In February the subject was Brother-Bug’s choice. We went to the outer reaches of the stars. Actually we stuck pretty close to our galaxy, learning our planets and nearby constellations.
As always, we started with a list of questions and a pile of books from the library. We stayed more with space and never got to astronauts and space ships.
One major project was trying to impart the idea of scale. We gathered a basket ball, a quarter, a nickel, 2 popcorn kernels, 2 sesame seeds, and 2 poppy seeds. The basketball represented the sun, the quarter was Jupiter, the nickel was Saturn, the popcorns were Neptune and Uranus, the sesame seeds were Venus and Earth, and the poppy seeds were Mars and Mercury (if you want to include Pluto, use a grain of salt). I don’t know how well Brother-Bug understood the concept of scale, but I learned a lot! And it helped to put those planet names and sizes in our heads for the next project.
We used out dining room light as the sun, made planets of construction paper, and lined them up across the ceiling. I went for approximate scale – the little planet were little, on up in graduating sizes, using the previous project as a guide. I didn’t worry about orbits or distances between the planets. We put in the asteroid belt, and Brother-Bug got some great handwriting work done making the labels for each planet.
Using felt, ribbon, and a stick we made a mobile of the Andromeda constellation, reading the myth (I did a little on-the-fly editing to make it age-appropriate) while we worked. We talked about how constellations help us see the stars in patterns so we don’t get lost when we look up. We also talked about how people have told star stories as far back as we know, and constellations are one way we have saved those stories.
We read a bunch if books and watched some space documentaries, as well as The Magic School Bus space themed episodes. But the best project? We made a rocket ship.
A little cardboard, packing tape, and a box cutter, and soon we needn’t only read about the planets…we could travel to them!! Both kids spent the better part of many days in the rocket ship, traveling to various points in space. I listened to Brother-Bug attempt to instruct his sister in the science of counting down to Blast Off. Frequently I was informed that I was now really heavy and couldn’t jump because we had landed on Jupiter (as an example). The book that really aided is in this all encompassing imagination game was If You Decide to Go to The Moon by Faith McNulty and illustrated by Steven Kellogg. And kid with any interest in space would love this book.
Papa-Bug helped us explore some science fiction and space opera – some less violent episodes of Star Trek, as well as reading some select chapters of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to Brother-Bug. This furthered our discussion of star stories, and inspired one final project.
I recorded Brother-Bug telling me his own space adventure story. I recorded it, pausing the record to ask him questions when he got stuck. The result was a minute and twenty second story of A Trip to Saturn (the link is a cowbird story that includes the audio of the story).
This was a great unit. At the very least, I think I actually learned the order of the planets finally! And the imagination that was inspired was some of our best yet.
Here we are in May and I’m just posting February’s review! Yoikes! The pregnancy is slowing everything down and while we keep homeschooling (because how can we not? Learning seems to find us no matter what!) we are letting go of our formal units in favor of less stress. The summer is coming when we would take a break anyway and I want to spend more time out and enjoying. The Baby is coming in November, so we will certainly do some work around the Election, but mostly the fall will be spent in getting ready for our new being. I hope to be back to something a little more organized in January.
In March we explored Mammals (have you ever heard of a Numbat? I hadn’t.) and for April & May we are exploring herbalism and gardening, but we haven’t done a lot of easily reportable projects. I have been delighted to watch Brother-Bug take the lead and explore the topics in his own way. It’s given me lots of good ideas for the future as his educational needs grow and change.
And the lack of pictures… There are a bunch that I wanted to post and when I went to finish this post yesterday my computer, where the photos live, gave me the blue screen of death. My fingers are crossed. It’s pretty much all backed up, but we need to take an evening and really look at it.