A Mermaid Learns to Walk

copright of Disney's "The Little Mermaid"

“I wanna be where the people are

I wanna see

Wanna see ’em dancin’

Walkin’ around on those

Whad’ya call ’em? oh – feet”

Gosh Ariel had trouble walking at the beginning. When the evil sea witch Ursula gave her legs she could barely take two steps. Ariel kept falling over just like a toddler. Melody had the same problems when she wanted to return to the sea.

copyright of Disney's "The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea"

“this way is left, but which way is right? Now I’ll be circling in circles all night. Ok, so this forward, no problem.”

You would think a mermaid would know how to swim. But Melody was a new mermaid, just like Ariel was a new person- kinda like a baby. She had to learn to walk in the same way we all had to learn how to walk when we were growing up. But now that we know how to walk it isn’t hard at all, is it?

Copyright of Disney's "The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea"

When we learn to walk we learn a very complicated pattern which our brain stores away, to be pulled out any time we need it. This is the same for heaps of things we do- using a knife and fork, or chopsticks (which I find a lot harder), braiding hair, even talking. All of these are learned behaviours which we have practiced and honed over time, so that our brain can learn the pattern and store it away in our head. This stops us having to think about these actions, we can simply do them. This is the same for any sport or musical instrument and where the saying “practice makes perfect” comes from. The more we practice the stronger the patterns are and the more easily our brain can pull out the patterns at a moment’s notice.

Learning to walk is a type of implicit learning- nobody teaches us to do it, we learn by observation. This is the same type of learning when we make judgement calls or even when we judge a sentence for grammatical accuracy.

All the types of learning mentioned above (braiding hair, knife and forks, walking, swimming) refer to gaining procedural memory. You learn how to do something and you remember the action- your muscles have memory of previously completing the action. Sleight of hand and magic tricks rely on this type of memory for their very quick hand movements!

Learning Challenge!

We can learn more patterns easily, and I have one here for you all that looks really easy, but isn’t. Try it home, challenge your friends to see if they can do it and remember practice makes perfect!

Incredible Genes

copyright of Disney Pixar's The Incredibles

Everyone’s special, Dash.”

“Which is another way of saying no one is.”

Everybody IS special. Everybody has unique DNA. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is what genes (pronounced the same way as jeans) are made up of. It is our genes which make us what we look like-determine the colour of our eyes, our height, the size of our hands…well nearly everything. We can change these things by dying our hair, putting coloured contacts in or wearing heels- but these changes just make us LOOK different and aren’t a permanent change.  We cannot change our genes.

We are also all brought up in a very unique way- nobody has the same experience growing up as you. Everybody’s life story is different. It’s the combination of our genes and our experiences which determine what we look like and how we act.

This is why we look and act like our family- we have grown up in similar situations and we share genes with our family.

copyright of Disney Pixar's The Incredibles

“It’s a whole family of supers!”

See genes are passed on from parents to their children. Half of all of your DNA is from your mother, and the other half is from your father. Now most of your characteristics are the result of a lot of your genes working together- but there are a few things which are determined by one gene. This is why the Incredible family all have super powers- but all the powers are different!

Half of your DNA comes from your mother and the other half from your father

Characteristics which are determined by only one gene are called Mendelian characteristics (because they were found by Gregor Mendel). Now one gene might have many different forms, these are alleles. So genes are made up of DNA and have many different forms called alleles.  We have 2 copies of each gene (one from our mother, one from our father) and this means we have 2 alleles of each gene. For Mendelian characteristics, only one of these alleles can be shown in our physical characteristics.

Some alleles are dominant and some alleles are recessive- this is what determines what characteristics are shown. For example rolling your tongue is a dominant trait. So if you have one allele which allows you to roll your tongue, you can roll your tongue. If you can’t roll your tongue both your tongue-rolling alleles are “can’t roll tongue”.

Ability to roll tongue = R

Inability to roll tongue = r

You can have Rr or RR and be able to roll your tongue

If you have rr then you can’t roll your tongue.

If you can roll your tongue, one of your parents should be able to roll their tongue too. But if you can’t, and both your parents can it’s because they have the recessive allele but it is hidden by the dominant allele.

Even if both your parents can roll their tongue, you might not be able to

GENETICS CHALLENGE!!!

There are a few characteristics just like this- which ones do you have? Can you tell if you got it from your mother or father? (or maybe even both?) Do any of your brothers and sisters have similar traits?

A Magic Carpet Ride

copright of Disney's Aladdin

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

The magic carpet ride in Aladdin is just that- magical. Now most things in our world need: wings, propellers, jet engines etc to fly, but the magic carpet just hovers- there is only one thing similar, and that is a hover craft. Now a hover craft is no flying carpet but it is just as cool and if a flying carpet existed, it could work in a very similar way..

So the basic law behind a hover craft is Newton’s Third Law- that every action has an equal and opposite reaction which occurs at the same time. This means, quite simply, that if there is a push in one direction, that there is an equal push in the exact opposite direction. This is why a balloon flies away when you let it go (and the end isn’t knotted) – the air rushes out the neck of the balloon which causes the balloon to move forwards. The air rushing out of the neck of the balloon pushed against the air outside the balloon (1st Force) and the air outside the balloon pushed against the air remaining inside the balloon (2nd Force) causing the balloon to fly forward.

We however don’t want to watch balloons fly around (which is fun), we want to make a hover craft. In a very simplistic hover craft air is pushed out the bottom of a vehicle/craft/object which is too heavy to be completely lifted by the small amount of air being pushed out. The layer of moving air which is created as the air rushes of the balloon reduces the friction which stops a hovercraft moving over a table. Rubbing your hand along a table is hard, can hurt and causes your hand to get warm- this is friction. None of this happens if you just move your hand through air- that’s cause there is less friction.

This can be complicated by adding a ‘curtain’ around the bottom of the hovercraft to catch the air and further lift the vehicle up- which is how hovercrafts are able to lift people and machinery. The other thing which is very special about hover crafts is that they can cover more terrain- water, dessert, swamps- the hovercraft just needs something to push against that is more dense (the particle are close together) than air.

copyright of Dinsey's Aladdin

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN HOVERCRAFT:

What you need:

1 balloon

1 old CD (check with parents first)

1 pop-top drink bottle lid

Blue tac

  1. Use the blue tac to stick the pop-top lid to the middle of the CD- over the hole. The side the drink out of should be pointing upwards.

  2. Blow up a balloon and put the end over the pop-top lid, without letting the air out of the balloon

  3. Once the balloon is secure let go, un-pop the pop top lid and watch the CD and balloon hover – you can nudge it to make it change directions

  4. Remove balloon, blow it up again and do it all over again!!

The Bells of Notre Dame

“Sing the bells of Notre Dame”

copyright Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame

Quasimodo, the bell ringer of Notre Dame, filled Paris with the majestic sounds of bells. The Disney classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame is set in 15th century Paris and magnificent bells of Notre Dame are very important in everyday life. The sound of bells can mark many different events, such as mass, weddings, funerals, and even warning alarms.  They have been used throughout history- even as a musical instruments,  in fashion and jewellery items.

copyright Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame

“Morning in Paris, the city awakes
To the bells of Notre Dame
The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes
To the bells of Notre Dame
To the big bells as loud as the thunder
To the little bells soft as a psalm”

Sound travels through air by waves. These aren’t normal waves, like waves on a beach, but are a special type of wave called a ‘transverse wave’. These type of waves don’t move up and down but move from side to side. A particle of air (little bit of air) shakes, or vibrates, and hits the particle next to it, causing that particle to vibrate. This vibration of the next particles is how the sound travels through the air. Sound travels through solid items better than air because the particles are closer together and so the particles pass the vibration along easily. The further apart the waves are the lower the sound, the closer together the waves the higher the sound. This means that in space, where there is no air to vibrate, there is also no sound.

Sound waves are usually drawn like regular waves. The highest point of the wave, or where there are lots of air particles clustered is the peak. When the air particles are a their most spread out, or the lowest point of a wave is a trough.


When the clapper (the middle bit) hits the outside of the bell it causes the bell to vibrate.  The shape of the bell means that there is a lot of air that the bell Is touching- all of this air vibrates, which makes the sound louder. Different sized bells vibrate at different speeds. Larger bells vibrate slower giving them a deeper sound. Smaller bells vibrate faster making their sounder higher. This makes sense because larger bells are heavier which means it takes more effort for them to vibrate.

copyright Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame

It is such a pity church bells aren’t common anymore because the sound is magical- but you can create a very similar sound in the comfort of your own home with some very simple materials.

Here is what you need:

  • A wire coat hanger
  • 2  x  50cm lengths of string
  1. Tie one piece of string to each of the corners of the coat hanger.
    1. Tie loops in the other end of the strings. The loops need to be big enough to fit over your pointer finger, but fit snugly.
    2. Put one loop on each of your pointer fingers and place your pointer fingers in your ears.
    3. Lean down so the coat hanger is dangling down.
    4. Hit the coat hanger against any other surface- a chair or a table. Listen to the sound. Try a few different surfaces. Hitting it against another metal item will create a more bell like sound.
Have fun creating your own bells of Notre Dame at home!

A Matter of Balance

copyright 20th Century Fox Anastasia

“Now, shoulders back and stand up tall”  “And do not walk, but try to float”

Have you ever tried to balance on one foot? It is quite difficult. Balance is very important to everyday life- imagine trying to walk without it.

Many princesses over the years have had to learn to balance and gain better poise.

Everything has a balance point- a point where the weight of the object is evenly distributed in all directions. With objects with a flat side this point can be found easily- just place one finger from each hand at each end of the object and move them inwards. The point where your fingers meet is the balance point. Your hands will move inwards unevenly as the weight’s distribution is changed. You should be able to balance an object at its balance point with one finger! Be careful!

A person’s balance point can be found by placing one finger on their belly point and on finger on their side just above the waist and push. The point where your fingers would meet (if they could and weren’t blocked by all your ooey, gooey insides) is your balance point.

A person’s weight is all balanced on our feet, which is our support base. The wider the support base the greater area our weight it balanced over which is why it is easier to balance when our legs are far apart than when we are on tippy toes.

The position that sumo wrestlers take lowers their balance point and widens their support base- this stops them being pushed over.  If a person’s balance point is not over their feet, their support base, they are unbalanced and more likely to fall over. The lower balancing point is harder to shift from being over the feet (which when spread create a larger support base) which makes a sumo wrestler harder to push over.

Balancing Challenge:

Can you balance 6 nails on one finger? Check out the video below for the answer!

Photos from 20th Century Fox’s Anastasia, Barbie in Princess Charm School, Disney’s Tarzan, Disney’s Aristocats, Disney’s Lilo and Stitch and Disney’s An Extremely Goofy Movie.

Dream to See the Floating Lanterns Gleam

Copyright Disney's Tangled

“I got a dream, I just want to see the floating lanterns gleam”

The floating lanterns of Disney’s Tangled may look very magical but they are entirely possible. In fact, floating lanterns have been seen historically in both Chinese and Thai ceremonies.

Floating lanterns fly because of a very simple principle, it is the same reason that hot air balloons rise… that is that hot air expands. When air is heated up the air particles (the little bits of air) have more energy, move faster and because of this they can go farther. The heated air takes up more room, it has expanded and become less dense. The same amount of hot air is spread out over a larger space when compared to cold air.

This is why is said, incorrectly, that hot air is lighter than cold air. The air particles weigh the same amount whether they are hot or cold, but the hot air particles take up more room.  As the hot air expands it pushes the cold air out of the way.

The cold air, on the outside of the lantern, is pulled to earth by gravity and pushes the hot air and the upwards. The floating lantern then flies upwards and Rapunzel’s dream comes true.

Now, launching hundreds of flying lanterns into the sky would be very pretty but it would be also, unfortunately, be dangerous. Flying lanterns will eventually sink when the hot air within the lantern cools down.  Once the lantern is no longer full of hot air, the air inside and outside are the same density and the lantern sinks. The fire burning within the lantern has to become small enough that it is not heating the air well enough to allow the lantern to fly. That small fire is still big enough to create a large bushfire or house fire and can be very dangerous.

So, no launching hundreds of flying lanterns, but we can do it in a smaller version (with parental supervision).

Here is what you need:

    • Tea bags
    • Matches
    • Parental supervision

copyright of Disney's Tangled

  1. Remove the staples and the tag from the tea bag.
  2. Empty the tea from the teabag
  3. Open the teabag out and create a cylinder shape
  4. Place this cylinder on a flat surface, outside and away from any trees or plants (it might take awhile to balance)
  5. Light the top of the teabag and stand back.
  6. Watch your miniature Rapunzel lantern soar.