How to make a fall garden 

During the days leading up to Hurricane Harvey we watched a LOT of the Weather Channel. Needless to say my kids had their fair share of watching cartoons to pass the days stuck indoors. So when the sun returned and things dried out we decided to turn off the TV and iPads and head outside.

What happened astonished me.

The kids wanted to play outside for hours and hours. One day they started planning where to plant a garden. Andrew dug up one of my backyard flowerbeds with a hoe while Allie made a master plan of what our garden was going to consist of. They found earthworms and grubs and even starting making a compost pile to prep for the garden.  (Should I have been more upset about my backyard flowerbed? Probably. But they were happy and were on a mission.)

From the beginning I was super skeptical of planting a garden in the fall. But my hope is to share with you our garden so you’ll be inspired to build one yourself and learn from our successes and mistakes along the way.

What you need:

  • A pre-made raised garden bed kit – This was the secret to a super simple small garden. You can find one here in several sizes
  • Visit here if you are in Texas and want guidance on what to plant in the fall. Here is another resource from HGTV.
  • topsoil

Our garden consists of cauliflower, parsley, sweet basil, rosemary, onions, spring mix and romaine lettuce, and sweet beef tomatoes.

What’s the science:

I love how gardens are full of science lessons from the beginning. We have had so many conversations about earthworms and grubs and what makes good garden soil.  Allie is making her own journal about how the garden will grow and change – the ultimate nature experiment!

This book is one of my favorites to discuss that we eat the tops, bottoms, and middle of so many different plants. For example, a carrot is the bottoms of a plant and broccoli is the top. You can find it here

Tops & Bottoms (Caldecott Honor Book) by [Stevens, Janet]


Here it is. Day 1 of our fall garden. Wish us luck and we’ll keep you posted on how it’s going!

Categories: he loves science too!, lovely conversations Tags: , , ,
Shadow Science for Groundhog Day!

groundhogI am all about teachable moments.  I’d like to think when Allie asks me questions, I somehow incorporate science into my answer.  But then I have these moments of inspiration – especially around the holidays!  And what better holiday to teach my kids about shadows but Groundhog’s Day?!  This was also the perfect activity to start with the kids while I was making dinner (frozen pizza).  Hey, you do what you’ve got to do at 6:00pm!

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I made a quick shadow box using an old Amazon box and a flashlight.  I cut a hole big enough for a flashlight which made a “stage” for her plastic animals.  I love that Allie put a lamb and dinosaur standing under a giant heart together.  I’m so glad they can put away their “Jurassic Park” differences to play shadows.


Of course, Allie got very excited about the flashlights in the dark so she decided to put on a fairy show.  She thought her fairy shadow was pretty neat.


Andrew wanted to share in all the fun which meant sitting on the shadow box.


Then we decided to put some white paper up as a screen so she could trace the shadows.  This time she made a scene with a lion, a lamb, and a cupcake.  Classic.

The Science:  Here are the things we discussed:

  • Shadows are made when an object blocks out light.
  • When the animals were close to the flashlight their shadows got bigger.
  • When the animals got farther away from the light, their shadows got smaller.
  • Then we talked about different ways shadows are made by the sun, like her shadow outside was when her body blocks the sunlight.
  • Finally, we talked about how a tree’s shadow makes shade when the tree blocks the sunlight.

The pizza was almost done cooking so I showed the kids this great video about Groundhog’s Day.  It’s super cute and I learned that woodchucks are groundhogs!  I had no idea, did you?  Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments Tags: , ,
What is Winter Solstice?

wintersolsticeToday December 21, 2014 is the first day of winter  also known as winter solstice. But what does that mean?  Unfortunately, for all of us busy shoppers in the Northern Hemisphere it means that it is the shortest day of the year.  In Houston the sun will set at 5:27 PM!  It will be the longest night of the year with the sun rising at 7:13 AM.

Why do the season change?

Earth is tilted on it’s path around the sun. During the winter solstice the south pole receives the most warmth from the sun and for the northern hemisphere receives the least. The opposite is true for the summer solstice.  This is why winter is cold and summer is hot.  Did you know during winter solstice that the north pole will be in total darkness for 24 hours?  That must be a challenge for Santa’s elves as they prepare for Christmas!


How to explain this to kids?

I wanted to explain this to Allie, so I found an amazing Seasons Interactive at McGraw-Hill. You can find it here. In this interactive you can watch the earth orbit around the sun (which affects seasons) and spin on it’s own axis (which causes day and night).  This interactive even shows you how the temperature changes based on the distance from the sun.

After we played with the Season Interactive, we attempted to make our very own Tinker Toy solar system complete with a battery powered ‘tea-light’ sun.  It’s hard to conceptualize outer space, earth’s orbit, and the rotation of the earth around the sun – but it’s a start!  The kids enjoyed playing with the tea lights and pretending the Christmas tree lights were stars in outer space!

Welcome winter!  We’re ready for the cooler weather here in Texas!


Categories: STEM Tags: