Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Celestial Navigation: Resources for Grade 6 Astronomy & Oceania

I am planning on doing a main lesson block on Oceania in 6th grade (combining it with the Astronomy block and tying in the celestial navigation of the peoples of Polynesia and Micronesia).

This is one of those ideas that falls into the easier-said-than-done category, and while my mind went instantly to Oceania Art, Handwork, and Stories, that's not what the block is about. I do see that Geometry and Geology, both studied in Grade 6, tie in a LOT with this, so I'm feeling confident about the topic suiting this school year.

So, okay, if the tie-in to the Astronomy block is Celestial Navigation I need to find some resources that specifically deal with this. Otherwise, I think it will be very hard to fit Oceania into the already-busy sixth grade year.

I have not yet found any books for children on this topic, so Waldorf teachers would have to do what Steiner, in fact, suggested we should be doing all of the time. Which is to put away the Kovacs read and research on OUR OWN and write our own stories to tell our class! Maria Montessori actually said the same thing about the Five Great Lessons.

I, like everyone else in education, do not have the time and energy to research everything from scratch for every block I teach, but for this one I think it will definitely be worth it!


Here are some resources for adults & background information:


Lesson plans and more kid-friendly explanations:


So that's all I have so far!

Nothing exciting happens when I Google "children's books on Ancient Polynesia." And when I search "children's books on celestial navigation," I only get books for adults, like Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell by Hewitt Schlereth. So maybe this is a topic someone could write a book on????

It does make me think that reading Carry On, Mr. Bowditch would be an excellent idea. First of all, it's a Newbery winner. And, second of all, it's about an expert in celestial navigation (the link is to his bio on the National Maritime Historical Society's "Sea History for Kids" website, which is great)!

Luckily Geometry happens in sixth grade, so you can talk about angles and sextants and octants. Since the sextant and octant are reflecting instruments, that ties in with sixth grade Physics! All making me think this block should fall at the END of the year, perhaps even in the Summer between grades 6 and 7! It is nice to stay up in the summer and stargaze. And homeschoolers have that luxury!

Studying the tools that navigators used in the 1800s, and understanding how they work, will help students see how remarkable it was that Ancient People could navigate with confidence on long voyages without them!


Setting aside the Astronomy piece of it, here are some other Oceania links that are coming to mind.

Picture Books set in the Pacific Islands:


Chapter Books set in the Pacific Islands:


Lastly, here is a collection of Oceania Notes from previous blog posts:

The Peoples of the Biomes

Animals of Oceania

Guest Blog Post: Making a File Folder Game


newest series of Pacific Food Leaflets, color, put all in one file called Food Leaflet Compilation (PDF)

    1 - Taro

    2 - Yam

    3 - Sweet Potato

    4 - Cassava

    5 - Breadfruit

    6 - Banana

    7 - Pumpkin

    8 - Green Leaves

    9 - Citrus

    10 - Guava

    11 - Mango

    12 - Pandanus

    13 - Pawpaw

    14 - Pineapple

    15 - Legumes

    16 - Coconut

    17 - Nuts and Seeds

    18 - Fish

    19 - Seafood


Pacific Nutrition Bingo (PDF)
print in color


older series of Pacific Food Leaflets, B&W (published by the Healthy Pacific Lifestyle Section of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community)


oldest series of Pacific Food Leaflets (published by the Community Education Training Centre of the South Pacific Commission)


Last December, when we did Hawaiian Mythology as the subject of our Class Play (using Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea, and Sky retold by Vivian Laubach Thompson), was when I first realized the extent of the ancient navigation between Pacific Islands! When you look at a map, try to find a map where the Pacific Ocean is not cut in half (such as This Dynamic Planet by USGS). This makes it easier to see.

So, as I got ready for December, I was searching for a class play script for a Hawaiian myth. And I kept finding Maui stories that were from New Zealand, like Mythical Maui (PDF). I was surprised to discover that the story of Maui catching the sun was also found in New Zealand. At first I thought it was some kind of spelling error on my part, that I was finding the "wrong" story. Why would a story from Hawai'i also be a Maori legend? And then I thought, of course! Overseas travel. I had just never thought about it before.

We also realized (as we ended up writing our own class play script using two of the myths retold by Vivia Laubach Thomposn) that one of the monsters in Hawaiian mythology, the Great Mo-o, is quite like the Komodo dragon, which is possibly because people were remembering a fearsome predator from Indonesia.

Here's a version of the legend of Maui catching the islands and forming Hawai'i itself. This is from a lesosn plan called Mo Ľolelo O Maui (PDF), by the National Park Service. They tie it in with a Geology lesson on volcanoes.


In case you are curious, here are my notes from our class play:


I was determined that the children should see a scale model of Alaska, Hawai'i, and the contiguous U.S.... without someone changing the scale and shrinking Alaska and blowing up Hawai'i and shoving them in the corner... so we drew one and then used it on the cover of the class play programs.


One final thought about Oceania and Handwork!

Middle school is finally old enough for needle felting and the children in my classroom have been waiting a loooong time to get there...

In preparation for this big event, I made a lovely big coral reef tapestry. Now I can have each child research a fish that lives in the coral reef and make a needle felted fish puppet. It is a nice simple starter project and would add a fun touch to their reports. And what a wonderful classroom display!

My little fish puppet is inspired by the anthias fish in One Night in the Coral Sea by Sneed B. Collard III, which takes place in the Great Barrier Reef.

Habitats: Tide Pool, Coral Reef blog post (and booklist)


The coral reef is an incredible habitat! And a coral reef, I discovered, is also a fantastic way to use up bits and pieces of color (as are the fish themselves), so I highly recommend it if you have a large stash of odds and ends of roving. These little fish puppets are wonderfully fun to make. Just a few days ago I had decided I was finally going to give up and start using my big basket of random colored wool bits for stuffing in our knitted animals. I'm so glad I didn't because this project was perfect!

Suzanne Down taught me how to make a tapestry background for puppetry like this. You trace the background shape you want on a large piece of corrugated cardboard. Cut it out. Use that as a pattern for a large piece of felt or something else that you can needle wool to; use it as a pattern also for a plain white piece of simple fabric like muslin. Needle felt your design on the felt fabric. When you are done, pin it wrong side out (beautifully wool decorated side in) to the plain white piece, then sew around three sides and then turn it inside out and slip it over your piece of cardboard like a tea cozy. Add slits in the bottom of the cardboard for long thin pieces of cardboard as "feet" so that it will balance and stand up on its own.

Yesterday I put up a long post of crafts and at the beginning of it you can see a photo and up-close video of the coral reef background I needle felted. But I think it's worth repeating them here for those that don't read this blog in sequence. This project turned out beautifully and it went very quickly!

my needle-felted coral reef backdrop
inspired by the Coral Reef Habitat Mat from Waseca Biomes


the felt fish in the background were sprinkle-dyed with Kool Aid powder


needle-felted fish puppet


I could perhaps make up little kits for my homeschool co-op parents of fibers for needle-felted fish puppets! I have so many bits of beautiful wool colors and even fancy fibers like camel and alpaca and silk.


This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

No comments: