Monday, September 12, 2016

A Philosophical Discussion about Nature

Today we begin Week Four of our co-op!

First, a quick look back at Week Three.

Art - sensory play with shaving cream and toothpaste. Making toothpaste play dough! Simply stir together and enjoy. We made the basic recipe and then experimented with other ratios (and adding the shaving cream).

    1 T liquid glue
    2 T cornstarch
    1/2 T toothpaste
    one drop food coloring

And let's not forget Clay Modeling on Friday in its regular timeslot, after Yoga and before American Sign Language.

Handwork - finger knitting, adding to our woven circular rug, making knitting needles for those who are ready to move on to learning to knit

(I had a little boy run into my house today calling out, "Today can I please learn how to knit with the needles?")

    The supplies for handmade needles are simple: wooden dowels, sandpaper, pencil sharpener, grapeseed oil, acorn caps, glue, sharpie

Educational Game - Qwirkle

THANK YOU to our Yoga teacher, American Sign Language teacher, and Agriculture teachers for another awesome week!

And a big thank you as well to the family who donated a large amount of Art supplies! I have completely reorganized our storage for school materials, with the shelving filling the large cabinets that take up the entire length of my library now sporting cheerful color-coded dots. We have shelves set aside for Language (yellow), Science and Nature (green), and Math (blue) on the left; and shelves set aside for Cultural (orange) and Art (red) on the right. P.E. and Health (brown), Penmanship (gold), and Foreign Language (silver) are stored in the console under the chalkboard downstairs, and Practical Life (purple), obviously, is all throughout the house. But Handwork supplies in particular are in my office.

It is so much fun to bring out new things for the children and to see how excited they are and how respectful of the materials. We added another five pounds of clay to our existing five pounds so that everyone would have enough clay to work with, and it was a joy to get out a brand new box and open it and pass it out. I think getting new school things is always so exciting!

Finishing up our first main lesson books with our first Mathematics topics... adding final stories, decorating front covers, adding our names, ages, and 2016-2017 to the back covers, numbering all of the pages, and writing a table of contents... I will save all of the books your child creates throughout the course of the year and present you with their portfolio in the Spring!

Quality of Numbers

adding 8 (Arachnids) to MLB, learning 15 Fascinating Facts about Daddy Longlegs

hearing the story for 9

In this thought-provoking and charming picture book, Pezzettino turns out to have been a square number the whole time! And he breaks into nine little pieces. We collaged an illustration of Pezzettino, made the number 9 with the gems, and looked for other square numbers. This was fun because the older group was doing square and triangle numbers when they studied Pythagoras... it's so great when the groups overlap, interact, listen in one one another's lessons, and make connections.

adding 9 to MLB, hearing the story for 10 (The Star-Money by the Brothers Grimm), drawing 10 pointed stars

adding 10 to MLB, hearing a book about the history of counting and learning some of the larger Roman numerals, adding those to the MLB on Friday morning and wrapping up Friday with one more math book, just for fun!

Story of Geometry

What an awesome week! We had to do some background work on shadows in order to understand our final story of the week, so we spent a day tracing one another's shadows with chalk in the neighbor's driveway (thank you, Brooke) every hour or two to see how the shadows moved although the child stayed with his/her feet in the same spot. This sounds simple but I promise you it will be full of revelations and create a lively discussion.

Try it at home! Starting earlier in the day and going later in the day will give even better results. We were limited to 9 am to 3 pm.

Our book of stories took us through Pythagoras, diagramming the proof of his famous Theorem (we did several of the Pythagorean Triples on graph paper for this), the realization that the Earth is round, the discovery of the five regular solids, the discovery of irrational numbers and the subsequent break-up of the Secret Brotherhood, Plato's Academy, the Golden Mean, the many amazing inventions and discoveries of Archimedes (who was the hands-down favorite of this week), and Eratosthenes measuring the circumference of the Earth.

Since this introduction to Geometry is a famous Waldorf main lesson block, I will put together a post just about this topic and how we paced it out and what our follow-up activities were, as well as any additional recommended resources. I will do the same for the Quality of Numbers block.

Math Facts: This week we focused on x5 and +6. Just to clarify, BOTH groups have math facts together in the afternoon after lunch. Here's how the day goes: We have Specials in the morning starting at 9 am (on our full days, ie. Monday and Friday) and continuing until approximately 11:15, and then Recess until noon. On both half and full days we have Lunch at noon, Circle Time at 12:30, and the Main Lesson time from 12:45 - 2:45 pm. At 2:45 pm we write in our gratitude journals and clean up and put away our materials and tidy up and gather our things to go home. Pick up is promptly at 3 pm.

Circle Time consists of the memorization of a new poem each week, doing beanbag exercises while reciting math facts, and creative writing time. In Week Three we were memorizing something by Lao-Tzu (who will be our first Philosopher for the topic of Nature). This was

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
Then you can care for all things.

The children also incorporated this into their Yoga lessons as a meditation.

On to this week. Probably the highlight of today was that we began a new Special, Philosophy. We will work with Marietta McCarty's book Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy with Kids.

This book includes tips on doing philosophy with kids as well as suggestions for a variety of philosophical topics. The two rules of philosophy are: "never interrupt anyone who is talking, no matter who they are," and "never laugh at what anyone says unless you are certain they meant it as a joke." In order to make sure each person gets enough time to say what they need to say (philosophy requires extra think-time), I do not moderate the discussions. Rather, each child decides when he or she is done speaking and chooses who to call on next. Today I had something to say and the children kept passing over me to call on each other, probably because they were afraid I was going to say that our time for Philosophy was up! But we had an excellent introductory discussion on a topic which is a good initial entry point: Nature.

Here were some of our discussion questions:

    How would you define nature and natural?

    Are the things that humans make also part of nature? What's the difference between spiders spinning webs, beavers building dams, and people building bridges?

    In what situations do you feel most connected to the natural world? Least connected?

    Could humans become an endangered species? What might cause this to happen?

    How can human beings remember that they are a part of nature and relearn how to work with it rather than try to control it?

Marietta sets her book up with an initial discussion and definition of the topic, then a thorough introduction to two famous philosophers and their perspective or "take" on the topic, and then further personal exploration where the child contributes even more to the discussion as it moves into deeper waters.

Here is her list of topics and philosophers:

    Philosophy - Plato

    Friendship - bell hooks, Karl Jaspers

    Responsibility - Rita Manning, Albert Camus

    Happiness - Epicurus, Charlotte Joko Beck

    Justice - Immanuel Kant, Paulo Freire

    Time - Augustine, Alan Watts

    Courage - Epictetus, Mary Wollstonecraft

    Death - The Bhagavad-Gita, Shunryu Suzuki

    Prejudice - Jean-Paul Sartre, Gloria Anzaldua

    God - Thomas Aquinas, al-Ghazali

    Humanity - Soren Kierkegaard, Elizabeth Spelman

    Nature - Lao Tzu, Baruch Spinoza

    Compassion - The Dalai Lama, Jane Addams

    Freedom - John Stuart Mill, Simone de Beauvoir

    Love - Martin Luther King, Jr., Bertrand Russell

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to borrow the book.

If parents would like to come to philosophy discussions, we could consider holding a monthly Philosophy session at the end of the day on Friday. Wouldn't it be lovely to come early to pick up and sit and talk philosophy with your child! I'll set this up once the children are more comfortable. Right now they are keen on activism and have plans to each choose an endangered animal, research it and present a report to the class (this idea came from the students and they campaigned for it vigorously), then have the entire group plan some fundraisers, pool all of the money collected and split it evenly between causes, and then each child will donate 1/5 of the proceeds to a charity which benefits the animal he/she chose.

As this idea is discussed more and crystallizes, I will be sure to share with you all the salient details. I love the passion and initiative of this amazing group of young people! Thank you for sharing your child with me each day!

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