“My son has been homeschooled since Kindergarten using Oak Meadow. He is graduating high school this year, has been admitted to the University of Wyoming with a full academic scholarship, and is starting in the Honors Program at the University. Ours has been a very positive and successful experience."
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are heading into spring and many of us are looking forward to growing vegetables in our own summer gardens. In my state we have a Cooperative Extension Service that provides lots of information and offers activities about farming in my area. With snow still on the ground, I’m dreaming of planting my garden. Since I’m in the city, I’m planning to start small this year with a few tomato plants in big pots, and some spinach and onions in a small bed. I look forward to my tiny harvest of spaghetti sauce!
We know that human activity does pollute the environment and that it can cause climate changes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one way of helping to limit climate change. We also now know that driving a car is a major cause of climate change as the car emissions release carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. One way greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced is by growing one’s own food so that driving to market doesn’t happen so often. So, planting seeds is a great start to reducing the pollution of our planet!
Wishful thinking doesn’t make my garden grow, so first I have to buy some seeds and soil. Since my growing season is so short, I have to start my plants indoors. Many of you using the Oak Meadow science curriculum are planting seeds, recording their growth, and also exploring and reporting on different types of soils. This website from the Smithsonian National Museum of History is awesome: Dig It! The Secrets of Soil. I compost vegetable and fruit matter so I have some good soil to start with. I’ll also purchase some organic soil from a local landscape supplier to mix in. You may have studied the plant kingdom in the Oak Meadow 6th grade science curriculum and learned the difference between gymnosperms and angiosperms. I’ll be planting some angiosperms! My south facing windows will be a perfect place for starting my plants.
This student found a good spot outside to start the seeds!
If you are planting your own garden, and when you have a break from your farming, here’s a fun game to play to maintain a sustainable farm that grows healthy crops and reduces emissions! You might also enjoy reading Thor Hanson’s book The Triumph of Seeds. Visit his website to learn more about this.
What are you planting? What are some ways that you help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your community?
Welcome to the merry month of May!
I hope you and your family are taking the time to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. May is certainly one of my favorite months in the springtime. The world is alive and fresh, and everything is bright and colorful. I love watching the children as they bounce and skip and dance about with laughter and merriment. It is just as if they have springs on their feet, for they are filled with their own kind of renewed energy and spirit.
Planting a garden is a great way to take care of the earth and make it a more beautiful place. Children love digging in the warm soil, planting seeds for the butterflies, and watching their tiny green plants grow into fruition. Singing a little garden song or reciting a poem makes planting time even more joyful! One of my favorite songs is the “Garden Song”, a popular children’s song and American folk song written by David Mallett. A springtime poem I like to share with early elementary children is “The Little Plant”, written by Kate Louise Brown.
We all know that April Showers bring May flowers, so if it’s a rainy day, then a craft project might be a delightful way to bring more color into your home. Oak Meadow’s Kindergarten Coursebook (Lesson 24) includes the art of making paper flowers. Hands can make a beautiful springtime garden, too, so perhaps you might like to handprint a flower garden. What you will need is tempera paints (green & bright colors) and a large sheet of white paper. Make green stems with a stroke of the finger, and add green leaves with the side of your palms. Then, make colorful handprint blossoms. Another enjoyable art project is making a seed mosaic. You will need a variety of seeds, construction paper, and glue. Seeds come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Try the many different ways to sort the seeds. Then, glue them on your paper to create different patterns or designs.
Earth Day first began on April 22, 1970. Inspired to improve environmental protection laws in the United States, Gaylord Nelson, a Senator from Wisconsin, together with Pete McCloskey, a Congressman, and Denis Hayes, selected as the Earth Day organizer, joined forces to promote a day of events to bring public awareness to air and water pollution throughout the United States. People from all over the United States planned clean-up activities and rallies for improving the health of the environment. The event was so powerful that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created and later, in 1990, Earth Day became a global event.
Celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd with your family! This year the Earth Day theme centers around environmental and climate literacy. You can find more information here.
Imagine you’ve gone back in history and it is the year 1899. You are with the Wright brothers at their bicycle shop, the Wright Cycle Company. They’ve been making, repairing, and selling bicycles at their shop since 1892. As they work, you hear them talk freely about their new passion of flying. Orville and Wilbur have been observing birds in flight and they’ve noticed that birds tilt their wings to one side or the other depending on which direction they want to go. So now the brothers are talking and thinking about some experiments they are going to try. That’s when you notice they’re not working on bicycles; they’re building kites! Yep, kites! You try to follow their conversation about how they are building a kite with wings that can be controlled by strings, just as birds control their own wings in flight. Jump ahead 5 years and all their observing, questioning, building and experimenting with kites resulted in the first piloted glider and then the first powered aircraft!
Each year there is a kite festival in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the Wright brothers experimented with their kite flying. It looks like great family fun and The Wright Brothers National Memorial Park grounds there would be wonderful to visit. APRIL is KITE FLYING MONTH! Make some kites! Try some of these: http://www.bigwindkites.com/20kids/
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March. From “Two Tramps in Mudtime” by Robert Frost
I love this stanza from Frost’s poem! It is such a wonderful description of how the weather changes in the springtime here in New England. One minute you are enjoying the warmth of the sun and the next minute you are zipping up your coat as a chill wind brings a drop in temperature.
If you are an Oak Meadow student, you may have received a comment from me on an essay that says something like, “Next time use a quotation at the beginning or end of your essay that sums up or supports what you are writing about.” I like to encourage my students to look deeper into the world, think more about what is being written, and use lots of examples with good details!
Robert Frost encouraged his eldest daughter in a writing assignment when she was at Amherst College. She was struggling with how to write about a required reading book that she hadn’t liked reading. His advice to her was, in part, “Take it easy with the essay whatever you do. Write it as well as you can if you have to write it. Be as concrete as the law allows in it — concrete and experiential. Don’t let it scare you. Don’t strain.”
A quote from what you’ve read can provide just the starting point or foundation you may need for an essay. Give it a try next time you write an essay or research report!
Here is Part 2 of “Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring”, written by Oak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel.
Into the Forest
The forest is a place where the spring awakening can be observed and experienced. It is often in the forest that magic can happen. Your child can experience hearing similar to that of an animal with large ears; have them close their eyes and cup their hands around their ears. They can slowly turn around and see if they hear noises they did not hear before. You could each try it and count how many sounds you each can hear. A common place for many small creatures to hide is under rotting logs. If you slowly roll one over you may find a variety of insects and spiders, worms, fungi and molds, and perhaps a salamander! If you do find a larger creature like a salamander when you roll a log, set the log off the the side of where the animal is so you do not accidentally squish it. The animal will find its way back to its hiding spot. Keep in mind that salamanders are very sensitive as they breath through their skin. If you pick one up, make sure to not have lotion or bug spray on your hands. You can always rub dirt on your hands to help block the salamander from these products. You and your child can make a terrarium so observation skills can be practiced even if the weather is inclement as well as learning the invaluable skill of caring for a living organism. There are almost as many ways to make a terrarium as there are things to fill it with. One of my favorite methods is to use a quart sized canning jar. Begin the collection of materials by examining the forest floor. What can each of you see when you look closely at the layers of soil in the woods? Scoop some of these layers up and gently lay them in the bottom of the jar. What does your child notice the next layer is in the woods heading up from the soil? Try and use materials from each layer, as is appropriate to the size of your jar, to create a miniature habitat. You can plant seedlings and moss in the soil, insects and other small creatures can be added if you do not plan on keeping the terrarium much longer than a week. Once the terrarium is complete, sprinkle some water into the jar if the soil seems dry, then spread a piece of plastic wrap over the jar top, use a rubber band or canning jar ring to hold the plastic in place, and carefully poke several small holes into the plastic wrap to allow fresh air to circulate. Finally, you may want to build a fairy house with your child; this is a long time favorite outdoor activity that effectively explores the magical side of our surroundings. I like to use natural objects from nature. When I have built these with children, I ask them to allow plants to grow, that is, trying to not uproot a plant or use leaves that are attached to a living plant. I have had fun with students by altering the fairy house when they are gone in such a way so the child imagines that fairies or gnomes visited during the night. Two books that I have found inspiration in are, Fairy houses… Everywhere! by Barry and Tracy Kane, and Fairy Houses written and illustrated by Tracy Kane. Spring holds so many promises of new discoveries with each day. A favorite book from my childhood that I still use is the true story of a family that ventures outside the night of each full moon of the year. They wrote about what they did and the animals they saw; I highly recommend Walk When the Moon is Full by Frances Hamerstrom. I hope you are able to take the time to slow down with your child and spend some extra moments with a discovery or question that may be found in nature.
Oak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel, wrote this inspirational two-part article. The light is winning over the darkness of night, the snow patches are becoming far and few between, and evenings are spent out on the porch again. While I am sitting watching nightfall, I find myself holding my breath and listening hard for one of my favorite harbingers of spring: the song of the spring peepers, a small frog that sings mightily this time of year. In the spring there are many events occurring, almost daily it seems, as plants and animals begin the annual spring awakening. One’s senses seem almost to explode with information from your outdoor environment. You can help your child to experience this sensory wonder through some favorite activities. At the Water’s Edge Creeks and ponds are beginning to swell with both plant and animal life. Take a little field trip to a creek, river, lake, or pond. Your child may see newts or tadpoles in the water; they may observe green leaves emerging on a pond’s bank. Many of the creatures living in the water are too small to see with a glance; most are insect larvae, or baby insects not more than an inch or two long. You and your child can observe these fascinating creatures by creating a net to temporarily catch them with. All you need is a metal coat hanger, a stick, sticky tape, and an old pair of tights or nylons. Bend the coat hanger to make a diamond shape; take one of the legs from the nylons and stretch it over the diamond. Have your child find a stick outside about half his height. Unbend the hook of the hanger and tape the stick to it to make a handle. When using the net, make sure to scrape along the bottom in the mud, as this is where many of the smaller creatures hide. Rocks are usually easy to come by along a river’s or creek’s banks. Your child can choose two rocks that easily fit in her hands; she can get them wet, and then rub the rocks together to see if they are soft enough to form ‘rock paint’. After rubbing the wet rocks together, have your child run a finger along one rock, if rock paint was made, she will see the colored natural paint on her finger. Your child can paint with it, or he can put designs on his face, hands, and arms.
On this cold winter day I am thinking about spring!
It is hard to imagine as I look out my window at three feet of snow, that spring is just a few weeks away.
This time of year I love looking at seed catalogs and dreaming about planting crops of potatoes, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, squash and cabbages! (In reality, the last few years I’ve been satisfied with tomatoes and green peppers in pots!) It warms the heart to think about fresh vegetables growing right in one’s own garden.
In the Oak Meadow science curriculum there are some assignments that require students to plant seeds. I found this great idea for seedling pots in Scratch Magazine and I just had to share it! I’m going to give it a try when I plant my seeds for my garden.
It seems as though every library shelf or bookstore shelf I see in the youth section these days is a retelling of a fairy tale. I LOVE THEM!
Maybe you’ve read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, or The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.
I’ve just gotten A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce and I’m looking forward to reading it soon. It won ALA’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award. If you want to try some of these retellings, I’ve come up with a list for you. If you have some to add, please let us know!
Try these: Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, East by Edith Patou, Breath by Donna Jo Napoli, The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley, Straw Into Gold by Gary Schmidt, and the Sisters Grimm series.