Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Puzzling Pyramids and other Fun Adventures with Young Explorers

It was wonderful to get back into the swing of Young Explorers, especially after having to cancel last week due to the storm. We had a few new faces this morning and they fit right into my group of guinea pigs, as I fondly call them.

Here's a recap of what we did today. By far there were two highlights - listening and dancing to Grieg's music, and getting puzzled with ping-pong-ball math!

1. Icebreaker
The kids were all excited to stand up and tell us what costume they are wearing tomorrow evening, one by one, and our new kids were absolute pros with the icebreaker.  You know, its only a few seconds that they each get up and speak to us, but gosh they are getting good at it, and they do seem to enjoy it.

2. Oh Canada 
Led by Brittany, we all sang Oh Canada. I know I know. But my kids don't really know this very well and its much more fun to learn in a group, so we sang our little hearts out. I thought it would fit in well because this month we celebrate Remembrance Day, and we mentioned that. We talked about what that holiday meant, and how singing our national anthem is a way to show respect for our country.  Next week, we will be reading In Flanders Fields.

3. Socratic Discussion: 
Today, I introduced the kids to The Ziz in The Hardest Word by Jacqueline Jules.  The Ziz is so much fun, and there are a few of Jules' books featuring the Ziz! He's a REALLY large bird whose great big wings are always getting him into trouble, and in this case they knocked down a tree, which knocked down another tree, which knocked down another tree .... which fell over and destroyed the children's garden.  So the Ziz heads to Mt. Sinai to have a little chat with God - he does this frequently in fact - and told God about his mistake. God tells the Ziz to go, find the hardest word, and bring it back to God.  The Ziz has an adventure trying to find this word, and brings back words like "goodnight," "spaghetti," "rock," and so on, but each word he brings back is not the hardest word. In exasperation, the Ziz tells God he was sorry but he couldn't find the hardest word. "What was that?" God asks.  "I'm sorry, I couldn't find it." "Oh, you did it, you found the hardest word!"  That's right, sorry is the hardest word. The Ziz goes back to the children's garden, says sorry, and offers vegetables from his own garden as a token of apology.

This story made us ask the question: Why is saying sorry so hard?  We had to dig deep.  I got all sorts of reasons, like saying sorry is embarrassing, you don't want people looking at you, you feel bad that you hurt someone; but none of these are the real reason.  I kept asking the kids, "BUT WHY?"  And it came down to this (and they discovered themselves): Saying sorry means you have to face the fact that you are not perfect in the eyes of others.  Its hard to humble yourself.  Really hard. But you have to "just do it" as one of the kids said.  You have to have "courage and just say it," another said.

I have read this book with my own kids recently, and I have to tell you Maria has a MUCH easier time saying sorry as a result.  Normally she is so stubborn.  I felt it had a positive impact, and now the running statement in our home is "You have to say the hardest word."

We did some role-playing with saying sorry.  How to do it properly, how to accept an apology.

4. Picture Study - Gustav Klimt's Tree of Life.

Isn't it wonderful? This is a very complex oil painting where the subject matter is probably rooted in most religions one way or another. This painting is quite famous and you will probably see it everywhere now - its fabric, its iphone covers, coffee cups.  It is full of so much detail, the kids spent quite a bit of time examining the details and doing narrations for the group. Everyone had a different interpretation of the branches, the "eyes" in the branches, the people in the painting.

Klimt looks like a very interesting fellow!! We did NOT discuss his biography at all, its probably a bit x-rated :(.  But his paintings are superb and his sketches are fantastic as well.

Thought you might like to explore this video of a six-year-old showing how to draw Klimt's Tree of Life, with help from her ipad.  Also, check out this Pinterest board for several links to some amazing art activities based on the Tree of Life.  We may even do some Tree of Life artwork this block, it just looks so fun.

5. Composer and Composition - Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt.

Peer Gynt is based on a Norwiegian fairy tale (in English it would be Peter Gynt), and depending which version you read, Peter is either a good guy or rather immoral. Dramatist Ibsen loosely based a 5-act play on this fairy tale, and asked Grieg to write the score.  The Mountain King scene is the most famous.  Click here for a neat Classics for Kids activity sheet to give you a feel for the drama and the music.  Check out link on Peer Gynt as well, an interesting blog about various fairy tales.

Last block we primarily listened to piano compositions, but today we dove into an entire orchestra. You can hear the London Philharmonic playing this version here.  The kids were dancing to it and rocking out; I also played the motif for the kids on the piano and some of them were trying to play it by ear on their own. Did a great job.  Its a catchy little tune, so I apologize because you won't be able to get it out of your head :).

6. Living Math 
Today we pretended we were Pythagoreans. The kids wanted to choose their own Greek name and I had to remember to call them by it! Anyway, after listening to some interesting facts about Pythagoras, we pretended to be part of his "inner circle behind the curtain."  We pretended that ping-pong balls were pebbles and "played" on the ground with them.  Hey, we discovered odd and even numbers! Its so much nicer to have a fun manipulative to SEE odd and even instead of a boring worksheet.  We talked about how the Pythagoreans were the first to put numbers into "families," like odd and even, squares and roots; and they were the first to think of numbers as having shapes like triangular, squares, oblongs, hexagonal, octagonal.  

Using the ping-pong balls, we experimented. What happens when you put two odd numbers together?  What about an odd and and even?  Two even numbers?  You and I take this for granted, but to be able to concretely SEE how this works is so much more effective. 

Then, we tried to figure out patterns in building both triangular and square numbers.  We began with 3 ping-pong balls in the shape of a triangle.  How many more balls to make the next biggest triangle?  The kids kept adding balls to the triangle and soon enough it became apparent that you just need to keep adding an extra row that is one ball bigger than the previous.  We kept track of the pattern on the white-board.

We also did this with square numbers. This is the easiest way to explain the concept of squares and roots.

Can a triangular number also be a square number? I asked the question, some kids immediately said no, but if you're looking for a little enrichment activity, have them build a set of both triangular and square numbers (or use dots on paper to build the numbers), and see where the overlap is.  

Finally, I had them try a pyramid puzzle and sent them home with it as well.  Given certain ping-pong ball shapes, their challenge was to work with a partner to build a pyramid.  This is called the "20-ball pyramid puzzle."  Its from Historical Connections in Mathematics, Volume 1 (the book is available as an e-book download if you click that link).  And here is a free excerpt of the lesson we used today.  Its geared for grades 7-12 but my young explorers are real smarty pants :).  So are the moms.  Because one momma called me to say she solved it within a few minutes! And in the next instant, I received an email that two more kids solved it. Yeesh. My whole family has been tinkering with this for a couple of nights already :(.  Did I mention I'm really more of an artsy person at heart?

So that's a recap, dear friends. So glad you joined us today! Have a great week :).

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear from you! Let's talk!