Science Club – Making Butter

Making Butter.

Arrival Craft: make a picture with tabs to pull, showing that cows eat grass and produce milk.


Introduction: Does anyone know where milk comes from? What do cows eat?

Grass is quite tricky to digest, people can’t digest it at all. Do you know how cows manage?

Cows have four stomachs (give out colouring sheets), start ‘stick the stomach on the cow’.
I drew a cow on a big sheet of paper and four stomachs on coloured paper. Then I blindfolded the children and got them to try and stick the stomachs in place.
As we played, I talked about what the stomachs are used for.

This big one: the rumen, contains special tiny creatures (microbes) that can break down grass into sugars that the cow can digest. Cows also chew things twice, how do you think they do that?

It’s called rumination. The cow chews grass into big balls then swallows it into its stomach, in the rumen, the microbes begin to break it down, then the cow regurgitates (pushing the food up with the reticulum – another one of those ‘stomachs’) so that it can chew the grass again to continue breaking it down, any small pieces sink to the bottom of the rumen, where the omasum acts like a big filter, making sure that only nutrients that have been broken down continues on to the, the abomasum (which – quite sensibly – is beyond the omasum). The abomasum is much like our stomachs, what do you think it does?

It breaks down food using various acids and enzymes, so that the nutrients can be absorbed by the body. Cows are the same family of animal as us, since we both make milk for our young, do you know what family that is? Cows and people are both mammals.

Does anyone know where butter comes from? Today we are going to turn cream into butter.


Individual Task: Jars should be one third filled with cream, sealed tightly, then shaken for about twenty minutes. Butter must be washed with cold water to stop it going sour. We drain the butter through clean hankies, then press it against the sides of our bowls to squash out the buttermilk.


Gather together for a conclusion: Can we taste the difference between olive oil spread (or some other weird butter replacement – I never buy any ‘butter alternatives’, so I had to ask a friend to bring some), salted butter and our butter?

Model emulsifier molecules with hydrophilic heads (tissue paper balls) and hydrophobic tails (paper springs).

What happens if you try to mix oil and water? The oil floats to the top of the water and sits there.

What about if we add washing up liquid, does anyone know what happens then?

The washing-up liquid helps the oil to mix in with the water, and we’ve made an emulsion.

Milk is a kind of emulsion where droplets of fat are suspended in water.

Butter is another kind of emulsion where droplets of water are suspended in fat.


Break for drink and snack and a story about cows.


Active Science: Act out how an emulsifier works, getting children to hold on to a yellow tub with one hand and a blue block with the other (hopefully we’ll get the right flower shape). It worked pretty well 😉


Optional extension: Add some vinegar or lemon juice to warm milk and watch it curdle, then strain through a clean hanky – this is curds and whey (like Little Miss Muffet had), rinse the curds before eating.
The children were very wary about tasting this, but, actually, it wasn’t too bad.


Science Club – Rope Making

Rope Making


Arrival Craft: cross-stitch cards, lacing cards for littlies.

Very small children can sew ‘wonky kisses’ cards and, they look quite sweet.
The heart, though it looks simple, takes a good fifteen minutes for kids to make. But, some of the children took theirs home to complete.


What do we use rope for?

Sometimes we need very strong rope for lifting heavy things.

I’ve got various threads here and we’re going to test how strong they are by hanging weights from them until they snap.

Ask the children to guess how much weight the sewing thread, string and rope will hold, see if they’re right. I needed to use my husband’s dumbbell weights to snap the thicker threads. Make sure you experiment in advance and have heavy enough weights to hand.

We can turn string into rope by twisting lots of it together. People used to make rope in long rooms, walking up and down as they twisted the small ropes into bigger ropes.


Individual Task:

In teams, make ropes.


Gather together:

Test the ropes to see if they are stronger than the individual strings they were made from (we won’t snap the children’s ropes, we’ll let them all take some home 😉 )

Do you think that people still make rope like that today?

Show the children a rope-making machine made of lego.

This is what it looks like with the front taken off, so you can see the gears clearly:
Eldest also made a rope making machine from Gears, Gears, Gears (really, that’s what it’s called), which shows the gears very clearly:


Active Science: make two lines of children, holding hands, see how far they can stretch, and mark each ‘strain line’ on the floor, then ‘twist’ the lines of children to make ‘thicker rope’ and see how far they can stretch (not as far!)


Break for drink and snack and Story of String.


Optional Extension:

  • Look more closely at the rope making machine, perhaps have a go at making your own.
  • Basket weaving

This was yet another Baker Ross kit.
It was a bit fiddly, and parents ended up helping a lot more than I’d anticipated.

Science Club – Kaleidoscopes

Kaleidoscopes and symmetry.

Arrival Craft: make symmetrical pictures by painting on one half of a piece of paper, then folding the paper in half.


I also took small mirrors and plasticine and encouraged those children who always need something to fiddle with to play with reflections during the session.

Demonstration: use the lenses kit to show how a kaleidoscope is made, talk about mirrors and reflections.
I got my kit from a secondhand sale, and it was an amazing deal, but I’m sure similar products are available.


Individual Task: bigger children make kaleidoscopes; smaller children decorate their ready-made kaleidoscopes and have a go at looking through them.
I bought the kits from Baker Ross, which I love and use quite a lot.


Gather together: Find a place where there is a wall with plenty of space around it. Attach the mirror at eye level on a wall with masking tape. Cover the mirror with a piece of paper.

Ask the children to guess where they need to stand to see my reflection on the mirror. Remove the paper from the mirror. Stand at your chosen place to determine if you can see each other in the mirror.

Show the straight lines that the light has been moving along.


Break for drink and snack, read Augustus’ Smile.


Active Science: pair up and mirror one another’s movements, what happens if you try to shake hands with your mirror partner?


Optional Extension:

  • Make paper snowflakes.
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  • Older children could have a go at making a kaleidoscope and a periscope with the lenses kit.

Rocks and the Rock Cycle


Eldest was interested in rocks, so I threw a quick session together on the rock cycle.

Arrival Craft
Using my trusty paper plates and split pin method (as used in the Mung Beans session to make a model of plant life cycles), we made a simple model of a rock cycle.

Gather Together
I had asked children to bring along a rock to identify if possible and a few did. I handed out spare rocks to anyone who needed one. Then we worked through an identify your rock table.
This was very easy to set up, but pretty intense to run! I handed out the sheets, pennies and nails (for the scratch tests), then ran around a lot helping people examine all the different rocks.
Using their answers and a table I found online, we made a guess at identifying all the rocks.

We were going to follow this with a game I found online called Ride the Rock Cycle. But, we were pressed for time, so we skipped that. I think we’ll pick it up next term.
I was excited to play!


Break for drink and a snack.

Final Activity
Crayon Rock Cycle.
There are quite a few descriptions of this online, but I first found it here, on another home educator’s blog, there are also descriptions of sugar and chocolate rock cycles!
I handed out zip lock bags, pencil sharpeners and crayons. Everyone shredded crayons into the bags. This was our modelling of Weathering and Erosion.
Next we pushed the crayon sediment into the corners of the bags and squashed it by treading on it. This modelled Cementation and left us with a crayon version of Sedimentary Rock.


The crayon version is a soft rock with large grains and visible layers. A great way to talk about Sedimentary Rocks.
Next we needed some heat. I filled a couple of mugs with boiling water and put them on a table, with grown up supervision, just in case. We put our crayon rocks back in their bags and dipped them in hot water three to five seconds. We took them out the water and (being reasonably careful) squished the soft crayon. This modelled the way rocks can be transformed by Heat and Pressure into Metamorphic Rocks.
The Metamorphic crayons were harder and smoother than the Sedimentary crayons and some showed a lovely marbled effect.
Finally we refreshed the mugs of boiling water so they were good and hot. We put the crayon rocks back in their bags and put them in the water for a couple of minutes. Once the crayon was melted we removed the bags and left the crayons to cool.
This melting and cooling modelled the formation of Igneous Rocks.

I was pretty pleased with this experiment. I think it really helped make the Rock Cycle easy to understand.
The children all seemed to have a good time!

Christmas Crafts

We don’t give a lot of pocket money, so I encourage the boys to make Christmas gifts for family.
However, I don’t want to burden my family with piles of stuff they’ll never use. So, each Christmas I try to come up with gifts the boys can make that are vaguely useful or disposable.
I thought I might share this year’s list for anyone trying the same thing.
Bath Stuff
We make a range of these.
We make bath bombs (our recipe is in the pH science post here). Sometimes we add tea or glitter to give a bit of texture.
We also make bath salts. For these you just take Epsom Salts, add food colouring and essential oils, then mix it together.
This year, we’re adding soap to our repertoire. I did look at making soap from scratch here, but I decided that we wouldn’t try that this year. We’ll wait until Baby is a bit bigger.
Our soap making has been the basic ‘melt and pour’ method. I bought a packet of Soap Base and we mixed in orange oil, cinnamon, cloves and star anise to give a Christmassy scent.
The soap kept setting while the boys were adding scents and stirring, so I kept remelting it. I don’t think that has ruined the finished product. We set our soaps in silicon moulds and they came out really easily.

Even the eyes came out without breaking. I was delighted with how easy that was!

Edible Things
We make a few different truffles. This year we’re making these Sugar Free Chocolate Truffles.
These were easy, though we ended up adding extra jam.

Once they were rolled in cocoa powder and set in the fridge, they looked pretty good, and – more importantly – tasted good.

We’ve made cinder toffee in the past, and that was popular.
You mix caster sugar and golden syrup and boil the mixture until it gets to about 150degrees. Then add a little bit of bicarbonate of soda and whisk. It bubbles up quite a bit. Pour the bubbly mixture in a well-greased tray and leave it to set.
It was exciting to make too!
The boys loved seeing the sugar bubbling, though it was a bit nerve wracking for me, I was worried that someone was going to get covered in molten sugar and badly burnt before I could get the sugar off them. In the event, of course, nothing dramatic happened.

We did buy a packet of moldable wax from Baker Ross. But, though I thought people could burn the candles, making them disposable gifts, everyone kept them on shelves and window sills. So, personally, I felt it was a bit of a failure, since my aim is not to give people clutter.

Vaguely Useful Stuff
Some of our attempts have gone fairly well. Coasters are reasonably popular and can be made just by laminating drawings, or using a craft set.
Bookmarks are another quick make. Unless you go all out and try to stitch a pattern. I quite enjoyed cross-stitch before I had the children. But, these days, we produce a lot of ‘wonky kisses’. We’ve put these on bookmarks, slippers, shirt pockets and cards. While the boys are still young enough, it makes a cute gift.

We’ve done a lot of mug painting.
We have been to some lovely pottery painting places, but I also have a set of paints to use at home.
We also buy cloth bags and decorate them. Another spare shopping bag usually comes in handy, and will hopefully be even more popular after the plastic bag charge came in. And I have a couple of sets of fabric pens, so that’s a very easy craft!
This year, we also have glass pens (which I bought in Tesco). I was pretty pleased with the vases the boys decorated.
I am much less pleased with my attempt at photographing it!
I’m always looking out for new ideas, as there are a lot of Christmasses and Birthdays! Please share any great ones that you’ve found!

Science Club – 2D Shapes

2d shapes & Matisse

Arrival Craft: make pictures like Matisse’s Snail, by sticking 2-d shapes, ‘painting with scissors’.
You can find Matisse’s Snail here.

Demonstration: talk about mosaics we’ve seen or made; name some shapes, let the children examine wooden shapes, talk about shapes that tessellate and shapes that don’t.

If you don’t have lots of plastic or wooden shapes, paper shapes are perfectly good for experimenting with tessellation.

Individual Task: bigger children make mosaics, smaller children stick glitter squares on lids of craft boxes.


Gather together:  play shape bingo



Active Science: Make a giant tangram and see if the children can work together to make a picture with it.


Break for drink and snack, read ‘Miffy and the Gallery’


Optional Extension:

  • Children can make their own tangrams
  • You can download tangrams from Activity Village

  • Play Kim’s game with 2-d shapes.

In case you don’t know Kim’s Game (or call it something else), this is how to play:
Show the children a tray of different objects and give them a couple of minutes to memorise what’s there.
Cover the tray and secretly take away one object.
Uncover the tray and ask the children to guess what you took.
When they’ve guessed, replace the object and have another round.
For younger children, use fewer objects, half a dozen or do, for older children, use a dozen or so objects.

Science Club – Birds


Arrival Craft: decorate the outside of boxes shaped like birds. I got these boxes from Baker Ross (who, unfortunately, aren’t giving me free stuff for all these mentions, they just sell great stuff.) If you don’t want to buy these, you could get the same effect by making cards, and drawing birds on the front. Children could copy pictures of real birds, or make up their own design.


Demonstration: Show the children the bones of a chicken (we ate the chicken at the weekend, then boiled the bones to get the last of the meat off), talk about the bones we can see. Talk about organs inside birds, compare it to the organs we have inside us.

I gave the children pictures of bird skeletons I drew, to stick inside the lids of their bird boxes.
Then I gave out lungs, hearts and simple digestive systems I had drawn for them to cut out and stick in the bottoms of their boxes.

I printed the skeletons on white paper, the digestive systems on green paper and the hearts and lungs on red paper.

Individual Task: draw (or stick in) a bird skeleton on the inside of the lids of the boxes, then stick various organs inside the boxes.

Gather together: show some big pictures of birds, ask the children to spot differences between them (beak size and shape, size of bird, eyes, colour). Talk about what the birds might use different shapes of beak for.

What do we call animals that only eat plants? What do we call animals that eat other animals?

My boys wanted a play this week, so I wrote a simple one for the children to perform. It’s at the bottom of this post.
I made masks for the bird characters to wear. The waiter read their part and I prompted the birds, so there was no need to rehearse in advance.


Active Science: put pictures of different things birds eat all over the floor. Put the bird masks on chairs. The children should gather up the pictures and ‘feed’ them to the right types of bird.


Break for drink and snack, read ‘A Duck so Small’.


Optional Extension:

  • Make bird treats (lard and seeds on a string) to take home. [I actually left the lard and we made the treats the following week instead – whoops!]




Bird Play: What Birds Eat.








Waiter: Hello and welcome to my restaurant – The Eyrie, where there’s always a table for birds.

Oh, it looks like I have a customer!

[Kingfisher sits down at the table.]

Waiter: My very first customer, how exciting. I’m going to go and get a big plate of my very best bird seed!

[Waiter puts a plate of seeds on the table.]

Waiter: Hello and welcome to my restaurant.

I’ve got you this lovely big plate of my very best bird seed.

Bon appetit!

Kingfisher: Yuck!

Waiter: Oh, no! This kingfisher doesn’t like bird seed.

Let me think.

Kingfishers have long, sharp beaks, like javelins, good for hunting fish.

The kingfisher must want fish to eat!

[Waiter puts a fish on the table.]

Kingfisher: Yum!

Waiter: Phew, that’s a relief.

I’ll remember that: less seeds, more fish!

[Kingfisher leaves.]

[Robin enters and sits down at the table.]

Waiter: Hello and welcome to my restaurant.

I’ve got you this big, juicy fish to eat.

Bon appetit!

Robin: Yuck!

Waiter: Oh, no! This robin doesn’t like fish.

Let me think.

Robins have short, sharp beaks, like tweezers, perfect for catching insects.

The robin must want insects to eat.

[Waiter puts insects on the table.]

Robin: Yum!

Waiter: Phew, that’s a relief.

I’ll remember that: less fish, more insects!

[Robin leaves.]

[Owl sits down at table.]

Waiter: Hello and welcome to my restaurant.

I’ve got you an assortment of tiny, crunchy insects.

Owl: Yuck!

Waiter: Oh, no! This owl doesn’t like little insects.

Let me think.

Owls have sharp, hooked beaks, ideal for tearing apart mice.

The owl must want mice to eat.

[Waiter puts mouse on the table.]

Owl: Yum!

Waiter: Phew, that’s a relief.

I’ll remember that: less insects, more mice!

[Owl leaves.]

[Greenfinch sits down at table.]

Waiter: Hello and welcome to my restaurant.

I’ve got a delicious, fat mouse for you.

Greenfinch: Yuck!

Waiter: Oh, no, the greenfinch doesn’t like mice.

I know!

[Waiter puts insects on the table.]

Greenfinch: Yuck!

Waiter: Oh, no, not mice, and not insects.

I know!

[Waiter puts fish on the table.]

Greenfinch: Yuck!

Waiter: Oh, no, this just gets worse and worse!

Not mice, not insects, not fish.

Let me think.

Greenfinches have short, stubby beaks, which are exactly right for crunching open seeds.

Here, try this plate of my very best bird seed.

Greenfinch: Yum.

Waiter: Well, that was a busy first day. Who would have thought that birds would be so fussy?