Wednesday, December 26, 2018

5 Things to Buy at After Christmas Sales

This post is copied, with permission, from Imaginative Homeschool.

I love after Christmas sales.  They can offer some of the best prices of the year on a day where I rarely have any holiday plans, and I love that I don't have to get up at 5 am to take advantage of them.  Here are some of my favorite things to get on December 26th.

1.  Holiday Decor and Gift Wrap
I buy nearly all of our holiday decor on December 26th.  Holiday items will be 50% off or MORE, so it's really the perfect time to shop for it.   Since all of this year's decor is still up, its a great time to assess what you would like to change, replace, or improve on for next year, and get all that shopped for before you pack it away in January.

But don't just think of things for next Christmas.  Consider other upcoming holidays too!  Usually packs of plain red, white, and green Christmas tissue will be on sale with the rest of the Christmas wrap, which can be used for Valentines and St. Patrick's day too!  I stock up on that stuff this time of year. Look also for sparkly wrap in gold or silver that could work for birthday wrapping paper, and if you have a little girl that loves Elsa, snatch up anything with silvery or sparkly blue snowflakes for future gift wrapping (as well as snowflake garlands and ornaments and even tinsel for Frozen party decor!)  

2. Holiday Candy
Candy tastes as good no matter what it is wrapped in, so I sometimes buy a few "after Christmas" well as some candy for New Year's parties, where  "Christmas Specific" designs are still acceptable.   Last year I found several candy items that were easy to repurpose for other upcoming holidays too.    Look for plain red and green candies (easy to repurpose for Valentines and St. Patrick's day), and bags of candy where the only holiday markings are on the outer bag.     You can also find fun cartoon character and movie themed stocking stuffer candies on sale that don't have any holiday markings--which I save for Easter baskets and birthday party favors.

How long a candy will last depends on the type.   Below is a guide to the shelf life of various candies if unopened and stored properly.   It's organized according to the holidays items will last til if bought the day after Christmas (click here for a printable version

Most Chocolate (2-4 months)
All of the Below...

M&M: Peanut, Peanut Butter, Almond (6 months)
Gum (6-9 months)
All of the Below...

SUMMER - 6 months
Caramels (9-12 months)
All of the Below...

M&M:  Regular Variety (1 Year)
Gummy Candy (1 year)
Jelly Beans (1-2 years)
Individually wrapped hard candy (1-2 Years)
All of the Below...

Candy Canes (2-3 Years)
Skittles (2-3 years)
Gobstoppers (Indefinitely)
Fireballs (Indefinitely)

(NOTE:   Chocolate and M&Ms can be stored longer if refrigerated or frozen) 

3.  Gifts For Easter Baskets and Upcoming Birthdays
There are lots of stocking stuffers which are un-Christmassy enough to use as party favors or Easter basket filler.  And while toys and gifts may be a little picked over you can still find some great buys on Dec 26th sales.  Don't forget to shop online too--there's some amazing online sales this time of year.  

4.  Next Year's Holiday Outfits
It's a little risky trying to predict what size your kids will be next Christmas (especially with very small children), but things like Christmas sweaters tend to be a little more forgiving if you guess larger, and if you have a larger family buying a few extra sizes to hand down doesn't hurt.

5.  Christmas Cards
I admit I haven't sent Christmas cards for several years now, but back when I did I ALWAYS bought them a year ahead for half off or more.

What are your favorite things to buy December 26th?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Waco Cultural Arts Fest - Oct 5-7

The Cultural Arts Fest in spring and fall in Waco were one of my favorite things to do with my kids in Waco.   And it's coming up again, this Oct 5-7.  

Enjoy pictures below from some of our favorite activites in years past.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Volunteer Opportunity: Visit a Nursing Home

The Quality Care nursing home in Waco is looking for the following:

1.  Kids to come trick or treat at the nursing home. 
2.  Students to come to for regular visits to their residents. 

If you're interested, contact Jerry Lamrock for more details...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Miniature Airplane Jet Rally - Sept 6 - 8

So, the Heart of Texas Miniature Airplane Rally is going on Sept 6 - 8.   We've gone before and it's SO MUCH FUN.   My kids love seeing the airplanes fly.   Below are some pics from a smaller rally we went to (they have them regularly, but this is a bigger event with more planes and other activities.  I THINK this is free if you're just viewing, not flying (but I'd e-mail to double check.)   More info here (and an e-mail for asking questions).

You could go right up and see the planes (just remember, 
these are things people spend their own money and usually 
assemble by hand, so make sure to tell your kids to look,not touch).

 Some of the planes had tiny, detailed pilots.

We witnessed one crash while we were there. 

Anyways, lots of fun to be had.  

Shared on Throwback Thursday.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Photo Flashback - 2014

I'm going back through some of my old photos and posting ones from this date on previous years.   These are pictures I took on Sept 2, 2014.

Shared on Sky Watch Friday

Friday, August 3, 2018

Inner Space Cave Unit

 I'm in no way affiliated with Inner Space Caverns.  
These pages may include Amazon affiliate links which can earn me commission.

4 years ago we took an amazing trip to Inner Space Caverns.   It was not long before my youngest son's first year of homeschooling, and it sparked a desire to learn more.

Using the One Small Square - Cave book that I found at our local library as a spine, we did an in depth unit on caves that, looking back, is one of the highlights of our homeschool experience.  

I've written up a 13-15 day Unit Study on Caves for others to use too (see links below).  It includes the activities that we did, along with others I've found that also look fun for various ages of kids.   This is a "choose your own activity" adventure.   You choose which activities are right for your children.   It is however designed with the idea that you will actually visit a cave (and has some activities aimed specifically at visiting Inner Space, since it's the nearest large cave to Waco).   If you're not visiting a cave, or are visiting a different cave, it shouldn't be too hard to tweak this to fit your needs.

While we did our unit AFTER visiting Inner Space Caverns, I re-designed this unit to come before a cave visit (since Cave book we used has lots of ideas that to actually do IN a cave. )  But,  of course, visiting a cave first would spark interest, and you can absolutely do it that way too (it's what we did, after all).  If you do a cave visit first I suggest skipping ahead to Day 13 - Inner Space Visit which has some suggested activities for the day before, during the visit, and after the visit.   Of course, if you can afford multiple cave trips, there are other nearby caves you can visit, and there is also the Natural Bridge Caverns in San Antonio (which I've heard are amazing) which you could visit before, after, or during the unit.    And there's even a "faux cave" in the Mayborn Museum that would make an easy side trip during your study.


One Small Square - Cave by Donald Silver is beautifully writing and illustrated ...its not your typical dry science material, but it's still rich with information.  Like all of his "One Small Square" books it takes you into an environment (this time a cave), and asks you to explore "one small square" of it in great depth.  The sections are short enough to hold the short attention span of my 7 year old, but deep enough to make a real science study using this book as the spine even for older kids.    There are fun experiments and activities in sidebars throughout.   You can find this book at West Waco Library or on Amazon or various other booksellers.


The reading schedule and discussion questions are also contained in a printable Discussion/Reading Guide PDF (which does not include the activities, videos, book suggestions, ect....just what pages to read daily from the Donald Silver Caves book, and the discussion questions with them).

(NOTE:  While usually blog posts here go from newest to oldest, since I posted this all at once I posted it in order).  


Linked Up at Throwback Thursday.

Cave Unit: Day 1

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.   This study uses One Small Square Cave by Donald Silver (available at Waco McClennan County Library) as the main text.   It also uses the Junior Cavers Workbook which you can download for free from the National Park Service Website, and various other free resources and activities.  You can read the intro and find other sections of this unit here.

 I'm in no way affiliated with Inner Space Caverns.  

These pages may include Amazon affiliate links which can earn me commission.

The Junior Cave Scientist Workbook has a "Cavers Pledge" on page 23 which children can fill out to commit to learn about caves and treat them respectfully.  It's a cool thing you can do as you're starting this Unit...or you can save it for later (like right before your cave visit).  

Cave:  Section 1 - 2
Introduction:  Pg 3 - 5
One Small Square at the Cave Entrance:  Pg 6 - 7

1.  Read sections 1 - 2 in One Small Square Cave by Donald Silver (you can skip the "Safety First" section on page 6 and save it for the day you visit Inner Space).  

Discussion Questions Before, During and After Reading:
  • Page 5:  Before reading the section in bold, look at the equipment pictured below it (flashlight, hardhat, etc) and ask your children why they might want that equipment if they were exploring a cave. 
  • Page 7:  Look at the square on page 7 and ask your children what animals they see there.
  • After reading, you may want to ask your children if they understands what was meant by "one small square" (especially younger children).  Explain if necessary that it doesn't mean that the cave is square, but that it is just talking about a way to explore nature by looking at one small area very carefully.  
  • Since on the Inner Space Caverns tour you may not be able to choose where you stop, and won't be able to sit and explore any one area for a very long time, you may want to let your children know that when you take a tour of a real cave you'll be exploring the cave in a little bit of a different manner, but you can still use a lot of the things in this book when you explore the cave.
Here are some extension activities you can do.   Remember, this is a "choose your own activity" adventure.   While there's only a few activities listed today, I sometimes will list many more activities than you could reasonably do in a single day.   Choose the ones that seem the best fit for you.

1.  Junior Cave Scientist Workbook Pages
Sign the cover and read/work through page 2-3 in the Junior Cave Scientist workbook (found at link above).  Your child can earn a badge for completing a certain number of activities from this workbook, and I will be suggesting several activities from the workbook during this Unit Study.

2.  Science Experiment:  Stalactites and Stalagmites.
One Small Square Cave doesn't cover stalactites and stalagmites until later, but because growing stalactites is a  SLOW experiment, you might want to start now and you can talk about the experiment's progress when you get to that page (plus, there are additional experiments you can do when you read the stalactites and stalagmites).   Expect 3 to 7 days for these to start growing.   Before starting the experiment flip to page 18 - 19, point out the stalactites and stalagmites and explain that you'll learn more about them later, but are going to start making some now because they take a LOOOOONG time.  You can find an alternative version of this activity using epson salts, with extra follow-up questions, in the The "Pre-Visit Activity #2:  Solubility" on the 5th Grade Teacher's Guide at Inner Space Caverns which also includes some explanation showing how water without salt can erode the stalactites.

(NOTE:  Make sure your stalactites get light.  When we tried this experiment, I thought it would be cute to make a cave for our cups to sit in out of a painted tissue box.  BIG MISTAKE.  Our cave made it dark, which I later learned slowed the stalactite growth.  Which if you think about it makes those stalactites in actual dark caves even more impressive, cause they all grow in the dark.)

While I suggest going to a real cave at the end of this unit, there's a mock cave nearby at the Mayborn museum  (you can ask at the front desk and they will show you on the map).  In it kids can see examples of stalactites, stalagmites, bat bones, and more.  It's not quite as cool as a real cave, but can make a nice "closer to home outing" to spark kids' interest.


Carlsbad National Park and Caverns
This video has more about  the discovery of Carlsbad Caverns and pictures/video of the cave itself.

Cave Unit: Day 2


 I'm in no way affiliated with Inner Space Caverns.  

These pages may include Amazon affiliate links which can earn me commission.

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.   This study uses One Small Square Cave by Donald Silver as the main text, and various free resources and activities found online. 

Day 2:  Section 3 - 4
The Twilight Zone:  Pg 8-9
Watch Your Step:  Pg 10 -11

Read section 3 - 4 (read sidebars after discussing the main section).

Discussion Questions:
  • What does "twilight" mean when you're not in a cave?  (Look it up in the dictionary if you need to).  Why do you think the author called this part of the cave the "twilight zone."
  • Why do you think some animals like to live in, or visit a cave?
  • What are some signs that you can look for that animals might have been in a cave?

1.  Sidebar:  Your Cave Notebook/Using Your Sense -  Pg 9
You can save this for the day before visiting Inner Space, or you can have your child decorate cover of the notebook now, and copy this map of Inner Space Caverns to paste in the book.   (While you can use regular lined spiral notebook for this, I suggest an unlined book or one of the primary school composition books which is unlined at the top and lined at the bottom..  You can make a blank cave journal copy paper and staples, use an artist sketch pad  or you can find stapled blank books at Mardels.)

You could also have your children practice using their senses by sitting in a room or in the back yard and describing what they see, hear, smell, and touch.  You can have them write this down on a piece of paper, and later they can do the same thing with a cave, and then compare them on a Ven Diagram.

2.  Sidebar:  Open Wide - Pg 11
You'll have to wait until dark to do this activity.  It's quick and fun.  You could extend this by doing a short study of the eye.   This page has an explanation of the parts of the eye and a worksheet you could use, but doesn't tell what goes where.  This pdf has a worksheet too, with a cheat sheet.  It doesn't include info on each part so I included both.

If your children want to find out more about any of the animals mentioned in this section, here are some good you-tube videos (most under 5 minutes, a few a little longer).

On later chapters I'll share some cave salamandar videos.  Right now I wanted to share what salamandars look like OUTSIDE of caves (the kind that might wander into the "twilight zone."  That way, when they see the cave salamanders they can really see the difference.

Cave Swiftlets

Barn Owls
(Questions to ask after watching:  Barn owls got their name because they often live in barns.  Where do you think they lived before people built barns?  How is a barn like a cave?)




Isopods (like pillbugs)

Wood Rats 

Caves Unit: Day 3

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 3: Section 5
Winter Guests:  Pg 12 -13

Read Section 5, pg 12 -13

Discussion Question:

  • Why don't we disturb animals in a cave in winter?
  • Why do animals hibernate? (Might save for after watching videos below).


You can watch these for some extra info about hibernation.

Hibernation  (3.03)

Talk about how animals like bears eat a lot in the fall to store up body fat for the winter.  Do the Winter Animals Experiment to show how fat insulates animals (this is used to show how fat helps insulate artic animals, but this works for other animals too to a lesser extent, so can be used here too).

3.  CRAFT:
Make a paper bag bear cave.

Caves Unit: Day 4

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 4:  Section 6
One Small Square in Darkness:  Pg 14 - 17

1.  Read Section 6, pg 14 -17.

Discussion Question:

  • Page 15:  Talk about what is different about the cave visitors, cave lovers, and cave dwellers, using the picture on the bottom of the page. (See activity below)
  • Page 17 & 7:  Look at the square illustrated on page 17.  Talk about what you notice in it.  Then go back and look at the square from the entrance of the cave on page 7.  What is different about these two squares?  What is similar?  (See activity below).

ACTIVITY:   Ven Diagram Comparisons

1.  Use a 3 circle Ven Diagram to compare, contrast and organize features of cave lovers, cave visitors, and cave dwellers.

2.   Use a 2 circle Ven Diagram to compare, contrast and organize features of cave lovers, cave visitors, and cave dwellers.

3.   Junior Cavers Notebook pg 8

Cave Unit: Day 5

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 5:  Section 7
The Rock Makers:  Pg 18 - 21

1.  Read Section 7, pg 18 - 21. (Read sidebar after you've read and discussed the rest of the section)

Discussion Questions:
  • Check on the stalactite experiment you started on Day 1, and talk about the progress made and how long it takes to form a stalactite.  (Explain that you're using materials that form FASTER than what forms in a cave usually).


1. Do the sidebar activity on page 19 of the .

2. Do page 7 of the Junior Cavers Workbook  

3.  You can search the internet to find pictures of any of the types of cave formations listed below  (some are mentioned in this chapter, and others on page 31).   You could make a cave formation book either by drawing and labeling the different formations or by printing pictures from the interenet to use.

soda straws
dogtooth spar
cave coral
cave bubbles
cave bacon
cave pearls
gypsum crystals
cave butterflies

4.  Draw your own cave.  Decide what rock formations to put in it. Use page 31 for help.  You can also use this cave book template.

5. The "Pre-Visit Activity #2:  Solubility" on the 5th Grade Teacher's Guide at Inner Space Caverns has some great activities you can do to learn about solubility and rock formations. (The experiment I suggested starting on day one is one of them, but they have others).   These are of course designed for kids around age 10, but somewhat younger and older kids might also enjoy these lessons.

Cave Unit: Day 6

This is one part  of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.   This study uses One Small Square Cave by Donald Silver (available at Waco McClennan County Library) as the main text.   It also uses the Junior Cavers Workbook which you can download for free from the National Park Service Website, and various other free resources and activities.  You can read the intro and find other sections of this unit here.

 I'm in no way affiliated with Inner Space Caverns.  

These pages may include Amazon affiliate links which can earn me commission.

Day 6:  Section 8
Seeing by Hearing: Pg 22 - 23

NOTE:  While this is a short section, if your child is interested in bats you may want to spend a couple days on extended reading and activities.   Choose the activities that work best for you.

Read Section 7, pg 18 - 21. (Read sidebar after you've read and discussed the rest of the section)

  • What are some things that make bats so well suited to live in caves? 

1. SIDEBAR:  Listen Closely/Echo...Echo...Echo - Pg 23. Do the "Listen Closely" activity  now and save the "Echo" activity to do later while visiting a cave.

2.   Read the Hanging Around With Bats Texas Wild and do the activities.

3.  Do page 11, 14 and 15 of the Junior Cavers Workbook 

4.  The Mexican Freetailed Bat is the Texas State Flying Mammal.  Read the short article A Year in the Life of a Mexican Freetailed Bat  or the free printable storybook Frankie the Freetailed Bat.

5.  INNER SPACE PREP:  I was curious about the temperature in the cave, and whether bats in the cave migrated like the Mexican Freetailed bat, or whether there were other bats who stayed there year long.  Brandi Clark of Inner Space Caverns gave me this excellent answer.  
It truly is 72 degrees at Inner Space Cavern year-round with up to a 98% humidity rate. On blazing hot days or opposite chilly winter days - the cavern remains a constant 72 degrees. It remains the same temperature due to the average ground temperature in this area. Neat, right?!
In our cave, we have Eastern Pipistrelle bats (also known as Tri-Colored bats) who find comfortable refuge in those temperatures. These are solitary bats, unlike the Mexican Freetails and do not migrate.
So, for an activity you could also look up Eastern Pipistrelle bats to learn more about them.

6.  FIELD TRIP:  You can go bat watching right around town.  Here are some good places to find bats in Waco and surrounding area.
  • Cameron Park Zoo has Jamaican Fruit Bats (Artibeus jamaicensis) in their Brazos at Night exhibit.  These bats use echolocation (unlike many fruit bats) and sometimes live in caves.  (Learn more about them here or here.) 
  • After dark, I've spotted bats at the Walmart on Hewitt Drive.  They will swoop in and grab insects congregating near the lights.
  • If you don't mind going a little further, Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. (March - November)  Learn more here or print guide here (the printable guide has what the bats are doing each month).
  • Find a guide on more places to view bats in Texas here.
7.  Build or Install a Bat House.  You can find a guidebook on how to make your own bat house a list of certified Bat House Vendors here. There are also various bat house design here, or you can buy a pre-made bat house or kit.

8.   7 science activities you can do related to bats can be found here.

9.  Use this infographic to learn about bat anatomy.

10.  Make an origami bat (or a simpler one here, or this bookmark).

11. Various bat crafts.

12.  Bat dot art.

13.  Bat Unit Study and Various Other Resources.

14.  Various Bat Resources.

15.  Even more resources.



Slo-Mo of Bat Using Echolocation to Find Water
All About Bats for Kids
Oilbirds (cause they were mentioned too) 

Learn about blind people who use echolocation to see.  (Yes, you heard that right...there are people who are blind are learning how to use echolocation!  Those who have previously been sighted says it's comparable to regular vision  only without color and in a more limited range).  
The Boy Who Sees Without Eyes  This video contains one error.  It says this is the ONLY person who does this, and there are actually many blind people who use echolocation to see.  But I thought that since the boy was a teen and this video was shorter that kids might enjoy this one. 
How a Blind Man Sees With Sound  This one goes into slightly more detail.  But no kids in the video. 
Older kids might enjoy learning about this in more depth.  Here's two good longer resources on this subject:
Blindness No Obstacle to Those With Sharp Ears  (Audio Podcast)
TED Talk:  Teaching the Blind to Navigate the World Using Tongue Clicks

There are SO MANY BOOKS on bats at our local libraries, both fiction and many more than I feature below.   These are just the ones I read with my child, or that I missed but thought looked especially interesting or relevant to our area.

TEXAS BATS (Fiction and Non-Fiction)

Batty About Texas
It's a fiction book about Bo the Mexican free-tailed bat.   Haven't read it, but wish we had cause it's about Texas bats!  It's recommended for age 4-7.  You can find it at Waco Library.

Freddie the Freetailed Bat
Another book about Freetailed Bats, NOT available at our local library but can be downloaded for free courtesy of the State of Texas, or you can buy a physical copy  on Amazon.

There's several non-fiction books about bats at Waco Library.  These are all for grown ups but might also be interesting for kids.


Amazing Bats
We actually picked this one up at a garage sale, but it's also available at the Hewitt Library.   It has fun facts and trivia about bats and lots of great pictures.  My son asked to read it over and over and over and over and OVER AGAIN.   (Seriously, this was our nightly bedtime story for MONTHS).   Recommended for kids age 6 - 11. of Night
A beautifully illustrated book about a year in the life of a brown bat.   It's sort of on the side of narrative non-fiction, if I remember.   Recommeded for ages 6-10.  Available at Hewitt Library.


Bat Loves the Night
This book tells a story, but includes lots of facts about bats along the way.   The illustrations are beautiful and realistic.   The story is simple and has a poem-like feel.  There are sidebars with more info, which I suggest going back to read after reading the story straight through (because they can interrupt the rhythm of the story and make it clunky if you read them while reading the main story).   This book is recommended for children age 4-8, though some readers suggest it for older children (my child was 7 when we read this).  It's available at Hewitt Library and Waco Waco Central Library.

Stellaluna has been a favorite book with all three of my children since they were little, so I include it here even though it's about a Fruit Bat (and they don't generally have echolocation or live in caves).   But, if you are expanding this to learn about bats in general it would be nice to include.  It has a charming story about a bat who is adopted by birds, and beautiful illustrations.  The dialog is so fun to read...the birds talk in short chirpy phrases while the bats take on smoother tones.   It's fanciful, but also has real details about bat life, and a little non-fiction section about Fruit Bats in the back.   It's recommended for ages 4-7 (but I think you could go a little older or younger, depending on your children).  It's available at all Waco Libraries and Hewitt Library.

Bat book series by Brian Lies
These books are not remotely informative, but they are so fun.  They follow fictional bats as they explore different places, and have fun doing things real bats never do (but with some real bat flair).   They are recommeded for kids age 4-7 years old, my my 9 year old read one recently and loved it, so that's flexible.  Various ones of these are available at the Hewitt and Waco Libraries.

My New Friend Is So Fun!
How did I miss this one?   Seriously, my son LOVES Elephant and Piggie Books, and he LOVES this would have been perfect!   So, no, I haven't read this one...YET.   But Elephant and Piggie books are  great "read-on-your-own" books for new readers.   They are also great "read-with-a-friend" books.   My kiddo largely learned to read through these books--with me reading Piggie's part, and him reading Elephant's (these were the first books he ASKED to read, vs being forced to read).  I imagine it's not hugely informative, but will be lots of fun.   It is available at Hewitt and Central and South Waco Libraries.    It's recommended for ages 4-8 years old, but honestly, my kiddo still loves these at 10....cause funny doesn't grow old.


Cave Unit: Day 7

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 7:  Section 9
What's For Dinner: Pg 24 - 27

1.  Read Section 9, skipping over sidebar until later.

Discussion Question:
  • What are some differences between animals in a cave and outside a cave?  What are things animals don't need living in pitch black dark.  What special features do some animals in caves have to help them survive.

1.  Inner Space Caverns has a pre-visit lesson and game that, while intended for a whole class, could also be done as a family.  It's suggested for 5th graders but, I could see younger students being able to do this also, with some modifications/help.  Look for the link to "Pre-Visit Acivity #3:  The Carbon Cycle" at 5th Grade Teacher's Guide at Inner Space Caverns.  It gets into the food cycle too, as covered in this section of the book.

2.  Junior Cavers Notebook pg 9 and 10. 

3.  Think of an animal that usually lives OUTSIDE a cave.  What might this animal look like if it were adapted to live INSIDE the dark zone of a cave.  Draw the animal you imagined.

Cave Unit: BONUS DAY (Karst)

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

The Cave book we've been working with doesn't talk about Karst (a landscape formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks), but the Junior Cavers Workbook does.  So, for this optional section, read page 19-21


1. INTERNET SEARCH:   Google Waco Sinkhole (or for more dramatic pictures, look up Austin Sinkhole) to find recent news about sinkholes in our area.  Sinkholes are not always caused by karst though.  For instance, the dramatic 2006 sinkhole that closed University Parks for nearly two years was caused by a collapsed drainage was man-made.  (Aerial picture here. Article Here2nd Article here.)

2. Sinkholes Activity

3.  EXTRA READING:  Read more about the Texas Karst, Caves and Cavers.

4.  FIELD TRIP:  Visit Barton Springs in Austin, which is a karst spring like described in the Junior Cavers Workbook.  (You won't be able to get down into the least I don't think you can without scuba gear and permission,  but you can feel how cold the water coming from the Karst is, even in hot Texas summer).

Cave Unit: Day 8

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 8:  Sections 10 - 11
When Water Moves:  Pg 28 - 30
Keeping Caves Alive:  Pg 30 - 33

1.  Read Sections 10.

Discussion question:

  • What special features do water animals and fish in caves have?  What things do they NOT need that animals that live outside a cave usually need?


Texas Cave Salamander
The Texas Cave Salamander is considered to be the most cave adapted salamander in the world.   It is found in Ezell's Cave in San Marco (an underwater cave that is part of the Edwards Aquifer).  See two great videos of it below...

Texas Cave Salamander Video 1 (short informative video)
Texas Cave Salamander Video 2  (longer video of it swimming...I started the video midway, because it takes a long time to get to the salamander, though there's some pretty cave diving shots earlier.)   


2.   Read Section 11 (skip sidebars until afterwards)
Discussion question:

  • What can we do to help keep caves and the animals in them from being harmed?
  • Have your child try to find all the silhouetted items in the cave pictures on pg 31 and 33.  


1.  SIDEBAR:  Cave in a Box - Pg 30

2.  SIDEBAR:  When the Wind Blows/Tell from Spel - Pg 32
While you aren't in a cave, you can try this in various rooms in your house (maybe open a window or two to make the airflow greater).  Read the "Tel from Spel" section.)

2.  Junior Cavers Workbook page 22  (NOTE:  This page mentions "karst," which is not covered in One Small Square Cave, but is covered in the Junior Cavers Workbook on page 19-21.  I've set aside an extra section for KARST which can be done before this section, or afterwards...but it does leave that vocab word hanging if you don't do pg 19-21 first.   

Cave Unit: Day 9

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 9:  Section 12
The Cave Makers:  Pg 34 - 35

1.  Read section 12A, Pg 34-35.   

2.  Watch this brief illustration of how caves are formed (and follow up by this brief animation.


Explain what the pictures on pg 34 and 35 show (ie, retell how caves are formed without reading the info.)


1.  Do cave in a cup activity.

2.  Do one or both of the two experiments in the "Pre-Visit Acivity #1: Limestone" at the 5th Grade Teacher's Guide at Inner Space Caverns.  Though designed for 5th graders touring Inner Space Cvarens, you could do these with younger children as well.  The experiments are very visual...and the textual info could be altered easily for younger kids.  For these experiments you will need to following materials:
  • Experiment One:  Sea shells, vinegar, a clear glass
  • Experiment Two:  Chalk, vinegar, a clear glass.

Caves Unit: Day 10

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 10:  Section 13
Caves of the World - Pg 36 - 37

1.  Read Section 12B, pg 36 -37.

Discussion Question:
  • Which of these caves would you most like to visit?  Why?    
(You might use your child's answers to pick which cave to do extra activities and research on below).  


1.  Do page 16-18 of the Junior Cavers Workbook (about Fossils and Archaeology)

2.   Do an ancient cave art activtiy.   Several are listed below.  (You may want to watch a related video on an ancient cave before doing these activities.   See suggestions in the VIDEOS section further down on this post.)

Lascaux Cave (France):
Cave of Hands (Argentina)
Various Caves
  • Make petroglyphs (rock carvings) on plaster or real rock or sand play dough.  Ancient petroglyphs have been found in various caves.
  • Learn about and make your own prehistoric pigments.  These could be used in several of the cave activities above in stead of the materials used.  But as these materials may not be suited for paper I suggest trying them out on real stone.   
  • Make cave art book, drawing various types of art examples from various ancient caves.


Ancient Cave Art Video by TedEd (360 - which means you can scroll around in it while watching)

Lascaux Cave in France (Cave Drawings)

Other Spectacular Caves:
-- Waitomo Caves in New Zealand (glowworms)
-- Friesenhahn Cave in San Antonio, Texas (filled with Fossils)
-- Crystal Cave (show video and article)

Cave Unit: Day 11

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 11:  Section 14
Other Kinds of Caves - 38 - 39

(You may want to show videos before asking this question today, or you could use it to pick which videos to watch)

Which of these caves would you most like to explore?

Most of these videos are under 5 minutes.   The longest is about 10, and you wouldn't have to watch all of it.     

Ice Cave (made by Glacier)
- Related Video...Why Glacial Ice is Blue
Michigan Ice Cave  (don't think this is a Glacial Cave, but it's cool)
LIVE Lava Cave (with lava still flowing through)


Do page 6 in Junior Cavers Workbook

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Cave Unit: Day 12

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 12:  Section 15
Unnamed (Creatures and Other Things In Caves) pg 40 -43

Discussion Question:

  • Look at the different categories of creatures on page 40 - 42.  What are some features the creatures in each group share (things all the mammals have, all the reptiles have, etc.)  

Do page 9 and 10 of the Junior Cavers Workbook

VOCAB: Look up the terms mammal, reptile, amphibian,  invertebrate, protists and monera in the index (you'll find definitions there).  Read the definitions.  If you want, have your child write them down, and under each definition draw one or two examples of creatures that fall into that category.

NOTE:   The next day in our Unit Study is the "Cave Visit" section.   There's some things you may want to do the day BEFORE your visit, so if you were planning to go to Inner Space tomorrow, please take a look now.  

Cave Unit: Day 13-15 and Inner Space Cave Visit

This is part one of a Caves Unit Study intended to be done before (or after) visiting Inner Space Caverns or another cave.  

Day 13-15:  Section 16 
So, it's finally time!   You've been studying caves for more than two weeks now, and you're ready to visit one!

The day before you visit Inner Space Caverns, if you haven't already done this, make your  cave journal (page 9 of One Small Square Cave book).  Youcan decorate the cover of the notebook now, and copy this map of Inner Space Caverns to paste in the book to reference during your trip.

(before leaving if on day of visit)
1.  Read section 14:  The Safe Caver (pg 44)

1.  Junior Cave Scientist Workbook Pages
Read/work through page 4-5 in the Junior Cave Scientist workbook, which talks about cave etiquette and safety. This can be done on the drive from Waco to Inner Space, to pass the time. It will help you get ready for your visit.   Page 23 has a "Cavers Pledge" which students can fill out to commit to learn about caves and treat them respectfully (if you didn't do this on Day 1). 

Now lets visit a cave!!


You can bring your Cave Journal to Inner Space, so you can draw sketches of some of the things you see there and jot down notes.  While there isn't a lot of time on the Adventure Tour  to sit and draw in a notebook, there are a three places where the tour stops in which you'll have some time to do this if you want (at least, if they haven't changed this since we went).   You may want to find them on the map and put a star by them.
  1. You can draw while waiting for other families to take pictures early in the tour.  
  2. Midway through the tour there's a place with a broken off stalagmite kids can touch, and after you've done that there's a rock wall to sit at where you can stop and sketch.
  3. At the very end of the tour (before you head back to start) there's a room with a pool of water where you will stop for a while (this room is called Lake of the Moon).  There are places to sit here as well, and lots of cool things you might want to draw.
Of course, you can also take pictures, and print them out and paste them into your Cave Journal later.
There are several sidebar activities in the Cave Book you can do on the tour (please refer to the book for full instructions).  If you want to do them, you can either bring the book with you or jot down the instructions on a piece of paper or in your cave journal.
SIDEBAR:  When the Wind Blows - Pg 32
Any place you stop during the tour (see above) would be a great time to check wind direction with a small piece of paper. 

SIDEBAR:  The Same or Not The Same - Pg 25
There are cave adapted animals that live in Inner Space Caverns.  Though it's not very likely you'll see these on the tour, if you do it will give you an opportunity to try this activity. 
SIDEBAR:  Echo...Echo...Echo - Pg 23 
Try shouting your name or something else while in the cave, to hear the echoes.   You will have an opportunity to do this without disturbing the tour guide's presentation on the way back after reaching the end of the tour. 


  • What animals did you see?
  • What formations did you see?
  • What new things did you learn on the tour?
  • What was your favorite part? 
  • A cowboy discovered Carlsbad caverns when he saw bats flying out of a hole in the ground.  How did people find Inner Space?   What do you think it felt like to be the first person to visit the cave?

  • Inner space offered a Tour Assessment and post visit activities in both it's 4th and 5th grade sections here.  (I may have already included these in some of the previous days activity suggestions).
    The Junior Cave Scientist Workbook has a nifty certificate you can print out for your students for completing this unit.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Alternative to Easter Grass

Do you hate Easter grass...with a passion?  Were you still detangling the stuff from your Vacuum come Christmastime?  Do you want a a better alternative?

Well, can find one.
Just search your local After St. Patricks Day sales for this....

Yep, a fuzzy green wig is GREAT for alternative Easter grass.  And it can be reused year after year!

Plus, my kids loved playing with the wigs afterwards.

If you can't find one at your local store, you can also get one online.

(Yes, that's an affiliate link which earns me money if you buy through that...but seriously, those after St. Patties sales are great...try there first!)