Posts Tagged ‘high school’

What Makes You Creative: Nature or Nurture?

Friday, November 8th, 2019


What makes you creative: Nature or Nurture? Today we will find out if genetics is all-important, or if learning wins out in making people who they are. We are studying high school psychology, the third and fourth chapters of our curriculum from 7 Sisters. (See link at the bottom of this post.) The third chapter is about genetics. Back when we studied biology, we did a super fun activity that I made up with Mr. Potato Heads and a gigantic punnet square:


Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head had four children. If Mr. Potato Head has a mixture of Bb (dominant brown eyes and recessive blue eyes) in his genes, and he marries Mrs. Potato Head with bb (recessive blue eyes), they will have two children with blue eyes and two children with brown eyes. (That’s because the recessive blue-eyed gene in the man combines with the recessive blue-eyed gene in the woman to create recessive blue-eyed children.)

If Mr. Potato Head had only dominant BB genes (brown eyes from both his parents), all four children would have brown eyes, even if the mom has blue eyes, because blue can’t win over brown. It’s like a game of rock-paper-scissors, where one is dominant over another and wins every time those two are together (like paper being dominant over rock every time).

We inherit a lot of physical characteristics from our parents, including capacity for thinking, creativity, and personality traits. Have you noticed that kids act a lot like their parents? The question is: is it only biological, or did the kids learn to act a certain way because they were conditioned by their environment? As far as creativity is concerned, you have the capacity to be creative because of the brain structures of your parents, and the fact that your mom wasn’t on drugs while she was pregnant with you. Nature plays a role in your capacity to be creative.

Nature or Nurture
by Rachel Evans

Years ago there was a battle between the scientists of psychology: Nature or Nurture? This battle was fought with valor and wit, until finally, some guy said that both sides were right! But seriously, the whole argument was about whether a person’s physical attributes and in-born abilities determined how they would act (Nature), or if a person’s upbringing and events that happened to them as a youngster affected how they would act (Nurture).

Truly, I am glad they figured out that both are true. But as to where I stand, I believe Nurture has a bigger role in it. If some guy Henry loved math because when he was six his math teachers were awesome, that is most definitely Nurture. If Henry never had those teachers, he might have been born with the ability to do math easily; but without finding out how to have fun doing it, he would’ve never become a world famous calculus professor. In my book, Nurture wins.

Pavlov, Skinner, & Bandura (goofy stuffed animal skits)

In this video, we will give illustrations of Nurture, which is when a person or animal is able to learn from his or her environment. Stuffed animals seem appropriate actors for this third psychology episode, since experiments were performed on animals (and humans) to see whether a specific response could be taught:

Pavlov, Skinner and Bandura
by Rachel Evans

If you refer to them by their last name, surely they did something cool. And indeed they did. These guys were psychologists studying behavior, such as what is learned versus what you were born with.

Pavlov‘s experiment is known everywhere. He took a dog. Whenever he fed the dog, he’d ring a bell right before. Eventually, even before showing the food, by ringing the bell the dog would get excited and salivate for the food. It was a learned response, a conditioned one.


Skinner‘s experiments also had to do with animals. He plopped a mouse into a box. Running around, the mouse would eventually find a lever and knock into it, dispensing a pellet of nom-noms. After a few times, the mouse learned that hitting the lever gave him yummies, therefore, the mouse was conditioned, taught, to hit the lever.


Bandura studied social learning. That is, if a child watches another child get rewarded or punished for a behavior, the child learns what to do and what not to do. This is why it’s also called observational learning. I theorize this is the main cause for violence. A person doesn’t learn to control his anger because, over the course of his life, he was rewarded for bad behavior. Therefore, he uses fighting as the answer to every problem, making the world worse for everyone.


Overall, there’s a lot to learn about behavior and learning in psychology, and I’d love to see what they have to discover next.

Getting back to the original question about creativity, even though Nature plays a role in the capacity of your brain to come up with creative thoughts, how we are brought up greatly affects our ability to think outside the box and be creative. Opportunities throughout childhood to be creative contribute to expanding the mind and enabling an adult to possess greater creativity than another adult who never had the same childhood opportunities to be creative.

In case you are wondering what curriculum we are using for psychology, we are studying {affiliate link} Introduction to Psychology by 7 Sisters Homeschool. We are having a ball with this curriculum!

Coming up next… the goofiest history of psychology you’ve ever seen! (Sign up for our monthly newsletter below if you don’t want to miss a single episode.)

Tongue Map & Perception Activity

Friday, November 1st, 2019


We did a hilarious tongue map activity when we studied perception for the second chapter in our psychology curriculum. We grabbed a large poster board and labeled the different sections of the tongue, emphasizing where the tongue is most sensitive to different tastes. Even though we have taste receptors for all flavors all over the tongue, some areas are more sensitive to sweet taste, for example. The tip of the tongue is the perfect place to lick an ice-cream cone, because if you just placed a small spoon of ice cream in the center of your tongue, it would not taste as good.

Tongue Map Activity & Perception (video demonstration)

Besides the fun activity of placing foods on different locations of a tongue map poster, I showed you a fun activity you can do with a different sense–the sense of sight. Sometimes your eyes will deceive you into thinking you see something that you don’t. If you stare at MC Escher sketches, for example, you get thrown off. (You can see a whole set of fun activities we did when we celebrated an MC Escher Party, including¬† creating our own tesselations.)

What I’m trying to say is that on the scene of a crime, various people who are standing around will perceive the same identical situation in different ways, depending on so many factors like angle of vision, presuppositions, fear, lack of eyeglasses, doing too many things at once and being distracted, etc. I’m sure you’ve noticed this when you watch mystery television shows. Perception can be distorted and can’t always be trusted.

Perception Art Activity


In my years as a school teacher, I saw the art teachers doing perspective drawings with their classes. One of these activities is super fun and looks distorted like Alice in Wonderland. You draw a small square in the middle of the paper and draw diagonal lines out from the center to form a hallway or elongated room or tunnel. Then you draw a cartoon scene and color it. Next, add a photo of the student inside the cartoon! This is the result:


I found more examples of this perspective activity here: Perspective Art for Older Kids.

All the other senses matter, too, such as the sense of smell (that I briefly described in the video), the sense of hearing (we did a hands-on sound activity here: Sound Collection), and the sense of touch. The five senses take in information, and our mind makes sense of the world around us as we take in this sensory information, based on past experiences and other things we have learned over the years.

My daughter read a book about Helen Keller, a girl who could not see, hear, or speak. She said that when she read the book, she couldn’t put it down… so she stayed up until midnight and was tired the next day. Here are some of her observations about the book:

The Miracle Worker
A book report by Rachel Evans

The Miracle Worker by William Gibson is a short and sweet read. The focus of the story is on Helen Keller, a blind and deaf girl who wants to experience the world in the same way everyone else does, but doesn’t know how. Enter Annie Sullivan, a 20-year-old girl who used to be blind, but after much effort, isn’t anymore. Everyone is doubtful of Annie’s abilities at the start, but soon she wins them over with an out-of-the-box plan to get Helen to like her.

Over the next two weeks, Annie lives in somewhat isolation with Helen, but of course with a servant/helper, Percy. Helen learns manners as Annie tries to teach her how to talk using her hands, but Helen doesn’t quite get it. Meanwhile, James, who I’m pretty sure is Annie’s long lost brother at this point, doesn’t look like he’s been given the right balance of parental grace and punishment for wrongs. Anyhow, I kinda like James.

At the end of the two weeks, Helen and Annie return back to the family house to eat dinner. Helen tests everyone to see if she can still get away with her old behavior, and Annie’s having none of it. She picks her up and takes her outside to refill the pitcher Helen knocked over. As Helen refills it, she suddenly realizes what Annie has been trying to teach her the whole time. Annie flips out, which of course grabs the attention of the rest of the family; Helen’s mother and father are sweetly kneeling in front of her, which, by the way, is in my opinion the most precious moment in the whole book. And they lived happily ever after.

In case you are wondering what curriculum we are using for psychology, we are studying {affiliate link} Introduction to Psychology by 7 Sisters Homeschool. We had such a fun time with this chapter on perception!

How to Make a Vegetable Brain

Friday, October 25th, 2019


Studying the brain? Today I will be showing you several hands-on brain activities, including how to make a vegetable brain. My daughter and I are studying psychology from a Christian perspective with a curriculum by 7 Sisters Homeschool. The first chapter was on “The Brain and How It Works.” We learned all the different parts of the brain and how they function together to help us to think and make sense of the world around us.

But first we answered the question: What is psychology? It’s the study of the mind, which is why it’s appropriate to begin by looking at the brain.

Throughout history, though, people have talked about the mind being in other parts of the body, like in your heart or in your bowels. Eeks! Even in modern times, we have sayings that refer to body parts when talking about emotions. Here is a list that my daughter Rachel came up with, along with what each one means:

Music to my ears— Something you wanted to hear
A sight for sore eyes— Relief
I love you with all my heart— I love you a lot
Keep your nose to the grindstone— Keep working
Cold shoulder— Not being open and talking
The apple of my eye— My most treasured thing that I’ll protect
Hands down— Not arguable

Next in our study of psychology, we looked at the human brain and noticed that it looked like cauliflower. Yes, it does. I’m sure you’ve noticed it, too. So we decided to grab some vegetables (including cauliflower) to make a vegetable brain:

How to Make a Vegetable Brain

Grab some cauliflower for the different lobes of the brain: frontal, perietal, occipital, and temporal lobes. Fit them together like a puzzle. Then shove a stick of celery into it from the right side at a diagonal, for the brain stem, which is connected to the spinal cord. A piece of tomato can be the cerebellum at the back of the neck, under the occipital and temporal lobes. Voila! A vegetable brain!

More Hands-on Brain Activities:

You can always draw a diagram of the human brain and color it it with colored pencils:


Then you can grab some play-doh and form a brain by rolling the play-doh into a snake and then coiling it up in a spaghetti mess for the all the lobes of the brain. (If you want, you can make each lobe a different color rather than lumping it all together.) The brain stem and cerebellum can be formed out of different colors and attached to the spaghetti brain:


The brain is made up of neurons, which are cells in the nervous system that transmit information. Each neuron has a body, axon, and dentrites. While your play-doh is out, you might as well make a play-doh neuron:


Or take out LEGOs and create a LEGO neuron:


Once you’ve done one or two or all of these fabulous activities, you should have a fairly good grasp of the human brain and its functions. (In the video above, I mention what each main part of the brain is, and how each part functions.)

If you are wondering which curriculum we are using, here it is: {affiliate link} Introduction to Psychology by 7 Sisters Homeschool. I love their no-nonsense approach, so that you can get through the basics of psychology without all the fluff. This gives us time to add fun hands-on activities, skits, and movies to the curriculum. Their teacher’s guide includes links to videos and articles online to augment the material presented, along with lists of movies and books that are appropriate to add to each chapter if you want to have an even beefier course. I’m loving it!

High School Astronomy for Homeschoolers

Monday, October 7th, 2019


I have been researching high school astronomy for homeschoolers for quite a few years, and it wasn’t until this year that I found a curriculum that looked beautiful, was beefy but not too mathematical, and that was understandable. I finally found it! I ordered the majority of these from Master Books, but my dad already had several of the books and DVD’s. The large Hubble coffee table book we got from Costco.

Here is a list of books that we got:

  • The Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky (includes planisphere inside back cover)
  • Survey of Astronomy: 9th -12th Grade Teacher Guide
  • Our Created Moon
  • Taking Back Astronomy

The four books listed above are all you need for a full year of high school astronomy. Besides the huge Hubble book, I’ve also added:

  • The New Astronomy Book
  • The Privileged Planet (DVD)
  • Our Created Moon (DVD)
  • The Heavens Declare (set of 3 DVD’s)
  • Binoculars, and hopefully a used telescope at some point

Unboxing High School Astronomy

To see the books up closer, take a look at this unboxing video, where I show you the beautiful photos and describe what I am doing for astronomy this year:

High School Field Trips for Astronomy

Just during the month of September, we have already gone on 5 astronomy field trips! The first one was an astronomy workshop at a local library, where the speaker presented many different astronomy activities that would be taking place in my area. I asked him where the nearest observatory was located, where the best place to see the Milky Way was, and when the next star party was scheduled.


On a different day we went to a planetarium, where we leaned back and observed outer space from a domed ceiling. I’ve always love planetariums because it makes me feel like I’m an astronaut in outer space, just floating and looking at the nebulae and planets.


We looked through telescopes at the sun during the daytime, to try to find solar flares and sun spots. On the day that we were looking, there were no sun spots or solar flares, but it was still cool to look through the expensive equipment to see the sun without hurting our eyes. The Spokane Astronomical Society had a booth at a local festival, and they were getting the public interested in astronomy by having their telescopes set up.


At night we attended a star party, which was also hosted by the Spokane Astronomical Society. We were able to find basic constellations, the north star, and some planets. We actually got to see four of the moons of Jupiter, and a red stripe going across it! (I’ve never been able to see that in real life before, so it was definitely cool.) And we also saw the rings on Saturn!


Our family also attended another workshop at a different library, presented by a NASA representative. The workshop was entitled “Space Frontiers.” We saw a space suit, Shuttle EVA suit glove, small rocket steering thruster, Martian meteorite, and other artifacts. Joe Bruce was the speaker, and he had witnessed four space shuttle launches and the launch of Space X Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center. He described what it was like, from the perspective of someone who was there!


We have learned so much high school astronomy so far and have experienced it! I’m always astounded at how much fun I have homeschooling my kids, and this year is no exception. Hands-on is the best way to learn about a subject, and we plan to go star gazing many more times this year.

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