A site about our home, doing it yourself, science in schools, and the ramblings of a girl who appreciates a joy in her life.

Sunday, July 31

Literary Themed Party Part 2- DIY votive holders, vases, and food trays

So it has been a crazy year and I am super behind on posts, but finally, here are some of the instructions on how to make some of the great decorations that we used at the Literary Bridal Shower. For the final pictures go look here: http://www.homelifescience.com/2015/12/literary-themed-bridal-shower-part-1.html

All of my supplies together prior to work time!

So the first decoration that I pulled together was a simple food tray. I found the glass tray at a GoodWill and then picked a book with lots of text but not any text that really stood out. (Don't want to reach for a snack and see a bad word :))

Here is the step 1 in the food tray
I cleaned the glass tray bottom and then using decoupage glue, fanned the pages out along the bottom. I actually wanted the pages to stick out around the end. I just made sure to cover both sides of the pages well with the glue so they were nice and stiff.
I added book pages to the bottom of a party tray to add to the theme. 

The finished tray ready for food!

I took some old clear class votives that I already had and decoupaged the pictures from a science text I picked up at the local GoodWill Bins for a dollar. I just ripped out the pictures and then layered them onto of the glasses in hopefully a random order. This was such an easy project and went super fast. 

Some of the pages with interesting pictures on them. 
I decopaged the pages from a science book onto small votives. 

For vases I wanted to have something that would not ruin the vases themselves, but still it the nice literary theme. 

To make the vases, First rip out the pages from a book or use a hobby knife to cut a straight edge
Second, tape the first page down to the glass. Third and so forth, tape a page about an inch over and wrap around the vase until all of the glass is covered. You only need to use a small piece of clear scotch tape on the inner edge. I then tied a piece of twine around the outside to finish up the look.

On the left we have the clear glass vases, while on the right we have the finished project. 

These were some simple projects that took maybe an hour all together to complete. The longest part was waiting for the glue to dry. Also, making sure that glue was all the way dried prior to me touching it. :) Ok, so I got excited and kept picking things up and getting glue everywhere. 

I still have the candle holder votives from the party and they look great as accents in my house. I even have people compliment me on them. I love the little touch of nerd with the science photos. When I was making them, I also made a few using old sheet music that turned out great. If you wanted to go a musical route, that could be a great option. 

Thursday, December 31

Literary Themed Bridal Shower Part 1

So my lovely friend Josalyn was getting married! Now she has 3 bridesmaids and two events that needed to be planned. Both of the other bridesmaids really wanted to throw the bridal shower and the bachelorette party. I was OK with it since, I am prettified of hosting a bad party. :) However after much discussion, it turned out that my house was the optional location for the bridal shower since it was in the "middle" of where everyone lived. Since it was at my house I wanted to help out and make sure that Josalyn had a really special day. The other bridesmaid came up with a great idea of a literary themed party. I had never heard of it before, but I got swept up in  all of the ideas!

After looking around on Google, I found a whole bunch of ideas for things we could use as decorations for the party! I really like the look of pages from books being reused. For this post, I am going to give a quick overview on the decorations, then I will link to the how-to posts.
I made votive candle holders with book pages, sheet music, and scientific drawings. 
This was one of the food platters.
Some of the vases using pages and twine. 

We put together the votive holders and and vases using pages from books. 
I got glassware used from Salvation Army. One of the other bridesmaids brought these lovely blue scarves to use as table runners. 
I made a paper runner from an old German book and hung it above all the windows and door ways. 
This is a dark photo of the runner.
A better photo. I just used paper bags as the backing. 
We took shredded book pages and placed them in glass jars. To go along with the blue accents, one of the bridesmaids cut out blue heats and pasted on heats made from book pages. It looked so nice.
So keep an eye for the tutorials on how to make all of these things. It was such a great party and looked so nice using not very expensive materials. I have a ton of books at my house so we piled them up around as a nice accent.

Thursday, October 15

Summer Happenings-Why Professional Development Matters

Ok, so I know its October, but school started and hit me like a Mac truck. It has taken me a while to get caught up. :)

So, Whew what a summer we had. We traveled, we napped, we experienced nature, and we learned science. I had the opportunity to go to a couple of different professional developments. What struck me was how much importance we place on the educational language in teacher training and the  lack of content. I was super lucky to find some great development that focused on content knowledge for teachers. But, how do we change what professional development looks like? Why is this important? What should teacher professional development look like?

For me, the answer to why teaching content is important is found by comparing two of the training's I did this summer. In July, I got to travel Milwaukee Wisconsin, to attend a biology training given by the Center of Biomolecular Modeling at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. It. Was. Amazing. We spent a week learning hands-on modeling,speaking with top researchers, and learning content. Sometimes it was over my head, sometimes I knew it all, but it pushed me to learn and grow as a teachers.
One of our fabulous leaders giving us some quick info before we model it

So at CBM, they give you instruction on the concepts and then help you model it. You lead yourself in the teaching and then share that knowledge with your co-teachers. They brought in the leading researchers to let us know the most up-to-date information. As teachers, to be respected and treated as a peer of these researchers was such a different experience from the normal PD where someone in the front tells you how to fix your classroom. I think teachers need professional development where we are trusted to teach and given the deep content knowledge to help extend our students knowledge. 

Mapping out the neuron
One of the great activities we did was to connect our prior knowledge to help each other understand how neurons work. Each table was given a large sheet of butcher paper and asked to write out how we each individually thought neurons worked. Then we worked together as a group to correct misconceptions or share what we all did not know. We were given a little bit of content knowledge and then some modeling tools to actually map out a neuron. It was amazing and allowed us to really understand the process. 

A community of learners and now connected professionals
We ended the week with a community of professionals that we could turn to during the year to ask questions, support each other, or just remind each other that we are knowledge seekers and professionals in our field. We all keep in touch with an email system that is a wonderful reminder of the week an our content knowledge.

Hey, if you want to know more about CBM, head over to http://cbm.msoe.edu/ to learn more. :)

Now let me tell you about the other professional development I took this summer; I was offered a great opportunity to learn about systems thinking and how to integrate it into our classrooms. I was excited to learn more about how to teach a great idea. However, it quickly became a big lecture on what to do better. We did some great hands-on activities, but we listened to a lot of talking. I can't remember a single thing from it. Sorry, I tried. I took good notes I thought, but not a thing to do in my class. However, ask me about my CBM training. Let me tell you about my knowledge on membranes and how drugs work. Let me tell you about the stories I learned to tell my students about. Let me tell you about how drugs affect your brain. I could go on. 

To be truthful, I think I rambled on a bit in this, but I think its a big problem of our education system in how we train and respect teachers. We need teachers to know more about the content then what we even tell the kids. It allows us to see the bigger picture The more knowledge that you have, the better you can see the bigger picture. So as teachers, we need to ask for PD that gives us content and does not just lecture at us. We need to support and spread the word about the good PD so other teachers can do it too. So here is the list of great some free professional development I know about. I hope that it has some good resources to help you!

Advanced Biology and modeling: http://cbm.msoe.edu/

Elementary Oceans info: http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/edu/collection/hdwe.html

Free Graduate Level ocean/atmosphere/climate change classes: https://www2.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/education-careers/education-program/k-12-teachers/

Soil Science: https://www.nutrientsforlife.org/

Sunday, May 31

Raised Garden Beds

We have a nice little backyard, but with the dog, the huge cherry tree attracting birds, and our blatant disregard for yard work, our backyard can get wild looking. To help fight back the wild nature of our yard, and help us in our never ceasing quest for the least amount of yard work as possible we buit a bunch of raised garden beds. The raised garden beds are really nice! They are a contained space to weed and mulch. The beds are a little off the ground so they are easier to get out. They look good, I mean really swanky. Plus, the garden beds were cheap to make!
So here is our lovely garden beds planted May 2nd, 2015. They are all ready to go!
 To get started making the garden beds, you need to gather your tools. We used to screw guns. One that was lighter and easier to handle to put the screws in, and a heavy duty plug in screw gun to pre-drill the holes.

We used rough cut cedar 2 by 4's. You have to use Ceder because it is naturally rot resistant. Also, this stuff can not been chemically treated which is good to have around the plants you want to eat someday. :)

To save costs, we got 8 foot boards and had Home Depot cut them in half. Each garden box takes 6 boards. The boards cost about $7 each. So you are looking at a cost of $42 in wood alone. 
We pre-drilled two holes on the ends of each board. You can drill holes on one end of all the boards really fast at one time. We were actually building 3 boxes at once, so it was really nice to get them all done ASAP. 

We used 3 inch outdoor screws to hold the boards together. With 2 on each end, it made each square really secure. 

You want to make the next layer of squares. However, when you do this, take some care to "switch" the end pieces. What I mean, is that you don't want the ends to all be the same, you want them to look staggered like puzzle pieces. By putting the screws in on the different sides, it helps stabilize the box, make it less likely to fall off on the ends when full of dirt, and looks nice!

After you have two squares done, you need to attach them together. We got out the big screw gun again and drilled a hole about half-way down one board. Then you drop in the outdoor screw and drill it down to the bottom square to attach it. We did this on each side.

A finished box, up on the saw horses.

The box, laid out in the garden
Once the box was made, we took it around back. We laid it flat on the ground and did not put anything underneath it. I did push the dirt around to level the box. We filled the box with garden dirt from our local dirt and mulch guys. A hard yard of dirt in our truck filled the 2 boxes the first time. The boxes do settle so you might want to top them off, or fill them much higher than you think.

All planted last year and ready to go!

We also made a long think box for a smaller space.
So we have had three of the garden boxes for two years, one garden box for one year, and then we just put out the last one this past month. Its nice, even though the boxes are years apart, they still al math nicely. People can't tell which ones are the much older or newer. Well the newest still has a little more weathering needed. :) The boxes are nice, and help me to keep the weeds done. Also, we just leave them uncovered all winter and rip out all the weeds in spring. Next year, I am going to add some fertilizer to the dirt. We have been pushing the boxes hard with plants each year and I want to make sure the soil stays good.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, February 4

Mrs. Neill goes to Washington-No Giant Rabbits though

So I won this thing. It was a big thing, it also came with a free ticket to Washington DC! So, since Erik and I had never been to DC we decided to head out a few days early and see the sights, enjoy our great country, and discovery that humidity won't kill you.

We were so excited to see Washington DC but we only had a few days. We wanted to try and fit in as much as possible. Its so expensive to fly across the US, so it was a great opportunity with the cost of one ticket covered.

On the first day, wee settled into Washington DC and used bikes to visit all of the monuments along the Washington mall. I would totally recommend this form of transportation. There are a millions bike locations and its easy to stop and swing by with the bikes.

On the second day of out trip we headed out to a quick tour through Gettysburg PA, followed by Manassas VA, then wrapping up in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 
We were a little hot and tired after walking and stopping so many times. 

The view over the battle field.

Hamming it up in front of the space shuttle! Such a highlight.