We revisited mountains with our next Five in a Row book, Amber on the Mountain. A little girl lives an isolated life somewhere in the mountains, but her life changes when a new friend opens the world of reading and writing to her. The mountains in this book are not named, and they look rather like the Rockies, but the culture seems to be Appalachian. This was a fun book to row.
One of our first activities was a discussion of similes. We've talked about these before with other FIAR books. This time I had K and T each think of their own and illustrate it for inclusion in their notebooks. I thought K's was cute: she compared M, who was about eleven months at the time and trying to climb whatever furniture she could, to a morning glory climbing our back fence.
I liked how she accurately drew M's head as being round and bald.
We did a couple activities with clay. One was to construct "rockheaded" mules with Crayola Air Dry clay. They didn't turn out very well-- I think they were handled too much as they were supposed to be drying and they fell apart. Oh well, it was still fun to create with clay. The other activity was to build a winding road up a mountain after we talked about how a road that went straight up would be too steep. A road like this makes good use of the simple machine known as the ramp.
The book describes the high mountain air as being thin. We spent a day talking about the qualities of air and did an experiment to show that air takes up space and has substance. The kids were interested to see how a paper towel wadded up into the bottom of a glass stayed dry, even when the glass was plunged under water.
In addition, I asked K to come up with a question about air and research the answer in some library books. Her question was "Why are bubbles round?" This question was not addressed in the books we'd checked out, but we were able to find an answer online. ("There are 2 reasons: First, the air pushes in all directions, not just one. Secondly, it would be easier t push it into a sphere than any other shape.") K also read through the library books and wrote down a few interesting facts she liked.
After Amber's new friend moves away, Amber teaches herself to write and she is able to answer her friend's letters. K had the joy of becoming a penpal with a homeschooling friend who also uses Five in a Row, and the two girls have kept up a correspondence for the last several months. K has loved getting letters from her friend and I hope they can continue writing to each other for a long time!
The last activity I'll describe was gaining an appreciation for mountain music. We talked about various household objects that could be used for instruments, should real instruments be not available or be too expensive, as they were for many Appalachian families. We watched several Youtube videos of people playing homemade instruments or giving instructions of how to use them. Here is a playlist of mountain music for this unit. The first song is Rock the Cradle Joe and has a washboard accompanied by a guitar and banjo. The next is Jug Band Music and has quite a variety of unique instruments. Then there is a video showing how to play the spoons. We didn't watch the whole thing, but enough to get an idea of how to try playing the spoons ourselves. Then a video of an extremely accomplished spoon player, and last a man, Washboard Chaz, leading a washboard workshop. We didn't watch this one all the way through, either, but he has such great rhythm that it makes you think you could dance to just a washboard.
Of course, we then had to try making music with our own instruments. Here is a ten second video clip of K and T jamming.
They got synchronized as they played, and had a tremendous amount of fun doing this. It was interesting that when we finished, they were inspired to go and dig up the "real" children's instruments that we have and play some more. Compared to their previous music, however, the real instruments didn't sound nearly as bandlike.
We had a great time with this book!