Studying the Wild West: Building a Pioneer Wagon

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We’ve been studying Western expansion for a few months now, and the kids were fascinated by the Oregon Trail.  I mean, whole families traveling thousands of miles in a covered wagon – how could you not want to know exactly how that worked?  Because of that fascination, we decided to build our own pioneer wagon.

We started with wooden pallets donated by a local auto parts store.  My Big Helper used hammers and crow bars to pry the boards off the pallet and to pull out the nails.  We kept a bucket nearby to put the nails and scraps in and sorted the boards into nail-free piles as we removed them.

My Big Helper has used a hammer for a few projects before, but she found it difficult to remove the nails.  We spent lots of time experimenting with angles and weight to determine how to maximize the force available.  After playing around a bit, she was able to remove all of them on her own.

When we had a stack of nail-free boards, My Big Helper and My Little Man started to lay them out.  They choose which boards would be used for which part of the wagon and arranged them in the driveway.

We used the thicker, pallet-edge pieces to support the sides and middle of the wagon bottom.  The kids each took a side and nailed the boards into the supports.  While that sounds easy, it was much harder than expected.  We had some short nails that we could pound in fairly easily, but they were a little too short – we needed to use some longer nails to be sure that the wagon was sturdy.  The longer ones were too long for some of the boards, though, which is why we used both sizes.

My Little Man found those nails especially challenging.  The hammers were heavy for him to use with one hand, but who can hit a nail square on the head with two?  If he didn’t hit the head squarely, then the whole nail bent.  It became quite frustrating, but after experimenting with several hammers and practicing his swing, My Little Man was able to pound in several nails well.

Sawing the boards to the correct length with a hand saw wasn’t easy, either.  My Big Helper got very frustrated during this process – it was the first time she lost her smile.  After talking it over, she realized just how important it is to keep going even when you’re tired.  She was able to compare this to how the pioneers might have felt way back on the Oregon Trail – and then I cut the rest of the boards with my jigsaw after she measured them for me.

The kids repeated the process they used for the bottom with the sides.

Wild West

And soon it was time to assemble the undercarriage.  The kids took lots of measurements, and then we went off to Lowe’s to buy some expensive nuts and washers.

Wild West

We used a metal bar for the axle and used clamps to hold it in place.  The kids figured out how to use the nuts and spacers to hold the wheels in place.

Wild West

Since one of the bicycle tires we were using seemed a bit flat, the kids worked together to add air to the tire.

Wild West

When our metal axle wasn’t strong enough, they took the wheels apart and added PVC pipe in an attempt to make it stronger.

Wild West

Finally, it was time to sand the boards’ rough edges.  There were many, since these were older pallet boards that had spent time outside – but our power sander took care of it quickly.

The kids used another old board and a hinge to make a wagon tongue, …

Wild West

and then they tried it out.

The wagon looked great – but the axles weren’t strong enough to support the weight of the wagon.  Despite our modifications, we decided that it just wasn’t ready to pull other kids in.  The kids are determined to figure it out, though, and so work on the wagon continues.

Our efforts weren’t in vain, though.  The kids learned myriads of lessons about measurement and weight and force and angles.  They learned about levers and axles and hinges and tools. 

I taught lessons with labs about simple machines years ago when I taught in public school, and my kids learned those lessons well; but nothing can take the place of authentic, purposeful learning.  This project took days, but by the time we finished, the kids were more confident and were generating their own ideas and potential solutions to the problems we encountered.

I love homeschooling.

What projects do you do with your kids?

For more information about prairie wagons, check out these resources:


A Gift Guide for the Young Engineer

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My kids are crazy about engineering right now.  They love to design things, find new ways to make things work, and to create their own gadgets.  It can be hard to find the right tools for them to use, though, and that’s why I love the resources you’ll find below. 

Finding the right holiday gift can be a struggle. Rather than leaving you to a google rabbit hole or a bunch of recommendations to sift through, I’ve pulled together a one-stop shop filled with meaningful gifts for the tinkerers in your life…Whether they’re 3 or 83.

In this gift guide, you’ll find:

  • classic blocks reinvigorated
  • gifts for mechanical tinkerers
  • super cool robot kits
  • gifts for computer savvy kids

Building Blocks 2.0



Tiny builders, start here!

These soft tactile blocks are great for truly little littles to learn on. Made of natural rubber foam, they are squishy but perfect for building. They’re colorful and durable and fit together easily. Children can create a variety of shapes and structures!

Using imagination and coordination, young children work on spatial, fine and gross motor skills. For kids who need sensory input, the tactile stimulation provided by this toy is fantastic.

And while we’re thinking about giving, it’s also important to think about responsible buying. This is a green product, made in India at a fair trade factory using premium quality, child-safe materials. The surface is 100% nylon and wipes clean, making it perfect for little chewers!

“My husband is quite the handyman. I purchased these for my son (and a different set for my daughter), to encourage their interest in making/building things and in fixing things. So far, I have a new a bird feeder and a bat house. Yah!” ~ Gail R – Teacher

Magformers Challenger Set


The unmatched magnetic building set. Talk about STEAM!

Perfect for large families and ambitious builders, the Challenger set encourages kids to explore magnetic construction through modular play. Magformers believes it is vital for children to develop through creativity and constructional play. This set does not disappoint.

You’ll find a variety of magnetic shapes in this set, both Rainbow and XL cruiser pieces so that children can design and build ideas from both lines including the ‘magic ball’ and super fast XL roadster.

This set makes a great addition to a math or art curriculum, that’s super hands – on. Children of all ages can build and create together making it a great social gift set.

Tegu Blocks: 40-Piece Magnetic Wooden Set


Building blocks 2.0!

Tegu blocks are finely crafted  with magnets embedded so kids can build multiple structures form various shapes. Like Rubbablox,Tegu is made from eco-friendly material (in this case wood) and comes in a variety of color schemes to suit preference and mood. Honduras and named after the capital city Tegucigalpa.

Kids defy gravity and push their imagination in previously unseen ways. No instruction manuals or electronics; just toys that demand imagination and inspire limitless creativity across all ages.

Tegu Blocks are bringing back open, creative play with style – right in time!

This makes a great gift because it unlocks a child’s mind through innovative play. The pieces are small enough to be portable.

“I believe this is an AMAZING product. Something amazing happens when kids use their hands and imagination to create.” ~ Harvey S

“Bought these for my 6 year old grandson for Christmas and we now call his creations ‘the work of a City Planner.’ The different shapes and structures take on the look of city skylines with random items like trees, bridges, etc. Geometry was never so much fun.” ~Deborah F – Homeschooler, Teacher

“My first reaction was “these are pricey!” but they were highly recommended to me so I gave it a go. Now I can tell they will be loved for years. My 3 year old loves stacking them and clicking them together and a part. I even have fun playing with these and I’m an adult. They are high quality and the colors are great. ~ Summer H – Homeschooler, Parent, Teacher

The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book


Packed with step-by-step instructions for 15 charming builds, The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book is the perfect family activity this holiday season! It’s one part coffee table for adults, and two parts instruction book kids of all ages.

With The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book as their guide, kids make classic globe and barrel ornaments, all out of LEGO! Other possible creations include original gingerbread houses, a merry Santa, arcade cabinets, and so much more!

This makes a perfect gift for the child who already owns tons of LEGO blocks but is always looking for inspirational building ideas.

Magformers Math Activity Set


Math comes to life with this awesome set!

Put some STEAM in your holiday plans! This math activity set stimulates learning through magnetic construction and creation. Activities in the set utilize the always attracting magnets to solve math problems such as patterns, addition and subtraction, and 2D nets to 3D structures.

Perfect for the visual-spatial learner who loves math puzzles.

Use the 50 page math book included to layout Magformers shapes and complete the mathematical challenges! The set contains 12 different geometric shapes including squares and triangles, rectangles and trapezoids through to the super squares and triangles.

Mechanical Masterminds

Tool Set 10-Piece Child Size


Realistic building for young builders! This set makes a great gift for children who love to help parents and grandparents in the workshop.

Encourage children to spend valuable imagination time learning new skills with this 10-piece set tool set. It includes screwdrivers, hammer, handsaw, bar clamp, file, tape measure, ruler, safety goggles, and tool belt.

Work and play are intertwined with building activities that are challenging, educational, and – most importantly, fun! The tool designs are authentic so children can make-believe they are true woodworkers.

Toobeez Building 57 Piece Connector Settoobeez-building-57-piece-connector-set-lr1474-1460408785-7373-3088

Ages 7 to 10

Build big connections! Kids work together to literally make bridges, obstacle courses – anything they imagine.

Start fun-filled construction with just three simple steps: connect, twist, and create. Toobeez Original Building Kit is a life-sized construction toy. Unlike regular blocks, this kit comes with interlocking tubes and spheres that can be linked to create structures right out of kids’ imagination. They can construct anything from a doll house, a helicopter, lemonade stand or a pirate ship.

Just connect and twist the tube into the connector spheres. It’s a great set to be used indoors for forts as well as outdoors for lawn activities.

This set makes a lasting gift because it promotes creativity and inspires imagination with unlimited building possibilities. Adults won’t be able to resist creating with their kids!


14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot Kit


The 14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot kit is the recipient of the “Best Green Products Award 2013” from Dr Toy and Creative Child Magazine has anointed it with “Top Toy of the Year Award” and “Kids Product of the Year Award.”

It’s the coolest and greenest robot on the planet!

This robot can be transformed into 14 different robot modes which include a multitude of comical and functional movements. The user can easily change from a Wagging-Tail Dog to Running Beetle to Walking Crab to Surfer to Speedster to Zombie Chaser!

It’s super versatile, too – there are parts that make the robot move on land and water. Like an amphibian! This a great gift for more advanced robot aficionados.

“Excellent resource for my Middle School STEAM students. Anything robotic is extremely appealing and interesting to them so this was a big set!!! Great resource, highly recommend it.” ~ Faith B., Teacher

“We purchased this for our just-turned-9 year old’s birthday. He loves it! It’s a nice size and there are so many things you can do with it! It comes with about 200 pieces and a thick instruction manual on how to make 14 different bots. Of course, the limit is your imagination and I’m excited to see how many things my son can come up with!” ~ Celena M

“Fun and educational. I like the snap together concept and the ability to take apart and reassemble multiple times. A very good price for all that you get.” ~ Martha M

Magformers Walking Robot Set


Build a 3D bot! This makes a creative and thinking gift for the child fascinated by robots.

Young innovators will click, connect, and create with the NEW Magformers 45 piece Walking Robot set! Kids will love following along with the step-by-step idea booklet to discover the possibilities of the colorful Walking Robot Set. Eight walking characters are built using the STEAM engine block and walking accessories!

Building with Magformers encourages children to use their imagination and show their creativity while developing skills and knowledge critical to their development success. Magformers uses high quality “always attracting” magnetic technology that provides endless constructional play.


Mand Labs KIT-1: The Coolest DIY Kit for Fun Learning in Electronics


An electrifying gift! This kit is perfect for the budding electrician looking to be stimulated by simple but intriguing experiments.

Mand Labs KIT-1 is one of the coolest Educational Electronics Kit that you will ever find. With their powerful step by step visual instructions, teens can create a variety of fascinating electricity and electronic projects. They will be able to understand how real world electronic component works, test laws of physics, gain technical skills and have fun. Watch out, Nobel!

The best part is that the kit is all-in-one. It comes with all requisite parts and tools for making 50+ projects and venturing further into electronics, books for theoretical reference, learning and making videos, troubleshooting guide, and an award winning package design that opens up into a personalized workstation. Note: This is a safe kit.


Beginning Architecture eCourse 1-3


Audio visual meets real world building.

This is an online e-course of Beginning Architecture with 25+ architecture lessons providing the early fundamentals of structures, home design, and zoo design.

Kids use things laying around the house like paper, popsicle sticks, straws, paper plates, and pipe cleaners along with learned methods to design their own homes! Each lesson concentrates on designing and personalizing a specific room of their homes, structures or zoos. By the end of the course, students will have designed a home specific to their personal tastes and will have built various designs.

This course provides more specific architectural challenges for students who are interested in playing with and learning about architecture and some interior design, making it a great holiday gift!

Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress


Teens will have a blast learning how to make their own website with the help of this fun, illustrated introduction to the basics of website-building. Mix creativity with real world empowerment.  The awesome cartoon guide will help teens learn the basics and pretty soon, they’ll have a website all their own to show off to all their friends.

Readers learn how to use HTML tags, make their own site shine with CSS, customize WordPress to fit their needs, and choose a company to host the site. They also get advice on things like how to pick a good domain name – and those of you in the blogging sphere know that’s no joke!

Help kids stop dreaming of their perfect website and start making it!


LogicRoots Games Reviews: Ocean Raiders & Say Cheese

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Math has never been my favorite subject to teach.  It’s okay, but numbers and hard facts just aren’t my favorite things.  That’s why I was excited to be given the chance to review two math games from LogicRoots.

 The first is called Say Cheese.  It’s a multiplication game that stems from a short story you read from the direction booklet.  After that, you distribute cloth bags and the game chips. 

LogicRoots Review: Math Games @ A Nest in the Rocks

Following the rules, you take turns spinning the spinner and following the directions with your chips until someone has none left.  With each turn, your task is to determine whether the number on your chip is a multiple of the number on the spinner.  With some large numbers on the chips, this can be a bit of a challenge.

My Big Helper was totally up for that.  She enjoyed seeing how fast she could determine whether the chips had multiples and usually knew super fast.  She liked using big numbers from the spinners and was in it to win it.  My Little Man, on the other hand, while he played doesn’t love multiplication.  He enjoyed the game but it wasn’t his favorite.

The directions were a bit complicated to figure out.  Several times we’d continue play and then have to refer back to the directions to clear something up.  Several times we still weren’t sure what we were supposed to do and so just made up our own rules.  Part of this, I think, is because English was apparently not the native language of the people who wrote the directions.  Also, they often gave examples of the rules instead of just explaining them.  Since it is a simple kids’ game, however, this wasn’t a major problem. 

All in all, the game was fun.  The pieces were colorful and kid-friendly, and it definitely challenged the players to know their math facts.  The storyline was cute and the rules are simple.  This is definitely a fun, educational game – and best of all, it would be easy to create variations that could extend the usefulness of the game.


  • Colorful pieces
  • Strong math ties
  • Simple rules
  • Variations would be easy to create
  • Not your traditional math game – asks students to work backwards for find answers
  • Costs under $20


  • Instructions are somewhat unclear and include a few grammatical errors
  • It may take some time for students to get accustomed to identifying factors instead of solving mathematical equations

The second game we played is called Ocean Raiders.  This game is about addition and includes a variation for subtraction.  This game has a board and strongly resembles Chutes and Ladders.  The board contains 49 spaces in a non-linear order and has tornadoes that move a player randomly around the board.  Essentially, you roll the die and then add that number to the number of the space on which your token stands.  Because the board spaces are scattered randomly around the board, the student can’t simply count the proper number of spaces but must add the two numbers together in order to move ahead.

LogicRoots Review

My Little Man loved this game.  He had fun zooming his token around the board and especially loved rolling the die, which isn’t a cube.  It’s unusual shape makes it even more fun to roll.  I appreciate the variations that are included in the rule book.  My son knows his addition facts well, and so we completed the game in far faster time than the directions estimated, but it was still fun.


  • Educational
  • Colorful, fun materials
  • Sturdy construction
  • Easy to understand
  • Simple rules
  • Several people can play at once
  • Costs less than $20


  • Could be fun for a limited time only
  • This same basic game could be played using other game boards, like Uncle Wiggly or Chutes and Ladders

These games would make great gifts!  If you have kids learning their addition or multiplication facts, these games would make great additions to their educational tools.

I received a free copy of these games by LogicRoots.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Club: “The Lemonade War” Boys vs. Girls

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This month we broke all the book club rules and declared war:  The Lemonade War (The Lemonade War Series)""“>The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, in which a brother and sister make a bet about who can earn the most money by holding lemonade stands during a five-day period.  We took up the challenge.


The girls went first.  They met in the morning to plan the details of their stand, including choosing a charity to which they could donate their profits.  The girls chose St. Jude’s Research Hospital.  They made posters, detailed plans for added value, good customer service, and how to make change.  After that they ate a picnic lunch and packed up their gear.


We set up their stand at the local Tractor Supply store, where the generous manager had given permission for us to work outside.  The girls stored their money in a toy cash register and traded jobs to experience all aspects of lemonade stand business.


The boys met this week.  They followed the same routine as the girls, choosing Samaritan’s Purse/Nepal Earthquake Victims as their charity.  The boys determined to raise more money than the girls – and just like in the book, the girls refused to divulge how much money they had.


The biggest difference between the two stands was the way that they handled themselves onsite.  The girls were fairly reserved, while the boys were outgoing. 


They even made posterboards and danced down the sidewalk with them. 

In the end, the groups made more than $160 total for their charities – and I think they’ve learned a little bit about business and marketing, too.

Has your child ever run a lemonade stand?

For more business ideas, check out these great resources:


APlusTutorSoft Review & Giveaway

Math Adaptive Testing with Lesson Plan Freebie & Giveaway @ A Nest in the RocksWe recently had the opportunity to try out a new math program, the Adaptive Placement Tests with Lesson Plans from APlusTutorSoft. 

This was our first foray into doing any core subject online, and we really like it!

Math is not my kids’ favorite subject.  My Big Helper dreads it.  As a very visual and creative person, she dislikes the repetition necessary to learn most processes, and since she thinks things through slowly, math can take a very long time.  I knew that she was working within her grade level, but extra practice would be beneficial.

On the other hand, My Little Man picks up new mathematical concepts almost instinctively.  He can estimate answers and get very close, even when learning new skills.  Somehow he just ‘gets’ it – but that also means that it’s tough to know when he really has something down, like simple math facts, or when he’s just able to get close most of the time.  I also knew that his math book was not as challenging for him as I’d hoped, and I wanted him to work with something tougher, either in his grade level or in a higher level.

Would the Adaptive Placement Tests with Lesson Plans from APlusTutorSoft work for them both?


This program works for them both – in some really cool ways.

At first, your student takes a test.  Everything in this program is 10-12 questions, so it’s reasonably short.  The tests are timed, with plenty of time given for each question – and the questions are all either multiple choice or type-in-your-own-answer.  What makes these test effective is that there is a test for very specific skills:  number sense, addition, subtraction, geometry, etc.

When your student finishes, s/he submits the test, and a score is given with immediate feedback.  Your student will know right away if s/he has passed the test and can move on or if s/he needs to work more on this skill.  A pie graph is also available to show this pictorially, and both of my kids try hard to get the whole graph to be ‘green’ for ‘all correct.’  They LOVE that feature.

If your student has not passed the test, then a lesson plan is generated with video lessons and practice worksheets – again with no more than 12 problems.  That’s the feature that My Big Helper likes the most – she knows exactly how many problems she’s done and how may more there are – and it’s never more than 12. 

You can choose the lessons and worksheets you want your child to do, and then s/he can retake the test.  (Generating extra worksheets is also an option if you need more practice.)  When your student has passed the test, s/he can move on to the next area.

This is the only part of the process I have an issue with.  After my kids took the tests, we chose to go back and review how they did on it.  Usually they had only one or two specific skills that needed extra work – but the lesson plan was not geared specifically for that.   There is always lesson-videos and worksheets for every skill on the test, no matter how much or little the student has missed.  I would prefer for the results to be more specific.

There is an up side to that, though: My Little Man absolutely loves doing math on the computer, and he remembers which skills he enjoyed on the test and always asks to do extra worksheets after he’s completed his daily assignment.  If the lesson plans were more specific, this would not be so easily accomplished, so even in this, my least favorite aspect of the program, there are benefits.

And because it’s on the computer, My Little Man is always eager to do math now.  He loves sitting down in my chair and logging into the program to see if he can get his pie chart completely green.

So we’re now big fans of the Adaptive Placement Test with Lesson Plans from APlusTutorSoft.  Math time is now rigorous, enjoyable, and tear-free.

Works for me.

Want to try out APlusTutorSoft for free?  Check out this freebie!

Download FREE “Time” Software ($21.95) ValueUse Coupon Code: Time4Aplus. This Time Teaching Software (valued at $21.95) introduces your students to Time. It teaches them about days, weeks, months and year, seconds, minutes and hours, telling time using analog and digital clocks, duration of time, converting units of time, and about finding and adding elapsed time.

You can also watch this video to see this program in action – OR enter to win usage of the Adaptive Test with Lesson Plan from APlusTutorSoft for up to 10 students!  Use the widget below to enter.  Good luck!

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature

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One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the ability to learn from what’s happening around us, and that includes the weather.  It’s snowed several times in the past two weeks, which is pretty rare here in the Carolinas, and so we make the most of it.

We don’t take the day off from school for snow; instead, we declare ‘Snow School is in Session’ and make our school day all about the snow.

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

One way to do that is to head outside and search for fractals.

Fractals are irregular patterns frequently found in nature.  They involve unusual and similar shapes that make up patterns.  Think snowflakes.  Each stem of the snowflake is the same as the other stems, with smaller stems branching off from the main one and then smaller stems off of that one.  Each of those repeating, identical stems make the flake a fractal.

Humans tend to put easily recognizable shapes in patterns, like squares and triangles and circles, but God uses the beauty and symmetry of fractals in His, and finding them makes for a very fun Snow School day.

So send your kids outside in the snow or the sunshine with a camera or a notepad and pencil to find as many fractals as they can.

Can you find mine?

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

Snow School: Finding Fractals in Nature @ A Nest in the Rocks

Want to know more about fractals?  Check out these resources:


Field Work Friday – Exploring Shackleford Island



While we were on the North Carolina shore a few weeks ago, we took the ferry to Shackleford Island to do some exploring.  Shackleford is home to more than 100 wild horses, and it’s also known as one of the East Coast’s best shelling beaches.  I still don’t know why that is, but we had fun confirming it.

Exploring Shackleford Island

I bought a simple North Carolina shelling guide at a book store on Emerald Isle.  It’s a really big waterproof pamphlet, perfect for taking out onto the beach to identify shells and wildlife.  We used it a lot after our expedition to Shackleford because we had lots of shells to identify, some of which we’d never seen before. 

We dressed in swimsuits with clothes over top, and that was perfect for our trip.  The ferry drops you off on the sound side of the island, and while we decided that the ponies would be fun to see, our goal was to find fun seashells.  The captain directed us to the ocean side of the island, and after walking across we hadn’t gone far before we found huge pieces of shells.  Walking in the surf as the tide was coming in, huge WHOLE shells started rolling in right at my feet.  I’ve never seen anything like it!  While my husband and My Little Man eventually took off to explore more of the island, My Big Helper and I found a good spot where the waves were crossing paths and started shelling.  We found whole conchs, Sallie’s Augers, big pieces of sand dollars, and whelks, too.  We’re still trying to identify exactly which within those categories some of the shells are, but it was an amazing experience.

While our intention wasn’t to ‘do school’ – we were just joining some family members on the trip – it was the perfect way to do it.  We sat on a beach towel, eating apples and crackers, soaking up the sun and identifying shells and wildlife.  We compared shell edges and measured the with our fingers as my husband explained about the tides and the geography of the Outer Banks.  It was science and math and research and nature all rolled into one.

I love homeschooling.

As an added bonus, the ponies were hanging out near the ferry pick-up when it was time for our trip back to the mainland, and we got to see five.  Score!

I’ve also discovered that we love seashells, so we’re going to be working to make official collections with our shells over the next few weeks.  Fun!

Do you like seashells? What’s your favorite field trip ever?

Field Work Friday – The Oreo Olympics

The Oreo Olympics are here!  We spent a morning playing around with Oreos – and doing a lot of math, too.  To do this activity, each family brought their own package of Oreos – or imitation Oreo cookies – to work with.  Each pulled out a few to eat later, and the rest were used for this project.

We started out with Oreo towers.  The kids assembled themselves into small groups and began working with their package of Oreos.  The idea was to see who could create a tower using the most Oreos.

(I had issues with my camera that day – mainly because I forgot it – so I used my cell phone.  I apologize for the blurriness.)  First, the groups started stacking Oreos ….

but even the smallest ones quickly began to get creative with their towers.

A few people stuck with single towers …

Many others began to experiment with foundations to their towers.

The towers started to get wider …

and then taller …

and then even thicker as the groups began to find ways to incorporate more cookies into each tower.  It was great to hear the kids counting their cookies over and over again (using one-to-one correspondence) and finding stopping places to begin later (counting on) and adding like towers (addition) and balancing cookies (symmetry and physics).

After finishing our towers, we used the cookies as a means of nonstandard measurement.  Instead of measuring with rulers, we measured with cookies!  This is easy for very young children to do and also encourages counting and one-to-one correspondence.  This group didn’t quite have the same vision, so each child measured the length of the table going in a different direction!

Another group did the same thing.  In the end, this is how their measurement looked.

Next we competed for the longest Oreo roll.  This used more nonstandard measurement, because we used the floor tiles to determine how far each cookie went instead of inches or feet.  One talented youngster rolled her cookie for a grand total of 21 tiles – and they weren’t tiny ones!  (We did find that the REAL Oreos worked best for this part of the project.  The generic ones were just too bumpy along the edges.  Just a hint.)

And then, finally, we ate those cookies being held in reserve.  One can only stand to be in a room smelling of Oreos for so long without eating them, you know?  😉

Other activities you could do with Oreos:
– write an “Ode to an Oreo”
– research the history of Oreos
– determine how long you are in Oreos
– determine how heavy you are in Oreos
– make “dirt” pudding
– write an original recipe using Oreos
– determine how many Oreos it would take to cover your desk/table
– write a fictional story about Oreoland

May the best Oreo Olympian win!

Field Work Friday – Scavenger Hunts at Duke Gardens

This week we ventured to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, part of Duke University.  I planned several scavenger hunt sheets so that our children, who usually range in age from 1 to 8, could all participate in some way.

Because the temperature was supposed to get into the mid-90s, we met at 9 AM.  After arranging our meeting places and picking up maps, we headed out into the 50+ acre garden.

While I was excited about searching out different items with My Little Man and then discussing them with the group as a whole over a picnic lunch, I was very excited to introduce my friend Noelle to our group.

Noelle has been honing her photography skills for years and agreed to take pictures of our children while we hunted throughout the garden.  Because this particular garden is so diverse and has so many fountains and special features, it makes the perfect place for special pictures.

(If you would live in our neck of the woods and would like fabulous pictures of  your children or next event, you can check out Noelle’s blog.  Contact her for more information!)

We’ll have Noelle’s pictures back soon, but you can see some of the topics for the various scavenger hunts.  We didn’t do all of these, but we found pieces of them all ….

For those of us doing the number hunt, we found a plant with ONE main base.

For those people doing the color search, we found an animal with RED wings.

We found a rock that could be used like a chair, just as Jessie did in The Boxcar Children, for those people doing the literature hunt.

We found SPHERICAL flowers, a shape needed on the shape hunt.

Of course, all that hunting made us very hot and thirsty ..

It was tempting to just step right off those stones …

but we stuck to our water bottles, instead.

If you would like to take these scavenger hunts outside yourself, you can find copies of them here.

Have you done an old-fashioned scavenger hunt lately?  What interesting things can you find in your backyard or local park?