Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Private Eye

A friend of mine recently started a workshop based on The Private Eye: "5x" Looking/Thinking by Analogy and I am hooked! The process is very simple yet quite powerful. The product is designed for the school market but really could flourish in homeschools.

The idea is this: look at a natural object using a 5x loupe. Just that alone in fascinating because objects look so different magnified, revealing detail one never imagined was there. It also focuses a child's attention on that small piece of the world. Next, make a list of analogies for the object thinking about of what other things it reminds you. Similes and metaphors work well here; try to come up with a list of 5 to 10 of them.

After examining the object for awhile, draw what you see. This is ideal material for any nature notebook, of course. We draw a circle to simulate the loupe and then draw the object in it.

Finally, kids ask themselves why something looks the way it does, why it has the structure it does. Because so often form follows function, this line of questioning is really a scientific investigation. The first steps are to ask a question and form a hypothesis. Most often the answers will come from a book or Internet search, but as kids get older they may be inspired to carry out some investigations themselves.

One can easily imagine applying this simple process endlessly throughout years of nature study. Yet what I found even more intriguing are the suggestions and projects listed in the book to extend the analogies and investigations, especially for writing. By thinking in analogies, the natural objects more easily become the subjects of poetry, short stories, expressive journaling, as well research. The book gives ideas "across the curriculum" as one would expect from a school-based curriculum. I find it to be a fascinating way to look, think, and write about nature.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Journey North Update: Equinox and Longitude

We have been progressing well with our Journey North project.  Last Friday we received sunrise and sunset data for the equinox that allowed us to find the longitude of our mystery classes!  After studying maps, seasons, the earth's rotation and revolution, time zones, and universal time, we now have latitudes and longitudes for all 10 classes!

The following weeks will be dedicated to checking maps (including Google maps) and following whatever rabbit trails may arise from the geography clues we will receive for the next month.  And we're waiting to see when class 3 and class 8 will change their photoperiods.  They're hard to see, but one of them still has a 24 hour photoperiod while the other has zero hours.

Our graph will have all the photoperiod lines cross as we now on the other side of the equinox.  We found it interesting that the photoperiods far from the equator have non-liner changes.

It was rewarding to see the kids excited about finding their longitudes.  They were quite confused at first by universal time, local time, and sunrise but after more discussion they began to figure it out.  They were excited to see their hard work pay off.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NASA Educators and DLN

If you haven't been to the NASA Educators web site, it is well worth a visit. This site is loaded with all kinds of helpful information. I just downloaded a 95 page packet on Optics that includes 14 different activities for kids in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. And there's well over 100 publications available! Scroll down to where it says Find Teaching Materials to search or browse.

Besides the teaching guides, they have feature articles, images, podcasts, eClips (videos), student material, NASA's Kids Club online games, and other educational opportunities. You can register for a free MyNASA account to organize your personal resources on the very extensive site.

During one visit to the site, it had a box that linked to the Digital Learning Network (I have not seen the box again since.) On this site NASA offers free live web casts and, if you have the equipment, classroom video-conferences. It looks like you just click on the link when the webcast begins; right now it brings you to an empty chat room for that webcast. I'm interested to see one, the next one being March 10.