Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Five of our families participated in a field trip to Jefferson City Fire Station #1 last Wednesday.

Fully dressed firefighter shakes hands with students.
Our trip guides showed us all the gear a fire fighter wears; one of them dressing up to show us what a fire fighter might look like who comes  into our house to rescue us from a fire. We were instructed to "Go to the firefighter."

One of the axes the firefighters use.

Then we were shown Engine 4, with all of its hoses, nozzles, tools, and other gear. We were told what it was for and how it was used.

After a chance to walk through the cab of Engine 4, we were shown how the thermal camera worked.

Checking out the thermal camera.

 We also learned that this year marks JCFD's 100th anniversary as a paid firefighting force. Watch for news about its celebration later this year.

Thanks, JCFD Station #1! We had fun and learned lots.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spies Everywhere!

Last Thursday, several of our families participated in this month’s Home Schooling Program at Missouri River Regional Library. The programs are open to all homeschoolers. Approximately 35 students participated in this month’s Spy School.
The program began with a very brief history of espionage. Then students divided themselves up into four groups to rotate through the four stations, with about 20 minutes at each station. They were:

1. The art of observation, remembering, and disguise
Ways to remember information.
Here students were asked to look at a picture for about 20 seconds and then remember as many details as possible. Then they did the same to a tray full of assorted objects. This led to a discussion about ways to remember things, including: 
  • Repetition
  • Acronyms
  • Acrostics
  • Rhymes and songs
  • Create a story
    Finally, one student was chosen to dress up in disguise while the group discussed ways this can be done.

2. The Caesar cipher
Cutting out a tool to use with the Caesar Cipher.
The students participated a brief discussion about the difference between codes and ciphers. (Ciphers work on the level of letters or similar small bits of data and codes work on the level of meaning.)
Here’s a template if you want to do this at home.
3. A transposition cipher and other hidden messages

Working with scytales.
Students used books as scytales and long pieces of paper as parchment to replicate what the ancient Greeks did during military actions.
Here is a link to more information on transposition ciphers. And here.
The other hidden messages explored at this station were pages of print (random texts of words and paragraphs) that had been previously prepared. When students held them up to the window they discovered that there were pinholes in the paper at various words. When they wrote those words down in order from top to bottom and left to right, they had the hidden message.
4. Invisible ink

At this station students wrote with lemon juice and a baking soda solution as “invisible inks.” After letting the lemon juice dry, they used a hot iron to make the message appear. After letting the baking soda solution dry, they made the message appear by applying a little bit of purple grape juice concentrate.

Making the lemon juice appear.
Thanks again to the library for hosting such a wonderful program. Join us next month for a program on "Rocks and Minerals," facilitated by one of our group's families. It will be Thursday, April 5, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Art Gallery of the Missouri River Regional Library. We hope to see you there!

Spending time with friends.