Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Hovercrafts, Poppies, Ambition and Greed - Young Explorers

Wondering what these things have in common? Well, nothing specific, but we touched on these topics this morning in YE.  It was a busy morning! So busy, in fact, that the time ran away from us at the end and I didn't have a chance to snap a few pics of what we did ... no matter, I'll improvise!

1. Oh Canada and Icebreaker - we sang this again. I think we will begin our mornings this way. For our icebreaker, each of the kids had to think of a question to ask the person on their right. That person would then answer the question; then ask the next child a question.  Questions included: What is your favorite color? Do you like to get into mischief? Do you like Knights?

2. Poetry - In Flanders Fields - by John McCrae.
This morning, we talked about the poppy and I asked the kids why it is a symbol of Remembrance Day. I got all sorts of answers - from its color representing blood, to a very interesting theory that poppies grow in cemeteries because they receive nutrients from certain decomposing um parts ... oh my goodness ... but the kids were very surprised to learn the poppy is actually a symbol of life.  We talked about Canadian John McCrae in quite a bit of detail, and read his poem using a beautiful illustrated copy.

3. Socratic Discussion - The Fisherman and His Wife (Grimm Fairy Tale).
This is an awesome awesome fairy tale; wonderful for socratic discussion.  Some of the kids thought they heard this story before, and I think it actually has a few variations out there.  A fisherman and his wife live in a hut near the sea. One day the fisherman catches an enchanted flounder, who he releases back.  When he tells his wife about it, she sends him back to ask the flounder to grant them a wish as a reward for letting the flounder go.  The wife wants to live in a nice cottage. The fisherman goes back to the flounder who grants them a lovely cottage.  It isn't enough for the wife, who then wants a castle, then wants to be king, then emperor, then pope, then a God. Each time she sends her husband back to the flounder, the husband is reluctant. He knows its wrong. He wants his wife to be content with what they have. But he doesn't take a stand (one child picked up on this right away and thought the husband was partially responsible!). Eventually, when the wife asks to be a God, they both find themselves back in their original hut.  Another interesting part of the story is that every time the wife asks for more, the weather and the landscape outside become more and more threatening. One student picked up on this parallel.

Here are the questions we asked: Why did the wife keep wanting more and more?  Kids answered that she was greedy, but again we asked WHY? What is it about humans that we sometimes aren't content even when we reach our "desires." We talked about "ambition" and most of the kids did not know what this was.  We talked about having a healthy ambition and an unhealthy ambition.  The kids had to share what things were on their Christmas list, and I asked them if that would be it - in other words, if they receive their object of desire, will they be content forever more? Will they never "want" anything else?  So I hope you have a good discussion over dinner, about greed, ambition, and being content. Do things have the ability to satisfy? Where should we look for our happiness? What happens when someone is too ambitious? Actually, the kids picked up on this question right away, acknowledging that   by reaching and reaching for one step higher than the previous, you can ignore your family and friends and relationships on the way- that is a high price to pay for something that really doesn't make you happy in the end.

4. Composer - Nicholai Rimsky-Korsakov and his ever famous Flight of the Bumblebee.  There are a ton of renditions if you search - we actually listened to the piano version modified by Tchaikovsky, followed by a full orchestra version, and it really does sound like bumblebees!  The most fun about this piece, however, is the story of the opera for which it was composed.  I'll let you check it out, but the part relating to this song is when the prince must disguise himself as a bumblebee during one of his adventures :).  The kids loved this piece well enough ... but they continued to beg me to play Grieg's piece from last week.

Classics for Kids Activity Sheet
The Classic Tale for ipad

5. Picture Study - Monet's Poplars

Monet painted an entire series of poplars one particular year, at varying times of day and varying times of the summer. The poplars were located quite close to his home in Giverny, and only two in the series were painted from his rowboat. This is one of them!  Click here for an excellent video on Monet's poplars, by Khanacademy! I knew Khan Academy did math and science ... but art?  Cool!

One of the kids likened this painting to a caterpillar, and it really does remind you of that! We compared Monet's poplars to the poplars in our own backyard.

6. Living Science - Friction and Hovercrafts!

This week, using the wonderful e-science program by Aurora, we talked and played with the concept of friction.  How when you rub your hands together fast you get heat from friction. Or if I try to glide in my running shoes on the carpet (which I demonstrated and nearly broke a leg), I can't because of friction.  How rubber tires have a tread in order to grip the road.  Now, scientists used to think friction only involved molecules adhering to each other, but now we know that magnetism is also involved. Anyway, to play with the concept of friction, we talked about hovercrafts.  Hovercrafts use wind-power to create a cushion of air between the bottom of the hovercraft and the water/land surface, thus minimizing friction and allowing it to glide.

Our science project this week was to build a very simple hovercraft using an old CD, a sport-bottle cap (the kind that pops up), a paper cup with the end cut off, and a balloon.  You can see something like the e-science version we made over here at Science Squad.

So, many of our hovercrafts worked, and when they went flying across the table, everyone thought that was super-cool!  But many of our hovercrafts were being difficult :), and the kids had to just keep trying.  The next thing we knew, it was time to go!!  But hey, that's real science. It doesn't always work out perfectly the first time. You have to use your observational and critical thinking skills to figure out why, or how to make it better.  Things like the depth of the actual cup, the number of holes in the bottle cap, how big the balloon is blown up, how smooth the surface is - all of these things are variables that affect the outcome.  By the way, this is the same principle that air hockey tables used. Neat, hey?

One last thing, because we were so busy and under a time crunch with our hovercrafts, we didn't get a chance to go over our pyramid puzzles! One child did show me during the break, and we were planning on chatting about it as a group ... but didn't have time. So my dear students, I know some of you are waiting to teach me your method of solving the puzzle and I will look forward that next week!!

Till next time, happy homeschooling!!

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