Children of Terra

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Learn all kinds of new and exciting things while having fun! You can also catch up on what we're up to, and get the oppinions of some of our crew.

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STEAM Challenge! Build a Fanboat

Posted on March 18, 2019 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Airboats are pretty cool, even though they don’t actually sail through the air. Traditional boats push themselves through the water by exerting force on the water itself. Airboats push themselves over the water by exerting force on the air behind the boat. Thanks to the lack of a motor or propellers in the water, combined with their flat bottoms, these types of boats are perfect for navigating places we wouldn’t normally be able to reach with a traditional boat.

While many hunters or anglers use airboats (a.k.a. fanboats) in their expeditions, they’ve also become a great tool for conservationists, researchers, and eco-tourists! Fanboats are used to access swamps and marshlands containing a vast number of species to be studied and provide a way to quickly get from one site to another without risking serious harm to aquatic creatures, such as manatees or alligators. But before you go out looking for an airboat to pilot, it’s important to understand how they work. For that, we can build our own simple airboat while challenging our STEAM skills!

Fanboat STEAM Challenge!

What you will need:

-Small hobby motor (3-6v will work, but up to 12v will do just fine)

-A clean, empty beverage can

-A boat body

-A motor mount



-Small rubber bands

-Insulated wire

-A battery

-Something to waterproff/protect the battery

-Electrical tape

The boat body:

Here’s the first part of this STEAM challenge! Find or create a small boat body! For our fanboat, we actually still had an unfinished tea tray, which happened to work out pretty well. Be creative, though! You can make the body of your boat out of tin foil, popsicle sticks, an old shoe sole, or whatever! Just make sure it has a flat bottom, can float, is watersafe/watertight, and that you’ll have places to mount the motor on the back and store the battery on board. Once you have the body of the boat made or figured out, it’s time to mount the propeller and battery case!

The motor mount:

Again, this is a challenge, which means you’ll have to come up with something yourself. For our tea tray boat, we glued a couple of pieces of wood shim together to act as the motor mount. You just need something to hold the motor level and in place. If you’re using tin foil, it might be best to add double-sided tape or something else to insulate between the motor and the foil. Once you have your mount figured out, install the mount into your boat. For ours, we simply glued the mount into the boat. Once the mount has been installed, attach the motor to the mount. If you’re gluing the motor on, be sure not to get any adhesives inside the motor or on any of the moving parts outside of the motor.

The battery case:

The next part of this challenge is figuring out how to waterproof and protect the source of power for your boat. For ours, we used an empty breath-mint container. The container actually helped provide a nice counterbalance to the motor, so our boat wasn’t sinking too far down on the back end. If you can’t find or make anything in your home to do the job, you should be able to find waterproof battery cases at your local craft or hobby store.

Glue or attach your battery case, and (carefully) wire the battery to your motor to make sure everything works. If you have the know-how and materials, you can add some power regulation and on on/off switch the your circuit, but for our project we just stuck with a simple direct current circuit (power source directly tied to motor). Just keep in mind that without power regulation, your battery may fry out your motor or vice versa, so pay attention to the power requirements and limits of both.

Finally, use some electrical tape to insulate and protect any exposed wiring. If too much moisture gets on any exposed wires while the circuit is hot, it can cause a short out potentially damage your motor or battery. As you can see in the pictures, we didn’t protect exposed wires on our motor, and ended up ultimately frying out the motor as a result.

The propeller:

Next, we need to make and attach a propeller to the motor. To do so, draw and (carefully) cut your propeller out of an empty, clean beverage can. Below is the simple shape we used, but experimentation is always encouraged! Some cans may be thinner than others, so you may have to cut multiple copies of your propeller out and glue them together. Wrap a rubber band around the output shaft (the part that spins) on the motor. This will help hold the propeller in place. Next, punch or drill a hole out of the center of your newly made propeller unit. Be sure the hole is just big enough to fit the shaft into.

To finish installing your propeller, slide the propeller onto the shaft, and tightly wrap the other rubber band around the shaft. Push both rubber bands tightly against the shaft, so they hold it from both sides. You may need to add a little glue to the rubber bands to make sure the blade doesn’t come loose.

Flat propeller blades aren’t good for moving things so much as they are for cutting things up, so you’re going to have to bend the blades. Doing so will change the “pitch” of the blades. You’ll have to experiment a bit with what angle the blades should be at to push your fanboat rather than pull it. Just remember that different parts of the blade move at different speeds while rotating, so the pitch shouldn’t be the same all the way down the blade. Likely, the pitch will be steeper (more angled) at the base of the blade, and shallower (more flat) at the end of the blade. If you need a little visual inspiration, check out the fans most people use to cool their homes during the warmer seasons.

At this point, it’s important to test everything out and ask yourself a few questions before taking your craft to water.

-Is the boat able to float and water tight?

-Is the battery water-safe?

-Is the propeller pitch pushing or pulling?

-Are wired connections insulated and/or protected?

-Is the motor system functioning?

After a final test to make sure everything works as expected, your boat is ready to take to the water! Just be sure not to send it onto a body of water that you won’t be able to recover it from, such as a lake or pond. Just to be safe, it may be worth attaching a light string or fishing line to it. If it gets too far out of reach, you could just reel it back in!

What’s happening?

The reason this simple little fan is moving your boat has a lot to do with Newton’s Third Law, which states that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. As the fan pushes the air backwards behind the boat, the air propels the boat forward. If you only consider Newton’s Third Law, though, you may be left wondering why the boat doesn’t seem to move as quickly as it should. A seemingly simple problem may have some very complex answers, though!

The first thing to consider is Newton’s Second Law, which states that the greater the mass of an object, the greater the force needed to move it is. Already, your propeller must be strong enough to overcome the mass of your boat.

The next thing to consider is that the force moving the boat forward IS the same as the force of the air being pushed behind the boat, but the forces of gravity and friction play a role, as well. Air friction is acting on the boat, producing more sets of equal and opposite reactions (known as “drag”). Friction from the water is also acting on the boat, creating even more sets of equal and opposite reactions. Gravity is ALSO acting on the boat, creating EVEN MORE sets of opposite and equal reactions. These types of reactions play into Newton’s First Law, which states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. Friction and gravity hold the boat in place, “at rest.”

Project Notes:

This is the first in a new series of blog posts with challenges in STEAM skills. A lot of the instruction was left somewhat vague and open because we want you to use those wonderful brains of yours to design and create your own versions of this project, using materials and resources you have locally available. Not only does this help you practice your critical thinking skills, but it helps you learn and practice skills used in almost every field of STEM and STEAM research!

Not only we love to see your designs and how they turned out, but sharing your knowledge may help others build on it and create a better version for everyone to benefit from! Share your results with us on our Facebook Page, Instagram, or post it on Twitter with the hashtag #COTairboatchallenge

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

Resources:" target="_blank">Explain That Stuff: How Propellers Work" target="_blank">Physics Classroom: Newton's Laws

Black Hammock Airboats: How airboats work


No Earth Week Bash, but plenty of fun to come this year!

Posted on March 4, 2019 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Hey everyone! I just wanted to drop a quick update on what's happening with some of our programs and initiatives!

-Earth Week Bash

After reviewing some things a bit more thoroughly (including available funding, conflicting events/festivals, availability of educators/vendors), we've decided to hold off on doing a big Earth Week Bash this year, instead putting our focus towards planning an event for next year. This will allow us ample time to plan the incredible event you deserve. In the meantime, we are breaking down some of the ideas from the Earth Week Bash into smaller programs throughout the year. Read on to find out more!

-Build your own bughouse

Just because we aren't doing the earth week bash doesn't mean we aren't still doing something for Earth Week. On April 28, we will be holding a workshop where you can learn how to make your very own upcycled bughouse, as well as get to know more about the bugs in your backyard and how important they are to the local ecosystems. Check out our programs and initiatives page for more!

-Plant a Butterfly Fairy Garden

While we are still in the process of working out the details on this one, I figured I'd at least give you guys a heads up. During this workshop, you will have a chance to learn about the importance of pollinators such as butterflies and bees while planting your very own fairy garden! You might just discover the beauty of our native flora in the process!

-Buckeye Bees short film

Throughout the spring and summer we will be working on a short documentary about the bees of Ohio. We will explore their importance not only to the local ecosystems, but to the economy or Northeast Ohio and beyond. Though it will be available for viewing free of charge on our channels, we will be holding a premiere party to celebrate those that are helping make this film happen!

-Cleanup events

Keep an eye on our events page or social media pages to find out when these will be happening!

Thanks for reading and for your support as we continue to grow and develop!

-CJ w/ Children of Terra NEO

10 Tips for Winter Hiking

Posted on November 19, 2018 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I know a lot of us Ohioans aren’t super thrilled about the weather lately. It’s been cold, rainy, snowy, and all around messy. While it may still be fall, we’ve had some pretty rough winter weather already, with plenty more on its way. Just because it might not look great outside your window doesn’t mean the snow hasn’t added an element of beauty to the natural world, though! Winter hiking, while challenging, can give way to some of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful scenes you may experience in your lifetime. I’ve spent around a decade or so doing winter hikes for my photography, and have learned a lot both from experience and from talking to seasoned pros. Here, I’d like to share some tips for winter hiking to make the experience much more enjoyable!

-Layered up!

Dressing in layers is crucial to a comfortable winter hike. While you should generally stick to the theme of the inside layers for warmth, and to outside layers for waterproofing, you should also make sure that the inside layer can help control or wick away sweat. I usually dress for weather a bit colder than what I’m anticipating for two reasons, the first of which is simply that it’s better to be safe than sorry. The second reason is that you may encounter areas colder than expected on your hike. Being down in a gorge, along the shores of a pond or lake, or even just in an open field can influence the temperature and wind chill you’ll experience. The best part about dressing in layers, though? If you get too warm, you can just strip a layer or two off! Just be sure to keep the outside layer water-proofed!

-Don’t go off the beaten path

Ok, look….. I know we encourage exploration quite a bit, but it needs to be safe exploration. During the summer, even the popular off-trail sites can be hazardous. Just look at the near-yearly rescues required around popular off-trail swimming holes and hangouts. Now think about how dangerous those hazards can become when they are covered in ice, hidden by a blanket of snow, or both! A snowy surface that appears flat can have dips and holes hiding under the snow. A shallow-looking frozen stream may be hiding a raging river under the ice sheets. Unless you’re with an expert or guide, it’s best to just stay on the paths. Besides, it’s probably better for the fragile ecosystems surrounding most trails.

-Go big or go home isn’t the best idea during the winter.

A lot of us enjoy long summer hikes, completing 15-mile long loops or trails in a few hours with relative ease (excluding periods of extreme heat). During winter, however, things tend to take a bit longer. The snow covering the trails tends to slow us down. Beyond that, it takes a lot more physical effort to traverse trails covered in snow, rather than the clear paths we enjoy during the warmer months. Sometimes you may need to find somewhere to stop to warm up for a few minutes, or need to find an alternate route due to snow or ice blockages. Basically, start on easier and shorter trails and work your way up as you become more comfortable with winter hiking.

-Get an early start

We’ve already mentioned a few things about winter hiking that can slow you down or cause you to have to take a longer route, but the biggest thing to keep in mind is the shortness of the day. During the summer, you’ll have anywhere from 12-14 hours of daylight to hike in, depending on your location. During the winter, that window shrinks to about 8-10 hours. This window could be even smaller depending on whether conditions. As it gets darker, it becomes more difficult to see where you’re going and to be able to see hazards in your path. It’s not just the visibility issues, though! Temperatures usually drop at night without the warmth of the sun, and you may find yourself out in the dark and out in the cold! I like to start my winter hikes within an hour of the sun coming up. Not only will this give you plenty of time to adventure, but the early morning sun usually provides a beautiful glow along the snowy landscapes that just takes your breath away.

-Pack for “in case of emergency” situations.

Whether you are hiking in winter or summer, fair weather or bad, long trail or short, you should always be carrying some basics with you in case of an emergency. My bag always has at least a basic first aid kit, sharp pocket knife, trail maps specific to where I’m hiking as well as some surrounding areas, waterproof fire-starting supplies, a hand-crank light, and an emergency radio. In all honesty, the last few years and emergency cell phone charger (solar or mini-turbine) has also been a mainstay in my hiking pack. During the winter, there are a few more items that should be added to your pack. Make sure you have something to keep warm (emergency blankets, parkas, sleeping bags, etc.) should you end up in a situation where you must stay in the area overnight. I also recommend keeping emergency handwarmers and (if possible) a self-warming beverage in your pack, as they can both provide a good mental boost and bit of physical respite in a bad situation.

-Plan ahead

This seems pretty obvious, but you’d be amazed at how often people don’t plan their hikes before going off all willy-nilly and ending up in a bad situation. I know, because I’ve done it more times than I’d like to admit. Be sure to check the weather often before the trip, and one last time just before departing. And don’t just check the temperature or whether it’s going to snow or not. Wind chill and wind speed, precipitation amount and speed, avalanche risk, and visibility should all be taken seriously into account. Make sure you’re going to be properly dressed, equipped, and geared up ahead of time. If need be, make a checklist to go over while packing and again just before departing to be certain that you don’t leave anything important behind. Establish who in your group (if anyone) will be carrying what pieces of gear or equipment to avoid confusion later. While some unexpected situations may come up during your hike, planning as much as possible ahead can help you avoid bad or potentially dangerous situations.

-Be ready for the ice

While a lot of hiking shoes and boots are amazing for wet rocks, muddy trails, and slick paths, they may not be the best thing to cross a sheet of ice in. Make sure you have footwear designed for the ice and snow to help avoid injuring yourself slipping. If you decide to try crampons instead of specialized winter footwear, be sure you learn how to use them and take it slow. The ranger that first taught me how to use crampons told me treat them like they were ice skates once on. One misstep, and a serious injury could occur. Another accessory that might be worth looking into are hiking sticks. They will not only help distribute the effort of trudging through the snow more evenly on your body, but they are great to help stabilize you in slippery situations as well as to test potential hazards in your path.

-More fun with friends!

We really shouldn’t have to tell you this, but we will. Hiking with friends can not only make it more fun and help reduce some of the mental stress of the journey, but it helps provide more bodies to carry all of the gear, potentially lightening the load for everyone. Even better, there can be safety in numbers. If something goes wrong and you’re alone, who will help you or go get help? If you have any friends with more experience hiking in the winter, bring them along, too! Their knowledge may be a key part of a successful hike.

-Stay hydrated and bring some snacks!

This seems like a basic tip for any hike, but they are especially important in the winter. While a colder environment in and of itself doesn’t necessarily make you burn more calories and moisture, there are a few factors during the winter that will. Shivering will cause your body to use more energy, as will the weight of the extra clothing needed to keep warm. It’s important to keep a drink that is insulated against the cold, so it doesn’t freeze. It’s also important to keep at least a few snacks with you, such as protein or energy bars.

-Be aware of cold-related illness or injury

It’s extremely important to understand the extra risks involved with winter hiking. The two most prominent dangers are frost-bite and hypothermia. Be sure to study and develop a comprehensive understanding of these and other cold-related conditions and their symptoms before undertaking a winter hike. Knowing the difference between being cold and the beginning stages of hypothermia or frost bite can save your life and your limbs!

I could probably write a book about the many, many things I’ve learned from hiking in the winter, but these are really what I view as the ten most important, so long as you’re not taking on a massive journey or high-skilled trail. What tips do you have for winter hiking? What kinds of hazards have you encountered during your snowy adventures? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! The more knowledge we all have, the more we can all safely enjoy our winter hikes!

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO


Time and Date-Solstice

Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory-Daylight/Darkness Calculator

Active-Fueling for Cold Weather Excersize

Backpacker-Layering For Winter

Walking and Hiking-The Environmental Impact of Hiking

Mayo Clinic-Frostbite

Mayo Clinic-Hypothermia


DIY Turmeric Indicator

Posted on November 18, 2018 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

An incredibly versatile and delicious herb, turmeric has been for at least four or five thousand years. Its use has been documented since ancient times as a culinary herb for color and flavor, cloth and food dye, paint, medicine, and" target="_blank">so much more! A staple in Indian and southeast Asian cooking, turmeric has even become a favorite in many parts of the U.S. for its deep color and rich flavor. Would you have guessed that something so multi-purpose could even be used in chemistry as well?

Just like many other natural substances such as red cabbage juice or horse chestnut leaves, turmeric is a natural pH indicator. This means it changes color depending on pH exposure. While red cabbage juice uses a wide variety of chemicals to do this, and horse chestnuts use Esculin, turmeric uses a yellow pigment called curcumin. When curcumin is exposed to a basic substance or solution, it changes color from yellow to a deep red. Before we get into any experiments, though, we need to make sure we know about the pH scale.

The general pH scale goes from 0-14. At the zero end are acids. To put it simply, acids are chemicals that neutralize alkalis and may dissolve some metals. In advanced terms, an acid can donate a proton or accept an electron pair in reactions. At the other end of the scale are bases. Simply, bases neutralize acids and may corrode some organic or inorganic materials. In advanced terms, a base donates electrons or hydroxide ions, or accepts protons. Right in the middle of those two is neutrality. Neutral substances are neither an acid or a base, and have a pH of around 8. We have acids and bases all over our home, from the vinegar we use in our food to the soap we wash ourselves with, pretty much everything falls somewhere on the pH scale. Let’s see how acids and bases react with a turmeric indicator!

What you will need:

-1 tablespoon Turmeric

-1 cup 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol

-Some acidic and basic substances to experiment with, such as lemon juice and soapy water

-Glass jars or other glass containers

What to do:

Are you wearing protective gear? If not, be sure to put some on!

First, we need to make our indicator by extracting the pigment from the turmeric. In order to do this, mix the rubbing alcohol and turmeric and stir well. You may even want to give it a heavy shake. Let it the mixture steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the liquid seems to have a nice yellow color, let the mixture rest for another five minutes, to allow the turmeric particles to settle to the bottom. Once settled, pour the liquid two clean containers, making sure not to pour any of the turmeric particles from the bottom over. Now you have a turmeric indicator solution!

In one indicator, try adding something acidic (i.e. lemon juice or vinegar). Did you notice any change? Now, try adding something basic to the other indicator (i.e. soapy water). Did you notice a change this time? As the pigment in turmeric reacts to bases, you should have noticed the color of the solution go from bright yellow to a deep red. Next, try adding some acidic substance to the changed indicator. It should change right back to yellow again! It might look like magic, but it’s really science!

Project notes: For our experiment, we used soapy water as the base and pool chemicals as our acid. You can always make more indicator and experiment with different substances around the home. Just keep in mind that while acids and bases mostly neutralize each other, some substances may react in a dangerous or hazardous manner. Make sure the substances you mix are safe and non-reactive.

Did your indicator react to the base? What kinds of acids and bases did you use? Let us know in the comments section below or share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! Not only does it help others undertaking this experiment, but we love to see how your projects turn out!

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO 

Resources:" target="_blank">National Center for Biotechnology Information-Turmeric, the Golden Spice" target="_blank">Thoughtco-Home and Garden pH Indicators" target="_blank">Thoughtco-Definition of a Base" target="_blank">Chemicool Dictionary-Definition of an Acid

Children of Terra is does not endorse nor is Children of Terra affiliated with any products mentioned in this blog post. Consult a doctor or dermatologist before using Turmeric. Remember: Gear up for safety!

Mystic Woods Body Butter

Posted on September 17, 2018 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Think fall scents and what comes to mind? For a lot of people, it might be pumpkin spice. Others, it might be the smell of a campfire and hot apple cider. For me, it’s the smell of fresh cut cedar wood. Sounds kind of odd at first, until you think about the campfires and wood stoves all of that wonderful fall food is being cooked over. With the season of autumn aromas right around the corner, that means dry skin season isn’t far behind. A lot of us turn to special lotions and moistorizers, but what if we combined the wonderful smell of autumn woods with a super-rich body butter? The answer to that question lies in the following recipe.

Mystic Woods Body Butter


-3½ tablespoons Shea Butter

-1 tablespoon cocoa butter

-½ tablespoon Sweet Almond Oil

-8 drops Cedarwood Oil

-4 drops Sandalwood Oil


You will need a double boiler. If you already have one that you use for soap and/or candle making, great! If not, you can use a heat-proof glass bowl and a pot of water that the bowl can rest on top of. If you’re in a pinch, a tin coffee can could work as well. Combine the shea butter and cocoa butter in the double boiler, over medium-low heat. Allow the butters to melt, being sure to stir occasionally. DO NOT let the butter mixture simmer or boil. Once the butter mixture is completely melted, stir in the oils. Leave over heat for a few more minutes to make sure the mixture is a uniform temperature and give it one last stir. If you are not using a bowl or double boiler insert that ca handle rapid temperature changes, transfer the mixture into a container that can (such as Pyrex or plastic).

Move the mixture into the freezer and allow it to set for about 13-16 minutes. You want the top of the mixture to be just firm enough to poke without your finger going into it. Once firm, it’s time to whip it up! The easiest way to do this is with an electric hand-mixer, using a whisk attachment. If you don’t have one, an ol’ fashioned egg beater or vigorous hand-whisking will do the trick, it will just take longer to achieve the right texture. Whip the mixture until it expands to about a third more in volume than when you started. When it has the consistency and texture of fresh butter spread, it’s done. That’s it!

Project Notes:

If you don’t already know the benefits of shea or cocoa butter, it’s time to get hip. Shea butter is a fatty-rich oil that is extracted and purified from the nut of the karite tree, a.k.a. the shea tree. It’s packed with vitamins A and E, which both have a host of wonderful dermatological benefits. And remember the fat we mentioned? It’s a great source of moisture, especially for dry skin. Cocoa butter is a similar fatty-rich oil that is extracted from the bean of the cocoa bean. High in antioxidants, vitamins, and fats, both butters help protect the skin from the sun and signs of aging, moisturize, and help the elasticity of skin.

Cedarwood oil has quite a few properties and health benefits derived from the many chemical compounds, but for this recipe we’d like to focus on the effects it has on aches and pains. As an anti-inflammatory, cedarwood oil can help reduce joint pain after a long day of work, a good hike, or even just every day pain from arthritis. As an astringent, cedarwood oil can also help tighten your skin and reduce the appearance of stretch marks and the like. This is important, since there is very little evidence to support the long-held notion that cocoa or shea butters can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

How did your body butter turn out? What benefits have you noticed using it? Did you add anything else to it, and why? We love to see how your projects turn out. We love seeing you start with these projects as a base and running with it even more! Let us know how it went in the comments below, on our Facebook page (, twitter (@childrenofterra), or Instagram (" target="_blank">@childrenofterra)!

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

Resources:" target="_blank">Aroma Foundry-Cedarwood Oil" target="_blank">Healthline-Cocoa Butter" target="_blank">Style Craze-Shea Butter


The Magic Magnetic Tower of Magnetism!

Posted on September 8, 2018 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Magnets are…. Weird. They attract, they repel, and none of what they do can be seen with the naked eye. Even the study of magnets can get confusing as it has been tied in with electrical studies for a long time, yet also recognized as its own field of study. Though magnets may be a bit perplexing, they are an integral part of a lot of today’s technology. Common items, such as debit cards or CDs rely on magnetic technology. On the flip side, we also use magnets in very uncommon and specialized technology, such as maglev trains or vortex fluids.

What exactly is a magnet, though? Really, it is any item that exhibits an external magnetic force. This can include the magnets on your refrigerator, electro-magnetic cranes (often seen in junk and scrap yards), or even the Earth itself! Not all magnets are the same, however. Let’s take a look at the different types of magnets we know of.

-Permanent magnets

These types of magnets don’t lose their magnetic force, or lose their force at an incredibly low speed. Though some permanent magnets are naturally occurring, such as Neodymium Iron Boron, most are manufactured.

-Temporary magnets

These types of magnets are any object or material that behaves like a permanent magnet, but only when in the presence of a magnetic field. A good example of temporary magnets are common house nails. As a demonstration, try sticking one to a magnet, then another nail to the first one, then keep adding until you have a chain. The nails don’t behave this way when not in the presence of a magnetic field, but once you introduce a magnet they behave the same way as the magnet!


These types of magnets also only have a temporary magnetic field, but for an entirely different reason than other temporary magnets. Electromagnets are formed by wrapping wire or specialized tubes around a special core material, such as iron, then passing an electrical current through the tube or wire. As the current passes through, it generates a magnetic field. Different materials, the amount or length of coils, and the strength of the electrical charge all effect how strong the electromagnet is.

All of these different types of magnets are used and studied through so many different fields of science, such as physics, engineering, biology, astronomy, and much more! With the following project, we will get to practice some engineering skills and get some hands-on education with magnets!

An example of nails acting as temporary magnets. 

The Magic Magnetic Tower of Magnetism

What you will need:

-Building Materials

-Strong magnets

-Thread or fishing line

-Magnetic objects (i.e. nails, paper clips, key rings, etc.)


-(optional) markers

-(optional) cutting tools, such as a craft knife or scissors

What to do:

We are going to be building a wide tower with an upper and lower platform. For this you will need your building materials…. Buuuut “building materials” seems kind of vague, huh? Don’t fret, just be creative! Use what you have at your disposal. Use Legos, or wooden building blocks and rulers, or soda bottles and pencils! Just keep in mind that your upper platform will be holding your magnets, while your lower platform will hold your magnetic objects.

(Hint: Once you’ve figured out your building materials, you might want to decorate them before putting the whole thing together)

Once your tower has been built, it’s time for the magnetism! Place your magnets on the top rail. Be sure they are far enough away from each other that they aren’t interacting (pushing or pulling each other). Once you think you’ve found a good placement, you may want to fasten them down with something, such as tape. Depending in your magnets, this part may take a decent bit of adjusting and fidgeting to get it just right.

Next, tie your thread or line to one of the magnetic objects. Tie your thread to one of the magnetic objects, then stick the object to the bottom of the upper platform, letting the magnet hold it into place. Lightly wrap the other end of the thread around the bottom platform. Pull the line slowly, so that you begin to pull the object away from the magnet. See how far you can get the object away from the magnet before it exits the magnetic field and falls. Once you’ve figured out how far you can get the object before it falls, tape or tie the thread to the bottom platform, holding your object suspended in the air.

So far, so good? Awesome… IT IS COMPLETE!!! Now take your tower to amaze your friends and family members with the magic of magnetism!

Project notes: While we used rigid pieces of cardboard and paint stirrers for our building materials, you have so many other options! Just take a look around your home and see what you can come up with. In fact, think of this project as an engineering challenge.

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

What did you learn about magnets? What kind of building materials did you use? Did this project help you obtain a better understanding of magnetism? Let us know in the comments below OR post it to us on Facebook (, on Instagram (@childrenofterra), or on twitter (@ChildrenOfTerra).

Resources:" target="_blank">National Institute of Standards and Technology-Complex Magnetic Fields Breathe Life Into Fluids" target="_blank">How Stuff Works-Maglev Trains

Physics4Kids-What is a magnet?" target="_blank">K&J Magnetics-The Earth is a Magnet" target="_blank">Thomas-Types of Magnets


Dirty water? Clean it up by building a water filter!

Posted on August 15, 2018 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Water is one of the most important things for life. More than seventy percent of our planet’s surface is covered in water and more than 55 percent of our bodies are made of water. We drink it, use it to clean ourselves, cook with it, travel on it, hunt in it, and so much more! But… what happens when we don’t have clean water to use? What if it has been polluted or poorly managed? What if a natural occurrence makes our water unusable? Even fresh spring water may not be entirely safe to drink. This is why we treat our water. The water that comes out of your tap has been physically and chemically treated to make it safe for us to consume!

Water purification usually consists of four main stages: Coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, and sanitation.

-In the coagulation stage, special chemicals are added to the water that help dirt and other impurities clump to the chemicals or to each other, also called coagulation. These larger, clumped together particles are called floc.

-During the sedimentation stage, the now-heavier floc sinks to the bottom of resting water.

-During the filtration process, the floc-free water is passed through different types and sizes of materials. Materials such as sand, gravel, and charcoal catch particles of various sizes in them as the water is passed through.

-In the final stage, sanitation, water is either chemically treated or temperature treated to kill off any remaining parasites or diseases in the water. Adding chlorine or boiling the water are two such methods of sanitation.

For today’s project, we will focus on the filtration stage.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-A clean, empty 2-litre bottle



-Activated charcoal

-Blotting paper or a coffee filter


-A rubber band

-Some dirty water

What to do:

Start by cutting off the top 1/3rd of the bottle. The top piece will be the filter chamber, and the bottom will be the catch chamber. Remove the cap, and place your blotting paper or coffee filter over the hole. Use your rubber band to hold the paper in place. Flip the bottle top over, and place it into the bottom of the bottle. The filter chamber should look like it’s funneling into the catch chamber.

Next, start adding layers of filter material to the funnel. Generally, you would want the finer materials closer to the bottom of the filter, and the larger materials on top. In our filter, we put large gravel on top to catch large debris. Smaller gravel underneath to catch smaller debris, then sand under that to catch even finer debris and particles. The carbon in the charcoal attracts other carbon-based impurities, which bond to the carbon and get left behind as the water passes through. Lastly, that blotting paper or coffee filter is there to catch yet even finer particles. We did alternating layers of charcoal and sand in the bottom, fine gravel, then large gravel at the top. You can experiment with a different order of layers and different depths of certain materials to see which may have the best result.

Finally, it’s time to filter the water! Simply pour your dirty water into the top of the filter chamber, and wait for it all to pass through. If your filter works, you should notice the water coming out much cleaner looking in the catch chamber. If not, perhaps try reconfiguring your filter, or passing the water through it again.

When your all done, be sure to break down your filter and recycle its components. Use your filtered water for some plants, recycle the bottle or use it for another project (such as this" target="_blank">self-watering planter), and either set the gravel aside for another project or return it to nature. While your breaking down the filter, be sure to take a few moments to examine the blotting paper or coffee filter to get a better idea of what kids of pollutants were in your water before filtering.

PLEASE NOTE: Filtration is only one step in making water safe for human consumption. The water you filter in this experiment is likely not safe to drink.

Project notes: This is a really fun and easy project. Try tying it into other lessons, such as survival science, water treatment, water pollution, waste management, etc. etc… One thing that should be noted about our filter is that we didn’t use activated carbon for it. Instead, in an effort to replicate more of a “survival” situation, we used pieces of charcoal from our fire pit. Also, as a rubber band wasn’t readily available, we used a hair tie instead.

Really, your components for this project don’t matter much aside from the filter materials. You can use a plastic cup with holes punched in the bottom rather than a plastic bottle, or piece of PVC piping, or whatever is available to you that you can place the filter materials in and pass water through. Get crafty, make it interesting, explore, and learn!


CJ @ Children of Terra-NEO

We love seeing how your projects turn out! Share your water filter with us here, or on Twitter" target="_blank">(@ChildrenOfTerra), Facebook" target="_blank">( or on our new Instagram" target="_blank">(@childrenofterra). Let us know how you made it, what improvements you’ve made, and what materials you used!

Resources:" target="_blank">USGS-How much of the earth is water?" target="_blank">USGS-Water and you" target="_blank">CDC-Water Treatment" target="_blank">Water Filter Fast-The benefits of using a charcoal filter


Learn about landfills by building your own desktop model!

Posted on May 15, 2018 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

If you’ve ever taken the garbage out (which, who hasn’t?), you have a good idea of how nasty our trash can get. It smells gross, it looks disgusting, and tends to have all manner of horrifying fluid leaking from it. Most of us are just happy when the garbage truck comes and takes it away, because all of that nastiness is gone… right? Have you ever thought about where that truck takes our garbage though?

Most cities have some form of a waste disposal site. Some places choose to destroy our garbage with fire, such as in Norway. There, they incinerate a large portion of their waste to produce energy. Other places are experimenting with biological digestion, a method that involves live organisms breaking down our waste. In places more effected by poverty, people may just dump their trash into the ocean or into the ground. Here in the U.S., the most common method of waste disposal is the use of landfills or dumps. Each method of waste disposal comes with its own risks and environmental concerns that must be accounted for by society.

Some places still use the ol’ fashioned “dump”. A dump is essentially a giant hole in the ground where trash is dumped, and then eventually covered with soil to let degrade over time. While this sounds like a good idea, it doesn’t do much to protect the surrounding environment. The fluids and chemicals that result from the decomposition process can contaminate the surrounding soil or water, and does nothing to address physical issues like plastic or Styrofoam mixed into the waste. And that smell! UGH! That smell is awful! As our waste breaks down, it produces a mixture of gasses. These gasses are what you’re smelling, and they are contributing to the climate crisis we are currently facing.

The more modern and increasingly common method is the landfill. A landfill is a man-made structure built with the idea of letting trash break down naturally, while reducing major risks to the surrounding environment and reducing gas emissions. Let’s learn how they work!


The structure of a landfill

-Started from the bottom…

The bottom of a landfill is usually covered with a special type of liner. Sometimes this liner is a special type of plastic, other times it’s extremely compacted clay, and in some places it’s a combination of both! This layer protects the soil and water underneath and around the landfill from coming in contact with our trash.

-Fate of the Leachate

Leachate is the term used for the juices and fluids that ooze out of our waste. Landfills are designed with a slight slope at the bottom (called a sump), so as to collect the leachate into certain areas. The leachate is collected through a series of pipes to be moved out of the landfill. These collection pipes are often covered in a special mesh to filter out the larger particles that could clog up the system. Once the leachate has been moved out of the landfill, it is treated either on site or at a wastewater facility to be used again.

-Perfect Cell?

A cell is an area in the landfill that has been approved for disposing of our waste. Cells tend to be pretty large areas, but are broken down into smaller cells known as the “daily workface”. Each daily workface cell represents one day of waste.

-Feeling a little gassy…

As mentioned earlier, landfills produce a mixture of gasses. While most of those gasses contribute to the climate crisis, they can also cause a more immediate crisis if they aren’t released or removed. Around 50% of the gas mixture is methane, which can burn or even explode if left unchecked. To keep the gasses under control, pipes are specifically placed to vent them out and collect them. Most landfills simply burn off or vent out the gasses, however some are collecting the gas to use as a source of energy.

-Cover it up!

Each daily cell is covered with either a layer of soil or a special sealant, though sometimes both may be used. It all depends on the cell and its situation. Sometimes cells need some time to break down certain materials before more are added, and will receive a temporary cover. Once a section of the landfill is finished, it is permanently covered. This cover generally consists of a layer of special plastic, compacted clay, loose soil, and plants. The plants help prevent erosion and aid in the long-term cleanliness of the water and soil in the area.

-Keep an eye on it

Whether the landfill is finished or just getting started, it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening in it. While we can’t see the chemicals that might seep into the soil and water around the landfill, we have technology that can! That’s why most modern landfills have special monitoring stations that have access to and test groundwater both inside the landfill and out.

With a better understanding of what a landfill is and how it works, it might be easy to see that there are risks involved in this method of waste disposal, as there is with any method. Gasses contribute to climate change and air pollution. Leachate fluids and chemicals pose a risk to our health, our water, our soil, and our wildlife. The nature of landfills tends to attract a lot of wildlife, posing a risk to both them and us. For these reasons and more, it’s important to be smart about our waste! But before we get into all of that, let’s make a working model of a landfill for you to experience the process for yourself!


Build A Desktop Landfill Model

What you’ll need:

-A tall, clear bottle or glass container


-Rocks or gravel

-Cotton balls


-Some plastic sheeting

-Some household trash




The landfill model we’ll be making will only contain two cell, or two daily workfaces, with the ground layer and top layer. To start, cut the top off of your bottle (if you’re using a bottle).

The bottom layer of the model will represent the ground underneath the landfill. To do this, just add some soil. Next, to represent the seal at the bottom of the landfill (also called a geomembrane), we’ll be adding two more layers. Start with a layer of compacted clay, and try to seal it to the sides of the container. Next, place a wide layer of plastic sheeting over the clay. To represent the leachate collection pipes and special fabric or mesh filter, we need to add a layer of cotton balls. On top of this, there needs to be a drainage layer made up of gravel or sand.

After constructing the base layers, it’s time for the cells! First, add a layer of trash. Make sure you have a good mix of trash, and as much of it as possible is visible from the outside of your container. Compact this layer down, and add a layer of compacted soil on top. This is your first cell! We did two cells with our container. You may only be able to do one, you may be able to do three or more. Just make sure to leave room for the top layers!

Once you’re don’t with the cells, it will be time to seal the landfill off. This is going to look a lot like the bottom layers of your landfill. On top of the soil, add a layer of compacted clay. Again, try to seal the clay to the sides of your container. Next, add another layer of plastic sheeting (or geomembrane). On top of that, you’ll need a drainage layer with gravel. Here’s where things change from the bottom layers, though.

Add a layer of soil, but don’t compact it. Next, plant your seeds! Grasses work best for this project, but you can grow anything you’d like. Just be certain your container will be large enough to suit your plants. Add some water for the seeds, and we’re done constructing! Now find a good spot for your landfill to sit, keep the plants watered, and watch the process of decomposition take place in your landfill over the next few months, or even years!

What can we do about landfills?

The more we learn about landfills, the more concerns can be found in how they might affect the environment. So what can we do about landfills? Here’s a few suggestions!

-Reduce, re-use, recycle!

We say this a lot, but it’s the most fundamental mantra of caring for the environment. By cutting out the unnecessary things in our lives, we can reduce what goes into the landfills in the first place. Re-use is important, too! By re-using everyday things (such as using homemade soaps in reusable containers or shopping at bring-your-own-bag style stores), we can also help reduce what goes into the landfill. Recycling is the last part. By properly recycling those things we can’t reduce or re-use, we can help keep even more trash out of our landfills and out of the environment!

-Visit your local landfill

A lot of city landfills, and even some privately-owned ones, offer tours of the facilities. The best way to understand a landfill and the issues surrounding them is to see them in action! Be sure to ask a lot of questions about how they manage their wastewater, gas emissions, pollution, hazardous materials, and anything else you can think of!

-Contact your local lawmakers

The best method of making change is by way of citizen action. Start by contacting your local representatives to express any concerns you have about the landfills in your area. See what’s being done, or what could be done to address possible environmental risks.


Project notes:

This is just one type of model that can be made to represent a landfill. Modifications may be made to this model (such as adding straws for leachate drainage or as a gas vent), or a better material as a geomembrane. Sand could be used in the drainage layers. You can do a flat model rather than a standing model. As long as you build your model according to the basic structure of a landfill, there’s so many options and styles of model you can build!


What have you learned about landfills? What kind of rubbish did you put in your landfill model? What changes did you observe in your model? Let us know in the comments below!

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO


The Guardian-How Norway is Turning Trash into Cash

How Stuff Works-Landfills

The Constructor-Methods of Solid Waste Disposal and Management

Advanced Disposal-Learn About Landfills

US National Library of Medicine-Health effects of residence near hazardous waste landfill sites

Science Daily-Methane more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas


Cold Vegetarian Pizza, plus a little history about pizza.

Posted on May 1, 2018 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Pizza is one of those dishes with a long and detailed history. Generally believed to have come from the area of Naples, pizza started as the food of choice for the working poor of the 17-1800’s. A simple flatbread, topped with whatever you had available, was a great source of energy and nutrition for the “lazzarone”. As years went on and pizza spread across the globe, different cultures and generations each added their own styles and ingredients. Here in the U.S, we eat pizza hot or cold, day or night. Of course, with all of the various melting pots of culture throughout the country, there’s no shortage of ingredients and styles to try out. While modern traditionalists may scoff at some of the pizzas we love nowadays, I think these crazy combinations of dough and toppings are the best modern interpretation of the dish. Their cheap, easy to eat sustenance for the working class.

This recipe follows that theme. It’s budget friendly, super easy, and is great to grab anytime without any need to re-heat or prepare once it’s done!

Cold Vegetable and Ranch Pizza


Serves: 8 people

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes


-¼ cup Broccoli Florets, chopped

-¼ cup Cauliflower Florets, chopped

-¼ cup Carrots, thing sliced or shredded

-1 clove Garlic, minced

-1 packet Ranch Seasoning Mix (1oz)

-2 cans Crescent Roll Dough Sheet

-2 8oz. packets Cream Cheese

-½ cup Sour Cream

-1 dash Ground Black Pepper

-2 cups shredded cheese


First, bake crescent roll sheets according to package. When the dough sheets are done baking, set them aside to cool. While sheets are baking, mix together garlic, ranch seasoning, cream cheese, sour cream, and pepper. Place the mixture in the fridge and let set for at least 30 minutes. To assemble, place a generous but even layer of the ranch mixture on the baked sheets. Top with cut vegetables and a heavy sprinkle of shredded cheese.

That’s it! You can either serve immediately, or store in the fridge. These pizzas make great appetizers at parties, a great dinner on a hot summer night, or a nice snack in the middle of the day’s activities!


This dish is so easy to make, and even easier to modify! Add some diced red peppers, or mushroom slices, or grape tomatoes, or cucumbers. You can add whatever vegetables you’d like! Feeling a different flavor for the sauce? Try a French onion packet, or a dill dip packet. Want a lighter, flakier crust? Try it with puff pastry instead of crescent dough. There’s so many options! Even the cheese is entirely at your discretion. I added a light sprinkle of grated parmesan before topping the pizza with veggies, then hit it with a sharp cheddar and mozzarella mix at the end.


How did your pizza come out? What ingredients did you use? Let us know in the comments section below. We love seeing how your culinary creations come out!

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

Resources:" target="_blank">Merriam Webster: lazzarone" target="_blank">History: Pizza through the ages" target="_blank">Sale Pepe: What makes an authentic pizza? 


Code a code with a binary bracelet!

Posted on March 18, 2018 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

When we think of computer coding, two scenes tend to come to most people’s minds: A grungy looking hacker furiously typing away in the dead of night… OR…. A team of top programmers tossing words most of us wouldn’t understand at each other from behind computer screens. But what about the old schooler’s coding binary on older computers? Or kids coding their own video games on their phones while heading to school?

Coding isn’t always super complicated. In fact, coding is defined by most dictionaries as the process of assigning a code to a thing, or things, in order to organize or classify them. Binary code, for example, assigns 1’s and 0’s to letters so as to classify the letters in a computer’s programming. Sometimes, you can even code a code, such as assigning a color code to classify binary code strands. I know it’s sounding a little complicated, but it really isn’t! Let’s give it a shot with this project.


Code a Code with a Binary Bracelet

What you will need:


-Beads (3 different colors)

-Scratch paper


First, decide what you want to code. Do you want your bracelet to have your name on it? Or maybe a special message? We decided on just coding the word “coding”. This is where you may want a piece of scratch paper. Below is a form of binary code, called ASCII, that you can use to translate your word or words into code. As an example, “A” would be “0100 0001”, “B” would be “0100 0010”, and so on.

Once you have translated your word into binary code, it’s time to code that code! Choose one color of bead to represent the 1’s, another color to represent the 0’s, and the last color will mark the space between each letter. In our case, we used green beads to represent the 0’s, blue beads to represent the 1’s, and bronze beads to represent the spaces. It may be helpful to place the beads with their corresponding letters on the scratch paper before moving on.

Now, it’s time to get crafty in the (almost) final step! String your beads in the proper order and pinch of the end of your bracelet, then double check to make sure all of your beads in in the right order. This step in the process is critical! All it takes is one bead, or one number, to be out of place and it completely changes the message! Once you’re certain, knot off your bracelet. Now you can add a clasp, if you would like, and done!

Why should we learn how to code?

There’s so many reasons to learn how to code! The most obvious of which is the age of technology we live in. More and more, the educational fields and job markets are shifting towards technology. Software codes are an integral part of that shift, both for the individual and for the masses. Imagine being able to create your own app or website, design your own video game, or customize the programming of your devices? All of this is possible through coding!

Beyond the technological reasoning, codes are languages. Like learning another language, learning a form of code can open up new worlds of communication that you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. Even better, learning another language comes with a host of benefits to mental health, cognitive development and abilities, and a better understanding of the world.

Project notes: I would strongly recommend writing out the code, then placing the beads with the letters on your write out before constructing the bracelet. While it does provide some fine motor practice, it generally makes constructing the bracelet much easier.

DOUBLE CHECK YOUR WORK BEFORE YOU FINISH! I cannot stress this enough. It can be quite frustrating finishing your bracelet, only to realize that you placed a bead in the wrong place. When coding a computer program, such a simple mistake could become catastrophic! That’s why it’s always important to double check your work before finishing or publishing it.

There are quite a few different forms of binary you can use for this project. In fact, you don’t have to use binary code at all! You can use many different types of code, such as morse code (use beads as dots and dashes rather than 1’s and 0’s).


How did your project turn out? What form of code did you use? What colors did you pick? We love to see how your projects turn out! Share your results with us in the comment section below!

CJ @ Children of Terra-NEO


Ross Parker-Binary Numbers

The Edvocate-Why it's important to learn coding" target="_blank">Oxford Dictionary-Coding" target="_blank">Techopedia-Binary