Category Archives: Florida Fun

Florida Marine Ecology for Kids

This past weekend, my kids took part in a mock Florida Marine Ecology tournament, hosted by the Nature Coast Biological Station (an organization supported, in part, by the University of Florida). My kids attended due to their involvement with Florida 4-H.

a picture of a kid with a clipboard looking at a florida marine ecology specimen

C, age 8, writes down his guess for the specimen. I think it was a fiddler crab…

Although they have been 4-H members for a few years, they are still getting their feet wet. We’re not really into animal husbandry, but there are a number of other ways to be involved with this fabulous organization. My children have participated in the non-livestock fair. Last year, I even coached a First Lego League team through our local robotics club.

Experiential Learning – Beach Field Trips

This was the first year they participated with the marine ecology team. My youngest son is interested in marine ecology, so he was very excited such a team existed! Thankfully, we had two amazing parent leaders who prepared my boys (and others) for this mock tournament. The “actual” tournament was cancelled when the Florida governor recently cut 4-H funding.

However, I can say that my boys have learned a lot about our coastal flora and fauna. Beach trips take on new meanings. The boys can identify the plants and animals we see. When we visit our local museum, the kids are quick to point out the different Florida shells (by name).

Local Learning – Florida Science

As a native Floridian, I am amazed by all of the flora and fauna that exists in my wonderful state. Why didn’t I learn about these local plants and animals in public school? I was raised on the Gulf Coast, so I should know this stuff by heart. My elementary class visited a local reserve once or twice, but I wonder why it wasn’t a larger part of the curriculum? Or maybe it was, briefly, and my brain cleared out that space to make way for calculus. (Trust me – my brain cleared that information a long time ago).

In school, we learned about alligators, manatees, and the Florida panther, but I don’t remember learning about local beach plants. Until recently, I didn’t know Florida hosts the largest nesting area for the loggerhead sea turtle. Did you?

Yes, it was the kids’ decision to study this information, but I really enjoyed learning alongside them. Can’t you tell? Lucky for me, the kids are already planning for next year’s tournament. In the meantime, our field trips just became a lot more interesting.

a picture of a table with pictures of Florida marine ecology birds on it.

I didn’t want to interrupt the kids, so I just grabbed a few pictures. Too bad I didn’t get any of the live plant specimens.


Shadows of the Eclipse

In north Florida we had a 90% solar eclipse. Ninety percent sounds like a lot of sun cover, right? Au contraire, my friends! This is Florida: the Sunshine State. Among my set of Florida homeschooling moms, the eclipse was compared to a cloudy, but rainy day. Nothing too special. Sure, it cooled off for an hour or so, but it was still pretty hot!

Thankfully, my husband is super excited about space-related things and compensates for my lack of interest. He brings his enthusiasm to our family discussions and sparks our curiosity.  He also works from home (lucky us), so he kept running out to check on the eclipse’s progress. I mean, every 5 minutes. He was that thrilled. Throw in two, free eclipse viewers from our local library and the great eclipse viewing was off and running!

Dad wondered if the kids were going to draw the eclipse…and the rest is history.

After a stern lecture about the perils of taking off the glasses, I let the boys venture out to watch the eclipse. I felt obligated to personally supervise my eight-year-old’s use of the glasses. Ahem. Burnt retinas are pretty bad.  And he’s eight.

Shadows of the Eclipse

While everyone was looking up, I took my husband’s advice and looked down…at the shadows.

At the height of the eclipse, the sun passed through the leaves of an oak tree and made crescent moons!

The colander produced some wicked crescent shapes!

Now, that sparked my artistic sense of wonder!


Florida Blueberry Picking 2017

Florida blueberry bushes

A beautiful Florida blueberry bush from Southland Farms.

Florida Blueberry Picking

What does blueberry picking have to do with art and tech?

Well…I could point out that I took these pictures with my cell phone; that wasn’t possible twenty years ago. One could also argue that current Florida blueberry picking is the result of technological breeding advances.

Or I could mention that we were notified about the ripe blueberries via technology. Though, it wasn’t digital technology. Instead, last year’s handwritten postcards are mailed as soon as the u-pick season opens. Organized mail delivery was a new technology…back in ancient times!

a picture of a boy picking blueberries

Technology vs. Nature

But, really? Does everything have to be about the latest and greatest digital tool? Blueberry bushes — and farming in general — could be considered living art. Besides, it’s good for the kids (and us) to experience nature, as much as possible. And those blueberries were darn tasty. If you live in north Florida, the next set of blueberry bushes will be ready for picking in a few weeks. Maybe, there is a farm near you.

a picture of a boy holding freshly picked Florida blueberries

Brick Chronicles – Lego Duck

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

a duck made from legos

Lego Duck, made by one of the kids who stopped by our booth.

Lego Duck

We had a variety of ‘Lego Challenges’ on hand for last weekend’s Summer Camp Expo. One of those challenges happened to ask, “can you build a duck?” I can’t say it was as popular as the “can you build a food truck” challenge (those wheels have quite the appeal), but I was intrigued by the kids who tackled a somewhat difficult challenge.

It was interesting to observe the different strategies. Some kids used all of the Lego pieces that were in the tray, while others used as few pieces as possible. Either way, we had students who revisited our booth and couldn’t stay away! Legos have quite the draw and we loved seeing all of the unique creations. Sadly, these were the only two ducks that I captured on camera. I’m already looking forward to seeing what everyone makes at next year’s summer camp expo.

A picture of a lego duck made out of legos.

This lego duck was made by another summer camp expo participant.


2016 Summer Camps in Alachua County

We had a great time with everyone on Saturday at the Fun4GatorKids ‘2016 Summer Camp Expo’ at Westside Park. We met a number of new faces, chatted with some old friends and learned about some of the other summer camps in Alachua county (synchronized swimming, anyone?).

A picture of tables, computers and legos

It was a gorgeous day to be outside.

Artisan Education’s Summer Camps in Alachua County

For those students who were interested in Code Camp, we had a Scratch maze for the kids to play (made by one of my campers from last year). We also brought a number of different “Lego challenges” for the kids (and parents) to try out. While we primarily focus on computer programming concepts in Robotics for Young Programmers, we also work with a lot of Legos! I didn’t catch everyone’s creations, but captured these few:

a picture of a sailboat out of legos

Challenge: Can you make a sailboat?

A picture of a garden made from lego bricks

Challenge: Can you build a garden?

The name 'Jacob' made out of legos

Challenge: Can you make your name? and, Can you build a giraffe?

We were tired by the end of the day, but grateful for all of the interest and excitement we saw with regards to computer programming, Legos® and becoming makers. I talked up our Making in Action camp and had some props on hand, especially since we’ve narrowed this year’s focus to fairy tales, fractured tales, and all sorts of mythological stories (Greek, Roman and Norse).  This is the starting point for camp and from these ideas students will work together to create their stop-motion animation movie. There will be a lot of choice, but a strong emphasis on teamwork and making revisions, all of which are great skills to practice.

A picture of the sign, Artisan Education

Thanks again to Sign Pro of North Florida for the great looking sign. Thanks to Joe (my husband) for making such an awesome graphic.


Gainesville Summer Camp Expo

A picture of a banner that says Artisan Education

Fresh from my local sign shop, Sign Pro, in Alachua.

Gainesville Summer Camp Expo 2016

Artisan Education will be hosting a booth at Saturday’s Fun4GatorKids 2016 Summer Camp Expo. We’ll be at Westside Park from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM on Saturday, April 23. This event is FREE and open to everyone. All of the vendors will have some type of fun activity for the kids to try.  We will be bringing some Lego challenges, a Scratch maze to play, and of course, our Lego robots will be on display. If you want to learn more about we’ll be doing in camp, come out and chat with us, and see some of the stuff we’ll be making!


Feeding Hungry Kids in Gainesville

It’s also a good event for a good cause. Fun4GatorKids will be collecting food items for the Food4Kids Backpack Program in Gainesville. Help ensure that the kids in our community are well-fed over the weekends. Some items they can use:

  • oatmeal packets, granola bars, cereal
  • canned beans, meats, veggies
  • raisins, canned fruit, peanut butter
  • shelf stable milk, juice boxes

We hope you will stop by and say hello. If you want to register for camp, bring your checkbook and we’ll have registration forms on hand. Otherwise, come out, meet us and stay to play!

a picture of a lady at an outside booth

Liz at Innovation Celebration – 2014

A boy and his cat (and some other animals too)

If you asked me if my eldest son was intrigued by animals, I would have to say, no. He runs through zoos, racing to each animal after another, as if merely ticking them off on his imaginary list. He does not care to read about their eating habits, habitats, etc. He prefers mechanical things (trucks and bridges and fighter planes).

But, this cat of ours has worked her way into his heart. China was the first pet my hubby and I had on our own. Our first baby, so to speak. She is roughly 13-years-old and is as feisty as she was as a kitten. And, since being kicked outside due to hubby’s allergies, she has been missing all of the human interaction. And, so, she has adopted Ronan.


When he is outside, she comes running…to be petted and appreciated. And, I think that he feels the same way. He puffs up with pride and declares her, “his cat.” And, I think his love for her has opened up his appreciation for other animals as well.


This is a giraffe from Giraffe Ranch, a semi-local place that works to keep endangered species and interesting animals alive to breed. We consider this a homeschool field trip. On this particular trip you get a ride in a windowless school bus where you stop next to the giraffes and feed them a proper snack (sticks with leaves and cabbage was on the menu for that day).




In addition to the more exotic animals, the owners of this ranch also raise their own pasture-raised beef and eggs (chicken too). So, you get a nice heaping discussion on the merits of respecting your climate and utilizing your natural resources as effciently as possible.


And, naturally, these guinea pigs caught his attention. And, he has been begging for a hamster ever since. But, that was not the only “field trip” we went on this past month. We had a chance to visit The Butterfly Farm (which was much closer to us geographically).

This farm is a certified organic butterfly farm and the people who work there were wonderful about sharing their knowledge and expertise. And, for those in north Florida, I would highly recommend it as showcasing a wonderful attentiveness to the excitement and attention of the children. The owner and his “troupe” of characters presented an hour long presentation on the different aspects of butterflies (did you know they taste with their feet?). This was presented in such a way that not a single child was bored or was distracted and disruptive. The credit goes to the owner and I was very impressed with his ability to teach the kids (and adults) about butterflies in such an engaging way.



The paint sticks were dipped in sugar water to feed the butterflies.


A fabulous experience…bringing us that much closer to nature and hopefully, an appreciation and desire to conserve as much of it as possible.

A Walk in the Woods

…according to Ronan.









On Sunday we were able to get out to a local park and do a little "hiking." (In Florida, it's mostly walking with a wee bit of an incline, but lovely, nonetheless). Our adventure started a bit like this:

Me: "All right, Ronan can you go to the bathroom? Joey, can you change Calum's diaper (hee hee)? I'm going to finish getting the water bottles together."

Ronan: (in a whiny kid voice) "I don't want to go to the park. I want to watch…"

Me: "Argghhh!"

At which point, I may have lectured a bit about the perils of TV addiction and the outcome of said "discussion" was me mentioning something about when he is an adult and no longer living at home he can watch all the TV he wants. Ugh. It sounded vaguely like something my parents would say. So, I promptly realized that the TV at Calum's nap time has gotten out of control. I filed it away and planned my strategy with regards to hiking. Meanwhile, he planned on going to the park and staying in the car with me while Daddy and Calum went hiking. I was a bit agitated. And, so I put on my "parent" hat. (You know, that hat you keep in the bathroom so you can lock yourself inside and think about the situation without yelling?)

And, that's when I remembered about the scavenger hunts. I suggested we make one up and he looked interested, but he wasn't completely in my camp, until I said that he could take pictures of everything we found. BINGO!

And, that's how he ended up with my camera and some completely awesome pictures. I definitely think this boy is ready for his own camera.


And, if you'll notice my new "banner," we seem to be doing a lot of hiking these days. A big thanks to Jen for the completely awesome design (it's a bit easy to tell that you do this for a living, Jen)! It looks great and I LOVE the camping Zebra.