Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bio Poetry

I read about this form of poetry where you come up with a few facts about yourself and turn them into  poem.  I put a little twist on that!

I asked everyone to come up with six adjectives to describe themselves.  Then I asked them to use those adjectives to write a poem about a fairy.  I love the thoughtfullness!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Making Natural Dyes

I always think of fairies using everything found in nature to live.  So we decided to be like fairies during our study of them and use things we found in nature to dye some embroidery floss for embroidering some dishtowels.

The girls had to figure out the process for dying with natural items and then go collect what they needed.  They collected various flower petals, leaves, bark and onion skins.

They tried two different techniques ... boiling water with alum and then steeping the natural items and floss and they also tried keeping the items at a boil until they got the color they wanted.  They rinsed some of their floss after dying and not others to get varying colors.  And they crushed up some of their items and left others whole.

They created some really beautiful colored floss and also made some great observations about what works well for dying and what does not and made some guesses and did some research as to why.

Fairy House Trail Hike Millburn, NJ

We are very lucky to have a fairy house trail so nearby and we took a beautiful hike along the Rahway Trail in Millburn, NJ to see what kinds of things had been built for the fairies as an inspiration for creating our own fairy trail near our home.

Observing Growth (Of a Bean)

I love all of the fairy stories about how fairies help nature along, like helping seeds grow into plants.  But I thought it would be a fun idea to actually watch one really grow.  

We used a broadbean seed. Not sure if you can use other kinds but this is what I heard to use and it certainly puts on a show!  You roll up a bunch of paper towels into a loose but full tube and insert the roll into a glass jar.  Then slide a seed about halfway down.  We did one on each side.  Then fill the jar with about an inch of water and put somewhere sunny.  Check the jar everyday and add water when the paper towels start to dry out.

In a few days our beans started to sprout.  We have been able to observe them at all different stages from the bean just started to break open to one with a root system starting and the beginnings of a stem.     

The kids keep telling me they have planted and watched seeds grow every year of their educational life but I think secretly they thing it's kind of cool to watch the whole think happen from the under-the-dirt perspective.  I do!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fairies Curriculum

Fairies might not seem very educational at first glance but there is a lot of great stuff inspired by or related to fairies.... nature, Shakespeare, Elizabethan England.  And well, fairies have always been a part of our lives!

Social Studies and Culture
Learn about Shakespeare, the author of the great fairy-tale, "A Midsummer's Night Dream".  

Take an online course about midsummer religion, folklore and traditions.


Write a fractured fairy story.  

Create a persuasive ad selling a product to fairies.

Write a fairy inspired poem.

Book Club

Read "A Midsummer's Night Dream" (and a few other "Shakespeare Can Be Fun!" books) together.

Read and discuss an article on the Cottingley Fairies.  Then watch FairyTale: A True Story, a movie about the incident.

Reading List

Wings : a fairy tale   Baker, E. D.
Fairy lies   Baker, E. D
Saving Hamlet   Booth, Molly
Wicked lovely   Marr, Melissa
The lost queen   Jones, Frewin
Romeo and/or Juliet : a chooseable-path adventure   North, Ryan/ Shakespeare, William
How to ditch your fairy   Larbalestier, Justine
The two loves of Will Shakespeare : a novel   Lawlor, Laurie
The sisters Grimm : Book one, fairy-tale detectives   Buckley, Michael
The Sisters Grimm. Book two : the unusual suspects   Buckley, Michael
The radiant road : a novel   Catmull, Katherine
Fairy houses   Kane, Tracy
Fragile eternity   Marr, Melissa
Shakespeare's daughter   Hassinger, Peter
Ink exchange   Marr, Melissa
The tempest [graphic format]   Appignanesi, Richard
The faerie path   Jones, Frewin

Learn about flowers and seasons.

Science Project
Research, design, plan and build 3 fairy houses and install them on a local trail.

Scientific Observations
Watch a seed grow.

Learn to fold an origami flower.

Scientific Exploration

Create a terrarium.

Explore different ways to dye thread with natural dyes for an embroidery project.

Explore different techniques to create a fairy hoax photo.

Learn to loom knit a baby animal nest.

Field Trips
Watch "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "Twelfth Night" and "Finding Neverland".

Hike a fairy trail.

Attend a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

Building a Rube Goldberg Machine

We are studying technology this month and one of the things about technology that I find important to know is that you are basically building a set of steps to get something to execute your instructions.  That takes understand what you want the output to be, what you need the inputs to be and the what steps you might need to take along the way.

I thought a Rube Goldberg contraption would be a fun way to thing in that way.  "A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence."

It was great watching them each identify what they wanted to have happen and then work backwards to get the result they wanted using the materials they were given and to identify what inputs they needed to get the thing started.  

Coding A Video Game

After learning how to code some basic games in Scratch, we all designed and coded our own games.

We used this outline to come up with a plan for our games and then began coding in Scratch.

Your Ideas
What is your location?

Who is going on the adventure?

How do you win?  (Get something and get out of the maze.)

Good Things
What are good things you get?  How do they help you?
What sounds or things happen when you get a good thing.  Have at least 3.

Bad Things
What are bad things you get?  How do they hurt you?
What sounds or things happen when you get a bad thing? Have at least 3.

What does the maze look like?
Set up obstacles that require you to have something or do something to get through.
Draw your maze including location of obstacles, good things and bad things.

Flow Chart
Work your way through each obstacle in the maze.  There are choices to be made and different things happen depending on what things you have with you or what actions you take.  

Create your game!

Not only did everyone complete a working game but they battled some of the biggest problems they have when it comes to projects.  

The perfectionist was able to balance creating the exact game she pictured with the skills she had in coding and the timeframe given.  Unlike so many other projects, IT WAS FINISHED!  And not exactly how she wanted it.  Which was great!  But she did make sure to draw some pretty incredible characters, scan them in and make them the stars of her game.

And the frustrated one was so amazed that by breaking things into smaller tasks, the project that seemed insurmountable was actually really easy.  Who knew we would have gotten so much out of coding a little old game!?

Both want to clean up there games a bit more but you can take a peek here .

Extraordinary: The Gate Keeper's Challenge

Key Hunt

"Before There Were Computers" Project

I thought a good way to understand how computers work was to understand what old processes they replaced.  For example, how today we use Instagram to share photos but in the "good old days" we took pictures on film, had them developed, and brought them to a friends house to show them.  Perhaps after putting them in one of those fancy magnetic page albums!  I also wanted the kids to get an idea that while computers may make our lives more efficient, there are also some drawbacks.

Each of the girls had to identify 10 things they use computers for and then talk to people who were around pre-computer and find out how they would have accomplished the same thing.  Then they presented their information.

It was fun to see how their reaction to how things were done before computers and it inspired conversations about how things were done even farther back in time.  For the most part they agreed that they prefer the way things are done today ... with the exception of not knowing how to use an encyclopedia!  (Guess we will have to go to the library for a day of old fashioned research soon!)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Silverball Arcade, Asbury Park NJ

A trip to the Silverball Arcade in Asbury Park allowed for the kids to get to play some of the great vintage video games (and a few pinball machines!)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Ozobot Adventure

Today we sent these cute little robots on an adventure around town.

The girls have these cute little robots, called Ozobots, that you program to walk a path using sequences of colored dots.  The Ozobot follows the path you draw and will do things like turn left or right, spin, blink, or speed up if it runs over a certain sequence of colored dots.  Its a great way to introduce programming as giving a set of instructions to complete a task.

I drew a simple map of town and added a few locations to the map.  Everyone drew 3 locations out of a hat and had to visit those locations in order and do something special to indicate that they had arrived at their stop.

The project required the girls to plan out the path and actions they wanted their Ozobot to do and then debug all of the times their Ozobot was not doing what they wanted.  In the end, both Ozobots completed their adventures (one dressed as Yoda)!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Learning Scratch Programming

Each day we have been going through a lesson in Coding Games in Scratch in order to learn the basics of coding.

Scratch is a free programming application from MIT and it is amazing!  It really helps kids put their thoughts together in a logical way and make something happen on the screen.  The Coding Games in Scratch lessons are easy to follow and build upon each other.  And they leave plenty of room to customize your project which enticed the kids to try to figure out how to do things they hadn't learned yet or use things that they had learned but were not part of the lessons.  They also learned the basics of testing and debugging their work, how to think about the flow of a program and math concepts like variables and grids.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Playing Castle Elsinore

I wanted to kids to get a feel for what it was like to use a computer back in the good old days before graphics.  So we played the original DOS adventure game, Castle Elsinore.

First, the kids needed to learn how to navigate the DOS menu which was entertaining!

Then we dove into the game.  It definitely required some determination to get learn how to navigate the world and to figure out what sort of directions you needed to give.  Which the kids were not a fan of.  But they did find it cool that you needed to use your imagination to picture the character moving through the game.

I had lots of fun going back down memory lane, but I think both kids think the current state of video games is way better!