May 30, 2004

Summer Science Projects--Shadow Boxes

Snapshots In My Time, Of My Time.....Hauntings.

Summer Science Projects--Shadow Boxes Republished.

Kids need something to do!
Summer 1969

My mother was a school teacher for 35 years. When school was out her "teacher mode" did not fade to black. It continued on with my brother and I. We had to read 3 books a week for required reading. More if we had time. The mobile library came to our neighborhood each week so the books were endless. In addition to reading we had lots of educational games to play and we also had a large science lab complete with bunson burners, beakers and protective eye goggles. Let's not forget the recipe book of science experiments. While our friends were outside playing ALL day, we were outside PART of the day. The rest was spent inside "being educational."

One of the things my brother and I did was try to get ready for the upcoming year by making a few science projects in advance. My favorite thing to make was shadow boxes. Shoe boxes made the best shadow boxes. I would cover the inside with contruction paper to highlite whatever I was showcasing. The items to be shown off were glued to the bottom with elmer's glue and saran wrap was the cover. They always looked good when I got done.

I loved to showcase lichen and mushrooms. The would maintain their brillant colors all summer and always got me an "A!" I would glue a plush green layer of moss to the botton of the shoe box, glue in the mushrooms and lichen and soon I had a small fungus microcosm.

One other item that was a big hit in science was skeletons. What skeletons? Well let me tell you. My mother was a big pickle eater back when I was small. She would buy pickles by the big gallon jar. A few jars would wind up in the garage stacked for a rainy day when we might need a jar for something. One summer I notice a frog that had been run over by a car all except for one leg. It was black and flat everywhere else. The one leg that was not roadkill was covered with ants. I looked closer and it seemed to me the ants were eating that leg. Pieces of it were being carried off by a thin stream of ants that led off to the shoulder of the road.

I ran to get a pickle jar and a small shovel. I dug up the ant nest and put it in the pickle jar. I filled the jar about 1/2 full. A few itchy stings later, I had an ant farm. I let the ants sit for about a week and get adjusted to their new surroundings. My brother did the same thing. Then we each caught one frog and one lizard. Not in the same week of course. We would place the frog or lizard in the ant farm. It was survival of the fittest for that frog or lizard. Sounds a little cruel but we were kids and only in the 3rd grade. We were young scientists!

Well, in about an hour that frog or lizard was entirely covered in black ants and was no longer moving, jumping or hopping. There may be a blink or two of an eye but that was all. The jars would again be left to sit for a week. After a week or two we would have a perfectly whole frog or lizard skeleton. Depending on the placement we would be able to lift the skelton out whole. If not we would crack open the jar with a small mallet to get the sleleton out.

The skeleton would be gleaming white and picked clean to the bone. Next we would shellac the skeleton, let it dry and then mount it in the shadow box. The ants were returned to the yard. My brother and I only made one frog and lizard skeleton a piece, per summer. Once in the shadow boxes those skeletons waited until the perfect day to take to school for show and tell or a special science project.


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