Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guts of a Pencil Sharpener

Our pencil sharpener bit the dust this week. This is a bad thing because we sharpen about twelve pencils a day around here. We are currently handling this task with a cheapo hand sharpener from Walmart, not satisfactory. Erik decided to break into the contraption and see if it could be repaired. No luck. Erik wasn't able to fix it so we got to tinker with it. Woo Hoo!

I love a good hands on project! The kids were all over this one; they pulled the pieces apart, probed, poked and observed. We've done some work with electrical circuits and simple machines before so they were pretty good at identifying the different mechanisms and figuring out what their function was.

Here, Carter has found the switch that is activated when a pencil is inserted into the sharpener. You can see how it closes the electrical circuit.

This motor actually had two switches on it though. One that is depressed by the pencil, another is depressed by a slide in tray that catches the pencil shavings. The kids found both, tinkered a way to depress both and the motor went wild. We were all thrilled.

Here, they were attempting to rebuild the gear box. I don't think we quite got all the pieces in the right place but I loved how their minds were whirring away during this project. They were so engrossed and pulled up tons of information that we haven't covered in over a year. We all got a bit grimy from the grease and this exploration took up a good portion of our morning but it was worth it. We gleaned a great review session and all of us will always remember what a pencil sharpener's guts look like. Bonus: we now have a motor, a couple of cool switches and power sources to add to our electrical gizmo collection.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Go Play in the Mud!

Okay, so we're a little weird around here but it is a happy weird.  Case in point, we just had seven tons of dirt delivered to our backyard.  The clerk at earth works asked us, the delivery guy asked us, our neighbors asked us, my sister asked us, even the kids asked us, "What is all that dirt for?" The answer... to play in. 

When I was a kid, my dad decided he wanted to build a swimming pool.  First step, order a truck full of dirt.  Well dad got the first step taken care of, he just never went beyond that. I'm so grateful he didn't.  We had a very small yard but with that pile of dirt and my sweet mothers blessing, well, let's just say we made excellent use of the vertical space. My sister, brother and I would play for hours.  We built tunnels for hotwheels, acted out epic battles with Gi Joe infantry and Barbie Nurses and baked up a ton and a half of mud pie delicacies.  Literally, best toy ever! 
Now it is time for the next generation to take a turn.  As soon as these kids heard that the dirt was specifically for them, they scaled the mountain. 
They ran for buckets of water, I ran for swim clothes to help contain the mess.  It didn't take long at all for them to figure out how to make a mudslide.  What followed was both absolutely common place and legendary, these kids hit that dirt and didn't let up.  They dug, they hoed, they watered, they slid, they rubbed, they built, they created; in short, they had a fantastic time! 

A quick dance in the sprinkler and a half load of laundry and the mess is gone, til tomorrow.  I'm sure, that there will be times that I get sick of the laundry and the footprints through the house. I'm human. But so are they and I want them to experience it all; so kids, you have my permission to "Go play in the mud!"

Thanks for reading,