Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

I’ll be the first to admit…computers kinda scare me.  Oh, I adore them — e-mail, Facebook, blogs, surfing the abundant resources, shopping, etc. — but it’s like I live in constant fear that they will one day stop working.

And they always do.  The notorious Windows hourglass (which, in all honesty, should be updated to a flashing sign stating “What you are trying to do is IMPOSSIBLE”) or Mac’s prettier-but-just-as-frustrating spinning, rainbow wheel-of-death.

I don’t have the time or resources to go back to school and get a degree in computer science or programming.  But I do have time to join Code Year 2012, a free resource to learn computer programming.  Signing up is as simple as entering your email address on the main page.  Once signed up, participants will receive a new, interactive programming lesson each week.  As the website says, “You’ll be building apps and websites before you know it.”

If that isn’t enough, there is also CodeCademy where you can begin learning JavaScript coding immediately, should you choose not to wait for those weekly lessons to show up in your inbox.  The lessons are simple enough for students to do, so my 12 year old and 11 year old will be learning along with me.

I don’t think I’ll be adding hardware or building computers from scratch any time soon, but if I can lift the veil a little?  For free?  Sounds good to me!

For more information about Code Year 2012,  check out CNN Money’s article or Wired online.

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Looking for something different to do? Why not try your hand at agate hunting?

It is one of those perfect activities for younger kids and adults! I couldn’t begin to count the hours we have spent with our heads down looking for those stunning banded specimens. With some practice, you can acquire ‘the eye’ and spot them easily anywhere.

You can find agates distributed throughout northeastern Minnesota (as far south as the Twin Cities), northwestern Wisconsin and parts of Michigan.

Look along river beds, gravel pits and quarries, farm fields, parks and even in landscaping rock. Always get permission if you are on private property. We arm ourselves with squirt bottles and bags for our rocks.

Getting out and looking for agates is the best way I can think of to learn about some of our fascinating Minnesota geological history.

The formation of the agate dates back a billion years, and their distribution happened as glaciers moved through the area 10,000-15,000 years ago. The red coloring of the bands is caused by iron.

For more detailed information, follow the link below.


Minnesota has its own Geology Interpretive Center at Moose Lake State Park. Click on this link for details about the visitor center and for a list of rock books that are helpful for identifying what you have found!


Before you know it, you’ll consider yourself a ‘rockhound’!

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The heat has finally arrived in Minnesota!

Warm summer nights with daylight until nine o’clock is fantastic! We plan to observe moths this year at night.

Here’s how you do it:

Mix up a tasty moth brew (recipe below) a few days before you plan to observe them.

Paint large squares on trees at eye level with the ‘moth broth’. After dark, head out with flashlights covered with red cellophane or red tissue paper.

Hopefully you will have attracted some lovely moths to observe!

Luna Moth of Minnesota

More detailed directions are contained in the link below.

How to attract moths with homemade “moth broth”

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Ripe banana
  • Brown sugar
  • Stale beer or active dry yeast and warm water
  • Other ripe fruit such as pears, peaches, plums, and watermelons (optional)
  • 1-inch paintbrush
Here’s a link to help identify some local moths:

Butterfly or Moth?

Butterflies and moths belong to the insect group called Lepidoptera. How can you tell them apart? You are more likely to see butterflies during the day. They are diurnal, feeding during the day and resting at night. Most moths do the opposite: They rest in the daytime and feed at night. They are nocturnal creatures.

Have fun!

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We had an amazing experience this past week with toads!  Although I could barely hear my friend inviting us over on the phone due to the deafening mating calls of the hundreds of toads that were inhabiting her toad sanctuary, we accepted.  We spent the next two hours watching, listening, and photographing this very scientific scene.

It was literally a mating frenzy! It lasted for about 48 hours and the pond was then quiet again.

Note the eggs on the back in the picture above.

We can’t wait for tadpoles and toadlets!



This prompted us to make our yard a little more pleasing to our amphibian friends.

We made toad houses for just a couple of dollars each, by burying  terra-cotta pots sideways in the dirt and  filling them with dead leaves and sticks. Don’t forget to keep a little dish of water nearby! Toads are good for your garden — put up a ‘toad abode’ today!

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