Friday, October 24, 2014

This week in immersive learning: Gloves on, Hands on

Proper fall enjoyment
This week we had a little mini trip, as I headed north for a circus conference, which let James and the kids spend some quality time with his folks.  They spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the New England-ish autumn.

This visit also meant Calliope had ample time to explore what is still novel in her life experience: STAIRS!

I get the impression that James spent a significant portion of the day spotting this kid on the stairs.
Since this trip was just a few weeks shy of a certain little lady's birthday, her grandparents decided to throw her a mini birthday party before we left so that they could celebrate with her!

Let the celebrations begin!
Calliope was a little confused by it all, but seemed to really enjoy it anyway.

Yeye helps her to figure out "two" on her fingers
Back home again, we headed out to some new trails with the 4H group.  This time we headed to a little island with a few different trails.  After starting down a long, meandering trail, we turned back and opted for a shorter, muddier, woodsier trail that would allow us to go in a full loop around a little outcropping off the island.  Some of the older kids lapped the grown ups and smaller kids twice.

I think one of those tiny white dots might be a heron...
Along the way, we found this gross, rotten carcass of a fish.  It is not every day you come across something like this and everyone was pretty fascinated to actually be able to see some detailed, if disgusting, anatomy outside of a textbook.  (though admittedly, some of it, er, fell out when disturbed.)

Handle with care and gloves...or a stick.

from the underside

found some pretty polka-dotted berries
The kids have also begun working with a new violin teacher, and it seems to be going quite well.  Even Puy, our notoriously picky-about-humans kitty, seems to really love her.

She really appreciates Hazel's enthusiasm for writing her own music, and teaches her form that angle, which is FABULOUS.  Hazel is much more engaged when she feels like things are happening on her terms.

Cadence catching up on some reading while it's Hazel's turn
We also tackled some of our planned projects this week.  We gloved-and-smocked up for some tie-dyeing!  This is the first step in our plan to make dresses.  Starting with large, adult sized shirts, we experimented with how to twist, tie, and bind them with the rubber bands, and then moved on to the fun part.  Colors!  We had great fun discovering how the colors would (or wouldn't!) mix, and how the order of application mattered to the final result.  Everyone got good and (actually not TOO) messy for this one.

painting with squeeze bottles is remarkably fun
Once everyone was satisfied with their color combos, we wrapped them tightly in plastic and left them to set.

the waiting game
We also finished our Bat project, which we had started a while back but took a break from after some frustration.

The first step was to do a bunch of research about bats, and what their important characteristics are.  Obviously the wings are important - and iconic. But what else?  Well, since bats use echolocation to navigate, we determined that the ears much be very important, too, so we knew we wanted to include them.  The kids decided the feet were important to include as well, since they use them whenever they are at rest!

After designing a rough sketch of what they wanted the bat to look like, it was time to start sculpting. We constructed our bat out of a black wire which is usually used in jewelry creation. It was slightly unwieldy to work with, but it was thick enough to hold its shape surprisingly well and still pliable enough for little hands to manipulate, which was just about perfect.    First, the head (including the all important ears, and then the body, wings, and feet.

I've also been having the kids do some of their own documentation...a little blurry, but definitely taking shape!

bat taking shape!
Cadence consults the reference material to tweak the design and make sure it looked right.
Next was the fun (and certainly not anatomically accurate) part: installing purple and orange LED lights to make it glow!
Hazel wrapping the wire in lights

Hard at work!
Now came the tricky part:  giving our bat substance without distorting the shape or making it too heavy.  Black tulle seemed to be just the thing for the job!  Being careful not to pull it too tight and distort our bat shape, we wrapped the tulle around the wire to fill in the interior space.

round and round and round it goes...
Once that was done, it was time to hang it up!  I was a little worried that, with everything put together and then suspended from a few points, gravity would overwhelm the shape and it would become a deformed lump of a bat, but thankfully our strategic choice of suspension points and construction seemed to be sound, and the bat is flying without issue!

Hazel sitting proudly with the completed bat.
I forgot to take a picture of this before it was hung, but the kids also decided that, since the idea that all bats are blind is a myth, they wanted to give out bat a proper set of giant googly eyes...
The bat is currently keeping watch over the yard...while we fold laundry.

So we definitely encountered some dirty situations and some great hands-on work this week...not too shabby!