Sunday, March 25, 2012

Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair

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  Well it was a long weekend! This weekend was the 50th annual Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair, and we had the only homeschooled student who participated to ferry back and forth!

I heard about this science fair before Christmas, and when I told Emmi about it she got excited about doing a science fair project. My dad (Granddad) agreed to act as her "mentor" and he walked her through the process of designing and doing an experiement. After talking to him, she decided she would like to do an experiment with baking, and Granddad suggested taking out one ingredient from something and trying other substitutes in its place. They settled on eggs in cupcakes.
Granddad helping at the set up of the project at the fair.
In January Emmi baked 8 batches of cupcakes, one control group (with eggs) and then tried 7 substitutes that she discovered through internet research (with my help!). She then had to measure, weigh (ok take the mass for you science geeks out there!) and find the volume of each of these cupcakes. I helped with some, and Pip helped some. Then Daddy taught her basic skills on a spreadsheet and she spent one afternoon entering all her data. The science fair rules excluded any ingestion (eating!) by any subjects for the experiments so she had to judge how good her cupcakes were by measuring - she decided to try measuring density because in her opinion a cupcake should be light and fluffy. When all the data was sorted and collected, banana turned out to be the best substitute!

The NRSEF is for the winners of school science fairs, but they also accept other "top projects" from schools, so we were allowed to apply to the top projects group, and the NRSEF committee chooses some from that pool to come to the fair. The application deadline was early February, and Emmi did a small write up and sent in a summary (her abstract). In March we got the exciting news that her project was accepted, and so she had to do a full write-up, and also get her display board together.

Friends visiting Emily at the fair. Maybe they'll do a project next year!
This weekend she attended the fair all day on Saturday. Saturday morning was the judging, and then in the afternoon all the grade 7 and 8's participated in Brock's Youth University. Today (Sunday) was the public open house, and many people came to the fair to see the projects, including some of our friends and Grandpa!
Grandpa came to visit the fair!
 The whole experience was a lot of work but very worth while! I learned a lot about science fair projects as Emmi's teacher, and she learned a ton. She learned how to use some basic computer programs (like spreadsheets) that we hadn't taught her yet, and how to do library research, how to make footnotes and endnotes, how to structure an experiment, how to do simple data analysis, and the list goes on! She had to speak to a lot of people she didn't know, including the judges and other participants, and answer their questions. She is very tired from her weekend, but she is already thinking about next year's project! And Pip is fired up too - he thinks he would like to do a project when he is old enough and come to the science fair too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

At the Sugar Bush

Last week was March Break and we visited Agape Valley to tour their sugar bush and enjoy some pancakes! Our tour was led by a young gentleman, also named Ben, from our chapel (Thorold South Gospel Chapel) who did an excellent job! In the photo above he is explaining how you need 40 buckets of sap to make 1 bucket of syrup. He explained that right now the syrup content was weaker and they actually needed closer to 90 buckets of sap to make 1 bucket of syrup. The people at Agape Valley say they have made about 60% of what they made last year.

We got to see the old fashioned way of collecting sap in buckets, and then the modern system with tubes that feed into a pipe that runs right into the evaporator. We also saw a demonstration of how the pioneers made syrup by boiling sap in large cauldrons over a fire (below).

It was very warm while we were there! I saw people in tank tops and shorts, and they looked very comfortable! In fact, it was so warm we decided to eat our pancakes inside, so we could be in a shady place. Lots of people were enjoying the sunshine outside, but we hadn't brought our hats or sunscreen.

The syrup tasted great, and we also bought some honey to bring home (Agape Valley also has several hives), so we consider our outing a sweet sucess!

Friday, March 16, 2012


The Golden Toaster!
David joined the Garden City Toastmasters Club last year. In case you haven't heard of Toastmasters (or are uncertain what they are all about) here is their mission statement: "The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth." I should add, from having attended a meeting or two, that they also have a lot of fun. The Golden Toaster (above) is one sign that they don't take themselves too seriously!

The Toastmasters run a contest each year called the International Speech Contest. You can participate if you have worked up to a certain level in your Toastmaster's handbook, and David has, so some of the people in his club encouraged him to enter the contest. It is called International because when you get to the highest level of the contest, it is an international event - the winner last year was from Australia!

The contestants being addressed by the Area Governor.
 In the speech contest, you have to give a speech 5-7 minutes long (yes, they time you, and yes you are disqualified if it is too short or too long), that you have written. Any topic! The first place to compete is at your club. David entered with a speech on gratitude and contentment, and won at his club! Last night the winners of clubs in the area competed at the Area contest, and David won that contest too!

The Area 57 Speech Contest Winner!!
There is another contest that runs at the same time called an Evaluation Contest. The Evaluators all listen to the same speech and then have to give the speaker feedback. Judges judge the feedback of each evaluator for its analytical quality, recommendations and other points. The fellow from Garden City Toastmasters won that contest, so the Garden City Club did very well last night!
David and Joe - the Garden City winners!
 Now David and Joe both move on to the next level which is called the Division (we are in Division L, which is all of Niagara). The Divisional Contest is on March 30th in Dundas - let me know if you'd like to come! All the Marshwiggles were out last night, and were very excited to have their Daddy win the contest! We are all so proud of him!
The winners with the Divisional Governor
We thank God for giving David a great gift with his public speaking and know that He will use it for good in David!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Marshwiggles in Ancient Greece

The Philosopher

The Fruit Seller

The Crow

The Tortoise
The Marshwiggles have been heavily involved in a production with our choir and drama co-op Jubal Cottage School which was set in Ancient Greece. Our children had the roles mentioned under their photos, and did a fantastic job! The two younger boys were part of Aesop's Fables, and the older two were in a setting of Acts 17, which is Paul's encounter with the Athenians in and around Mars Hill (the Aeropagus).

As Canadians in the 21st century, we are used to hearing about Ancient Greece being foundational to our ideas of democracy and government, and we also hear a lot about a familiarity with the Greek myths being helpful to understand literature, but we don't hear a lot about the influence of Ancient Greece on the early church. At Jubal we wanted to explore this time period through a Christian lense, and examine how Greek values complemented and conflicted with biblical truth, and also gain an understanding of the culture where the gospel was first presented by Paul.

Early in our Jubal season, we were challenged with the appropriateness of Christians exploring this period of history - and with good reason. The cities of Corinth and Ephesus were noted for their immorality, anyone who knows what an Oedipus complex is understands the inappropriateness of that story for children, even examining pictures of Greek statuary for the art component of Jubal would be tricky. Wouldn't it be better to try something less controversial?

We discussed, and prayed, and concluded that the benefits of study in this area far outweighed the risks. Yes, we would be careful, but we would not be afraid. We did not want to be Christians who withdrew from the culture, but Christians who engaged the culture and redeemed it. It is true, our children would benefit from learning about the Ancient Greek civilization, their reading would have richness from the Greek myths and fables we studied, they would gain a greater understanding of literary allusions, but they would also realize the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform people trapped in sin. Ancient Greece was pagan through and through. If you take away their marble statues, and put cars, designer clothes, leather couches and large RRSP funds in their place you might think there's not a lot of difference between their time and now. And that was a powerful message for the children to learn and meditate on as they practiced their lines - how the good news of salvation that Paul brought could free those who were enslaved to bad habits, fear, greed, materialism, and worse.

So I am very proud of my children for their parts in the production. I am proud of my students whom I taught some of the choral speaking selections and the closing choir piece. All the students gave a great performance, they worked hard this year and it showed. I am grateful to my husband and other husbands of our leadership team who encouraged and supported us, and helped us to think through some of the tangles we encounted with the subject matter. I am thrilled to be a part of team with such talent, and who work so well together. But as I think back on this Jubal year, and this production, I am grateful beyond words to the God who orchestrated the salvation of "Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others" in Ancient Athens, and a woman named Anna in Port Robinson.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Today we got to take a day off school to play at a waterpark! Er... I mean, today we did a field trip on the physics of fluid dynamics. How does this sound for an excuse to take a day off: free waterpark admission, free parking, free locker and free "breakfast" (means juice boxes, tea & coffee with snacks like muffins, cookies and croissants). The catch? You had to show up at 6:30 to get in. A local Breakfast TV show was being filmed at the waterpark, and they were looking for extras in the background. The Marshwiggles were quick to sign up - the feeling being that an early start was not a big hardship.

We had a great time! It is always fun to hang out in a bathing suit (in a warm or hot environment) and see little gusts of snow out the windows. But there wasn't much window gazing because of all the waterslides and other fun activities. We were also blessed to have some great homeschooling friends to hang out with.

I got to ride on some slides with my favourite daughter, and then with my favourite man. Our younger two enjoyed some of the smaller slides in the children's area. Here is a set of pictures of Ben enjoying one slide:

And here is how we found Ben in the early afternoon: