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.


Fiddler said...

With what ages do you think this curriculum would be successful, Kris? I have a 12 y.o. who will not draw (in front of others, anyway, or for an assignment), and an 8 y.o. who l-o-v-e-s anything called art.

MiaZagora said...

Thank you, so much, for posting this! I have heard similar concepts used for nature study, but I had not thought about weaving in the bit about metaphor, simile, or analogies!

::carol:: said...

How cool!! this looks like somethingmy kiddos would enjoy, off to order!!

Jimmie said...

I never thought of using a loupe. I've used a magnifying glass before, though.

Kris said...

We split our rather large group into ages 7 to 10, and 11+

For the youngers we just have them do the basic sequence of view, make analogies, draw, and think why. The olders, after they do those basic steps, are encouraged to do some creative writing.

I would consider having your older child draw anyway only because it will help him/her look at detail, but not put any emphasis on it. Maybe your child will be more interested in the creative writing or research part of it and so I would put the emphasis there.

I find the beauty of the program is to think differently about objects to enhance your art, writing, and/or research. In that sense art is only one area that can be minimized if it is not your child's area of interest.

Kris said...

Jimmie, I found that looking through the loupe better focuses our attention on the object because of the narrow scope of view compared to a magnifying glass, much like a microscope. When they draw a circle in which to draw what they see I encourage them to fill up the circle just like the object fills the view in the loupe.

Paula said...

What a simple and great Aristotelian idea for nature study.I will check if the Book Depository has this book.

Mama Squirrel said...

I had this book and gave it away because a) I couldn't find anywhere to buy 5x loupes and b) I couldn't figure out how to use the book--like Drawing with Children, it gives you an overall idea but it's a little hard to figure out where the "lessons" are. In a way it's good that it's very open-ended, but I could have used a few more specific suggestions--that is, if we had been able to find the loupes in the first place.

Kris said...

If you follow the top link it goes to The Private Eye website and they sell 5x loupes; if you buy two you can nestle them to get 25x magnification.

The amount of mag doesn't matter, IMHO; I already have a 10x loupe I picked up (at Amazon or Home Science Tools?) It's having the narrow field of view that encourages looking at the details.

You are right in that the books does not have lesson plans; rather it has lists of suggestions by subject to expand on the basic 4 step process. It is not an out-of-the-box program.

I also see it as part habit training in observation--the bases of Drawing With Children,too. My mother happens to be using that book with them for art. Funny how when it relates to science and nature I get it but when it was art I didn't.

{ jamie } said...

That sounds fun! Thanks for sharing the idea!