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Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Science

We've been having fun with summer science recently. The Galileoscope that I ordered 6 months ago finally arrived yesterday, much to BJ's delight (and bringing out the excited kid in S as well). This snazzy telescope is an inexpensive ($15) fully functional instrument, designed in honor of 2009 being the International Year of Astronomy. They have been so popular that the manufacturers have a big backlog (hence the 6 month wait) but in our case, the lag was perfect. I wouldn't have guessed that in the interim my son would turn into a budding astronomer! We plan to bring it with us when we go camping next month, which should give us a good opportunity to use it without all the light pollution in our vicinity.

Both kids are turning into little biologists, marine and otherwise, setting up little habitats throughout the house. Make-believe zoos, aquariums, oceans, and forests are constant elements in their play. It's a joy to watch their imaginations at work!

I have plans to do some science activities with the worm bin, once it is established a little better. And, just to mix it up a bit, we've been hatching prehistoric crustaceans to watch them grow.

Not just any prehistoric crustaceans, either. We're talking ones that have their own cool soundtrack: Triops! (Thank you, They Might Be Giants, for originally bringing them to our attention). Yes, they have three eyes ("One that looks up, and one that looks down, and one to keep an eye on the other pair of guys...." though the third eye is much less distinct) and yes, the illustration is a fair approximation of what they look like full grown. (Minus the hat, the one in the TMBG video is fairly accurate, too, though significantly cuter. Guess that shouldn't be surprising since Disney was involved.) S found them at the planetarium gift shop when he visited with BJ and my dad last month, and BJ has been wanting to grow them ever since.

We needed a small (1 liter) tank for our set up, and I wanted something with a lid to keep the cats out. We purchased a Betta fish starter tank, borrowed the bedside lamp from my bedroom, and bought some spring water at the grocery store.
The kids were pretty excited!
BJ very carefully emptied the container of eggs into the water.
And in 24 hours, we had itty bitty Triops!

Triops only live for between 3 weeks and 3 months, a fact that I made sure to drive home with both the kids. (BJ is already scheming for how he'll get a Betta fish once they have gone to "Triops Heaven.") When they first hatched, they were very tiny, visible only as little moving white specks. Here they are, a day old -- the circles at the front of the tank are air bubbles, about the size of bubbles in carbonated soda.


Here they are a week later, about an inch long.

Five of the eggs hatched and started growing, and it was intriguing to see five little creatures like horseshoe crabs scuttling around. They are very active (the TMBG video got that right!) and according to the brochure that came with the kit, "How large they grow depends on the amount of light and food they receive. After hatching, they often double in size daily."

What they don't mention in the brochure is that they are cannibalistic little buggers. We now have 3 adult Triops, and I personally witnessed the largest of the three (the one on the left above) consuming one of the smaller original five when they were a little more than a week old. While it was still alive and wriggling. (Shudder.) I have to say, I'm kinda glad that the kids weren't around to watch that one. The fourth must have been eaten sometime during the night, because when we got up on day 9, there were only three of them left.

When BJ came to check on them that morning, of course he noticed that some were missing. I told him that they had died. "What happened to them?" he asked.

"See that big guy?" I said. BJ nodded. "He ate them up."

"Oops," BJ replied, in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.

Oops indeed. You, too, can have cannibals in your kitchen; just visit the Triops website and order your own kit!

1 comment:

cath c said...

which reminds me of another band, fine young cannibals!