (main body of the hair) makes a big difference. If it's round, the odds are your hair is naturally straight. Wavy hair has an oval shaft. Naturally curly hair has a flat shaft.

Pulling Its Load

This is ancient rope made from human hair

Long ago, the people of Japan made ropes from human hair. They used these to lift heavy loads. 

So how strong is hair. Try this test to find out how much weight a single hair can support before it breaks.

First, check out your single hair's features. 
  • Does it feel like it can bend easily without breaking? 
  • Is it stretchy?

Compare healthy hair to hair that isn't so healthy. How are they different?
What happens to hair as it breaks?
Now, predict how many grams you think a single hair can hold without breaking: 1 gram, 2 grams, 3 grams or more.

Then test your prediction. You'll need one hair that's at least 6 inches long. If you have short hair, you'll need someone with long hair to give you one to test or visit a hair salon to ask for a test sample.

Next, Use tape to attach one end of the hair to one end of a ruler. Set the ruler on a table so the hair hangs over the edge. Anchor the ruler with a stack of books.

Use a second piece of tape to attach a paperclip to the free end of the hair. Then slip other paperclips one at a time onto the first clip so they're dangling down from the hair. Do this until the hair breaks.  Note: If the paper clip becomes full before the hair breaks, add a paper clip spread into a "V". Then add more paperclips to this clip.

Once the hair breaks, add up the number of clips the hair supported. Multiply that by 0.5.  That will tell you the grams of weight the hair supported.  To be sure what you discovered is likely to happen every time, repeat this test with two other hairs, one at a time. Then compare your results.

EXTRA fun!
OK--what if you wanted to lift a 100-gram candy bar out of a hole in the ground and you needed a rope? 

If you were going to make a rope out of hair, how many hairs would you want to use? 

Would you rather use blonde or brunette hair? Describe how you came to your conclusions

Did you notice the ancient Japanese made their hair ropes by braiding together clusters of loose strands of hair. Why do you think braiding hairs together made the rope stronger?

It's Hair Story

Here are some hairstyles that have been popular in the past. Read about them. Then pick one you think could be fun to have. Write why you chose this one.  Be sure to include why you think this would be just right for you.

Big Wigs: People in ancient Egypt who could afford to do so wore wigs. This usually covered a bald head because people shaved their heads to avoid head lice.

Corkscrew Curls: In ancient Greece, both men and women curled their hair using a hot bronze rod, the first curling iron.

Gold Tops: In ancient Rome, men and women colored their hair with gold dust or powders. 

Bowl Cut: During the Middle Ages many European men wore their hair cut short framing their face.

Pageboy: In 14th century Europe, men wore their hair rolled at the base of their neck.

Queue: In 17th century China, men shave the front of their head and twisted the long back hairs into a braid called a queue. Pulling someone's queue was an insult.

Fancy Do: In 18th's century Europe, women combed their hair over wire cages to create big dos. They decorated these with flowers, jewels, feathers and even models of things like boats.

Gibson Girl: During the late 1800s, women in Europe and the U.S. wore a hairstyle so distinct it had a name--the Gibson Girl. To create this look, long hair was combed over a pad, creating a wide frame for the face.

Bobbed: After World War I, women in Europe and the U.S. bobbed their hair by cutting it short. This was a drastic change from wearing long hair.

Beatle Cut: In the 1960s, the Beatles' shaggy hair caused a stir worldwide and created a new styling fad.

 Hair is something we all have. But it's one of those ways you can make yourself uniquely you. 
How would you describe this hair style?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Some animals can't wait for their world to be cold and icy.

Start with a winter scavenger hunt. Go outdoors and try to find one item for each category listed below. No fair using the same item for more than one category. This is great fun for groups to compete.

You might find maple seeds like these.

Try to find:
Something older than you are
Something younger than you are
A seed
Something rough
Something smooth
Something that will change in the spring
A bird feather

How wet is the snow? Find out. In an average snowfall, ten inches (25 cm) of snow melts down to one inch (2.5 cm) of water. How much drier or wetter is your current snowfall.

You'll need a can at least ten inches (25 centimeters) tall with straight sides. Try to collect your snow sample shortly after the snow stops falling. Fill your sampling can, but don't pack the snow.

Next, take the can indoors and let the water melt.

Try keeping a record of each new snowfall for the rest of the winter. Which months had the wettest snow? If you keep your tracking going, find out how one year's snowfalls compare to another.

By the way, I spent one winter at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I'd always heard that, if temperatures were below -60F (-51C) boiling water thrown into the air would freeze before it hit the ground. I had a chance to test it because that winter the temperatures dropped as low as -129F. The boiling water immediately turned into tiny sparkling ice crystals.

This is a great winter time read--don't miss it.
The Winter of the Blue Snow

Have you ever heard of Paul Bunyan? He was a giant of a man--and I mean a real giant, so the stories go. There are tales about the lumber camp he ran in the far North.
One of those is about the winter of the blue snow.

Nobody knew why the snow was blue that winter. Some say it was because it was so terribly cold. How cold was it? It was too cold for thermometers to measure. The men each had sixteen blankets to sleep under, but they still couldn't keep warm. Shot Gunderson, the head woodchopper, slept under forty-two blankets one extra cold night. There were so many blankets he got lost trying to find his way out from under that huge pile. In fact, it took him three whole days to uncover himself. The poor fellow nearly starved to death before he made it to the cook shake.

Not that eating was easy once you got to the table. When Hot Biscuit Slim, the cook, set coffee out to cool, the steaming brew froze so fast that the ice was hot. The men had to eat with their mittens on because the hot biscuits froze solid before they went the distance from plate to mouth.

Conversations around the bunkhouse were slowed down mightily that super-cold winter. Words froze as fast as they were spoken. Piles of icy words had to be heaped behind the stove because nobody could tell what had been said until the words thawed out.

About the time summer was due, the weather got even colder and the blue snow kept on falling. Snowdrifts piled up two hundred feet (60 meters) deep. Elevators were built just to carry the men from the bunkhouse to the surface. To log the trees, Paul had to scoop out holes and lower his men down to the forest.

What you don't believe this wintery tale?
Make up one of your own packed full of all the things that might happen if it was super cold and the snow was super deep.

One of the most famous blizzards ever recorded was during the winter of 1888. Thirty to forty inches (75-100 cm) of snow and ice was dump on the Northeastern United States. That was before snowplows and entire cities were helpless for weeks. Before the blizzard was over four hundred people had died.

Collect Snowflakes

While no two snowflakes are ever exactly alike (as far as anyone knows), they are all hexagone--six-sided crystals. Snowflakes take several main shapes.

If you want to catch some snowflakes, chill a clean glass slide or a small mirror in the refrigerator. Take the cold glass outside and allow a few flakes to collect on it. You may need a magnifying glass to see the snowflakes if they are very small.

To preserve snowflakes so you can even take them inside with you you'll need a can of plastic spray--the kind artists use on chalk drawings.

Chill the spray along with the clean glass slide. Carry the glass slide outside on a piece of cardboard. This keeps your body heat from warming the glass. Spray the glass lightly with the plastic coating. Let snowflakes collect on the glass. Take the preserved snowflakes inside and let the plastic coating completely dry (about fifteen minutes).

Check out this book about Wilson Bentley.
His photos of snowflakes became world famous.

Now you can examine the snowflakes with a magnifying glass or a microscope if you have one. No need to rush. These snowflakes will stay crystal-clear forever.

Go Tracking
Duck Tracks

Rabbit Tracks

When the ground's covered with snow, it's the perfect time to collect animal tracks like these.

Take along an adult partner and a digital camera. Snap photos of any animal tracks you find. Back home, look on-line to match the prints you found to the animal. Google images is one good source to check out.

While you're at it try to decide what the animal might have been doing at the time it left its tracks. Was it running or walking? How do you think you could tell? Try making tracks of your own running and walking and observe the difference. It's even more fun if you find overlapping sets of tracks from different animals. Now, make up a story for what might have happened. Was one animal there first? Was one animal chasing the other? There's a new story in every set of snow tracks you find--even if they're people footprints.

Watch Birds Share A Treat

You can get a good look at birds that spend the winter in your neighborhood, if you invite them to dinner. An easy treat to make is a peanut butter pinecone. Loop a string around the top of a pine cone and tie a knot. Next, smear peanut butter on the cone and roll the cone in birdseed. Then have an adult partner hang the pinecone where birds will be able to perch and eat.

Now, keep watch. Use bird books and search on-line to help you identify the birds visiting your bird diner. Also, answer these questions:
1. What time of day do the birds come to eat?
2. Do the birds come more on stormy or sunny days?
3. Do the birds take turns and feed one at a time? Or do they compete to eat?
4. Which birds usually chase other birds away?

Create a colorful bar graph to share the data you collect about your dinner guests.

Remember, to replace your pinecone with a fresh treat from time-to-time to keep the dinners coming back for more.