Friday, August 31, 2012

Science week 4: Lichens and Mosses

new links added after publishing will be highlighted in red at bottom of post...

Onto Lichens and Mosses this week. We have several around the homestead woods to use for study. Our woods are thick with all kinds.

What is the difference between lichens and mosses? Plain and simple, lichen is not technically a plant but moss is. Here is a description via WiseGeek:

Mosses and lichens are often confused, in part because many common names for lichens include the word “moss.” In fact, the two organisms are radically different and are not even in the same kingdom. Both moss and lichen are fascinating organisms, often overlooked because they are small and not very showy. Lichens and mosses grow all over the world and are used for dyes, animal fodder, ornamentation, medicines, and religious practices.
Lichens are perhaps the most amazing living things on Earth, because a lichen represents a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and either algae or cyanobacteria. The symbiotic nature of lichen was not fully understood until the 19th century, when the idea was first proposed. Lichens form a fascinating example of cooperative relationships in nature, with the fungus using the algae or bacteria to produce energy, while the algae or bacteria enjoys the protection the fungus provides.
Lichens reproduce in several ways. Many lichens produce spores that attempt to capture partner algae or bacteria, while others reproduce through fragments of the lichen that break off and scatter. Lichens can grow almost anywhere in the world, from extremely acidic soil to freezing arctic conditions, and are found growing on trees, rocks, and everything in between. Contrary to popular belief, the lichens that colonize trees, such as members of the Usniafamily, are not harmful to their hosts, and in fact, they often capture valuable nutrients.
Lichens take three forms. Crustose lichens, often found growing on rocks, are characterized by a crusty appearance. Crustose lichens are often vividly colored and create the bright streaks seen on rocks from a distance. Foliose lichens are leafy or stringy and are often found growing on the ground or around trees. Fruticose lichens form stalks, which sometimes form bright fruiting bodies.
Most observers don't even notice the small and ubiquitous lichen, but a determined searcher can find hundreds of lichen species on a short walk in any region, from the depths of the woods to the streets of a major urban area. Lichens can be extremely difficult to properly identify, often requiring the use of a microscope and specialized staining to discover the mingled identities coming together to make the lichen.
Moss, on the other hand, is a plant. Moss belongs to the bryophyta phylum, which is one of the most genetically diverse on Earth, including 10,000 species in 700 genera. Moss can be found all over the world as well, and it forms a major part of many ecologies by holding back erosion, retaining water, and feeding numerous animal and insect species. Moss is an archaic non-vascular plant, meaning that it has been around in various forms for millions of years, and it reproduces by casting out spores. Like lichen, moss can also reproduce from broken off parts of the parent plant.
Physically, lichens and mosses can be difficult to distinguish. In general, mosses grow in moist dark areas and have small leaf-like structures, in addition to stems. Lichens often appear grey or pale white in appearance, while moss is usually green. Many lichens also create disc shaped fruiting bodies, which cannot be seen on mosses.

Our Notes:

  • A lichen is an algae with fungi as a partner. Most lichens are algae and fungi combinations. The same algae that lives with a fungus in lichen form can sometimes be found alone, but the fungus cannot live apart from the algae.
  • The fungus forms a frame to hold the algae cells. The fungus absorbs moisture and minerals for the algae. The algae makes food for both of them by the action of its chlorophyll.
  • Lichens multiply like other thallophytes do: they form spores. These spores must find the right kind of algae in the right place before they can begin growing.
  • The spores of a thallophyte and the plant parts that hold them are called fruit. The spore cases of mold are known as fruiting bodies because the reproductive spores are found there. The fruiting bodies of lichens sometime appear as small round dots. After the spores are gone, tiny hollows or holes remain.
  • There are 3 groups of lichens:
crustose lichen
Crustose: Crust-like, tightly fastened or even embedded in rocks, tree trunks, or soil.

foliose lichen
Foliose: leaf-like, usually with root like parts below that hold them to rocks or trees

Fruticose lichen
Fruticose: shrub-like, or branching, usually found on soil, rail fences,old rotten logs or tree trunks.
  • Lichens can endure extreme drying and cold and revive again when the weather is more favorable.
  • Lichens always grow with blue-green or green algae.
  • Pitted lichen grows everywhere on limestone.The crust-like thallophyte sinks into the surface of the limestone and when it dies, leaves an arrangement of holes behind where the fruiting bodies had grown.
  • The clot lichen, flat gray or greenish gray, has a cracked warty crust sometimes as large as 5" across. The fruiting bodies are shiny black dots, blood red underneath.
  • Smooth rock tripe has a brown oval thallus that is black underneath. This leafy lichen variety grows on trees in the mountains of the east. When cooked, the 2-12" lichen has some minimal food value.
Smooth Rock Tripe lichen
  • The toad skin lichen has a leaf-like dark colored thallus that appears to be dented from below. It is a stiff, 4" lichen belonging to the rock tripe group.
  • The red crest lichen can be found everywhere in eastern North America along decaying wood or rail fences, or on the ground itself. It is gray-green in color with scales on its sides. The fruiting bodies are red balls at the tip of the branched thallus. It is also known as British Soldier moss.
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  • The pale green goblet lichen is shaped like a scaly stem with a cup on top.The entire lichen is usually just an inch tall.
Maine Lichen and Moss 5
  • One leaf-like fungus-bacteria combination is named 'red blanket', but is not actually a lichen. Real lichens have algal cells, but the red blanket has a purple bacteria. It grows on trees along the Gulf of Mexico and farther south.
  • Reindeer Moss is a northern variety of branching lichen and is food to musk ox, caribou and some reindeer species.
  • Old Man's Beard is a hanging lichen often seen on trees in the cool, cone-bearing evergreen forests of the north. The northern parula warbler uses this lichen/moss for its nest.
[photo: usnea lichen]
  • The southern parula warbler nests in Spanish moss. Similar in appearance to the Old Man's Beard variety, Spanish moss is not actually a lichen.
  • People in Iceland gather Iceland moss and use its starchy thallus for breadmaking. Lichens are also used in the making of litmus paper, medicines, and perfumes.

Want to grow your own moss? Here is a recipe to try out:

For growing moss, you will need:

1-½ cups of buttermilk
2 teaspoons of sugar
Add a handful of moss to the blender. Add the sugar. Pour buttermilk and blend to mix the ingredients and to break the moss into small pieces. Pour the mixture onto the areas where you want the moss to grow.

Craft ideas...
Use moss and lichens you've collected for a nature collage, glue onto a wood birdhouse, grow moss in a terrarium, glue moss to a picture frame...the ideas for fun projects are endless.

Some Links:
Barb over at The Handbook of Nature Study blog has so many great shares and link-ups you'll spend hours there. A couple posts on lichens and mosses can be found here and here. A link she shared on the animated life cycle of moss here.
A PDF on mosses and lichens
Ohio Moss and Lichen Association identification guide pages
Ten Things to know about Lichens
a lichen portrait gallery...great images to print for a notebook
a great colorful PDF from the Minnesota DNR on the life of lichens
NEW LINK (added 9-3-12) Nice General Botany links for Lichens and a section of mosses

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Science Week 3: Algae and Seaweed

new links added after publishing will be posted at bottom of post and highlighted in red...

We had fun with our mushroom lessons, but in the interest of moving along with school and not bunny trail terribly far this year, it's time for algae lessons.

Our verse this week for science is Genesis 1:31a...And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was good.

Our notes this week:

  • Algae belong to a plant division called Thallophytes,. There are over 80,000 known plants included in this division, and our study is on the algae plants. Algae of this type have single cells that form the main body, or thallus. Some appear to have roots, stems, and even leaves, but these parts do not function as true roots, stems, or leaves.  Thallophytes have no tubes through which sap moves.
Classification of microorganisms
  • Algae plants contain cholorphyll. Sunlight or indirect light allows the cholorphyll to combine carbon dioxide from the air with water and minerals to produce food for the plant. This is called photosynthesis, which means "to put together in light". Because they need light, algae grows in shallow water, or in the upper layers of deeper water. Links on photosynthesis here.
Common names used to refer to algae include "seaweed" and "pond scum."
  • Many algae are covered in gel-like layers. Separate plants form sheets and clumps because their outer walls cling together.
  • Algae species (there are over 10,000 different kinds) are divided into four classes based on their, green, brown, and red.
Blue-green algae is found in salt and fresh water and cannot be seen without a powerful microscope. They can withstand heat up to 200*, drying, and freezing. Some species have been dried and re-hydrated after 70 years and were still alive. These plants grow on land if they have a water supply. Several rock terraces at Yellowstone National Park are colored by algae. Many simple blue-green algae increase by cell division. Each cell divides, grows larger and divides again. Entire colonies form, break apart, and continue to multiply.

Almost all fresh water is home to one or more species of green algae. Common names for these plants are water moss and pond scums. The smallest of these algaes are found among desmids which coats sticks, shells, and other objects. The bright green hairy growth in water tanks or streams.
Sea lettuce - Ulva lactuca/Blue Ocean Society preview preview

Brown Algae live mostly in the ocean or on rock seashores between low and high tide marks.Their green cholorphyll is covered completely by purple-brown or golden-brown coloring. The largest brown seaweed is kelp that can grow up to 200 feet. One of the largest areas of brown algae, sargassum or gulf weed, is found in the Sargasso Sea area of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Sargasso Sea is a large, calm area of ocean amidst swirling currents of the Gulf Stream, which encompasses nearly 2 million square miles. It is estimated there is approximately 10 million tons of floats algae there, providing floating homes to crabs, shrimps, small fishes, and various other animals.
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Another brown seaweed known as rock weed, grows along rocky shores and forms a thick cover.  This leathery plant can be up to 2 ft. long and usually has 2 branches. Brown algae grows only in salt water.
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Red Algae are always found in ocean water. They prefer the warm temperate climate, but can be found in tidal pools and along coral reefs from polar waters to the tropical regions. They can grow at a deeper depth than the brown seasweeds. Many of these are finely branched and feathery. The green color of their chlorophyll is covered by bright red, purple, or shades of violet and rose.
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Edible algaes...the people of Japan, China and Hawaii use more than 100 different kinds of seaweeds as food. In Japan they cultivate beds of algae covering 1000 acres and harvested 3-4 months later. In the United States, agar-agar from seaweed, is used to thicken soups and sauces, ice creams and desserts, even pastries. Canned fish is improved by adding agar-agar. Chlorella, when dried, tastes much like raw pumpkin or raw lima beans. High in vitamin value, chlorella is more than 50% easily digested protein.

Some links:
Here is a lab lesson on pond water 
Microbial Life has some pages/information on Red Tides, or red algae bloom
**Learn for Your Life has several nice pages of activities and experiments covering several topics
Smithsonian Institute pages on algae research

Monday, August 6, 2012

More Medieval goodies to share

new links added after publishing will be posted in red highlight at bottom of post

I wasn't actually looking for more Middle Ages stuff. Honest. I was simply making a couple copies of a reading log, and there was this little blog share in the sidebar, and I clicked on it while I was printing. It wasn't my fault. It was a bunny trail. You just can't resist a bunny trail that flows along the same thing you are working on, right? Of course you can't, just admit it.

Hello. My name is Deanna and I am a bunny trail addict.

So, my meanderings actually paid off with some more printables to use as we embark on the first leg of our Medieval Tour, the Vikings. And speaking of meanderings, how cool is it that the first stop is actually called Barefoot Meanderings????  Is that Providential or what?

Barefoot Meandering blog has a nice planning calendar for putting together your Story of The World V2 lessons and other 'ages' well as reading lists, mapped out for the year.

A Book in Time has some great craft links and reading suggestions we'll be putting to use over the fact, there are several pages with crafts for different era's, and plenty more to explore there.  Make your own shield, with patterns and directions, make a knight's helmet,

The Vikings, a Lesson Plan

Medieval Flashcards  you can print 2 copies onto cardstock, or laminate, and use for Go Fish

NEW LINK added 9-3-12...Coat of Arms craft

Friday, August 3, 2012

BlogShare: Storm The Castle

Medieval Times is our focus area for the coming school season. I had some ideas for projects, with my varying ages here I can run the gamut from easy to more detailed with no problem. What ideas I had definitely pale in comparison to the great projects shared by Storm the Castle!

Here are just some of the ideas I think we will glean from this fun blog...

Great diorama ideas for a whole Medieval village, and a cigar box castle, complete with detailed photos and step-by-step tutorials, even better, these are inexpensive craft materials.
There are several catapult projects and trebuchetsand more shared throughout the blogsite, here is just one of the projects...this one uses an embroidery hoop!
Not just your average, run-of-the-mill shields and swords and chainmail...even a helmet we may use for the Viking portion of our study...these are just a couple shared, definitely check thru the entire site for more detailed projects along these lines.
a stained glass window project...I had no idea there were black glue sticks out in the world, LOL. We were considering really basic...clear ConTac, torn bits of tissue paper, and no real design plan (more of a full window suncatcher)

We will definitely be bookmarking the Storm the Castle site and visiting again (and again) as we stroll thru the Middle Ages!

Science Unit 1: Algae and Fungi

*edited to add Week 2 notes 9-4-12

This year, as I mentioned earlier, we are using the textbook, God's Marvelous Works book 2 from Rod & Staff for our science core this year.

Our first unit, with 6 lessons, will be on Algae and Fungi. We are taking 1 week on each lesson, reading the text through, looking up information from various resources, adding to our notebooks with narrations, notes, and drawings over the week, and taking a test on Fridays, before the next lesson.

I will be adding/updating this post with notes as we go along thru the next 6 weeks of this unit with resources we find useful and other goodies as I find them. Please do share any resources, links, or books you might know of as well.

General Notes:
The Hiker's Notebook is a great site, full of information on a variety of nature goodies, including our algae and fungi lessons.
Fungi Flashcards from Quizlet
Handbook of Nature Study blog, of course!
Michigan Morels has a great photo post of edible, or meadow mushrooms
poisonous and look-alike mushroom listing
Mushroom Appreciation site
Zen's WNC Nature Notebook, great information on plants as well as fungi of North Carolina
North American Mycological Association pages, lessons and ideas
A Fungus Among Us ebook
The good, The bad, and The ugly...a Purdue Ag Fun with Fungus in the Classroom study
Golden Acorn Homeschool blog sharing on fungi

Lesson 1: Mushrooms with gills
The Nature Photo site has some great pictures of gilled mushrooms, our first stop
a PDF describing gilled mushrooms and their identification
Mushroom Education workbook, a 53 page workbook for children from the American Mushroom Institute
Mushroom Fact Sheet pdf
Mushroom section
The Mushroom Journal, great photo plates and descriptions
click to enlarge and view

Week 2: Mushrooms without Gills notes:
  • pore mushrooms have small tubes, or pores, opening downward under the cap. Spores are formed inside and are shed thru the tubes. This group is call polypore, meaning "many pores"
  • Pine Cone mushroom is shaped like a meadow mushroom, but has a longer stem, and tufts on the blackish cap appear like scales on a pinecone.

pinecone mushroom
photo credit: M. Doran, ECOS  visit site for more great nature walk photos

  • Artist's Fungi grows as a bracket on oak or beech trees. Ranging from 2-8" across (some up to 2 foot), it is brown-gray and sometimes covered in rusty-brown spores. (a nice site with information and a slideshow of photos here) Each year a new ring of growth adds to the width and thickness. The spore tubes are pure white, but when they are injured they turn dark. A picture can be drawn on the underside by pressing with a pointed stick. Hard pressure produces a dark line, lighter pressure a more pale line. As the mushroom dries, the drawing becomes permanent.
photo credit: Altoon Sultan

credit: Cabin Creations of Maine visit site for some views of sketches on mushrooms!
  • rusty-hoof fomes (fom-mez) grow on beech, birch, and some other hardwoods, and may live up to 35 years. It was commonly used as tinder in early America.
Fomes fomentarius 7
Tinder Fungus refers to a number of species of fungi that catch and hold coals very well.They are used for holding a coal for an extended period of time, so as to not have to go through the effort of restarting a fire. Simply pry off a chunk of the smoldering Tinder Fungus and use it to light some tinder and remake your fire.They are also used to initially catch sparks in certain fire-making methods, such as the fire piston.Please note that the names of "True Tinder Fungus" and "False Tinder Fungus" will vary from region to region, and also depending on your context. For example, from a mushroomers point of view, naming Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) as tinder fungus is incorrect. A common name would be either chaga or clinker polypore; and that which is identified on this site as false tinder fungus is the true one! In any case, chaga makes a great tea with anti cancer properties. Fomes fomentarius the tinder polypore is also medicinal and can be used to make cloth or paper. (Thanks to David Spahr for this info!)
Identifying a true 'tinder fungus' 
polypore fungi and primitive firestarting

  • Hydnum repandum has a spore scatterer, white or buff in color, with a smooth cap as wide as 8" across, and an off-center stem less than 2" long. 
Hydnum umbilicatum

  • Puffballs have their spore-producing organs covered by a tough, sometimes papery, covering. Giant Puffballs can grow to 20" across (with record-holders up to 6 ft. across and weighing 60lbs!)  A Puffball weighing 5lbs can produce over 7 trillion spores, each in turn with the potential of producing 5 lb puffballs containing 7 trillion a mere 3 generations of Puffballs, they would produce a mass of mushrooms 800 times the size of our entire planet!  
  • Puffball spores mature and release from small tears in their covering. Every disturbance...a bird lighting to rest, a squirrel scampering past...sends up tiny clouds of smoke (spores).
  • a Bird's Nest Puffball grows on decaying wood and is a tan cup-shaped lower portion as large as 1/2in wide holding several white, egg-like spore balls, each fastened to the cup by a thread. 
Image - Photo of the edible Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis)

A. Crucibulum vulgare, B. Nidularia candida, other species of bird's nest fungus with eggs
  • Earthstar mushrooms grow on bare soil. They are dark gray in the center, with from 7-20 papery 'petals' surrounding the 1-2" dry center. They measure water in the air...when there is low air moisture, the petals close around the center ball. When there is higher moisture content, the petals open. During very high moisture times, the petals may curve completely backwards and extend under the center ball, lifting it so as to resemble a standing man.
credit: via Google Images

edited to add new link (9-3-12):  This is a nice General Botany site with some good information we have used, as well as several graphics we printed off for the notebooks.
some neat notes and a few images on Fungal Biology
The Fungus Among Us museum interactive
Life The Science of Biology section of tutorials and activities on fungi
BJU Press General Science links