Perhaps your child has already regailed you with “Pinnately-lobed,
Pinnately-compound”, our song about leaf shapes in our study of
trees. We’ve learned tree shapes, leaf shapes, alternate, opposite ,
whorled, parts of a leaf, and began to explore inside and out on the
grounds, the more prevalent tree families in our area. Next we’ll look
into each family for their familiar and non-familiar members. They’ve
all done beautiful, careful botanical drawings in their Botany books.
We’ve been working with pastels, first in free-form
drawings/paintings and then “au plein air”, outside, using the trees
in our hedgerows as models. In this way we’ve added a heart and warmth
element to our study of trees.
In geometric movement in the big room, we overlapped two pentagons
and pentagrams to make decagons and decagrams which we drew up in our
books with rulers. How difficult that is; and how they’ll welcome
using Pythagorus’ proof for creating a pentagon with a compass. Later
we went back to the big room using overlapping equilateral triangles,
three children in each to create a twelve sided polygon
which the children slowly began to realize was the numbers on the face
of a clock.
It was interesting that we ended our last bloc on Hindu Mythology
with the visit of a Hindu-based group who were doing a four day silent
meditation at the FOL building.. The woman preparing their wonderful
meals shared some Indian food and dessert with any children in our
class who wanted to try it. She also corrected our pronuncition of
Pandu, Draupadi and Durodhana, all characters in the stories we were
reading at the time. They loved her pronunciation. We had full use of
our classroom but were asked to be quiet in the hall; the children
were remarkably considerate.
The class asked to try three-part rounds on the recorder, and did a
wonderful job; now they’re including three-part singing as well as
recorder. They’re becoming very adept at picking up many of the songs
we sing and use on the recorder, and becoming more relaxed and
comfortable with them as a means of expression and focus.
In Physics we’ve been continuing experiments in Air Pressure and
Air Streams and writing them up, with diagrams, in our Experiment
In Recitation we’ve been expanding our repertoire and adding
seasonal verse, but also memorizing some pieces for performance at a
winter festival perhaps.
In music we’ve worked on set pieces as a group, on whichever
intruments, melodic or percussive, each child enjoyed. “Shady Grove”,
“Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies” and other folk tunes have been a solid and
pleasant place to begin.
We’ve played the game Borderline, which sharpens the students’
sense of which states border which, and which bodies of water border
which states. Sock Pickle, (which they love), Snake in the Grass, Pruie and Devils
and Frogs are just a few of the games we’ve been playing.
On Wednesdays we worked on concrete and abstract nouns, compound
and collective nouns, and experimented with Probability exercises. We
played a kind of hybrid tennis volleyball game in the big room and
their skills sharpened rapidly. We enjoyed our afternoon trips to the
Cornell Plantations and the Lab of Ornithology.
In Hindu Mythology, the story of the king Baghira who gave up all
worldy goods and became a holy hermit in the woods, gave us an
opportunity to study some Zoology. Baghira, in the wilderness, was in
the presence of so many fierce and dangerous animals and yet remained
unscathed. So in our drawing we’re including and studying the Indian
Elephant, the Indian Rhinocerous, the Bengal Tiger, the King Cobra,
the Mongoose, the Boa Constrictor, the Sloth Bear and
others. On the mythical, artistic side of that story, we’ve been
looking at some ancient Hindu tapestries, paintings and sculptures to
find an authentic representation of Brahma for our drawing. We’ve also
heard Indra and the Giants, (which made for a great scene in the play
we did at Stone Circle years ago) and Indra Slays the Dragon.
The Drawings the children are doing in their Main Lesson Books are
careful, beautiful and dynamic; and when I ask them to add a little
more here or there not one of them whines or winges, but calmly gets
back to work.
In Science we began to write up our experiments in a more concise,
summarizing format, and draw diagrams. We wrote these up in our
practice notebooks and then transferred them to our Science Experiment
books. Having done this practice method once, we will hereafter write
up experiments in our Experiment book as we go.
We did experiments involving Lift, Blowing out Candles with air
streams and vacuum, and the Candle Seesaw.
In Creative Writing we played the Parts of Speech sentence game
which the children loved. In another class, I gave them the thought,
” I’m lost; I can’t find the path…” for a writing exercise. Forty
minutes later all the students were quietly and thoughtfully writing.
( I thought I had died and gone to teacher heaven! ). Then they
volunteered, on their own, to read their stories to the class if they
wished to. They were all so individual. We didn’t worry about spelling
which freed them to right, rite, write. But next week I’ll start a
vocabulary page so we can work on that most arbitrary and
ideosyncratic of language skills.
In Poetry and Recitation we continued to work with “Windy Nights”
and “To see a world” but added Emily Dickinson’s ” I’m Nobody “,
“Smart,” and ” Pie Problem ” by Shel Silverstein. We also practiced
stepping out iambic pentameter and other meters using parts of Byron
In Reading during snack and lunch, we’ve been reading from Zlateh
the Goat, by Isaac Bashevis Singer, “the Mixed-up Feet”, “Chelm
Snow”, and finished “The Ransom of Red Chief ” by O Henry.
In Math we worked on some number square conundrums and clock-face
teasers. Next week we’ll do more pure number study and number
relationships. We tried working with compasses on an optics project,
with mixed results; next week we’ll work artistically first and then
geometrically, to get everybody comfortable and enjoying the skills.
In Drama we played “The Chelm Goat Mystery ” with great enthusiasm
in the big room, rotating parts and performing it a number of times.
In Music the children’s recorder playing is steadily improving and
becoming ensemble-ready which is remarkable for the short time we’ve
had together. We’ve started playing “Morning Has Come” in round form
already, but only because they feel comfortable trying it. In Musical
jamming we’ve had fun improvising or playing along with student’s
rhythms, melodies and songs on various percussion instruments, violins, viola, banjo and recorders.
Some of the games we’ve added to our repertoire these last weeks
are: Punchinello, Pruie, Stations, and Mushpot. If you’re curious, ask
your children to explain.
We’ll see you all on the Finnstitute Trail…
Eurythmic movement contracting and simultaneously expanding the two alternate squares and crosses of the octagon, the two alternate pentagons and pentagrams of the decagon, moving in big space, with each other; after the initial teenage distaste, they move beautifully, accurately, gracefully, these geometric and organic patterns across the floor. Then to bring this physical knowledge, this spatial knowledge to the page, to draw these shapes and movements, was something quite different from an intellectual or abstract lesson. ( But they did not want to perform this for their parents! )
Do you know the 36 countries of North America and the chief rivers and lakes? And the capitals? Or how about our neighbors to the south in South America, all 14 countries and capitals and waterways? Neither did we, but we’ve spent some time learning them; and unscrambling some animal scrambles on birds, reptiles and mammals of North and South America. We learned about compass roses and designed our own, and the Northern and Southern, Eastern and Western Hemispheres. We saw how latitude divides the globe north and south in Degrees and Minutes, and how longitude divides the globe east and west, also in degrees and minutes. We had a lively discussion about the equator at zero degrees latitude, and the Prime Meridian at zero degrees longitude. The fact that the day changed either side of the Dateline caused quite a stir.
We’ve been studying Matter, and quizzing about what we’ve learned and discussing animatedly the basic principles, or more correctly, the properties of matter; the specific properties which show the differences in objects, and the general properties which show the commonalities in all objects. We took our time learning about the four general properties of Matter: Mass, Weight, Volume, and Density; how Density never changes unless matter is added to or taken away from an object; how weight changes dependent upon location and relation to other objects and the gravity that exists between objects; how volume is the space an object occupies, and how Density is the Mass per unit of volume. We looked at the Density of various common materials. We talked about the density of water, how ice was less dense, and why icebergs floated mostly below the surface. We discussed the unsinkable Titanic and how, once the air in the giant ship was replaced with water, the density of the vessel became greater than 1 g and- down it went.
We had a wonderful trip to Myers Point park, and practiced the cooperative vicissitudes of paddling canoes, why they float, why the canoe turns left when you paddle on the right. The children swam, ate, played on the playground; we discussed the remarkable case of the twin Friars from St. Bonaventure University, who were born the same day and died the same day 92 years later, both of heart attacks – we discussed Nature vs. Nurture.
We studied the woodcuts of some Expressionist masters and cut pieces of pine and started our own woodcuts, and the children worked with great enthusiasm and warmth (and safely!). I went to the Johnson Art Museum after class today, and found some woodcuts from the 1600’s, so we’ll take a short excursion there tomorrow, to see the work of the Masters.
Thanks to the parents who helped on our trip to Cornell plantations. We further studied the botany of the new wildflowers, and studied tree shapes and leaf patterns, which took our classroom study into the splendor of nature. Thanks also for the help transporting kids to our property the last two Wednesday afternoons. The children have worked hard on their forts, built a sturdy picnic table and worked on the site, sawing, raking and constructing to help make our sleep-over successful. We stopped at Danby Pond on our way to the property, and we talked about the unique and remarkable feature of that small body of water. I’ve never found the exact location but there is a water divide in that pond, and the water in the south end of the pond heads south through marshes and streams into Catatonk Creek, south into the Susquehanna River, then further south emptying into the Chesapeake Bay, and finally the Ocean. The water at the north end of the pond goes north into Buttermilk Creek, pouring over Buttermilk Falls ( of which it is the source ), north on the inlet,then north on Cayuga Lake and on through the locks into Lake Ontario, the northeast up into the St. Lawrence Seaway and out into the Ocean – The same ocean but almost a thousand miles apart!! all from the same pond in Danby.
With the current historic and tragic tornadoes hitting Missouri and neighboring states, the description given was the Midwest. I looked into some atlases and geography textbooks and found a more descriptive and useful grouping of states. New England, Mid Atlantic, North East Central, North West Central, Southern Atlantic, South East Central, South West Central, Mountain, and Pacific Regions, all bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, the Gulf of Mexico, the Appalachian Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, The Sierra Nevada and Coastal, Ranges, and the Pacific Ocean. We studied these regions and the three to eight states in each. We all agreed how geographically-sensible these divisions were and worked on memorizing them for a quiz ( as well as the state capitals ).
All of the children contributed five spelling words to a list of 70 words, which we studied and quizzed twice. We also been wrestling with a wonderful collection of Geometric Puzzlers which necessitated reviewing Area calculations,Pi,the Pythagorean Theorem, and other formulas.
We’ve been enjoying Devils and Frogs, a Japanese game; we’ve also been playing some New Games, developed by Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth folks in the sixties, like Hunker Hawser, Smaug’s Jewels, Go Tag, etc. Most of the students are finishing or have finished their woodwork projects, after extensive sanding and three or four coats of food-safe butcher’s wax finish.