Monday, June 19, 2017

Oceans and Coasts Mini-Unit Schedule and Lesson Plan

It's always fun to do a little studying about a place before you go there, so even though we didn't have much time to spare, we squeezed in a quick mini-unit about Oceans and Coasts before our summer trip to Oregon this year. I was glad we did, because—I don't know what it was, maybe it was just the fact that we were staying by a bay where the tides were very obvious, or maybe it was because we'd read a bunch of books about them—but the tides and tide pools were fascinating to all of us in a way they haven't been before. I could have sat by the upstairs window of our rental house and watched the patterns of the tide ALL DAY. I loved hearing the difference in sound when the tide was in versus when it was out: crashing waves when it was high, and quiet lapping (thanks to a sandbar that shielded the bay somewhat) when it was low. Beautiful.
We mostly read lots of books for this unit, as there was preparation and packing to do, but we did do a few fun activities.

One was making these ocean layers bottles. Here is one version (probably better than the one we did—but we've done this one before to learn about density, here) and here is another more like we did this time. They're so pretty!
I let the kids make models of the ocean layers on Cookie Pizza. We used pictures like this for reference. (If something can be modeled on a cookie, we will model it.) Here's our favorite recipe for Cookie Pizza (it's basically just sugar cookie dough, although occasionally I use snickerdoodle dough instead). We made frosting of different shades and then the children used chocolate chips and whatever else we could scrounge up to make fish, seaweed, phytoplankton, and so forth. Obviously this would be cuter if you used Swedish fish or something.
We totally overcooked this one. It should be much paler. But the children ate it anyway. Note the deep, dark Mariana Trench at the bottom right of the picture. Also the condensation, forming clouds above the ocean.
That big chocolate candy in this representation is a blobfish. My children were very taken with the blobfish when we learned about it. Though, it probably should be a blue whale if we are taking the scale of things into account. Of course, this isn't the whole ocean…just a cross section.
I like the white bioluminescent fish down in the deeper layers of Abe's ocean.
A few more things we enjoyed:

This page about tides, and also these. Here are pictures of our visits to the tide pools during this Oregon trip.

A couple of our books trotted out the "floating island of plastic" myth. Here are a couple sources debunking that. Too bad this hyperbole risks obscuring the real problem of ocean litter.

We'd never heard of "Velella velella" or "By-the-wind-sailors" before (they're sort of like tiny jellyfish) but we enjoyed these videos of them washing up on Oregon beaches!

Bioluminescent Plankton (more on bioluminescence here with our Light Unit)

Short video about puffins (we like puffins)

After we saw clams squirting on the beach at Netarts Bay, we got really curious about them (we've never seen live clams before!) and found these videos.

We also got interested in sand dollars (we'd never really thought about what, exactly, they ARE!). Junie found a spinier one on the beach and we wondered why it looked different—the video says how you tell if they're alive or dead.

Here's my Oceans Unit Pinterest Board

Friday, June 9, 2017

Egyptian Feast and Treasure Hunt

This celebration was so much fun. While planning it, I found so many awesome ideas that I DIDN'T want to do (complicated/expensive/time-consuming)—elaborate parties like this—but I had a lot of fun browsing around anyway. And luckily, I was able to compile enough fairly simple things from those resources, that we were able to have a great time! You can find a lot of the ideas we didn't use on my Pinterest Board.
The children dressed up in Egyptian costumes and wore all their jewelry (well…the girls did, anyway). And here was our menu (complete with totally inauthentic "hieroglyphs" and lame "Papyrus" font):
We love hummus and I make it fairly often, but anytime I run out of tahini, it takes me a long time to get again since I often don't see it at the regular grocery store. So, I was happy to find this recipe for hummus without tahini. I think I just needed…permission, or approval, or something, to do this. Because it's perfectly fine without tahini! Really good, in fact! I put in some sesame oil to see if I could get some of that sesame taste back, and I think a little peanut butter might also be good…or even sesame seeds!

The "yogurt Thoth" is just a joke for the older boys because they always joked that the god Thoth sounded like someone trying to say "sauce" with a lisp. Really it was labneh (sort of like a really thick yogurt cheese?), which we love almost as much as hummus with our pita bread. Or naan. Yum!

And Pie of Horus! My own invention! Not the pie, just the name. I had been wanting to make a pink lemonade ice cream pie and this celebration night seemed just the time. I was very pleased with myself for calling it Pie of Horus, as it seemed to strike just the right note. Ha ha.
It really was a most lavish feast! And I even got gold plastic plates for the occasion. So fancy!

But the very BEST thing I did for this party was have Abraham (my 14-year-old) be in charge of a treasure hunt. I knew we should have some sort of hunting-for-ancient-treasure activity, and Abe is so great with that sort of thing! He made it so fun, with coded hieroglyphs and riddles in the clues, and the younger kids LOVED it.
Hunting for treasure!
Totally clueless. But thrilled.
Abe hid the treasure-filled sarcophagi in the shed.
Inside, I had wrapped up stuffed animals like mummies, in toilet paper. (This was quite fun to do. You have to be really gentle with your wrapping or it will tear, but I found it strangely satisfying.) I drew faces on the front of them, like you'd find on a sarcophagus.
Each person's favorite animal! Oh…you can't tell what they are? Ha ha. I should have had Sam draw them. Penguin, elephant, monkey, bear, pig, owl.
I had used a gold-foil tablecloth to wrap up these "sarcophagi" made from cardboard boxes, with appropriately dire warnings for those who disturbed the treasure. If you can't do this during your Ancient Egypt Unit, when CAN you do it? One of the boxes was also filled with gold chocolate coins, and other candy "jewels." The children thought it was all so exciting and fun!

And then we watched "Prince of Egypt" while we ate our pie. It was a great end to our Ancient Egypt Unit!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Making Egyptian jewelry

There are many, many good ideas out there for making Ancient Egypt-style jewelry! And we tried several of them. I never thought I would voluntarily have my children do an art project involving spray-painted macaroni, for example, but we found these cool-looking snake-y cuffs to make…and then the variant looked so pretty here…that I swallowed my objections! Anything is better with gold spray-paint, it seems. (And we went through a couple cans of it during this unit!)
Here's a page showing how to make Egyptian collars. A variation is here. We used lids to some take-out containers we had, since they were a little flatter than paper plates, but either would work. You can just use anything you have on hand to decorate them (if you balk at macaroni…ha ha) and we have a huge box of these jewel-y sort of things, so that's mostly what we used.

Maybe my favorite thing we made were these circlets with the royal serpent sign. (This same site shows a pretty variation on the armlets/cuffs.) They are just so simple and elegant, I think. The girls could not WAIT to wear them for our Egyptian celebration!
The boys liked wearing theirs too. But real Pharaohs don't smile, of course.
Here is my very favorite collar—the one Sebastian made. It looks geometric and cool, but upon closer examination you can see it is a road- and sign-themed piece of jewelry. Sebastian, as you may remember, really loves roads and road signs, so…naturally…he would make his Ancient Egyptian jewelry reflect this interest. You can see he has included: stop signs and yield signs, flashing "caution" lights, lane lines, bridges, and an impressive array of every type of common traffic light including the "left turn on arrow only" versions.

Oh, Sebastian. How I love that boy.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Making Egyptian Amulets

We saw this idea about how to make an Egyptian amulet (hint: you just use air-dry clay, ha ha) and knew it would be a fun project. We had just been listening to a P.G. Wodehouse audiobook (this one, to be precise) which featured, quite prominently, a stolen Egyptian scarab (of the 4th Dynasty), so the children were all quite pleased to be able to make our OWN scarabs.

The air-dry clay isn't the MOST sturdy of media to work with, but it was at least easy to mold, and we all liked our finished amulets. Malachi may have liked his lucky owl most of all. He wore it around for several weeks and said it brought him great power and good fortune.
Sebby's monkey amulet (or "monkulet")
Junie's bunny
Some ankhs and a scarab.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Making and using papyrus

One thing I remember pretty clearly from my grade-school years is the time I made my own "papyrus" for a school project. I don't remember it all THAT clearly, I guess, but I do remember that I used iris leaves, and it took a lot of experimentation to get them soft enough—seems like maybe I ended up using the blender? And then baking the sheets in the oven?—and it never really turned into great paper. But it was fun, I remember that! For this unit, though, I wasn't really planning on trying to make paper because we had done it recently when learning about Japan.

But…while we were gathering the reeds for our reed boats, we found some of these nice wide-leaved water plants which seemed like they might be kind of like papyrus…because they had white pulpy stuff inside, and seemed buoyant. So, we decided just to experiment a bit.
With real papyrus, you'd scoop out the pulp and just use that for your paper, I think. But we just wove the whole reeds into a kind of mat and then pounded it with a mallet. Seb quite enjoyed that part.
It got all pulpy and you could see the fibers sort of fuse together as it dried.
And once it was fully dry, it was possible to write on our "papyrus"…though not really easy. Still, it was fun to visualize the process a little better by doing this activity.
I also ordered some actual papyrus so the children could see and feel what it was like. Much nicer than our "homemade" version, of course! And it was fun to write on it with brushes. We attempted to write our names using hieroglyphs, though the more we learned about that written language, the more we realized how complicated it was and how we didn't really "get" it with our letter-for-letter Western view of things! Still…fun to try it.

Here's an overview of the Egyptian numbering system we used, too.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ancient Egypt activities for children

There are lots and lots of teaching resources for Ancient Egypt, so I didn't really have to come up with many activities on my own. One thing that was a big hit was ordering this Egyptian game, Senet. I think scholars admit that we don't really know for sure how it was played in ancient times, but they have come up with rules for it and my kids really liked it. They like board games anyway, but this was one even the kindergartner could play! It's just a two-player game (as you might not be able to tell from the picture) but it's quite fun! 
One book suggested making dried apples and talking about how much of food preservation involved salting or drying back in those times, especially in hot dry Egypt! You just cut apple slices and put them in a 200-degree oven until they look dry and leathery. Or you can use a fruit dryer. My children have done lots of fruit drying with their grandma, so this wasn't new to them, but it was kind of fun anyway. It relates sort of to mummification also! :)
But to really talk about mummification, we did the ol' Apple Mummies activity. I feel you can't swing a cat on the internet without smacking a page about the Apple Mummies activity, so I won't recap it much here, except to say that it's not the very yuckiest option you can do, so that's good. You use salt to approximate the natron Ancient Egyptians used for their mummies. Here's an alternate version of this project.
Another fun thing to try is making Egyptian reed boats. We just picked some hollow-ish reeds from a stream nearby and held them together with twist ties while they dried. They do, indeed, float! And the children liked floating little toy soldiers on them in the bath.
A lot of pyramid-building play went on during this unit, which was fun to watch!
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