Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ivy Fine Arts Spring '11

1.  Violin
-  Ivy continues to take private lessons once every two weeks and plays with the Fiddlekidz weekly.  She has performed at several recitals, a school fundraiser dance, and they busked at the farmer's market.  The group will play at the Children's Festival on May 28th.  Ivy is excited about their opportunity to record at CD in cooperation with the Penn High music students.  Their first recording session is this coming Thursday.  They are also scheduled as an opening band for the 3 Tenors in Gyro Park in early July.

2.  Sketching

3.  Writing sample from library workshop (handed in)

4.   Photos from Dominion Observatory

5.  New claymation project (in progress) 

Update: Another violin video from June:

Ella Fine Arts Spring '11

1.  piano
-  Ella is working on piano and basic music theory this term.  She has lessons for 1/2 each week with Rochelle Henbury and practices 20min/day 4 times a week.

2.  dance
-  Ella has re-joined Fitkidz gym and has been working on an integrated hip hop and gymnastics routine that will be performed on May 29, at the provincial Gymnaestrada

3.  sculpture
- After we made play dough for Ella's science, she used it to make this awesome sculpture!

We've been blown away by Ella's drawing lately. Sometimes she draws out of books, but other times the characters are straight out of her head, and they're often hilarious, like this evil genius shown here. A few more:

Ivy and Ella: Active Living Spring 2011

A couple of minutes of video of some of the girls' active living from this season:
  • One of the last backyard skates of the year after a late freeze (and snow!)
  • Inside, trying an exercise video online
  • Ivy's first downhill skiing, followed by Ella's very first run
  • Ella working on her gymnastics/dance routine for her spring show. She's been working hard in class and doing some practicing at home as well.
  • Trampoline fun with the cousins in Manitoba
  • Dancing with the cousins, Wii-style
  • One of the hotel pools on the MB trip
  • Ella doing skateboard pushups(?!) in the cul-de-sac
  • Ivy on the scooter
  • Ivy trying out the track on her new bike
  • Ella on the track
The kids have been loving being outside as the weather gets nicer. We feel lucky to have a big yard these days, where they can wander outside and explore. We've been enjoying biking into town (and back) a couple of times a week, as well as visiting the local parks.

math game links

Ivy and Ella are both working on their times tables.  With a few moments to think, Ivy knows them up to 11x 9.  We're continuing to practice them so that they come automatically.  We are also working on division up to the same level.  Again, Ivy can almost always figure them out but they take more time than the multiplication because we haven't spent as much time on them yet.

Ella can fairly consistently answer correctly up to the end of her 4x tables, and is planning to finish to the end of the 5's before summer. The concept of division has been introduced but not emphasized yet.

Here are some of the games the girls enjoy using for practice.




"Matter" Experiments

Ella and I have been using a library book called "Change It!  Solids, liquids, gases and you" (Adrienne Mason), to learn about matter.

Another parent's review of the book:

I recently found a series of books about Primary Physical Science. Change It! Solids, liquids, gases and you was one of the books in this series that my son and I read together. It is a great book for early elementary school children.

We first learn what matter is and how it has different states, solid, liquid, and gas. The author Adrienne Mason tells us how matter can change shapes, like when you play with play dough. There is a recipe for play dough so you can do it yourself.  We see how different containers can hold the same amount of liquid but look like the amount is different.

There is the opportunity to follow instructions to make a balloon fill up without blowing it up by using baking soda and vinegar. And we learn how water is one of the easiest things to realize it has different states. Mason shows us simple ways to see how matter can change when you mix it, like when you bake a cake. And my son's favorite part of this book was when we turned liquid (milk, sugar, and vanilla) into a solid (ice cream).

This book is so hands on and describes things in a way that children will understand. Plus there are tips at the back of the book for parents and teachers to further help children understand the concepts taught in the book. I really felt it was completely geared toward children in a fun, but educational way.

The illustrations will also help keep kids' attention. They are done by Claudia Davila and are done in Photoshop. They mostly show children, but do show adults where appropriate, like the play dough says to have an adult pour in hot water and there is an adult doing that as the illustration. The kids in the illustrations are diverse, with boys and girls with a variety of natural hair colors and skin tones. There are also illustrations of animals doing things that they wouldn't normally do (like a tiger eating ice cream) with tips in word bubbles from them about things like that if you don't eat ice cream fast it will melt into a liquid.

Overall we have really enjoyed this series and liked this book too. The balloon experiment and making ice cream were a lot of fun for my son who thought this book was very cool. Plus he learned some stuff about science and you can't go wrong with that. I definitely recommend this book.

Some of the experiments we worked on:

Combination of liquids and solids to make a liquid.  We heated it and it became a solid.

Ice Cream
Freeze liquid combination to become solid.

We plan to do a few more along these lines yet before mid-June:

games Ella's played to help understand the unit:

Experiments with Light

Black Light & Glow Sticks

Ivy and a couple of friends took an afternoon to play with black light.  We discussed what black light is and where it falls on the light spectrum.  They made notes on which things "glowed" in the light and which were unimpressive.  We also had some fun figuring out how glow sticks work and noted that they glow in the black light even when they're not activated!

First, let’s talk about the light. The reason black lights are called "black lights" is because they give off very little light that our eyes can see. Visible light contains a spectrum of colors ranging from red, through orange, yellow, green, and blue, to violet or purple. Beyond violet light in the spectrum is ultraviolet light, which our eyes cannot detect. 

You may have heard of ultraviolet light if you know about sunburn. Sunburn is caused by a type of ultraviolet light, which scientists call “ultraviolet B” (UV-B). UV-B is higher in energy than the light from black lights, which is called “ultraviolet A” (UV-A). Black lights will not give you a sunburn.

If we can't see ultraviolet light, why does the petroleum jelly glow under the black light?
Most of the time when we look at an object, we see light reflected from the surface of the object. But with a black light, there isn't much visible light, so simple reflection of light doesn't account for how bright the jelly glows. Petroleum jelly contains substances called phosphors. A phosphor absorbs radiation and emits it as visible light. So the phosphors in the jelly are absorbing the invisible ultraviolet radiation from the black light and emitting visible light.

Copied from:

How do glowsticks work?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bike Upgrades

Since the weather turned nice the kids have been out on bikes, especially since Jeremy built them a bike track!

Ivy now has a new-to-her racing BMX, Ella moves up to Ivy's old BMX and Ezra moves up to Ella's.  Now all we have to do is get out to that track! 

The girls have been biking to their gifted classes for a few weeks.  Although it's only about a 10min ride one-way it's been great for fresh air, a feeling of independence (even though one of us is with them), and just pure fun.  The big hill on the way home is always a challenge to be conquered.

Health Fair

We participated in the Trout Creek Health Fair last week.  I ran a session about nutrition, based on a website I found about "Breakfast Superheroes".  Ella helped with my research about calcium and non-dairy sources while Ivy independently made a fact sheet on why protein is important and how to get non-animal forms of it.  We are not militant vegetarians but I feel that "alternatives" are not generally well publicized in the Canada Food  Guide education that's usually taught.  The girls attended my session and helped set up, organize and take down.

During the half hour that I had each class we spent a bit of time on each food group and had an activity to go with each.  Of particular interest to me was the "breads and cereals".  We chose to focus on the sugar content of various breakfast (mostly) foods.  A volunteer came to the front to match the food with the corresponding package of sugar.  A can of pop was 11tsp and a commercial bran muffin was a whopping 10tsp - almost as much!  The daily recommended maximum (American Heart Association) is 7 tsp.  It's not in the Canada Food Guide of course because we can live just fine without added sugar.  The basic calculation to figure out tsp of sugar is grams per serving divided by 4 (technically 4.2).  We discussed this in detail only with the oldest kids, who were in grades 4 & 5.

Winnipeg Trip

During the first two weeks of April the kids & I took a road trip to Winnipeg.  It reinforced for me how much learning really takes place while we're experiencing things, not necessarily reading and writing them down.  Here's a list of the topics that come to mind.

Obviously geography is huge when you drive from the Okanagan, through the mountains and out onto the plains.  Changes in terrain, altitude and weather were duly noted.  While we were in Winnipeg there was a critical focus on the impending flooding.  We saw the Red River rise over the week we were there and we spent a fair bit of time trying to explain how river diversions and flood gates work to protect the houses within them (and what it means down and upstream).  On the way home through SK we ended up taking a 65km+ detour due to flooding on the trans Canada highway.  Not what we had been planning!

One morning we took a trip to the historic Forks area and had a lovely breakfast in the market, which Ivy wrote about in her blog.  We briefly talked about the value of the forks to the First Nations of the area and how it was the heart of Winnipeg.  It was neat to see the 2 rivers converge and note how much more quickly one was moving (the Red River) than the other (Assiniboine).  We were disappointed that the Manitoba Children's Museum was under construction, since we've enjoyed it in the past, but look forward to returning again a different year!

The girls probably wouldn't count this as learning, but I toured them through many of my childhood haunts, houses and schools.  I love the idea of helping them establish a sense of roots and family  history.  Whether or not it succeeded I may never know!

While we were in Winnipeg we made a visit to see the kids' great grandma in the hospital.  They have met her a few times but hadn't seen her in over a year.  It was the first time they had visited someone quite ill in a hospital and it was a bit shocking for all of us.  They slowly absorbed what they were seeing in the hallways, in her shared room and in conversation with her.  She was conscious and her memory is amazing, but physically she was very weak.  We took half an hour in the lobby afterwards (over snacks) to talk about what we had seen and how we felt.  This isn't in the curriculum anywhere but was a major learning time.

Ivy may not recall this as it was late evening after 12 hours of driving, but we had a reasonably long discussion about Canada's political parties and how our voting system works (based on all the election signs we were seeing).  We touched on the concepts of "left" and "right" wings and how we might compare to some other countries in general.

Language Arts
In the car the girls listened to books on tape to help pass the time.  They also got a new DSi game called "Scribblenauts" that I love.  You face obstacles and can type in the name of any tool you want to help you overcome it (eg. you reach a deep river and need to cross - you could type in "bridge", "jet pack", "trampoline" or whatever you can come up with).  It's very creative and requires correct spelling!  One rainy day we walked the 2 blocks over to the library near my parent's place and spent some happy, mellow time choosing books to read over the next days.

 Active Living
The kids' only 2 cousins live in Winnipeg and they're active!  We met them at the pool one evening and followed it up with pizza.  We also took the time to watch Marissa (11years old) do some gymnastics training.  Since Ella  has just gotten back into this it was neat to see her facility and what level she's working at.  On a few of the sunny afternoons we took advantage of the selection of outdoor toys available.  Frisbee, skipping, football, catch, lawn "darts" and shovelling leftover snow were popular activities.  We only made it to a playground one day but it was good for over an hour of exploring!  On the road trip itself we had a few stops at motels with pools, which was good for blowing off some accumulated energy.

On the way home we spent 2 nights in Calgary, with the dual purposes of hanging out with my brother and his partner (Uncle Mark and Roel) and seeing the Calgary Zoo.  Ella blogged about it on her new site (we're hoping to add updates most Mondays).  Although it was chilly the kids hadn't remembered ever being at a zoo and were blown away.  I had never been to one like that either!  They fell in love with the Red Pandas but enjoyed seeing almost everything there.  Ella especially liked the elephants and Ezra was thrilled with the zebras, tigers and monkeys.  Mom was most enamoured with the (warm) tropical & butterfly gardens.  There were some neat science displays there that were related to solar heat/light.

Our last night on the return road trip was in Vernon, an unusual stopping point for us.  We slid into town with 15min to spare to watch some of Ivy's friends in their dance performance.  Afterwards, we checked into our lovely hotel and had a long swim.  The next morning we visited the Okanagan Science Centre for the first time.  As it was very quiet, Ivy pronounced it "much better" than the one in Vancouver.  I could not tear the girls away from the flight simulator!

There was a LOT of discussion about how many hours/kms there were until the next stop, and how many left in the day.  It lead to a lot of talk about how fast I may have been driving to get those results...

Not bad for two weeks without textbooks!

Dominion Astrophysical Observatory

Ivy and Jeremy visited the observatory in April, and her post about it is here.  Ivy explained to me after we got home how the larger radio waves can penetrate dust in a way that light waves can't because they're smaller (I haven't checked my facts, I know she had it right but I may be mis-reporting!).  During the tour she was able to identify a Faraday Cage and explain what it was used for.  Apparently she's only the 3rd person the tour operator has ever had come up with the right answer in years or running it.

Faraday cage