A note on our curriculum choices

As a teacher by training, I like curricula. I like pacing charts and a spiraling curriculum. I like scaffolding big ideas. I like anchor charts. However, I already know that when I’ve tried to use curricular resources, we do a big lesson and then skip the next 10% because L’s already figured out and applied the pattern. Have I mentioned that she excels at patterns? It doesn’t help that she’s got massive gaps between what she can write and what she can express, or that she focuses on subjects of interest to the exclusion of everything else. These traits make it hard to find an “all in one” curriculum. Instead, we would be best described as eclectic (a word my husband hates), relaxed, thematic, and passion-based homeschoolers. Here’s what we’re using now (age 5).

Language Arts 

I could care less if she can spell words right now. She’s 5. Spelling will come. It may be an area of strength for her (as it was for me) or an area of frustration. Just as she learned to read when she was ready and using her own method, so too will spelling come. I could care less if her handwriting is legible right now. A huge part of that is that she’s 5. I want her to focus on the idea that she has important things to say and recording them allows them to be shared with others who aren’t with you right now. So we jot things down all the time and I scribe for her when she requests it. Our house is littered with notes.

Th closest we come to spelling practice is pointing out word parts like prefixes, suffixes, and word roots as we decode complex texts. We also read Grammar Island  on the couch as if it’s a read-aloud. We have a moveable alphabet and stamps. We don’t use them often. We play Wordsearch and Pathwords Jr.

L reads. Beautifully. Narrowly. And far above grade level. She hates most fiction. She doesn’t like reading for strangers. And she absorbs everything she reads, so working on non-fiction graphic organizers is a waste of time right now. We just read. A lot. Vociferously, in fact. And I often curl up and read my own books while she reads hers. (The link at the beginning of this paragraph is her reading a page from Almost Gone: The World’s Rarest Animals – Lexile AD1020L, DRA 34).

We also do a ton of stuff that strengthens her hands. Sewing. Play doh. Drawing. Snap circuits. Lego. Her handwriting will come along as her hands grow. So I call all of that hand-strengthening stuff “language arts” too!

Science 

We don’t go more than a few hours ever without doing science. She reads science books. Plays science apps. Watches documentaries and other science shows. Is known by name at both our zoo and natural history museum. Her pretend play with animal figures is based in actual appropriate behaviors for the species represented.

Oh, and we make stuff. Snap circuits. Building with “garbage”. Tinkercrate. Chemistry kit. Marble run. I think we’re good on science.

Math

I have really struggled with math for L. One issue we consistently have is that she gets bored (habituates) quickly. This manifests itself in a number of ways.

First, she is not interested in repetition, especially if the repetition is intended to do things like teach math facts. Exploring addition? A-ok. Practicing number pairs which compose 10? Only in context, my friend.

And how does she manifest said habituation? Well, through stubborn shutting down, of course! I will not be moved, her behavior says. One thing we work on is helping her learn to tolerate (and it is literally that – tolerate) that which she doesn’t find engaging. However, I feel pretty strongly that my 5 year olds world shouldn’t be primarily or even a lot about learning to tolerate disengagement!

Where that lands us, then, is in a land where what we find that appeals to her get used manically for some period of time and then discarded, never to be touched again.

Good times. Expensive times.

Some of you may recall how L was obsessed with dinosaurs for almost 2 years. She now won’t look at them. Literally. She keeps her eyes down at that part of the museum. Because she’s done with them.

In the past, she worked through all of Todo Math which contains PreK-2nd grade concepts aligned with several domains of the Common Core (which, to be clear, I’m not opposed to as a set of standards). She has outgrown that app. She tried the Redbird mathematics curriculum and didn’t respond well to the format. That was very quickly a struggle. She responds really well to the Dreambox Learning app (aligned pretty broadly to Common Core), but she powers through it in pretty big chunks. A few months ago, she walked through a review of kindergarten, all of first grade, and most of second grade in about 6 weeks. She then got stuck on a particular concept the app had her working through (perhaps it was at the edge of what she could do?) and started fighting about it.

We use a variety of approaches right now, mostly low-cost ones! As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have some mad love for manipulatives right now. We also continue to use Beast Academy on a very casual basis. I also surf pinterest and grab ideas that look interesting. Anytime we come across a math app that looks interesting and seems reasonably priced, we grab it. Right now, we’re playing with Slice Fractions, Quick Math, Jr., and Attributes.

We also play lots of logic games. We love Rush Hour, Blokus, Kanoodle, Pattern Play, Set, and chess.

Social Studies

L was interested in enslavement earlier this year, so we spent an intense 6 weeks learning a bit about US history and specifically those who didn’t escape on the Underground Railroad (she told me that since so few people ever escaped, it was better to really focus on those who didn’t escape). Luckily we live very close to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, so we were able to visit several times and obtain lots of information.

Very quickly, that interest passed.

This will shock you, but we listen to NPR. I’ll give you a second to recover from your shock. In any case, we were listening in the car and I attempted to talk with L about one of the stories. She cut me off and said, “Mom. I only care about the people I already love and nature. Not anyone else.” Ok. We’ll come back to social studies another time.

So overall…

Follow her passions. Watch closely. Be prepared with lots of high-quality, open-ended, inquiry tools. Drink a lot of coffee. These are the things that make our homeschool work.

At least, it works sometimes.

A sensitive plant

We moved this past spring, so we spent the summer exploring the parks our new neighborhood had to offer. The closest one to us has two beautiful ponds, home to some turtles and fish, visiting place to many birds, and with enough squirrels to delight my little naturalist. We have spent some quality time at this park.

2015-06-18 12.06.28

Picturesque little girl

Incidentally, the park also has a great playground. Multilevel play structures, swings, a digger, a spinner, a tire swing. Heaven, right? See, I sometimes still don’t anticipate my own kid.

We spent the summer bringing plastic grocery bags to the park. Why? Why, so L could clean up garbage, of course. The first time, I thought it was cute. Really, really cute.

2015-06-18 12.59.50

Her loot the first time

I thought it was charming that she spent her own time retrieving garbage. She got as close to the ponds as she could. She scoured the grass. She used a long stick to retrieve stuff from the middle of the pond. She decided after cleaning up for an hour and a half, she was ready to go home. After all, cleaning up garbage was fun. Wow. What an empathetic child I’m raising. I self-righteously thought. I must be a great mom.

Well, I am a great mom. But that’s not what was happening here.

L has a deep sense of concern about the planet. She worries about pollution and habitat destruction and extinction. She wonders aloud about the best way to get to the museum – to drive more slowly and thus use less fuel per minute but more fuel overall, or to drive more quickly and thus decrease the number of minutes on the road while increasingly the amount of fuel per minute.

She wonders aloud about why more people don’t recycle. Why people throw so many things away. Why more people don’t compost. Why more people don’t drive an electric car. And let’s be clear: I am not a shining star here. I recycle and compost. I drive a Chevy Volt. But I am definitely also a member of the consumeristic, thing-driven culture!

And more worrisome to me that her myriad of questions, none of which have real answers (Um, because they’re too busy worrying about paying their bills? Because compost can be stinky??) is the sentiment underlying them: judgment.

After that first day of garbage pick-up, she refused to play at the playground. Instead, she brought a plastic grocery bag or two with her and picked up garbage. And stared at the kids on the playground, asking me accusingly, “Why are they just over there playing? Don’t they see there’s pollution over here? Don’t they care about planet Earth?”

It’s great that she cares so deeply. I love that she wants to devote herself to helping. But she can’t decide that everyone who DOESN’T make the same choices is somehow negligent!

I stumbled through that conversation, mumbling something about most 5 year olds doing some to help but also enjoying just being 5. She clearly didn’t buy it. And the questions continued.

One day, it dawned on me.

A sensitive plant.

I asked L if she remembered what a sensitive plant was. She said she did. I asked her if she remembered what happened when something bumped up against it. She said she did; that it reacted strongly to whatever bumped up against it. I asked her if other plants reacted the same way. She said they did not.

That’s the analogy!

The next time she asked me about “other people,” I reminded her of the sensitive plant.

“L. Your brain is like a sensitive plant. When an idea bumps up against it, it reacts very strongly. That’s just the way your brain works. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is. You are like a sensitive plant. Most people’s brains are like other plants. When ideas bump up against them, they notice them, but their brains do not react very strongly. They don’t ‘move out of the way.’ Their brains are not good. Their brains are not bad. They are just not sensitive plants. Sensitive plants are not better than other plants and other plants are not better than sensitive plants. They’re just different types of plants.”

She looked at me for a minute. I was concerned. It made sense in my head, but maybe out loud, it was crazy.

Then she grinned her goofy grin. With her bouncy little body and still-babyish voice, she told me, “Yeah! And planet Earth needs all different types of plants on it! We can’t only have sensitive plants! And we can’t have no sensitive plants, either!”

Away she went, happy with the analogy.

It’s been about six months. We still circle back to that one. “Mommy, why do other people not… ?” I breathe deeply and ask, “What do we know about sensitive plants?” Almost instantly, the tension melts away and we are able to move on with our day.

We still clean up at the park, though.

“How does this work?” Hands-on science explorations

We’ve entered into a busy few weeks at work and home, which translate into less time to prepare “formal” lessons for L. That’s ok, though, because she’s in a really nice period of engaging in open-ended inquiry with interesting things!

She’s been pulling out and exploring this music box from Educational Innovations – you can put the pins in yourself and create songs. That’s been a big go-to.

We’ve also given her some new materials to explore. We’ve had a broken clock for… two years? You know, it’s been on the wall but not actually keeping time? Clearly I’m the only one with such an artifact in my house… =)

Anyway, it’s a good thing I didn’t throw it away (see! I had a plan!) because the other day, I asked L to put on her safety goggles, gave her a flat head screwdriver and butter knife, and asked her to take it apart.

She definitely looked at me like I was nuts! I explained that it was broken and our choices now were either to just throw it away or see how it worked. She decided that exploration was the way to go!

Clock, meet your end

Clock, meet your end

She began reluctantly at first. She was still worried about breaking it – even though it was already broken! I explained to her that when she was done exploring it, it would be in about 15 different pieces, AND THAT WOULD BE OK! Having gotten the permission she needed, she proceeded like a medical examiner with an interesting case…

First, disassembling the plastic cover, hands, and motor

First, disassembling the plastic cover, hands, and motor

Then, all the parts were taken apart

Then, all the parts were taken apart

She was very interested in the copper wire and tiny gears. We talked a little bit about them.

We then moved into Snap Circuits. We have a kit on loan (as we decide whether or not to purchase one for Christmas). We pulled it out and talked our way through the first two builds in the project book: Batteries in Series (two LED lights) and Ticking Screeched (a simple speaker).

Experimenting with Snap Circuits

Experimenting with Snap Circuits

While working on the first project, we got to experience what happens if you put the LEDs in the wrong direction (the circuit won’t complete). This was a nice opportunity to talk about energy as a wave. During the second build, we followed the book’s lead and substituted in different capacitors. L noticed that the larger the capacitor, the smaller the sound. We talked about the role of a capacitor in restricting the energy flow. We noticed just as we were finishing up that there’s a light-reactive element to this build. We’re going to have to build it again to experiment more with that element! We’re also ready to explore our World’s Simplest Motor!

Finally, we worked on an art project. Art projects aren’t really my forte. I struggle with how much of what I find out there seems to have a predetermined final product. I know that I feel bad when my final product doesn’t look like it’s “supposed to”, so I shy away from them. We do a lot of markers/colored pencils/crayons and blank paper, but that’s kind of where my push ends.

In any case, I decided to make fizzy art with her. See! An art project! (Ok, it’s science. I know)…

I asked L to put food coloring and vinegar into small containers while I covered the surface of a cookie sheet (with sides) in a thick layer of baking soda.

prepping the project

prepping the project

I then explained to that she could use an eyedropper (fine motor skills!) to drop the solution onto the baking soda.

Wow!

Fizzing!

Colors!

So cool!

In process

In process

She pretty quickly found out that you could drop two colors at once, or even a second color on top of a previously-fizzed spot, and create new colors

Making new colors

Making new colors

About 45 minutes later, the sheet was covered in brownish-black liquid. We got a chance to revisit the idea that black is all the colors. As we were cleaning up, she asked to do it again. That evening, we repeated the entire thing with my husband. Good times!

What I loved about all of these experiences were the grins that flashed across her face. She was probably learning. But she was definitely having fun! My goal right now is to keep her invested in the idea that learning is fun, so for us both, these experiences were absolute successes.

The solar system lesson!

Today was L’s presentation in the sixth grade classroom (here’s the first post detailing her process of getting ready for this presentation). Oh my goodness. I got my ab workout for the day through laughter!

When we decided that today was “the day” for the lesson, she decided she needed a formal lesson plan. She needed to plot out what she was going to do and when she was going to do it. I opened a Word document just in time to capture her stating what she would say first to the students:

I am going to teach you about the solar system today. First, I will tell you that Pluto’s not a planet. Then we’re going to watch How Many Planets on the screen. And then we’re going to go on our solar system walk. We will see how far it is from the sun all the way to Pluto.

Wow! As a teacher educator, I have to say that this is a fairly nice job setting the stage for the learning that’s going to come. She then decided that she was worried. She had 11 objects picked out (Sun, 8 planets, asteroid belt, and Pluto). If we had 11 of the students read those facts, what would the other students be able to do? Yes, it was in four-year-old speak, but she essentially decided that it would be best if each student were able to play a hands-on role to ensure they were all engaged. Of course!

We did some math and realized that since there were two facts on each of the 11 cards, if one student each read the facts, we would have have jobs for 22 students. We added in a measurer and a chalker to get to 24 students. We then decided that we’d have 4 students reading which objects we were at and generally giving help. We made a chart summarizing this information

We then decided that explaining the scale was important. I had to help with the math, but here was the script she decided on:

We are going to measure 1 foot for every 1 million miles. If you were driving 60 miles per hour, it would take 16,667 hours to drive 1 million miles. That’s driving for 694 days without stopping for gas or to sleep or go potty!

True that, kiddo. We learned that the rolling measuring tape we were going to use was in meters! Argh! Ok, another quick math lesson which built on the idea that when we did it at home, we measured in sidewalk squares which were about 5 feet. This is the paragraph she added to the script:

There are 3 and a quarter feet in each meter. Our walking stick uses meters so we will be doing our walk in meters. Our distances are good estimates.

Ok, the final thing was to help her make sense of what she wanted the students to learn about during the walk. I asked her to think about how we thought of questions after we were done reading a new book to help us understand the book. She decided on three questions for the students to use for reflection after the solar system walk:

  • What did you think about our solar system walk?
  • What did you notice about our solar system walk?
  • What did you learn from our solar system walk?

Again, these seem like pretty decent reflection questions at the end of a lesson!

So, we were off to the school. After the requisite ooh-ing and aah-ing, she began her lesson. She was at the front of the room and told the students about Pluto (sorry for the x-ray effect, but still trying to protect her privacy!).

She then showed them (one of) her favorite They Might Be Giants videos. After assigning everyone jobs and passing out her fact cards, we began our walk.

Things went swimmingly. She led the discussion fairly well (with some prompting from mom) and increasingly needed to be carried (the solar system is BIG!). Beyond that, she did an excellent job. She was engaged and thoughtful and the kids actually walked away with a better grasp of just how much SPACE there is in space.

One of my favorite take-aways from the day is this shot of her walking with the big kids. She is so confident and secure when talking with others about science. I hope to build on that as she continues to learn how to interact with others on a variety of topics and across settings. My little love… =)

My other favorite moment during this entire giggle-fest was when a student asked her if she knew what Saturn’s rings were made of. She replied, “Ice and dust, that’s why the answer is B and D.”

I couldn’t figure out what she meant. I said, “Ice and dust, right. What’s the other part?”

Very clearly, she said, “That’s why the answer is B and D.”

Again, I started to clarify, but then I remembered that we’d read a book once. A month or so ago. It had multiple choice questions in the back of it.

The book

The book

Now, it turns out that the answer was “D”, which was “B and C”, so there was a slight misremembering happening. However, of course. Of course you remembered that thing we did that one time awhile ago…

This is why I’m exhausted, folks. Happy, but exhausted!

Prepping for solar system fun

L has become increasingly interested in astronomy, and in particular, her love of They Might be Giants has fueled an interest in the solar system. We were trying to help her understand the concept of scale in the solar system, which is certainly a tough sell to anyone! We decided to use a solar system walk on our street (which happens to be a long, fairly straight walk) to help her conceptualize this idea.

For our purposes, it was less important that the specifics be exactly right and more important that she grasp the idea of measurement and empty space. We decided that we would use one foot (12″) as 1 million miles for the space between the planets/objects. We took with us a chart listing how far away each object was from the sun as well as from the object before it. We also had a measuring tape and a piece of chalk.

When we got to the stop sign where our street intersects with the main road, we drew the sun. We made the sun a circle with a diameter of about 10″ on the sidewalk and labeled it “Sun”. Then, we used the measuring tape to walk 36 feet from the Sun. It was immediately apparent to L that it was a long way to Mercury as our measuring tape ran out at 20 feet! My husband had to stand at 20 feet while we walked to him, then measure 16 feet past that to make our mark for Mercury. Mercury was the smallest dot we could make. We then walked 31 feet past Mercury to make Venus’s mark, which was again tiny. We continued through Earth (which was 26 feet past Venus). Then, we got to walking to Mars. Mars is 49 feet past Earth. We realized that it was going to be an issue to keep using the measuring tape, so we decided to make a proxy measure.

We measured a rectangle of sidewalk. The sidewalk rectangle was approximately 5 feet long. We then talked about skip counting and how we could skip count to the numbers we needed to get to:

  • 10 rectangles to Mars
  • 68 rectangles to Jupiter
  • 80 rectangles to Saturn
  • 182 rectangles to Uranus
  • 200 rectangles to Neptune

We also decided to put the asteroid belt about halfway between Mars and Jupiter. Mars, Uranus, Neptune, and the individual asteroids were represented by chalk dots as small as we could make them. Jupiter and Saturn were dots of about 1 inch in diameter.

We stopped along the way to look back and see where the sun was. Pretty quickly it became clear that we couldn’t see the sun at all! We talked about the temperature on different planets and how this walk made those temperatures make sense. We talked about the word “space” and how the solar system was mostly full of… space.

We walked and walked and walked… Mars… Asteroid belt… Jupiter… Saturn… Uranus… and then we ran out of sidewalk!! We thought about where Neptune would be – and then realized that if we were going to put Pluto on our walk at all, it would be near our favorite Indian restaurant! Wow. This walk really helped L visualize the idea of how much space there really is!

Right about when we put Mars on the ground, L decided that she should teach this lesson to her daddy’s students. Remember, he teaches sixth grade science. We talked about that idea and decided that it was a good one. I asked her about how to get daddy’s students more involved. She decided that she could write each object on a card and write facts on the card. When we got to each object on our walk, one of daddy’s students could read the facts out loud. That seemed like a pretty solid lesson plan!

A few days after our walk, L started prepping her lesson materials. She now has completed her cards. She wrote the objects’ names on the fronts of the cards and dictated the facts to me. She consulted some of her space books and remembered other facts. We decided that two facts per object seemed about right.

Her cards

Her cards (note the exclamation marks after Jupiter)

Some of my personal favorite facts are:

  • “After the sun and moon, Venus is the brightest object in the sky. It can sometimes be seen even when you can’t see the stars”
  • “Earth has a very thin atmosphere. It makes the right environment for life.”
  • “Asteroids are large lumps of icy rock or metal moving around the sun. Most of the asteroids in the solar system are found in the asteroid belt.”
  • “Uranus is the only planet that doesn’t rotate with its axis up and down. Its axis is sideways.”

Hilarious!

Now we are just waiting for a Monday/Wednesday/Friday that is both (a) not raining and (b) flexible in both his school schedule and ours. Hopefully this week will be the winner! She’s excited, and I know his students are, too!

And, we’ve been using Time for Kids, too – here are some of the pages she’s adored!

Reading comprehension about Sally Ride

Reading comprehension about Sally Ride

Comparing the planets (1)

Comparing the planets (1)

Comparing the planets (2)

Comparing the planets (2)

Earth's moon and Mars's moon

Earth’s moon and Mars’s moon

Comparing all the moons

Comparing all the moons

She adores these! And I feel good about them knowing that she’s working her science and math and reading and writing… and they’re quick and easy to prep! So much of what we do requires A LOT OF PREP work on my part, particularly compared to how quickly she flies through it. Things like this give me enough time to (start to) catch my breath!

Mealworms. Blarg.

So, let it be known that the universe has a sense of humor. I’m not a big “creepy crawly” person. I despise snakes and am not a big fan of worms, either. So, when my husband sent me this link about exploring mealworms in a homeschool environment, I knew I was going to need to put on my big girl shoes…

On Saturday morning, while I was getting a haircut, my child and husband went to the pet store and came home with a container of 100 mealworms. Really? 100? 5 wouldn’t have been enough?

We began by exploring the mealworms. We carefully took out two of them and placed them on a cookie sheet. I used plastic tweezers to move them gently. I was not about to touch them!

L observed the following things right away:

  • they’re about one inch long
  • they have six legs, all at the front
  • they’re brown and look like they have segments
  • one of the mealworms is molting
  • they make a scratchy sound when they move

She also made sense of the difference between mealworms and worms in the following ways:

  • “They are not really worms. They are insect worms because they’ll be beetles. Beetles are insects. When are we going to have beetles?”
  • They’re like beetle caterpillars!
  • “They only have six legs on their body. Caterpillars have lots more legs. They only have some.”

We then decided to look at mealworms and foods. We began by putting a pile of dry oatmeal on one side of the cookie sheet and banana slices on the other side of the cookie sheet. We had the end of the banana standing upright. L promptly named it “Banana Mountain”.

Bananas, oatmeal, and mealworms

Bananas, oatmeal, and mealworms

L then began asking about more mealworms. And more mealworms. AND MORE MEALWORMS. I began by seeing if 6 would be enough. It would be, for about a minute. Then we needed more and more. Eventually (you guessed it), we had most of the 100 mealworms on the cookie sheet. Shudder.

Many of the mealworms were still when we moved them onto the cookie sheet. She decided that the dead mealworms should be placed into the tanks for our aquatic frogs. Yum yum! We gave each mealworm a few minutes to move then gently poked it with the tweezers. If it moved on its own or after being poked, L yelled out, “Mealworm! You have been saved!!” and we let it go on with itself. If it still showed no signs of life, into a tank it went.

We added some additional foods to the cookie sheet and began placing the mealworms on the foods. We wanted to see if the mealworms would stay on the foods, move off the foods, or possibly congregate at one of the food choices. Their buffet included banana, dry oatmeal, tomato, carrot, apple, and kale. The mealworms showed no interest in the carrot or kale (not surprising, I suppose, since they were fresh and crunchy. The carrots and kale, I mean, though I suppose the mealworms were, too.).

After L got bored with the food part of the experiment, we decided to look at light and dark. We used a drying rack and magazines to create shade over one half of the cookie sheet.

A nice shady space

A nice shady space

We then placed all the mealworms in the center of the cookie sheet just in the light. We spread out the oatmeal to make sure that the oatmeal wasn’t contributing to where they wanted to be. Then we watched. And waited. And watched. And waited. Lots of them were slow movers! Eventually, a majority of them congregated under the shade. We decided that the shade made them feel safer because it was less likely a predator would be able to find and eat them.

Finally, we prepared a mealworm habitat. We moved some of the banana and tomato pieces, along with the lid of the original container filled with oatmeal, and placed it all in the bottom of an insect habitat. It was time to introduce the mealworms to their new home.

It should be noted that through this entire process, I did not touch a mealworm. I used the plastic tweezers to move all mealworms. I also stifled squeaks and squeals as best I could. I told L that I loved that she loved the mealworms, but they made me feel very uncomfortable in my belly. She accepted that and did not torment me with them. However, she LOVES the mealworms. She picked them up. She crooned at them. She placed her face inches from them. I was convinced I’d need to dip her in disinfectant, but I contained myself. The following photos show her in her element. Picture this with her little voice crooning softly to the mealworm in her hand, “Ok, little guy! You’re going to go into your new home now! What a good little mealworm you are!!”

Home, sweet home

Home, sweet home

In her bare hand

In her bare hand

There is one more photo showing her look of utter delight – had we not decided to keep her face off this blog, it would be here, too. It’s one of the “light shining out of a kid’s face” shots. With a mealworm wrapped around her finger.

All in all, a good day with mealworms. They’re still in my kitchen, by the way. So is the deer jaw bone from the museum center. But that’s a subject for another day.

Fossil data

What could be more fun in our house than a giant zip-top plastic bag crammed full of fossils??

Obviously a rhetorical question – because NOTHING could be!

We ordered this fossil sorting kit from Educational Innovations. When it came, the first thing we did was immediately look at the sorting guide. L took the lead on separating all of the fossils into their different types.

Sorting

Sorting

Once we sorted them, we counted how many of each type we ended up with. We’ve been talking a lot about the idea of data, so this seemed like a perfect moment to pursue that concept. It provided a nice moment to think about groupings by 10’s (and with crinoids, even 100’s!)

Counting ammonites

Counting ammonites

Crinoids in tens and our data capture

Crinoids in tens and our data capture

We talked about how to represent the data and decided to graph it. I asked her how many boxes we would need to fill in to show 158 crinoids. She grasped that 158 boxes was going to be a lot!! For the first time, we went to the computer to pursue our graph. We logged onto the NCES Create a Graph feature. We chose a bar graph and L entered all of the data herself. It created the following graph:

L's graph

L’s graph (note the headers’ spelling!)

We’ve also been talking a lot about multiple ways to interpret the same dataset, and given L’s interest in evolution and time, we decided to re-analyze our data by time. We began by finding and printing a geologic timeline. We then cut out the information about each of the fossils and attached them where they belonged on the timeline.

Fossils in time order

Fossils in time order

Finally, I wanted to stretch her thinking into the logical and organizational realms. We wrote the three periods the fossils were found in (Devonian, Jurassic, and Cretaceous) in black marker. I then asked L to identify her favorite events in Earth’s history. We wrote those in blue marker. She then went through the work of ordered the blue events on our kitchen floor.

Sorting events

Sorting events

Once the blue events were in place, she placed the period markers at their appropriate locations (under the line to differentiate the periods from the events). Finally, she placed one of each fossil in the timeline as well. Here are the two parts (she wanted a big delineation between the Devonian and Jurassic, so they were about 10 feet apart):

Timeline, pt 1

Timeline, pt 1

Timeline, pt. 2

Timeline, pt. 2

Overall, this was a great hands-on synthesis of one of her favorite subjects with some higher-order thinking. I love it when her “work” feels more like play. Her brain was engaged, but so was her body and her giggle!