Class Notes March 2, 2013

  In our study of Area we all drew a 12×12 grid in multicolored squares and also in whole numbers, with a bright diagonal dividing the square containing 1,4,9,16,25,36, and all the square numbers. Any shape we drew on one side of the diagonal could be matched exactly by matching the numbers on the opposite side; they were in perfect symmetry. Also the eternal nature of the different endings to each times table seemed compelling to the students: 24680,24680, 24680 forever for the 2’s, 48260,48260 for the 4’s, 62840,62840 for the 6’s, 86420,86420 for the 8’s, all the numbers for 1, 3, 7, 11 tables, and the perfect acending and descending 9’s. This was preparatory to our study of the Egyptian rope-stretchers and our staking out on the back field a 50 ft. by 50 ft. pyramid base. First we all did a careful architectural drawing on graph paper of the pyramid plan. Then we knotted rope, cord and twine every ten feet which took some time. Then we determined North South according to Egyptian custom, in honor of Ra, by using compass and protractor to pull  or ” stretch “a north/south line on our site.  Then, using our ropes, cord and twine we were able to stretch a baseline 90 degrees or perpendicular to our N/S line, using the 3-4-5 right triangle method employed by early Egyptian surveyors. Then after assesing the site for levelness we made the bold decision (imperative to any building project)  to set the first stake, our SW corner at a point on our baseline. Off this stake and baseline we once again employed , as a group, our ropes, cords and twines to pull a 30, 40, 50 ft right triangle and create a perpendicular to our baseline and stake; we then extended it to 50 ft. and drove in our NW corner stake. We’ll continue the stakeout next week.
   Our study of Egyptian mythology and the many gods they worshipped was followed by an extensive study of Egyptian culture, including Pharaoh as god, role of women, life of children, mummification techniques, the making of papyrus and hieroglyphics, the partition of land and taxes and meting out justice, (which connects to our rope-stretchers), the construction of the pyramids, their social, spiritual and political purposes, the evolution of pyramid design, and the use of the inclined plane and rollers (the wheel) in their construction.
   Because there was so much slave labor involved in these massive, monumental constructs, we sang and played “Let My People Go”. “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” seemed a good musical companion piece to that, and the children enjoyed singing and playing it. We’ve also been learning “Perky Nuthatch “, a piece I wrote some years ago about a nuthatch outside another classroom, which is a good precursor to our study of ornithology this spring. We’ve easily learned “The Unicorn is a Mythical Beast ” a quirky little march I wrote for the acting out of an ironic, absurd story by James Thurber, which I hope will be part of our June performance. We’ve been gathering and acting out stories and vignettes from many different cultures. That gives every child a chance to be something noteworthy in a piece. We’re starting to get a repertoire we think we can present. The children are always eager to get ” parts “.  Some kids want to be every big part, some want to be every small part. Having this montage and variety enables me to tone down certain kids and encourage others, a big part of the work as a teacher of a class; Yet I can still let the thespians shine and it will be fun for the audience as well. Any folks who have a proclivity for costumes and/or props that want to help, please let me know, because these things take time, and some students I see two days.
   I’ve given the children Geometry books, and we are going to move through Egypt to the Babylonians, through the Greeks, Pythagorus, Euclid, Archimedes et al, and on to Gauss and some others. With this in mind please make sure your student has a working compass of sufficient quality as we will be doing some proofs.
   Interesingly, the children are still compelled by Pip, and his adventures and trials, in Great Expectations, and ask for me to read it to them every snack and lunch period. In recitation we’ve  been working on “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, and “Sea Fever” by John Masefield. As we prepare for our drama work I’ll begin doing Greek dramatic exercises with the children, discus, javelin, wrestling, jumping used by ancient dramatists to sharpen specific skills of the actor.
   There are many other things to discuss but that’s enough for one missive. I’ll write again soon on other topics. Thanks again for being part of the Finnstitute.
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