Owls Well presents: Seaspiration/Dottieshop

The year end school holidays are upon us, and I have got a really great holiday activity to share with you!

The kids were recently inspired by a trip to the S.E.A. Aquarium and we were able to support their creative outpouring using a watercolour kit sent to us from Dottieshop.

Here’s a little video I made of our adventure:

I have tried teaching the kids to paint with watercolours in the past, but lacked the know how and experience, so I found the guidance from Dottieshop’s instructions extremely useful! As you can see from the video, even 2 year old Thumper was able to paint with watercolours and bring to life his unique vision.

I really liked this watercolour kit for kids because it combined several different creative techniques to achieve the final product: the kit teaches drawing using image transfer as well as wet-on-wet watercolour blending, and provides all the tools and equipment you’ll need to make some pretty pictures. Additionally, the whole kit comes in a neat little pouch which not only makes it easy to store away, but you could potentially bring it with you anywhere for a pop-up watercolour experience!

Afterwards, the kids wanted to know more about the life aquatic, so we headed over to Youtube to find more information. I’ve created a kid-friendly playlist of our favourite ocean-related educational videos that we found – hopefully they will inspire you and your kids too!

Dottieshop also holds watercolour and brush calligraphy workshops at Artify Studio! Her next few workshops will be Christmas themed, so why not bring the kids along and make your own holiday gifts! Her Christmas floral watercolour workshops are on 6 Dec 2017 at 7-10pm and 17 Dec 2017 at 3-6pm, and there’s also a special parent-child Under The Sea workshop on 20th Dec 2017 at 10am-12pm. You can sign up for them at Dottieshop’s event pages here.

If you’d like to try out Dottieshop’s art kits or get one as a gift, just click on the picture below.dottieshop-illustration-watercolour-calligraphy-kit.jpg

Visit the S.E.A. Aquarium here

Visit Dottieshop here

(By the way, here’s my previous review of the Dottieshop ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit)

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Life Science in a Jar: Caterpillars

Whilst J was busy rearing mealworms, Little E asked me if she could also keep a pet. It just so happened that one of my old schoolmates is a primary school science teacher (henceforth referred to in this post as Mrs Great), and she had access to some caterpillars. She offered to give Little E a few of them and I was so excited to have another opportunity to study some more little creatures up close!

The very next day, Mrs Great rocked up with a clear tupperware that had four spiky black caterpillars, each about a centimetre long, happily nibbling away on spray of lime leaves. I don’t have a lime plant at home, so I was a little bit worried about having enough leaves for all the caterpillars – but Mrs Great assured me that there were probably enough leaves to last the caterpillars about two weeks.

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Some Very Hungry Caterpillars in different stages of maturity

The next day, about half the leaves were gone, and the little black caterpillars had doubled in size, developing streaks of bright green. There were also little dry balls of caterpillar poo rolling about the bottom of the tupperware, which I emptied out into a flower pot on my balcony. This wasn’t a particularly nasty job as everything smelled pleasantly of lime juice.

On the third day, one of the caterpillars had turned a bright green and was the size of my little finger. It was eating up the lime leaves at an alarming rate. I sent a text message to my friend Mrs Great, who was kind enough to drop by with a bunch of lime leaves, but I knew that at the rate the caterpillars were going, I would definitely need to find more lime leaves before the end of the week.

Sure enough, by the start of the fifth day, it was clear that I would need to find more lime leaves for the caterpillars or they would certainly starve.

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Running out of leaves!

Unfortunately, I went to three different supermarkets and three different wet markets and nobody had any lime leaves for sale! By this time, Little E was nearly in tears, upset that her caterpillars might starve to death.

However, as I was driving home, I passed by my local community garden. I stopped by, hoping against hope that I would find the leaves that I needed.

I didn’t think I’d be able to identify a lime plant without it’s signature green fruit, so I ran around taking pictures of various little plants and sending them to Mrs Great for identification. Fortunately, one of the pot plants had a tiny little green lime hanging on the one of the stems! Hooray! Community gardens save the day!

I plucked off a spray of leaves and triumphantly brought it to Little E who was waiting in the car for me.

The Aged P also went to talk to the security guard of her flat who keeps a variety of plants in his little guard outpost – and he so happened to have a lime kaffir plant that he was carefully cultivating. She managed to convince him to part with a few leaves which I kept in a cup of water to keep them fresh.

I was almost down to the last spray of lime kaffir leaves when we noticed that the caterpillars had stopped eating and were curling up on themselves, wiggling very slowly. One by one, they each moulted one last time, forming chrysalids that were securely fastened to the sides of the tupperware by silken threads.

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The Chrysalid and the Lime Butterfly

About a week later, the first butterfly emerged from it’s chrysalis! Little E was so excited, watching it pump it’s wings to fully inflate them and dry them out. We released it on our balcony and it rested there for a few hours before fluttering off.

As for the other three chrysalids, we noticed that all three had turned translucent one morning – we could see the black and white butterfly wings folded up beneath the surface of each chrysalis – so I told Little E to bring the tupperware to her kindergarten and share the magic of the butterfly with her classmates.

Sure enough the butterflies emerged from their chrysalids midway through her class time, much to the delight of everyone present. The teachers gently picked them up and released them into the school’s eco-garden, with Little E and all her classmates waving and yelling “Goodbye! Goodbye!”

Life Science in a Jar: Mealworms

J came home one day and asked for a disposable tupperware for school. His Science teacher wanted each child to bring home a mealworm to rear over the March school holidays.

I didn’t know anything about mealworms so whilst he was in school, I did a little bit of research and found out that they are quite easy to rear – all they need for food and bedding is dry oatmeal. They get enough water from their food, so it isn’t necessary to provide a water bowl, which acts more like a death trap for unsuspecting mealworms.

Of course, when J brought the mealworms home, both the mealworms were lying in a small puddle of water. It had been a hot day and J thought they might need a drink – all living things need water to survive, right?

WRONG.

Neither of the mealworms appeared to be moving, so I told J that he might have accidentally drowned both of them. Poor J was crestfallen.

“Poor innocent mealworms,” he moaned, peering at the motionless creatures, “They were so active before and now they’re just lying on their backs! They look so stiff.”

Just then, A Becky C happened to phone up for a chat. Well, I remembered all of a sudden that she used to rear mealworms in an old pencil case! Ah ha! Help has arrived!

“DEBS!!!! I have something important to tell you!” she chirped in my ear.

“NONONONO WAIT WAIT LISTEN LISTEN THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!” I shrieked back. “I THINK THE MEALWORMS HAVE DROWNED!”

A Becky C laughed at me, then said “Okay calm down. If they aren’t swimming around in water, they might still be okay. Just dry them off with a tissue. Mealworms are very stupid. Sometimes they get so stressed that they think that they’re dead, but they aren’t. The only way to tell that they are actually dead is if they start to curl up and decompose. Then you’ll know that they’re dead.”

So J dried the mealworms off with a tissue and sure enough, after a few minutes, one of the mealworms started to twitch it’s legs ever so slightly. Then it seemed to wake up and start crawling around again. The other mealworm just lay quietly but every so often it would twitch and shudder, as if remembering it’s watery ordeal.

I transferred the mealworms into a dry container with a nice layer of dried oatmeal, and both the mealworms immediately buried themselves in the meal.

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Three stages of the mealworm’s lifecycle

By the next day, one of the mealworms was fully revived and was running laps around the perimeter of the container. The other worm was very lethargic. It moved so little that we were convinced that it was dead.

Turns out, the blessed creature was busy pupating – it eventually shed its skin and turned into greyish-white pupa. A week or so later, the pupa split open and a white beetle crawled out, which turned brown, then black.

J and Little E took turns feeding the mealworm and darkling beetle. Occasionally, if they were eating a piece of fruit, they’d drop a small piece in as a treat to the beetles.

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Keeping an eye on things

Of course, Thumper was most fascinated by the little creatures and would check on them many times an hour. I had to teach him to stop picking up the container and shaking it around, which would send both the mealworm and darkling beetle into spasms. Eventually, he learned to grip the edge of the table instead and just bring his head down to the table surface to peek at the insects. I’m so glad that he’s learned how to respect small creatures!

Both of J’s mealworms have completed their life cycles and are now darkling beetles, and J is hoping that they will start breeding soon. (Also, Little E is complaining that she doesn’t have a pet. So let’s see what we can do about that.)

Expanding a child’s worldview (with Junior Explorers)

J and Little E are reasonably well-travelled children, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity be able to take them abroad. I have always felt that expanding a child’s worldview by learning about other places in the world is an important part of a child’s education, helping them to have a more concrete understanding of their earthly responsibilities. Environmental awareness is just one of the many things that we are trying to instil in our children, which is why I was very excited to be offered a 12 month subscription to the Junior Explorers Club in Singapore!

The Junior Explorers Club is a monthly subscription kit that aims to teach primary school kids about ecology through science kits chock-a-block full of fun activities, notes and collectibles as well as interactive missions and games online. I am particularly drawn to the online component of the subscription kit which is tied to a programme called Mission Giveback, where kids can convert the points earned from completed missions into real world money which is then donated to NGOs working to conserve the very same habitats and animal species that they are learning about in each kit!

Junior-Explorers-Subscription-Kit-Owlswell

Learn about conservation + Supporting conservation efforts = Two for the price of Awesome

Look how excited J and Little E are about receiving their first Junior Explorers kit in the post! What a thrill it was for them to receive a hefty package from the postman with their names on it!

As promised, the box was full of materials – stickers and temporary tattoos, a wristband and pin, a water bottle, a large world map and a pocket-sized field guide. The kids got to work straightaway, decorating their trunk with the stickers, and then flipping through the field guide together, identifying the various biomes on the work map. Afterwards, I had them store all the loose items in the trunk, which would keep them safe from the Thumper, who is still putting everything and anything into his mouth.

Junior-Explorers-Subscription-Welcome-Kit

Unboxing the first Junior Explorers Kit

After reading through the field guide together, they headed to the computer to complete the online missions. This was a set of quizzes which introduced the concept of biomes and helped J and Little E learn some interesting facts about the different sorts of animals which lived in each one. This gave me a good opportunity to initiate discussion about how different animals are adapted for life in different climates, and it certainly encouraged J to look up related facts on his own.

Although the kit is aimed at Primary school level kids between the age of 6-12 years old, 4 year old Little E seemed to enjoy it too, although she needed a little bit of guidance with reading. In fact, just having J around seemed to suffice, and J seemed to get a kick out of guiding his little sister through the online games and reading the field guide to her.

The two of them were completely engaged for the better part of a rainy afternoon indoors, which was a fantastic result! I think a subscription to the Junior Explorers Club would make a really great Christmas or birthday gift for the budding conservationist. J and Little E are certainly looking forward to receiving their next kit in the mail (which should be pretty soon!).

Get your own Junior Explorers subscription here

A Special for Owls Well Readers: The Junior Explorers Club is offering a generous discount on all subscriptions for Owls Well readers! Just quote ‘OW10’ at checkout to receive 10% off your order!

Funtimes at the Changi Naval Base

Naval-Museum-tourist-tourism-singapore

Yes, you can sail the seven seas

Earlier this week, we were very privileged to be invited to spend the afternoon at Changi Naval Base.

As Singapore is situated along major international trade routes, Changi Naval Base plays a very important role in the protection of ships and has hosted naval vessels from many other countries such as the US, France, UK, Australia, China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Pakistan, all of whom rely on the base for repair facilities, supplies, administration and logistics support.

We began our visit with a tour of the Navy Museum, which is right outside to Changi Naval Base and is open to the public.

We were accompanied through the museum by a couple of friendly sailors, who were able to tell us more about daily life onboard the ships and submarines. Little E was in awe of the female officer who talked to us about the challenges that sailors have to overcome during training.

Exploring the Navy Museum

Exploring the Navy Museum

The children were absolutely fascinated by all the interactive exhibits and simulators which helped them to learn more about how the Singapore Navy came to be the modern maritime fighting force that it is today.

We want you as a new recruit!

We want you as a new recruit!

J even had a chance to try on the Naval Officer’s uniform! (There was a women’s uniform for Little E too but she didn’t fancy it.)

After exploring the Bofor and Oerlikon guns indoors (with the kids from Tan Family Chronicles) and admiring the hundreds of plaques received from navies from around the globe, we headed to the outdoor gallery to take a look at some retired weapons from decommissioned ships. Outside, the kids were encouraged to climb onto the old guns and get a feel of how the naval gunners operated them!

Protect the motherland

Protect the motherland

The Singapore Navy is also involved in numerous humanitarian operations around the world. We learned about how the Singapore Armed Forces provided disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to the victims of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia, as well as in Northern Arabian Gulf to support the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

J and Little E were most intrigued by the counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden, Operation Blue Sapphire, and were very excited to learn that we would be privy to the slipping off ceremony of the RSS Tenacious, a frigate with a Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopter on board, which will be helping safeguard ships transiting through that busy trade route.

Operation Blue Sapphire: The RSS Tenacious heads to the Gulf of Aden

Operation Blue Sapphire: The RSS Tenacious heads to the Gulf of Aden

The Gulf of Aden is known as ‘Pirate Alley’ and pirates are known to chase after cargo ships, sometimes even kidnapping the ship’s crew and hold them for ransom. As this waterway is vital for sea trade, the Republic of Singapore Navy has been working together with other navies in the international community to keep the Arabian Sea safe and ensure freedom of navigation in that region.

Bon voyage, RSS Tenacious!

Bon voyage, RSS Tenacious!

It was heartbreaking to see the 151 brave crew members of the RSS Tenacious wave goodbye to their families, whom they will not see for the next three months. Many of the crew members had young children who were shouting ‘Goodbye Mummy!’ and ‘Goodbye Daddy!’ as the frigate set sail.

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A Formidable-class frigate

The RSS Tenacious is Formidable-class frigate, and despite its enormous build, it is a stealth vessel and is built in such a way that its radar signature is equivalent to that of a rowing boat! Additionally, the pale grey colour of ship allows it to blend into the horizon, making it virtually invisible.

Even with the ship’s engine running at full tilt, all we could hear from a few metres away was a faint humming noise, and as you can see from the image above, the ship hardly makes any waves at all as it slides through the water! It is no wonder that the RSS Tenacious is also called a stealth frigate!

You can find out more about the RSS Tenacious and Operation Blue Sapphire at the Sea of Support website where you can also drop a line to encourage the 151 crew members on board the ship!

After the RSS Tenacious headed off into the horizon, we hopped on a bus for a tour of the Naval Base.

A windshield tour of the Changi Naval Base

A windshield tour of the Changi Naval Base

J and Little E were excited to see all the different vessels berthed in the harbour, especially black submarines and the orange-hulled MV Swift Rescue, a submarine support vessel carrying the submersible rescue vessel, Deep Search and Rescue Six. The MV Swift Rescue had just returned from the unsuccessful search and locate operation for the missing Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines plane (MH370).

Thank you!

Thank you Singapore Navy for a fun day out!

The Navy Museum is open from 9am – 5pm on Mondays to Fridays and 9am – 3pm on Saturday.

Admission to the museum is FREE!

The Navy Museum: 112 Tanah Merah Coast Road (Next to SAF Yacht Club)

You can follow the Republic of Singapore Navy on their Facebook Page for information about upcoming Navy events, such as the Navy Open House or public visit and outreach programmes.