Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Home Biology Sightings in the News

If you didn't get to see the nice picture of the kids and me playing with our computer microscope for the New York Times (the photos are not on the NYT website), here's a reprint of the article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Welcome New York Times Readers!

It was a thrill to be featured in the article about our computer microscope in the New York Times Business section. Home Biology is where my two teens and I kept records of all the activities we did and resources we found in the course of a year of homeschooling biology. In the sidebar on the right you'll find lots, conveniently arranged by topic.

Despite the description in the Times, we don't really have a lab in our dining room. And the computer microscope described in the article is about the most sophisticated piece of science equipment we use. But we can tell you a lot about studying living things with kids at home using low-tech and inexpensive equipment. If you look at the Topic Labels in the sidebar, you can find posts about our forays into microphotography using a standard student microscope (which has a higher magnification than the computer model) and my digital point-and-shoot camera. There are also lots of posts about our "labs" (perhaps not what a traditional high school biology lab would look like, but a hands-on activity that got my kids thinking and doing science). I also labeled some activities kitchen biology because they involve food. Those were my favorites!

I'd love to hear what you think about our activities and our blog. And if you're interested to see what we've done in other science areas, be sure to visit our other blogs: Home Chemistry, Home Physics, and this year's project, Integrated Science at Home. And anyone who's interested in ways to bring science and technology (as well as scifi, games, and all kinds of fun stuff) to kids should check out the other blogs I'm a member of, GeekMom and GeekDad.

You can also find information about activity books for kids and my school and library programs at my website Crafts for Learning. You'll find contact info there as well. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saratoga Woods and Waterways

 Image: Jackie Donnelly

Back when we started this blog our first project was a nature survey. Although we managed to identify many species that were new to us, we were only scratching the surface.

I just discovered a blog by a local amateur naturalist Jackie Donnelly of Saratoga Springs, NY called Saratoga Woods and Waterways. It has wonderful photos and descriptions. Since the trails she mentions are all within a short drive, we'll have to check some out and see if we can find any of the plants and animals she identifies.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

More Triops -- and a Fairy Shrimp

We hatched some more triops recently and got a bonus -- a fairy shrimp. We brought our shrimp to the Schuylerville Library for a presentation on the activities from my new book Discover the Desert, which was just won an Honor Award from Skipping Stones Magazine. Unfortunately, the two triops passed on after only a few weeks, but the fairy shrimp (the kind that are sold as Sea Monkeys) is still going strong.You can see the fairy shrimp on the left in this photo.

I have had a very hard time getting nice photos of our shrimp. But if you want to see some crisp, clear excellent images of triops, the book Triops: A Very Unusual Creature is now available on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food, Inc.

I just discovered that the documentary Food, Inc. can now be watched online at the PBS website. From the PBS companion website:
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli — the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Among the experts interviewed is Michael Pollan. Last year we listened to the audio version of his excellent, accessible book, In Defense of  Food.

I've had the DVD on reserve at the library forever (my request has already expired once), so I'm very glad to see that we can now watch it on demand. Now if we can only figure out how to stream video from the computer to our ancient TV...
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stuffed Triops and other Fun Critters

Check out my GeekDad post about Weird Bug Lady, who makes adorable stuffed versions of triops, bugs, and other critters.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Cool Article on Aquaponics

Image: NYT
When we brought the goldfish in from the plastic pond in the backyard last fall, they had doubled in size. So we picked up a second tank to keep them in. Our tanks are self-contained: rocks, plants and fish in their own ecosystem, without filters. (We change half of the water and wipe the tank down every week.)

At one point we gave a thought to putting at least one of the 10-gallon tanks on the shelf by the back sliding door, where we had our hydroponic set-up last year, and trying to grow veggies on the top of it. We never followed through. (As a side note, for the first time in my experience the boxes of dirt-planted herbs I brought in last fall are still doing going strong indoors this winter.)

However, this New York Times story describes an aquaponic experiment very similar to what we were thinking about. Given how wet our property is, we don't need to grow in tanks year-round, but maybe we'll give it a try next winter.