Saturday, September 23, 2017

Structural Engineering Projects for Kids

My son built a model building frame and learned about structures.

As a follow up to our Bridge Unit Study (scroll down to see lessons) we read the book Art of Construction and completed many of the activities. Like the book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build and Test, which we used for our bridge study, the Art of Construction contained lessons which are part of structural engineering. The books did contain some overlap, but were both worth studying.

 The above photo shows the beginning of a building frame model. Studying the book teaches how differences in structural member cross section affects the strength. Kids learn these concepts by reading about them and then performing simple experiments with paper.




If you have a budding engineer, or a student who enjoys hands-on technical projects, this is a great book. The book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build and Test, is written for a slightly younger audience, upper elementary to middle school, and a better place to start. I would recommend Art of Construction for any student who enjoyed Bridges or middle school and up.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fabric Stenciling Project for Kids

We used shaving cream and ink to create stenciled and tie dye style shirts.

Our TSC Designs inks and stencils were purchased as a kit at a local quilt show, but all the same products are available on their website.

 TSC Fabric Inks

 Collection of stencils

First fill a plate or tray with shaving cream.

 Next, use a dropper to place drops of ink on the shaving cream.

 With a Q-tip or a toothpick, swirl the ink through the shaving cream.

 Take a t-shirt or some fabric and smoosh it into the shaving cream.


 Lift the fabric out and scrape off the shaving cream.

 Another method is to use a sponge to stamp the design onto the fabric with a stencil.

 When finished, the fabric needs to be left to dry and then ironed to set the dye.

This project was fun and a little messy. It was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon outdoors. The book from TSC Designs has complete instructions and a few more ideas on ways to use the ink. Have Fun!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Austrailan Dot Painting for Kids

We created an Australian dot painting.

Dot painting is interesting because it is both an ancient and modern art form. Dating back thousands of years, some native aboriginal people used dot painting in conjunction with story telling to explain belief systems. Many traditions incorporated symbols to represent common story subjects such as trails, campfires and people. However, native people did not paint exclusively with dots. Different regions of Australian natives had different art traditions.

In more recent times, dot painting has become recognizable as a native art form. Although the last natives to paint in the traditional way died out in the 1960's, descendants have carried on and changed the art. Dot painting is a very popular souvenir and many artists have taken notice.

This video is a good introduction to dot painting.


In creating our dot paintings, the kids had to incorporate a minimum of three traditional symbols and tell a story of a recent experience.


Curved U-shapes indicate men.

Concentric circles are symbols of camp sites, and wavy lines indicate a journey.

Short and tall lines indicate children and adults.







Welcome back to school. Art class rocks!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Game for Learning United States Geography

Last spring at a homeschooling convention I did a little bartering and I'm sure glad I did. The game Snapshots Across America is an engaging way for kids to learn about the United States and a few attractions in each one.

To win the game players must visit seven tourist attractions by driving their car, traveling by train, ocean liner, river boat, lake ship or airplane to destinations.

Other players can ruin a vacation by playing a weather card such as tornadoes in the midwest.

Each destination card has a representative photo and short description of the attraction. From Niagara Falls to Revolutionary War sites to volcanoes in Hawaii a player can travel all around the US.

This game was created by a homeschooling family to teach geography, and they did a great job. The cards are bright. The game sparks a travel interest. It's fun to see where else you can travel and there is even a little strategy involved in being the first player to visit seven destinations.

If you are planning a vacation, this game may even give you some new ideas. We have been playing about once per week in conjunction with reading about US history. This game is a wonderful supplement to any geography curriculum and would make a nice gift.




Friday, July 14, 2017

Speed! - New Font

Skip-counting is a key ingredient in teaching upper level elementary math concepts. Once kids have a good handle on the numbers 1-100 and can count backwards from 20 to 0 they are ready to learn skip-counting. This usually happens between the ages of 4 and 8 years old and around the same time as kids are learning addition. Numerous math skills are based on skip-counting such as multiplication, division, adding and reducing fractions. With a good understanding of skip-counting, children are able to progress much more rapidly through these upper elementary math concepts.



Songs, the card game Speed! and hands-on practice work well together to cement the fundamentals of skip-counting. When playing Speed! kids learn to skip-count beginning on any number. For example, if they are skip-counting by 3's, they may begin at 18 and progress to 21. They also learn to skip-count backwards. The rhythm and rhyme of song helps engage memory and the colored decks of cards in the game Speed! help kids create a visual association with numbers.

 The card game Speed! has just been given a facelift. The exterior of the container was lightened from a dark blue to a light blue and the numbers on the cards are now a more common font which is easier to rapidly read. The original version is shown above on the left, and the updated version is on the right.


If you haven't purchased this game yet, now's the time. After all, it's fun and a great way to keep kids learning over the summer! Kids play because they want to win, not to learn to skip-count. The beauty of the game is that in order to win, they have to have the skip-counting numbers memorized and they do so enthusiastically. The big secret, is that the numbers are all the answers to the times tables. After playing Speed!, kids can quickly apply what they've learned to multiplication, division, factoring, and fractions. How can you beat an educational game kids actually want to play.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 8: Maintenance

Our bridge unit study ended with a discussion on maintenance.

Too often the cost of maintenance is not considered as part of the cost of a project. Whether you are building your home, a building or a bridge, maintenance should be a huge consideration. After all, if the structure breaks down, we will have to do without or start over from scratch.

Therefore, I was pleased that the book we chose to follow for our bridge unit study Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test addressed the issue of maintenance. Painting, erosion, weather, corrosion, and traffic load are a few issues that determine how long the structure will last. The book does a good job of summarizing maintenance considerations.



To gain a better understanding of weather effects, my son explored corrosion with a science experiment. Putting steel wool into different types of water, he watched it over a 24 hour period to see how much it rusted. It was a very simple experiment and a great way to wrap up our bridge unit study.

Now where ever we go we take a good look at the different bridges around us.

 Honfleur Cable Stay Bridge (Normandie, France)

 London Bridge

Tower Bridge

Charles Bridge, Prague

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 7: Bridge Design

My son designed several bridges.


What type of bridge would you build across a busy shipping waterway? How about over a deep ravine?




The book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test discussed advantages and disadvantages of many types of bridges including beam, arch, suspension, cantilever, draw, and hanging. It also addressed how the loads are carried, options for materials and brief changes throughout history.


What I really liked was the challenges the author posed to readers. Several times, kids were given a set of requirements and asked to design a bridge to meet those requirements. Each time my son was eager to design a bridge. Well he is far from an expert bridge designer, these questions enabled him to think about what he would do.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 6: Hanging Bridge Model

My son built a hanging bridge.

Although hanging bridges are rarely used today for transportation, they can make wonderful play structures. The one shown below is at a high ropes course. The hanging bridge is mounted on a pulley to a cable. The bridge is controlled with the rope to pull it near, and by gravity when traveling to the other end.

A similar bridge can be constructed over a calm waterway by attaching a floating raft to a cable spanning the waterway.



The book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test was the inspiration for this activity as it has been for most of our other bridge modeling projects.


This time, two straws were attached to a piece of cardboard to run on the main cables of the bridge.

Again, my son used two chairs as the main supports for his bridge.


A basket was hung from the cardboard pulley system to transport traffic across the bridge.

Please visit each of the pages on Highhill Education for more hands-on activity ideas. Math, Science, History
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