NEW! A Linked Unit Study for Elise Broach’s “The Wolf Keepers”

Every once in a while, I read a book that I grabs all of my attention and screams to be used for fun with kids.  I love taking those books and turning them into fun unit studies for educational purposes, and Elise Broach’s new book The Wolf Keepers is just such a book.

Elise Broach

A high-stakes middle grade historical adventure through Yosemite National Park by the New York Times-bestselling author of Masterpiece.

Twelve-year-old Lizzie Durango and her dad have always had a zoo to call their home. Lizzie spends her days watching the animals and taking note of their various behaviors. Though the zoo makes for a unique home, it’s a hard place for Lizzie to make lasting friends. But all this changes one afternoon when she finds Tyler Briggs, a runaway who has secretly made the zoo his makeshift home. The two become friends and, just as quickly, stumble into a covert investigation involving the zoo wolves who are suddenly dying. Little do they know, this mystery will draw them into a high-stakes historical adventure involving the legend of John Muir as they try to navigate safely while lost in Yosemite National Park.

Elise Broach has written a fantastic novel around the real life story of John Muir!  I love the approach she takes with his mystery, and she deepens the story by adding layers upon layers of moral dilemmas.  While the story is suspenseful, it stays upbeat, even when there are large things afoot, making it the perfect book to carry deep, yet kid-friendly discussions.

Elise Broach

So what will you find in a unit study for The Wolf Keepers?

  • a vocabulary puzzle with answer key
  • discussion/comprehension questions by chapter
  • creative and expository writing prompts
  • research projects for history, science, math, and biographies
  • poetry and literature activities
  • art projects
  • a recipe

This work can be done individually or cooperatively.  You could assign all of it or just certain projects.  Students can work at their own pace, and safe links are provided to ensure a safe Internet experience.

The Wolf Keepers would make a fantastic book club book, as well!  

If you want to grab a copy of this unit study, you’ll find it here.

Happy reading!


NEW! Nature/Literature Scavenger Hunt Printable Pack

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You know I’m a super big fan of great books.  I love it even more when those books lead to more educational investigation, and that’s exactly what Julie Andrews Edwards’ book Mandy does.

Scavenger Hunt

Mandy, a ten-year-old orphan, dreams of a place to call her own. Escaping over the orphanage wall to explore the outside world, Mandy discovers a tiny deserted cottage in the woods. All through the spring, summer, and fall, Mandy works to make it truly hers. Sometimes she “borrows” things she needs from the orphanage. Sometimes, to guard her secret, she even lies. Then, one stormy night at the cottage, Mandy gets sick, and no one knows how to find her—except a special friend she didn’t know she had.

This is the perfect book for ten-year-old girls who love tiny houses and stories filled with hope.

Mandy is a classicly-styled story of a little girl dreaming for a home while trying to create her own in an abandoned garden.  The story lends itself perfectly to investigating more about the plants and animals that Mandy in her garden at the Shell Cottage, and that’s exactly what the Nature Scavenger Hunt to accompany Julie Andrews Edwards’ ‘Mandy’ will help your students do.  Perfect to be done as a family, book club, co-op, or class, this packet includes everything you need to study the flora and fauna in the book.

Mandy Cover

Inside, you’ll find:
– a listing of all plants and animals found within the book
– hyperlinks for all plants and animals for further research
– printable scavenger hunt boards for both the plants and the animals
– links to additional materials to make investigating nature fun
– a certificate of completion

Want to know more?  Come back later this week to find out how one of our book clubs used this packet.

What are your kids reading right now?


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!


Studying the Wild West: Going on a Trail Ride

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We’re studying the Wild West this semester, and it’s impossible to do so without noting the importance of the horse to this expansion.  From pioneers moving west to the Pony Express, stagecoaches, and cowboys, horses played a huge role in it all.  With that in mind, I scheduled a horse lesson and trail ride so that we could learn about horses firsthand.

Horse studies

Our lesson took place at a nearby church camp that includes stables.  Chris Burtner, their equestrian director, met us on a beautiful fall morning and talked to the kids about some horse basics: anatomy, behaviors, and horse etiquette.  There’s a lot to learn!

Horse studies

She also taught the kids about the frog, a soft, triangular part of the horse’s foot and how to care for it.  While she cleaned the frogs before the students came, an important aspect of horse care, she showed them how it’s done.

Horse studies

Next, everyone learned about the tack necessary for basic riding: saddles, saddle pads, curry combs, bits, reins, and bridles.

Horse studies

When they knew the basics, the students each retrieved a basket with the necessary tools for currying their horses.  Each was responsible for preparing his own horse to ride, and this gave them all time to bond with their animals.

Horse studies

My Big Helper especially liked this part.  I think they all fell a little bit in love with their mounts during this part of the lesson.

Horse studies

When there was no remaining dirt that might chafe the horse after being saddled, the kids were instructed individually about that process.  My Little Man was excited to learn each step of this process, and Burtner kindly walked him through it, checking behind him as he went.

Horse studies

He was quite proud of his accomplishment!

Horse studies

After everyone had curried, saddled, and mounted their horses, they headed out for a trail ride.  The forest was beautiful, and while several of the kids looked scared as they held the reins for the first time, they all returned with huge smiles on their faces.  Several asked immediately if they could head back out to the woods!

Horse studies

Unfortunately, time didn’t allow another ride, and so the kids learned how to unsaddle their horses, as well.  They put away their tack and rubbed down the horses following their ride.

Horse studies 

Since this ride, I’ve heard the kids who attended ask for more lessons.  They loved it!

Horse Studies

I’ve heard more than that, though:  the kids have talked about the feel of the horse, the way it felt to ride so high from the ground, and about how it smelled and sounded.  They’re using proper vocabulary when talking about the horses and equipment, and I can’t wait to read the way that their experiences factor into their stories and ideas about the role of horses in the Wild West.

Have your children ever ridden a horse?

Check out these resources for more information about horses and the Wild West:

Horse Studies

Rolling Sculptures: Art Deco @ the NC Museum of Art

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My Little Man adores cars, so when I heard that the North Carolina Museum of Art was hosting a new exhibit of rolling sculptures featuring 14 art deco cars from the 1930s and 1940s, I knew we had to go.

Art Deco

The exhibit opened on a Saturday morning, and we headed to the museum early to check out the car show happening in the parking lot that day.  I have absolutely no idea what sort of car this is, but I loved looking at the curvy lines of it.  It made me think of an old-fashioned Mickey Mouse car!

Art Deco

That’s what I discovered about many of these – that while I don’t understand the ‘wow’ factor that car-minded people might get, the artistic quality of these vehicles when compared to modern-day ones was something I could relate to.

Art Deco

Inside the exhibit, this was my son’s favorite.  He loved it – and while it looks small in the picture, it really wasn’t!  It reminded me of an antique VW bus.

Art Deco

This Pierce Silver Arrow was really impressive.  I thought My Little Man would totally love it … and he was talking about them before we headed into the exhibit itself, ….

Art Deco

but then he caught a glimpse of this one.  We couldn’t do anything else until we had thoroughly examined it.

Art Deco

That’s where he spotted this Bugatti.  This is his favorite type of car, and the details were fascinating.  It was covered with obvious seams and rivets for the sheer beauty of the detail work!  I don’t suppose this Bugatti was ever an everyday sort of car, but you just don’t see these kinds of curves on our cars today.  While we know more about aerodynamics than in the ’30s, all models have very similar shapes.  The way that the rivets decorated the metal seams reminded me of the way that people use overstitching to decorate special shirts. 

My Little Man loved leading me to one vehicle after another, and I loved watching his excitement throughout the exhibit.  It’s definitely worth the exhibit fee.  If you’re anywhere near Raleigh, NC, in the next few months, go check it out.

Art Deco

To learn more about art deco cars, check out these resources:


Book Clubbing and STEMing with Mr. Lemoncello

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Our book club year has started off with a bang – with Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics!  We combined the boys’ and girls’ clubs to interact with this fun Chris Grabenstein bestseller.

Chris Grabenstein

We started out by summarizing the book and then discussing the choices made by the characters.  After that, we split up into teams of four like in the book.  Each team worked together to choose a name and logo, which we then pinned to the back of each teammate’s shirt like the tag on a marathon runner.


Next, the teams worked together to solve the first STEM challenge.  I asked them to build something to solve a problem similar to what Mr. Lemoncello tasks the teams with in the book.


The teams were really creative with this project.

The challenges continued after that.  We played several games, including the First Lines game, just like in the story.  The worked together in teams to complete more STEM challenges and a few other literary ones, too.

The final set of challenges involve water balloons, and the kids loved these! 


The challenges don’t have to be done with water balloons, but with temperatures soaring into the ’90s and 12 bouncy kids, we all enjoyed the opportunity to learn with cool water.


These six challenges are based on literary skill and STEM challenges, and you can challenge your students in these same ways.  These challenges are for sale in one packet in my Teachers Pay Teachers store for only $4.    The packet includes printable medals for the winners, a sample schedule, directions for each challenge, and the materials for the First Lines game.

Who will be your Library Lover winner?

Do you still need a copy of the book?  Get yours here!



NEW! Literacy & STEM Challenges for “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics”

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You might have noticed that we’re big fans of Chris Grabenstein’s Lemoncello books around here.  That’s because they’re chalk-ful of learning opportunities.  There are so many ways that you can learn with these books – and that’s why I’ve written another series of lesson plans for Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.

Chris Grabenstein 

These lessons are different from any of the others I’ve written: instead of being a series of multidisciplinary research projects, these are all literacy- and STEM-related.  Each project can be carried out multiple ways to best fit the learning style of your students the and space available. 

These projects will test your students creativity and ability to work together.  They will be challenged to solve puzzles, name books, and build contraptions to solve problems.  Each project is directly related to one of Lemoncello’s Olympic tests for his heroes, and the packet includes printable medals that you can copy to distribute to your students.

These projects are perfect for public-schoolers and homeschoolers alike.  They would work beautifully for a book club or for literature circles.  They provide a way to celebrate the book and check for learning while having fun.

Isn’t that the most engaging and memorable kind of lesson?

You can find this and other learning activities here.

If you haven’t read Chris Grabenstein’s books yet, start with these:


Running a Festival Booth

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My Big Helper has been a beekeeper for two years now, and she’s always learning new things.  This past weekend, she learned how to run a festival booth at Ag Day at the Green Valley Book Fair.


Manning a booth at a festival was a huge learning experience for my eleven-year-old.  She’s a social butterfly but shy when meeting new people, and because she requires think time, it’s sometimes difficult to be able to respond appropriately to off-the-cuff comments (she’s SO like me in this regard!)

When she chose to do this, I knew she had the beekeeping knowledge to make this work.  I knew we could pull together enough supplies and hands-on materials to interest passersby.  I wasn’t so sure that My Big Helper would be willing to speak openly to strangers for several hours straight.

She didn’t seem worried, and she worked really hard to prepare.  We spent lots of time discussing plans for her booth and making lists of materials to pack.  My Big Helper chose 20 pictures from her work with the bees to print as 8x10s and then wrote clear, extensive descriptions about what was happening in each one.  She assembled both into a new, white binder and designed a cover in PicMonkey.  She hoped that people would look at her pictures and study her captions, which would teach them a lot about bees.

My Big Helper designed a multiple choice, ten-question quiz that she could pass out.  She also printed a coloring sheet and copied that on the back so that her handout could appeal both to little ones and older people.

The Book Fair advertised the various booths in advance with trivia related to each one, and My Big Helper shared about how it takes twelve honeybees to pollinate a single cucumber.  With that fact floating around, she sliced cucumbers and passed them out to people passing her booth.  This gave her a piece of information that she was ready to share with everyone who walked by, and after accepting a cuke, most people stuck around for more.  My Big Helper flipped pages in her binder to illustrate information that she was sharing and helped kids try on her veil.


She spoke from people of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly.  She answered all sorts of questions off the cuff and did a fabulous job at interacting.  She helped several people who want to become beekeepers and answered questions with barely a break for hours.

By the time she was finished, her only complaint was that her “cheeks hurt” from smiling so much.

I think that a few things helped to make My Big Helper’s booth a success:  having food to pass out enticed people to come over; having pictures and gear to touch and interact with kept people engaged; and having business cards and printables to take away kept information in their hands even after they left.  My Big Helper’s enthusiasm and newfound ability to converse with all sorts of people was also a big bonues.  That’s not to say there weren’t moments when it was obvious that she’s a kid, but this Mommy is super happy with how she handled herself that day.

As a homeschool teacher, I watched my student learn many things through this experience:  she worked on her writing, public speaking, and beekeeping knowledge.  She considered other points of view and had to be able to summarize information.  She needed to put information in terms that non-beekeepers could understand.

Manning a booth might seem like an adult thing to do, but with proper supervision, kids can do big things.  This Big Helper manned her first real festival booth this weekend – and it couldn’t have been a better experience.

What big thing do your kids want to try? 

For more information about kids doing big things, check out these resources:

When Art & Nature Journals Collide

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With sickness lingering and the grumpies encroaching, we all wanted something fun to do.  Since school was called off only because of nasty germs and not because we’d planned a break, I wanted something that would be fun enough to satisfy but studious enough to be considered school.  I still wanted that break, albeit later.  With sunny skies beckoning outside, I wanted to make good use of those, and so our science journals were calling my name – but then everyone would scatter.

While we enjoy doing those science journals, I anticipated complaints from those still feeling yucky about having to measure and detail anything specific.

Since I’d been wanting an art day for quite some time, this seemed the perfect time to break out the paint, but … springtime blooms screamed for study.

I decided to combine the two.

Science Journals

Instead of working on our traditional nature journals, I sent the kids out to find a pretty bloom.  My Big Helper came back with a beautiful dogwood blossom, and My Little Man found a tiny indigo flower with five petals.  They cheered when I pulled out canvases and paints.

We settled onto the deck with art supplies all around us, and with a good story going in the CD player, they got to work.  They painted and we listened and everyone worked for several hours.

Friends came to visit and we stopped to play.  In the end, tiredness won out and we resumed painting later.

But the kids were super excited to keep going by that point.


Both kids continued to paint additional pictures after the first assignment, and both of them were careful to examine their flowers in detail and add those into their work.

I think we’ll be doing more collision-style art in the future.

Do you do nature journals?  I’d love to  hear about your style!

We typically use a simple notebook we decorated just for this purpose, but our canvas work this day was especially fun.  Here are some other things we incorporate to mix up our science work:


Shared at:

A Little R & R