Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kaleidoscope Winter Celebration

Kaleidoscope Winter Celebration
Join us for a FREE Open House!
Wednesday, December 21, from 1 to 5 pm, FREE, All ages!
Join us for light snacks, crafts and more! We're hosting four hours of fun demonstrations and activities, as a thank to all of the amazing people who have made Kaleidoscope's first year so wonderful!

1 to 2 pm - Paper plate pop up snowman craft! A fun winter decoration that's easy to make.

2 to 3 pm - A holiday-inspried demonstration of Lango language programs, coming to KLC in 2012. Learn more about Lango's innovative, engaging, immersive program at

3 to 4 pm - Winter constellations exploration. Make your own star wheel and discover all that the night sky has to offer this season!

4 to 5 pm - Marybeth Journe will be sharing a fun nature-based craft as a demonstration of her exciting new art class, Creative Expressions, coming in 2012!

All day - Robin Slaw will be on hand to help you start your new year off with great health. Come learn about preventing breast cancer!

All day - Come and play in our playroom, enjoy a cup of coffee, tea of cider, have a cookie or some fruit and just relax.

All programs held at Kaleidoscope Learning Center, 2 Footbridge Lane, Blairstown, next to Footbridge Park in the first floor of the red building.

KLC is available for rental! Host your next meeting, class, small party or activity with us. Have an idea for a program? We would LOVE to hear from you and support your vision!

Gifts certificates are available! Give the gift of learning this holiday season! For every $50 in gift certificates you buy, you'll get a $5 certificate for yourself! (And yes, you can buy them for yourself and pocket the savings!) Email or call 908-283-0020 for information.

Keep up to date with Kaleidoscope Learning Center at our website Or get DAILY updates on our Facebook page,

Rube Goldberg

Later today, I'll be taking my Crazy Contraptions class into my daughters' school for their independent project day. It's basically an extension of the Rube Goldberg project I used to do with my 8th Grade physical science class.


Rube Goldberg machines are basically contraptions that do in many, many steps what any reasonable person could do in one simple step. They are named for an American cartoonist (and engineer and sculptor), Rube Goldberg, who published drawings of these crazy devices while working at a San Francisco newspaper. He went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his work.

Why did he draw these machines? Goldberg is quoted as saying his cartoons are a "symbol of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results." In other words, he thought people simply liked to do things the hard way, and if technology was involved, all the better.

Each year Purdue University hosts a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for high school and college level students. It has become so popular that winners appear on national T.V. shows like Good Morning America and Late Night With David Letterman.

The cool thing about these machines is that they are awesome ways to explore engineering, physics and art. I like to build in a lesson on simple machines. After reviewing wedges, inclined planes, levers, screws, wheels and axels and pulleys, challenging students to create a complex machine a la Rube Goldberg with as many simple machines included as they can manage is really fun. The task can be made as formal or informal as desired. For my Crazy Contraptions class, students 4th grade and up can usually create a 3-5 step machine with a simple goal in 2 hours, using toys and junk from around the house. For a more formal class, select a harder task (watering a plant), require more steps, limit material choices, expand materials choices or require that all the simple machines be included (or that all of Newton's Laws of Motion be demonstrated).

So, I encourage everyone to get out there and build some crazy machines. It's fun! And it's science! As we part, please enjoy this inspiration.

If you're a MythBusters fan (and who isn't) you may also enjoy their Christmas themed machine. And when you start feeling down because your machine isn't working just as you planned, watch this Honda ad, The Cog. It took 605 tries to get this one good take!

World of Goo!

Since Caitie got to do her Spa Day, Gwen wanted to help me plan a class as well. We came up with The World of Goo. Once again, I tried to plan too many projects, but I guess that just leaves me with more for another class.

The toughest of the projects was the bouncy ball. I used a recipe adapted from an American Chemical Society activity, but wasn't very happy with it. After some experimentation, I had a better ball. (More on that tomorrow.) However, I guess I had made so many of the darn things by then that I took for granted the finesse involved. It's one thing to do the chemistry, quite another to actually mold the ball by hand. About half the balls worked out perfectly. A few kids over mixed and got crumbles. Some kneaded the mixture a bit too long and got odd shaped balls. I think if I do it again, I'll have extra set ups so that kids can repeat the experiment if needed.

From the science end we mostly talked about mixtures in all their glory. We discussed the differences between a solution (the most homogeneous mixture), suspensions (the most heterogeneous) and colloids (somewhere in between the two). We demonstrated colloids with one of my favorite non-Newtonian fluids -- Oobleck. The old cornstarch and water mixture has so many interesting properties and is just fun to play with. (And MESSY!) Then we made a Borax solution and tried our hand at polymerization. Yea, slime!

Anyway, below are the recipes we used and some others we didn't get to. Have fun!

World of GOO!!!


½ cup school glue – white or gel
1 tsp Borax powder
1 cup water
Food coloring

  1. Pour the glue into a bowl. If desired, add food coloring.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix water and Borax. Fully dissolve Borax into solution.
  3. Slowly pour the glue mixture into the bowl of borax solution.
  4. Place the slime that forms into your hands and knead until it feels dry. The more the slime is played with, the firmer and less sticky it will become.
  5. Discard water in bowl.
  6. Store your slime in a zip-lock bag in the fridge (otherwise it will develop mold).


1 ½ to 2 cups cornstarch
1 cup water
Food coloring

  1. In a bowl, mix 1 cup water with 1.5 cups cornstarch.
  2. Work in more cornstarch if you want a more 'solid' oobleck.
  3. It will take about 10 minutes of mixing to get nice homogeneous oobleck.
  4. Mix in a few drops of food coloring if you want colored oobleck.


1 tsp Metamucil
1 cup water
Food coloring

  1. Mix Metamucil with water in a microwaveable bowl. Add a drop or two of food coloring if you wish.
  2. Place bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 4-5 minutes (actual time depends on microwave power) or until the goo is about to bubble out of the bowl. Turn off the microwave.

  1. Let the mixture cool slightly, then repeat step 3 another four to five times.
  2. Pour the flubber onto a plate or cookie sheet. (HOT!) Allow to cool.

No Cook Playdough

1 cup of flour
1 cup of boiling water
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
1/2 cup of salt
1 tablespoon of oil
Food coloring

Simply mix all the ingredients together! Be careful as it can be quite hot.

Basic Salt Dough

1 cup of fine salt
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of water (may add more)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the salt and the flour.
  2. Make a well in the salt/flour mixture and add the water.
  3. Knead until smooth and shape into a ball.
  4. When not in use, wrap in plastic or store in an airtight container.
  5. This will air dry, but to speed it up, place in a 250 degree oven until dry (1 hour for flat shapes, more for 3D.)

Bouncy Ball

1 tsp Borax
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp glue
1 tbsp cornstarch
Food Coloring

  1. Heat water until hot. Add borax and mix well. Add color if desired.
  2. In a separate cup, put glue and cornstarch. Do not mix.
  3. Add borax solution to second cup. Let sit for 10 to 15 seconds. Mix well.
  4. When you cannot mix anymore, remove from cup and knead well with hands. Form into a ball.

Spa Day

So Caitie wanted to do something special with her friends. She and I put together some recipes for "spa" products and then created a class, which we held on Monday. We definitely tried to fit too many projects into the time we had, but it was a really fun day. The lip gloss and bath bombs were the biggest hits.

One fun thing we talked about was the idea that there are top, middle and bottom notes in fragrances. Top notes are fresh and light. As the most volatile scents, they're the first you smell, but the scent evaporates quickly and doesn't last too long. Citrus and mint scents generally fall into the this category. Middle notes are the heart of a fragrance. They balance the rest of the notes and create the warmth and body of a scent. This note can make up as much as 80% of the fragrance. The bottom notes last the longest and are deep and rich. Woodsy and spicy scents form the bottom notes. So I challenged the kids to try to hit all the notes in their body sprays.

Since we didn't get to play with soap as much as we had hoped, we're going to plan a whole class devoted to soapmaking, probably in January. Fun!

Here are the recipes we used!

Special Spa Recipes

Lip Gloss:

1 tbsp shortening
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp olive oil (optional, for a thinner, glossier product)

To tint and flavor:
Wilton cake decorating icing colors
Concentrated flavor oils for candy making
OR… Dissolve one packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid into ¼ tsp hot water

Mix base ingredients together until thoroughly blended. (You may heat for 10 seconds in a microwave to aid mixing. Do not melt.) Add desired color and flavor. Store in a covered container.

Bath Bomb:

1 cup baking soda
½ cup citric acid
½ Epsom salts
½ corn starch
2 tsp water
1 tbsp oil (olive, almond, coconut)
1 or 2 drops of food coloring as desired
Scent (essential oils or commercial soap scent)

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk. Mix liquid ingredients ina  small jar and shake until mix. (They will separate. It’s ok.) SLOWLY add wet ingredients to dry, a tsp at a time, whisking as you go. When all wet ingredients are added, form the bath bomb by pressing it into a mold. The compact it is, the better the end result. Let dry and unmold. Store in a plastic bag or container and KEEP DRY! Use within 6 months.

Foot Soak:

3 cups Epsom Salt
2 cups sea salt
1 cup baking soda (optional)
Several drops of peppermint essential oil
Food coloring as desired

Combine all dry ingredients. Add color and scent drop by drop, mixing to achieve desired result. Store in an airtight container. Use ¼ cup in warm water for a foot soak.

Cleopatra’s Milk and Honey Bath Salts:

2 cups of powdered milk
1 cup of Epsom salt
1 cup of sea salt
1/2 cup of baking soda
2 tbsp. Honey
1 tbsp. oil (olive, almond, coconut)
Vanilla scent (optional, extract or commercial soap scent)

Combine all dry ingredients. Combine honey and oil. Add liquid to dry ingredients. Mix well. (You may need to use your hands.) Add scent. Store in an airtight container. Use ½ cup in a warm bath to soothe and moisturize skin.

Body Spray:

¼ cup ethanol
¼ cup distilled water
2 vitamin E capsules
Essential oils

Combine ethanol and water in spray bottle. Pierce vitamin E capsules with a pin and add liquid to bottle. Cap and shake well. Add essential oils until desired scent is achieved. Cap and shake well. Shake before each use.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Annex

After falling trees, floods and freak snowstorms, Kaleidoscppe has had a lot of trouble settling into a space for classes. We've been very lucky to have the support of our community, particularly that of EcoZOica Consciousness Lounge, who provided us with space for programs while we waitied for renovations to be completed.

Though our little yellow building is still in the works, we have been able to complete a cozy space nearby. Kaleidoscope is now operating out of the first floor of 2 Footbridge Lane, the large red building where Dr. Magalio's dentistry practice is housed. We like to call it "The Annex." There we have a large classroom, a smaller playroom, and a tidy bathroom.

Work will continue on our larger space, but at least we have a home!