Saturday, January 08, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up.....Into Africa

We started our unit on Africa this week. Usually, I like to post a wrap up at the end of a unit rather than each week.....but I didn't post one at all during it's been eons.

We started our mapping and geography with just the countries of southern Africa, and we only used this countries for our geography matching game at the end of the week as well. (Mostly, so that Mommy wouldn't be completely embarrassed at her utter lack of knowledge of African geography. A famous family quote, from my teenage years, which arose during a game of Trivial Pursuit is: "Name a city in Africa. ANY city in Africa." That about sums up my prior knowledge of the land and places of Africa.)


Our library shelf is packed with books which we've begun reading together. We started out the week with an old favorite, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. This book is from Toa's private collection, and is a much loved story, with a separate blog post all of its own.

Another hit with Toa of Boy was Never Smile at a Monkey. Though, this one was all about how dangerous and poisonous certain animals are....and was much less of a hit with Sweetling.

And, what would a study of Africa be without a collection of Ananse tales? To begin, we read A Story, A Story. This book does have a "Sky God" in it, which I consider part of learning about other cultures and religions, but I want to mention it so that other homeschoolers are aware of the fact before reading it aloud to their younger children.

We haven't delved into the bulk of our non-fiction books or our chapter books, most of which I just picked up from the library on Friday afternoon, because I didn't get on the computer to request an inter-branch transfer and hold until Monday afternoon. We have several promising chapter books for Sweetling to pick from for her literature reading for the next couple of weeks. But, I don't like posting about a book till we've read it ourselves.

Art and Music

Since we spent the first part of the week learning about facts, landforms, cultures, Thursday I was ready for something fun and creative. We spent a good part of the morning listening to and singing along with the African children's songs from our Wee Sing around the World CD. We played a fun hand clap game along with one of the songs and Mommy teared up at the Zaire lullaby.

We spent the afternoon doing art and craft projects. I, foolish mortal that I am, let each child pick out an art/craft project of their own from our Global Art book. Which meant our small kitchen table was completely covered in supplies and mess and works in progress.

Animal Sculpture
Sweetling made an elephant sculpture out of found nature objects and natural craft supplies I happened to have in storage in the garage for wreath making. Of course, this also meant that Sweetling went on a short expedition in our back yard to collect many of the other items she would need. And, not knowing what she would need, brought in a small plastic tub of things which she, under my direction, dumped and spread out on the table to look through. (And many of which went into my wreath-supplies storage tub in the garage after Sweetling finished her project.) Sweetling was pleased to accomplish her project without needing glue of any kind.

Here's how to make your own animal sculptures:
  •  Decide in advance an animal you'd like to make. Look at some pictures of that animal and talk about the forms and shapes which comprise the animal's body. What things in particular really make that animal stand out from other animals? To represent the unique character of your animal, you will need to be able to find objects which clearly represent those unique features. (Ie--a giraffe's long neck, an elephants ears and trunk, a monkey's long curled tail, a lion's mane).
  • Go on a walk and collect as many interesting objects as you can find. Remember you will need something large for a body and small things for eyes, ears, noses, limbs, tails. Remember to look for the items you need for your animal's unique characteristics.
  • At home, practice assembling your items by just holding one or two items in place and get a 'feel' for how your animal will come together. Are the unique characteristics the most prominent feature of the animal? You do not have to be precise with your sculpture, you have to convey the 'meaning' or the 'defining characteristics' of the animal.
  • Once you are satisfied with your choices, use hot glue (with adult supervision) or find some other means of holding your sculpture together.

Basket "Weaving"
Toa of Boy made a colorful "woven" basket...using fabric squares and a paper-mache technique. So, while one side of my kitchen table was covered with twigs, pebbles and sweetgums, the other side was covered in puddles of glue. In retrospect, this was perhaps a dangerous combination, but forethought was never one of my strengths, and it all worked out fine in the end. (Of course, toward the end of the project, there came a conversation about 'what's for dinner?' that tried my patience...but...hey....)

The basket turned out really nicely, and Toa had very carefully co-ordinated one color scheme for the inside of the basket....
And another color scheme for the outside of the basket.
We had pre-chosen a container to use as the form of the basket such that the basket would be the perfect size and shape to hold napkins. It now sits on my kitchen table as a napkin basket, which is something I've been wanting to get for a long time.

Here's how to make your own colorful basket:
  • Cover your work surface with a plastic dropcloth. We use disposable party tablecloths from the dollar store.
  • Decide on a function for your basket. Will it be a pencil cup? Hold dried flowers? Be a home for all your silly bands? 
  • Once you have decided on how you will use your basket, pick a container of an appropriate size and shape for your baskets function. (Note, the container does not become part of the basket.)
  • Turn the container upside down on your work surface. Completely cover the container with plastic wrap. This step is needed so that you can easily separate your basket from the container once the basket dries.
  • Cut squares, approximately 2 inches on a side, out of an assortment of fabrics. Be mindful of a color scheme as you choose your fabrics. 
  • Mix equal parts white glue and water in a small dish.
  • One at a time, dip each fabric square in the glue mixture and squeeze out extra liquid by pulling the fabric square through two fingers of one hand.
  • Immediately lay each fabric square on your form. Generously overlap the edges of the fabric squares and very gently smooth down any corners or edges that curl up.
  • CAUTION--the first layer of fabric will become the INSIDE of your basket. Place fabric RIGHT SIDE DOWN on your form.
  • When your form is completely covered with overlapping fabric squares, begin making a second layer. This will be the OUTSIDE of your basket, so this time, place your fabric squares RIGHT SIDE UP.
  • Lay down some plastic (we used a plastic grocery bag) in a safe location for your basket to dry. 
  • Find some small items (we used empty glue bottles) OR use a small rack to keep most of the edges of your basket elevated from the plastic of the drying surface. (So it can drip dry instead of sitting in a puddle of its own making.)
  • Very carefully transfer your basket to its drying spot.
  • Allow basket to dry for 2-3 days. 
  • After it is completely dry, remove basket from form. Discard plastic wrap. 
  • Use a pair of sharp scissors to trim up the rough edges of the basket.
  • Voila! Be careful not to get your basket wet or try to use it to hold or carry heavy items!

And now, not specifically African, but fun anyway....


This year has been a "let's enjoy math again" year for Sweetling. As part of that, our math for the year has been reading about math and doing fun math puzzles and interesting problems. Recently, we've been having fun with the book, Math for Smarty Pants. We are in the geometry section at the moment.

What did the Mississippi acorn say when it had grown up?
"Gee, Ah'm a tree!"

For a couple of days this week, we were challenged to find all eleven ways that a flat paper shape, made of six squares, could be folded up to make a cube. To begin, I cut out a bunch of one inch paper squares. (I asked Sweetling to figure out how many we would need, if there were 8 shapes we needed to find---the book gave us three of the shapes as examples---and each shape used six squares and we each wanted to construct all 8 of the shapes we were looking for. This wasn't a challenging problem for her, but it was a nice, practical mental math exercise.)

At first, we just had fun arranging squares on the table. When we had found a configuration that looked like it would fold up to make a cube, we taped it together and tried it. (Note, I had these stored in a plastic baggie. When I took them out to snap a picture, one square stuck to the baggie and escaped my notice. Can you find the shape that needs a square? Can you tell where the square could go to let the shape make a cube? There's several correct answers to this.)

We were each working separately, and trying not to look at the arrangements the other was discovering. At one point, we looked up and noticed we had both just "discovered" the exact same arrangement. Neither of us had taped down yet, so I asked if there was a way one of us could change her arrangement just slightly so that they weren't exactly the same. We discovered that this could easily be done by moving just one square one space.

This lead to a far more systematic system of exploration, which we embarked on the following day. Starting with the four 'sides' of the cube in a row and with the 'top' and 'bottom' of the cube both on the farthest 'side' to the right or left, we moved just the top one square over, and recorded the new shape. Then we moved it another square over, and recorded the new shape, etc. We had long since closed our book and put it away, so we decided to graph all eleven arrangements, since neither of us could remember which were the three examples given in the book. (Ok, Mommy couldn't remember them, Sweetling probably could have.) When we thought we had all the arrangements which started with four squares in a row, we moved to arrangements with three squares in a row.

This method was more thorough, but led to some shapes which were the same as another shape if you flipped it over and rotated it. (Is that a mirror image? I don't know.) Sweetling made that discovery, after Mommy had thought she had found all eleven shapes. It turned out that no, Mommy had only ten arrangements, since one was a mirror image of another.

Sweetling made the discovery of the elusive eleventh arrangement. (We had already found a tricky arrangement which had only two squares in the row.) if you'd like to try this at home, I'll give you a hint: The eleventh arrangement involved two rows of three squares, perpendicular to one another.  Even Sweetling had a bit of trouble getting this arrangement to fold up into a cube, and we resorted to taping it together, folding it up, then removing and repositioning a square as needed. (This, sadly, was the square that fell off an arrangement when I pulled them out of a plastic bag for a photo-shoot. And, if you really get stuck on finding all eleven, that's your second hint.)

To see what others have done this week, hop on over to Weird, Un-Socialized Homeschoolers.

1 comment:

Our Side of the Mountain said...

Totally fun baskets! Love them! Great job!