Kids at Home with MPPL Category: Science

Cicadas

You may have been hearing a lot about the emergence of periodical cicadas this year.  It is an exciting year for those in the range for this year’s emergence. Here is a little info about these unique insects.  

What is a periodical cicada? 

Periodical Cicadas have a life cycle that lasts either 13 or 17 years, and all of them in an area emerge as adults at once.  These cicadas emerge in difference parts of the country at different times, and each group is given a brood year.  The brood in the news this year, brood x, does not reach into northern Illinois, so we will not be seeing them this year.   

Periodical Cicada:  

Magicicada septendecim

Feeling left out? 

Not to worry, we will get to see some periodical cicadas soon!  Northern Illinois should see periodical cicadas in the early summer of 2024.  Get your recipes ready! 

What? RECIPIES!?! 

Cicadas are edible! They taste like almonds (I have read).  Every year many people try them (although, try them with caution as they can trigger shellfish allergies).  They also cause a bit of a boom in forests as many animals have more babies in years when the periodical cicadas emerge due to the increase in insects to eat.  In the years following a large emergence, even tress grow more because of the increase in nutrients from the cicada bodies that decompose on the forest floor.  

Aren’t there cicadas every year? 

Yes! Every summer cicadas emerge, but those are annual cicadas, also known as dogday cicadas.  They have also have a long lifespan, usually living underground for 2-5 years before emerging as adults.    

Dogday Cicada: 

Neotibicen linnei

For more information, visit:  https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cicadas/index.html

For some great photos, including the ones above, check: https://www.cicadamania.com/

To read about cicadas, check out these books:

STEAM Saturday: Celebrate Astronomy Day

Saturday, May 15, 2021 is Astronomy Day! This day is a great time to learn more about astronomy and do fun activities inside or outside.  

Astronomy is the study of the universe beyond the Earth including the sun, moon, stars, and more. To learn more about astronomy, use your MPPL library card to access the many web resources we have available. You can find the kid focused web resources on the Homework Help Web Page.  

One activity you can do with your family is track the moon phases. Every night, the moon looks a little different. This is due to how the sun is reflecting off the moon. To track these changes, create a journal with your nightly observations.  

moon phases
Source: NASA/Bill Dunford 
Published: August 14, 2014 

For more ideas, check out PBS.org’s article, Stargazing and Other Astronomy Activities You Can Do with Your Kids

There are also many books about astronomy and space, which you can check out at the Library.

Arbor Day Activities

Arbor Day is on Friday, April 30. It is an annual holiday encouraging people to plant and care for trees. It was initiated by Julius Sterling Morton, President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture in 1872.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Kids Corner is full of printable activities, digital games, and resources.

bright green car parked in front of a cherry blossom tree
  • Leaf ID Game: Can you correctly identify the names of trees based on what their leaves look like?
  • What do you know about the life of a tree?
  • Take a walk and see how many different trees can you find.

One very popular tree that blooms in spring is the cherry blossom tree. Have you seen these around your neighborhood?

You can make your own cherry blossom art with some simple supplies.

Start with a piece of paper.

For the branches, you can…

  • Draw with a crayon or marker
  • Glue brown yarn
  • Find a small twig and tape it to the paper

For the blossoms, cut or tear pieces of paper into small squares. A couple shades of pink or even white will look nice. Crumple them and glue them on the branches to make your tree blossom!

Check out these examples from toddleratplay.com and mykidcraft.com.

cherry blossom craft
tissue paper cherry blossom craft

STEAM Saturday: Water Pollution Experiment

two little boys reaching into a pond in a park

Water that you find in nature is not necessarily clean or pure; you would not want to drink pond water, for example. There are ways to clean water, though, and you can try this experiment at home!

First, take a clean jar with a lid and fill it with water from a lake, pond, stream, or any other source of water outside your home. Put the lid on until it is time for the next step. What do you notice about the water?

To clean the water, you will need something called alum. Alum is a hydrated double sulfate of aluminum and potassium, used in dyeing and tanning. If you don’t have this at home, it can be found in the spice aisle in the grocery store.

Put 2 tablespoons of alum in your water, close the lid tightly, and shake it up. Then let the water sit for a few hours.

When you look at your jar again, what do you see?

You may notice that the dirt gets pulled to the bottom. In a real water treatment plant, the added alum forms clumps with the dirt and pulls it down to the bottom of the basin.

Experiment from:

To learn more about water and water pollution, check out one of these books.

Let's Save Water book cover
My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River book cover
The Ocean in your Bathtub book cover

Maker Monday: Egg Experiments & Facts

Eggs

Eggs are an incredible adaptation that allow birds to stay light and able to fly while their babies are growing.  Bird eggs are covered in a shell with lots of tiny holes.  These allow air and moisture to pass through.  Eggs are also covered in a coating that keeps out bacteria and dust. 

To see the parts of an egg and learn about how each part functions, visit: https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/eggs/eggcomposition.html    

chicken eggs of various shades of white and brown
“Eggs” by John Loo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Egg Experiments

Unbreakable Egg 

  • Materials:  an egg or two  
  • Place the egg in your hand (take off any rings first).  Squeeze the egg with even pressure.  Does it break? 
  • Now (over the sink or outdoors) squeeze the egg with just two fingers.  Did it break? 

What will happen:  

  • The shape of an egg makes it very strong to even pressure.  Even an adult squeezing it can’t break the shell.   
  • When uneven pressure is put on the thin shell, the egg cracks easily. 
  • When a bird sits on an egg to incubate it, the pressure is evenly distributed on the shell and the egg can easily support the bird.  When a chick is ready to hatch, it pushes on just a small part of the shell with its egg tooth and the shell will crack to allow the bird to hatch. 

Shell-less Egg 

Materials: 

  • Vinegar 
  • An egg 
  • A drinking glass 
  • Place the egg in a glass and cover with household vinegar.  Wait about 24 hours, pour the vinegar out and replace with fresh vinegar.  Wait a full week and then take the egg out. 

What will happen: 

  • The shell is made of calcium carbonate, which dissolves in acetic acid.  The vinegar will dissolve the shell, leaving the semipermeable membrane intact.  The yolk and white will still be contained in the soft membrane, so it will look like an egg, but will be squishy when touched.   

More Experiments & Facts

For even more experiments, and for further explanation of the science behind these experiments, visit: https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/naked-egg-experiment/?utm_content=exp_rel_exp_main 

Learn more about eggs with these books: