Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Island of the Blue Dolphin

This was a read-aloud novel that we went though together (link in LA post). In summary, it's a story about a girl who survives alone on an island for over a decade. She builds her own shelters, finds food, builds canoes, makes tools and learns to appreciate animals as companions. This book was a great complement to the First Nations topics and histories we have covered so far. We were fascinated by the descriptions of her different dwellings for the various seasons of the year.

Ivy used ideas from the novel to make various beach villages during the early fall.


Ivy read the story "A Summer In Shapeville" from the text and found that it did not contain concepts that were new to her. She reviewed the "dictionary" section and found 4 words that were entirely unfamiliar, which she studied (buttress, chassis, gusset, strut). After that point we moved on to different resources to better support hands on learning on this topic.

The two books that we found most helpful were:
- The Ultimate Building Book by Stephen Caney and
- Arty Facts: Structures, Materials & Art Activities by Barbara Taylor

Other books we dipped into and remembered to record:
- Great Wonders of the World, Russell Ash
- Bridges!, Johnmann & Rieth
- Egypt in Spectacular Cross Section, Stephen Biesty
- Castles, Christopher Gravett
- The Great Pyramid, Elizabeth Mann
- Empire State Building, Elizabeth Mann

Here are some samples of work Ivy has done on the topic of "Structures". There were many others and she has listed most of them in her review of the unit (handed in).

Stick House
The Stick House idea came from the "Arty Facts" book. Ivy chose the materials and design to match a tropical location (the Amazon). Her ideas on why the house might be on stilts included protection from animals, floods and to catch breezes. Other features she noted were the open doors and windows because it's warm and a ladder to the loft in case it was better for sleeping.

Some of the bigger challenges she faced were finding a suitable roof material, attaching the siding and making sure it would balance and be sturdy enough once the stilts were on.

Ivy continued to add to her Stick House scene. The little shelters were made from popsicle stick tripods, covered by tissue.

Ivy likes to skim through the SAS Survival Manual we have at home. Along with great information on edible plants and first aid, it has a section on making your own simple shelters. She asked if we could try one so we chose the "tripod" shelter with tarp. We used bamboo poles for our three legs, lashed them together with twine and placed the tarp over top. The edges are held down by stones and logs. It didn't stand up all through a windy night but all the pieces were intact and it was easily reassembled. Nobody volunteered to sleep in this one.

A highway scene with overpass and scenery. This project was promptly donated to Ezra who enjoyed zooming his cars and airplanes
around it.

See also Island of the Blue Dolphin post for beach house.

trading post

Ivy and Ella independently set up their own trading post one afternoon after covering some fur trade history and reading the Birchbark House novel. They were careful to initially only trade supplies that they had found or made themselves. The early offerings included hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, carrots and windfall apples. The girls had to consider the relative value of each item and decide how to trade it. They also figured out how long their supplies could last, depending on how much they would eat or drink each day.

As they began trading with various family members the options became more colourful. Their grandma heard about it and brought some true treasures to trade with. She has worked extesively with the Mishkegogamang First Nation in Northern Ontario (Ojibway) helping them to record some of their history in writing. She brought two small booklets, one contains stories from an elderly man who used to be a fur trader and the other is a book of traditional legends for the area. She also gave the girls a carved bone pendant made by the fur trader.

The Birchbark House

The Birchbark House, by Louise Eldrich

This novel follows a year in the life of Omakayas, an Anishinabe girl of 8 winters. The girls and I used it as a read aloud book so that we could talk about new ideas together as they came up.

Throughout the book we are exposed to the many ways in which animals are used and shown respect. Many different plants and their various properties are discussed. Canadian history is reflected in the life of the village, their Deydey's (father's) work as a voyageur, and the exposure of the village to smallpox. The culture of the Ojibway comes through in the language, stories, spirituality and relationships.

The girls and I made charts to keep track of some of the many ways in which animals & plants are mentioned. There is also a poster to show the different stories and legends that are told. The story is broken into very distinct seasons which we noted for Ella's science unit.

Fort Langley & Science World

In September the girls and I took part in a trip to Fort Langley that was arranged by another home schooling parent. We covered the bases of BC & Canadian history as well as getting some good exercise! The group arranged to add a voyageur canoe trip up an arm of the Fraser River. It poured rain but the kids were good sports and so were the adults. The hot tub was all the sweeter at the end of the day.

We swam in the hotel pool every day. The kids got a full workout on the waterslide while we supervised from the hot tub.

On the way to and from Vancouver we enjoyed listening to Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism on CD.

Since were were near the big city anyway, the girls and I navigated our way to the King George skytrain station and rode it downtown to Science World. It provided a great hands-on boost to our science learning, particularly for the "Structures" unit.

The Eureka Gallery
This area commanded most of our attention and the girls had a blast playing with all kinds of force, motion and water based activities.

Our World
In this gallery we experimented with different ways to generate electricity. Solar, wind and a crank come to mind.

-from the website:
Our World encourages us to find solutions for a better future—while examining the environmental, social and economic factors that all need to come together to make for a sustainable society. Through colourful, bright and imaginative exhibitory, Our World engages our attention, while focusing on the everyday choices that we make and how those choices will impact our lives, both immediately and in the future.

Search Gallery

After a bit of time in the main areas we were all ready for the quiet of the Search Gallery. It ended up being one of our favourite spots. It wasn't the flashiest by a long shot, perhaps that's the answer. It's hard for us to learn in environments where there is a lot of noise and activity.

A world of discovery awaits you in our newly-renovated
Search: The Sara Stern Gallery. Gaze in wonder at a T. rex skeleton, climb inside a giant 800-year-old Western Red Cedar, crawl through a real beaver lodge, stroke a collection of animal coats, hear vibrations travel through rock, visit the poison dart frog and discover our updated discovery boxes.

This calm, contemplative gallery will mesmerise you on a journey through the past and present of some of nature’s magnificent wonders.