This summer marks a second year of trying our own version of summer camp at home, rather than spend hundreds of dollars each week for our kids to attend theme camps. Each day is filled with fun, low-cost or free adventures, hands-on projects, and learning about science, history, and art. We intersperse each day with plenty of free play and add an hour of “relaxation time” after lunch so I get a break too! A lot of Stroller Hikers have asked for more information on what we’re doing, so we’ll post about them and link them to the curriculum page of Stroller Hikes.
Summer Camp with Mom 7: Creek Cruising
Our adventures exploring the Bay expanded to water travel, today. With a goal of building boats, I wanted the kids to understand that they had a lot of supplies they could choose from, and all they needed was a material with the right density. I handed each kid a small bowl and told them to find anything they wanted to test for floating, as long as it fit in the bowl and could go in water.
The kids scampered off eagerly, returning with fruit, wood, stones, coasters, plastic… you name it. I taught each child how to use a triple beam balance to determine mass, then water displacement for volume, and we recorded our observations, including if the items floated or not, for 13 items in our journals. Then out came a calculator, and we computed density. The kids were diligent about recording most items in their journals, and I stuck huge Post-Its on our windows, so they could keep track of it all. It worked like a charm – only the highest density items sunk; the kids quickly made those observations, then could explain fairly well what density was and why being low density meant floating. It was fantastic science, all hands-on!
I let the kids do some free play as I cleaned up, and reminisced about how such conclusions were not so easily made when I taught 9th grade in Eugene about 20 years ago. Of course, that was to a class size of about 30, not a small group of three! Still, I don’t expect my kids to be able to explain density precisely in a week, but it’s very likely they will remember our process of “discovering” it.
After a quick snack, we began thinking about boat design. We started with a 1-minute YouTube movie about hull design, then the kids sketched out their plans in their journals. They then made patterns on paper, which we traced onto foam poster board. We punched in bamboo skewers for masts, added paper sails, and drew and colored to further customize our watercraft. The kids tested their boats in the bathtub, then adjusted position of sails, added flags, or taped on more foam to provide counterweight. I made a pontoon boat with two empty water bottles for pontoons, because the YouTube video had described pontoon boats as being the most stable.
After lunch and relaxation time, we headed to Stevens Creek to test our boats. With the slow trickle of the creek, Ryan’s narrow sailboat won each race hands down, compared to Max’s wider sailboat, Holly’s heavy sailboat (that tended to capsize), or my fat and tall pontoon (that was, indeed, stable). Still, we had a blast getting wet, climbing around rocks, and watching honeybees come and go, using the creek to take a cool water break.
After getting home, we enjoyed some popcorn and cold water, and watched “A Deeper Shade of Blue,” a documentary on the history of surfing, with plenty of footage including Californian surfers and beaches.
– Debbie (Founder), Max (8), Holly (4), and Andrew