Monday, February 13, 2012
Our first Five in a Row book for January was Owl Moon. It is a good wintery book about a little girl who goes looking for owls in the light of the full moon with her father. Here are the highlights from our row.
We started with a discussion of hyperbole which, surprisingly, was a concept K readily picked up on. "There were a million ornaments on the Christmas tree." Maybe this is the way a six year old thinks. My favorite FIAR moment was when K wanted me to write down B's moment of fatherly exasperation-- "it's going to take twenty years to do this!"--on the list of hyperbole we'd started in her notebook.
There is a picture in Owl Moon that is an aerial view--the view that an owl might see. I had K build a house out of blocks and took a picture of it from above so she could see her own aerial view. Then I showed her an aerial view of our street on Mapquest and we traced the route we drive to our weekly homeschool co-op. When B came home that evening, she greeted him with "We were owls and flew to the co-op!".
I think he's sort of getting used to these mystifying descriptions of what we do during our days.
One night after we'd been rowing this book a couple days, I looked out the window while the kids were getting ready for bed and saw that the sky was clear and the moon was full. When they were in their pajamas, ready for goodnight stories, I told them I had a surprise. I turned out the lights and opened the shades; the light of the moon flooded the dark room. The moonlight was so bright we could see our moon shadows in the room, and outside the shadows of the bushes and trees stretched long and black. I described to the kids how when I was a girl in the Portland suburbs, I didn't realize the moon could make shadows until we started taking vacations in Central Oregon, away from cloudy skies and city lights. That was a revelation to me. Then B, the country boy, shared that nights with a full moon and freshly fallen snow were his favorite when he was growing up. Just like in Owl Moon.
Watching the moon was an impromptu moment that led perfectly into learning about the moon the next day. We did an experiment (from the FIAR archives) to learn about the phases of the moon. I wrapped toilet paper around a big maraca to be our moon. (K, on seeing the designs imprinted on the toilet paper, exclaimed, "I see the craters on the moon!") We pretended K's head was Earth and a lamp was the sun. By holding the "moon" out in front of her and turning around, she could see the new moon..
..change to waxing crescent,
then to full moon (sorry for the blurry shot),
and so on. This experiment really showed how our view of the moon changes as the earth rotates. We spent a couple more days learning about the moon. K made a chart of the 8 moon phases and a moon clock. I printed out a January calender that showed the moon's phase for each day and K was careful to change her clock to show what point the moon was at almost every day.
We also looked at video footage of the moon and some news footage from the first time a man walked on the moon. The vintage footage was kind of blurry, and I did a lot of explaining of what we were seeing as we watched. But the kids seemed to catch the excitement of that day in 1969. They cheered with the people when they celebrated this momentous milestone. Later T asked why there is no sound on spaceships. I explained that actually there was, just the video that we saw was silent for some of those parts.
After learning about the moon, it was on to study about owls. We made a KWL chart about owls. (What do I know, what do I want to know, what have I learned about owls.) I had checked out some books about owls from the library and we watched some informative Youtube videos (including one that showed an owl hooting just like in the book). K made an owl art project. I found this Pinterest board with owl ideas. It was hard to choose--I didn't know there were so many possibilities for cute owl art projects. A good go-along for learning about owls was the story Owl Lake. Not many kid stories take place at night but this one begins at sundown and ends with the sunrise. The beautiful woodcut illustrations bring this out very clearly.
Then we dissected owl pellets. I debated whether to do this or not. I remembered being older when I did this in school and I wondered whether the gross factor would be too much for K.
Not a bit of it.
Instead of being squeamish, she kept happily saying "I'm a real scientist!" as she dug for bones.
Not my favorite kind of activity, but it was a great time of learning-- lots of bones to find. Two skulls and an assortment of other types of bones. I don't think we even got them all. It was interesting to identify what kind of bones they might be.
This post is getting long, but here is one more interesting mini-study we did. This FIAR unit is heavy on the science and we also spent a day talking about bird calls and local birds. I compiled a list from the local Audubon Society web page of birds that we see visiting our bird feeders. (K then was inspired to also make a list of all the birds she's ever seen.)
Then, the morning after we'd learned about birds , it started to snow. Our bird feeder was a busy place. As we ate breakfast a flock of about 15 red-wing blackbirds descended and mobbed the feeder. They were all over it, on the ground, perching nearby. It was the strangest sight. In the past, we'd had a single red-wing blackbird visit our feeder, once, maybe twice. But here was a whole flock, big black birds all over the place. Most of our usual small bird visitors flew away, though a few house finches stayed nearby, wings on their little tiny hips, chirping indignantly. Me and the kids just watched with our mouths open. The timing of this visit was amazing.
This was a really great unit with lots of memorable moments.