Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Grandadscience and Food Coloring

   I begin this post with a Letter to the Editor from a grandfather that had just read an article in the November-December 2010 issue of American Scientist. The article makes the point that school is not where most Americans learn most of their science. It was my similar belief, held two years ago, that led me to start the grandadscience blog. Here's the letter. The italics are mine.

Innate Scientific Minds
To the Editors:

In response to "The 95 Percent Solution" by John H. Falk and Lynn Dierking (November-December), I have had the good fortune to spend a large part of my retirement babysitting my young, twin granddaughters. I have been amazed to watch their scientific experiments—testing the properties of various materials, exploring how those materials fit with other materials, picking up insects and examining them, on and on. They start, design and carry out these experiments on their own initiative. One possible conclusion to be drawn from the statistics in Drs. Falk's and Dierking's article is that it takes a number of years for the public school system to eliminate the early and natural scientific approach with which we are all endowed.


   Not long ago we had the pleasure of having a young man live with us for two years as he got his life together. He recently paid us a visit and had his nephew, Carlos, with him. Carlos is in the fourth grade. Passing through the kitchen, I found grandmother math and Carlos doing a 'science' investigation.  With a kitchen full of chemicals and a curious, young mind, grandmothermath quickly had Carlos investigating the combination of different colors of food coloring. In this picture, Carlos is adding a couple of drops of blue food coloring to a glass of water colored with two drops of yellow food coloring.

    Like most kids his age, Carlos is eager to learn science but, as he reported, all they do at school is language arts and math. Science lessons are few and far between and, when they do happen,they are typically  reading lessons about science, not lesson about doing science, as grandmothermath gave to Carlos. 
   When it came time to leave, Carlos wanted to visit again and do more science with grandmothermath. We look forward to his next visit.
   Do you know if your kids or grand kids are learning science at school?
   I noticed that the last three posts have featured grandsons John and Andrew. Given the above and not wanting to slight any of the other four grand kids, I sent this chart to our daughter in Georgia. I suggested that she have four-year old Asher do the investigation and send grandadscience digital pictures to post. To give Asher a simple data collection sheet, I sent Winona, Asher's mom, the following chart in pdf file format. The blank spaces are for the kids to color, based upon the color changes (if any) Asher observes when doing the investigation.

    If you would like a copy of the chart to use with your children or grandchildren, just email a request for Color Chart to
    Here are the photos of Asher sent in by his mom. In the first picture, Asher is adding drops of red food coloring to a glass of clear water.
    In this picture Asher is recording data from his observation of any color change 
    What a surprise he had when he added two drops of blue to two drops of yellow and the water turned green!
    Like every good scientist, Asher told his mom he wants to repeat the investigation! Science is based upon repeatability of results so he will soon get another chance to mix food coloring in water.
    The focus on the activity that Asher exhibits in these pictures tell grandadscience and grandmothermath  that we need to send more simple activities for Asher to do.
   Good job Asher!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alchemia from Springtail Studios

   In an earlier post (Springtail Computer Games – January 2011) I reported on the games designed and created at the Springtail Studios located in Romania. Their Haluz and Haluz2 games are free to play online. This post highlights Springtail’s Alchemia game, for both PC and Mac.
   The playable character in the game, for a reason that is obvious when you first see the character, is named Noses. A patrolling flying machine snatches his roasting chicken dinner. Noses knocks the bandit out of the air with a well-thrown hatchet and the flying thief crash lands in the nearby forest. Upon reaching the crash site, hoping to retrieve his dinner, Noses meets Lootpecker, the ghost in the machine. Lootpecker bemoans the fact that it can no longer hunt and asks Noses for his help in obtaining a new body. Thus begins their adventure.
   The following video solves Noses’ first problem.  He needs to follow Lootpecker through the opening yellow arrow) in the upper-right corner. To do so, Noses makes use of the tractor. Climbing aboard, he starts the tractor’s engine, puts in the clutch, shifts to first gear, steps on the gas pedal and drives the tractor forward. A brick, previously hidden under the tractor, is now revealed. Noses picks up the brick, shifts into reverse and backs the tractor back to where it was initially parked.  Shifting back into first gear, he sets the brick on the gas pedal and, as the tractor moves forward, grabs the rising chain. By tugging on the track control, he is carried through the opening, into the next chamber, and immediately faces the next problem to solve.
   I read the Manual and discovered that it explains why kids are much better problem-solvers than adults when playing these games. Kids will click on everything, aren’t afraid of doing something wrong, and will never read the manual.
   Here’s an excerpt from the manual:
      1.  Click on everything and see what happens.
      2.  You can’t do anything wrong in the game.
      3.  If you think you did something wrong, see point 2.
      4.  This game is so easy, you don’t have to read the manual
   Points 5 through 10 tell the player to lighten up and go with points 1 through 4.

   Attention to detail is the key to the game. In one level, an apple tree quickly goes through a year of growth. Picking up fallen apples is what’s needed to complete the level. I’ve played through the first seven levels with grandsons John and Andrew. During our next visit, we will finish Alchemia as our bedtime story game.
   If the frustration level gets too high, click on the Walkthrough button for a detailed solution to the level.
When you leave the game and return at a later time, typing in a Level Code lets you start where you left the game.
   All in all, at $7, the game is real bargain.
   Play the demo online at where you can also download the extended version.