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Grandparents' Corner

Fun Activity to Share when the Grandchildren come to visit:

Winter, 2013: Citizen Science Online Game

If you can’t beat them, join them at computer games and learn about lakes with:

Citizen Science Online Game

Citizen Science is a new innovative online game developed at UW-Madison that integrates citizen science, aquatic invasive species, and water quality education.



The player in this computer adventure game is a young adult who becomes concerned about the health of a local lake threatened by eutrophication. Based at Lake Mendota in Madison, WI, play-ers first travel back through time to the 1960ʼs. They uncover and solve pollution problems faced by Lake Mendota with the help of a fictional lake spirit and talking muskrat. After they have learned from and worked to correct decisions of the past, players return to the present time and find out that the future of Lake Mendota continues to be threatened by eutrophication. The game goal is to restore the lake to a condition more suitable for human use.

The purpose of Citizen Science is to help players develop a conceptual understanding of lake ecology while giving them experiences of confronting pressing ecological issues, conducting sci-entific inquiry to address these issues, and taking action in the (virtual) world to affect change. The game asks players to adopt the lens of science within a worldview similar to their own so as to en-act changes that they might see as useful. Citizen Science was designed so that playing it might support players in questioning why the lake is currently unfit for human use, provide experiences of affecting change through direct and legislative action, and potentially direct students towards broader efforts and actions that are preventing local lakes from becoming eutrophic. The project’s long-term research questions include:


1. Does participation in scientific role-playing games produce robust conceptual understandings of         core scientific ideas?
2. Does participation result in an increased desire to pursue careers in science?
3. Does participation result in more sophisticated understandings of contemporary scientific                 issues?
4. Can scientific role-playing games be used as a tool for assessing 21st-century thinking skills?



Spring, 2013:  Identifying Great Lakes Fish Families

A dichotomous key is a classification tool used to sort, organize and identify a collection of objects or living organisms. It is made up of a series of questions with two choices. Each choice leads to another question. By making choices and progressing logically through the key, users follow a path that ends with the correct identification of the organism.

Fish have distinguishing characteristics that provide clues about where a species typically lives and what it eats. For example, fish in the sturgeon and sucker families have downward oriented mouths that enable them to find food along the lake or stream bottom. Using the Key to identify fish you have caught or want to catch will help you learn about the fish and how to catch another one.
With your grandchildren use the key on the next page to identify fish and talk about the distinguishing characteristics and why you think the fish has each characteristic.
This activity is adapted from http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/flow and can be found in full on the webpage along with images of fish to classify and hone your fish ID skills.






Winter, 2012: Making a Miniature Birch Bark Canoe

Spring, 2012: Turtles, Ladybugs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails


The Lake Superior shoreline contains many round and flat stones that are wonderful to paint and keep the grandkids busy for a time. However, any flat stone will work.

Materials needed: flat stone(s), paper, pencil, crayons, old nature magazines or any magazine with colored pictures of insects/animals, model paints & brushes (hardware stores sell Testor paints in a multicolor pack with brush cleaner), newspaper and lots of patience.

1.  Wash the stone

2.  Have the grandkids pick an insect or animal found around the lake. Ladybugs and turtles work well           because they are round.

3.  Find a picture of the insect or animal selected.

4.  Select the stone to be used and have the child trace the shape of the stone on a piece of paper. Color the drawing with crayons matching the paint colors available.

5.  Now this is the tough part since only one color can be applied to the stone at a time and allowed to dry     (3-4 hours). Determine the order of colored paint application onto the stone (base color first and final detail color(s) last. For example if a ladybug is being painted: paint 75% of the stone red or orange and let dry. Then paint the head (25% left unpainted) black and place a black line from the head down the middle of the back to the tail end and let dry. If the spots are going to be black they can be painted at this time also. However, most kids want a colorful bug so the spots can be any color of their choice. Last, paint the eyes. Again, whatever color desired.

6.  As a last step, have your grandchild place their name on the underside of the stone, or wherever or name the bug.

7.  The stone can now be proudly placed in grandma or grandpa’s flower garden.



Resource for ideas:  The Art of Painting Animals on Rocks and Painting More Animals on Rocks by Lin Wellford, published by North Light Books.