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STEM@Home: Art in Nature

ART vs. NATURE: The ultimate showdown! So what side are you on? Ecosystems, dichotomous keys and dissection NATURE? Or touchy-feely, rainbows and pretty pictures ART? Hold up there, buckaroo – the line between Art and Nature is not as clear as it may seem.

Throughout history, artists have been inspired by the colors and textures of the natural world, and choose materials from nature to represent what they see. While nature-lovers, also known as scientists, represent the detailed patterns and intricate structures of plants and animals in the natural world.

Let’s put this battle to rest and accept that Art PLUS Nature combines the best of both worlds. So why not study the Art IN Nature? Lucky you – the STEM@Home blog from ExploreHope is here to help you do just that! Our camp counselors Annie and Danielle, from the 2020 Art in Nature Hope Summer Science Camp, will lead you through tons of activities exploring how art and nature intersect. Check them out below!

Color Your World

Ever wonder what color is, anyway? How many colors are there, and where did they come from? Annie and Danielle walk you through experimenting with prisms to find the seven colors humans can see, make paint using natural pigments, and discover a secret color only animals can see!

For the activities in this video, you’ll want a prism, white paper, ultraviolet (UV) pigment or pen, a black light, and natural pigments such as spices, fruits, and egg yolk. Most of the pigments used can be found in your own kitchen. UV pens and UV keychain lights can be purchased for a few dollars from retailers like Amazon and Walmart.

For more information on making natural pigments, check out Experimenting With Natural Paints from the Artful Kids blog. What to do with your homemade paint once you make it? How about making a homemade paintbrush for a totall from-scratch artwork?

Art that Touches Your Heart – and Fingers

Before the Industrial Revolution, artists not only mixed their own paints, but made their own paintbrushes, too – usually from animal hair or fur. Broaden your horizons and try pine needles, blades of grass, or willow leaves in your homemade paintbrush. The only limit is what you can rubber band to a brush stick!

For this activity, you’ll need long sticks (from nature or chopsticks also work), rubber bands, and a variety of natural materials to try. You could try moss, leaves (big and small), pine needles, and even a snip of your pet’s fur – with parental permission, of course!

Once you make your totally once-of-a-kind, unrepeatable artistic creation with natural paints and natural brushes, show it to the world – and especially ExploreHope! Don’t forget to tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram when you share your amazing art projects. We can’t wait to get inspired!

ExploreHope event: Sustainability in Your Community and @Home

Sustaining Our World

What is sustainability? How can you have a positive impact on the environment in your neighborhood and community?

Join ExploreHope on Saturday, November 14, and explore how you can contribute to sustainability in your home, your community and the world around you. Interactive sessions will discuss the environmental science and impacts middle and high school students can have. *Scouts BSA: This session starts you off on the right track for many of the Sustainability merit badge requirements. Registration

What is Sustainability?

‘Sustainability is a discipline that attempts to bridge social science with civic engineering and environmental science with the technology of the future. When we hear the word “sustainability” we tend to think of renewable fuel sources, reducing carbon emissions, and protecting environments by keeping the delicate ecosystems of our planet in balance. A goal of sustainability is to protect our natural environment, human and ecological health, and drive innovation that does not comprome our way of life.’ (environmentalscience.org

While the study of the envirnmental science may seem like a big topic, there are very pracitcal implications. There are many things people of all ages can do to increase awareness and practices that help maintain the natural environment. Come learn about what you can do!

Other Sustainability Events you can join…

There are other sustainbility events you can join via the Hope community. SustainableHope promotes stewardship of college and community resources by sharing information and practices that ensure our community is a force for good in the world. October 22 is Michigan Campus Earth Day 50.5, a collaborative event to engage faculty, staff, and studentsin a series of virtual convenings. The event will educate and provide action items for campuses to create awareness and advance environmental science. And you can join the Hope community on October 27 for a virtual film screening and conversation about the film, ‘The Story of Plastic’.

We hope you will join in for any of these Sustainable events! See all of ExploreHope’s outreach events on our Community Calendar and register for the Sustainability event on Saturday, November 14!

STEM@Home: Be a Tree Detective!

Hello STEM@Homers! Fall is here and back-to-school is in full swing. Whether you’re homeschooling, virtual schooling, or at-school-schooling, now is always the best time to add a little more STEM to your week, and ExploreHope is here to hook you up!

Got a crick in your neck? Don’t worry, you’re not alone – October in Michigan is peak fall color for our many deciduous trees. Everyone has a neck ache from checking out the blazing reds, vibrant oranges, and golden yellow tints in our neighborhoods and woodlands! Why not take your tree-gazing the next step and learn how to identify the falling leaves all around us? Our double-sided, printable Tree Detective Booklet with guide you as you find and identify Michigan’s most notable native trees!

Trees are truly amazing. Their leafy branches are beautiful in the autumn, shady and cool in the summer, and provide homes for animals all year ’round. But did you know that what we can’t see about trees – their underground root structure – gives our watershed its biggest tree benefit?

Check out this video, created in partnership with the Hope Institute for Sustainability and the Macatawa Water Festival, to learn more about how trees protect our watershed.

Love learning about the watershed? The Macatawa Water Festival is an annual event to celebrate our watershed and learn how to protect it. Visit their website to find tons more videos, crafts, and activities from the 2020 Macatawa Water Festival!

Image credit: derivative work: Pbroks13 (talk)Autumn_leaves_(pantone).jpg: Chris Glass, Cincinnati, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

ExploreHope Outreach – ’20-21 Saturday Events

ExploreHope loves exploring with kids! Not only do we offer exciting science camps during the summer, but we have engaging youth programs for the community year round. While we love bringing youth to Hope College’s campus for learning, we also offer fun, interactive events online.

Summer 2020 Virtual Science Camp

Families enjoyed our virtual summer camps! And so we will continue to offer quality, engaging experiences for K-12 youth throughout the school year. Look for oppportunities to engage scout badges throughout the year, community Brain Day in February and STEM for Middle School girls in March!

Check out the community calendar on our website for more information about each event. Register for community or scout events!

STEM@Home: Design Squad Global

Revisit one of our favorite design blogs for kids: PBS Kids Design Squad!

Welcome back to the STEM@Home blog. My name is Erica, and I’m one of the virtual camp counselors this summer for ExploreHope! This will be my fourth year working with the ExploreHope science camps. I am majoring in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. I was a senior this past year, and I have one more semester left to finish up my student teaching. This summer, I am in Holland enjoying the nice weather, spending time with my family, teaching swimming lessons, and working for the ExploreHope Science Camps.

Are you ready to get your creative juices flowing?! Check out one of my favorite resources to do STEM at home!

PBS Kids Design Squad Global is a place where you can find lots of engaging and fun STEM challenges. The STEM challenges for all ages range from easy to challenging, and you can find machines, building challenges, art projects, music explorations, and more. So many fun options!

When you click on the STEM challenge it clearly lists all materials needed and step-by-step directions. There is also a video that shows children making the project and talks about the science behind it. There are MANY to choose from, but these are a couple of my favorite STEM activities from PBS Kids Design Squad!

Creating a Hovercraft!

Have you ever seen a homemade hovercraft before? If not, no worries! Head on over to the PBS Kids Design Squad Global website and check out their awesome video on creating the hovercrafts. I loved designing the hovercraft and watching it glide on a table. You can follow the directions closely and create a hovercraft of your own! 

Creating an Air Cannon!

I don’t know about you, but I love running around outside in the summer, and this is a fun toy you can make for outdoor play! The air cannon is made with a few materials and would be fun for the whole family to create. Head on over to the PBS Kids Design Squad Global website to find this activity and start building!

Not only are their activities you can do together as a family, but there are online games and videos that are educational and engaging. I can’t wait for you to explore this website and dive into the fun STEM challenges! -Erica

**Images are all taken from the PBS Kids Design Squad Global website.

July Summer Science Camps!

We still have openings in our July camp offerings for the week of July 20-23 – camps for MS and HS. Check here for descriptions and registration.

ExploreHope Summer Camps 2.0: Adapted to ‘Keep Exploring’

ExploreHope Summer Camps were adapted this year to provide opportunities for students to ‘Keep Exploring’. Our creative and dedicated staff came up with the idea of Exploration Boxes! What fun! We delivered supplies to fuel an Elementary Design Exploration to 30 families in June. Each week, families joined in for two Zoom classes to investigate the box and build marble roller coasters, water runs, and chain reaction machines. Continue reading to learn about the ‘Art in Nature’ Exploration Box Virtual Camp that begins July 7.

Partnership is a big part of our programming this summer. We partnered with Holland Public Schools to offer 2 virtual camps in June – an Elementary STEM Camp for 5th Graders and a Virtual Careers exploration for Middle School. We also collaborated with with the CASA summer program to provide weekly virtual science activities.

Summer Camp Staff in Virtual session

In July, we are partnering with Hope College’s STEP UP programs for 2 weeks of virtual camps and with GRAAHI and Hope’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion for a week long virtual College Preview Camp.

We are excited to partner with community families beginning July 7 to offer another ‘Exploration Box’ camp for Elementary students and beginning July 13 we are offering 2 great weeks of PopUp camps on campus for MS/HS students! Read below for descriptions and registration information.

July 2020 Camps are happening!

Elementary Grades (entering K-5 in the fall) 
Family Exploration Box Adventure: Art in Nature!
Get inspired by the natural world. Explore color, texture, patterns and more using Nature as our muse!  Every week features three Zoom calls to investigate the science behind the art, and a family art project to keep creating and exploring at home. Expect a lot of messy making with this Exploration Box! Just $25 for supplies and 12 sessions. Register here!

Middle and High School Pop-Up Camps! Join us on campus July 13-23! Following strict state health guidelines, we’ve reformatted the camps to keep you engaged while also safe. Camp descriptions are on our website – notice some programs are 4 days, some 2 days. A special welcome to Science Olympiad students – join us to get started on many of your events! Thank you again. Stay safe and we can’t wait to see you all soon! Reduced rates for 2020. Register here!

STEM@Home: NASA SpacePlace

By NASA – Great Images in NASA (image link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=199486

Hi all! Welcome back to the STEM@Home blog. My name is Kate, and I’m one of your virtual camp counselors! I will be a junior at Hope College this fall, studying elementary education. I am spending this summer happily in Holland with my family, taking a class online, and working for ExploreHope from home. 

Is your curiosity out of this world? If you ever find yourself looking up into the sky and wondering what on earth (well, what in space) is up there, this is the spot for you. 

NASA Space Place has games, activities, crafts, and informational videos about All Things Space. Use the topic headers at the top of the page to navigate, starting close to home and travelling farther and farther each day. Start at Earth, of course, then on to Sun to Solar System, all the way to the UNIVERSE. Here are some of my personal favorite activities!

Build Your Own Nanorover! 

Not sure what a nanorover is? Don’t worry; this website not only has all the materials and steps you’ll need to take to create your own nanorover, it also includes tons of background information and learning material. Start in the informational column on the right of the page to learn all about the real asteroid rover. 

Write a Zany Adventure Story!

The fun of Mad Libs never seems to go out of style… I love this version of it because the stories you get to fill in are earth and space themed (with topics from meteorites and black holes, to ocean currents and ‘surfing in space’) and after your out-of-this-world story has been created, there are fascinating facts and information regarding the topic at the bottom of the page. This online activity is a perfect way to combine science with language arts, and have a ton of fun doing it!

Make a Topo Map!

Have you ever wished you lived in the days of explorers – charting new routes, fording rivers and climbing mountains? Wish no more! Although most of Earth has been mapped, planetary scientists are eagerly working to map planets like Venus, Mars, and the moons of Jupiter – and learning tons about them on the way. This activity is a fun and easy way to explore the world of map-making — specifically topographical map-making. Map-making is one of the best ways to learn about new lands and environments.

Want to get friendly with topo maps (that’s what their buddies call them)? Check out this world topographical map. Compare where you live with somewhere else in the world. How do the maps of the more mountainous regions compare with flatter areas? What do the different colors and lines represent? And just for fun, here are topo maps for Venus and Mars. Dabble in a little comparative planetology this summer!

Alright, enough talking from me; it’s time for you to let your curiosity sky-rocket. On behalf of everyone here at ExploreHope, have fun exploring! We miss you – to the moon and back. -Kate

STEM@Home: Exploration Boxes

Your cheerful STEM Delivery Service, Miss Danielle

Ah, the start of summer in Michigan. Strawberry-rhubarb pie! Crisp, sunny days! Shockingly cold water temperatures at the Lake! But nothing says early June in West Michigan more than…. the annual kick-off for the Hope Summer Science Camps!

This year, of course, things look a little different for us. But nothing can keep us back from sharing hands-on science with local kids! We’re finding tons of ways to share STEM activities with the community, and the biggest, newest way is a little something we like to call ‘Exploration Boxes’.

Tell me more about these little Exploration Boxes!

Did we say little? That may be a misnomer. The boxes aren’t little (see Miss Danielle, above, in the middle of delivering Supplies Part 1 to a camper’s house). The 4′ x 4′ pegboards definitely aren’t little – just ask Miss Annie, charged with finding a way to fit all those Supplies Part 2 in our delivery vans. And the 47 kids involved definitely make this the biggest camp we’ve ever run!

Assembling the boxes at Schaap Science Center

Opening an Exploration Box means finding tubes, funnels, hooks, buckets, and more STEM materials that can all be hung and attached to the pegboard and used over and over to build your own contraptions like marble roller coasters and water runs. Twice a week, Miss Annie and Miss Danielle host Zoom sessions where they guide kids in designing their own masterpieces, using new and recycled materials – while introducing them to key concepts like friction, momentum, and gravity.

Miss Annie and Miss Danielle’s awesome marble coaster – created with plenty of trial and error!

Week 1 of the Exploration Box Virtual Camp kicked off this week and kids have created some incredible marble runs. Although we can’t meet in person, campers can share photos and videos of their creations (and challenges!) in our private Google Classroom, so the group can ooh, ahh, and ask more questions!

Check in with our blog all summer long to learn about all the exciting STEM that’s still happening with ExploreHope this summer. Camps may be closed for now but nothing can stop your curious mind. Keep exploring!

STEM@Home: Citizen Science

Pardon me, are you Citizen Science? No, that’s not a hip new prefix for your name – it’s a description of your new summer hobby! Citizen science is science where everyone participates – including PhDs, amateurs, students, volunteers. Then, professional researchers use the collected data to come to real-world conclusions.

Why citizen science? Well, we live in a big world with big problems – it stands to reason we need big solutions. By working together, citizen science helps gather positively gi-normous sets of data from across the globe, and over years and even decades. That means scientists can develop stronger solutions to environmental, health, and ecological problems. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

SciStarter is the place to kick off your hopefully life-long citizen science career. Over a thousand projects are listed – some gathering global data, some more locally focused. Most of them can easily be done while maintaining safe social distancing and exploring our wonderful state and county parks. Check out a few of our favorites below!

SciStarter Snakes: Michigan Herp Atlas

As anyone who’s visited the Van Kley Animal Museum knows, we love our Michigan herps. Say what? Herp stands for Herpetofauna – or the group of animals including reptiles and amphibians. Ever hear the spring peepers disturb a still evening with their noisy croaks? Or jumped when a garter snake scurried across your path? You’ve interacted with some of Michigan’s native herpetofauna – and the Michigan Herp Atlas wants to know about it!

Slither on over to the SciStarter Michigan Herp Atlas page to learn more about the project and register for the Michigan Herp Atlas.

SciStarter Kites: Public Laboratory Balloon and Kite Mapping

Snakes not your thing? We won’t tell. How about a family project that uses helium balloons and digital camera imagery to create aerial maps of your neighborhood and city? Now we’re talking!

The Public Laboratory Balloon and Kite Mapping project takes a little up-front prep work, but your contribution helps create high-resolution maps that can be used for environmental research. And there’s no limit to the number of maps you can make!

Let’s go fly a kite! Visit the SciStarter Public Laboratory Balloon and Kite Mapping page to learn more and join the Public Lab mapping community!

Check out our website to learn about the Exploratory Learning Center at Hope College, ExploreHope Summer Science Camps (sample schedule) and our academic year programs.

STEM@Home: For the Birds

“Bird Song Hero” and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Academy

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:European_robin_(%27Erithacus_rubecula)_singing_3.jpg

Ah, the sweet sounds of a Michigan spring day. The whisper of a breeze, rustling through branches just burst into leaf. The burble of a creek, swollen with snowmelt and April showers. The vibrant trills of songbirds, swooping and nesting overhead. Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could interpret those liquid melodies, and commune with our feathered friends? What might they be saying, those dainty winged creatures?

  • “Hey! That’s my nest! Get out of here!”
  • “Dude, check out my awesome plumage!”
  • “We’re under aerial attack! Duck and cover!”

Huh. Well then. Perhaps the aviary world isn’t as serene as we imagined… but it’s definitely a whole lot more interesting! Spring is the perfect season to find out more about the complex and crazy world of birds all around us. Luckily, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Academy has a virtual toolkit to start your birding adventure off right.

Bird Academy

Definitely not a Hogwarts for birds, Bird Academy is chock-full of videos, tutorials, and games to make learning about birds not only easy but fun. Videos give a solid introduction to different birding concepts, like the “Inside Birding” series that runs down all the basic bird ID concepts. Yeah… birding. That’s a verb now. Also, you’re a “fledgling” birder. See what we did there? Classic birder joke.

The Bird Academy Learning Games page is also particularly fabulous, with thoughtfully designed interactive games for all ages. Unsurprisingly, surrounded by the natural beauty of Earth’s birds, the scientists at Bird Academy created visually compelling games and virtual experiences that suck you in to the world of birds. Check out one of our favorites, Bird Song Hero, below!

Bird Song Hero

One of the most basic skills in a birder’s toolkit is being able to identify what birds are around. But there’s a problem for us curious investigators. Not only are birds expert at camouflage, but they’re as comfortable flitting about thirty feet in the air as pecking for worms in the dirt. Humans? We’re what you might call “grounded.”

Enter Bird Song Hero, an interactive online game that helps you train your ear to figure out what birds are around you using only their distinctive calls. Using spectrograms – technical images that “show” what a bird’s song looks like – lets you quickly learn how to differentiate bird calls by visualizing what you hear!

  • On the Challenge Level, be sure to listen to all three of the bird calls as often as you wish. Can you “read” the spectrograms when the birds sing?
  • Beat the Ultimate Level and score 90% or above. Don’t get tricked by the space robot!
  • Take it past the game and to the biggest, best level… Reality! See if you can identify the birds tweeting in your own backyard with just your own two ears.

Check in with ExploreHope all summer long for fun, hands-on ways to engage with the amazing world all around us.