Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Fun With Glaciers & Paper Chains

In our science lesson last week, we were discussing glaciers and how they help shape the land. Anytime we’re working on science concepts, I try to find places where we can go that demonstrate the concept. Most of the time, so far, that’s been feasible. We have pictures of erosion in a riverbed, along the banks and from after hurricanes Rita and Ike along the beaches. We’ve gone to the beach and checked out the dunes, and talked to our local State Park Rangers about rebuilding them after a storm. We’ve gone to Anahuac to see the salt domes and the oil wells all around the perimeter of them. For almost every type of land formation that we’ve studied, finding a local place to see it in action hasn’t been all that hard. But we live in Texas, and there just aren’t that many glaciers around these parts.

So, like all smart and crafty homeschooling moms, I improvised. I’ve been seeing these ice block/salt/food coloring art projects posted all over the web lately, and since our science text’s experiment also called for ice blocks, I figured we could kill 2 birds with one stone in a combined science/art project.


The pictures REALLY don’t do them justice; the kids had such a great time with this project! We froze plain water in plastic containers overnight and then brought them outside and drug them around a bit to collect dirt and leaves and debris, much like a real glacier would. On softer ground, the ice left marks (shaping the land), and in other areas slid over it. This obviously wasn’t the most accurate relation; a glacier moves much more slowly, has ever so much more weight and also melts and re-freezes as time passes, picking up and releasing debris from one area to another as it moves. It was a bright, sunny day here, so no re-freezing was possible. Even though it wasn’t an exact replica, the kids got some decent notes out of the experiment for their journals and we had a good discussion about it.

After we were done with Phase I, we got out the salt and some food coloring and added them to the ice blocks. That was the most fun; watching the salt melt the ice and shape the block as the saltwater melted the ice and ran down the sides. It created rivulets and runnels down the sides of the ice; it was easier to explain how glaciers form and re-form as time goes by. Next time we do this, I think we’ll play for a bit, then re-freeze, then maybe add more water to see how the colored block gets frozen inside of a ‘new’ block.

A word of caution: salt kills grass. We now have a few bald spots in our yard where the saltwater seeped into the ground, killing all the grass… Dad was less than thrilled. So if you do this project, you may want to water the area thoroughly when you’re done to dilute the salt, or use trays and endeavor to keep the salty water off your lawn. Also, we used food coloring and the staining… oh, the staining! Blue/green hands and faces all around. Wear old clothes and maybe gloves. That should help!

In other news, we made orange and black paper chains this morning. It helps to have the kids do something with their hands while I read aloud. Today, I read our history lesson and asked them to recite while they crafted. Aside from a few minor ‘look at me! I have chains on my arms!’ moments, this is a good, mindless sort of craft to keep their hands occupied while they’re listening. This afternoon, we decorated the school room for Halloween with the chains (and added a purple and black stand, because more is always better), added bat cut-outs and listened to ‘Lyke Wake Dirge’ from Reclaiming’s ‘Let it Begin Now‘ and other seasonal music to get in the mood for the weekend.

Do you decorate your school spaces for holidays?




6 responses

  1. Oooh, fun project! I just pinterested it for later. And yes, we have bats and skeletons and spiders decorating our school space. My kids love Halloween!

    October 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    • We haven’t been decorating for holidays in the school room, really – in the *house*, yes, of course – but not in the school room. This was fun though! And YAY PINTEREST!! LOL

      October 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  2. That looks really cool. You guys seem to always have some fun thing in the works!

    I gave you a Versatile Blogger Award! You can pick it up here:

    October 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

    • Wow, Sarah – THANK YOU!! I will reciprocate, honestly – I am running way behind on my blogging schedule. It means a lot to me that you thought of me, and took the time to let me know. Thank you! 😀

      November 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

  3. We HAVE to try the glacier project soon (before our yard turns into a glacier for the winter!)

    We didn’t exactly decorate for Halloween this year, but we are doing a human body unit so our skeletons were up, and we made synonym spiders. We normally put up lots of decorations but we just didn’t get to it this year.

    BTW, your boys are so cute!

    November 9, 2011 at 8:58 am

    • It was a lot of fun! We spent an hour or more watching the salt melt the ice and the colors change and seep and run. If you can, wait for a sunny day though – the sun through the ice is really pretty!

      We keep spooky decor up – we have a skeleton that lives in our kitchen because he was forgotten about a couple of Halloweens ago – now he just lives there.


      November 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm

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