Earthquakes and volcanoes are dramatic and fascinating natural disasters. From shaking earth to flowing lava, these events can cause massive amounts of damage.

Earthquakes and volcanoes are the result of moving tectonic plates. Tectonic plates are pieces of the Earth’s crust and uppermantle, referred to as the lithosphere. These plates are always moving and interacting, constantly changing the Earth’s outer layer. Plates will separate, collide, or slide past each other. Earthquakes and volcanoes both result from the movement of tectonic plates.

Volcanoes will form at the boundary of two plates where the crust is less dense. Magma, or molten rock, will rise through the weak part of the crust, forming a volcano. There are about 1,500 volcanoes in the world. On average there are 50-70 eruptions per year.

An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of underground rock. They can be quite destructive if they occur near highly populated areas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are approximately 500,00 earthquakes per year! Only about 100,000 of them are strong enough to be felt.

Try this activity at home:

Make your own volcano in a cup! We did this as a demonstration in class and it was a big hit! Try it at home with your students.

Here are more Natural Disaster activities we did:


Testing our earthquake-proof structures!
Earthquake!!! Checking to see if our structures survived the shaking!
Some of our groups added plant-life around the base of their volcanoes. Did you know volcanic soil is very fertile and great for growing plants!
Watching the “lava” flow from our sand volcanoes.
This group built channels to help direct the lava flow!





One of my favorite natural phenomenons to see is a beautiful rainbow arching across the sky. A rainbow is a multicolored arc that is formed by sunlight and water droplets. When the white light goes through the water droplets, it is “bent” and turned into a spectrum of colors. The water acts as a prism that reflects, refracts, and disperses the light into the colors that we see in the sky.

The colors of the rainbow appear in order:

Red  Orange  Yellow  Green  Blue  Indigo  Violet

You try it!

You can make your own rainbow at home! The two main things you need are water and sunlight. Fill a clear glass halfway with water. Go outside and find a nice sunny spot. Tilt your glass so the sunlight shines through the bottom corner onto the ground. Move it around slowly until you see a rainbow arc reflecting down.

Make A Rainbow To Eat!

This is a yummy way to practice making a rainbow. Use fruits of different colors to make your own rainbow skewer. Make sure you put your colors in the correct order!

You will need:

  • wooden skewer
  • fruits for each color of the rainbow
  • knife (ask your parents for help with cutting)
  • plate
  • OPTIONAL: cool whip or marshmallows for clouds


Wash and dry the fruit. With your parent’s help, cut your fruit into 1 inch cubes. Then, put the fruit on the skewer in order of the rainbow colors. Add marshmallows or whipped cream for clouds. Then eat your rainbow! How many different fruits can you find with the same color?

 Here is an example! Photo courtesy of Finger Prickin’ Good.


Here are some of the things we did in class this week:

All eyes on the sky as we learn to identify clouds.
Our Cloud Guide!
Working with prisms
We made beautiful suncatchers to take home!


Spring 2019 Registration

Registration for Spring Home School Classes will begin this THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6th for  members.

Non-member registration will begin Thursday, December 13th.

Registration and class information can be found on the Home School section of our website. Please make sure your membership  and login information is up to date.

Renew or purchase a membership here.

Download a copy of our Spring schedule!

 Home School Flyer Spring 2019

Kuntassoo and Buffalo Skin Pictographs


Plains Indians did not have a written language like we do today. Instead, they would communicate through speaking, sign language, smoke signals, and pictographs. A pictograph is basically a symbol that would represent something in their lives. Some examples include a lightning bolt for a storm, a triangle for a tepee, or a spear to represent hunting or war.

Pictographs were often drawn on cave walls, rocks, and scraps of buffalo hide. The pictographs told stories about their battles, their heroes, and their everyday lives. What would today’s pictographs look like? Maybe a Domino’s Pizza sign or FaceBook logo would make a good pictograph to describe our daily lives! Come up with your own pictographs to tell a story about something you did today.

Create your own Buffalo Skin Pictographs!


Kuntassoo is a game that was developed by the women of the Sioux Indian tribe. They would make dice out of fruit pits, and draw the game on a scrap of buffalo hide. You can download the instructions here. Kuntassoo Game.

What did we learn this month?

Some of our activities from this month included building tepees, making pottery, grinding corn, weaving, and learning about pictographs! Check out the pictures below!



Made small tabletop tepees before heading out to make larger ones!
Ms. Patti’s 6/7 yo class made an awesome tepee!
Decorating our tepees with pictographs.
Grinding corn!



Registration Closing Soon!

Our first class of the Home School semester is just days away! We have a few spots still available for the 5 and 10/12 classes, so if you are interested please register as soon as possible. The 6/7 class and 8/9 classes are completely booked through the end of the semester.


No late registrations or walk-ins will be accepted.

We look forward to seeing everyone on Monday, September 10th!

Fall 2018 Registration is OPEN!

It’s that time of year again – REGISTRATION TIME! Summer is winding down, and fall will be here before we know it! Join us as we learn about Native Americans who lived in this area, discover what fish swim in our ponds, search the skies, and examine animals with no backbones! 

Registration for the Fall Home School Program officially opened today for Houston Arboretum members!

Non-member registration will open August 14th. 

If you need to renew your membership, please visit our website’s membership page or call us at 713-681-8433. 

Download a copy of this fall’s schedule here: Home School Flyer Fall 2018.



School of Rock (Cycle)!

When most people look at rocks they see….well, rocks. Lumps of soil and hard chunks of earth of different shapes and sizes. Maybe you collect them, or climb them, or use them in your garden. But geologists know the hidden truth about rocks – they help tell the earth’s history!

There are 3 types of rocks: Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic. Rocks can change from one type to another through different processes like melting or pressure.

Igneous rocks are usually associated with volcanoes. They are formed deep in the Earth’s surface by the cooling and solidification of molten magma or lava.  Examples: basalt, pumice, granite

Sedimentary rocks can take thousands of years to form. Layers of gravel, silt, sand, and even dead plants and animals are slowly deposited on top of each other. As layer after layer pile up, the bottom layers are pushed down and become tightly compacted together into a rock.  Sedimentary rocks can be identified by their layered appearance and will often have fossils in them. Examples: limestone, sandstone, coal

Metamorphic rocks are formed by both heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s surface. They can take up to millions of years to form! Like sedimentary rocks, they may have some layers but they will appear bent, curvy, or molted. Examples: marble, slate, schist

Earth recycles and reuses it’s rocks. Nothing is lost – it is just reformed. Through eorision, weathering, melting, cooling, and lots of pressure, old rocks are broken down and new rocks are formed. We call this type of recycling the Rock Cycle! Check out the diagram below! Image result for rock cycle
Our novice geologists this month had a special appearance by paleontologist Dr. Neal Immega from the Houston Gem & Mineral Society. Dr. Immega taught the students about the rock cycle, let them examine a variety of rocks, and showed the students some really cool petrified turtle poop!

Dr. Neal Immega teaching the students about the rock cycle.
Petrified tortoise poop!!
Checking out the rock samples!
Dr. Immega teaching about the rock cycle
Checking out the rock samples!

Questions: How well did you pay attention?

  • What are the three types of rocks?
  • How are each types of rock formed?
  • Name at least two types of processes that change rocks into different rocks.

With your parent’s permission, research the following rock formations.

  • The Arbol de Piedra, Bolivia
  • Immortal Bridge, Mt. Tai, China
  • Kannesteinen Vågsøy, Norway
  • Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
  • Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, USA
  • Painted Cliffs, Tasmania
  • The Wave Rock, Arizona, USA
  • Split Apple Rock, New Zealand

What types of rocks are they? How were they shaped in their current form? What type of processes did they undergo?

Geology Rocks!

What exactly is GEOLOGY? Geology is the study of our Earth. Scientists, called geologists, study different rocks to learn what the earth is made of, how it has changed over time, and what natural processes has it been through.

Rocks come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. We can identify what type it is based on it’s physical properties. Physical properties are the characteristics that make a rock unique. No two types of rocks are the same – which is why rock collecting so much fun! Here are some questions that will help you identify different rock samples:

  • What color is it?
  • What is the level of hardness?
  • What type of cleavage does it have?
  • Luster – Is it shiny or dull?
  • Streak – Does it leave a streak behind? What color is the streak?
  • Does it have crystals? What shape are they?
  • Does it float?
  • Is it attracted to magnets?

Geology Activity

Collect rock samples from around your area. It can be from a gravel path, a garden, or a local park, or visit a nature shop or rock collecting store. Using a geology kit (you can find them online or in our Nature Gift Shop!), test each rock or mineral sample. See how many different types of rocks you can identify!

Don’t have any rocks to test? Check out this fun game from Science Kids. You can test the properties of rocks such as slate, marble, chalk, granite and pumice. Remember to ask parents permission to use the computer!

We use things made from rocks everyday! Did you know each person will use an average of 3 million pounds of rocks, minerals, and metals in their lifetime? Whoa – that is a lot of rocks! Rocks are used in bricks to build houses and pathways. Ceramics made from clay make dishes and vases and even piggy banks! Sand can be used to build castles, or melted down to make glass! Metal is made from melting down certain rocks (similar to the way volcanoes do!) and shaping them into products we need. Even the lead in our pencils come from rocks!

Geology Scavenger Hunt: Home Edition

Want to know just how many rocks and minerals you have around your home? Grab a pencil and a piece of paper and start searching! Go to each room and see just how many different items you can find. Challenge a friend to make a list and see who can find the most things! Don’t forget – anything made from glass, ceramics, and metal count. And check outside your house for bricks and sidewalks!

Bonus: See if you can figure out what type of rock it came from! For instance, aluminum foil is made from aluminum. Ceramic tiles are made from clay. Glass is made from quartz or silica.

Need a little extra help? Check out this interactive website by One Geology Kids to learn more about geology! There is a picture of a kitchen that can give you some help in exploring your own home.


Quick pickles?? Quickles!

What do you do if you have too much food from your garden and you just can’t eat it all? One fun way to preserve that food is by pickling it! Pickling is a process of preserving food by immersing it in either vinegar or a salt brine to prevent spoilage. The idea of pickling has been around for centuries.

This quick recipe is perfect to do with kids because it does not require cooking or any fancy equipment. Just prep, mix, and refrigerate! These pickles, or quickles, taste great on burgers, with sandwiches, added to a cheese or charcuterie board, or just as an afternoon snack!

Our recipe is for a 2 or 3 quart jar but you can also use several pint size jars. For Home School we used 75 jars!

75 jars cleaned and ready to go! Thank you to everyone who donated jars to our Home School Program!

We washed, peeled, and cut our cucumbers, carrots, and onions. Then we layered them into the jars.

Carefully cutting our vegetables.


Layering our vegetable slices in our jars

Then we added our spices! We used dill weed, whole peppercorns, and dried minced garlic. (Thanks to Bolner’s Fiesta Spices for the donations! Check out their Facebook page for recipe ideas and product updates!).


Next, we mixed together the vinegar, sugar, and pickling salt. We poured the mixture over our vegetable slices and gave it a good stir!

Stirring it all up!

Last step – refrigerate for at least 24 hours! Then eat! Be sure to eat them within two weeks.

Making our quickles!

Download the recipe we used here:  Quick Pickles and Carrots

Once you have eaten all your pickles – reuse your jar to make more! What else can you pickle? Try beets, zucchini, okra, or eggs! Experiment with different herbs and spices to see what new flavor combinations you can come up with next!

Ladybugs and Squirmy Worms!

Now that you have your garden planted you have to maintain it! The 6/7 class read the book “Water, Weed, and Wait” by Angela Demos Halpin and Edith Hope Fine to learn what it takes to keep a garden healthy and growing. We need to make sure to water the plants (but not too much!), give it lots of sunlight, and keep the weeds from overtaking the flower beds. 

Making worm composters and ladybug habitats_Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

We also learned about garden bugs! Some insects, like ladybugs, honeybees, butterflies and assassin bugs are great for our gardens! They help to pollinate our flowers and they keep out the unwanted bugs (like grasshoppers, snails, and aphids). Each student created a ladybug habitat to take home. They added fresh plant material, water, and soaked raisins for food. They are going to observe the ladybugs and then release them into their gardens at home! The best time to release the ladybugs is in the evening when it is cooler.

Labybugs! Great garden helpers! _Houston Arboretum & Nature Center


Another great garden helper are squiggly, wiggly worms! Earthworms break down dead plant matter which provides nutrient rich soil for the plants. They also help to loosen the soil as they dig tunnels underground. We made a compost starter of soil, dried leaves, and water and added a red wiggler worm to it. Make sure the soil stays damp so the worm doesn’t dry out. When you are ready, put the worm and the compost directly into your garden!

Red wigglers are perfect for gardens!_Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

This Week’s Take Home Activity:

Observe your garden helpers and be sure to release them into your garden soon. If your plants have already started to grow strong roots, they are ready to be planted into the ground or into a larger container. Make sure your garden stays watered and has plenty of sunlight.

Happy Gardening!

Making worm composters and ladybug habitats_Houston Arboretum & Nature Center