Monthly Archives: January 2012

Going Out and Getting Busy – Part II

Stonehenge: New Discoveries

Thursday, February 16, 2012 – 7:00pm     College of Charleston, Simons Center for the Arts, Room 309   Dr. Parker Pearson

Stonehenge is one of the great mysteries of the prehistoric world. After seven years of new excavations and research, archaeologists now have a completely new understanding of the date and purpose of this enigmatic monument. One of the key break-through has been to understand how Stonehenge formed part of a wider complex of monuments and landscape features within Salisbury Plain. Professor Parker Pearson will present the results of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, and discuss the current theories about Stonehenge – an astronomical observatory, a centre of healing or a place of the ancestors – and the identity of its Neolithic builders.

We now know much more about the people who built Stonehenge – where they came from, how they lived, and how they were organized. Not only has the project discovered a large settlement of many houses, thought to be for Stonehenge’s builders, at the nearby henge enclosure of Durrington Walls but it has also re-dated Stonehenge and investigated its surrounding monuments and sites, many of which were hitherto undated and unknown. This presentation will provide a brief overview of some of the project’s highlights, including the recent discovery of Bluestonehenge. One of the greatest mysteries – why some of Stonehenge’s stones were brought from 180 miles away – is currently being investigated and its brand new results will be presented at the lecture.

Kolb Site

March 10, 2012 – 9:00am until 4:00pm

Last year we took an overnight trip to Darlington to visit the Kolb Site.  This year we are planning on going and joining the dig for a few days.

However, they have an amazing Public Day on March 10th which is worth the rutted entrance road.



Filed under "Coming of Man", American History, Camping/Basic Survival Skills, European History, Geography and World Studies, Going outs (Field Trips), Practical Life - Elementary

Goings Out and Getting Busy – Part I

We are so blessed to live in a college town.  In the next month and a bit, there are a lot of lectures that we are going to go absorb.  Darwin Week is one of our favorite series of lectures.  Last year it brought us the  Blood Sucking Flies lecture and the year before an amazing talk about Neanderthals.  Since we are located in “The Holy City,” it is appropriate that the Darwin Week include a discussion of faiths and the coming of the universe.  This year the them is “Does Evolution Lead to Evil.”

The Evolution of Complex Animals: New insights into some very old problems in evolution.  

Monday, February 6 at 4:00 p.m.   CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium          Dr. Athula Wikramanayake

Over 500 million years ago, the Cambrian “explosion” yielded a remarkable diversity of animals with bilateral symmetry — animals which have evolved to constitute 95% of the world’s fauna today. Did such complex “bilaterian” animals evolve from simple, non-bilaterian organisms?

Need for Speed:  The Evolution of Decision-Making in a Rapidly Changing World

Tuesday, February 7 at 4:00 p.m.    CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium          Dr. Catalin V. Buhusi

Despite our sophisticated cognitive abilities, humans are notoriously bad at making rational decisions. Similar biases, aversions, and reference-dependent choices have been reported in other species, suggesting that evolution has shaped our ancestors’ brain to make decisions in a different kind of environment. How can we reconcile the apparent necessity of rapid decision-making with the need for building a long-term sustainable society for future generations?

THE 2012 TALKS ON TAP DARWIN WEEK EVENT:  Does Evolution Lead to Evil?  Two Christian Perspectives

Tuesday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m.      Second Presbyterian Church    Dr. Brad Harrub and Rev. James B. Miller

Critics have claimed that regardless of whether evolution is true or not, to believe that humanity had its origins in earlier non-human species leads to racism, eugenics, euthanasia, abortion, and youth violence. Join Rev. Jim Miller and Dr. Brad Harrub for a fascinating conversation on the potential ethical implications of evolutionary theory, with a robust question and answer time to follow.

Astrobiology:     The Search for Life in the Universe

Wednesday, February 8 at 4:00 p.m.     CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium       Dr. Luke S. Sollitt

Are we alone in the Universe? Until recently, this fundamental question about humanity’s place in the cosmos was the province of philosophy or science fiction. The nascent science of Astrobiology seeks to turn science fiction into science research, and answer it once and for all. Dr. Sollitt will discuss three main research areas in this new field: the search for habitable planets elsewhere in the universe, the study of so-called “extremophiles” on Earth, and the search for habitable zones and life elsewhere in the Solar System.

The Ice-Age Dispersal of Humans to the Americas: Do Stones, Bones, and Genes Tell the Same Story?

Thursday, February 9 at 4:00 p.m.          CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium        Dr. Ted Goebel

When did modern humans colonize the Americas? From where did they come and what routes did they take? These questions have puzzled scientists for decades, but until recently answers have proven difficult to find. New techniques of molecular genetic analysis, and a reinvigorated search for early archaeological sites across the western hemisphere, recently have led to some astounding results.



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Filed under "Coming of Man", Astronomy, Biology, Geography and World Studies, Geology, Going outs (Field Trips), Physics, Science

Nitrogen Cycle Montessori Style

The Montessori Elementary child is presented with a number of lessons about plants.  We have previously discussed the first 2 lessons of plants: 1.  The Four Greek Elements and 2. What Nutrition Plants Need.  These serve as an introduction to the idea of chemistry to the Elementary child.  We’ve discussed the historical practice of leaving ground fallow and the modern practices of fertilization (with the example of cotton in the post Civil War south as the prime example).  The third of these lessons is a discussion of Nitrogen and the Nitrogen Cycle.  There are diagrams of each of the lessons that were created after Dr. Montessori did by a number of her followers.  These diagrams lack the elegance for which Montessori works are known.  Perhaps the most unsettling of the diagrams is the Nitrogen Cycle’s.  So, Mrs. W and I worked out a hands-on work.  We are open for suggestions.


  1. Chart 2 of “Plant nutrients”.
  2. Jar of air.
  3. Soybeans, peanuts or other legumes
  4. Chart 3 – nitrogen cycle in felt parts.
  5. 4 boxes with the parts.
    1. “Free Nitrogen”
      1. 10 tickets labled “N”
      2. 10 tickets labeled O
      3. 10 tickets labeled H
    2. “Nitrification box 1 – atmosphere”
      1. Cloud in grey felt
      2. Rain
      3. Lightening with two branches
    3. “Nitrification box 2 – terrestrial”
      1. legume stalk and roots
      2. legume leaves
      3. nitrogen fixing bacteria
      4. deer
      5. poop x 2
      6. earthworms
    4. “Denitrification”
      1. green leaves
      2. brown leaves
      3. bones for deer
      4. denitrification bacteria
      5. fungi – mycelia and mushroom
  6. Jar with soil.

Nitrogen Cycle Presentation:

Lay out the underlayment and place underground water table, tree, sun and clouds in their places.  Open “Free Nitrogen” box.

Plants, like all organisms, require a certain number of chemical elements for growth.

The story of one of these, nitrogen, is an interesting one. Nitrogen is especially important because proteins are rich in it, and they carry out a lot of the work in the cells.

Take a deep breath.  Slowly breath it out.  Hold the glass of air up.

Even though 78% of the air we breathe is nitrogen, plants and animals can’t use the free nitrogen.

Lay out most of the Free Nitrogen cards in the atmosphere.

We breathe it back out.

Show Chart 2.  Invite the children to recall the lesson and name the elements.

And out of the 12 or so elements that a plant must obtain from the soil, only nitrogen can’t be obtained directly.  It must first be fixed – that is, combined with other elements usually hydrogen or oxygen.  This happens in a two main ways.  When nitrogen is fixed, it is called “Nitrification.”

Lay out the rest of the Free Nitrogen cards in the soil.

Open “Nitrification box 1 – atmosphere” box.

The first way nitrogen is “fixed” is in the atmosphere. The catch is that nitrogen will only bond with its favorite elements when there is high temperature and pressure.  Where in the atmosphere will you have really high temperatures and lots of pressure?

In lightening bolts!

Set out the cloud and place the H2O tickets in the cloud. (4 H2Os)

Lay out rain.  Move an H2O into the stream of rain.

When the lightening bolts strike the nitrogen bonds with oxygen making Nitric oxide.

Lay down the lightening bolt.  Move the first H2O near one branch of the lightening bolt and bring a N over to the H2O, split it apart and allow the H2s out into the atmosphere.  Join the N with the O.

Move the second and third H2Os near the second branch of the lightening bolt and bring over a N, split it apart and allow the H2s out into the atmosphere.  Join the NO2 together.

When the NO2’s fuse this is called nitrogen dioxide.  The Nitric oxide falls to the ground with the rain.  However, not all of the nitrogen dioxide falls directly to the ground.  It bumps into some of the H2O’s.  It then fuses and forms nitric acid.

Move the NO2s with waters and arrange them into nitric acid.  Make sure all the nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric acid move into the soil.

These three types of fixed nitrogen that are made in the atmosphere are may be used by plants.  This is three ways Nitrification takes place in the atmosphere.

Move one of the nitrogen dioxides into the trunk of the tree through the roots.

Open “Nitrification box 2 – terrestrial” box.

In temperate soils, another types of fixation takes place in the roots of some plants.

Ask the children to name some legumes. Share the soybeans or peanuts.  While the children chew, lay out the legume plant.

As these plants grow, their root hairs send out certain chemicals that attract root bacterias.  When the bacteria touches the root hairs two things might happen.  1. if it is not the right type of bacteria the root protects itself for it.  But, if it is the correct type of bacteria, it is held there,

Lay out the bacteria in the soil and move them to the roots of the legume.

and a kind of tube grows from each bacteria into the cells of the tiny root hairs.  These bacteria enter into the cells and reproduce causing a swelling called a “nodule” on the root.

Move the bacteria onto the roots.

This is not an invasion that will hurt the plant.  The bacteria and the plant are working together.  Do you know the word that is made from the Greek word sym meaning together and the word bios meaning life?

The plant provides energy in the form of ATP and the bacteria bring an enzyme that takes the fixed nitrogen and combines it with hydrogen and that makes ammonia!

Move the NO2 to the plant’s roots and combine it with Hs from water to make NH3

The ammonia is quickly converted into NO2 and NO3.  Plants use these as fuel for growth.  It is incorporated into many amino acids when are used to make proteins.

Make the NO2 and NO3.

The Oxygen from the water is not wasted but used as part of the process and then released.  Nitrogen is stored in the leaves, fruit, and roots of the legumes  and remember that the fixed nitrogen that was made by the lightening can be used by other plants.  This is quite a bit of nitrogen hanging out in plants.  But man needs nitrogen, too.  How do we get nitrogen to help us grow?

Say a person, or a horse, or a deer comes along and sees some tasty soybeans or pulls up a peanut plant and finds tasty peanuts,  what do they do?       Ahhhhh.

Lay down the deer with him “eating” the legume.

Yes they eat it.  Now the fixed nitrogens are inside the deer.  I wonder how they might come out?

Lay down the feces.  The first at the anus of the animal and the second on the ground where it would fall.  Lay down the earth worms.

One way is for the animal to excrete waste.  The animal might be a tiny earthworm or a giant whale.  It still extracts what it can from its food; it can’t take all of the nutrients and some pass into the feces to be excreted from the body.

Open the “Denitrification” box.

We now begin the process of “Denitrification” – of breaking apart the fixed nitrogen into single nitrogen atoms to be used again.

Can you think of another way that the nitrogen trapped in a living thing can be returned to its denitrified state?

This may be difficult for the children to think through.  Give a second or two and lay the deer down so his main body is below the soil line.  Add the bones to the body.

What about the plants?  How does the trapped nitrogen leave the plants?

They will get it and will say that the trees and plants die.

Yes they do die,  but some trees live a very long time.  How about their leaves?  On most trees, they live only one year and then fall off.

Put the green leaves falling and the brown leaves on the ground near the deer.

What creatures have been given the special job of decomposition?

Bring out the mycelia and the mushroom,  bring out the bacteria, move the earthworms over.

Take the nitrogen and oxygen in the deer and break it apart and return it to the atmosphere.

Take the nitric acid in the tree and break it apart and return it to the air.  Put water back into the clouds and generally reset the cycle.

This important job of denitrification takes death and turns it back into what brings life and growth.  The cycle may begin again.

Touch the clouds and walk through the cycle again using the major terms.

Now that you have had this lesson you may do this work.  You must be very careful with so many ways and times that nitrogen fixes, you must be observant and thoughtful to cause the correct nitrification and denitrification at the correct time in the cycle.


  1. Volcanoes,  power plants, and cars also can fix Nitrogen.
  2. A byproduct of denitrification is N2O or nitrous oxide, “laughing gas” and is considered a greenhouse gas.
  3. The oceans have their own nitrogen cycle which involves blue-green algae and other bacterias without having a symbiotic relationship with plants.
  4. Fertilizers and the Haber Process is its own topic and worth research by an upper el student.


Filed under AR, AV, Biology, BW, Chemistry, DW, JV, Science, Students

Beginning to find multiples

BW has just begun the process of understanding multiples. Please bear with the bad photos all I had was the Iphone.  He was having that lightbulb flickering moment.  He went home and worked the Multiples Tables 1 and 2 the next morning all before 10am!

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Filed under BW, Mathematics, Multiples and Factoring, Students

DW – looks at a cedar

Cedar Tree

Cedar is a fragrant wood, that keeps bugs away. There are 17 different types of cedar, including the Cyprus Cedar and Eastern White Cedar to name common ones. Cedar symbolizes healing, cleansing, and protection. Cedar does not rot because it keeps bugs and moths away. It does this by  making a toxic poison to bugs, the strength increases by age. Cedar grows all over North America.
People make cedar chests to keep clothing in; it makes clothes smell good and protects it from moths. The smell is created by oils the cedar produces. The smell is calming to people and reduces stress. The Cherokee have a legend were they wish it was always day; they receive this wish from the creator. They soon wish it was always night; again they receive this wish from the creator. People began to starve and die. The Cherokees begged that the creator make it the way it was before they made the wishes. The creator gave them this wish, but in remembrance of the death of his people the creator created a tree which was the cedar. The wood is the color of blood, for the people that died. The cedar is now sacred. The Cherokees use it for medicine, weaving, red dye, canoes, and lacing. Cedar is an amazing tree and has been used for years.

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Filed under Botany, DW, English Language, Science, Students, Writing

Creative Physics

Montessori places a great emphasis on using the right materials for the job. Really, have you ever seen a Casa teacher going through a giant box of trays for the perfect one.  This attention to detail is passed on to children.  If the teacher is not careful, the children can grow up to be unable to be flexible.  That is one of the reason I love creativity in physics.  It helps kids problem solve.

Joseph Herscher is perhaps the most famous Kinetic Artists in the world.

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Filed under Educational Philosophy, Montessori, Physics, Science

AV’s multi-tasking

AV has “proximal” memory issues.  This means that he has a hard time retrieving known information from different places in his brain and putting them together to, say, do an Algebra problem – addition, fractions, orders of operations, fractions is division, reducing, inverse of a square root, balancing an equation, etc.

At the age of 4, AV had perfect letter sound recognition and could read large print “readers” with ease.  But in third grade he still couldn’t read well at all.  We had him tested then and discovered that his eyes don’t track at the same rate.  One eye moves slightly faster.  He worked hard to recognize when it was happening and “control” it. We attempted to have him psychometrically evaluated in the public Montessori he was attending, but they said that he was too smart for services and come back and talk with them in the 7th grade.  That would be when “it would catch up with him.”  Really!

Last time he was tested was in 4th grade and his memory was at a second grade level.  That’s not too bad.  We weren’t concerned.  However, after three years of the same maths work he still wasn’t getting Algebra. Actually that isn’t true. He can get it if you show him again.  It’s not like it’s gone.  The order and paths have to be rebuilt after about two weeks of not doing the exact same type of problem.  He is just extremely bright and can often compensate in other ways to cover his tracks.  Algebra had become an albatross.  So, we had him tested a couple of months ago.

We were shocked to find that his memory was still in the second grade level.  Needless to say we’ve been working very hard on strengthening all the brain muscles surrounding his retrieval memory.

In practical life, this difficulty remembering has lead to many unfinished projects.  He would become frustrated and then demoralized when he would stumble on something he’d begun and then forgot about.  It was also frustrating for the wider family.  We would ask him to do something like take out the recycling.  If he were doing anything else, he would have to stop it and do what we asked right then or risk forgetting what you’d asked.  Forget about asking him to do two tasks that take any amount of time and having the second one happen. This was frustrating for all.

So, this semester we’ve instituted the white board.  I can wander by any time before 6 in the evening and write down something I would like him to complete before going to bed.  In the morning, we discuss his goals for class work that day and that can’t be changed.  He must complete anything on his whiteboard before going to bed.

Last night it was getting late and he had two things left on his list.

  1. Unicycle practice
  2. Read chapter 5 in Psychology

Here is his solution.

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Filed under AV, Students