Fauna Game Review

A trivia game where you don’t have to know the answer!

Most trivia games require you know the exact answers and can be quite frustrating if you play with people who know a lot more than you.  Because of this, they don’t make good family games.  I remember playing Trivial Pursuit with my parents, and I had some fun, but I had no chance of winning.

Fauna is different!  In this animal trivia game, you get points for being close to the right answer.  This means that an educated guess could score you points, or you could just play next to someone else if you think they know the answer.

Fauna Cover

Each round the top of a card is revealed.  It tells you an animal, how many regions of the board it lives in, and its scientific name.  The card will also tell you if you are supposed to guess the weight, length, height, and tail length (you will guess at least 2 of these for each animal).

Fauna Card

On your turn you will use one of your 6 cubes to guess an answer.  You can place it in an area of the board to guess where it lives or on one of the numbered tracks at the bottom to guess one of the stats of the animal.  After each player places one cube, you have the option of placing another or passing.  Your cubes score points if they are correct guesses or if they are next to a correct guess.

Fauna Board with Cubes  Fauna Stats Cubes

Once all of the players have passed, you look at the bottom of the cards and see the correct answers.  All of your cubes that score points are returned to you, and the cubes that did not score are discarded.  Then each player is allowed to retrieve one of their discarded cubes.  If you have less than 3 cubes, you draw more so that you have 3 to start the next round.

The fact that you can lose cubes for incorrect guesses adds strategy to the game.  Sometimes you might only place a couple cubes so that you make sure you have some for a later card where you might know more info.

What I like about Fauna:

  • This game truly teaches you about the animals.
  • It plays up to 6 players.
  • It is fun (even though it is educational).
  • Our animal-loving kids actually have an advantage over us.
  • Even when you don’t have a clue, you can guess based on other people’s answers.
  • There are 360 different animal cards, and we only use about 6 per game.
  • Elijah likes the anticipation as he wait to see if he is right, and debating whether it is worth risking playing more cubes.
  • Ruth likes that we all guess on the same animal, not one person per animal.
  • Isaiah enjoys the fact that you get points for being close because it is hard to guess exactly.

Whether you enjoy animals or trivia, I think you will like Fauna.




Cold Weather Balloon Fun

We have a cold day today (around zero).  We took a few minutes to see what happens when you take a balloon outside in the cold.

Cold Weather Balloon Fun

I hope you can tell from the two pictures that the balloon shrinks as you are outside in the cold.  This is because gasses decrease in volume when there is a decrease in temperature.  Elijah stood outside for under 10 minutes with the balloon.  He wanted to go for longer, but I decided it was too cold out there.

The other way we demonstrated this was to blow up a balloon inside of a plastic container.

Here is our first attempt with the balloon in a container.

First Attempt

The balloon’s volume definitely decreased.  The next thing we knew, the balloon was floating away (and popped)!

For the next attempt in the container, I put the balloon in further.

second attempt

Unfortunately, my pictures weren’t the best for demonstrating, but the balloon was clearly smaller each time we checked.

You might want to mark the container so that it is even more noticeable.

By the way, it also is quite fun to freeze colored water inside of a balloon.  (We did that a few weeks ago.)

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the cold weather!




Baking Soda and Vinegar: It’s Not Just For Volcanoes

Many of us have seen the classic “erupting volcano” demonstration that is done with baking soda and vinegar.  That is a nice demo, and we can enjoy it, but let’s have a little more fun – loud, startling fun.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

When baking soda and vinegar mix, there is a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide.  Since carbon dioxide is a gas at room temperature, it expands.  That is where the bubbles come from in the volcano demo.  If you don’t let the gas expand, it creates pressure.

We can use that pressure to create a loud bang and a lot of fun!  This experiment is part chemistry, part physics, and complete fun.

We are going to use:

  • Soda bottles (16 or 20 oz.)
    • Don’t use water bottles.  The cap will not seal well enough.
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Tissues
  • A wide open space

If you try to mix the baking soda and vinegar in the soda bottle, it will react before you can get the cap on and create a big mess.  In order to avoid this, I first put the vinegar (and maybe some water) in the bottle.  Then I wrap the baking soda up in a tissue.  Stuff the tissue into the bottle.  This will allow you enough time to get the cap on before the reaction starts.

Fill with Vinegar and Water

Wrap up the baking soda

Make sure you fold up the ends of the tissue.  If you forget, the baking soda will spill out, the reaction will start, and vinegar will spray all over your kitchen.  Meanwhile your wife will laugh hysterically at you as you try to hold your hand over the top and run to the sink.  When you let go to drop it into the sink, you will realize that holding your hand over the top built up the pressure.  Actually you will only realize this when the bottle fails to fall into the sink, and instead launches onto the stove.  At the end of all of this, you will rethink the idea of assembling these inside as your wife shouts, “I wish I had videoed this!”

Cap Before the Reaction Starts

Once you have successfully assembled the bottles, give them a good shake to make sure that the baking soda is out of the tissue and is reacting with the vinegar.  You should be able to feel the pressure building up in the bottle.

The impact combined with the pressure from withing the bottle should cause the bottle to break or the cap to fly off.  There will be a loud bang, and the bottle usually goes flying.  The bang is louder when the bottle breaks, but it flies farther when the cap comes off.  We had one that flew up higher than our 2 story house! (but we didn’t video that one)

Give it a nice high toss, but make sure you throw it out away from you also (unless you like getting covered in vinegar).

You can try adding water with the vinegar.  This will give less room for the gas to expand and will increase the pressure.

Try varying the amounts of baking soda and vinegar and see what works best (you weren’t just going to explode one bottle, were you?).

This one flew so far that it landed in our neighbor’s yard!

Instead of exploding, this one just got a small hole in it.  I loved the result.

We also tried a 2 liter bottle.

2 Liter Bottle Exploded

Have fun exploring the science of God’s Creation.




Blowing Out Candles With Science

You have probably seem the classic science volcano where you mix baking soda and vinegar, but that is not the only fun we can have with those ingredients.

Birthday Science

When you mix baking soda and vinegar, the chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide, this is what cause the “lava” to overflow in the volcano demo. You can also capture that carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and use it for other purposes.

In this experiment, we used the carbon dioxide to “blow out” some candles.  This is a great experiment where you can discuss:  density of gasses, fire, and chemical reactions.

Remember that a fire needs 3 things: heat, oxygen, and fuel.  When we blow out candles, the flow of air removes the heat, and the fire goes out.  CO2 is heavier than the surrounding air, so you can pour it on the candles.  By pouring the carbon dioxide on the flame, we deprived the fire of oxygen.

In order to fill the jar with CO2, I mixed baking soda and vinegar in a larger container and then carefully poured the invisible gas into the jar in the video.  You can also pour straight from the container where you mix, but it is more dramatic when the jar looks completely empty.

I also used this as an object lesson when I was speaking to our kids AWANA club.  It is a good demonstration that even things you cannot see are real.  Even though we cannot see God, we know He is there because we see His Creation, and we see the things He has done in our lives.

Visit back next week for another “explosive” experiment with baking soda and vinegar.

Romans 1:20
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Hebrews 11:1   Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.




Element Cookies

One of my favorite activities from our first time through Cycle 3 was to make element cookies.

The first time around (when the kids were 6 and under), I bought ready-bake Pillsbury sugar cookies, a can of frosting, some food coloring, and a bag of m&ms.  I think I saw the original idea here, but I made it as simple as possible for myself with store-bought items.

(Side note:  Now that our home is gluten-free, I’m think of using gluten-free pancakes with frosting and m&ms.  If I have lots of time (ha!), I may even try the gluten-free sugar cookie recipe in my favorite cookbook.  I also need to look into gluten-free frosting options.  For other ideas, you could use peanut butter and nutella instead of frosting and dried raisins, chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips instead of m&ms.  I even thought about using toast instead of the cookies.)

We made element cookies with a red frosting nucleus, blue (m&m) protons, yellow neutrons, and green electrons.

Element Cookies

Here’s what we did:

For the first four elements, we reviewed the atomic number and mass for that element (from our Classical Conversations memory work).  We also reviewed the definition of the atomic number.

I had the kids figure out the number of protons, electrons, and neutrons so that we could decorate each cookie.

Remember:  the atomic number equals the number of protons and the number of electrons in a neutral atom.

To calculate the neutrons:  you have to subtract the atomic number from the atomic mass of each element.

For an example:

Lithium has an atomic number of 3.  There are 3 protons and 3 electrons.  The protons go in the nucleus of the atom (the red frosting on our cookies).  The electrons go on the white frosting.  The neutrons can be calculated by taking the atomic mass (7) and subtracting the atomic number (3).  There are 4 neutrons for Lithium.

I love this type of activity because you can have children of different levels practice different skills.

When we did this 3 years ago, it was the day Elijah was being introduced to subtraction.  The small subtraction questions were great for this.  You can see the simple hand-written worksheets I made for each element in this picture.  This time around, I will probably have Ruthie make the worksheets for the little boys as her handwriting practice.

Elijah with his cookies

Isaiah was still working on learning how to count and did a great job counting out his m&ms,

Isaiah frosting cookies

while Gideon (age 2) just had lots of cookie-eating practice (even before frosting the cookies).

Gideon eating cookies

This activity was so fun three years ago, and I can’t wait to do it again (gluten-free this time).

Ruthie with her plate of cookies

That day, the kids overloaded on milk and cookies.  I mean, you need to enjoy the fruits of your labor, right?