Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Van Gogh Self-Portrait - Art Project

My daughter recreated Van Gogh's self portrait using chalk pastels.

After visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, he became the favorite artist of my 7 year old. We have visited tons of museums, and she never really liked any of them. I think she liked the Van Gogh museum because it was filled with color. Upon leaving, she requested a book from the gift shop. Since she has never done this before and seemed genuinely interested in Van Gogh, we purchased a book.

All that's required for this project is a sheet of paper, chalk pastels and a picture of Van Gogh's self portrait. My daughter began with the face and continued to layer color down toward the beard and up toward the hair. She was careful not to mix the color, but to layer it.

This was a completely self-directed project and an example of a successful interest based education philosophy activity.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Math, Computers and a Spirit of Competition

Kids love to win. Well we all love to win. Analyzing the competition for many activities can be an excellent lesson in both math and computers.

For my kids, the competition was running. My daughter had a taste of victory and wanted more.

My son wanted victory too. So they both began training for a race. Each had very different methods of data tracking in preparation.

My son created a book to log his training. He used an iPod Mini and a run mapping program to track his time and distance which he recorded in his book.

The calculations were to predict how fast he could run 7 km, based on his time for running 4.44 km. He compared his projected time with races results of participants from the previous year. The funny thing is that he hasn't done this yet in math, but intuitively knows how.

My daughter downloaded race results from prior years to a spreadsheet, which she sorted by age, gender and time. She passed some information onto her brother and used the data to determine how fast she would need to run to receive a trophy, and how fast I would need to run to receive a trophy. Unfortunately, since she began her analysis, I have caught pneumonia and will not be able to compete in this particular race. I hope the kids achieve their goals, but either way, am tickled to see that running has inspired them to do a little math.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bottle Cap Wreath

My son made two bottle cap wreaths.

Around the age of 10 or 11 years old many children become collectors. For my daughter it was stamps. For my son it is bottle caps. It's actually a good math activity. He likes to sort his collection based on color and type. He counts his caps and makes designs too. So when I visited the local Belgium Bistro, which sells over 100 different kinds of beer, I asked for their caps. My son was thrilled with the variety of unique caps he received for his birthday.

Soon a few neighbors learned about his hobby and he began receiving special deliveries of bottle caps. It wasn't long before his collection grew out of control. With the caps piling up, I encouraged him to create something with his caps. After searching the internet, he decided to create a bottle cap wreath. Perfect!

 First he painted the styrofoam ring and selected bottle caps for the wreath.

Next, he began gluing them on with a hot glue gun.

It actually didn't take that long.

Once it was finished, he made a second wreath which he gave to our landlord's father, who supplied him with several Bitburger bottle caps. Notice all the caps face the same direction relative to the center of the ring.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sorting and Pattern Activity for Kids

We collected sea shells and made designs.

Sorting groups of objects into categories is a useful math skill. Once kids can sort they begin to create patterns. Continuing the expansion of these skills, the patterns are used in design. We used shells, but a variety of objects can be used; bottle caps, plastic lids, small cars, coins...... the possibilities are endless.

This pattern shows reflection symmetry and balance.

This one contains six lines of radial symmetry.

This is a chain type of patten which repeats.

Once we completed the activity, we collected many shells and plan to use hot glue to attach them to wooden boxes, picture frames and other objects.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rubber Band Loom - Helping Others

Now all the kids are creating objects with rubber band looms.

Spanning the ages of 7 to 13, both my girls and my son have been using rubber band looms non-stop. My 13 year old daughter loves crafts. Since the age of five she has been sewing, quilting and knitting. When my 7 year old began using her rubber band loom, I was surprised to find that my 13 year old also found it interesting. My son, on-the-other-hand, has never really gotten into crafts. Therefore it was even more surprising to find him creating with this loom.

Youtube is packed with project ideas and tutorials for rubber band looms.

My oldest, teaches piano lessons, so she decided to make a few treble clefs for her students.

Treble Clef Tutorial

Unfortunately, some of the tutorials my 7 year old tried ended in disaster. More than once her creations unraveled because she missed a step or made a mistake along the way.

Luckily however, my 13 year old is quickly becoming an expert. She has been able to correct her mistakes and save projects. Not only that, she has recommended easier projects which have been much more successful.

Present Tutorial

For more ideas to get kids crafting please visit my Arts and Crafts page.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Designing a Dance Routine - Math Patterns

We created mathematical patterns by choreographing dance routines.

Math is hiding everywhere. As a dance teacher I was responsible for determining how the dancers would move around the stage during a routine. From straight lines, to circles, to V's to multiple lines, the dancers needed to change positions multiple times, without bumping into each other, and in a way which was visually appealing to the audience. Although it sounds simple, in can be quite tricky moving from a straight line into a circle. In addition, groups with twelve dancers have many more symmetrical configuration possibilities than groups with other numbers.

Our group began with eight dancers, but the number was constantly being altered. At times one or two students were not able to dance in an appearance so the positions needed to change. Depending on who was missing, the changes could be barely noticed, to requiring one-half of the group to memorize new positions.

While I was working on my project, my seven year old daughter designed her own dance routine positions for her and her father. Then it occurred to me that this critical thinking and problem solving activity could be easily given as a project to children learning about patterns. There are so many possibilities of unique designs which can be created and shared.

In one of our groups there are seven children. Three are dressed like birds, one like an owl, two like bats and one like a baby bat. With this combination arranging the dancers in different positions creates different visual effects. For example, at one time the bats are in front and the birds are in back. At another time there are two small circles; one with birds and one with bats. At still another time the kids are arranged in a V. Putting the owl at the point, the birds on one leg and the bats on another leg let the owl be the boss during that portion of the dance.

Because we don't normally think of dance in terms of mathematics, it is surprising to many people how much math is involved. Participating in this type of dance is an excellent way to supplement math and pattern skills learned during school.

For more excellent ways to study math through dance please visit Math in Your Feet. The author is a dance teacher who hosts special hands-on math days at schools all around the country.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Self-Directed Education and the Rainbow Loom

My seven year old daughter saved money, purchased her own loom supplies, researched designs for bracelets and figures made with rubber bands and used her loom to create the designs.

Early in the fall we decided to follow a more interest based education philosophy. Although we no longer exclusively use the interest based education approach there are many benefits to the method. Among other skills, allowing children to follow their interests goes a long way towards developing executive function skills. Executive function skills are those such as time management, task initiation, self-regulation and priority management used by managers on a daily basis.

This project shows how this approach to education not only enhances traditional subject based skills, but executive function, all while allowing the child to lead the way, keeping motivation at a top level.

My daughter received a rainbow weaving kit for her birthday. Using the loom provided, small, colorful rubber bands are woven together to create bracelets and small figures suitable for keychains, Christmas ornaments, and necklaces. She explored the loom a little after receiving it, but her interest level rose sharply after visiting a friend which also had a loom.

Once she returned from her friend's house, she quickly used up her remaining supplies. Purchasing supplies is a lesson in executive function as well as money math. My seven year old has many money related lessons yet to learn. She rarely does housework, but she did manage to save enough to purchase more supplies for her loom. This lesson in executive function also hit home in the money management department.

With her new supplies ready to go, she quickly learned how to find tutorials on the internet. She watched and wove two new bracelets and then a fish and a flower. With each new item she created she selected colors to create repetitive patterns, counted out the appropriate number of bands and followed the directions to complete the project.

 This was quite an age appropriate, self-directed learning-experience. Stay tuned for more as we continue our journey into interest-based education.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

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