For a complete introduction and to get to know each Quirkle, work your way across the main menu bar above. Have fun exploring, and please contact us with any questions you may have!
But that's not all. Check out the introductory video that explains why we created the Quirkles, or take a look at the sample book Gilbert Gas below.
We rarely take time to think much about a substance vitally important to us: salt. We're going to explore in-depth that oft taken for granted mineral.
Most of us enjoy a variety of foods that contain lots of salt. These include processed meats, pizza, cheese, bread, potato chips, and fast foods. Salt adds flavor to foods and helps to preserve them. This is why many foods that you get at restaurants and grocery stores that are prepackaged or canned have so much salt in them.
Salt is essential for life. Salt is a mineral substance, primarily sodium chloride (NaCl). It’s produced by mining it from salt mines or by allowing water to evaporate in small pools, leaving the salt behind. It’s needed by our bodies to keep the fluid in our cells and to help transmit messages throughout the nervous system.
Too much salt in your body, however, causes your heart and blood to pump faster and harder to remove the extra salt that your body doesn't need. This makes your blood pressure too high over time, and can make you unhealthy.
Salt is also a natural disinfectant, which means it can kill germs. If you have ever had a sore throat, maybe you have gargled with salt water to soothe and heal it. Salt can also help wounds or sores heal on your body.
So we know we often crave salty foods, but what else do we know about salt? Here’s a little history.
Because many germs cannot live in salt, it has been used to preserve food since the earliest times. Its use as a food preservative helped large amounts of food to be stored, sent a long way, and eaten all through the year. This helped populations to grow, cities to develop, and soldiers in wars to be fed. Salt was probably used in Egypt as long ago as 4000 BC. In ancient times, salt was more valuable than it is now, because it was hard to get in many places, and could be used not only to give foods flavor, but also to make them last longer. It allowed food to be kept past its season, and taken on long trips.
People often traded salt for other things. It was of high value in Greece, China, Africa, and the Middle East. In the Mediterranean, including Ancient Rome, salt was even used for money. The word salary comes from the Latin word for salt, because they paid people in salt. After people learned how to get salt from the ocean, salt became cheaper. The Phoenicians were some of the first to figure out how to do this, by pouring seawater on dry land. Then when it dried, they collected the salt and sold it.
Another use of salt was in war, as a way to punish a city by ruining its crops. This is called "salting the Earth." The Assyrians are said to have been one of the first to have done this to their neighbors.
China and the US are the biggest producers of salt in the world, with about a third of the US production coming from salt mines. The rest is from the saltwater evaporation method. The largest salt mine in the world exists underneath Lake Huron.
Finally, table salt consists of tiny cubes, or crystals, tightly bound together through bonding of the sodium and chloride ions. Sodium chloride is available in several different particle sizes and forms, depending on what the intended end use is.
Different types of crystals also have different uses. You can see the crystals in rock salt used for de-icing. Fine granules are typical of what is used for table salt and even finer popcorn salt. Kosher salt, pickling salt, and ice cream salt are slightly coarser. Small compressed pellets are what is used in water softeners and large salt blocks are what is used as salt licks for livestock.
This month we feature the Quirkles® book Ronnie Rock and conduct the activity Ronnie Rock’s Crystals. Watch our video to learn more. And next time you reach for the lowly salt shaker, take time to appreciate salt!
As you head out for your early morning or evening walk, pause to enjoy the beautiful plant life all around you. We often take them for granted, but plants are essential to life and utterly awesome!
Did you know that there are about 400,000 plant species on Earth? Plants are important for human existence. Not only can plants be beautiful, put provide the oxygen we breathe, ingredients to create medicine, paper, fabric, and more, and provide much of our food source.
Many thousands of plants on land and in the ocean are not yet identified or categorized. Additionally, plant life is oceans make up about 85% of all greenery on Earth. The scientists called botanists work to learn about, organize, and help protect different kinds of plants. Botany is the study of living things which use photosynthesis to make food. This can include trees, grasses, mosses, fungi, kelp, or algae. The genetics of plants, the way they breed and grow, and the way humans impact plants are all studied in botany.
One of the most famous American botanists is George Washington Carver (c. 1864 to January 5, 1943) who was born into slavery. He went on to become one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time as well as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute. He devised more than 100 products using one major crop — the peanut — including dyes, plastics and gasoline.
This month, read the Quirkles story, Botanist Bert, then watch our video of Botanist Bert’s Colored Flowers. Try it yourself with different colors, flowers, or even celery! Feeling more ambitious? Plant some seeds and make your own garden. Learn more about botany and George Washington Carver.
Now that we can plan outings again, visit his monument close to Diamond, Missouri — the site of the plantation where Carver lived as a child. This was the first national monument dedicated to an African-American. The 210-acre complex includes a statue of Carver as well as a nature trail, museum and cemetery.
Watch the crystals form in the investigation!
Plants are not only beautiful and delicious to eat, but generate oxygen, food, and fuel that allow higher life forms to exist.
I really appreciate your ideas and support!!! I am amazed at the Quirkles series that you have created and know you all must be FABULOUS teachers!!!
Cindy, Lower School Science Coordinator, Suffolk, VA
It is very hard to put into words exactly how much I love the Quirkles. They totally changed my attitude about teaching science to kindergarten and first graders as an enrichment class in my school.
Lynn, Gifted Teacher, Springdale, AR