Monday, February 8, 2016

Stinky Shrimp, Sweet Science

Today in our elementary science class we studied crustaceans.  The pictures in the book were great, but I wanted to go a step farther.  It all began when I was craving shrimp for lunch.  (Hmmm. . .  I wonder why?)  Then my son wanted one of my precious shrimp.  I told him that I would share a few with him if he could identify all the different parts he had just learned-- and he did.   We also learned how to spell "crustaceans":  crust,  ace,  ans.
Jeff says they are still too stinky, gross and crunchy for him.  And he says that they are not kosher.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Part of the Story Where the Piano Tuner Comes to Our House

     This is part of the story where the piano tuner comes to our house to tune the free Baldwin grand piano-- yes, you read that right-- the free Baldwin grand piano my son found on Craig's List.  (We also laughed when people had free snow posted on there.)  It was a bit out of tune and had a broken hammer or two and some strange vibrations, but no worries, Stephen the amazing piano guy took care of all of that.  We all watched in awe as he removed the action board and fixed all kinds of stuff we never even knew was in there.

I asked him what was the most interesting thing he had ever found inside a piano.  "A recently deceased mouse," was his answer.   He added that the mouse had made a nest and a big mess inside the piano.  The last piano tuner I asked had found a box with about $300 dollars inside a piano once.  I think I would rather find that than a dead mouse.  Next Stephen tuned it and promised to come back with a new hammer for one of the keys.  It is amazing what you can learn if you just watch and ask questions.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ear Wax Project -- Well, Sorta

Okay, so it is actually ear clay.  I was substitute teaching for Hilary Martin's fourth grade class at Shalom Mennonite School the other day, and as soon as I walked in the room I noticed these neat clay models of the human ear.  I asked her if this was assigned in the book.  She answered that it was not.  She is just a fine teacher and assigns creative projects to help her students comprehend their material in intriguing ways.  This type of project is especially helpful for visual and kinesthetic learners.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Chickies

I was at school again helping Jeff clean up his room when I noticed the incubator in Whitney Burkholder's 7th grade classroom.  She is a great science teacher and something interesting is usually going on in her room-- that is why I always stop in to see her.  It was Friday and the blizzard was coming that afternoon.  We were all in a hurry to finish up and go home.

The day before the chickies hatched the blizzard hatched, too.  By the time the students returned to school on Wednesday they only had one egg left.  They got to see this last one emerge from its shell.  I have watched this many times (we used to have a small sheep and chicken farm; click HERE to read a little about that), but it never ceases to amaze me how something so cute and fluffy can emerge out of a smooth oval shell.   And it reminds me of how great our Creator is every time I witness such an event.

By the way, the students called them "the chickies" after Jeff began calling them "the chickies".  He says you have to pucker your lips and say it in a baby voice.  Try it.

Click here to read about our little farm.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rising Moon Art

This is another art project we gleaned from artprojectsfor, and here is how it is done.

Begin by taking a circular object (a CD works well) and drawing the moon in the upper center of a regular piece of copier paper.  This will remain unpainted.

Next draw a tree extending from the bottom left corner to the upper right corner.  Make sure that the tree trunk and branches taper at the ends.

An animal on a branch is a nice option.  (A few students added bats hanging upside down.)

Paint said tree and animal with black tempera paint.  Let the black paint dry.  (Jeff waited until the next art period.)

Using oil pastels, color the sky with night time or dusk colors.

Once the entire background is colored, blend the colors using your bare fingers in a circular or side-to-side motion.

Jeff actually got too much dark blue oil pastel colors on his (the top one), and when he began rubbing it, it made this swirly solar system design.  It was a  mistake, no doubt, but his students loved it and most of them had to work this astonishing accidental effect into their projects as well.  Yay for accidents-- I mean experiments-- in artwork.

Monday, January 25, 2016


One of the seventh graders at Shalom Mennonite School brought a few adorable little bunnies to school for her classmates to see.  I happened to be substitute teaching that day and got to hold one of the soft, furry, cute little creatures.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Texas Teachers Conference

I plan to be in Texas again next week as my daughter and I will be at the Texas Teachers Conference!  If you would like to receive a pdf of the entire program, let me know and I will get one to you.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Get Ready for February Fun Days!

It is that time again.  February is here, and you have the opportunity to brighten up those dark winter days for your students.  Below is our list of favorite February Fun Days, along with a short explanation and what is needed for each one.

There are two ways to do this.  The younger students like to pop a balloon with the next fun day written on a piece of paper inside it and see what is next.  This is more random and suspenseful.  The older students like to have a typed out list (which we provided) so that they will know exactly what is coming up and plan for it.  This is what we usually would do.

 If you would like to see more pictures and ideas, just click on "February Fun Days" under "Labels" to the lower right and click on "Older Posts" when you get to the bottom of each page.  Happy winter!

No Desk Day -  This was a favorite.  They could not use their desks.  They could bring blankets, pillows, cots or whatever, though.

Draw the Schedule Out of a Hat Day -  Except for lunch, we drew a piece of paper out of a hat, and whatever the paper had written on it we would do.  There were time limits so that everything would fit that day.  (Example:  English 45 min.)

Paper Airplane Day -  A day or so ahead of time we would research this one and have a few test designs and flights.  The longest flights would make it to finals, and then we would have a winner and measure how far the plane had flown.  There was no prize; it was just fun to participate.

Eskimo Day - We turned down the heat and everyone could wear coats, mittens, and scarves.  At morning break I served hot chocolate and cinnamon raisin bear paws.  (Use canned biscuits and cut slits for paws.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Add raisins for claws.)

Student Teacher Day - The high schoolers could pick one class to teach the elementary students.  They had to take home the teacher's book the day before and prepare.  (The elementary students love this and it is great experience for the older students.)

Crazy Sock Day - This was a "trend" anyway.  They could wear brightly colored non-matching socks.

Kite Day - Everyone brought kites and we flew them outside at morning break, lunch, and recess.

Cookie and Chocolate Day - The students brought cookies or a piece of chocolate to share with everyone in their class.  (Nobody ever gets left out.)

Switch Rooms Day - The students took their books, moved to another classroom and sat at another student's desk.

Day Backwards (Backwards Day) - The schedule was backwards, their clothes were on backwards, and we even walked backwards.

Surprise Day - I put out an assortment of hats on a long table.  As soon as they arrived in the morning they could pick one.

No Electricity Day - We turned off the lights (but left the heat on).  Students were allowed to bring a candle and have it at their desk all day.  This is always a favorite.

Open House Practice Day - We usually had an Open House for the parents in February on a Wednesday night.  We would practice for this and let the students be the audience while their fellow students ran through their presentations.

Bible Character Dress Up Day  

Historical Character Dress-Up Day

Balloon Day -  We bought a bunch of balloons and first thing in the morning we blew them all up, with the students helping us.  The rest of the day we got more creative with them.

Move Your Desk Anywhere You Want Day - This is always lots of fun.  Sometimes we had to limit it to certain rooms; sometimes we let them go all over the place as long as they behaved and were in the right room for their classes.

Non-Matching Day - Socks, shoes, shirts, jackets: nothing matched.

Slipper Day - We all wore slippers to school.

Popcorn Day - I got to school a little early and popped popcorn.  Each student had a bag at their desk and got free refills all day.  The school smelled wonderful.  (They could have bottles of water at their desks also.)

Talent Show Day - There is no competition for this one--just fun.  Participants may perform in groups or alone.  Each entry must fill out an application form and be pre-approved by the teachers.   We would also type up an official looking program.

Here are two more ideas for younger students.
Switch lunch day
Bring a doll or teddy bear to school day

Do you have any other suggestions?  Please share your ideas!

Blessings on your class and school,
Jeff & Deana
the Plain Professors

Friday, January 15, 2016

Traveling Flautist on Horseback

It isn't everyday that your flute student (+Esther Keehn)  arrives for her lesson on her horse, but it does happen.  The horse was tied to one of the trees in our back yard while we had our lesson, then I let Esther borrow a five gallon bucket to stand on so that she could remount and head home--bareback, I might add.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Super Slimy Sea Creature That Has Horrible Teeth and Bores into Other Organisms -- Yummy!

We studied these lovely creatures in our upper-elementary marine biology class last week.  Have you ever heard of a hagfish?  Hagfish are probably one of God's most unlovely creations.  He didn't create them to be pretty though, He created them to keep the oceans clean.  And here is how they do it.

Disgusting fact #1: They eat dead stuff.

And, to help them eat the dead stuff, we have disgusting fact #2:
They have these lovely mouths to bore holes into their, ummm . . . meal.
Then they really "dig in" to eat it, as pictured above.  Although they prefer dead or decaying organisms, they can attack and then devour live prey from the inside out.

And that brings us to disgusting hagfish fact #3:
They produce slime -- lots of it -- for protection.  Who would want to eat that?  They also use their slime to suffocate other fish, which they then bore into and devour.
There is one more fact about this "fish" from the class Agnatha (which in Greek means "without jaw").
Disgusting hagfish fact #4:
It can tie itself into a knot to clean itself of its own slime.  Lovely.
Feel free to share this with your students.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Swirly, Snowy Night

This is a great January art project.  We got it from, which is a fantastic resource for teachers.
First of all, draw the snowy ground line at the bottom.
Next, draw the snow-topped buildings, making sure they are touching, and add windows.
Then, draw the swirlies in the sky.  (Notice that they swirl in different directions, but they don't have to.)
Outline everything with a black marker.
Using water colors, paint the sky with one layer of blue.
Then go back and outline the swirlies, using blue again, to give them depth.

Paint the buildings with desired water color paints, leaving the snow on the tops of the buildings white.  (Paint the windows, too.)
After the water colors have dried, (the next art class period) add drops of snow using white tempera paint.
Don't forget to put snow on the buildings as well.
Happy January!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

I Wonder If Shredded Paper Horses Mind Grammatical Errors?

This was a really well done torn-paper art project.  She even twisted and wrinkled some of the pieces on the horse's mane to give it more of a three-dimensional affect.  Yay for art projects!
And, to explain the title, yesterday's post was about a horse standing in front of a sign with a grammatical error.  Scroll down, or click here to see that one.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Tail of a Gracious Hoarse [sic]

After taking my son to the doctor for yet another case of strep throat, waiting at the pharmacy for almost two hours to get a prescription,  and driving by a thrift shop on the way  home, I learned a few new facts.

1.  Resale shops cannot resell baby cribs.

2.  They throw them in the trash.

3.  Nice men who work there let ladies dig stuff out of the trash.  (They even help them do it.)

4.  Antique baby cribs can possibly be turned into bookshelves.  

5.  "Teams" is plural, as in "there were two teams of horses".  With an apostrophe, it would mean either "team is only", or that the team owned the only; and therefore it was the team's only something, only there isn't a noun there, so it is wrong either way. 

6.  Horses don't mind signs that have grammatical errors.  

Courtesy of Wikipedia-

The "ironic use" of sic[edit]

Occasionally a writer places [sic] after his or her own words, to indicate that the language has been chosen deliberately for special effect, especially where the writer's ironic meaning may otherwise be unclear.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Snake Eats Lizard

Can you see that?  The lizard was about eight inches long, too-- amazing!  This picture was taken by Kristin Miller, a fellow flautist friend of mine.  Her family recently moved to Bolivia and and their updates have been full of beautiful pictures.    Some of the following photographs were taken by Kristin, her mother, and her sister, Victoria.  Thanks for sharing, ladies!