Monday, December 20, 2010

SMMART ART: Ruth Asawa
and Salt Dough Christmas Creations
First weekday of Christmas vacation, so we played with Salt Dough! 
We talked about Ruth Asawa who is an American artist with Japanese ancestry.  During WWII her family was interned in a prison camp since The United States feared that Japanese Americans may not be loyal to the U.S.  At age 16, Ruth was one of the 40,000 United States citizen children who was interned.  Her family lived in tar-paper barracks by a swamp and in two horse stalls at a repurposed race track.  After 18 months, a charitable organization arranged for her to study art at a college in Wisconsin. 
(photo by Laurence Cuneo)
Asawa is known for her wire art sculptures, her fountains, panels and art activism.  She sometimes uses bakers clay to create her artwork.  Ruth suggests that as you add pieces of baker's clay together that you slightly wet or lick the end that you are adhering to keep the pieces together better.  She also suggests putting a paper clip or metal wire in between the pieces in back to hold them together better.
(photo by Allen Nomura)
Make yourself up a batch of Ruth Asawa's Baker's Clay (Salt Dough):
4 cups white flour
1 cup salt
1-2 cups water

Have your child help you measure out the ingredients.  Work the ingredients with your hands until you form a dough -add water until nice dough consistency.  (Not part of the recipe: You may wish to add 2Tb oil and I think this may create a more springy dough).  Cut dough into sections to work with.  Refrigerate left over pieces.  Bake artwork at 250-325 until hard. Time varies on thickness of pieces-you shouldn't see an indentation when you poke it with a spoon or your nail.  Ruth seals her artwork with varathane, but mod podge may work for your purposes if you wish to keep your artwork for a long period of time.
So we used this great recipe for creating Christmas sculptures.
We baked them for about an hour and let them cool for a little bit.
Then the girls painted their creations with tempura paints (the girls liked mixing the colors to create new colors).
Fun holiday activity on a wet snow day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Has your child noticed that sometimes there is salt sprinkled on the ground to melt the ice in the wintertime?  Well, salt plays a magical role in this great learning activity.

First, to establish a little background with your child, you might wish to set out two plates of crushed ice.  Let your child sprinkle salt on one plate of ice and observe together which plate of ice melts first.  Now your child will see that salt helps ice to melt.

This is because the sodium and chloride ions from the salt intermingle and dilute the water molecules.  This makes it harder for the water molecules to join together to form ice crystals.  Actually, it's still possible for the water molecules to form ice crystals, but now instead of freezing at 0°, it's freezing point drops to below 0°C.

Now, for the activity,  Fill a small glass with water and ice  cubes.  Give your child a piece of cotton string or yarn about a foot long.  Let your child hold both sides of the string and rest the remaining middle part of the string on top of the icecubes.  Take care to leave the ends of the string hanging over the edge of the glass.

Have your child count to 15.  Now instruct her to take both ends of the string and pick it up, while lifting up a piece of ice with the string.  The string is not attached to the ice and will not lift the ice.

Now, have your child lay the string back onto the ice with the ends of the string laying over the sides of the glass.  Have your child sprinkle salt all along the string laying on the ice.   Now count to 15 slowly.

Ask your child to pick up the ends of the string and try to pick up the pieces of ice now.                       
The salt caused the ice under the string to melt slightly.  Then the cold water aids that thin bit of melted ice to refreeze.  Since the string has soaked up water, it freezes to the ice cubes.  Ice crystals reform, trapping the string.  Now your child can pick up the ice cubes along the string like a necklace.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

SMMART ART: Snowman Crayons
This might be a fun holiday gift for your child's friends.  Stars, cupcake tin, snowmen...whatever mold you can find.  Drop a festive crayon into a celophane baggie tied with a ribbon and gift with a holiday coloring book.

As you remove the paper from the broken crayons, name the colors together.  You can sort the colors to create single-colored crayons or mix them up for this rainbow effect.
350 degrees...keep an eye on them...

Put them into the freezer, or...

Carefully remove them from your mold (we broke a few). 
SMMART SCIENCE application- Observe as crayons go from a solid to liquid and then back to a solid state.  This activity demonstrates a
physical change, where the form of matter is altered but one substance is not transformed into another.

Friday, December 3, 2010

SMMART Discount
to "The North Pole Express"
on the Heber Valley Railroad

Families can experience a magical holiday journey aboard  The Heber Valley Railroad's "The North Pole Express".  They are offering a discount to SMMARTideas readers: $5 off coach tickets on December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16. You will need to call the train directly at 435-654-5601 and ask for the “Utah Blogger” discount and be sure to tell them you saw this discount on the SMMARTideas blog.

Guests aboard the North Pole Express will enjoy singing carols, sipping hot chocolate and eating cookies while reading along or listening to the “The Night Before Christmas.” Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride. Upon arrival at the North Pole, Santa and his sleigh will greet the children and give each child a special Christmas gift.

Tickets are now on sale for this popular holiday train, which is a long-standing tradition for thousands of Utah families. First class service is available most weekends during the North Pole Express schedule. Due to the high demand for tickets, the Heber Valley Railroad is offering two matinee excursions on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 23-24, 2010.

The North Pole Express will depart every Monday through Saturday through December 24, 2010.
Nightly Excursions
Depart 5 p.m.; return 6:30 p.m.
Depart 7:30 p.m.; return 9 p.m.
Matinee Excursions (December 23-24 only)
Depart 2 p.m.; return 3:30 p.m.

Schedule and Fares
Family Night: December 1, 2, 6, 13
$29 adult, $26 senior (ages 60 and above), $18 child (ages 3-12)

Coach: December 3, 4, 7-11, 14-18, 20-23
$32 adult, $29 senior (ages 60 and above), $21 child (ages 3-12)

First Class: December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 20-23
$47 adult, $44 senior (ages 60 and above), $36 child (ages 3-12)
Matinee: December 23, 24
$29 adult, $26 senior (ages 60 and above), $18 child (ages 3-12)
Tickets can be purchased by calling SmithsTix at 800-888-TIXX or by calling the railroad at 435-654-5601 
Order online at, or at the Heber Valley Depot, 450 South 600 West, Heber City.
For more information and directions, contact the Heber Valley Railroad at 435-654-5601

The Heber Valley Historic Railroad dates back to 1899, when trains served the pioneers who first settled the valley.  Experience a piece of history and a hearty helping of holiday spirit!

Our train departed at 7:30pm so we could see the holiday lights outlining the homes as the train pulled out from the station.

The girls were bundled up in two-layers of pajamas and their robes as we sang carols, sipped hot cocoa, ate a Chocolate cookie and answered Christmas trivia.

Mrs. Clause and Santa came on board to speak with each child, give them a special gift and take pictures with them. 

The "Polar Express" ride was about 45 minutes each way to the "North Pole" and back to the station.  The time went quickly with the cute MC on her microphone engaging families in singing and stories.

The train was decorated with Christmas garland and lights inside, the cocoa chefs wore their chef hats and the conductor even looked the part. 

We enjoyed our magical ride upon the "North Pole Express"!


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