This summer at Camp Sweatshop, we've been exploring the natural world and all that lies within it. And what better way to do that than with activities that don't really work out too well or that are way, way over my kids' heads? That's kind of how the natural world works, right?

At the beginning of the summer, I scoured the web for home school lesson plans that I could steal and use for my fake summer school. Most of them had one of two things wrong with them. They were either a) indecipherable or b) cost money. It seems there wasn't much in between. And since I wasn't about to spend cash money on my kids' education, I ended up choosing neither. Next year, I'm totally going to save myself some time and just steal someone else's ideas. (Shh! Don't tell them.) Instead, I've ended up just coming up with a hodgepodge of ideas on the spot, no rhyme or reason to what comes next, mostly taken from my kids' suggestions or tiny flights of fancy into a topic. Most of my strokes of brilliance have ended up being things that have taken more of my time in set up than the girls' in, you know, doing it or that ended up being too difficult for a two year old and a six year old with little motor control to accomplish so I mostly did it myself and showed the kids later and who doesn't think that's just awesome? Here kids, watch Momma do this thing you really want to do but don't touch! I don't know if they've really learned anything from me this summer, but they have learned the valuable lesson of how school teachers really should be paid more.

This craft was one I stumbled across a while back and The Dormouse asked me if we could do: making Easter egg geodes. The Dormouse picked up a geode at one of our many cave expeditions a year or so ago and carried it around for weeks, dropping it on the toes of everyone who dared to stand near her. So she thought it would be cool to make her very own geode. And since these geodes were grown inside eggshells, I thought it would be cool to have an eggshell dropped on my toes for a change instead of a half-pound purple rock. (I like to get something out of these activities too.) For weeks, I've been saving, washing and peeling that weird little membrane out of the inside of shells of eggs that we use. I stored them in a bowl in the corner of the counter top in the kitchen. That gave me the opportunity to have this conversation multiple times:

KoH: "You gonna do anything with these eggshells?"

Me: "Yes. Leave them there."

KoH: "Well they're going to start to mold after awhile."

Me: "They better not, I washed them and took out the membrane and they should be fine as long as someone doesn't put something on the dish and crack one and..."


KoH: "..."

KoH: "You gonna do anything with this broken eggshell?"

So what you should know about this project is that it's slightly above the ability of a six year old and way, way above the ability of a two year old. It's just downright impossible to ask them to mix water soluble solids and/or pour them into an eggshell without ending up with broken eggshell and a floor full of borax to mop up. To boot, I decided that they should put a drop of food coloring into each shell separately and stir it around inside the shell so we wouldn't have to mix eighteen separate bowls of salty substance because neither one of them could live with having just one color choice. I think you can guess how that went.

The directions are here and if you want to try this, you should go there and follow them better than I did because I'm reasonably certain that if you make even just a modest effort, this will work for you much, much better than it did for me. You basically choose some kitchen-related water solubles, salt, borax, baking soda, etc. and mix them into warm water until the water has absorbed as much of the solid as possible. Then add a drop of food coloring, put it in the eggshell, and let the water evaporate until crystals form.

This is my before picture:

And this is my after:

Jinkies, that's impressive.

In retrospect, I probably should have coated the inside of the shell with the substances more, but I was too busy trying to keep kid-sized godzillas wielding eggshells, food coloring and chopsticks from crushing eggshells, drinking food coloring and poking each other in the eye with chopsticks. What I'm trying to say here, if I haven't made this abundantly clear, is: this is probably an activity best suited to your 2nd grader and 4th grader, not your 2nd grader and your toddler. ::sigh:: When will I ever learn?

The Dormouse and The Caterpillar, however, couldn't have cared less and had a grand time looking at each one and picking the crap scientific-like substance out of the eggshells a couple of weeks later when I finally gave up, decided this was as good as it was going to get and it was time to end the Great Eggshell Experiment sitting in the corner of my increasingly cluttered kitchen.

Theme of the day: explore our natural world
Progress: well, it's natural and they explored it

Word(s) of the day: soluble, evaporate
Progress: "Dormouse, what does evaporate mean?"

"Oh, evaporate is when there's a tiny puddle of water and the sun comes out the water goes up into the air and breaks into tiny water drops we can't see, then all those tiny water drops make a cloud." (full disclosure: this may seem impressive, but I'm pretty sure she knew this before the activity)

"Caterpillar, what does evaporate mean?"

"Evaporate mean, um, I don't know what evaporate mean but it might be when you go up in the sky and you walk on the air."

"Dormouse, what does water soluble mean?"

"I think it means if there's sea salt then the sea salt goes into the air and it attracts the water in little tiny drops that we can't see." (eh)

"Caterpillar, what does soluble mean?"

"Soluble mean, um.. it mean... um... I. Don't. Know. I. Watching. Cartoons!"