Dear Parents, Each morning we are welcomed onto our Play Garden by the smells of our fruit trees blooming, the crisp, clean and heavenly smell of citrus to be~ orange, tangerine and lemon blossoms! Each day at snack, we give thanks to this beautiful Earth we share, for our family and our friends, and all the gifts therein. The smiles of these children melt hearts, and the hands of these children have been busy stitching their inner light into beautiful outer manifestations of this love they carry!!
For Valentine's Day, we made Magic Fairy Wands in the shape of bright and uplifting hearts atop branches from our sea grape tree. Beginning in January, the children chose their fabric and thread, listening for the colors that called to them, and hand picking tiny beads and buttons. Next they skillfully sewed them onto their fabric, using an embroidery circle for support. One by one, throughout the month of February, each child took a turn sewing on the laps of teachers each day. For some, they would sit for three stitches and then be ready to return to their play. For another, it might be many minutes of good conversation or perhaps some perfect and much needed silence together, all the while our hands working together to connect one of the long edges of fabric. Next, with tiny fingers, we filled the hearts with soft, soft, wool and glued each one to the sea grape wand that they chose. There is much to take in and to learn in sewing, the shape of the needle, the eye and the point, how to hold it carefully between thumb and forefinger so as not to poke oneself, to find the place in the seam that matches the last stitch just so, and the surrender that happens, be it the gentle out breath, the stillness in a good snuggle, the creating itself or the magic of fiber arts. Either way, Magic Fairy Wands, though held with the lightest of touches, are not to be taken lightly!
Around to the gardens, where the true fairies dwell, we have been busy watering, planting, and experiencing the gifts that nature has to share. We planted new flowers in our garden beds, bringing color and life to our Play Garden, and good dirt to our hands and clothes. Especially notable in the Mangrove gardens are our many milkweed plants, thanks to our extraordinary gardening teacher, Ms. Jessica! These special plants have given abundant new life to the monarch butterflies that fly through Sarasota on their long, arcing migration, as they are the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs! It is beyond magical to witness the concurrent cycles of life, as young children delight in monarch butterflies flying all around them, their feather light wings gently carried on the breezes, all the while awing in the miraculous birth of tens of baby monarch caterpillars~ which in a matter of days are no longer babies but big, chubby, and quite active caterpillars who have eaten every leaf of their milkweed plant!
On our Valentine's theme, we could not help but make handmade heart~shaped soap alongside the kindergarten, crushing lavender and grinding the oats in our grain mill, and finally sending it home with a note: "I was soapin' you'd be my Valentine!" May the spirit of love and kindness, good humor and playfulness fill your hearts always! Thank you for entrusting us with your precious children. It is a joy and an honor to share our days and this beautiful world with them! Blessings, Ms. Shivani and Ms. Jamie
Sandpiper VPK and Starfish Kindergarten
Dear Starfish-and Sandpiper Parents, The month of February was a short one and flew by, but still, we were busy. Your children enjoyed our circle-time, where we pretended to be little gnomes who take care of all the bulbs and the seeds that are now popping out of the ground. We understand that Mother Earth keeps the little plants tucked in her warm lap until it is time for them to "...see, what the beautiful outside world might be."
"Sunlight warm on wintry earth, calling plants to come to birth, lifting their leaves to the world above, unfolding their blossoms, in light and love." This is one little poem from our February circle. Your children are able to recite it and do the hand gestures with it. Maybe you want to ask them to teach you. :)
Rudolf Steiner tells us that to study a plant, it needs to be seen in relation to the earth -- circle time is in a way the same. You can not look at it in isolation, but must see it in relation to the whole. What is happening in outer nature with plants and animals and also what is our relationship to nature through the seasons? What is the mood and what tasks are related to the different times of the year. The circle is a microcosm of the life of the Kindergarten, which in turn is a microcosm of life. It should be a time of joy and serenity -- serenity in the sense of underlying peace and security.
We have started working on a very simple but cute board-game that the children are slowly getting introduced to. Two children at a time. We will create a full game for each child to take home, so you will be able to play with her/him. The creation of this will be done by all of us together.
Also, the children enjoyed a presentation by Ms. Kalin of "Hana Matsuri", a Japanese holiday where people celebrate the daughters. The particular song for this day is beautiful (music card that played the instrumental version), and so the children wanted to hear it again and again. Thank you so much for this enrichment, dear Ms. Kalin!
Last but not least, we have been working one on one with your children on finger chaining. They are able to make a treasure pouch holder with some help and are very proud of their accomplishment. These handwork basics grow into real abilities in the grades, where the children master the technique of knitting socks or crocheting. Then a real knowledge can shine forth.
Wishing you all a happy spring beginning! With much love, Ms. Birte and Ms. Kalin
The first Grade has been having fun with vowels. We have learned how to write them, the different sounds they make and where they can appear in words. The children have especially liked hearing the stories that go with each letter. After hearing the stories, we have been exploring the characters, and the events of the story. We ask questions about what happened and why. There is a time for opinions about the stories and we have learned that there is abeginning of a story, a middle and an end. We write each vowel in our main lesson book and then draw a picture on the opposite page from the story. The last week of February we started doing word families. The word families have been AF,AP, and AR so far. We will be doing allnthe word families until the end of the year. This is our start to reading sight words and we have been building words and sentences that the we can recognize from these word families.
Math games have still been a favorite and we practice when we can. Whether it is walking and counting cracks or doing subtraction and addition with everyday situations we are strengthening our mental math capabilities. Throwing the bean bag to skip counting for 2,3,5, and 10s or touching our opposite hand to knees as we count it is all fun and games as we learn. In our main lesson books we are now writing all the numbers from 1-100. So far we are up to 60. We are learning to make our own lines in the main lesson books and creating a neat and careful list of numbers.
For our story/drawing time after snack, we have started the book called The Trumpet of the Swan. It is the story of a swan named Louis who can’t speak and what he does to help rectify this situation with the help of some friends. So far, he has had some interesting adventures involving learning to read and write, and becoming a trumpet player at a Summer camp. We really look forward to hearing what other situations Louis gets involved in.
Three days a week, for about 10 minutes, we practice the pentatonic flute. We have been working on scales with only the left hand and have been improving enough to start learning the song “Hot Cross Buns”. We will be singing it first and then playing it on the flute. Learning how to move our fingers individually has been a challenge and we have been copying Ms. Laura as she does it.
Painting has been fun and we have been working with more colors. Some of them have been : Prussian Blue, Lemon Yellow, Golden Yellow, Ultramarine, and Vermillion. We start with one color around the edges and then work with other colors to fill in certain spots on the paper. We have learned how to use more water on our paper when it’s dry, use the brush in different ways to achieve more paint or less and to keep the paint from spreading too much or too little.
Handwork is one of our favorite classes and we love to sit in our circle to begin handwork with our verse, “Guide my hands, left and right, As I work, With all my might!” When we are done we say” Pinky finger, mister thumb, Now our lesson time is done!” Currently, we are knitting and have learned to cast on. We are knitting anywhere from 10 to 20 cast on stitches. We will knit a square and then this will become a cat with a little sewing and wool stuffing.
We have been enjoying our specialty with Ms Jessica(French, Gardening and Forest Friday), Ms. Natalie( Meditation) and Ms. Stephanie(Cooking). In Gardening we have planted sunflower seeds and was able to take them home. We also planted catnip, watered the garden and enjoyed helping to keep it looking good and healthy. Ms. Stephanie helped us make some wonderful cookies that we enjoyed very much. They were vegan and had oats in them. Thank you to all our speciality teachers.
The events to round out our month was the Chinese New Year Luncheon complete with a dragon courtesy of the 6/7th grade and delicious food. Thank you to the Saltneadow who does our community lunches and snowcones. They are the highlight of our week! We celebrated Joya’s birthday and found out all about her as a baby and the years before she came to Mangrove School. Fruit was served on skewers and it was delicious. Thank you Jennifer and Bryan! The update would not be complete without a mention of our Valentine’s Day exchange. It was fun to paint and decorate boxes we brought from home. On Valentine’s Day we sat in a circle and each person gave out their valentines that they brought in for each child. It was so much fun and everyone was so generous to their friends. As you can see it was an exciting February. We look forward to another exciting month! Best wishes, Ms. Laura
Best wishes, Ms. Laura
The second graders are learning to read! They are very excited to be reading the words they have written as well as reading simple books. They look forward to walking near the school looking for words, sharing with the class their discoveries outside of school and especially our word games. They have discovered that listening is an important part of reading also, and love using their chalkboards to spell words that we have worked with. In addition to sight words, there are always a few more difficult additions for children who are excited by the challenge. Reading from books is a marvelous thing, but reading from nature and all that surrounds us is what will inspire the children throughout their lives, it will help them reach a deeper meaning and surround them with comprehension beyond words on a page. Learning to read can be an arduous task for some children, the second grader is up to just such a journey!
The children have also have busy making addition trees in their books. We practice addition facts up to 12 everyday, as mental math practice, with counting beads as well as dice, and other active math games. The second graders are enjoying mastering their flutes. They know several songs now, and can competently play together as a group, as well as individually. Also as part of playing the flutes means cleaning them and oiling them occasionally, and always using care when handling them, which the children take great pride in.
Most of the children have completed knitting their flute cases now and have move on to individual projects, including animals, gifts for family members or clothing items. They have enjoyed knitting outside with the beautiful weather.
The third graders have finished the unit on The Creation Story and we have moved on to shelters and dwellings where we focus on how, where, and in what kinds of structures people have lived in throughout the years. We have also done a lot of work with long vowels, contractions, and constructing sentences. We've worked on recognizing the difference between to, two and too, and we've been reading Planet Earth II which describes the different ecosystems of the world and its biodiversity. The third graders play games such as Boggle, they create crazy sentences with vocabulary words and play word puzzle games. In math, we've been focusing on counting money and solving multiplication problems.
During February grades 4 and 5 wrapped up their first block of Ancient Civilizations with a study of the myths of Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians were fortunate to have the beautiful River Nile beginning its journey one thousand miles away in high snow-capped mountains and travel through desert to the sea. For about one month a year this river overflows its banks and floods the country. It was here that Egyptians sowed their crops in the rich soil left behind by the rushing waters of the melting snow. The people of Egypt worshipped the Sun God, Ra, whom they believed guided the sun across the sky as well as made the River Nile. Ra wanted the Egyptian people to be taught the right way to live, so he sent the God Osiris and Goddess Isis to live as human beings on earth and teach the people all they needed to learn.
After playing music for and sharing great wisdom with the tribes of people, Osiris and Isis became their king and queen and ruled for quite some time. People began building houses with mud bricks on top of hillocks so their homes would not be flooded. The people learned how to plant wheat, barley and grow flax. Isis showed how to spin and weave flax into linen to make clothing. Osiris taught the people how to dig canals from the river into the fields to nourish even more crops. Papyrus was taken from the swamps, made into paper, and the King showed the people how to write on it using hieroglyphics.
While the people learned and thrived under the rule of the wise leaders, the jealousy of Set, the brother of Osiris, grew. Set’s armies clashed with those of Osiris until Set requested a banquet to celebrate an end of the fighting. Through great trickery, Osiris found himself trapped in a chest that happened to fit him perfectly. The chest was thrown into the Nile, and the people were defeated.
Shortly after, Isis, who escaped Set’s trickery, gave birth to baby Horus. Time passed and Horus grew up under the protection of many in Egypt. One night Osiris came to Horus in his dream and shared that he had become the great judge of all human souls. On a great set of scales the heart of each person was weighed. Those people who were selfish and untruthful had hearts that weighed little, while those who were kind, generous and truthful had hearts of great weight. Those who were of virtuous nature then dwelled with the gods in the heavens. Osiris also told him to take up arms and free Egypt from the tyrant Set. Horus formed a great army, defeated Set, and became the king of Egypt.
Although Egyptians knew that people had to die, they still wished to preserve the body even after death for as long as possible. Thus bodies were embalmed and made into mummies. While concluding this block we spent time studying how and why the pyramids were built. Students will take on the challenge of building pyramids during Kite Day on the eighth of March.
Under the guidance of Miss Liz, the 4th and 5th grade class adapted and performed Alice in Wonderland at the end of the month. Students took the lead in all aspects of the process, truly learning the immense amount of attention to detail and teamwork necessary to put on a play. After this marvelous success, they are now on to their next project that will be shared later this spring.
We look forward to our next blocks of Geometry and North American Geography as we move into March. Be well, Mr. Jon
February brought us more growth and opportunity! We continued our Age of Exploration block through the biographies of several explorers. Biography helps the students connect to these individuals, their challenges, and their triumphs. Stepping into their lives, getting a sense of their perspectives, brings feeling into their study of history. We saw similar themes among them, for example, a strong desire to leave all that is familiar, a quest for power, and confronting treacherous journeys. We also focused on the physical and cultural geography of their destinations, to come to an understanding of the challenges that lie before them after making landfall.
We began with the physical geography of the world’s 4th largest continent, highlighted by its rich biodiversity, from the perspective of three major regions - mountains, river basins, and coastal plains. For example, we found dry desert biome of a coastal plain meeting the alpine biome of the Andes mountains, then followed its most famous river basin, the Amazon, a tropical rainforest, then head south to the Parana river basin, which is a vast grassland.
We spent a considerable amount of time looking at the Andes, the longest mountain range in the world, covering almost the entire length of the west coast, with many peaks higher than 15,000 feet. Rich in metals, the Andes are an incredible resource and a huge draw for explorers. We learned about the regions of the Andean volcanic belt, how it was formed, and current studies regarding active volcanoes, for example the Lagund de Maule field in Chile.
Next we explored the three major river basins of the continent - the Amazon, The Orinoco, and the Paraná. The students enjoyed guessing the quantities and qualities of the vast size, force, and diversity of the Amazon. For example, at 2.7 million square miles, it is the largest watershed in the world. Fed by tributaries from glaciers of the Andes and flowing west to east into the Atlantic Ocean, the river empties 7,381,000 cubic feet of freshwater per second. The life force of the tropical rainforest, it has as many as 100 different species on a single acre. Perfectly suited for arboreal species, it also has more than 2 million species of insects native to the region. A haven to primates, snakes, iguanas, and thousands of native of native birds. We then did a visualization exercise to imagine what it would be like to explore this region.
The Orinoco is north of the Amazon, and is a very different biome, a grassland, home to many birds, and the river home to piranha, electric eel and the Orinoco crocodile. The Parana, south of the Amazon, supplies water to another plains biome, the Pampas, which has rich, fertile soil for grazing and cropland.
The coastal plains present a different environment, in Northeastern Brazil, they are extremely dry and the highlands push the sea winds away, and then in the West, in Peru and Chile, they are extremely dry due to being trapped between cold Peru Current and the Andes. Here we find the Atacama desert, the driest region in the world, containing very few plants, even bacteria and insects are scarce.
We also looked at it in terms of climate, as well as natural resources. South America contains - tropical, temperate, arid and cold regions. We investigated the types of plants that could be grown as part of its economy - for example in the tropical region we found cacao, coffee, avocado, pineapple, papaya, guava and brazil nuts. In the temperate regions we found completely different crops as well as grazing animals, and in arid regions there are irrigated crops. Where we find colder climates, such as the higher elevation of the Andes we find potatoes, and we learned about the history of the native species. We also found many grazing animals such as alpacas and llamas. We also learned about the other resources of the continent, such as mining, forestry, and fisheries. We also discussed the economic versus ethical implications of resources and their depletion.
After gaining an understanding for the turgid, diverse terrain, we began to think about the indigenous people who inhabited this land, as well as those who still do; what has survived. We investigated life in the Andes, both historically as well as currently, and then in the Amazon. From the Andes the students got a sense of the isolation of mountain life, and learned about the quechuan language that still is in use today. The students wrote where they would prefer to have lived, along with the importance of rainforest preservation. From these perspectives they gained a good understanding of the draw of the continent, as well as the difficulty the explorers faced upon arrival. After it became known that Columbus had landed on a new continent, people became much more keen to to set out and seek fortune in new, unknown lands. One great sea-captain, Magellan, of Portugal, for many years sailed around Africa to India on the spice trade. Based on this experience, he thought perhaps he could sail west, around South America, to get to India, for at that point no one knew where there was a cape around which one could sail. Having sailed around the cape of Africa many times, he thought that America must have a similar cape. His idea was dismissed by the King of Portugal, but after being shown a globe Magellan had created himself, the King of Spain agreed to finance the trip, beguiled by the promise of more gold from America as well as the spices of India. The first circumnavigation of the globe by a sailing ship was an astonishing event to most in 1522, but he had not conceived a voyage around the world, rather, by westward navigation he expected to reach the Spice Islands. Once again in the history of discovery, the difference in what an explorer expected and what was found enriched and enlightened humanity astronomically.
Magellan set out in August of 1519, crossing the Atlantic in gale after gale. They rested in Brazil's east coast after 2 months of storm tossed seas. They then sailed further south to search for the promised cape that would allow them to sail further west. It became bitterly cold the further south they got, snow storms and howling winds tossing them about, thus they went ashore to spend the winter on land. The ships were unreliable, the crew was wild and unruly, and they needed to ration food. The desolate shore had no signs of life and there was no food other than what was stored on the ship. Finally the weather broke and after a week along the coast, a channel was revealed that would allow them navigate through rocky shore west to America. They met natives on their journey, which were detailed in crew journals, shared with the class. Through dense fog, rain and storm over 5 weeks, they successfully reached a wide calm sea, which they called the Pacific Ocean. They rejoiced to leave the passage, now called the Strait of Magellan, after the navigator who first passed through it, their joy was short lived however, as they sailed northwest in hope to replenish their food on an island. Magellan could not guess how large the ocean was; their food was now desperately low. Rats were eaten, disease broke out, many men died. After an attempted ambush by natives, Magellan's crew was able to thwart the attack and then plunder their boat of food: coconuts, fresh fruit, sugar cane, and fresh water. The next group of islands they came to Magellan named the Philippines in honor of the King of Spain’s son; he was received well by one chief, and they became friendly. This chief was also at war with a neighboring island and Magellan offered to help. On their surge he was wounded by a native and then killed by an entire mob of natives, thus not completing his journey. In the end, only 18 of the original 265 men returned to spain, having circumnavigated the globe, on the Victoria captained by Del Cano. Its most precious cargo was the information carried in the memories and journals of the eighteen survivors' observations and interpretations of their experience, which opened the eyes of Europeans to an entirely new cultural world.
At this time, men were not only ready to set across the ocean but to penetrate deeper into this new world. On the eastern coast they met hunter nomads, but no cities or treasures, but from here they heard of cities and temples lined with gold in the west, and their longing for gold compelled them to disregard all danger on this quest. They crossed jungle, mountains, rivers, encountering wild animals, savage tribes, all on their search. These men were called conquistadors, and although hundreds of these men failed, those who succeeded became rich beyond their expectations. The most famous conquistador was Pizarro, who was incredibly courageous but terribly cruel. In 1530 on a failed expedition in South America, he came upon evidence of a rich and culturally advanced society in Peru called the Inca. Other Spaniards had heard of them before but were deterred by the treacherous mountain peaks of the Andes, or the dense jungle. Yet Pizarro, once a poor swine herd, with no education, at the age of 50 was fueled by the challenge and persuaded another soldier who could help finance the trip to partner with him. He was able to convince the king of Spain for control of the conquered land, thus in 1529 he set off with 180 men towards South America. They met no savage tribes on their trip, who could have easily wiped them out, but upon arrival in Peru they found tens of thousands of Incan army. Yet the conquistadors were able to settle in an abandoned camp with no interference. The Incas in fact watched them with awe and amazement, having never seen white men before, clad in gleaming metal, and riding wild monsters we call horses. The conquistadors were just as astonished by the great city the Incas had built. The towers and palaces were built from enormous stone blocks cut so precisely a piece of paper could not fit between them. Their huge cities had paved roads, plumbing, and hot water. The King of the empire was considered a god on earth, and he did not fear this small band of conquistadors, he was simply curious about them, meeting them earnestly without reservation. Unfortunately, upon meeting, after an attempt at Christianity conversion, the king was captured and the Incas, ambushed. Despite being grossly outnumbered, the Incas could not meet the iron swords of the conquistadors. Pizarro would offer Athualpa a chance at freedom for a great ransom in which the Inca would fill three rooms with gold, silver and precious gems totaling 90 million dollars in today's money. The king was surprised by their demand for gold, as the Incas did not find it valuable. The works of art were destroyed by the Incas in order to melt down the gold to be easily divided among the conquerors.
Despite meeting the conquistadors demand, King Athualpa was killed publicly. From the Incas perspective, these men who killed their god must also be a god, thus they obeyed blindly. It wasn't so much the weapoos that gave the Spaniards the upper hand, but rather their mindset. The Incas lived in a higher regulated society where they were used to being told what to do and when to do it. They didn’t need to think for themselves, they listened to their king; once he was gone, they had nothing to fight for. The Spanish of course were motivated to fight for themselves regardless, as they seeked their payout. Pizarro became governor of this new colony, as promised by the King of Spain. Of course, he was a tyrant, and his rule did not last long. He killed his expedition partner, after a falling out over their shared plunder, but this death was avenged by the partner’s son, who in turn killed Pizarro. Despite this, the gold from Peru made its way back to Spain making it the richest nation in Europe.
This journey to Peru also included another conquistador, Desoto; he bitterly left the expedition in 1535 after being denied governorship of Cuzco by Pizarro. He returned to Spain and married, then in 1537 met with the Emperor Charles V and impressed him with his tales from the Indies. Charles would later approve De Soto's request to conquer and govern a portion of the New World, a place they had named La Florida. De Soto departed Spain, traveling first to Cuba where he would claim his title of Governor and begin forming his expedition to La Florida. The following year De Soto departed Havana and sailed for a bay on Florida's west coast, not far from where we live, in Sarasota, which we learned about in our Local Geography block in 4th grade.
We also began our Physics block; this year we aim to grasp their attention, engage their feeling, and stimulate their curiosity, as to how phenomena work. “How?” is the essential question of Physics this year. Through demonstrations, investigations, and activities we seek to foster the ability to make observations and draw conclusions, based not only what we experienced, but our previous knowledge and observations as well. This year we also add in the process of quantifying and measuring, which assists them in objectivity, and helps refine their studies. For example, we explored the basic elements of sound last year, this year we began with intervals, which helps them to understand the mathematical relationship between pitches.
We began our study by learning musical intervals of the c scale by ear. By listening to the intervals, the students develop discrimination. To assist them, we used modern or well known songs for each interval. For example, for the octave interval they could easily remember as the “Somewhere…” to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. We chose to focus on the ones that are the easiest to recognize - prime, octave, fifth, and fourth, at first, then adding the major third, major sixth, and finally the major second and the major seventh. After getting a feel for the sound we began to focus on the relative consonance or dissonance, which requires them to form judgments. Although there were some debates about the 3rd-6th, most would agree that the 2nd and 7th sounded quite dissonant. We also spoke of the mood these elicited as well: “What would be happening in the movie right now if you hear this?” This helped them to agree, as they closed their eyes and described what they felt.
Next we looked at the consonance in relationship to mathematical ratios. We used both a rented cello, as well as a ukulele we had on hand to test this out. After playing the open string, I asked the students to see if they could predict where they would press down on the string to create the octave. Then they measured the distances and recorded what fraction of the string produces the octave. We compared our fractions and found that they were both about ½. Then they repeated this for the fifth, fourth, major third, major sixth, major second, and major seventh intervals. We found that also the instruments varied greatly in size, the ratios were very similar. We also found that the simpler ratios belonged to those that were more consonant, which was actually attributed to Pythagoras long ago. Afterwards we spoke about the implications of this, which includes more astonishingly, when putting all of our thought into this, that since relative consonance set a mood or evokes an emotion, then math could accurately predict our emotional responses!!!
Next we used columns of air in the form of graduated cylinders to see if the same intervals would hold true as of the string instruments, by blowing across the top of first an empty cylinder, then filling an identical one with the amount of water that creates the correct ratio for the column of air in relation to the string of the cello or ukulele. Some of these were easier to hear than others, but for the most part we found the ratios to hold true for “wind instruments” as well.
After intervals we approached the topic of resonance, by having a student hold a bottle to their ear while I blowed into a second identical bottle in front of them. They found that they could hear the note in the bottle held up to their ear. Next they all took various bottle of different sizes, and held them to their ears to listen for sounds as I played the piano. Some were delighted to hear their bottle produce a note, others were frustrated it didn’t work for them. Then I struck a tuning fork and placed it on a box with an open side. I had students put their ears to the box. By stimulating their curiosity they were eager to figure out what was happening, and how it worked. I left them to do their own investigations with these materials so they could come up with the principle on their own. They of course understood that sound was causing another object to sound, but it took some time with the bottle and piano to figure out how it actually worked. Then they understood the resonance in terms of correspondence in frequency. With multiple pendulums we saw the mechanical model of this phenomena. The students were delighted to see what would happen as we varied pendulum lengths or the distance between pendulums. We also explored sympathetic vibrations using musical instruments.
Our next unit was optics, or light, which was primarily working with images. In an effort to support them to formulate their observations precisely, we began with a simple activity with our first concept - reflection. By casting a light on various materials, for example - a black piece of paper, a pane of glass, crumpled tin foil, etc, they were able to objectively state that light can be reflected. Next we narrowed our study to what can can reflect light well enough for an image to be seen. Then they examined the pane of glass further and tried pairing it with different materials to see how they influenced its reflective power. They observed crumpled versus smooth aluminum foil, to see the difference in reflection. Next they were ready to analyze the relationship between an object and its reflection. By observing a candle reflected in a pane of glass in a darkened room they could place an unlit candle behind the glass where the reflection appeared to be, and the distances were the same. They also thought it was a “pretty cool” illusion. We did something similar with a plan mirror, where one could place an object in front of the mirror, then place an identical object behind the mirror where its reflection appeared to be. Then, by walking around the side of the mirror, they could see the reflection and the second object seemed to be one. These types of activities compel them to want to work with the materials and deepen their understanding.
Then we looked at how the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. This is another very simple activity to begin with. By using a large mirror in front of the class the students were able to describe who they saw. Those in front of the mirror saw themselves, but those on the ends of the rows did not, but rather saw their cohorts on the other side of the room. They were able to easily illustrate this concept in their book, express the law of the mirror, as well as make predictions based on this experience. How wonderful to have something so constant and object when so much of their lives seems so very subjective!
But what about something more abstract? I gave them the following to predict: If I placed a small tube of doterra touch in front of a mirror in a darkened room, then lit a candle behind it, what would I see in the mirror? They drew what the suspected in their books, then we darkened the room to observe the shadow. This was another revelatory moment for them, having studied shadows last year both in physics as well as drawing, to see the way a shadow behaves in a mirror, with much mystery. Our last investigation regarding reflection specifically tasked them with drawing a six pointed star in a circle (easy, right?) There was a catch however…they needed to connect the point while looking at its image in the mirror, not their paper. Much harder! They also practiced being reflections of each other, and tracing a drawing being reflected through a pane of glass.
After our brief study of reflection the students had a chance to study images, those created by curved mirrors and lenses. By looking at various images, both real and virtual, they can gain an understanding of the properties of convex and concave lenses. Virtual images exist only in our own eyes, whereas real images can be projected onto a surface. This alone raises questions about reality! By studying these images they are able to see the laws behind many observations they may have already made. We first made a simple lens using a round glass, looking at various found items from nature at Crowley. Then we used a magnifying glass, as well as different convex and concave lenses, varying the distance to the object as wella s to our eyes. They were able to come up with some general rules for how they behave, as well as make predictions about the types of lenses they may use, based on these observations. Next they used a lens to direct sunlight onto a thin piece of paper. Finally they used a convex lense to project an image of our classroom windows onto the opposite wall, then use other lenses to see the change in the size of the image and the distance from the wall change. Through these investigations and the discussions that followed the students were able to get a sense of the laws that govern the way a light travels as it passes through a lens. This also served as a recall for how our eyes see, from Human Physiology.
Next we studied curved mirrors, which create both real and virtual images, the latter of which can be either enlarged, reduced, or distorted. We first used flexible mirror paper as a plane mirror, then bent it to make concave and then convex. The students observed the changes of their reflection in these mirrors, then tried varying their distance from the mirror. Did the size of the reflection increase or decrease, and at what distance did it become distorted, or become inverted. We then compared our results to our study of convex and concave lenses. Finally we used a concave mirror to create a real image in a darkened room. Creating reliable laws based on their observations helps to remind them of the power of nature, and how much of it can be left unseen or unexamined if we don’t take the time to see.
Typically for each concept investigated the students write a lab report, although on occasion I will give them a more creative assignment. This allows them to organize their thoughts, communicate their observations, draw conclusions and form judgements in an objective way. Through this writing, they practice being precise, in fact, in order for the reader to understand the significance of their investigations, it is required! This fosters their communicative capacity, which can then generalize in other areas. In their conclusion, I ask them to include not only what this means, but, how this relates to something in nature, or every day life. Physics is kind of a “common sense” science; most students who may be a bit “science- averse” find they can make a connection to this because we are looking at familiar phenomena, but digesting it in a way that allows us to extrapolate and expand on what we already know. Next month we will conclude the block with thermodynamics, electricity/magnetism, and mechanics.
Their studies of ratios and relationships continued with proportions, along with algebra and percentage review, to consolidate those skills.
In Perspective Drawing we used our knowledge of vanishing points to add multiple vanishing points. By using two vanishing points we could create suspended cubes in the air, carefully outlining what would be visible from our perspective. This is the essential question, “How would this look from my vantage point?”, and this practice also creates an opportunity for generalizing this capacity into the rest of their life as well - our perspective versus those of others!
In addition to their main lesson studies, the students once again created a Chinese New Year celebration for the community, a beloved tradition and excellent material to learn how to plan an event. They looked at aspects such as making it inviting, and how others perceive the space. They created fortunes and explanations of the tradition, while also assisting with food preparation, serving, and cleaning up. Thank you so much to Keshara, Marion, and Jessica for all of your help with set up and clean up!
On our forest days the students enthusiastically searched for birds to contribute to our school wide bird count, and accomplished several survival challenges, including the one strike flint and steel fire challenge!
These incredible people thrive when given the opportunity to stretch their capacities; it delights me to see them engaged and excited to delve deeper in their questioning of all things they encounter.
With Gratitude, Ms Erin