Friday, April 18, 2014

Our Name Is Mud

     Creativity is both encouraged and admired at our school.  We are blessed to have one family that seems to have really gotten an extra amount of artistic creativity, and they are always bringing in something new to interest or amaze me.  This one was was in the amazement category.

Over the weekend they began making letters out of mud.  They each brought in one letter for morning “science” time.  (Yes, God made mud.) And at morning break they brought in all the other letters.  Wonderfully creative.  Wonderfully brotherly/sisterly.   Brownie points for creativity. 



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Making a Cody War Kite

Yes, I am still nonresistant.  It’s just called a Cody War Kite because a man named Samuel Cody built this kite in France back in the early 1900s.  It was designed so well that it could lift two men up in a basket, and the British used it for reconnaissance during the World War I.  

Ever since we had our “Kite Day” as part of our February Fun Days, my son has been researching kites.  So it was we found this kite design and decided to make one.  I figured it cost around $12 for the wooden dowels, string, painter’s drop cloth and glue sticks.  It took a few hours, but it was well worth it.  

        We drove to the edge of town where there are no buildings to block the wind.  My older son held the string and I hoisted it up into the air.  What happened next was a beautiful thing.  The kite took off immediately and soared through the air.  We were elated.  It is an amazing thing to actually make a kite that flies.  Four neighborhood boys and one of their little sisters came over to ask us about it.  The eight of us were out at the ball field at sunset on a blustery spring evening, flying a homemade kite, and students were out flying it the next day at school.  It created some good memories.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Return of the Turbo Snail

After our lunch break one day, I walked into the orange room (as we call it) ready to teach the 3rd-6th grade science class.  As usual, I gave them ten seconds to tidy up their desks, put a few books away, make a trip to the trash can, and to have only their science books open on their desks, ready to pay full attention to whatever lesson we were about to tackle that day.  
       Then I noticed a school supply box open on one student’s desk.   A little perturbed, I instructed him to put it away.  
“But it’s my snail’s playground,” he asserted.  
“What?” I asked, half crazed, my frustration mounting.
“See; here is his ramp, and this is his island,” he excitedly replied.
I had to go over for a closer look; my intrigue was now mounting and the frustration was waning just a little.
Sure enough, there on his desk, was a snail playground.  This privileged snail had two play areas --both filled with water--, a ramp, an island, as well as dinosaurs and pumpkins with which he could play, if snails do play, that is.  
I complimented him on his creativity, and then reminded him that this was science class, and that he wasn’t supposed to have water at, or in reality, splashed all over his desk and the floor.  At least this time the Turbo Snail didn’t have to pull a wagon and work; I suppose he had earned a little break.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shenandoah Institute of Music and Art

          Our family has spent the last two summers at SIMA, the Shenandoah Institute of Music and Art.   It is a wonderful little Mennonite school where teachers, music leaders and anyone interested in learning more about music and its "nuts and bolts" can learn music theory, conducting, and history, all in an  Anabaptist environment with an emphasis on using music to worship our Lord and Savior.  College credit is given for most of the classes.  There is a new website to make donations to help fund this program at . 
The SIMA 2013 staff from left to right:  Joe Ebersole, Wendell Glick, Rosemary Eberly, Dwilyn Beiler, and Jeff Swanson.

We have fun too.  This was a special Asian evening, complete with a kamikazee chef.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Eating Science

I try to do as many of the experiments from our science books as I can.  The one for the “solid-liquid-gas” lesson was to pour heavy cream into a large jar, shake it for ten minutes, and make butter.  We read the steps and looked at the picture, but that wasn’t enough.  We needed to do it to get the real effect.  
I have a large bin I keep in the room. (Yes, in the room.  I know, it is ugly and gets in the way.  But I have all my science “stuff” in there, and it comes in awfully handy.) I got a Ball jar with a lid out of the bin, and had a student give me a sticky note.  I wrote “CREAM” on the note and stuck it to the top of my clipboard.  My clipboard usually makes it home with me, unless I lose it, and I usually glance at it and remember to bring whatever it is that I need to school the next day.  I did.
We poured the cream into the jar and I let the 5th and 6th graders take turns shaking it as we went over the science lesson the next day.  We would stop and check it every five minutes.  After about twenty minutes, we had butter.  I had another student bring me a sticky note.  This time I wrote “CRACKERS” on it.  This note did make it to my clipboard, but not home.  So, we just left our jar of butter in the fridge, and the next day, after I remembered, we smeared our very own “homemade” butter on crackers and ate it.  I did get a little concerned when one of the students asked if the jar we had used was the same one that my son had used when he brought in acorns which were full of worms.  I assured them that it wasn’t -- I didn’t think it was anyway.  Surely not?  
So, it was very yummy, and they all got the “solid-liquid-gas” concept right on the test.  Doing activities and experiments is better than just reading about them.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Snakes on the Ceiling


     Ok, I admit it, I love to hang things from the ceiling.  But I have good, educational reasons, you see.  The fruit is part of our “Fruit of the Spirit” theme.  The fiesta flowers just got left up after the Mexico part of the honor roll party, and then we added the snakes.
We were studying the weather patterns in science and how warm air rises.  To demonstrate this, I had them all draw and then cut out snakes from construction paper.  Then we added a string to the head.  Next I brought in a space heater.  Each student got to hold his or her snake over the space heater and watch how the warm air rising made their snake spin around.  Then I got a ladder and we hung them from the ceiling.  

I liked all the decorations, so I just left them up there.   A mentally stimulating environment is way better than a stale, plain, boring one any day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Quill Pens and Blueberries


         While learning about Colonial America, we read a story on the printing of the Martyr’s Mirror at the Ephrata Cloister.  In the midst of printing the huge book, they ran out of ink.  After experimenting with all sorts of concoctions, they ended up using a mixture of poke berries, charcoal, flaxseed oil, and a few other strange ingredients.  It worked, and a few copies of those books are still around and the print can still be easily read. 
           As the curriculum suggested, we decided to make our own ink and use quills for pens.  (We use Living History Threads from Christian Learning Resources and it is wonderful!)
I brought in smashed blueberries in a zip-lock baggie and strong tea with corn starch in another container.  (Both “recipes” are in the curriculum.)  The students really enjoyed it.  A few took their pens home and experimented some more, and many of them taped their quills onto the ends of their real pens.  Learning about history is fun; experiencing it is even better.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Goin' Batty

      We haven’t had a student bring in a bat in about three years, but this week, we got another bat.  Evidently, it was sleeping near a garage door, and when the garage door was opened, the bat fell to the ground.  The students and their dad ran and got it, then put it in a box.  When it arrived at school, we all thought it might be dead.

     We all looked at it during morning “science” time.  They really are darling, cute little things, except for those gross claws on the ends of their elbow-things.  The German word for them is “fledermaus”, which means “flying mouse”.   It was still alive, so we put it in a safer container with a lid and lots of holes on the top, and put him, or her, in a dark place to recuperate.

      That evening we remembered that that we’d forgotten poor Mr. Bat at school.  Being compassionate, our family all piled in the van and drove back to get him.  He was doing very well.   He liked the little drink of water we gave him and even looked a little mad.  He was ready to get out of there.  We tried to get a good picture of him (which we didn’t, obviously), and then let him go.  It was amazing how quickly his sonar worked.  As soon as the lid was off, he took off into the dark night.  
Good-bye Mr. Bat.  
Enjoy Rosebud.  
Stay away from garage doors.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Texas History Projects

         Every other year I teach Texas History to our 7th and 8th graders.  At the end of the year I have them complete a project which portrays some aspect of Texas History we’ve studied this year.   The students did a fantastic job.

This year’s projects included

 the  Alamo made with real rocks, pillars, and wooden doors,
a sod house and ranch,


an Indian scene with real leather teepees,

a log cabin and ranch, 

and a folder with paintings of all six of the flags which have flown over Texas.   

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Incas and Quippas

        We’ve been studying ancient civilizations in our social studies class, and I just couldn't  help but want to make these quippas after we’d read about them while studying the Incas.  The Incan empire covered thousands of miles, much of it down the western coast of South America.  They didn’t have a system of writing, but they did have sticks and ropes.  They would use different colored strings and a system of knots to communicate.  I had a wonderful teacher back in elementary school -- I wish I could remember her name and thank her! -- and I wanted my students to enjoy making these as I had when I was about their age.  It felt, just for a tiny second, like I was an Inca too.  Experiencing a bit of history is a fabulous thing.