Winter Solstice

Luminaries by Fran W.
Did you know…

The winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year and marks the first day of winter!

Activity: Make a luminary

Help light your way during the longest night of the year!

You will need...

  • A clean plastic milk or water jug any size – see through works best
  • Serrated kitchen knife - parental supervision suggested
  • Scissors
  • Black construction paper
  • Glue
  • Rice or sand (for use with a tealight with a flame)
  • A tealight candle flame-lit or battery powered, or a glow stick

Optional items: Foam stickers with a winter or Christmas theme, stencils, paper punches

What to do...

  • Starting from the bottom of the handle of your container, cut the top off with a scissor, or a serrated kitchen knife, and trim any jagged edges.
  • Cut out winter related icons from black construction paper and glue them to the outside of a plastic jug, or put foam stickers around the container.
  • Add your light source and turn out the lights or put the luminary outside.

Note: Put about an inch or two of sand or rice on the bottom of your container if you decide to use a flame-lit tealight candle and keep out of children's reach. If your flame is not bright enough, pop small holes in discrete places around the edge of the rice/sand to give the flame oxygen.

Here are some ideas...

Winter icons

Snowmen, snowballs, sled, candle, pine tree, snowflake, sleigh, holly, ice skates, penguin, mittens, cup of hot cocoa, hat/cap, cardinal, wreath, pine cone, gingerbread cookies, a bare tree, yule log, stag, a cabin with smoke coming from the chimney

Christmas icons

Santa, present, candy canes, reindeer, poinsettia, star, tree, Christmas ball, stocking, angel, bell  

Question of the day:

What is winter solstice?

Learn more:

The Winter Solstice

Explains the winter solstice

Sue Ellen's Scrapbook: Solstice

Read Sue Ellen's scrapbook to learn about solstice and the Yule celebration

Artists Helping Children: Winter Solstice

Crafts to celebrate the Winter Solstice

eThemes: Winter

This site provides educational links to other sites about the winter season

Connect with Funschooling & Recreational Learning!

Spark of the Day: Santa's Reindeer

Hand and foot reindeer with lights by Fran W.
Santa is looking for a reindeer to help pull his sleigh on Christmas Eve! You can help by creating a reindeer for Santa's famous Christmas Eve journey!  

To make the reindeer above, you will need:

Your hand, construction paper, a shoe, markers or crayons, scissors, glue, pom-pom, and googly eyes

Optional reindeer making items: Glitter, paper punches, stencils, bathroom tissue tube, paper bag, craft sticks, clothes pins, milk carton, paper plate, paper, paint and paint brushes, etc.

For more reindeer making ideas, please visit Artists Helping Children

How to make the reindeer in the picture above:

History of Thanksgiving

Symbols of Thanksgiving by Becka V.
Did you know… 

Thanksgiving has been observed as a national holiday since Lincoln's presidency!

Activity: Make a Symbolic Thanksgiving Centerpiece

You'll need: 
  • A recycled container (oatmeal, coffee can, vegetable/fruit can, etc.)
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • White glue
  • Hot glue
  • Symbols of Thanksgiving
  • Basic craft supplies - paint, paint brushes, markers, stencils, feathers, Thanksgiving stickers, etc.
Optional Items: Fabric, foam pumpkin and seasonal flora (available at craft store), cardboard box, lump of clay, a block of floral foam or half of a foam ball, skewers, craft sticks, or toothpicks (paint with acrylic paint if desired)

Inspiring People: Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull
In 1872, before women had a right to vote, Victoria Woodhull, was the first woman candidate to run for president of the United States!

Before running for president of the United States, Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, were the first women stockbrokers, and in addition to starting a brokerage firm on Wall Street, started a newspaper together called the Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly.

To learn more about this pioneer of women's rights, please visit the following sites:

Women Heros: Victoria Woodhull
An article written by Barbara Goldsmith

Victoria Woodhull
A brief biography 

Wikipedia: Woodhull
History of Victoria Woodhull

National Women's History Museum: Victoria Woodhull
Biography information.

Victoria Woodhull: The Spirit to Run the White House
Learn about Victoria Woodhull's life.

Biography: Victoria Woodhull
Read a short biography of Victoria's life.

NPR: Victoria Woodhull
Listen to the story of Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president of the United States and there have been many others since then!

How many other women have ran for president of the United States?

You can find out here.

Spark of the Day: Symbols of Fall: Twist Balloons

Twist balloon pumpkin by Fran W.
We enjoy decorating our home for the fall holidays each year and this year we decided to incorporate twist balloons into our holiday because they can be turned into so many creative things!

We are planning to make...

Pumpkins, ghosts, spiders, cats, turkeys, a cornucopia, and anything else we can think of at the time and want to try.

We want to make sure everyone can participate in decorating the house, so we made a very simple pumpkin with the balloons. 

If you would like to make a simple twist balloon pumpkin, you will need...

A package of twist balloons and a hand held balloon pump

Optional: A small balloon to place inside the pumpkin, and a scissor

Tip: Twist balloons can be purchased in a party store.

What to do...


Barn Owl at British Wildlife Centre, Surrey, England
Author: Peter Trimming
Did you know…

Owls can rotate their necks 270 degrees in either direction from a forward facing position!

Do you have any questions about owls? Is there something you find interesting about them? 

Create your own research project to learn more about these fascinating creatures of the night, or just explore the sites you find the most interesting!

Write or draw your questions on a piece of paper, or record them on an audio/video device, and use the following sites to help you find answers. 

Some of the the following activities and resources includeDissecting a virtual owl pellet, watching owl cams, owl anatomy and physiology, owl sounds, owl mythology and much, much more...

Here are a couple of questions to help you get started...

Inspiring People: Dough Thrower

Tony Gemignani, is an twelve time world pizza-dough tossing champion

It's amazing what some dough and a little practice can do!

Dough-Throwing 101: How to toss dough

You can begin by purchasing or making your own homemade dough. There is a video below that offers instructions for how to get started tossing dough.

Once you get the hang of tossing the dough around, try doing some tricks! You'll find some people doing some cool tricks in video section below.

The science of pizza tossing.....

What does pizza tossing have to do with science?

One of the videos below. "The Physics of Pizza Tossing" talks about how scientists used the 'perfect pizza toss' to design micro motors thinner than a human hair.


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Roasted marshmallow by Fran W.
Marshmallows were once made from the root of the marshmallow plant and were used to help sore throats!

Activity: S'mores...with a twist

Celebrate Summer!

Summer items by Fran W.

The warm weather is here! It's a great time to plan a summer celebration! 

Who will you invite?

Whether you're inviting everyone you know, or keeping it a family-only event, invitations help to set the stage for fun and give everyone something to look forward to!

Make a list of all the people you want to invite, then make and give/send out theme-related invitations.

Remember to write the date, time, and place of the celebration on your invitation, and ask people to RSVP (to let you know if they are planning to attend) by giving them your contact information, which can take the form of an email address and/or a phone number. 

Invite people to the beach, park, your house, or some other place.

Tip: Think about making invitations that are shaped like your favorite summer icon!

Symbols of summer...

What are some of things you think about when you think of summer?

I think about:

The beach, sand, shovel and pail, sand castle, beach balls, sunshine, sunglasses, bathing suits, flip-flops, suntan lotion, a cool drink, ice cream, the ocean, sailboats, watermelon, flowers, butterflies, fireflies, mountains, lakes, camping, cookouts, bonfires, swimming, sports, and so many other things! 

What are some of the things you think of when you think of summer? 
Write or draw a list of your own and use these symbols to help make your invitations, decorate your home, plan activities, and anything else you can think of!

Plan your celebration....

What will you eat and do during your celebration?

Here are some food suggestions:

If you are going to have a cookout, hamburgers and hot dogs are very easy to make, but you may enjoy having ribs, chicken, veggie burgers, or something else.

A beverage such as lemonade, and easy to eat food such as chips, dip, veggies, salads, watermelon, marshmallows and ice cream are also great to have!

You may want to give a fish fry or a clam bake a try!

Think about hosting a Jello eating contest!

Let people know what they can bring along with them when they RSVP!

Here are some activity suggestions:

Swim, have a water balloon toss, play outdoor charades, volley ball, Frisbee, balloon badminton, do a bottle toss or make and blow bubbles!

Tip: Use your, "Symbols of Summer" word list to make a game of outdoor charades!

Your guests may also enjoy having a relay race, a scavenger hunt, or a contest such as hula hooping, or bubble gum blowing.

If it gets dark while your guests are still enjoying themselves, play a game of, "Ghost in the Graveyard", or catch fireflies!

Have a wonderful summer celebration!

Check out the 'Summer' folder on Fran's World Yahoo! Group for more activities and information.
Fran's World Yahoo! Group is free to join and open to everyone. A Yahoo ID is required to sign-up.

Make Your Own: Bubble Solution

Homemade bubbles by Fran W.
People of all ages enjoy blowing bubbles and while commercial bubbles are a little more convenient, making your own can be a lot of fun!

To make your own bubble solution, you will need:

Dish soap (Joy, Ajax, Dawn, etc.)
Corn syrup, sugar, and/or glycerin
Cooking oil
8oz Plastic cup
Craft sticks
Measuring spoons

Optional: Food coloring, pencil and paper or a recording device, commercial bubbles, pipe cleaners/chenille stems

What to do:

Create your own bubble solution!

Solution #1: A basic formula

Start by pouring a little dish soap and water into a plastic cup then slowly stir the liquid with a straw. When the solution is mixed, test it out by dipping the straw into the liquid and blowing through it to see if the solution can form bubbles, and how strong the bubbles are. If the bubble pops too quickly, decide if you need to add more soap or water to your solution. If you get one or two bubbles, or a stream of bubbles, and they last for a little while, you know you are on the right track. 

Solution #2: Bubbles that are stronger or last longer

Adding a little corn syrup, sugar or glycerin to your bubble solution makes stronger or longer lasting bubbles. Find out if this is true by adding a little bit of one of the suggested items to your solution.

Solution #3: Bubbles with Unusual Ingredients

Some solutions are made with salt or cooking oil. Try to make a bubble solution that uses some salt (pdf) or cooking oil in the recipe.

Pre-measured bubble recipes can be found here

Extra activities

- If you would like to keep track of how your solution is made, use measuring spoons when adding ingredients and then write, draw, take pictures, or record the procedure on a video or audio device.

- Compare your homemade solution to commercial bubbles.

- Find out what bubbles are and how they work.

- Do some experimenting with bubbles such as blowing a bubble within a bubble or make bubble structures using multiple wands. 

- Get a stopwatch and find out how long your bubbles can stay formed before they pop.

- How high of a bubble mountain can you make? Pour bubbles into a shallow pan and blow air into it with a straw to find out.

- Make your own bubble wands out of: straw and string, pipe cleaners, wire, paper and other household items. 

- Blow bubbles and see how many you can catch on your wand and blow them again to see how many you get the second or third time.

Something to inspire you....

After a brief explanation about how bubbles work, the following YouTube video features an amazing bubble performance by bubble artist, Deni Yang.

Sites to investigate....

A printable pdf written by Bernie Zubrowski filled with bubble experiments.

Learn what's so fascinating about bubbles! 

Explore some other bubble related sites.

Activity Village
This site offers a recipe and some other bubble activities.

BIG Bubbles
Site offers suggestions for making very large bubbles.

Bubble Geometry
Thinking Fountain offers suggestions for simple bubble geometry.

Bubble Poetry (This link will take you to the poem, 'Blowing Bubbles'.)
Familyfriend Poems has poems based on bubbles written by its members. Put the word "Bubbles" in the search box on the top right hand corner of the page to pull up more bubble related poetry. Some poems may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Connect with Fran's World of Discovery!

Note: Has this or another activity on Fran's World of Discovery inspired you or someone else in a positive way, or have you featured this activity in a blog post? I invite you to comment and link back to where your post can be found, or tell me what you or your family enjoyed about the post! Thank you!

Spark of the Day: Roman Numerals

Roman Numerals by Fran W.
Roman numerals may not be used as often as they once were, but they are still used in a variety of ways and can offer up a fun challenge for the day!

The basic symbols and number values are:

I =  1
V = 5
X = 10
L = 50
C = 100
D = 500
M = 1000

Print out this handy Roman numerals chart to use as a quick reference.

Here are few sites and activities that will give you the opportunity to learn about, play with, and use Roman numerals:

Bird Eggs

Quail, chicken and ostrich eggs - Fotografie von BMK März 2005
Did you know....

Quail eggs are the smallest edible bird eggs and ostrich eggs are the largest!

Activities: Egg experiments and Egg salad - your way

Spark of the Day: Eggshell Art

Eggshell Flowers by Fran W

Save your eggshells, they are great for arts and crafts!

To make eggshell art, you will need:

Eggshells from boiled or raw eggs - remove the inside membrane of raw eggshells
Watercolor paints or food coloring
Paint brush
Construction paper
Pencil or crayons
Paper towel
Aluminum foil
Flat baking sheet
Tweezers (optional)

Preparing the eggshells for use: 

Painted eggshells by Fran W
Method # 1

If you are using clean, raw eggshell halves, cover your work area with newspaper and use watercolor paint or food dye to color the inside and outside of each half with a paint brush. Place each painted half on a flat baking sheet that has been covered with aluminum foil, and place in a 250 degree oven for about 2 - 3 minutes to dry them. When they cool down, crush the shells up and place like-colors into plastic zip-top bags or in small containers with a lid for easy storage.

Note: To make sorting easier, consider painting each eggshell with only one color at a time, or color the inside one color, and the outside another.

Method #2

Dry out colored or white eggshells from hard boiled eggs on paper towels or newspaper, then separate them into colorful piles, or place like-colored eggshells into containers or zip-top bags. 

Tip: White eggshells can be colored with food coloring. To do this, put a 1/2 tsp of vinegar into a cup along with a little water, and a few drops of food coloring, and mix with a craft stick. Add the eggshells and mix again. In 30 minutes, remove eggshells from the cup, and place them on a paper towel or newspaper to dry for a few hours or overnight.

What to do:

Colored eggshells:

Draw something on construction paper with a pencil or crayon, paint glue within the lines of your drawing and fill in the area with the desired colored eggshells. Use a toothpick or tweezers to place the eggshells where you want them. When you are finished placing your shells, allow your creation to dry flat, then hang it up or frame it.

White eggshells

Draw something on construction paper with pencil or crayon, paint glue within your lines and place egg shells onto your paper. When the glue dries, paint over the egg shells.

Other suggestions....

- Use coloring pages instead of drawing a picture and mount it on construction paper.

- Make a colorful eggshell collage rather than a drawing.

- Make textured cards with the eggshells.

- Make small eggshell creations on paper and glue a magnet behind it.

- Glue your eggshells onto recycled yogurt or sour cream containers  and use them as planters. When you are finished with your egg shells, sprinkle them around the top of the soil of your new planter.

Tip: Eggshells give nutrients back to the soil! Compost or place leftover shells, that you are not planning to use for another project, around your favorite plant or tree outside!

Artists Helping Children: Egg Shell Crafts for Kids
You will find a variety of eggshell related projects on this page


Green Cabbage by Fran W.
Did you know....

Wild cabbage dates back to 600 BC and was used as both a food and a medicine!

Activities: Red cabbage chemistry and Homemade coleslaw

Paper Airplanes

Paper Airplane by Fran W.

Today's Topic: Paper Airplanes

Did you know......

The Guinness World record for the longest time a paper airplane was held aloft is 29.2 seconds! 

Today's Activity: Make paper airplanes

When you get to the site, click on a word below any of the top 10 planes pictured and you will be taken to a page that offers step by step animated instructions.

Tips and suggestions....

If you want your paper airplanes to fly well, the most important things to remember is to keep the folds straight and even and the creases sharp!

Once you get the hang of making paper planes, try to modify the plane by making a few changes to the design. You can do this by:

- Making little cuts in the wings to create flaps or cut a piece of the middle and bring it to the top of the plane.
- Tape a paper clip to the tip of the plane to help it fly better.
- Tape a skewer or a toothpick to the inside of the middle fold.
- Tape the plane together in the middle or the end.
- Cut a notch in the bottom of the plane and shoot it with a rubber band. 
- Change the way the plane is folded in order to make a new paper plane design.
- Learn how to make a stunt paper airplane.
You can find another stunt plane here.

Suggestions for flying the paper airplane.....

- Learn how to throw a paper airplane by watching this video or by reading the tips in this PDF file.
- Fly the paper airplane inside or outside.
- Stand on something high, throw it and measure how far it goes, then throw it from a spot on the ground close by and measure again; compare the two distances.
- Throw the plane toward the sky
- Throw the plane from the shoulder or from the hip and see which one flies further.
- Make a variety of planes and compare how well and how far each one flies.

- Keep a flight log.

Have fun!

Questions of the day:

Who currently holds the Guinness World record for the longest paper airplane in flight?

Who held the Guinness World record for the longest paper airplane flight before the current record holder? 

Learn More:

Learn more about Ken Blackburn, a 13 year Guinness World Record holder

Read about the gentleman that now holds the Guinness World Record for the longest paper plane flight

Site offers patterns and templates for variety of paper planes

Learn about the history of paper planes, view 50 instructional videos for making paper planes

How To Fold and Tweak A Great Paper Plane -  YouTube video 7:03

Connect with Fran's World of Discovery!

Note: Has this or another activity on Fran's World of Discovery inspired you or someone else in a positive way? Have you featured this activity in a blog post? I invite you to comment and link back to where your post can be found, or tell me what you or your family enjoyed about the post! Thank you!

Make your own: Bottle Cap Stamps

Bottle Cap Stamps by Fran W
Homemade stamps can be made with inexpensive materials and offer hours of creative fun!
To make your own stamps, you will need:                                      
Bottle caps, foam stickers, markers or stamp pads, and paper
Alternate method: Foam, scissors, and white glue 
What to do.....


Pink geode by Fran W.
Did you know…

A mummified frog was discovered in a flint geode in 1899!

Activity: Make your own "geode"

Benjamin Franklin's Armonica

Franklin's Glass armonica author Vince Flango

The Glass Armonica

Did you know....

In 1758, Benjamin Franklin, was inspired to make his glass armonica after seeing water-filled wine glasses played in England!

Play a virtual armonica or Listen as a glass armonica is played.

Play a virtual armonica here.

Watch a variety of videos of people playing the glass armonica here.

Besides being an inventor, what else is Ben Franklin famous for?
Read about the history of the glass armonica and see pictures of the original instrument.

Connect with Fran's World of Discovery!
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If you find a broken link, please let me know by leaving a comment! If you have a site to share, please leave me a comment with the URL. Thank you!

Note: Has this or another activity on Fran's World of Discovery inspired you or someone else in a positive way? Have you featured this activity in a blog post? I invite you to comment and link back to where your post can be found, or tell me what you or your family enjoyed about the post! Thank you!