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Posts Tagged With: experiment

GMOs– A Study that is Harmful to Pigs

They will give just anyone a blog.  Believe me.  So I’m giving you the moral of today’s post now.  Don’t believe everything you read.

I’m writing this in response to comments made back when I first brought up the topic of Monsanto, so my same disclaimers apply. And like before, I’ll try to be as unemotional as I can be, but I warn you now, I’m going to vent just a little.

Back when I first posted about my meeting with Monsanto’s President several people sent me links.  Studies, news reports, websites, blogs– all citing the dangers of GMOs.  Because I like to know all sides of a story I clicked on all of them.  I read several twice.  Then I did something a little crazy.  I checked for sources.

I was amazed at how many articles had no sources.  At all.  Other sources I questioned because I couldn’t be sure, based on the report, if I was getting all of the information.   And despite these scientific inadequacies, people are reading them.  Reposting them.  Believing them.

Here’s an example so you can see what I mean.

GMOs-A study that is harmful to pigs {DaddysTractor.com}

This headline appeared on the Chicago Tribune website on June 11.  “Scientists say new study shows pig health hurt by GMO feed.”  It begins by listing the qualifications of the study– a good first step.  It tells us which scientific journal published the findings, who did the study, how many pigs were in the study, and what they did to the pigs.  It then publishes a whole paragraph of ratios comparing stomach inflammation of two groups of pigs.  So far so good.

But then the problems begin.  The only links are by Google and AdChoice.  I had to go elsewhere to find the actual report.  And yes, I really read it.  Um, most of it.

Here’s what I found.  168 pigs were divided into two groups.  One group was fed GMO feed, the other non-GMO feed.  When they were market size they were slaughtered and their organs were examined.

There was no difference in the size or health of the living animals.  The study states that the only difference at all was in the size of the uterus and the amount of stomach inflammation.  One veterinarian looked at all the stomachs of the pigs and gave them ratings of nil, mild, moderate, or severe stomach inflammation.

In the category of severe stomach inflammation there were 9 non GM fed pigs and 23 GM fed pigs.  That’s pretty bad and is obviously the biases for the article.  However, if you keep going you will see that there are 29 non GM pigs in the moderate category and only 18 GM pigs.  Now its 38-41 with some kind of inflammation.  Lets add in the mild category with 31 non and 23 GM and you have totals of 69 to 64 and there are actually more sick non pigs than GM pigs.  Finally, the nil category with 4 non and 8 GM, with grand totals of 73 non and 72 GM.

And then lets look at a few other categories.  11 non GM fed pigs had heart abnormalities, and only 5 GM fed pigs had them.  So where is the headline “GMOs prevent heart problems”?  6 non GM pigs had liver abnormalities and only 3 GM pigs did.  Still no headline.  And 3 non vs. 2 GM pigs had spleen abnormalities.  (Whatever that is.)

But here’s where my emotional neutrality will end– what in the world did the scientists do that made all these pigs so sick?!  168 pigs and 145 had inflammation?!  16 had heart abnormalities?!  They had a mortality rate of 13-14% overall, which they try to say is “normal” but my farm friends tell me 3-6% is more like it.  This sounds like horrible treatment of animals in my opinion!

Back to calm.

I also found an article (the author is sarcastic, but generally reasonable) which explains the authors, funding, and other behind the scene details.  He writes that while the study specifically states that there are no conflicts of interest, one of the authors  sells non-GMO grain.

I am not a scientist.  I’m guessing most of you aren’t either.  Neither are the journalists for the Chicago Tribune.  However, it looks to me as if someone, somewhere along the way, wanted headlines.  Negative headlines.  Maybe because negative headlines sell? or because they want GMOs to be bad? or they want to sell non GMO grain?  Not sure.  But after reading the study I believe you would have to be looking for that headline before you could find it.

This isn’t the only out-of-proportion article I’ve read.

But there are hundreds of studies you’ve likely never heard of.  GENERA, a project to catalog properly peer-reviewed, legitimately published, scientific studies about genetically engineered plants, lists more than 600 independent studies.  And no, I didn’t read them all.  Not even mostly.  You could, if you’d like, read each one to see how GMOs have been shown to be safe.  Over and over and over again.

Don’t bother writing about it though.  It doesn’t make good headlines.

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Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Plant Thematic Unit

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Many of you said last month’s Insect Unit was oodles of fun, so today I’m sharing the Plant Thematic Unit we’ve been exploring .   It was perfect for homeschool since we are spending lots of time in the garden anyway, but its also the fun kind of unit I would have used as a kindergarten teacher to get us through the end of the school year or for summer school!

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

After reading about what plants need, this experiment was to observe what happens when you take something away.  I bought a four-pack of flowers, cut them apart and Brett labeled them.  Plant 1 was our control, Plant 2 we took away sunlight by placing it in a shoebox, Plant 3 we took away carbon dioxide (we called it “air”) by zipping it in a plastic bag, Plant 4 we took away water.  Then we used these pages Plant Need Experiment Plants Need Experiment 2 to record.  It worked pretty well, but the only thing that died in the ziplock bag was the flower part, so make sure your plant has one 😉

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Of course we used play dough to learn plant parts!  In addition to leaves, Brett also added a stigma and stamen after I took this picture, which could enrich this idea for older children, depending on how complex they made their models.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Understanding plant parts led us to a project learning about the parts of the plant we eat.  I divided a paper plate into six sections.  Next we cut out the center circle from Plant Parts We Eat and attached it with a brad. Then we cut pictures from garden magazines. (For free catalogs try Gurney’s, Jung’s, Burpee, or Johnny’s.  They do take a few weeks to arrive.  You could also print the picture of food from the Who Grew My Soup post.)  The kiddos matched up the food to the plant part and glued.  This became a center activity because the brad allowed the circle to spin and become a puzzle over and over!

Make your own root viewer {DaddysTractor.com}

We found this root viewer at Wal-Mart, but after opening it I think you could make one of your own by filling a quart jar with potting soil, placing seeds 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the jar, and covering outside of the jar with black construction paper and a rubber band (they need dark to grow).  Simple and cheaper!

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Since lap books are our new favorite thing I created a foldable book to review plant parts and what plants need.  Print this Plants Have Plants Need chart and glue it onto construction paper if you like.  These Plants Have Plants Need labels can be cut out and glued into place on the flaps.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

Also for the lap book (or center) we made a flower petal math game.  I used an advertisement refrigerator magnets to make the circle for the center and covered it with contact paper.  Then I cut flower petals from cardstock and added snips of magnets.  Anna made patterns or used a wipe-off marker to write the number of petals I put on her flower.  Brett got two colors of petals and had to write addition problems with the marker.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {DaddysTractor.com}

To observe how seeds begin to grow we traced bean seeds and then allowed them to soak in water for a few hours.  When we came back we could clearly see how the seeds had swelled and the outer paper-y layer was peeling back!

And since I was unexpectedly promoted to Sunday School teacher during this unit, here’s a bonus activity I did for church.  My poor kids had way too much “plant” that week, but it was last minute!

Sunday School lesson comparing faith to a seed {DaddysTractor.com}

We compared faith to a seed, planted in our hearts.  Just like seeds need sunlight, air, and water our faith needs things to grow.  We brainstormed ideas and they drew three they like on the rain drops; things like praying, obeying parents, going to church, reading Scriptures.  Or you could just make the mobile with no pics at all :-).

And last but not least, no unit is complete without snacks!

Plant Thematic unit snack idea {DaddysTractor.com}

This is “dirt” pudding; chocolate pudding mixed with crushed Oreos and layered with a few gummy worms.  Sooooooo educational!

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

History of Agriculture Theme Unit

One of the best things about homeschooling is choosing to study what you like!  We recently completed a theme unit on the history of agriculture.  If this sounds like fun to you, here ya go!

HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE THEME UNIT

Reading

The American Family Farm by Joan Anderson

Farming Then and Now by Katie Roden

Pictures from the Farm by JC Allen and Son, Inc. (Brett loved this one!)

Case Photographic History by April Halberstadt

The Big Book of Tractors by John Deere

Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm by Billy Steers (and other Tractor Mac books)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingles Wilder, Chapters 10 &11

History of Agriculture Theme Unit

Writing

Keep a vocabulary list of all the new words you learn

Brainstorm facts you’ve learned about farming; choose one to write in your journal

Explore the poem “One for the Mouse, one for the crow, one to rot, one to grow”

Pretend you are living on a family farm __ years ago.  Write a letter to someone telling them about your day.

Math

Create a timeline of farm history (We started about 1800.).  Add to it through the unit.  These ready-made timelines were great resources!

“Plant” (glue) ears of corn in numerical order.  For older students, plant numbers by 2s, 5s, etc. or backwards.

Use this website from nps.gov to learn how many miles a man walked to plant one acre, how much a plow cost and billions of other math facts from the 19th Century!

Use the “one for the mouse” poem to do a little hands-on subtraction

History of Agriculture Theme Unit

Science

Try this experiment to learn why rubber tires were a great improvement over horses hooves and steel wheels.

Experiment with tying straw sheaves.  If you don’t have straw large weeds from the side of  the road will work as well.  Will your sheaves protect the straw from the rain?

Make a farm diorama with a shoe box, clay, plastic toy cowboys and horses (can you figure out a way to dress your cowboys to look like farmers?), and any other things you can imagine!

Social Studies

Try sowing seeds yourself.  Grass seed is a great choice.

Use a hand grinder to grind wheat.

Watch the archival footage on these John Deere DVDs. CombinesTractors

Field Trip!  The best part of homeschooling– right?!  Visit Missouri Town, an Amish community, or similar location

History of Agriculture Theme Unit

Art

Make a collage of seeds

Design a piece of machinery the could help farmers.  Use food boxes, paper towel tubes, brads, yarn, whatever!

Roll toy tractors in (washable) paint and create prints

Scripture

The Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:5-8

Other Internet Resources

Country Life vs. City Life from Home School Year Blog

Farm Theme Pinterest board

Fun on the Farm by Fabulous in First Blog

Counting 1-5 Grain Bins from Hands On: As We Grow Blog

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Super Simple Soil Experiment

If you didn’t see them last week, scroll down to Law of Supply and Demand Lesson Plan and check out the tires on the tractor, cart, and combine.

What do you think?  Pretty big, huh.  Well, today you will learn why farm equipment needs to have such large tires!

To begin, let’s try a super simple soil experiment.  You will need three things.

1.) Either some soil or sand

2.) Your finger

3.) Your hand

Like I said, super simple soil experiment.  Let’s start with the soil or sand.  All you need is a pile.  It can be in a pot, in the bag you bought it in, or in the sandbox, but you need a pile, not just the ground in your backyard.

Soil Science experiment

Next you need your finger.  Got it?  Good.  Poke your finger down into the soil.

soil experiment

Did your finger go down into the soil?  Unless your dirt is really a rock, your finger likely went in all the way.  Now, spread your fingers wide and place your whole hand on the soil.  Push down again.

soil experiment

Unless your soil is more like oozy mud, your hand probably made little more than a print.  Compare the two “holes” you made.  Do they look like mine?

soil experiment

Your finger made a much deeper hole, didn’t it.  And this hole was not made by taking soil out of the pile, but by pushing it in.  Soil being pushed down is called “compaction.”  Compacted soil is hard.  It has little room for air, water, or roots to grow.  Compaction is bad!

Unfortunately, compaction is also a reality.  Farmers must drive tractors, combines, sprayers, and other equipment over the ground.  So they have to do something about it.  Historically farmers have solved this problem by plowing their fields.  Horses pulled the first steel plows through the ground hundreds of years ago.  The metal knife cut into the ground, breaking the soil into pieces.  This helped with compaction, but can you guess what it hurt?  Erosion.  When the dark brown dirt was turned over and the seed bed was smooth even a small rain could wash away the soil into ditches, streams, and rivers.  Big rains could wash away entire portions of a field.

So today many farmers use a method called “no-till”.  Instead of plowing the ground farmers plant seeds into dirt that was left just as it was after last year’s crop was harvested.  Roots from the old plant hold the soil together, preventing erosion, BUT the soil was again compacted.

Engineers, Scientists, and others worked with equipment companies like Case IH and John Deere to make new tires that would cause less compaction.  They used the same idea you just did with your finger and hand.  Old tractor tires were small and thin, sort of like your finger.  New tractor tires are wide and gigantic, sort of like your open hand!  New tires were made of rubber, instead of steel and farmers often let some air out of the tires to make them squash even more, the way a balloon will squeeze flat when it is almost out of air.  Some tractors and combines even run on tracks, like a bulldozer, which lessens compaction even more.

Farmers care about the earth and the soil on it because they understand how important healthy soil is to happy eating!  And who knows?  Maybe one day you will become a scientist and help create new technologies that will allow farmers to take even better care of our world!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Dig Dirt Soil Lesson

Not all dirt is created equal.  Soil contains sand, clay, air, and organic matter.  The amounts of each of these, however, is different in all kinds of dirt.  Great dirt has lots of air and organic matter; poor soil is full of sand or clay.  Most dirt is somewhere in the middle.

soil lesson

It is possible to tell a lot from the appearance of the dirt.  The closer to black your dirt is the more likely it is to be rich, nutritious soil!

For this soil lesson try investigating the dirt where you live.  Using a small trowel, dig a bit of dirt from your yard.  Get it from under a decorative stone or piece of furniture to avoid making holes in the lawn.  Place the sample in a plastic baggie.  Then look for other places to take a soil sample.  Ask a friend or neighbor, visit a park, maybe even call a family member in another state and ask them to mail you a baggie of dirt!

When you have several samples compare and contrast your soils.  Squeeze a pinch between your fingers.  Does it stick together?  Sticky soil is full of clay.  Does is fall apart?  Maybe it has a lot of sand.  What colors do you see?  Is it light, fluffy dirt like potting soil, or hard as a brick?  Make some notes in your science journal or create a diagram to show the results.

And here’s an interesting soil idea.  Instead of collecting refrigerator magnets or post cards on your travels, pick up a bit of soil from your next vacation site!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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