Thursday, August 21, 2014

Color Poems

We created color poems.

Last April during National Poetry Month Powol Packets hosted a poetry competition and each day of the month partner bloggers wrote about various poetry topics. Anna, a former teacher at The Measured Mom had a great idea for writing color poems with children. Although her idea was targeted at pre-schoolers, it worked so well that inspired my 7, 10 and 12 year old kids.

Before introducing The Measured Mom's technique, we read the poem Yellow from April Bubbles Chocolate, an ABC of Poetry. It is one of my favorite books of poetry to read with the kids because they can relate to the short poems and like the illustrations.

Yellow by David McCord
Green is go,
and red is stop,
and yellow is peaches with cream on top.

Earth is brown,
and blue is sky;
yellow looks well on a butterfly.

Clouds are white,
black, pink, or mocha;
yellow's a dish of tapioca.

Since my kids are a little older and always want to do things their own way, we didn't follow the instructions exactly.

First we picked a color and brainstormed items associated with the color. Then we thought about interesting descriptive words as suggested by The Measured Mom. In addition to this, we discussed adding alliteration, rhyme and/or rhythm to the color poems to make them even more interesting.

In total between the four of us seven poems were written. Here are some of the results.

Colors by my 7 year old daughter
White as eggs,
Yellow shoes,
Red tomatoes,
Pink balloons.

Green grass,
Blue Skies,
Purple grapes,
Orange butterfly.

Pink by my 12 year old daughter
Pretty pink pigs, cherry blossoms,
Rose quartz, strawberry quark,
but not opossoms

Wiggely, squiggely worms
Flippant flamingoes
Corals bursting with life along sunny ocean coves

Luscious light lillies,
Bubbly bubble gum,
Pearl the hedge hog, butterflies, and a dogwood blossum

Yellow by my 10 year old son
Juicy pineapple,
Jerky yellow squash,
Yellow is also sun so hot

Yellow caution, danger to go,
Butter is so nice and oily - yo!
Yellow, yellow, is more pretty than not

Vanilla the hedge hog is yellowish too

Pineapple, yellow squash and more -
Do not slam the yellow door!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Op Art for Kids

We created optical illusion artwork.

Op art is abstract art work that appears to contain movement, or plays tricks on the eye.

After watching this 5 minute tutorial on creating an Op Art picture, we tried it ourselves.

First circles and other simple shapes were lightly sketched on a sheet of paper.

Next the shapes were filled with curved lines which followed the shape of the object, and the background was filled with a grid.

Two complimentary colors were used to fill in the paper by alternating the colors.

The smaller the grid the longer it takes to color the paper. For young kids, a one inch grid is perfect.

I love the way the circles jump out of the paper and appear like balls.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Make Your Own Remote Control Car

We built our own remote control car.

Hands-on toys that teach are my favorites. My son enjoys building toys, but has always preferred gadgets with moving parts. 

The Thames & Kosmos Remote Control Machines kit comes with parts to build several remote control machines. Gears are one fundamental component in many mechanical devices, and the literature that comes with the kit begins with hands-on activities that teach the basics of gears.

When one gear makes another gear spin, the number of times the driver gear goes around in a circle compared with the number of times the other gear goes in a circle is called the gear ratio. The gear ratio is related to the number of teeth on both gears. Since the gears in this kit all have teeth which are multiples of 10 (10, 20, 30 and 40). Gear ratios are easy to predict and calculate.

It is possible to place too many gears in contact with each other so that they will not spin and will be locked in position.

One of the tutorials instructed the gears to be assembled as shown above. Then it asked the question "What is the gear ratio between the yellow driver gear on the bottom to the yellow driver gear on the top.

I assembled this particular model and wouldn't let my son touch it before giving me a prediction. The smile on his face when he found the gears to be locked was priceless:)

The complexity of the contraptions increase throughout the book. Although building the basic remote control car took less than 30 minutes and was a good learning experience, it did not impress my son. It could go forwards and backwards, but it could not turn........ not nearly as cool as the car he received for Christmas.

The second remote control car was much better. It could turn in circles as well as move forward and backward.

Machine number three was a crane. This model took a few hours to assemble, and was a definite hit. It could move forward and backward, and the lifting arm both rotated and lifted. Very cool.

We are looking forward to the remaining five more complex machines and then exploring more independently. In addition to the remote control machine kit, Thames and Kosmos also sells a physics workshop, an air and water power kit, a wind power kit and a few others. If the others are as good as this one they will become birthday/Christmas gifts in the future.

What mechanical/engineering kits and toys do your children enjoy? I'm especially interested to hear if any of you have used the programmable Legos? What kits/models do you recommend?

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ocean Current Activity for Kids

Earth Science Unit Study

Week 24: We poured water with varying densities and temperatures together to determine which was the heaviest.

Surface Currents
When we visited the ocean in Portugal, there was a significant amount of trash on the beach and we wondered where it came from. Upon returning the book Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Scientists in the Field Series) provided the answer. When tennis shoes were continuously washed up along the Pacific coast of Washington, one scientist set off in search to discover where they were coming from. He happened to have extensive knowledge of ocean currents, which greatly aided his quest.

As it turns out, the shoes were spilled from a container ship about eight months earlier. This book explains how ocean surface currents work, and how scientists have "Tracked Trash" around the world to learn more about currents.

Did you know that there is an area in the Pacific Ocean filled with floating plastic that is as big as the state of Alaska? It wasn't discovered until the 2000's and scientists are studying its growth and toxic effects. Some of the trash comes from container ships, but much more is thought to have originated on land and arrived by flowing down rivers and streams into the sea. Check out this video and article from the Weather Channel to see how Hawaii is affected by plastic trash.

The trash is all moved by surface currents swirling around in the ocean. Their existence has been known for centuries as they have been used to aid navigation. Like rivers on land they can and do change their course. The Northern Hemisphere contains two main gyres which spin clockwise, and the Southern Hemisphere contains three counter-clockwise spinning gyres. Where the gyres meet, the water traps debris in a never-ending loop thousands of miles across.

Deep Circulation Currents
In addition to the gyres which circulate water on the surface, the ocean contains deep circulation currents which move the water between varying ocean depths. When water freezes at the poles, the remaining water contains more salt and therefore is more dense. As the water increases in density it sinks.

The move Atlas 4D, Hawaii linked below is primarily about Hawaii, but since Hawaii is surrounded by water it includes lots of information about the sea. We watched it as part of this unit study for its outstanding visuals and explanations of deep circulation currents.

Water Density Experiment
Once we had a good understanding of surface currents and deep sea currents, we did an experiment to determine what types of water sink and what types move to the top following Ocean Current Activity - Video Directions.
 One tablespoon of salt and yellow food coloring was added to one glass of water. A second glass of water was heated up and colored red. A third glass was chilled and colored with blue food coloring.

 Next, a tub was filled one-third full with room temperature water. The salt water was gently poured into the tub.

 Since it was more dense, it sank to the bottom.

 Next, warm water was added.

 It was less dense than the room temperature water and therefor settled on top.

When the cold water was added, it should have settled below the room temperature water just above the salt water, but it wasn't very cold and didn't seem to work well.

 So we repeated the experiment with only the warm and cold water which seemed to work better.

If the cold water was given a longer amount of time to cool down I think this experiment would have worked better originally and we wouldn't have had to repeat the process.

The book Tracking Trash is one of the best science books I read. If you're studying oceans or Earth science I highly recommend it.

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Canterbury Tales for Kids

Middle Ages Unit Study
Week 23: We created skits to retell Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

To pass the time during their journey to the Canterbury Cathedral, a group of pilgrims took turns telling stories. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote them down and they are some of the most well known tales of the middle ages.

Geoffrey Chaucer, the great English poet, was a story teller who was daring and innovative. He wrote in English although it was much more fashionable to write in French during his time. His poems popularized the use of Royal Rhyme. Each contained 10 syllables per line with rhyming words at the end of each line to the pattern a,b,a,b,b,c. 

Most of his stories have adult themes and so reviewing them before reading them to children is a good idea. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales by Marcia Williams is a good version of Chaucer for young children. Canterbury Tales Publisher: HarperCollins by Barbara Cohen is a good version for older elementary or middle school aged children.

Animated Canterbury Tales - Again, probably not the best video for young children, but I enjoyed the animated version of some of the Canterbury Tales.

After reading the stories in the Marcia Williams version the kids retold the stories by creating skits.

The Summoner's Tale
When the Friar begs the local residents for money, Thomas becomes annoyed. He tells the Friar he has a gift for him that he is sitting on. It turns out to be an enormous fart.

The Pardoner's Tale
In the Pardoner's Tale, as three men are looking for death they find some money. In their greed to each claim the prize for themselves they all end up dying.

The Wife of Bath's Tale
 In The Wife of Bath's Tale a knight is given one year to find out what women want most.

It's not gold, money or love....... they want to rule over their husbands.

The tales are funny and crude. Study with caution. These kids had a blast.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Porto, Portugal - Things to Do and See

We took a weekend vacation to Porto, Portugal.

Porto is a city famous for its wine. The mild climate along the Atlantic coast and convenient access to shipping enabled the industry to flourish and is a main export.

Prince Henry the Navigator
Prince Henry the Navigator lived in Porto about 30 years before Columbus sailed across the Atlantic. Since Prince Henry did much to support exploration Columbus first requested aid from Portugal for his voyages. Unfortunately, for him, Prince Henry had been gone for several decades and the new government leaders weren't so excited about Columbus' ideas. There is a nice statue dedicated to Henry the Navigator just outside the Palacio de Bolsa in the historic area of Porto.

Igreja do Carmo 

Ingreja do Carmo was built in the 18th century.

The exterior was covered with a tiled panel.

The interior was richly carved and decorated with gold which is a characteristic of baroque/rococo architecture.

Se Cathedral
The Se Cathedral was built over the course of many years during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and located on the top of the hill overlooking the historic district of Porto.

Since construction began during the Romanesque period, the exterior is Romanesque which is characterized by the small windows, thick walls and decorative rose window.

But, since construction continued into the 13th century, flying buttress technology was used to extend the height of the cathedral and give support to the roof.

The interior was redone during the baroque period and therefor contains lots of richly gilded carving.

Camera Municipal de Porto
A little ways back from the river front is Porto's main square. Pretty much every city bus and tourist bus stops in this square so it won't be missed.

 The richly carved dominating building at the end of the square is Porto's city building.

Although the building was constructed during the 1900's the caryatid columns are reminiscent of Ancient Greek architecture.

Everybody has heard of the Eiffel Tower, but did you know Eiffel designed bridges too? Porto contains two bridges with ties to Eiffel. One was designed by Eiffel and another by a student of his.

Both can be seen by walking on the waterfront paths or by taking a boat tour.

Outdoor cafes line the waterfront.

Street performers also make the waterfront their base. My daughter stepped up for a very close look to determine whether or not this statue was real.

Prague by far has the most elaborate sidewalks my feet have seen, but Porto's were also very nice. Several contained black and white mosaic designs.

Tiled Facade
From a distance the tiled facade covering the houses and buildings in Porto is beautiful. The tiles are certainly a unique feature of southern architecture.

Up close the designs vary with the layout of the tiles and are interesting to look at. Unfortunately, many of them are in a state of disrepair and could use some TLC.

Portugal contains lots of waterfront on the Atlantic and Porto lies along the coast. The beaches are a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

They contained quite large sand grains and some beautiful rock outcroppings.

Spending time at the beach was a welcome change to long walks around the city enjoying the architecture.

Final Thoughts
Porto is an interesting city to visit. Although the distance from the beach to the historical district is only about 6 km, it can easily take 1.5 hours of travel time on public transportation. The city is quite spread out and hilly. The curvy streets make it a difficult place to navigate. If you're planning a visit and are interested in architecture, stay in the historic district, take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and bring your walking shoes.

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