Kids at Home with MPPL Category: Science

Winter Reading Badges

Look at all those badges! Monty the Mount Prospect Duck has been busy reading and doing activities for Winter Reading. You have until February 28 to try to earn as many (or more) badges than Monty!

Monty the MPPL duck with his winter reading badges

Which ones are your favorites?

attend a virtual event

Attend a virtual event

stack of books

Chill out & read

Listen to a story

Listen to a story

island with palm trees

Warm up with reading

people doing yoga

Let’s get moving

Hot_Cocoa

Get cozy

Reading takes you places

Reading takes you places

Experiment_with_Art

STEAM

bookshelf

Find a good book

Maple Syrup Season

buckets collecting sap from maple trees in winter

Beginning in the middle of February and stretching into mid March, the Sugar Maple trees begin to prepare for spring by sending sap up to their branches to fuel the spring growth.  This is one of the first signs of spring in the forest and marks maple syrup season.  On days where the nights are freezing and the days are in the 40s the sap will flow up the tree. Once it is still above freezing overnight, the sap will turn cloudy and can no longer be used for syrup.  At this point the tree will begin spring growth.  

Maple syrup is made by collecting the sap from a maple tree, usually a sugar maple, and boiling it to allow the water to evaporate and concentrate the sugar.  Once enough water has evaporated, the sap becomes syrup.   

Sugar Maple trees are tapped because their sap has the highest concentration of sugar, but even so it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  Straight from the tree, the sap looks like water and has a barely noticeable sweet taste.   

To see photos and videos of the maple syruping process, visit: https://vermontevaporator.com/learn/sugaring-for-beginners/ 

To learn more making (and eating) maple syrup, check out these books!

Almost Time book cover
Bear Goes Sugaring book cover
Hey, Pancakes book cover
How is Maple Syrup Made book cover
Maple Syrup Season book cover
Maple Syrup from the Sugarhouse book cover
Pancakes in Pajamas book cover
From Maple Tree to Syrup book cover
Pancakes, Pancakes book cover

 

STEAM Saturday: Ice Experiments

Did you know that salt lowers the temperature of ice water? To see this process happen, try making ice cream with only a few ingredients.

Materials Needed:
  • 1 Gallon Zip Bag
  • 2 Sandwich Zip Bags
  • 1/3 Cup Rock Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Ice (enough to fill 1/2 of the gallon zip bag)
  • Gloves
homemade ice cream ingredients
Instructions:
  1. In one sandwich zip bag, combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla extract together. Then, zip the bag close.
  2. Put the zipped bag with the mixture in the second sandwich zip bag and zip this one closed. This gives your mixture extra protection.
  3. In the gallon zipped bag, make sure there is enough ice to fill 1/2 of the bag. Then, add the rock salt to the ice.
  4. Place your sandwich zip bags with the mixture into the gallon zip bag of ice and salt. The, zip the gallon zip bag close.
  5. Put on your gloves and shake your gallon zip bag for 10 minutes.
  6. After 10 minutes, take you sandwich bags out and open them to tasty vanilla ice cream.

There are many different recipes to make ice cream like this on the internet. We found this one on the Happy Toddler Blog.

Lift Ice Cubes with Chemistry

After making your tasty treat, learn more about salt and ice including why it is used on snowy roads in the winter. You can even learn how to make a piece of yarn to stick to ice with this experiment from Scientific American.

ice stuck to piece of yarn
Photo credit to Scientific American

Animal Web Cams

Animals are amazing and you can learn so much by watching them at zoos, in their natural habitats, reading books, and looking up information about them with our web resources: https://mppl.org/kids/got-homework/.

Live Web Cams and livestreams are a great way to see animals while staying home this winter. These cameras are mounted in animal enclosures and near animals’ habitats in the wild. By watching them you can get a glimpse of what these animals do daily. Here are some of our favorites: 

Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Cam 

Giant Panda Cam at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Sloth Cam at the Hattiesburg Zoo

Coral Reefs, Jellyfish, and More Web Cams at the National Aquarium 

Finally, if you are more a fan of dogs and cats, check out these web cams: 

Kitten Rescue Sanctuary 

Puppy Playroom at Warrior Canine Connection 

Insects in Winter

How do insects survive the long, cold winter? In several different ways!

Some Overwinter as Eggs

Praying mantids spend the winter as eggs, waiting for the warmer spring temperatures to hatch. Both the native Carolina Praying Mantis and the Chinese Praying mantis are found in Illinois.

Carolina mantis egg case
Carolina Mantis egg case
Chinese Mantis egg case
Chinese Mantis egg case

Some Overwinter as Larvae

Woolly bear caterpillars, the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth, spend the winter curled up under leaves.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar, larvae of Isabella Tiger Moth
Woolly Bear Caterpillar, larvae of Isabella Tiger Moth

Some Overwinter as Nymphs

Insects that have an incomplete metamorphosis only have three stages of life: egg, nymph and adult. Dragonflies spend the winter as nymphs underwater will stay active under the ice. They emerge in spring as adults.

Dragonfly Nymph
Dragonfly Nymph

Some Overwinter as Pupae

Some moths and butterflies will stay in their pupal cases (chrysalides or cocoons) and come out in the spring as adults.

Cecropia Moth Cocoon
Cecropia Moth Cocoon

Some Overwinter as Adults

Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico in the fall and wait for the spring to arrive to begin their journey back home.

Monarch butterflies

To learn more, check out these books: