Motivating the Student: Powering the Quest for Scientific Knowledge

Motivating young students to search for difficult answers to complex scientific questions can seem like an insurmountable challenge.  HappyMess is sharing a detailed synopsis of our Solar Energy curriculum because we really saw an evolution in the minds of our young scientific team, The SolarNauts.

HappyMess has spent 9 months guiding a diverse group of 7 students through the process of scientific inquiry.  After reviewing our incremental steps we noticed that our success was partially due to the process.  Our team used a truly multi-disciplinary approach to arrive at their final goal:  a comprehensive (grade appropriate) understanding of the fundamentals of energy, solar energy in particular.  The steps are listed here in order of execution.

Competition The SolarNauts, our Elementary Destination Imagination team, are competing in the Science Challenge, The Solar Stage.  These (young) students are learning to do their own scientific research and writing, no easy task.  They are struggling to grasp concepts such as renewable vs. non-renewable energy sources, composition of fossil fuels, creation of electricity and the existential nature of energy itself.

The competition focuses their energies, gives them specific goals and really motivates the students.  They need to work as a team, be creative, scientifically accurate and be able to demonstrate their knowledge through a theatrical production.  They are motivated because it is fun to work as a group and they want to win.  These two factors make them determined to do their very best each time they are together.

Library We began our research the old-fashioned way, at the library.  The SolarNauts chose books on energy, renewable energy sources and experiments with light and electricity.  We read these books both as a group and individually.

Unexpected Favorite Book: The Day-Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton. This fascinating picture book tells the story of the Switzer brothers who, through a combination of hard luck and tenacity, discovered the chemical formula needed to create Day-Glo paint, thus changing the color of our world and leaving an indelible color imprint on the 1960’s.  We really recommend this book.  It is totally relevant, educational and motivating.  The Day-Glo Brothers shows how science can be entertaining, fun and useful in so many diverse ways.  It will change the way you look at color as it demonstrates the chemical changes that occur through exposure to sunlight.

Engineering Our next step in the process of scientific exploration was to attempt to build a solar powered toy car.  This task proved to be too difficult (delicate wiring to be done by tiny hands) but along the way the team was able to see for themselves how a solar panel would generate power which could travel through the wires to a small engine.  The solar powered engine moved gears, thus turning the wheels of the car, and causing it to “drive” across the floor.

Art As part of our understanding of light and illumination The SolarNauts created luminaries to experiment with the way light is displayed through color and how an image changes when it is lit by background and foreground lighting, seen in the light and seen in the dark.  To create the luminaries we used black card stock.  The children left the card stock “whole” but cut designs out from within the card stock, thus creating a negative space design.  They then filled the cutouts with tissue paper collages.  When the room is darkened and the luminaries are lit from behind only the tissue paper images are visible, thus creating a stained glass effect.  The results are quite striking and the kids were pleased.

Puppetry We studied shadow puppets as part of our further inquiry into light and illumination.  In this area our very Favorite Book is William and the Magic Ring by Laura Robinson, published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  This is more than a book.  It is actually a spiral bound theater for your home.  The book describes itself as, “a shadow casting bedtime story.”  It comes complete with a flashlight.  Each page is a board that creates a shadow image on the wall of a darkened room.  The story tells the tale of a boy who is frightened by the shadows in his room only to discover later that they were made by ordinary parts of his bedroom.   We read this book, in the dark, repeatedly.  Then we got out our black paper and scissors and made our own shadow puppets.  It was a great lesson on light and dark and storytelling with a surprise ending.

Discussion Our team discussed solar energy.  The information was complicated and definitely required repeated exposure.   When we were together we read our science books aloud.  Each student had the opportunity to explain the reading to one another.  We studied energy from multiple angles and it was clear the students were still only slightly grasping the complicated topic.  We had a long way to go.

Internet What science project would be complete without Internet research?  We found multiple interactive websites on both solar energy and electricity.  Our two favorite solar energy websites were http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=solar_home-basics and http://www.going-green-challenge.com/solar-energy-for-kids.html .

The electricity website we found most helpful was http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/gamesactivities/electricitycircuits.html .  This website allows students to build virtual electric circuits and turn lights off and on with the flip of a virtual switch.  The Internet proved to be a great resource for images of all sorts of solar powered vehicles and solar panels.  These images provided concrete pictures of both current and future solar technology and allowed our students to begin to visualize how the components of energy work together.  We were beginning to understand.

Power Point Presentation One of our (slightly older) team members created his own power point presentation to explain solar energy technology.  He then presented this information to the group, becoming a team teacher as well as a team member.  His confidence encouraged the other team members.  If he could learn it then so could they.  Our team returned to the Internet and began to excitedly find new images of solar technology and do further research on child-oriented science websites.  They were beginning to understand that the information existed and that they could find and understand it..

Interview One of our fathers has a career in the renewable energy sector and made himself available to discuss current solar technology. Our group came to understand the current limitations on use of solar power and solar panels.  They also were surprised to learn that their team “invention” of collecting photons in outer space and sending them to earth via solar energy beam was actually something that scientists are contemplating for the future!

Electric Circuitry One of our favorite tools for teaching about electricity and circuitry is the Snap Circuits set.  Bounce built countless small electronic devices from this set including a light, a doorbell and a little revolving helicopter that could spin and fly. This set really teaches the fundamentals of circuitry. You can follow the directions for building 100 projects or, as Bounce did, you can create your own projects once you understand the basics. Snap Circuits helped Bounce understand how the Electric Grid works.

Prototype Creation The SolarNauts designed the Beam Machine. This prototype of the future would be a working solar photon collecting station floating in outer space.  The Beam Machine would collect photons, convert them to thermal energy, then to electricity and ultimately send the electricity from the space station (Beam Machine) directly to earth’s electric grid via a high energy laser light beam.  They built their Beam Machine out of refrigerator boxes.  These boxes were covered with various recycled materials to create solar panels and photovoltaic cells.  Plastic water bottles turn water into steam, creating thermal energy.

Display Board At the center of the Beam Machine is a scientific display board. The team created this display board to demonstrate their understanding of current use of solar space technologies.  Many space stations currently collect photons to power their stations. Future technologies are anticipating the creation of “solar elevators” which will be able to transmit electricity from space to earth. The SolarNauts board highlights these ideas while also creating a clear portrayal of how their own design, the Beam Machine would work.  Team members later took this board to their respective schools and used it to teach other students about solar energy.

Field Trip No research project would be complete without a field trip. Our SolarNauts visited a local farm which is partially powered with solar energy. This farm uses solar panels to collect energy which is then converted to electricity. The farm typically creates about one third of its needed electricity. During the summer months the farm sometimes generates excess electricity.  Excess electricity is then sold to the electric company, through the electric grid.  The farm also uses solar power to create thermal energy to heat the solar hot water heater.

Eureka!  After months of studying, reading, discussing and building the kids finally understood!  They saw real solar panels, real electric panels, real thermal panels and they understood just how they all worked. The SolarNauts happily explained the science behind the hardware and the farmer was surprised by their knowledge.

This farm also creates its own biodiesel fuel from used vegetable oil.  The farmer gave a complete description of how he can power all his vehicles with old oil from restaurants’ French fry machines. The SolarNauts were very impressed that anything as disgusting as old vegetable oil could still be useful and good for the environment.

"I learned that chickens stink!"

 Of course, the best part of the trip was seeing all the animals.

 

Favorite Science Books After all our research and our many library books we finally stumbled upon our Favorite Energy Book, The Shocking Truth about Energy by Loreen Leedy.  If you read only one book on the subject it should be this one. The Shocking Truth about Energy is a captivating picture book that describes all the most salient scientific points in simple terms using appealing and educational illustrations. This small book told the whole story and reads like a bedtime story, not a book filled with “facts”.

Our second Favorite Science Book is Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun by Michael J. Caduto.  It gives simple explanations of complicated facts and is filled with surprising and simple experiments that will inspire your children.  Our favorite:  to better understand the impact of electricity in our modern world, Spend 24 Hours Without Using Electricity for Anything!  This is the type of simple experiment that has immediate meaning to children. Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun is filled with numerous, more complicated, but equally achievable experiments.  You and your students will certainly enjoy this book.

Writing Now it is time to put it all together. The competition actually calls for all this information to be put into the context of a theatrical presentation. That means writing a script. The SolarNauts divided this task with two members writing the script and a third member writing a theme song. Remaining members collaborated on an opening song to introduce the play and provide set up time. Writing the script required creatively integrating all the scientific knowledge while solving a fictional problem. We won’t tell you the whole plot here as we can’t reveal all our surprises while still competing, but the team managed to create a story which highlights the need for solar energy while also providing a solution to current solar energy inadequacies.

Mother Earth costumeTheater So now that the script is written and the team has learned all the words to the songs they are ready, almost.  SolarNauts now need to make their costumes, sets and props.  This is the fun part.  The team each made their own costumes, designing, gluing and examining themselves from every angle.  Everything they create must be done by themselves.  A component of this competition is that part of this play must be performed in the dark.  Yes, the dark.  The SolarNauts sprayed all the clothes with glow-in-the-dark paint so they would be visible in the dark. They covered lanterns with colored cellophane to create mood lighting. They used glow sticks and flashlights to illuminate their Beam Machine.  The youngest members of the team dressed in phosphorescent clothing and posed as “photons” while other orange-suited SolarNauts tried to “capture” them as an energy sources.  The play was ready to be performed.

Running down the road with the Beam Machine"We made it!"Teaching Our team never wants the final performance to be the dress rehearsal. With this in mind, rehearsing is a key component of the competition and performance process.  The SolarNauts received permission from the local nursery school to perform their play one time for each individual class.  After 6 performances, and many question and answer sessions The SolarNauts were set for the big time:  an evening parent performance to be followed by a pot-luck dinner party.  By this time The SolarNauts were confident in their performance and also articulate about their subject matter:  solar energy.

The 5 AM UHaul

State Competition The big day is finally here. But, are we worried?  Not a bit.  This team has researched, studied, learned, written, created, rehearsed and performed.  They re-glued a few broken props, did one trial run through of the performance and they were ready.  The stage was set and this time when the lights went off the team was truly in the DARK.  Their sets glowed, the flashlights illuminated the set and before we knew it the performance was flawlessly executed and the cast members were saying their final lines,  “We saved planet Earth just in TIME!”. Hooray!  Our goals are achieved.  The SolarNauts have really learned the material and are able to teach others!

SolarNauts discuss their Solution with AppraisersAnd The SolarNauts reached their goal! 

They are now this year’s State Champions!  Next stop Global Finals where they can compete with teams from around the world!

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is using as many different approaches as possible to allow our students to be inspired by their own education.

Destination Imagination: Splatter Paint Pollock Comes Alive!

The modern artist is working with space and time, expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.

Jackson Pollock

 

Our Destination Imagination Senior Level team is alive and well.  They paint, glue, sing, create and compose.  This year they are faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of creating a 4-minute thriller introducing the audience to multiple cultures and leaving us all hanging on the edge of our seats, literally.

Think this looks innocent enough?  Look again.  Team I.C.E (Imagine, Create, Empower) is just getting started.

One thing they are sure they want to share with us is their love of spontaneity.  The disorder in our house is a true testament to this endeavor.

As a final memento to their Destination Imagination experience they have created a video that encapsulates their team experience.  And what better way to show their love for one another than to splatter paint everywhere?

If you are brave you may want to check out their I.C.E Productions Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsNKW9ybrVE

This group has really formed a very supportive team.   They have their ups and downs but they are learning to resolve conflicts, make compromises and share both the limelight and their various talents.

What better way to make friends than to struggle with an international challenge, study art, culture and language; laugh, create and perform while also learning complex construction techniques and unusual improvisational styles?

This Destination Imagination team has truly learned so much this year.

Please leave your paintbrushes outside, if possible.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is not minding when your sink is multi-colored and so are your floors, walls, doors and clothes. 

Color My World with Sunshine

We are studying the earth, the placement of the continents and the energy sources necessary to power our lives on planet earth.

Bounce, and his friends, have created their own world powered by an outer space solar energy gathering machine entitled “The Beam Machine.”

We started our study of the earth and the continents by doing numerous jigsaw puzzles.  As Bounce spent time with each puzzle he was able to recognize the variations in geography, topography, climate and lifestyle customary for each region.

 Adventure Bear proved to be particularly adept at puzzle making.  We like this puzzle series by Ravensburger (Family Puzzle #13 464 9).  The box contains 4 puzzles of earth, each with varying number of pieces and each mapping a different element:  animals, peoples, vegetation and politics.  When combined they form a composite view of our world.

 Next Bounce created his own map of the world.  He studied various Atlases and found that the world can be diagrammed in multiple ways, each showing a different aspect of planet earth.   Here he is studying time zones.

 Making a Bounce-sized map of South America gave him the opportunity to study every contour as well as the mountain regions, political divisions and river systems.  We like the Rand McNally Schoolhouse Intermediate edition of the World Atlas.

 

What study of geography would be complete without creating our own version of the world?  We used an old round tablecloth (plenty of pre-existing stains) as the “globe.”  Bounce drew the continents and then painted the land and the sea.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let The Sun Shine In

Now that Bounce has the world in his hands, it is time for him to understand our energy resources.  After studying various fossils fuels and non-renewable energy sources, Bounce decided to concentrate on learning more about solar power.

Bounce created a poster board to illustrate current solar technology and also depict an alternative technology that could connect with current electric grids to enhance the use of solar power.

He included his luminaries to illuminate his life sized solar energy prototype.

Here is his world and electrified urban skyline powered by imaginary solar power technology, The Beam Machine.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is imagining the impossible and building the dream in our minds and hearts.

Kimono of 1000 Cranes

Japanese tradition says that folding 1000 cranes will grant you a special wish.  Happymess kids are wishing for greater understanding amongst differing cultures, with the belief that understanding can conquer fear (of the unknown).

Happymess kids have made a goal of folding 1000 cranes.  There are currently about 2/3 of the way and still folding.  They are using their cranes in many creative ways.

In this picture they have created a paper kimono consisting entirely of cranes.  Gold cranes make a belt design.  Not pictured:  a pair of dangling crane earrings.

While folding cranes they are studying Haiku, the Japanese form of poetry that involves writing a very short poem.  These poems are typically 3 lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.  The word haiku comes from the word “cut” and thus these poems cut to the essence of the subject matter.

Basho Matsuo (1644 ~ 1694) is known as the first great poet in the history of haikai (and haiku)

Spring departs.
Birds cry
Fishes’ eyes are filled with tears

Bush clover in blossom waves

Without spilling

A drop of dew

These poems are often about nature and reveal man’s connection with nature through imagery, juxtaposition and a surprise conclusion.  Our team tried writing several haikus and then visited a Japanese teacher who helped them translate their English haikus into the Japanese language.

I have reprinted here an informative instructional piece to inspire your students as they attempt this deceptively simple style of poetry.  The original can be found at this link   http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Haiku-Poem

What you feel should be in a haiku. When you see or notice something that makes you want to say to others -“Hey, look at that!”-include that in a haiku. Many people go for walks just to find new inspiration for their poetry.

  1. 3

Many haiku seem to focus on nature, but what they are really focusing on is a seasonal reference (not all of which are necessarily about nature). Japanese poets use a “saijiki” or season word almanac to check the seasonal association for key words that they might use in a haiku (thus the haiku is a seasonal poem, and often about nature. But it does not have to be about nature if the seasonal reference is about a human activity). The season is important for coming up with words to use in a haiku, because the poem has so few words, simple phrases such as “cherry blossoms” or “falling leaves” can create lush scenes, yet still reflect the feeling of the verse. Moreover, season words also invoke other poems that use the same season word, making the poem part of a rich historical tapestry through allusive variation. In Japanese, the “kigo” or season word was generally understood; “autumn breeze” might be known to express loneliness and the coming of the dark winter season.

  • Winter usually makes us think of burden, cold, sadness, hunger, tranquility, death or peace. Ideas about winter can be invited with words like “snow,” “ice,” “dead tree,” “leafless,” etc.
  • Summer brings about feelings of warmth, vibrancy, love, anger, vigor, lightness, action. General summer phrases include references to the sky, beaches, heat, and romance.
  • Autumn brings to mind a very wide range of ideas: decay, belief in the supernatural, jealousy, saying goodbye, loss, regret, and mystery to name a few. Falling leaves, shadows, and autumn colors are common implementations.
  • Spring, like summer, can make one think of beauty, but it is usually more a sense of infatuation. Also common are themes like innocence, youth, passion, and fickleness. Blossoms, new plants, or warm rains can imply spring. For more information on seasons, go to the link listed below.Seasonal references can also include human activities, and Japanese saijikis contain many such listings. Be aware that some references to human activities, such as Christmas, are effective season words, but require a geographical limitation; while Christmas is a winter season word in the northern hemisphere, it’s a summer reference in the southern hemisphere.
  1. 4

Add a contrast or comparison. Reading most haiku, you’ll notice they either present one idea for the first two lines and then switch quickly to something else or do the same with the first line and last two. A Japanese haiku achieves this shift with what is called a “kireji” or cutting word, which cuts the poem into two parts. In English, it is essential for nearly every haiku to have this two-part juxtapositional structure. The idea is to create a leap between the two parts, and to create an intuitive realization from what has been called an “internal comparison.” two parts sometimes create a contrast, sometime a comparison. Creating this two-part structure effectively can be the hardest part of writing a haiku, because it can be very difficult to avoid too obvious a connection between the two parts, yet also avoid too great a distance between them that , although this is not necessary provided that the grammar clearly indicates that a shift has occurred.

  1. 5

Use primarily objective sensory description. Haiku are based on the five senses. They are about things you can experience, not your interpretation or analysis of those things. To do this effectively, it is good to rely on sensory description, and to use mostly objective rather than subjective words.

  1. 6

Like any other art, haiku takes practice. Basho said that each haiku should be a thousand times on the tongue. It is important to distinguish between pseudo-haiku that says whatever the author thinks in a 5-7-5 syllable pattern and literary haiku that adheres to the use of season words, a two-part juxtapositional structure, and primarily objective sensory imagery.

We have found that studying and writing haiku style poetry is a great linguistic exercise.  The poems are short and the attributes quite specific, thus making the haiku less intimidating for the young student.

Worksheet for Creating Your Own Haiku

Click to access howto_haiku.pdf

Girl folds for world peace

Kimono of 1000 cranes

Dressed for tolerance

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is a haiku of global learning.

State of The Art: A Homeschool Studio

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.

Vincent Van Gogh

The best part of art is getting a chance to make it yourself.  With this in mind, Happymess kids have invited their friends over for an all-day art festival.  They plan to take their studies in to their own hands, literally, and create the paintings they have been studying.

Happymess kids have been studying Impressionism, modern 20th century art and various forms of sculpture.  They are particularly interested in Pointillism.   This school year, Happymess kids have had great fun visiting several museums in NYC and Washington, DC.

The artists they most want to learn from are Seurat, Van Gogh and Monet.  They have chosen three specific works to study.

Seurat: La Grande Jatte

Van Gogh: Starry Starry Night

Monet: Water Lillies

It is now time to try their hand at the artistic process.

They want to create a composite painting that will encompass several different Impressionist techniques and will reflect the work of Monet, Van Gogh and Seurat.

 We have almost a dozen children filling our small art studio.  They are involved in several projects simultaneously:  painting, gluing, folding, drawing and drilling.  The biggest obstacle is trying not to step on wet paint and buckets of glue.

The younger group is creating a sculpture from found objects.  This is a major project, with this being only the first step but they are hard at work building, gluing and constructing separate pieces to be added later.

Meanwhile, Van Gogh is beginning to make an appearance in this Impressionist collage…

Quantum is learning origami.  He is hoping, with his friends, to fold 1000 cranes so they can make a wish for good luck.

It is time to begin adding Monet to the masterpiece…

Finally, the composite Impressionist painting is completed.  The final painting is 8’ by 8’ and has been painted, in one day, by a total 5 student painters.

The best way to know God is to love many things.  Vincent Van Gogh

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is spending the entire day in the art room, studying and painting in the tradition of the grand salons.

Desert Interlude: Piestewa Peak and Chihuly Glass Gardens

Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the midst of winter chaos we suddenly find ourselves with 24 hours to spend in the desert.

Desert Cactus with Distant Moon

With such a short time to spend we chose two activities.  We explored Piestewa Peak, formerly Squaw Peak, recently renamed to honor the first woman, a Native American, who was sadly killed in the 2003 Iraq war.

Nest of Thorns

The Green Armed Tree

The summit trail is a steep and rocky trail that rises 1.2 miles directly above the plains.  From the summit the brown dry desert colors are interrupted by azure skies.

The Horse-Crippler CactusThorny plants with scary names, such as this Horse-Crippler Cactus, cause us to imagine the dire circumstances that gave rise to this cactus’ name..

Our next stop was the Desert Botanical Gardens.  There were many beautiful gardens but the most captivating “cacti” were the amazing glass Desert Towers by artist Dale Chihuly.

Desert Towers by Dale Chihuly

Desert Towers by Dale Chihuly

Desert Towers by Dale Chihuly

These Towers glisten in the bright desert sun and seem both surreal and an integral part of the natural gardens in which they rest.

Next stop:  New York Botanical Gardens where Dale Chihuly has numerous glass creations throughout several garden areas.   These glass constructions are truly beautiful and really seem almost “natural” in their environment.

I never expected to be so captivated by these modern and “artificial” plants, yet they fit wholly within the landscape, adding rather than detracting from the natural elements.

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tree Arms

The most striking aspect of the desert is the torch-like sunlight which unapologetically heightens the colors and intensity of every natural object.

This is the antithesis of the “bleak” mid-winter we normally inhabit.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is transcending the ordinary at a moments notice.

Destination Imagination meets the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Our Destination Imagination (high-school level) team is hard at work preparing for their 2012 challenge.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

This year they must study the cultures of several countries and try to imagine how each would interact with one another.  Currently they have chosen to examine French Impressionism and contrast that with African art.

Truth and Manet's Haystacks

For several of the team members this is their first exposure to the original paintings of the Impressionists.

The DI team members are quickly learning that the Impressionists were a radical group of artists who abandoned the realistic style of painting in favor of creating an “impression” of light and movement within the painting.  This new style was dramatically different from previous painters who were constrained by efforts at realism.  It was difficult for our DI team to grasp that these new painters had been thoroughly schooled in realism and were adept masters of their craft.  Unlike today’s modern artists, the French Impressionists were more than capable of rendering a realistic piece.  They had come to favor a more “intuitive” approach that would capture not the physical presence but the actual or “emotive” presence of the haystack, olive trees and peopled landscapes of their new art.  The DI team was surprised to learn that many of these famous paintings began as “sketches” and in fact some paintings had as many as 25 renditions before the artist considered them “finished.”

Seurat's La Grande Jatte

The DI team carefully examined the work of Seurat.  They were delighted by the thousands of dots of color that were used to create La Grande Jatte.  The team understood these paintings better than those of Manet and Monet as they have a modern day corollary in the dot patterns that are regularly used to create digital photographs and pictures.  DI kids were almost nonplussed by pointillism because to the 21 Century student using dots to create imagery seems basic and obvious.

Van Gogh: Women Picking Olives

Van Gogh: First Steps

Van Gogh, with his thick palette knife strokes, was by far the favorite with the group.  Van Gogh clearly goes beyond technique to capture the hearts of his subjects, and thus the imagination of his viewers.  These paintings were compassionate as well as novel.

From the Impressionists room the DI team moved to the African art exhibit where most work was 3-dimensional and usually created for a specific use, either domestic or ceremonial.

The African sculptures emphasized the subjects and objects that were of greatest importance to these peoples.  They were functional while reflecting deep religious and cultural beliefs.  In this, the African art differed greatly from the European art where the main objective was personal expression and differentiating oneself from the mainstream.

 After many hours in the museum the group was relieved to “escape” into the wilds of Central Park where the Bear sculpture could be touched and climbed upon with impunity.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is studying the subject by seeing the original work.

Fifty Nifty Gifts You Create: Installment One

Happymess kids are searching their imaginations and resources in an attempt to find the creative, thoughtful gift that siblings and parents will love and that costs more in personal effort and less in cash. For the Backyard Bunch:  Athena is busy creating a backyard box set of games: a combination of Capture the Flag, Flashlight Tag, Trust and Nerf guns.  The boxes will include walkie-talkies (we have some already), flashlights, handmade belts to hold gear (black on one side for camouflage and reflector circles on the other to reflect flashlights to team members).  The boxes will be decorated with different colors for each team and can be used as bases or forts.  These backyard boxes will be perfect for her 4 younger brothers.  Maybe she should include a few cans of whip cream?

Truth and Quantum are combining their playmobile collections.  They are designing a storage box with playmobile and small town illustrations.  They plan to write “Bounce” and “Scooter” on the box.  For the first time ever, Bounce and Scooter will “own” the playmobile and can play with them as much as they like.  Sharing a favorite toy collection with a younger sibling is a top favorite for everyone.

A few years ago Athena and Truth made an alphabet book for Bounce with 26 pages. Each letter began a word that was special to Bounce.  They handcrafted each page and then had the book spiral bound with a cover at Kinkos.  They found some beautiful free alphabet printables at http://www.momswhothink.com  This year Bounce would like to create the same type of book for Scooter.

Athena is making personalized photo pillowcases for her best friends.  She recently made a pillowcase featuring a group of friends for a close friend’s birthday.

Happymess kids are designing personalized stationary and “thank you’ notes for family members.  They are taking family photos, landscape scenes, etc. and paring them with quotes and verses of poetry.  By uploading them to a stationary website they can create professional but personal stationary.  Stationary can be placed in decorated shoeboxes. Pens, markers and stamps complete the gift.

Scooter is creating muslin placemats by printing squares of fabric with leaf and vegetable prints using tempera paints.

A trip to an eclectic bookshop offered Happymess kids the opportunity to find unusual and favorite books in beautiful editions.  They created several “favorite book bags” as gifts, inexpensive yet perfect for sharing their love of learning.

Quantum, Athena and Truth, members of the USSA ski team, plan to offer personalized ski lessons to deserving family members.

Athena is considering buying some kitchen gifts, a fabulous pan for example, and including spices and spatulas and adding a collection of hand created recipe cards researched from the internet.  www.smilebox.com has free templates to create recipe cards, cookbooks and more.

Bounce plans to decorate his poems and books and share them with his family.

Are you looking for inexpensive and entertaining gifts for the kids on your list?

Check out our Quickie Thrifty Gifty List (approved as FUN by the Happymess team)

(first installment)

Yo-Yos

Slinkys

Nerf guns

Wiffle ball and bat set

Playdough

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is attempting to instill appreciation in the face of commercialism.  Wish me luck!

Exploring Pop Art

“They always say that time changes things, but actually you have to change them yourself.”  Andy Warhol

We have had a fascinating week exploring Pop Art and experimenting with different painting techniques.

Bounce and Scooter were entranced with Warhol’s colorful rendering of common objects.

Bounce abstract with hands

They loved the repetition and cartoon-like simplicity of Warhol’s silkscreen paintings.

We also read some simple biographies of Warhol’s life.  Bounce and Scooter sympathized with his childhood illness.  Quantum was more impressed with Warhol’s “partying” lifestyle and popularity as an adult cult figure.

We concentrated on learning to mix colors and mix media.

Bounce’s favorite style was the Jackson Pollock splatter paints.  He had a great time splattering paint and adding random leaves and twigs to enhance the texture of his paintings.

Jackson Pollock

Bounce abstract

Jackson Pollock Number 18

Bounce Abstract Number 2

We had fun comparing Pollock’s work with Bounce’s paintings.  We discussed that although it might be easy to imitate the works of famous pop artists, these ideas were once considered original.

Roy Lichtenstein Drowning Girl

Warhol, Pollock, Lichtenstein and others were among the first to create “art” with modern commercial techniques and images.

Athena: Girl and Mother

Athena loved creating pop art images of her family and friends.  She loves the irreverence of these images and the way an ordinary photograph can tell a story that is different from the original.

And isn’t that what art is really about?

All artists, in every media, strive to take a moment of reality and transform it into a story that highlights a unique world vision.  Art is an attempt to redraw the everyday so that important details are highlighted and specific ideas are communicated.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is teaching our children to tell their own stories through art, creative writing and drama.

Wordless Wednesdsay: Leaves of Fall, Inspired by Walt Whitman

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
Walt Whitman

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

“In the faces of men and women, I see God.”

“Be curious, not judgmental.”
Walt Whitman
Let Me Count the Days: Homeschooling is finding joy in the everyday beauty of life.