Monday, 21 January 2019

Project 68: Birds of the world!

This week's project was dictated in part by a home education workshop on 'Winter Bird Watching and Bird Feeders' that was taking place at Ferry Meadows, the local country park. We have enjoyed a number of local wildlife projects previously(Project 20: Local Wildlife and BirdsProject 51: Pond Life, Project 57: Living things and their habitats), and it's always nice to have a bit more structure when exploring the local wildlife.

The work shop consisted of making some bird feeders, going on a bird spotting walk, and drawing some of the birds they could see.
Apple bird feeders
It's worth noting that the apple and seed bird feeders have not gone down as well as last year's fat balls!

After watching some videos about birds, the classification system,and Carl Linnaeus, as well as the birds episode of Attenborough's Life, we asked the children to pick an order of birds from the Animal encyclopaedia to learn more about and create their own artworks. Monica picked flamingos and Solomon picked parrots. They both loved videos of parrots talking, and we had to find them extra ones to watch.

Tissue paper flamingo and parrot
Unfortunately, the home education workshop on birds came a week before the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, so we do not yet know whether we will spot more than last year's "one measly pigeon", although the children are already looking forward to building their hide.

Next week's project: The Tudors.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Project 67: Trends and Fashions

Solomon suggested 'popularity' as this week's project; why some things are more popular than others. Building on this idea we looked at how trends and fashions change over time, considering the impact of usefulness and aesthetics, with particular attention to three areas: language, clothes and technology.

These days it is easy to see how language changes over time with tools like Google ngram viewer and Google Trends, and both Monica and Solomon enjoyed exploring the rise and fall of different terms in books and search engines.

Minecraft, Fortnite and Mario Odyssey
There are also plenty of resources for exploring changing fashions of clothes, from sticker books, stories, to plenty of online videos:
Surprisingly, Monica's book of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, also included the story of Coco Chanel and her little black dress. Surprising because there are a number of questions about the extent of Chanel's Nazi sympathies. Whilst the book promoted the freedom of the little black dress in comparison to earlier restrictive clothing, it also inadvertently formed the basis of a far more  pertinent message on fashion: you can be the most fashionable person in the world, but it's not worth a damn if you're a Nazi!

We also dug up a wide range of old and new technology from around the house to explore ideas of technological progress and convergence. Exploring everything from a box brownie camera and 3.5 inch floppy disks to a Sony walkman and Nokia 3310.

Based on fashion, transport or technology, Monica and Solomon were asked to suggest a future trend. Monica designed a 'moon hat', a hat which keeps your head dry without messing up your hair. Solomon designed the Fun-Travel-500 Car, with soft play areas and roof trampolines.
'Moon hat' and 'Fun-Travel-500'
Finally we finished the week by considering a couple of models for how we can think about trends and fashions with online simulators, exploring both the idea of contagion and Schelling's model of segregation. Solomon really took to exploring the simulators, especially Schelling's model, and explored the idea independently with his Bloxels kit, exploring how people might sort themselves into groups if there were more than two different types of people who wanted to live next to similar people. It was one of those moments when you could really see the advantage offered by home education: it is not merely that you can cover subjects that would never be introduced at school, but when a topic piques their interest they have the freedom to explore it as much or as little as they like.

Next week's project: Birds of the world!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Project 66: The Jungle Book

After the exhaustion of Christmas we wanted a more sedate project to start the New Year with, and decided to tackle another classic of literature The Jungle Book. 

The Jungle Book is a collection of short stories, of which the most famous are about Mowgli and have been made into films. As well as reading the three short stories about Mowgli in The Jungle Book, we watched both the classic 1967 animated film and Disney's 2016 CGI version. We decided against Netflix's Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle  because it is supposed to be a bit more violent, but also because three Jungle Book films in one week is probably a bit too much! Both Monica and Solomon preferred the cartoon version to the 2016 version.

To accompany the release of the 2016 version, Disney published activity worksheets as well as an educators' guide to The Jungle Book, with ideas for discussing the story, exploring characters, the ecology of the jungle, and creating your own story.

Monica and Solomon were given the task of creating their own characters, drawing a picture of them and coming up with their own story. Monica decided to create a story about a bat, and Solomon one about a cobra.
Monica's bat (flying in the top picture) and Solomon's cobra
Baghed and the Den by Solomon
Mowgli was in the trees to find some fruit to eat and also to find some sticks and bark to make a den with to sleep in as it was nearly night time. While he is building his den in the trees he sees an odd shaped branch, which he tries to pick up, but it turns out to be Baghed the Indian Cobra. Baghed doesn’t move. Then Mowgli sees a knot in the branch so he realises it is some kind of animal. He says, ‘Who are you?’
Baghed replies, ‘I am Baghed the lovely!’ 
Mowgli asks Baghed if he will act like a branch and be a wall in his den, as it is nearly dark and he needs to go to sleep.
Baghed says, ‘Yes, I will be part of your den.’
Mowgli settles down to sleep, then Baghed moves and the den collapses making Mowgli fall from the tree into a clump of stinging plants. 
Baghed whacks Mowgli with his tail to knock him out so that he can then eat him. 
Mowgli gets a stick to protect himself, and starts to whack Baghed. Baghed slithers off with a broken nose. Mowgli finishes rebuilding his den, and has a good night’s sleep.   
Mowgli and the Cave by Monica
Mowgli needs somewhere to sleep for the night, as he wanders along, he comes across a cave. The cave looks orangey, and is well sheltered from the rain.  Mowgli decides to go inside to take cover from the rain. Once inside he lies down to get some sleep. Bewkey the bat suddenly flies in through the cave entrance and sees Mowgli lying on the cold hard floor, so she decides to go and get some leaves to make a softer bed for him.
When Bewkey returns with the leaves, she accidentally wakes Mowgli up while trying to put the leaves under him. Mowgli is shocked, and tries to run away. But Bewkey catches up with him, and tells him she wants to help him. Mowgli explains he is trying to get back to his wolf family without running into Shere Khan the tiger. Bewkey uses her echolocation to help guide him through the dark jungle at night time, back to his home.  Bewkey decides to stay with Mowgli and the wolves for the night, and she often comes to visit Mowgli at night to make sure he is okay and bring him food. 

Working with the worksheets and the animal encyclopedia 
Next week's project: Trends and Fashions

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Project 65: Christmas and the New Year

Rather than trying to add an additional project to the hectic Christmas schedule we had a two-week project focusing on Christmas and the New Year. Unsurprisingly, this included many activities done previously (Project 12: Time and Calendars, Project 15: All about Christmas!). 

Once again we made Christmas cookies, taught the children about the nativity, why we celebrate Christmas, Christmas traditions, and how the story of Father Christmas has evolved from older traditions including that of Saint Nicholas. They went to the Christingle service at the Cathedral, the Peter Pan pantomime at the local theatre (see also Project 46: Peter Pan), and even tried to watch The Nutcracker ballet on the TV (although despite knowing the story the ballet didn't engage their attention in the same way as the Hansel and Gretel opera had (see Project 63: Fairy Tales and Folklore)).
Some Christmas 2018 activities
We also focused a bit more closely on the story of A Christmas Carol, reading the Usborne Young Reading Series version, and watching The Muppet Christmas Carol and the very accessible BBC documentary Charles Dickens and the Invention of Christmas

We watched a couple of videos on the months of the year, and discussed how the calendar had evolved over time and was based on lunar and solar cycles. It also gave their father the opportunity to have his annual rant on the arbitrary nature of January 1st as New Year's Day! 

Next week's project: The Jungle Book

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Project 64: Buildings and architecture.

Buildings and architecture was picked for this week's project to try to get the children to notice the buildings and history around them a bit more.

We introduced the concept of architecture and an architect with a short video from BBC Teach, before going on to look at the idea of listed buildings and some of those in the local area using information from Historic England.

We took the children on a walk around Peterborough to look at a range of houses from different historic periods, some of the features, and the different terminology (using Rice's Language of Buildings).
Some notable buildings in Peterborough
Both of the children were then tasked with designing their own buildings, both drawing the outside and plans of the inside. A 'plan' is quite an abstract concept for a 4 and 6 year old, so we worked through a plan of a floor in our own house first so they could get a feel for the idea.
Solomon's house and plans
Monica's house and plans

Next weeks' project: Christmas and New Year

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Project 63: Fairy tales and folklore

This week's project was a closer look at some fairy tales and folklore, exploring some of the elements of the fairy tale genre and how the stories have been told and re-told over the years. As such this week involved many more films than we'd usually watch (albeit usually accompanied by a version of the book).

As well as watching the films Shrek, Cinderella, and the Snow Queen, we also watched CBeebies presents The Snow Queen, and Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel:

Although we had expected to just introduce the Hansel and Gretel opera, thinking they'd quickly get bored of it, they actually loved it and happily watched the full two hours.

We got them to do more creative activities around the story of Little Red Riding Hood. They created their own collage of Little Red Riding Hood in the woods:
Little Red Riding Hood Collage
And after comparing three versions of Little Red Riding Hood, they had to write their own version.

Different versions of Little Red Riding Hood
The Alison Jay version is a horrible over-sanitised version of the story - with no one eaten and the wolf sent for re-education at the end - unsurprisingly Solomon and Monica went for the more traditional gobbling-up approach. In fact Solomon's had more than usual!
Solly’s Little Red Riding Hood
Once upon a time there lived a girl called Little Red Riding Hood who ran off into the woods to visit her grandmother. As she was walking along she saw something hiding in the trees, so she went to see what it was. But as she was walking towards it, it turned out to be a wolf that jumped out at her and gobbled her up. Then a woodcutter came and chopped the wolf up and out jumped Little Red Riding Hood, who continued walking to her grandmother’s house. 
When she got there Grandmother turned out to be a wolf who gobbled Little Red Riding Hood up, but then her father came and pulled the wolf’s head off. Out jumped Little Red Riding Hood who walked home with her father. 
On the way home another wolf jumped out and ate them both up.
The end. 
Monica’s Little Red Riding Hood
Once upon a time there lived a little girl who was called Little Red Riding Hood, and she went into the forest to visit her grandmother. She picked some flowers for her grandmother, and then a wolf jumped out and gobbled her up. But a woodcutter came and chopped up the wolf, and Little Red Riding Hood realised that it was her father and she hugged him. And then she carried on walking to her grandmother’s and she was overjoyed to see her grandmother. Then she went home and hugged her mother as well.
The end. 
Next week's project: Buildings and architecture.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Project 62: Money!

'Money' has been a long-standing item on the project to-do list, and as there was the opportunity for a couple of trips to London this week it seemed like a good time to do it.

We started the week by exploring coins, their attributes, and how they are made, making use of the good classroom resources from the Royal Mint museum. 

We had two museum trips this week: the Bank of England Museum, and the British Museum Money Gallery

The Bank of England museum was surprisingly engaging for young children when you consider the subject matter.
'At the helm' at the Bank of England Museum 
They particularly liked 'At the helm', a game where you sail a boat and try and keep inflation steady at 2%. Despite spending about 3 hrs in the museum they would have happily stayed longer! The Bank of England also has an app for exploring the security features of a banknote we used when we got home. 

The British Museum Money Gallery gives you more of an overview of the history of coins, from some of the earliest coins to modern credit cards and phones.
Money at the British Museum
They enjoyed looking at the money boxes, and the opportunity to explore some of the objects and ask questions at the 'hands on' desk.

We got the children to design their own commemorative 50p coins and nominate a scientist for the new £50 note (with help from the Usborne Junior Illustrated Science Dictionary). They decided to nominate Robert Hooke. 
Cinderella and Fortnite commemorative coins. 
Next week: Fairy tales and folklore