Geography Quest: Great Lakes Ice Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Great Lakes Ice Edition

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Surely you haven’t experience this winter without seeing a headline about ice on the Great Lakes. They keeping vying for my attention. After all, how can you resist the beckoning of icey satellite images of some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world? It’s been a long, cold winter for the northeast and many parts of the midwest and even the south. And with extended cold weather comes the ice. Today’s Geography Quest focuses on how much of the Great Lakes (and other other nearby waterways) are frozen.

Do The Great Lakes Really Freeze Over?

As I was doing the research for this Quest, I found some really stunning video and satellite photography. This first one shows time lapse footage of the Great Lakes (especially Lake Superior) freezing this season.

  • Find out if the Great Lakes have frozen over and if so, how often does it happen?
  • When is the last time the lakes froze to the extent they are frozen right now?
  • Which ones freeze the most often and/or the fastest?
  • Are there any that don’t freeze?
  • What factors account for the differences in how the lakes freeze?

Does Niagara Falls Freeze Solid?

Just last week there was a news segment on folks making the trip to the falls to see them frozen solid. What do you think?

I’ve been to Niagara Falls in late April when the sun is bright and warm and watched ice the size of cars flow over the falls. With all the ice on the Great Lakes this year, I’m sure the falls will remain icy for longer than usual.

What are Ice Jams?

I didn’t learn about ice jams until I moved to NY. It stands to reason that all this ice has to go somewhere. Already this winter we’ve seen flooding in our community caused by ice jams. More awaits since many of the creeks and their tributaries are still frozen and it looks like we’re due for a frost.

The first video shows a Coast Guard boat tasked with breaking up the ice on Lake Michigan to get the shipping industry moving again after winter.

The next video explains what ice jams are and it shows the ice built up on the Illinois River. Ice jams cause flooding when the water cannot pass around them.

Make Your Own Ice Maps

Chart your own ice maps by doing these few things:

  • Grab a map of the Great Lakes Region. I like to enlarge maps using the poster feature in the Adobe printing for pdf documents.
  • Estimate the amount of ice cover for each lake and color in the amount cover. Make a key for your map.

Blog, She Wrote: Great Lakes Ice Edition

Long Term Effects of Great Lake Ice Cover

What can you find out about the long lasting effects of so much ice cover?

  • How long will it take the ice to melt?
  • With so much ice to melt, how will that affect the summer swimming season? Water has a high thermal mass and take a while to warm up even without lots of ice!
  • How will the shipping industry deal with the ice? Will ships be able to navigate through to the St. Lawrence Seaway?

This has been an extraordinary year for cold weather in the northeastern and midwestern United States. Enjoy a look at ice formation on the Great Lakes.

 

Weather Stations & Forecasting

Blog, She Wrote: Weather Stations & Forecasting

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We studied weather with our Nim’s Island unit and I thought this would be a great time to add to this long standing post and bring it up to date with resources and ideas. The kids and I had some meetings over a few days to discuss exactly what we wanted to measure, where, how and how often. We tried a weather station a few years ago that bombed out because of equipment failure. It was just not designed to go the distance as you’ll see below.

The next time we tried, we pieced together our weather station down at our mailbox and the kids ambitiously decided to record the weather three times a day! You’ll have to design a data chart to accommodate the vision that your kids have. We wanted to track it daily long term which is fun for math and science pursuits. As you track the weather, you can introduce forecasting and statistics over time. We even did a math lesson using the Beaufort Wind Scale and median statistics.

Keeping a Weather Calendar

 

  • For a glance at our former weather calendar- it evolved into a workable version using small pocket charts from the Target dollar aisle.
  • There are many ways to keep a weather calendar. Many of you might have a weather observation during your morning time or circle time if you have one- displaying your weather observations is one option.
  • I prefer the notebook/data gathering method. Instead of each student keeping his own notebook of weather data, I like to have a common weather log where the kids record their observations for the day. The tricky part is finding the data chart that you want. I dislike trying to search for the perfect page for notebooking so I went to notebook paper a long time ago. Decide all the things you want to record and keep a log book handy.

 

Resources for Studying Weather from Preschool to High School

 

Book List for Weather Studies

It’s a long term science project to incorporate weather into our nature and unit studies throughout the year.

Explorental Offers a Weather Meter Rental

Explorental is a company which offers high quality equipment and materials for short term rentals to families. The Multi-Function Weather Meter can measure many of the measurements we’ve been tracking in a small hand held digital form. If you aren’t sure to begin with a weather station or you want to track weather in the short term, then try out this handheld digital weather meter from Explorental.

I think it’s fantastic Explorental is excited about getting big ticket items into the hands of families. What does your family want to explore together?

Blog, She Wrote: Explorental

Geography Quest: Groundhog Day Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Groundhog Day Edition

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It’s that time of year again when Punxutawney Phil comes out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and either sees his shadow or doesn’t. Otherwise known as Groundhog Day, this tradition has been around since 1887 when a group of groundhog hunters named themselves the groundhog club. Let’s go questing and find out more about this weather predicting cultural event!

Find Out More about Punxutawney Phil & Groundhog Day

Geography is more than just places on the map. It’s also about culture and the people in a place. A look at United States culture would not be complete without a mention of Groundhog Day. Elementary students all over have colored and cut at least one Groundhog project in the past week, right? Of course.

  • Find out more about when the tradition of Groundhog Day started. Visit the official Punxutawney Groundhog website.
  • How about some Groundhog Day lessons?
  • A post about studying Groundhog Day from last year- this is a nice one if you need to let go of any guilt of not having made any groundhogs with your primary kids!
  • What celebration did Groundhog Day come from that was a tradition for the early German settlers of Pennsylvania? (see the FAQ on the Groundhog site)
  • Map the location of Punxutawney, PA and Gobbler’s Knob. Where do the 20,000+ people go to see this forecast?

Weather Predicting & Climate Groundhog Style

While it may not be wise to get all of our weather knowledge from our favorite groundhog, Groundhog Day does give us pause to think about when spring will arrive. While weather itself is more earth science oriented, climate is most definitely a discipline of geography.

  • Did you see this year’s prediction? By now you’ve heard that Phil saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. Definitely take a few minutes to watch and hear the 2014 official proclamation.
  • Did you know that February 5th is Weather Forecasters Day? Is that a happy coincidence or are meteorologists keeping good company with critter forecasting?
  • How much more winter? This is a great opportunity to study climate trends at your latitude and to look at averages for when spring weather really arrives. Does Phil’s prediction match the expectations in your area this year?
  • Look at differences in spring’s arrival as you travel north away from the equator. Growing up in Maryland and living about 400 miles north of there in New York state has given me a whole new perspective on spring! I also experience big differences in the amount of daylight just 400 miles north. See if you can choose places on the map and compare their spring arrivals. Eye opening for sure!
  • A set of resources on the effect of latitude on climate- from cK-12 Foundation.

Enjoy a fun look at weather and climate as you explore more about Groundhog Day and look at the bright side… it’s February and for some of you that means spring is on the way soon- how soon? Study the climate and find out!

Methods for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

This week the iHN is hosting a Hopscotch on “How I Teach”. Here at Blog, She Wrote I’m sharing methods for teaching middle and high school students in all the major subject areas. We’ll be discussing strategy and curriculum. Today our topic is language arts.

Strategies for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts

My philosophy on teaching writing and language skills from a young age is one of a coaching role. My job is to meet my writers where they are, give them the tools they need and how to use them and to help them to meet their goals. What is the goal? To be an effective written communicator. That’s what it’s all about.

  • Play with Words- enjoy exercises and fun ways to engage with words to increase vocabulary. Click the link to see five great ideas I wrote for Bright Ideas Press.
  • Collage Words- More details on reflecting on a word and exploring its meanings.
  • Resources for Coaching Writing- a list of some of my favorite resources for coaching writers.
  • Conferences- I meet with my kids regularly to go over their written work and to see what can be improved. I take a look at the first draft and usually ask the student to go back and self edit, naming the thing they are notorious for forgetting- whether that be correct capitalization or wild commas. If the piece of writing is hard to decipher because of poor organization/grammar/spelling, I have them read it to me. When they read it aloud they realize that without grammar conventions/organization, the reader will not experience the piece the way the author intended. This goes a LONG way to encouraging kids to edit their work.
  • Writer’s Workshop- I’ve been hosting a workshop that includes my kids along with about five other homeschoolers in our home since September. I’ll be posting more detail on this soon, but having kids write for an audience is one of the best investments I’ve made in time this year. If you’d like a little more information now, click the link above on Resources for Coaching Writing.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

Our Favorite Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum

  • Cover Story- This is a middle school writing program written by Daniel Schwabauer, the creator of One Year Adventure Novel. My 6th and 8th graders are working on building the pieces to their own magazine issue based on a theme they chose. There are video lessons which are well done along with resources for the parents. The younger siblings of OYAN students approve!
  • WriteShop- WriteShop Junior & WriteShop I and II. I love WriteShop for its ability to break down the writing process into pre-writing, drafts/editing, and final, published copy. We use this between the informal early elementary years and the time we begin creative writing and expository writing programs. I also use units from WS 1&2 to help with organizations of essays at any time during the teen years.
  • One Year Adventure Novel - Write a novel in one school year. That is the aim of OYAN and it is adored by us all. The lessons are thorough and draw the students in. My two favorite things (besides the novel) are: 1) How the curriculum provides excellent talking points about literature with our teens. 2) The community Mr. Schwabauer has created for teens to interact with each other. My 10th grader loves the OYAN forums where he can be himself and be in community with other kids who love books and stories as much as he does. There are also regular webinars with extra instruction.
  • Other Worlds- The follow up to the One Year Adventure Novel. This one is focused on writing fantasy and science fiction. My 10th grader is working on his fantasy novel. I enjoy the lessons on the history of science fiction and fantasy and how they are different from adventure.
  • Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings- Spend time immersed in the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wonderful vocabulary studies, chapter discussions, essays, and unit studies based on this fantasy tale.
  • Excellence in Literature- Classic literature is taught in four week modules with honors options. I have all five volumes so we can skip around. They are meant to be use 8th-12th grade. This program has been a great model of student led reading and writing on the classics and has been very successful so far.

Slow and steady wins the race. We try to keep moving forward and see our kids make progress in their writing skills. We add in what’s necessary as they gain skills so they can be stretched to the next level. Our kids are immersed in reading and writing in many forms from a young age and we love to watch them gain confidence as they get older. Coming soon news from our Writer’s Workshop!

The iHomeschool Network is hosting a Hopscotch series this week on “How I Teach”. Join other iHN bloggers to see how they teach Language Arts. You’ll find information on working with special needs all the way to gifted kids and everything in between.

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Geography Quest: Hurricane Tracking Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Hurricane Tracking Edition

We are coming into the end of the 2013 hurricane season, but there is still enough activity out there to track a storm. Have you ever tracked a hurricane by map?

Determine the Optimum Conditions for Hurricane Formation

  • Weather Wiz Kid has a page on Hurricanes which explains what they are and how they are formed.
  • Create-a-Cane from NOAA allows you to virtually create the ideal conditions to form a hurricane.
  • The Coriolis Effect- Watch the video below to find out how the Coriolis Effect determines where hurricanes are formed. Takes me right back to my graduate class in oceanography!
  • Locate on a map where most Atlantic hurricanes are formed. Does this area meet the ideal conditions?
  • Based on the information in the video, where do you think cyclones and typhoons are formed in the Pacific and Indian Oceans?

Track a Hurricane with a Hurricane Tracking Map

  • Hurricane Tracking Chart- for the Atlantic Basin
  • Use the chart and meteorological websites to keep track of tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
  • If you have a mobile device, it might be fun to find a hurricane tracking app. You can follow the storms that way as well.

That is a challenge should you choose to accept it. While the Atlantic hurricane season has been quiet this year, the cyclone season in the Pacific has not been. Enjoy a look at hurricane formation and tracking.

Follow along with all the Geography Quests. Make sure to subscribe via email and check any of Blog, She Wrote’s other social media outlets in my sidebar. Thanks for joining us!

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