Little House Science: Greased Paper Windows

Animals and birds are limited  to what kind of house or nest they can build. When we discover an animal’s home, we can almost always tell what sort of animal it belongs to.  Even with birds, no two kinds will build the same sort of nest.  Some nests are tidy and tight and look just like a bird’s nest from a picture book, while other kinds of birds will be content in a nest that looks like a pile of grass or straw with no visible means of support.  Some birds don’t build at all; they just lay their eggs in another bird’s nest and take off!

Little House Science: Greased Paper Windows


People, on the other hand, can build any kind of house they can imagine.

As Charles Ingalls reminds Laura in “The Long Winter,” p. 13, “. . . look at that muskrat house.  Muskrats have to build that kind of house.  muskrat houseThey always have and they always will.  It’s plain they can’t build any other kind.  But folks build all kinds of houses.  A man can build any kind of house he can think of.”

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie,  p. 11, she describes their latest little house in Minnesota, which was a dugout.  Now, a dugout is really nothing more than a dirt cave with a door and, if you’re lucky, one window.  The Ingalls’ dugout had a door and a window beside the door, so there was some natural light inside.  “But the wall was so thick that the light from the window stayed near the window.”

Little House dugoutThat window was made of greased paper, not glass.  Pioneers didn’t put glass in their windows until they were sure they were going to stay a good long while; glass was expensive.  It was an investment in longevity.  A house with glass windows represented people who were there for the duration.

Most pioneers started out with greased paper windows because they weren’t sure how long they might be in that particular house.log cabin with greased windowsThe window had to be covered so the insects and wild animals couldn’t get in, but it also needed to let the light in.  Whatever the window cover was, it had to be super cheap.  Voila:  greased paper.

Now, you might be wondering how a window covered with paper could be of much use.  How much light could get through paper?

Not much.  But GREASED paper, now, that was an entirely different thing.

When you grease a piece of paper, the grease fills in all the fiber gaps, and any light that hits it doesn’t scatter; it passes right through. Water doesn’t do this; it dissolves the paper, whereas grease or oil just reinforces the paper and lets the light pass though.  Not transparent, exactly, but certainly translucent. It let enough light through to be useful.

Until someone accidently poked a hole in the paper, or a bear punched through, the family inside had enough light to get by until they could afford glass.


Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

Are We Part of your Approved Vendor List?

Happy Summer, teacher friends!

I have a couple of questions for you.   I know, I know…there’s a rule about no tests during summer.  But, this test only requires a raise of an arm. No groaning, this will be fun.

Science Kits at Steve Spangler Science

Ready? Here we go!

Show of hands: Who loves shopping with Steve Spangler Science?

Yay! We love to know so many of you out there are enjoying our products.

Again, show of hands: Who loves it when their School District pays for their super fun, science experiments?

Yep, that’s EVERYONE!


We know that you are starting to prepare your list of the items needed to replenish your science supplies for next school year.  So now is the time to check and see if Steve Spangler Science is part of your Approved Vendor List.

Some of you have approached us because you found that we are not part of your approved vendor list.   This, in turn, makes you sad, because you want to spend your district’s funds with us.  (Especially now during our Christmas in July sale! Who doesn’t want to save 20% on their Instant Snow?!?)

Now, the question is… just how do you get Steve Spangler Science on your Approved Vendor List?  It’s quick and easy!



This IRS Form  is a Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.  W-9′s  are used to certify the taxpayer identification number (TIN) or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), type of taxpayer, and tax status.  These forms are sometimes all your district requires to set us up as an approved vendor.   To receive a copy of our W-9, please contact any one of our friendly Customer Service Representatives at 1-800-223-9080 and they would be happy to email or fax a copy over to you promptly. 

Vendor Forms

If your School District requires completion of a packet of vendor forms , don’t fret! Simply email them over to orders@stevespanglerscience and we will complete and return them to you within 48 hours.

Invitations to Bid

Bid submissions are another way that Steve Spangler Science can become a part of your approved vendor list.  Just make sure that we are notified / provided an invitation, and we will submit a legal bid to your district.  You can send notifications by mail to our office, or by email to

Are we already a part of your district’s approved vendor list? Great! Then log on now to to check out some of our new products, like our 4th of July Science Kit and 4th of July Guide!

Have more questions about how to purchase from Steve Spangler Science? Email us or leave comments below!










A Test Is Just A Piece of Paper

Many students tend to get stressed when it’s quiz or test time.  It’s almost as though they fear the questions will burn when they’re touched.

TestI want to tell students – all students - not to worry so much, so I think I will do just that:

Dear Students:

It’s just a piece of paper. It’s not THE STANDARDIZED TEST, but learning to relax when you take a regular test will help you relax when you take one of the BIG ONES.  It’s a piece of paper.  No piece of paper will ever be as important Torn Sheet of Paper From Spiral Notebookas YOU are.


Breathe deeply.

Stand up and stretch when you feel the need.

Are you in my class?  Go get a coke out of the machine, and maybe a Snickers bar, too. Chocolate won’t hurt your test; I’ll be grading it myself and unless it’s so soiled I can’t read it, who cares?  Your test will probably have at least one Diet Coke ring on it when you get it back.  I don’t know how those get on there. . . .

Sometimes a little sugar might be just the energy boost you need.

 Sometimes a little fresh air will do the trick.

Get up and walk up and down the hall for a few minutes.

Are you in my class?  Step outside 15/08/13 pic of man attacked by cow - walton, waltonand walk around the parking lot for a few minutes; clear your head. Look at the trees behind the school.. Watch the squirrels.

Remember when that cow was wandering around the school grounds?   The city never did find her.   Moo a few times.  Maybe you’ll get an answer.  (There’s a good essay topic for you!)   When you come back inside, take a few deep breaths, pick up your pencil and begin again.

If your school will not allow you to do these things, do them inside your head.  You can do anything you want inside your head.

Read each question carefully; you KNOW these things. I know you do. I’ve heard you talk about these topics for a month now and you KNOW them. Don’t let your fear of the test itself overcome the knowledge in your head. Don’t let a piece of paper take you down. USE the piece of paper to prove your knowledge of these things. Let the piece of paper encourage you to express what you know. You are the boss of this piece of paper. This piece of paper cannot defeat you.  This piece of paper WANTS you to master it.  You can.

Inside your head, where dwells your actual self, is a universe of wonder.  You’ve got what it takes to succeed in life.  You can do it.  The piece of paper is just you showing me that you understand little increments of cool stuff, one sheet at a time.

Is this registering with you, students?  Don’t let the dread of a quiz or test get between you and that piece of paper.  And remember this, because it’s very important:  a test itself is never as awful as the dread of it beforehand.  (Ditto your dental appointment, remember?)

I’ve heard many of you saying this already:  “That quiz wasn’t hard at all!”  Well, guess what:  it was supposed to be hard.  The reason why you didn’t think so is that you KNOW THIS STUFF.

Yes, you do.


No Lesson Plan – Just Insta-Snow

Meet Alan Marshall, who came with his dad to a meeting in our building today.  What a great kid!  Alan brought his iPad to pass the time, but when I saw him passing my office, I thought I’d see how he liked some Insta-Snow, as well.Alan Marshall, Insta-Snow

I think this picture sums up the experience.  Alan was excited about telling his dad what would happen if he put a long-stemmed white flower in some Insta-Snow that had food coloring in it.  (You already know, right?  RIGHT?)  (This works with colored water AND with colored polymers. )  The fact that this stuff lived inside disposable diapers made a bit of an impression, too.  

Alan liked the Insta-Snow so much that I gave him the jar.  He went across the street to the library to show the librarian how it worked.

This is how it happens, you see.  Learning.  True education.  When something makes it to the dinner table library, that something is going to be remembered.

Have fun with your Insta-Snow, Alan.  Polymer science is awesome!