Saturday, July 19, 2014

Florida Solar Energy Center

One of our other recent field trips was to the Florida Solar Energy Center.  (this is a good website, there is even curricula on there to use for schools and homeschooling for all different age levels)   We started out by watching a couple video clips and having a lecture about what the Energy Center does.  They also showed us some models of solar panels and solar ovens.   
One thing I found interesting was a simple small invention that helps people figure out if water has boiled or not, when its put in a solar oven/heater to boil out the "bad stuff".   Previously the only way to tell was to sit and watch it, which could take a very long time.   It was simply a sealed glass oval bubble, with a bit of wax inside and a string on each side.  You put it in the water, wax side up.  When the water boils, the wax melts and goes to the bottom.   So when you check on it, if the wax is at the bottom, it boiled at some point and is safe to drink.  If the wax is still at the top, it hasn't boiled.   So simple yet very useful.   


One of the solar ovens was set up outside, along with 3 jars of water.  One with cling film on it went in the oven, and outside sat a cling film jar and one with an open top.   Thermometer in each one to monitor the progress.   

While they waited, the kids broke into teams and were given motors, solar panels and a meter to measure energy.  They had to work together to assemble it to make the fan turn, and then switch the wires to see what it did (the fan spun the other direction).   They also measured how much power their panel had.  

Next, a "game" was set up.   The kids were told that collectivly they were a town, wanting to build a solar movie theater.   Their meter had to read 500 to power the theater.    Each team had $20 to spend.   There was a "shop" with different types of solar panel, as well as foil, mirrors, clear plastic colored paddles, a big lens, wires, and some other stuff.  Some items were over $20, but the panel they had was worth $10, but the big lens was $60!   They were allowed to buy, sell and trade as much as they wanted. 
The other catch was that they needed to use as little $ as possible because the town also wanted to build a pool (for $100 or something).   
Various teams figured out how to make their meters read 500, but it wasn't until the end that the kids all figured out that they only needed ONE team to make the meter read 500 (there was only one theater for the town) and that they should combine the rest of their money to build the swimming pool.   So there was a little extra lesson in their besides working with solar power (work together too!)
Great concept for a game, get them all thinking and working together.  

In the midst of all of this, they checked on the water, and it had boiled!   It didn't take long at all for the solar oven to warm up the water to a boil.     I'd like to do a unit on solar power with Levi - the Solar Center will loan out supplies as well as help with ideas, and they also sell supplies too, so we have a good resource to do it!   I've seen solar ovens built in many different ways, Levi and I once had rosemary potatoes baked in one, yum! 

Afterwards, we stopped at Rockledge Gardens to eat our picnic lunch.   They have a little playground, and they had sunflower seeds the kids could plant, so they all did that.    (and for some reason they all wore yellow!)

They also have a butterfly garden in a screened in room.  The kids spent forever in here, I had to drag them out because I was getting too hot, a little too much solar energy for me!     Its a lot of fun to look at all of the butterflies.

Miss T had one land on her head!   

Friday, July 18, 2014

Orlando Science Center

I took Levi to the Orlando Science Center for the first time.   We really enjoyed ourselves! 

There were several of these giant amethyst geodes - Levi loves purple so he tried to sit in all of them

Sea turtle nest, not quite as cool as the one we saw for real on our sea turtle walk.

Gators and turtles.   When I asked Levi what his favorite things were, he said he liked watching the alligators get fed, and seeing all the snakes. 

After watching the feeding, they had a tiny baby to pet. 

I heard this orange grove was a big hit, I thought it looked like something more for younger kids, but this was a favorite for Levi too. 

Pick some oranges....

Load them up...


Watch them go up and over... 

Gather them again

And ship them off...

Levi was so excited because I let him see 2 movies, the first was a giant dome movie of the Galapagos Islands, where our neighbors just went on vacation (while we dog sat for them).    They brought Levi a book about it, so he already had some ideas.  And we are learning about volcanoes, which they showed in the movie as well including how they formed and information on hot spots.     If it weren't for the 200 kids in the theater who could not stop talking (camps or something) it would have been really good.  

Levi and I both tried the flexibility test.   He got 22, and I got 20.  For his age/gender, he was supposed to get 6 and I was supposed to get 6.5.   So apparently were are pretty flexible (yay gymnastics and P90X)

These things are always fun, and of course impossible to photograph properly. 

 We saw a science demo all about air pressure.   She had an air cannon that fascinated Levi.  After the show he asked to examine it so he can try and make one.   I suppose we could try this but I'm guessing he'd rather do this.  Or I could just buy one here.     She also did the "card on a glass of water" trick, and several other experiments.    She even filled the air cannon with fog.  It blows rings!

Levi helps out

TP shooting

Snake type thing I guess?  With a seat on it.    No point at all to this thing, other than for taking pictures on.

There was a room full of various vehicles.  Levi spent a good deal of time on this plane, talking to his hand - I'm guessing he was being a pilot making announcements about how to buckle a seatbelt or something.

The other movies we saw were 3D, there were 2 short ones in a row - Penguins and "Unseen World" which was full of time lapse photography.   Both were very good.    (And only one part of the Penguin one scared him, when a bird was going to eat the baby)

I tried to get a picture of us in the triangle mirror. 

We went up to see the dinosaurs last.   I don't think Levi has ever seen full size bones like this.   He found a museum guy who was just putting things away in the box under T-rex, and started chatting.  Levi ended up talking to him for a good 45min, asking questions, leading him over to displays to ask more questions.    He kept saying "whoa thats a good question" and telling me how smart Levi is.  Finally I was able to drag him away, but not before he was given two real fossils to take home.  

On our way home, we stopped at the brand new Trader Joe's!    6min from the science center, but a whole 1.5hours from our house.   Too far to go regularly, but we will stop by whenever we are out that way.   We got a cartload of stuff, and Levi found the Peacock (I think?) and earned an organic lollypop (All Trader Joe's hide some sort of animal in their stores that they move around often, if kids find it, they get a lolly).   Levi also made friends with the "sample guys" and kept running off to chat with them about the science center and who knows what else.   They said he was more entertaining than Key Lime Pie.     

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More 7th Birthday

Levi's pre-birthday in Tahoe

Cupcakes:  The cake itself was not very good (random recipe) but the icing was really yummy (I've made it before)  

Friends on the deck

He has always wanted one of these ball popper things:
Gifts from his birthday party:  (his eyes look weird in some of these - too much sun and swimming!)
He is saying "yes"... (his angry face is actually enthusiasm!)

He knows whats coming... 

Very generous gift from nanny family:

He laughed and laughed at this card "here is 20 bucks"  

Beni is a good little artist too! 

More fun artwork - he examined these very closely.  

Reading another card: 

Awesome kinetic sand  - this stuff is so fun to play with!   He had some already from Christmas, but it was great to add more to the box we keep it in, he plays with it often.

Special handmade wrapping paper on this one: 

Butterflies!   And he gets to go pick up caterpillars or eggs too.  These are from our neighbor who raises butterflies. 

And lights, perfect for his new bike

His actual birthday:

He requested pancakes, so I found a really good recipe for vegan pancakes. 

Here he is jumping up and down because he got a gift card to Da Kine Diego's 

Disk shooter snap rover thing

Trampoline (I got this and the disk shooter and this from some homeschool moms, great deals!)

This guy was hiding in the freezer, he found it when he put his slushie maker in there to freeze.

Unrolled, he found a note saying "We are going to see Frozen on Ice when it comes to town"

I need to get an "orange-er" wash cloth for the nose, I made this with what I had on hand.  

We also picked up his new bike.  The guys at the bike shop gave him a super loud horn for it too (thanks guys)

And we ate beans and rice from Da Kine

And a carseat pic!   He still fits rearfacing, and hasn't asked to switch, so he will stay this way for now. 

I took him to a baseball game after, it was "star wars" themed.   It was a fun game, the Manatees won at the last second when they hit the ball out of the park.  
They had a "launch a ball" thing, where you buy a tennis ball for $1, and try and throw it in a bucket far away to win $100, or into a closer hoop for a prize.  Levi got it in the hoop!   He won 2 passes for 2 tickets each.   He loves going to games, so we will enjoy this. 

Happy birthday to my 7yr old!

Testing his new ripstick