Saturday, November 15, 2014

Our Favorite Things: Favorite Family Favorites

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a surprise!

Over the past couple of weeks, some of our friends have asked what we have enjoyed most out of all the books, studies, and games we've used...

There's no doubt we've purchased, reviewed, and tested out a TON of various books and resources over the past ten years, some of which were fantastic finds, some of which turned out... not-so-great. This leads me to the thought that... Perhaps we could save others from our costly trial-and-error method of discovering great books and gifts (because we have found that we do not always enjoy all the books recommended by Sonlight, TOG, etc) by listing our family's most beloved, most used, and most enjoyed top-notch, attention-grabbing resources. Simply put, these are our favorite family favorites.

This is certainly a work in progress! In our current season of life, I have just a few moments at a time to work on a blog post, but I wanted to get this out there in a timely manner, which means... I have not yet finished putting in all of our recommendations! We will also be adding to this list as we come across other fabulous finds in the future. As time permits, I hope to revisit this page to add more descriptions and photos. My prayer - honestly - is that others will enjoy these selections as much as we have! {But your experience may vary, an obvious disclaimer that we all have a difference of opinions!}

Favorite Educational Games
States & Capitals Sequence A five-in-a-row game with cards that help to teach state shape recognition while practicing matching up capitals with their respective states. The cards by themselves could be used to practice naming the states. Even the five-year-old enjoys it! For a photo of us playing, visit this page.
Bible Sequence Another five-in-a-row game which we've successfully used in a children's church group (age 4 to 11). It lends itself to Bible study and review, as each card contains a scripture passage that can be read (or children can tell what they know about that event/person in the Bible).
10 Days In The USA It's not often I find a strategy game that doesn't take hours to complete, but the 10 Days.. games take only about 30 minutes from start to finish! We own all but one of these games, as it helps us TREMENDOUSLY with geography. This is a fun game for everyone in our family! Click here to see what game play looks like.
10 Days in Europe Where is Belarus? Now I know! {See above}
10 Days in Africa Game 
Ticket To Ride A cross-country train excursion game, the objective is to see the most cities in North America in a 7-day period. Players collect cards enabling them to claim railway routes to connect cities throughout North America. Suggested for ages 8 and up, although younger children can play with help from parents. 
Ticket To Ride - Europe A more complicated version of Ticket to Ride, this one takes you through Europe. We like the game purely for the strategy. With its lack of country borders and obscure spelling of cities, this one does not very easily review geography.
Lewis and Clark The Expedition Recommended for upper elementary through age 100 (box recommends it for age 14+, but our 8yo and 11yo play it together), this somewhat complicated strategy game teaches a tremendous amount of history! The game and cards are stunningly beautiful! Click here to see a photo of this game in progress!
Scrambled States Card Game I think we enjoy this game mainly because we love-love-love the books by Laurie Keller. {See Favorite Books}
Authors Bookcase Card Game (History Channel) Do you have any Mark Twain? Go-fish! These cards are a simple way to introduce children to famous authors and their works. I wish I'd had these in high school when I was trying to memorize lists of authors!
Melissa & Doug Wooden USA Map Puzzle Our 8 and 5 year old have been playing their own made-up states-and-capitals matching games with this wooden puzzle by Melissa and Doug. The back of the board lists facts (motto, statehood, etc.) for each state, and the puzzle pieces include the state's name and nickname. The state's capital is listed only on the board; this was truly an unexpected way our children practiced U.S. geography of their own accord. 
The Settlers of Catan The boys enjoy playing The Settlers of Catan with their friends when we go over to their house and have added it to their Christmas wishlist. We own the Bible version of Settlers of Catan, Settlers of Canaan, although it has limited playability in comparison to the original Settlers games. (The Bible version was discontinued in Fall 2014, so it will likely be hard to find in the near future.)
Melissa & Doug See & Spell A favorite when our boys were preschoolers and just learning to read. I'm saving it back for Isaac now that the other boys have outgrown it.
Learning Resources Smart Snacks Pieceapizza Fractions The boys have loved playing "chef" with these fraction pizzas - and they are handy as an introduction to basic fractions.
Clue The Classic Edition Albeit a murder mystery, our family loves this game and has shared many laughs from it. I know we sound a bit psychotic (which we kind of are around here). But this is what happens when you decide to use alliteration in all your guesses. (You might be a homeschool mom if... you use Clue to teach English grammar.) I love this game because it teaches some simple rules of logic. It's been a joy to see when each child starts to understand how to use logic for better game play.

Favorite Educational Wii Games
Create a puzzle-solving game in which players use creativity to solve spatially-based puzzles. According to Stephen (age 11) and David (age 8), "It tells you what to do but not how to do it." Although the challenges can be time-consuming and a bit difficult at times, our boys thoroughly enjoy this game. My opinion? I love solving puzzles as a family, and, unlike many other video games, Create allows for a good deal of interaction with others (e.g., "What if you put that there?") Plus, it's great to see the boys thinking while playing a video game!
Ultimate I Spy/I Spy Spooky Mansion 3-D hidden object adventure with over 70 I SPY riddles (40 within Ultimate I Spy, for those who opt to purchase just that one - the combo pack is currently cheaper than the single game) with mini-games in each riddle. Our family has loved playing this together!
Endless Ocean: Dive, Discover, Dream When we were at the Downtown Aquarium restaurant, Stephen started correctly naming the fish swimming around us. I thought maybe he could read a sign until he started telling us odd facts about each creature. It turns out he had learned (and remembered!) the names and facts about many of the fish there due to this game.
Wild Earth: African Safari With eleven picture-taking missions, this virtual safari teaches you about various animals and their habitats.

Favorite Educational DVDs
Liberty's Kids - The Complete Series Great series for young children studying American history. (Current price is $5.00 for forty episodes)
Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? Usually priced under $10, these exciting episodes are full of history and geography!
Bible Readeez Memorize long passages of scripture set to music. This children's songwriter is one of our favorites!
Sing through the Bible A great way to memorize facts like the Judges of Israel or the Kings of Judah. Very catchy tunes!
What's in the Bible? Series We used the entire What's in the Bible? series (13 DVDs) as our at-home Bible study last year, and as our at-church Bible study this year where the children - and adults - learned so much!
Song School Latin DVD A simple and enjoyable way to learn some Latin vocabulary. I love the Derivative River!
Schoolhouse Rock! Catchy tunes and silly animations to easily further our understanding and memorization of English grammar, science, multiplication, American history and government.
Donald in Mathmagic Land A great way to help children see math in the world around them! This is my own personal favorite!
Make Mine Music Mainly because it includes our favorite introduction to orchestra, Peter and the Wolf!
Drive Thru History: American History Series, All Episodes 1-12 in Set We have learned so much about America's Heritage through this wonderful DVD set! {Can be purchased separately.}
Drive Thru History Holy Land Series with Dave Stotts Set of 4 Such a wonderful history of the Holy Land! {Can be purchased separately.}
Drive Thru History: Ancient History (Extended Length) WONDERFUL overview of ancient civilizations. We so enjoyed watching Ancient Greece when my husband traveled to Athens for training! {Can be purchased separately.}
Building Big: Bridges/Domes/Skyscrapers/Dams/Tunnels This set of DVDs are a fascinating look at the science behind structures! Each DVD also provides instructions for parents to complete a special activity with children.

Favorite Audiobooks and Audio Dramas
Adventures in Odyssey: For God and Country Thrilling audio drama! Join Christopher Columbus, Paul Revere, Francis Scott Key, slaves traveling the Underground Railroad, and Abraham Lincoln on this adventure through U.S. History. In fact, we love all of the Adventures in Odyssey books and audios!
Greathall Productions by Storyteller Jim Weiss Some favorites are American Tall TalesAdventures of Tom SawyerThomas Jefferson's America, and Masters of the Renaissance. (To me, these audio recordings are far better than the Story of the World!)
The Sugar Creek Gang Series A delightful audio recording of the original books from the Sugar Creek Gang series
Wee Sing America Audio CD While not a book or drama, this CD gives an overview of history through its many patriotic songs

Favorite Studies
PictureSmart Bible This is a favorite Bible study for our eleven-year-old! Great survey of the entire Bible!
Grapevine Studies We've enjoyed several Bible studies using Grapevine's Stick-Figure approach - and the boys have remembered so much from these studies!
Lessons in Time A study that helps children (and adults) to understand a timeline (centuries, millennia) using toothpicks.
Introduction to Worldview A great overview of world religions!
Calendar Quest: 5,000 Years of History in 16 Lessons** An absolute favorite history study we have completed and will revisit as we return to ancient history next year.
**CC'ers, also visit How Calendar Quest Ties into Classical Conversations
Homeschool in the Woods History studies that include geography, timeline, creative writing, and an assortment of crafts and projects. I'm not sure which came first: our oldest son's love of history, or his first Homeschool in the Woods study. There's not doubt that these studies have ignited his passion for history!

Favorite Books
This is a huge work in progress...

Chapter Books
The Chronicles of Narnia These are treasured books in our home. Not only are they real page-turners, our family has had so many discussions about our faith as a result.
Magic Tree House Series Our 8-year-old's favorite series (although not mine).
Imagination Station Series Our eleven-year old's favorite series (even though they are quick and simple reads for him).

United States
Across U.S. History and/or U.S. Presidents
The Children's Book of America (illustrated)
America the Beautiful (illustrated)
Books by Mike Venezia (illustrated)
So You Want to Be President? (illustrated)
A Presidential Scrapbook (illustrated)

Colonizing America
Animals Christopher Columbus Saw (illustrated)
Problems in Plymouth (AIO Imagination Station Books)
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Sign of the Beaver
Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims
Thanksgiving on Thursday (David's choice)
N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims (illustrated) Not a riveting account, but the pictures are beautiful and can be used for art study.
The Thanksgiving Story (illustrated)

American Revolution
Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? (illustrated)
Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? (illustrated)
Paul Revere's Ride by Longfellow/Rand (illustrated)
The Redcoats Are Coming! (AIO Imagination Station Books)
Captured on the High Seas (AIO Imagination Station Books)
The Minute Boys of Lexington
The Minute Boys of Bunker Hill (w/glossary)
Revolutionary War on Wednesday (David's choice)
Phoebe the Spy (illustrated, but also a good read aloud)

Early 1800s
How We Crossed The West: The Adventures Of Lewis And Clark (illustrated)
Davy Crockett: A Life on the Frontier (Ready-to-read) (illustrated)
Andrew Jackson: Seventh President, 1829-1837 (Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents) (illustrated)
The Star Spangled Banner in Translation: What It Really Means (illustrated)
Napoleon: The Story of the Little Corporal (illustrated) Longer picture book with beautiful illustrations. Great overview of the life of Napoleon.

Mid 1800s
Who Was Harriet Tubman?
Amos Fortune, Free Man (Newbery Library, Puffin)
. . . If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad (illustrated, but also good read aloud for younger children)
Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains (illustrated)
Follow the Drinking Gourd (illustrated)

Civil War & Late 1800s
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (illustrated)
Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (illustrated)
Robert E Lee -Gallant Christian Soldier (Sowers)
Who Was Abraham Lincoln?

Early 1900s
To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt (illustrated)
Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt!
The Memory Coat (illustrated) Beautiful story about a Russian immigrant family arriving in Ellis Island.

World War I era
Hero Over Here: A Story of World War I

World War II era
26 Fairmount Avenue (Newbery Honor Book, 2000)  (illustrated, but also good read aloud)
26 Fairmount Avenue Series
Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World (illustrated)
DK Readers: The Story of Anne Frank (Illustrated Reader)
Snow Treasure Though set in Norway during WWII, I include this simply because I haven't put together a world history list. Another the boys didn't want me to put down!
Number the Stars Again, not US-related WWII events, but still... a beautiful story of the Danish Resistance during WWII.

Post World Wars
I Have a Dream (Book & CD) (illustrated)
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (Caldecott Honor Book) (illustrated)
Look to the Stars by Edwin Aldrin (illustrated)
Who Was Neil Armstrong? Simple chapter book with wonderful illustrations that show the Apollo 11 mission (and other information)
The Little Chapel that Stood (illustrated)

Middle Ages
The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart [With CD (Audio)] (illustrated) Our boys have listened to this read-along book over and over and over and over again!
A Medieval Feast (Reading Rainbow Book) (illustrated)
The Sword in the Tree (Trophy Chapter Book)
The Minstrel in the Tower (Stepping Stone)
Gabriel and the Hour Book Lovely story. Free Kindle Edition. Also visit Librivox for a free audiobook version.
The Apprentice I absolutely loved this book. The boys kept asking me to read another chapter... so we read until we finished the book: a beautiful story of forgiveness.
More to come....

Fine Arts (Drawing, Artists, Orchestra, Hymn Study)
Ish by Peter Reynolds (illustrated) A wonderful story to help us all overcome perfectionism and enjoy fine arts - even if we fill like everything we draw is kind of "ish."
The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book (ALA Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards)) (illustrated) This one requires a bit of imagination and rotation of the book as you read it. A favorite of our boys!
Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime! (illustrated) This book requires the reader to look closely at artwork to distinguish between fraud and the real thing. A wonderful way to get the most reluctant children to enjoy and explore art in greater depth. Highly recommended!
Mozart: The Wonder Child: A Puppet Play in Three Acts (illustrated) A wonderful book about the life of Mozart - presented in a creative way!
Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought)
Draw Write Now, Book 2: Christopher Columbus, Autumn Harvest, Weather (Draw-Write-Now)
Draw Write Now, Book 3: Native Americans, North America, Pilgrims (Draw-Write-Now)
Draw Write Now, Book 5: The United States, from Sea to Sea, Moving Forward
Then Sings My Soul

Geography (all illustrated)
Scrambled States of America
Scrambled States of America Talent Show
John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads (Audio CD Included) (Illustrated)
America the Beautiful (with tie-ins to historical events)
Minn of the Mississippi (also good read aloud)
Paddle-to-the-Sea (also good read aloud)
Tree in the Trail (also good read aloud)
Amazing Impossible Erie Canal (Aladdin Picture Books)
Star-Spangled State Book
Tour America: A Journey through Poems and Art

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree (illustrated)
The Friendly Beasts: an old English Christmas Carol (illustrated)
Snowflake Bentley (illustrated)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Chapter book - very funny!
The Family Under the Bridge

English Grammar & Learning to Read (all illustrated)
Bob Books for learning to read (we use for early reading and copywork)
Wikki Stix Alphabet Fun Cards for Learning Safe and simple early learning manipulative for learning letters
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!
Words are Categorical books by Brian McCleary

If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?: Help for the Highly Distractible Mom
Boyhood Daze: An Incomplete Guide to Raising Boys
Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys

Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons by Todd Wilson
Help! I'm Married to a Homeschooling Mom: Showing Dads How to Meet the Needs of Their Homeschooling Wives (Gary's favorite gift for new homeschooling dads)
If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?: Help for the Highly Distractible Mom
Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education
Classical Christian Education Made Approachable
Echo in Celebration: A Call to Home-Centered Education | Click here for free pdf version
The Question:  Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)

The Quest to Digest
The Periodic Table: Elements with Style!
The Periodic Table of Elements Coloring Book
Find the Constellations by the author of Curious George books

Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America (Kaufman Field Guides)
Butterflies of North America (Kaufman Field Guides)
Multiplication and Division Three-Corner® Flash Cards (Just one set of cards for multiplication and division. Does not contain the 13s, 14s and 15s)
The Synonym Finder Way better than a thesaurus! We love this book for our IEW writing assignments!
Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power Great way to learn vocabulary! I wish I'd had this when I was preparing for the SAT a couple of decades ago!

Favorite Free Resources
Classic Elementary Life Science Student and Teacher texts
"Drawing Around the World: Europe" {Free until December 31}
Free Librivox recording of Paul Revere's Ride by "Jim Fish of the Texas Frontier"
Mahalo's U.S. Map Video Tutorial
"Geography Quiz Game"
Seterra Software (for geography practice)
Sheppard Software Online Educational Games
Print N Practice
Human Anatomy + Biblical Connections {Free ebook}

Favorite Other Stuff
Lego Room Makeover: Our Storage Solution

History of Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood {Please read this!}

I originally started our family's Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood website four years ago to chronicle our homeschooling journey and connect with my husband who works on a different continent for over half the year. Over time, we started journaling our 50-states-before-they-graduate trips and our funny farm & Be Real antics. Eventually, I started posting the educational printables I make for our family, which further led me to offer whatever helpful (or not-so-helpful?) tips and resources I could conjure up - along with a healthy dose of real-life chaos encouragement - to other homeschooling families.  

Our family was in a fortunate and blessed position to not need the extra income from any of my creations, so we decided as a family to offer the resources and printables on our blog as a ministry to other homeschooling families. Supporting other families in their homeschooling endeavors is one of the few ways I feel I can minister to others at this point in my life. It gives me great joy to share my work and to make this small offering of myself... all for the Glory of God.  

As time progressed, our website grew beyond what I ever thought it would. There were several costs that came about as a result of maintaining and upgrading this website:  software, server & hosting fees, technical support, and blog migration (currently underway!) - to name a few.  Because these were expenses that were incurred as a result of sharing things for free, we set up affiliate partnerships with some of the companies whose products we use and truly recommend (on the sidebar of this website). The money received from affiliate links does not cost those who use them anything, but it helps to offset the costs associated with running this website. The majority of funds which exceed the associated costs of running this website have been invested in charities and into Half-a-Hundred-Acre-Wood-funded giveaways. For those who have used our affiliate links, please read about what you've made possible

Because I have been so blessed, I want to offer a special giveaway to those who have read and shared our site with others. This falls under the "Half-a-Hundred-Acre-Wood-funded giveaways" motivation for using affiliate links. Perhaps there are five people who can use a $100 Amazon gift card this Christmas season? If you're one, enter for a chance to win via the rafflecopter form below. As always, thank you for reading - and mostly, for your friendship and support.

Click here to enter this Rafflecopter giveaway.

Five winners will be randomly selected on November 25, 2014, and gift cards will be sent via email after confirmation email has been received from winners.

This post includes affiliate links.

Make a Pumping Model Heart

Although this experiment took some prep time and was a bit messy, the boys loved it! This model gave us a springboard for discussion about how oxygen-depleted blood is pumped to the lungs and oxygen-rich blood is pumped to the body - all at the same time!

Purpose: Students will make a working model of a four-chambered heart.

Four small soda or water bottles with lids
Two large bulldog clips
Two pourable measuring cups (or small pitchers)
Two pieces of clear plastic tubing about 12 inches long
Two pieces of clear plastic tubing about 4 inches long
Red and blue food coloring
Electrical tape
Modeling clay

  1. Make a small hole in the lid of each bottle to fit the plastic tubing through.* 
  2. In the bottom of two of the bottles, make a hole  about 1/2 inch in diameter.
  3. On the sides of the other two bottles, make a small hole (to fit the plastic tubing through) about two inches from the top. [Note: Photo shows holes lower than they should be due to a miscommunication with my dear husband who was drilling the holes in an effort to help his science-crazed wife, who wanted to embark on this little learning adventure with the boys.]
  4. Thread the two pieces of 12-inch tubing into the small holes in the side of the two bottles. Push the tubing to the bottom of the bottles and seal the holes around the tubes with modeling clay.
  5. Connect two lids together (with their tops facing each other) with the small 4-inch piece of tubing, leaving about two inches of tubing between the lids. Repeat with other two lids and 4-inch tubing. 
  6. Seal holes around tubing with modeling clay.
  7. To reinforce the seal in #6, tape over the clay with electrical tape.
  8. Screw all four lids onto the bottles.
  9. Tape the bottles next to each other in pairs using electrical tape, ensuring that the two bottles with holes in the bottom are next to each other. (You may also want to tape the ends of the longer plastic tubing to the upper bottles to keep them out of the way.) Attach the clips onto the tubing between the lids. These will acts as heart valves, allowing the fluid to flow only in one direction.
  10. Mix enough red water and blue water to fill up one of the bottles.
  11. Pour red water into the top of one bottle and pour blue water into the top of the other bottle. 
  12. Open the clips to let the fluid ("blood") flow through the tubes to the lower bottles and then close them again. 
  13. Squeeze the lower bottles, which will cause the "blood" to squirt out of the tubes.
*Another option (though we have not tested it):  Instead of putting holes in the lids, wrap enough modeling clay around the tubing to act as a plug in place of the lid.

What's happening?
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood through the vessels throughout our body. Blood containing oxygen is pumped through the left side of the heart to the rest of the body. When the oxygen in the blood is depleted, it is sent back to the right side of the heart. It is then pumped over to the lungs to receive oxygen and returns once again to the left side of the heart to be pumped through the body.

To further help with this lesson, you might also want to use this human heart coloring page.

To learn more about how your heart works, refer to Unit 7: Body Organs of the free ebook Classic Elementary Life Science. Be sure to also download the corresponding parent text!

Make a Model Lung

Purpose: Students make a working model of a pair of lungs to see how the diaphragm, lungs, and trachea work together.

Plastic bottle with lid
Two rubber bands
Two balloons
Gum or modeling clay

  1. Cut off the bottom of the bottle
  2. Cut off the neck of the balloon
  3. Secure balloon over the open (cut) end of the bottle with a rubber band. (If bottle has a thin wall, glue a small piece of wood the width of the bottle inside the cut end of the bottle before attaching the balloon on the bottom. Using a stronger plastic bottle, such as a juice bottle, will eliminate the need for support.)*
  4. Make a small hole in the bottle lid (we used an Exacto knife)
  5. Insert the straw through the hole in the lid.
  6. Secure the other balloon onto the end of the straw using a rubber band.
  7. Screw the lid back onto the bottle and seal the hole around the straw with modeling clay OR with chewed gum (which works quite well, even if it is kind of gross). 
  8. Your lung model is ready!
  9. Push in on the balloon on the bottom to deflate the balloon inside the bottle. Pull out on the balloon on the bottle to {slightly} inflate the balloon.
*If you choose to have a larger model, cut off the bottom half of a 2-liter bottle. This will likely require added support as mentioned in Step 3.

What's happening?
In this model, the straw acts as the trachea, the balloon inside the bottle represents the lungs, and the balloon at the bottom acts as the diaphragm.

As we pull downward on the diaphragm-balloon (increasing the space inside the bottle), the air pressure inside the bottle decreases. This causes air to be sucked into the trachea-straw to inflate the lungs-balloon to fill up the empty space. This is what happens when we breathe in. When you release or push in on the diaphragm-balloon, the air pressure inside the bottle increases and pushes air out of the lungs-balloon and through the trachea-straw. This is what happens when we breathe out.

You can even feel the bottle breathing! How cool is that?!?

To learn more about how your lungs work, refer to Unit 7: Body Organs of the free ebook Classic Elementary Life Science. Be sure to also download the corresponding parent text!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Anatomy Experiments: Kidney Filtration & Kidney Model

Kidney Filtration

Purpose: Model how kidneys filter blood.

Two drinking glasses
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Sandwich baggie
Twist tie 

  1. Add one teaspoon of cornstarch to 1/8 cup of water.  
  2. Stir.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of hot water and stir well.
  4. Measure 1/4 cup of cornstarch mixture...
  5. ...and pour into sandwich baggie. Use a twist tie to close the bag tightly.
  6. In a separate glass, mix together one teaspoon of iodine with 3/4 cup of water.
  7. Gently place the baggie into the iodine solution. Do not allow the tied end to get wet.
  8. Check the bag every three minutes for a total of fifteen minutes.
  9. Look for a color change inside the sandwich baggie.

What's happening?

The baggie acts as a filter by allowing iodine molecules to slowly flow into the cornstarch mixture. When the iodine comes into contact with the cornstarch, a chemical reaction occurs that causes the water inside the baggie to turn dark blue or purple . Note that even though the iodine is passing through the baggie, the water in the iodine solution is not passing through the baggie (i.e., the baggie is not swelling up with water even though it is changing color). Similarly, your kidneys filter blood to get rid of harmful chemicals found in your body but leave the good fluids (e.g., red & white blood cells)  in your body.

Make a Kidney Model

Coffee filters
Plastic tubing
Modeling clay
Two empty water bottles
Tape (not pictured)
Coffee grounds (not pictured)
Water (not pictured)
Glass measuring cup or small pitcher (not pictured)
Container (not pictured)

  1. Cut two water bottles in half.
  2. Attach a 10-inch piece of plastic tubing to the bottle using modeling clay, making a clay plug to place into the opening of the water bottle (where the lid normally screws onto the bottle). Ensure that the plastic tubing is open to the inside of the bottle but that there are no gaps between the tubing and the clay and between the bottle and the clay. The bottles are the two "kidneys," and the tubes are the "ureters."
  3. Tape the two "kidney" water bottles onto the cardboard box.
  4. Tape a funnel to the cardboard underneath the two "kidneys," and tape the two "ureters" to the inside of the funnel.
  5. Carefully place a few coffee filters into each "kidney." 
  6. Mix some coffee grounds into some water.
  7. After placing a container underneath the funnel, pour the coffee ground solution into the "kidneys."
  8. Observe the "kidneys" filtering out the coffee grounds...
  9. the water runs down the ureters and exits through the funnel. The coffee grounds actually change the water to a yellowish color! (Eww! Gross!)

To learn more about how your kidneys work, refer to Unit 7: Body Organs of the free ebook Classic Elementary Life Science. Be sure to also download the corresponding parent text!

Anatomy Experiments: Digestion

This is a very simple experiment using normal household items.

Purpose: Model how bile from the liver digests fat as it enters the small intestine.

Shallow dish or pie pan
Cotton swab
Whole milk
Food coloring
Liquid dish soap or hand soap

  1. Pour about 1/2 inch of milk into the dish/pan.
  2. Add four different drops of food coloring at 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock.
  3. Put some dish soap on the tip of a cotton swab
  4. Insert the cotton swab into the center of the pan of milk.
  5. Food coloring will start to swirl...
  6. ...and swirl and swirl.

What's happening?
The liver makes a liquid called bile, which is used to break down the fat from our food as it enters the small intestine. Bile acts to some extent like a surfactant. When soap (a surfactant) surrounds a fat (or dirt or grime), it starts to break down the fat (or dirt or grime) into smaller particles. In this experiment, the soap represents bile as it attempts to break down the fat that's inside the milk. But the fat in the milk is so spread out that the soap cannot easily surround it, which causes it to swirl as it continues to try to surround the fat particles.

Due to its simplicity and its wow! factor, this experiment is definitely one of our favorites!

To learn more about how your liver works, refer to Unit 7: Body Organs of the free ebook Classic Elementary Life Science. Be sure to also download the corresponding parent text!