Sunday 25 August 2019

Project 99: The Earth

The week's project was prompted by the Gaia artwork at Peterborough Cathedral. A huge rotating earth acting as a point of reflection about the fragility of the earth and how we are treating it.

We read and watched a wide range of videos about everything from the position of the earth in the solar system to its structure and climate change (a project touched upon previously in Project 72: The Climate).  Mostly, however, it was a week of practical activities.

The children did a craft project at the cathedral, painting their own globe, and visited again on an evening when it was lit up.

Gaia at Peterborough Cathedral
We also made our own globe at home with a balloon and some papier-mâché. Undoubtedly we are now ready to follow in Drake's footsteps! (See previous Project 94: Sir Francis Drake)

Papier-mâché Earth
Of course you can't do a project on the Earth without trying to improve things a little bit, and we bought Simple Acts to Save Our Planet: 500 Ways to Make a DifferenceUnfortunately we are a pretty green family anyway (no car, tumble dryer, and limit the meat), and the book had rather bizarre suggestions (e.g., buy a digital picture frame!), so there's wasn't much room for improvement, but we did at least go on a litter pick.

Litter Picking
We also watched a couple of classic environmental films: WALL-E (2008), and FernGully (1992). At the end of FernGully one of the characters says  "Guys, things have got to change". What's so depressing is that 27 years later, and in a week when the Amazon rainforest burning is in the news, so little has changed. Unfortunately it seems we are likely to have to revisit this topic many, many more times in the future. 

Next week's project: The Middle Ages.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Project 98: Doctor Dolittle

It was another hectic week of activities this week, so we picked a book as the basis of the week's project to ensure that the project work wasn't lost amongst the chaos! As the week was already including a trip to a 'mini-farm' we decided to read the classic The Story of Doctor Dolittle.

We bought the Alma Junior edition of the story, which also includes a nice multiple choice quiz at the back. It's a nice feature, and we will probably buy some more Alma Junior editions again in the future.
The Story of Doctor Dolittle
At the 'mini-farm' we asked the children how they thought the animals felt, and if they were the animals what noises they would make. There was a difference of opinion on how the animals would feel, with Monica thinking they would be happy because they were with their friends, and Solomon thinking they would be sad because they were locked up.
We watched the classic Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison, rather than the Eddie Murphy version, as it was closer to the spirit of the book, if not actually following the story itself. Despite being longer than most modern children's films (at 2 hr 32 mins), they've all enjoyed it.
Finally, the children made their own animal masks. Solomon chose a tiger, and Monica chose a rabbit.
Two rabbits and a tiger.
Next week's project: The Earth.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Project 97: Jobs, careers and vocations

As Solomon is always trying to come up with money making schemes, we tried to get the children to think a bit more this week about what they might like to do for when they get older, and the importance of different jobs.

We started the week by discussing some of the many different jobs that are available, from footballers and games designers, to bin men and priests. Rather than just thinking about how much the jobs would pay, or how much fun they would be, we got them to plot the jobs on a chart, with importance on the X axis and pay on the Y axis.  We also introduced the idea of them working for themselves, with the Usborne Business for Beginners
Job chart showing that pay and importance are uncorrelated!
When asked what they might like to do when they grow up both Monica and Solomon went for stereotypical choices: Solomon wants to be a computer games designer, and Monica wants to be a mummy.

Neither of their choices particularly lends themselves to a family excursion - but we nonetheless took them to a new soft play centre with a series of traditional shops for the sort of role-playing fun they always enjoy (see also Project 74: Royal Mail).
Jobs at the Soft Play
After watching some videos on the work of games designers, Monica and Solomon had to write a short composition on what they wanted to do and why. Despite our best efforts at suggesting alternative careers to Monica (and watching related videos), she nonetheless stuck to her guns on wanting to be a full time mum.

Based on Solomon's choice of career, it also seemed an appropriate project for introducing a new Nintendo Switch game: Super Mario Maker 2. This game allows users to design and share their own Super Mario levels, and share them online.  After a few initial efforts, where games were designed on-the-fly, we took our time to plan out a game in a bit more detail (and with pen and paper first) and our Mario maze was rewarded with our first 'like'.

Pipe Maze on Super Mario Maker 2
Next project: Doctor Dolittle

Sunday 4 August 2019

Project 96: The Fens

As our home town of Peterborough is also known as 'the Gateway to the Fens', the Fens seemed an appropriate project for a project - especially as there are plenty of museums to choose from in the Fens that we haven't visited yet.

We started the week by exploring the history of the fens, and how the area has changed over time with a number of videos . 

This was followed by some of the stories associated with the fens, most notable of which was the story of Hereward the Wake. Hereward's story was also told in a Horrible Histories episode, and Horrible Histories has quickly become the children's programme of choice.

Books with Stories of the Fens
We picked Ely Museum for our weekly excursion, as it has a few displays on the fens (and was also about to be closed for a year as it undergoes a refurbishment). It is a nice little museum, with plenty to do and see. 

Ely Museum at the Old Gaol
We followed our trip with a closer exploration of more recent fen life - from wildfowling and flooding to fen skating and bandy. That southern England has such a close connection with winter sports is one of the more surprising aspects of the fens.

Finally the children made their own eels from paper plates.
An eel in Jubilee Gardens, Ely, and some made from paper plates

Next week's project: jobs, careers, and vocations.