Sunday, February 18, 2018

Africa Week Two

This week students continued to work on their Africa reports. We were thrilled when my new 11 x 17" Africa stencil arrived from Waseca Biomes!
I invite parents to come by the classroom to check it out, along with all the other cool Geography materials we've been using! The oldest students presented Africa book reports on Thursday. We like the fun options in the FREE Not Your Grandma's Book Report: 30 Creative Ways to Respond to Literature.

The first student shared a book set in Sudan, The Red Pencil, and she did #7, the Book in a Bag. Because Leah felt her book summary would be too violent for the younger students, they played outside while she presented. Her classmates scored her using our Oral Book Report rubric and gave her a 15/16. The next report was for a book set in Kenya, Burn My Heart, and he did #16, the Map. His classmates gave him a score of 12/16. Finally, Becca presented her book which took place in Ancient Egypt, The Golden Goblet, and she did #17, the Sculpture. Her classmates gave her a 13/16.

Becca did her own independent block on Ancient Egypt this year and started a chicken mummy on January 15th. She has been working on it for a month, changing out the wet salt and covering it with new dry salt every few days. After a month we declared it fully dried out (12 boxes of Morton kosher salt later... an astonishing 36 lbs!) and so she wrapped it in front of the class as part of her report and placed it into a cardboard pyramid-shaped tomb complete with a scroll in hieroglyphs wishing Cluckopatra well in the afterlife. Her book was all about a tomb robbery and so it was a perfect fit!


Of course, we are continuing to read picture books as a whole group each day, to help us learn as much as possible about Africa. Here were the books for Week Two:


I've done a lot of posts lately and I've been super busy (the Newbery and Caldecott winners on Monday, the Philosophy class on Tuesday, the Science clubs on Thursday and Friday, the library workshop in Effingham on Saturday, the Winter playdough recipes on Sunday, the summary of last week's lessons on Africa) but this week is our last week of school before Spring Break. I'll share photos from the classroom as well as our final week of Africa... and then I'm going to RELAX and have two weeks of Spring Break (during which time I will have July Duty)!

I know it's been a lot but I love sharing and I hope it is helpful as opposed to overwhelming!!!


This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

One of These Dissolves in Water...

Here we have a tale of two Science Clubs.

Thursday's group first checked in on the progress of their upside-down bean plants (which stubbornly refused to grow upside down and instead headed straight for the sun) and their bean plant mazes. All of the baby bean plants are avoiding the twists and turns of their cardboard box mazes and are finding ways to grow straight up as well. I will share photos soon!

We then followed up on last week's yeast experiments by making a super-quick yeasted bread which only required one rise. We could actually do the whole recipe within the two hour time restriction of Science Club. The kids loved watching the yeast bloom, kneading the flour bit by bit into their dough, and seeing it rise until it had doubled in size.

While the bread was rising we read Steve Jenkin's Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution up to the page which ends by saying, "As life forms develop, many plants and animals become larger and more complex. But they do not replace the smaller, simpler forms of life. Today, after 3 1/2 billion years, bacteria -- some of the first living things on the earth -- are still evolving and are among the most numerous and successful forms of life."


Then we began our bacteria experiments. I am working with a scientist at SIU to come up with some experiments for the classroom to help kids better understand the origins of life on Earth. Bacteria is a hard concept... considering that it is invisible... and so we are trying to see if it works to grow bacteria cultures on the kitchen counter in dishes of gelatin instead of agar plates and Petri dishes. If we can find experiments which don't take fancy equipement, more kids will be able to try them and learn from them.

The scientific question was whether bacteria would grow on plain gelatin compared to flavored gelatin (Scott thinks that the sugar in the flavored gelatin might produce a better result... like how yeast grows better when it has sugar... and I think that the food coloring will kill the bacteria outright). First, however, we needed to see if the bacteria will grow on gelatin AT ALL.

So, we took a 9 x 9 casserole dish and I filled it with four packets of plain gelatin plus 2 cups of boiling water plus 2 cups of cold water and let it gel. Then we put a piece of masking tape across the pan, not touching the surface of the gelatin, and left one side alone (the control). Then it was time to add bacteria to the other side and the kids gleefully swabbed a variety of household surfaces with cotton swabs which had first been dipped in a mild saline solution. These surfaces included the floor, the pencils in the communal pencil jar, and the underside of a dirty fingernail.

Last, but not least, we headed outside for some play time on an unseasonably warm day, before coming back in to try out our warm bread fresh from the oven!


Note #1: On Sunday evening, when I'm typing this, the gelatin has equal amounts of splotchy growth on both sides of the masking tape. The side with NO bacteria looks exactly the same as the side WITH bacteria, which tells me that all I am seeing is the gelatin going bad and growing mold. Oh, well. That's Science for you. Now we just have to figure out another plan.


Friday's group is studying Starch, the second of our Carbohydrates in Kitchen Chemistry. The girls began by comparing styrofoam packing peanuts to biodegradable packing peanuts, which are made of starch. Immediately, they noticed the difference in texture and that one is full of static electricity and one is not. Oh, and by the way, one of these dissolves in water...

So they went downstairs to the bathroom sink and ran hot water over the packing peanuts and watched the starch ones shrink into slime before dissolving away. Joyful icky fun.

Next, we popped the balloon inside the remaining balloon string art sculpture from last week. These came out beautifully, by the way, so if you would like instructions for this craft, here are the ones we used. You only need a quarter of the recipe, though, unless you really are making them as decorations for a wedding.

Then it was on to Oobleck (2 parts cornstarch : 1 part water).

Note #2: Be prepared that they will probably play with the Oobleck for almost an hour. There's nothing cooler than a non-Newtonian fluid!!!

When I insisted that it was time to move on, we read about the physics of popcorn, the girls watched a video of popcorn popping in slow motion, and then we popped popcorn. Then they ALSO made tapioca pudding, while I read them page 145 of David Mitchell's book and we did steps 1, 2, and 3 of the "Test for Starch" activity on page 147. He suggests potato, carrot, corn, and turnip and so that is what we used.

Note #3: Don't buy it! Decolorized iodine will NOT work well for this AT ALL.

Next week, we will do the unsalted cracker experiment which David Mitchell suggests in his explanation of Starch on page 145, summarize Starch for our Science Binders, and move on to Cellulose.


Note #4: Don't forget that this book is also available online as a PDF completely free from the Online Waldorf Library.

Note #5: We did tapioca pudding because we had already done a lot with cornstarch, and tapioca is starchy and a natural thickener. However, if you have a child who doesn't like tapioca, here's my favorite recipe for homemade from-scratch chocolate pudding.

    Chocolate Pudding

    In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup baking cocoa, and 2 T cornstarch.

    Whisk in 2 cups milk and one egg, lightly beaten.

    Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.

    Boil for one minute, then remove from heat.

    Flavor to taste with 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and/or 1/4 tsp almond extract. Serve warm.


This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

A Comparison of Montessori & Waldorf: History & Geography

On Saturday I gave a workshop at the Effingham Public Library on how Montessori and Waldorf differ. Specifically, we looked at the subjects of History & Geography. There were four families, as well as a reporter.

"Teaching Techniques for Homeschoolers" article - Effingham Daily News

Here is what I brought to the workshop:

Early Childhood Materials: A Comparison


The Five Great Lessons


Montessori Materials for History & Geography from Waseca Biomes


Waldorf Materials for History & Geography


Waldorf Main Lesson Books

    Grade Two
    Fables - Leah
    Saints - Leah

    Grade Three
    Days of Creation - Becca
    Old Testament Stories II - Becca
    Old Testament Stories III - Becca

    Grade Four
    Norse Mythology - Leah

    Grade Five
    U.S. Geography - Becca
    Ancient Mythologies - Becca

    Grade Six
    The Middle Ages - Becca

    Grade Seven
    Age of Exploration - Becca
    The Renaissance - Natalie

    Grade Eight
    World Geography - Natalie


Plus, my business cards, business cards for Pamela of Meadowseet Naturals (my source for MLBs), several brand-new blank MLBs, clipboard and paper and sign-in sheet, my plan book, Becca's plan book, Becca's colored pencils, and a few handouts (A Block Rotation for Main Lessons in Waldorf Schools, Signs of First Grade Readiness)


This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!