Letters from DAIBA FujiTV English Blog

The Living Soil

Jul 30, 2012

Dear friends,
 
Ever since his “decaying experiment” my son has been captivated by the world of soil. In fact, he has completed two more projects in the last few days. The results were quite intriguing and I would like to share with you what he did.
 
1) Observing the Soil Decomposers
The purpose of this experiment is to verify the presence of organisms in soil such as tiny little insects, bacteria and fungi.
 
Preparation:



3 samples (soil from our yard, soil from a garden shop and beach sand), 4 petri dishes, glass beakers, medicine dropper, 100% grape juice
 
Procedure:


Put soil and sand in separate beakers, add tap water, stir well and wait for the solution to settle.






Meanwhile, pour an equal amount of 100% grape juice into the petri dishes.






Using a medicine dropper, draw in liquid from the upper portion of the soil (sand) solution and add a few drops to the petri dishes.





Label the petri dishes and let sit in room temperature for a few days. The fourth contains plain tap water only for purpose of comparison.
 



The next day, we could already observe mold forming on the surface of all three of the samples. The one with plain tap water remained unchanged. (click to enlarge)



After another day, the density of the mold increased and they came in a variety of forms and colors.



Soil from our yard:







Soil from a garden shop:







Beach Sand:





This experiment indicated that among the 3 samples, the soil from our yard contained the greatest amount and variety of fungi and bacteria.



2) Tullgren Funnel Experiment
 
My son’s next aim was to actually collect the living organisms and observe them through a microscope. In order to extract the organisms from the soil, we decided to prepare a device called the “Tullgren funnel.”
 
Preparation:


Samples, plastic funnels, filters, petri dishes, alcohol, electric lamps, shoe rack
 
Procedure:

Set the filters in the funnels and line them up on a shoe rack. Fill the petri dishes with alcohol and place them underneath the funnels.



 

Fill the funnels half way with the samples, attach the electric lamps on to the rack and switch them on.




 
The heat from the lamps will make the soil and sand dry out, encouraging the living organisms to move downwards. 






Finally, they will drop in to the petri dish filled with alcohol.
 



After a few days, my son observed the alcohol through a microscope to see if he had succeeded in collecting any little creatures. This is what we saw.

Soil from a garden shop:




Soil from our yard:






We still need to identify the species of these little creatures, but some of them appear to be a type of mite. We found nothing from the beach sand sample.


This experiment also proved that the soil from our yard contained the greatest amount of living organisms among the 3 samples. 





These organisms are soil decomposers that break down dead plants and animal material into organic matter. The organic matter is released back to the soil as nutrients to assist the growth of plants and the cycle continues on and on.

Amazing, don't you think?

Enjoy your day,
Anna

Posted by.Anna | | Comment (0)

Fish Decaying Experiment

Jul 13, 2012

Dear friends,
 
My 9 year old son is really into “science projects” lately.

A few days after completing his crystal project, we went fishing and caught lots of little sardines. Looking at the batch of sardines, my son suggested, “Since we have more than enough to eat, why don’t we try doing an experiment?”



His idea was to let the fish decay in soil and examine the humification process. He came up with this idea because of a book he read recently titled “How to Examine Soil.” This book writes about the tiny creatures living in soil and their role to decompose dead plants and animals.



We prepared 2 types of soil: soil from our yard and soil from a garden store. Plus, for purpose of comparison, I brought back some sand from the beach of Odaiba.

 
My son picked a few sardines of the same size and condition from the batch.



He also made labels indicating the type of soil:



sample #1 Soil from our yard (left)
sample #2 Sand from Odaiba Beach (center)
sample #3 Soil from a garden store (right)



We put the samples in a net to keep them away from flies and cats and watered the soil and sand twice a day to keep the fish moderately moist.

 
Day 3  We noticed changes in sample #1. The stomach was beginning to show signs of decay.

 
Day 6  Thread-like fungi began to form on the soil surface of samples #1 and #3. This type of fungi is known to decompose dead organic matter.


 
Day 14  All that was left of the sardines in samples #1 and #3 were the bones and bits of the skin.

 

However, the changes in sample #2 (beach sand) were not as noticeable.



We decided to end our project at this point and placed the sardines on a piece of paper to compare.

 
The sardines that were placed on soil (samples #1 and #3) were both badly deteriorated. On the other hand, the one in the middle (sample #2 beach sand) retained much of its original features. 

The difference between soil and sand is obvious. What does this suggest?

 

My son’s theory is:
1)    The insects, worms, fungi and bacteria living in the soil were indeed “decomposers.”
2)    Beach sand contains a certain level of salt and thus there is a possibility that salt acted as a preservative.
 
The next step of this project is to actually collect the living organisms and observe them through a microscope. My son says he wants to put this project together for his summer vacation homework.



By the way, his grandfather was a scientist specializing in the field of soil microbiology. I have a feeling my son takes after him a great deal. Who knows? This project might be his first step to becoming a scientist.
 
Enjoy your day,
Anna

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Growing Crystals

Jul 3, 2012

Dear friends,
 
One day, I found my son in the kitchen busily going through my spice cabinet. I could find no reason for him to be interested in herbs and seasonings and asked him what he was up to. His answer was, “I want to try growing crystals and was looking to see if there was anything I could use.” It sounded like a fun idea.
 
First, we thought of making salt crystals, but after doing some research on the internet, we learned that alum crystals are the easiest to grow. Plus, we had some alum powder in the cabinet, and so, we decided to give it a try.
 
This is what we prepared: alum powder, a heatproof-glass measuring cup, a thermometer and nylon fishing lines.

 

Alum powder is an ingredient used when making pickles. It is white colored, odorless with a sweet taste.



What kind of crystal will this white alum powder grow in to? 

The procedure went like this;


1)    Bring water to a boil in a pan and add in alum powder one spoonful at a time.







2)    Keep adding until the water is no longer able to dissolve the alum. This means you have reached the stage of super saturation.






3)    Pour the alum solution into a clean glass jar.








4)    Let it sit undisturbed overnight in a thermal box so that the temperature decreases slowly.






5)    The next day, strain the solution into another container using a paper towel as a filter to capture the small crystals that have started to grow.





6)    These small crystals are “seed crystals” that you will use to grow bigger ones.







7)    Pick several of the best shaped seed crystals and return the remaining crystals into the solution.






8)    Tie a loop of the fishing line around the “seed” and attach the other end to a chopstick.






9)    Reheat the solution to 60 degrees C and stir in an extra spoonful of alum powder.







10)Hang the seed crystal in the solution making sure it doesn’t touch the sides or the bottom of the container.






11)Once again let it sit in the thermal box, this time for several days until the crystal reaches a desired size.




 
Three days later, my son had a nice big alum crystal measuring about 3 centimeters in diameter.



We expected the crystal to be a bit clearer but it turned out smoky white. Aside from this though, my son and I were very much pleased with the results.


 
Enjoy your day,
Anna

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Handmade Waders

Jun 15, 2012

Dear friends,
 
When we were making plans to go clam digging last week, my 4 year old twins did not seem to be too keen on the idea. This is because of negative memories they had from the past such as when they shivered with cold because their clothes were soaking wet or when they got sand all over themselves, even in their eyes and hair.
 
I made a promise to them that I would do something to solve their problem this time. The easiest solution would be to buy two pairs of waterproof wader pants; however this would cost at least 10,000 yen, approximately $125.



So what I did was, I went to a nearby 100-yen shop and bought 2 pairs of women’s rain pants and 2 packs of elastic bands. 



 


At home, I sewed on the elastic bands to the top part of the pants as shoulder straps making them criss-cross in the back. In about 10 minutes, I had 2 pairs of handmade “waders.” It cost me only 400 yen, about $5.
 




This is what the waders look like when worn. Compared to their brother’s 5,000 yen wader, I must admit that they appear quite cheep looking, but that is perfectly fine as long as they keep the kids warm and dry for the next few hours.



Clam digging flats can get very crowded during this time of year, but we were lucky to be able to go on a weekday.

 

Using rakes and shovels, the kids began digging into the sand. The bridge you see in the back is Tokyo Bay Aqua Line.



The handmade waders were doing a great job. The kids could sit on the mud flat without having to worry about getting wet.



Even after 3 hours, they were still busy digging into the sand in search of clams. This was absolutely a miracle because the last few times, they only lasted about an hour.



Instead, this time, they refused to return. So, we stayed on the flat until the last minute just before the tide began to rise again.



Our harvest was a bucket full of asari clams and a net full of hamaguri clams.


 
Now, just as we were about to leave the flat, something surprising happened. My son told me that his pants were wet. Sure enough, even through the half transparent vinyl, I could tell that his pants were soaked.





I couldn’t understand how this was possible. Did his wader have a hole in it? Were the elastic bands too loose? I was perplexed until my son confessed, “I was having so much fun that I forgot to go to the bathroom.”


 
Enjoy your day,
Anna

Posted by.Anna | | Comment (0)

Making a Chocolate House

Jun 1, 2012

Dear friends,


When I found this “Chocolate House Kit” at a variety shop here in Tokyo, I instantly knew that I had to get it. My kids would certainly love it and the price was a reasonable 1,000 yen.
 


The kit included instructions, ready to assemble chocolate pieces, and a chocolate pen. The best part about this kit is that you don’t need to bother having to make your own pieces using melted chocolate and a mold because they are already made for you.



 
These are chocolate pens. The brown one came with the kit and I added the colored ones. By letting them sit in warm water for a while to melt, they can be used as glue or icing.



I also prepared colorful chocolate sweets, candy and jelly beans to decorate the house.





My 9 year old son offered to do the “construction” part. There were 10 pieces all together.






By applying chocolate glue where the pieces come together, he carefully assembled one side at a time.





Lastly, he attached the chimney on to the roof and completed the house. Very nicely done. From here, my 4 year old twins joined in to do the decorating.





Candied chocolate on the roof…







Icing on the roof, walls and chimney…







Smiling faces made of cookies and chocolate…







Jelly beans on the chimney...





And then finally, we had our super cute little house made of chocolate!!



It is 100% edible but too perfect to eat. I put the house on display for a day and promised the kids that they could munch away on it the next day.



The next day, my husband lined the kids up behind the chocolate house to take a photograph.



Then, it was time to eat it. They began by nibbling at the chocolate decorations on top of the roof.



However, the next instant, my son took a big bite on the roof itself and tore it away from the house.



Now, it was only a matter of seconds. The house was ripped apart in the blink of an eye. The results were chocolate smeared mouths and smiles of satisfaction.



The entire house was of course too much to eat in a day and we are still working on it little by little to date.
 
Enjoy your day!
Anna

Posted by.Anna | | Comment (0)

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