Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fishing Spider

Noor found this half-eaten, dried-up Fishing spider carcass in the bathroom.  It looks like she died with a sac of eggs.

Photos taken with our Celestron microscope

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sapo means toad

Due to car trouble, our camping trip to the Jamaica river in Vermont was postponed so Michael took Noor and Abbey to the Brandywine tonight to swim. Noor drew quite a crowd of kids eager to learn how she catches sapos (toad in Spanish)

Friday, June 24, 2011


Noor noticed the dreaded aphids are back on the Rose of Sharon in the yard. We looked at them under the microscope--they look like baby armadillos!

We finally figured out how to capture a still shot from the scope's Quicktime recording

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Herbal First Aid

Michael and Noor went to the first class in a series of Herbal Medicine workshops our friend and fellow unschooler April Couburn is putting on through the summer and early fall.  They learned about the healing benefits of local plants like Chickweed, which Noor chewed up into a pulp and placed on her infected mosquito bite, which healed almost instantly

Next they made a burn spray with Aloe and Lavender.  Bella and Noor helped each other with their mixes.

The two old friends were very happy to spend some time together.  Bella's mom Lisa took this beautiful photo

We're all very excited for the rest of the workshops!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dragon Cat from a Dark Dimension

Noor learned how to use Quick Time to record her screen sessions and last night Michael helped her use iMovie to speed up the clip and add music. She posted her first Speed Paint on YouTube; she wrote the description, minus the music credits.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Femme Fatale

Outside tonight, Noor asked: "Do fireflies choose if they will blink or not?"

I said I thought it was a form of communication and she said, "Yea, to attract a mate...but do they get to chose if they want to attract a mate?"

So we looked it up. Noor didn't find the answer definitive, but we learned something else cool in the process.

Males looking to mate walk a thin line between sex and death every time they flash their light. Females of thePhoturis genus of North American have figured out how to turn amorous males into an easy meal. They’ve developed an ability to replicate the mating flash code used by the Photinus genus. The Photuris females will flash back their hacked code in response to males, and when the poor suckers come looking for some loving, they walk into a dinner date that won’t end well.
Not only do the femme fatales get a meal, but they also pick up an insurance policy against getting eaten themselves. Photinus fireflies have a natural defense against predators in the form of steroidal chemicals called lucibufagins, which Photuris fireflies lack. When a female Photuris cannibalizes a male Photinus, though, the toxins slip into her bloodstream. She’s now got a defense against hungry predators and can even pass the protective chemicals onto offspring.

Math, Measurements, States of Matter, Yummy Gummy Candy and TICKS!

Noor has been eyeing the Smithsonian Gummy Bug Lab kit for months and decided to spend her allowance on it this week (Thank you Michael's Craft Store for the 50% off coupon!).

She mixed up the ingredients, according to the instructions and also added some of our vegetable food colorings to make the colors brighter and mix colors that weren't included in the set.

We talked about gelatin and how it activates a change in matter from liquid to solid.

Noor put the gummy candies in the fridge because the cold would speed up the hardening process and then she noticed she had a tick climbing on her leg.  Luckily, it hadn't attached yet.  She removed the tick and put him in alcohol, where it took 7.5 minutes for him to die.  We identified our species as a male dog tick, which thankfully isn't a Lyme carrier. The smaller tick in the photo is one we took off of Oliver. It is a female nymph deer tick, which is the main carrier of Lyme in our neck of the woods.  Yuck.

Update:  Threw the candy away; it tasted disgusting and smelled even worse. We talked about advertising and marketing, how this was the second Smithsonian science kit that had lousy results; photos on box looked completely different than product. (Boo, Smithsonian.) Noor decided not to return it because the heavy-duty plastic bug mold that came with the kit will be good to have for other projects.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Returning Water Snake to her home

Noor caught a baby water snake at Ashland yesterday and she begged to take it home overnight.  Michael agreed and they brought her back today.  We think she is a baby Queen Snake, but we're not sure. She was about 5-6 inches long.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More wetlands

Our own creek is teeming with life, but it is still exciting to check out other local wetlands.  Noor found large salamanders yesterday at Ashland Nature Preserve, as well as a small water snake and spittlebug foam

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beetle Identification

Noor found three Patent Leather Beetles a few nights ago. Once we identified them and discovered that they're easy to care for, she made them a habitat with rotting wood (their food source) and damp paper towels. They are amazing to watch and listen to.  Sometimes two of them will wrestle and the sounds they make, a sort of clicking, can be very loud. We learned that they can make 17 different sounds to communicate and that they live in colonies with some semblance of a social structure.

Noor also found a Potato bug and this really beautiful Red Oak Borer Beetle. Everyone seems okay living together.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


We learned that a good indicator of stream health is the presence of crayfish, so we were quite pleased to find so many living in our creek. Noor has become very adept at figuring out what kind of rocks they like to hide under.  We're keeping these three for a few days to study and then we'll return them to their natural habitat.