Summer Solstice & Sun Theme

Springtime is here, now that it is April. It was in the high 80’s over the weekend and my husband and I both accidentally got sunburned, in the car, on the way to Nebraska. Today I woke up to snow on the ground. Spring is beautiful.

Since it is spring, that means it is almost summer, the summer solstice this year is on Wednesday June 20, 2012. Here is what Snug and I did last summer solstice.

THE BOOKS!!!

All of these non-fiction ones were fairly similar. We didn’t read everything in them, but it was good for finding excerpts and images to explain things, like the size of the sun and how it is a star and a good introduction to how there are different kinds of stars. Here are the titles and authors.

The Sun and Other Stars published by Chicago, World Book.

What’s Inside the Sun by Jane Kelly Kosek

The Sun by Darlene Stille.

There are lots of fun story type sun books! An incredibly amount on the summer solstice too.

Sun Up, Sun Down by Gail Gibbons- A boy follows the sun through his day and notes that changes that occur as the sun moves across the sky. Very simple, descriptive and inquisitive.

To be like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson – This book is about a sunflower, you probably got that from the cover. It doesn’t necessarily cover much on the real sun, but is a nice book about growing a sunflower, which has the sun in its name.

The Sun is My Favorite Star by Frank Asch (we like him!!)- A boy points out his favorite things about the sun and why it is his favorite star. The sun plays peek-a-boo and paints pictures and colors and helps make everything beautiful. The sun is everyone’s favorite star.

The Longest Day; celebrating the summer solstice by Wendy Pfeffer- I loved this book, it had very lyrical writing while it described the science behind the summer solstice, it also did a historical/anthropological view of the solstice. From this book we learned about traditions many cultures had during the solstice. Jumping over fire, rolling barrels, etc. It used to be a very important day. She also includes an introduction to its use in myth and folklore. There was also a craft at the back of this one.

The Summer Solstice by Ellen Jackson- This book is somewhat similar to the last, however it did have an actual solstice tale included, along with some old traditional crafts and modern activities you could do. We did a bunch out of this book and really enjoyed all of the books.

The Food!!!

Snug and I started off our summer solstice activities with a sunset picnic the day before the solstice.

At the grocery store we found every kind of yellow looking fruit we could. Bananas, pineapple, asian pear, lemon and a horned melon. The horned melon and the asian pear were new for us.

Simple enough to make a sun, chop up all the fruit and on a large round baking pan have the kiddo help you arrange the fruit to look similar to a sun shape. Who knew horned melon was green on the inside? Surprised us!

Head outside and enjoy the last few rays of spring sunshine. Bring some books to, it isn’t a picnic without stories.

The next food activity we did was to make sun-mores.

You will need graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and a glass baking dish. Or you can rig up one of your own ‘sun ovens’ for older kiddos. There is a Curious George about solar cooking, if you are interested, it is called, “Something New Under the Sun.”

Given our baking dish was round, cracker and marshmallow placement was a little hard. Also I believe regular, non-organic marshmallows would do better in this experiment. However, homemade ones and homemade graham crackers would do fantastic I am sure.

Wait for a little bit, a coloring page or George episode and come back to find things melting nicely.

When they are heated enough, so the chocolate is nice and gooey, mush them down and enjoy. See how our marshmallows did practically nothing. We are going to try this experiment again, this summer solstice.

That is all the food we did, you could also make sun tea, however I do no recommend it. I dislike iced tea greatly and there have been lots of allegations that the tea raises to a perfect temp for breeding bacteria. Here is the snopes.com article about this and how to prevent getting sick if you would like to make the tea.

The Crafts!!

We made a Bohemian Wreath, one of the crafts in the Summer Solstice book by Ellen Jackson. For this craft you will need to first go on a nature walk and get a bundle of tall grasses, flowers and other decorations.

Husband came to help us on this walk.

eep!! Watch out for these!!!

Once you have all your supplies, get some twine, scissors and ribbon. First you are going to need to soak you reeds. The book says for a couple of hours, but we didn’t really do that. We just sprayed our reeds with a hose for a couple of minutes.

When you get them soaked enough to bend them slightly, form a circle and tie it quickly.

Then have your snug bugs wrap a pretty ribbon around it and make a loop for hanging purposes.

Now poke and weave the flowers in.

Hang it up somewhere nice and leave it there all summer. Our flowers dried great and lasted until January.

The Activities!!!

Next we attempted to make a sun-dial.

This was also from the Ellen Jackson book.

You will need four pieces of paper taped together, a cup with rocks in it or a cup taped down to the paper and markers.

Start early in the morning and trace the shadow of the cup at regular intervals throughout the day.

I say we attempted this, because we started too late in the day, every day after that, that we were able to do this activity, it was cloudy. So we never really got to follow the sun. We also tried this activity with a tree and our own shadows.

This worked a little bit better to get the general idea across of how the sun moves across the sky and earth’s rotation. The tree was a good marker for us, but not great for taking pictures. We took tons, but these two made the most sense. The top one was taken in the morning and the bottom was taken in the early afternoon.

The Science!!!

To try to explain how the earth moves around the sun, we used a big non-eco-freindly PVC ball and a grape tomato.We put a toothpick through the tomato and had the earth/tomato rotate around the sun/ball.

Next we grabbed our globe and gave it a good spin.  To explain how the earth spins on its axis, while it travels around the sun, thus making it look as if the sun is moving across the sky. Please ignore my pants, I promise that we did do this part long before Halloween, unlike our next science activity.

Snug enjoyed the spinning and decided to do some spinning herself by twirling with the sun. Thankfully the sun stayed within Snug’s gravity and nothing was broken.

Next we had our super science experiment with a sunprint kit!! We found this at our local science supply store, they run around $5.99 in price and are totally worth the cost! (*by next I mean, many months after we initially did our sun theme, please ignore the black and orange nail polish and any Halloween decorations you may see).

The kit comes with a piece of glass and lots and lots and the special sun exposure paper. You will also need some cardboard.

Go outside and collect whatever you want to imprint onto the paper, in our case leaves. If you do this in the summer, you could do pretty flowers or grasses. Let the paper sit until it turns white.

Take the paper back inside after it turns white.

Take the leaves off and soak the paper in cool water for the alloted amount of time. I think about 30 seconds.

Set it out to dry. When they are dry, the background or part that was exposed turns a dark blue, while the covered images stay white.

After doing lots of leaves, Snug wanted to do her hand.

It worked pretty well, though someone was pretty wiggly.

Soon you will have a nice collection. I haven’t taken a picture of the finished products, but I will soon, once I unpack them.

So how does this work?? Steve Spangler Science explained it nicely. Here is an excerpt.

“The Sun Sensitive Paper is coated with light-sensitive chemicals, which react to light waves and particles when exposed to light. When you place objects on the paper, they block the light and turn white while the paper around them remains blue. Water stops the process and fixes your images on the paper.” It goes on telling you more about the chemical put on the paper, sometimes referred to as Prussian Blue.

Happy Sunning!!! (and themeing!)

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2 responses to “Summer Solstice & Sun Theme

  1. Fun activities. I found your blog because I am consumed by research into the seasons in general (though perhaps not as much as your husband is by herpetology). Next summer solstice, you should read some things about Stonehenge, or Chaco Canyon, or other Neolithic monuments which are situated to catch solstitial events. Makes for a fun combination of history and science.

    • Thank you for the advice! It is a fantastic suggestion, I will look into those. I believe one of the books grazed over Stonehenge, but really not enough to remember. This June we can get some of those books/find some of the stories while we do the sunn-mores again.

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