Wednesday, January 25, 2012

winter weather--finally!

We LOVE winter!!!!  And we have had our hot chocolate, marshmallows, and new popcorn maker ready to go, along with several "snow day only" special activities waiting, and it's been so warm, so rainy, so NOT winter-y!  But last weekend brought us enough of the white stuff to get out and shovel and wonder at the beauty of winter.

ghung-ghung was cold and forgot her parka (a clothing item modeled after animal blubber--a little Arctic info we learned!), so she snuggled safe and snug in Four's hood:)
             We filled our beach buckets with snow and created winter wonderlands in our jammies in the  
               living room.
It was interesting to see the differences in the ways Four played with the snow vs Seven's preferences.  Four needed her own space--her own bucket for her own "guys", which included moose, fairies, a gnome, bears, zebras, and a unicorn.  She carefully made blue footprints in the snow by dipping the animals' feet in food colored water and they walked around the snow.  Even though her bucket was MUCH smaller than Seven's, it was all hers, and that was more important.

I had set up a big, wide bucket with snow, ice cubes, and water made blue with food coloring, with the intention Four & Seven would share the space, but that didn't work out.  Seven was willing to share, but Four needed space.  Seven's play really reflected him--no nonsense, "real" inhabitants, non-fiction, serious business.

This polar play, with real snow, ice, and water is just so cool!  Seven played with this for ONE HOUR straight when we came in from shoveling. Four stopped for hot chocolate & popcorn after about 30 minutes, but returned to this play several times before bed.  And yes, you will often find odd things like a couple of huge buckets of snow and ice on any random day of the week, but, this is us. :)  And we have a lot of fun!

doing the work of scientists

Let the experimenting begin!  We are conducting a series of experiments over the next few weeks and recording them all in our Polar Journals.  Today we made frost.

Step 1: crush the ice

even Snow White joined in

Step 2: wet a piece of paper, place the can of crushed ice on top, and add salt

Step 3: mix and wait

While we waited for our frost to form, we worked on an Arctic habitat mural.  We've been reading a lot about both the arctic and antarctica and the different animals that inhabit both areas.  Seven and Four agreed they wanted to make the arctic because more animals live there.  We used some materials we got at a local recycle shop, foil, cotton balls, felt, etc to create an Arctic mural.  I'll post pics of the finished piece soon!

even Beanie helped!

about 20 minutes later.....FROST!!!!!!  very cool!

icebergs, straight ahead!

Many moons ago, when I was an eager, spirited young student teacher, I created a thematic unit (a series of interconnected learning activities centered around a general topic) on the Arctic Regions.  It was my first public school teaching experience, and I loved everything about it--mostly that it made me realize how interconnected the experiences of teaching and learning are--can you teach, (I mean truly TEACH), without learning? how much richer is learning when one is also teaching?

Anyways, ironically, Seven asked me if we could do some homeschool stuff about polar animals because dear old Auntie Mel had lent him a book and he is now very interested in polar animals.  This is what I love--the learner leading the teacher.  And so, welcome to our Polar journey (nicely coinciding with winter!):

We experiemented with ice and water--what properties do they share? smell, color
What properties are different? temperature, shape, liquid/solid
The ice sculptures were so inviting, we took out our polar animals from Santa and enjoyed some dramatic play.  Through this play I could see both Four and Seven making connections between these particular animals and a habitat of ice, cold, and water--which grew deeper as the day wore on and ice melted to create an ocean.  Making such connections build a basic structure of understanding about the Arctic regions--climate, wildlife, and culture.

ice cave for the polar bear

walrus resting and sliding on an iceberg (new vocabulary)

the sundial
No exploration of the polar regions would be complete without delving into the earth's rotation of the sun, which led us to measuring time by the sun.  This was really fun and was daddy's idea:  we took an empty wrapping paper roll and taped it to the windowsill around 9:30am as the morning light was streaming into the living room.  We marked it's shadow with tape on the couch.  About 20 minutes later, Seven yelled out, "It moved!", and we marked the new shadow on the floor...and so on and so on with different lengths of intervals until about 11:30am.  We noticed how the shadow moved pretty quickly (it was about 3 minutes between the second and third tape mark!)  This was so fun, and remarkable, because so often, Seven will ask how long something is by holding his arms apart, "Is 10 minutes this long?  Is an hour this long?"  And I never know how to answer him, which is usually how I reply because I can't equate time in that way---but this did!  We actually got to see how far apart 10 minutes is!