Saturday, June 15, 2013

The green stuff

We have been busy here "planting lots of seeds" since we got back from our big holiday. One of the things we have been studying is the wonderful world of all things green (and sometimes purple or white or...) - plants!

Generally speaking, when we do a unit of science, I find Video Boy knows HEAPS of stuff and Wombat Girl knows a bit. And generally speaking, we don't have heaps of written work lying around to show our homeschool inspector guy, so I take the chance to get the kids to write down a bit of their knowledge.

So what works for us (mostly) is lapbooks. It can be tricky finding appropriate lapbook/mini-books for highschoolers, but I found this great one on Botany (all scientific like) which was linked to a book we actually owned (and I highly recommend) the Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encyclopedia, which has way more than just plants!

I supplement the lapbook work with worksheets I have collected during my years as a high school science teacher (which is great if I have to work outside the home - I can just print off one or two and leave them with the book and BAM! Science done).

In biology, we need the kids to understand the relationship between the structure of a living thing and the function of a particular part. A table is often a useful way to display this information:

While we were looking at leaves, I got the kids to colour (is that art?) and glue together this fabulous 3D leaf model, which I could not find anywhere on the interwebs, so you get my PDF copy (you're welcome).

We also enjoyed watching some great videos on plants:

Apart from all this "knowledge" we used plants as the basis for doing more science. The scientific method. Cows Moo Softly.

What? Change one thing, Measure something as a result of that change, keep everything else the Same.

We looked at what seeds needed to germinate. We brainstormed and came up with a couple of testable hypothesis and then designed an experiment that would test these.

Turns out plants need water to germinate and they don't need light, but they will need light to grow once they've germinated

We then used this website to write up our results in the standard scientific report format.

We also did some "follow the recipe" practical activities:

Slice a celery stalk up the middle, to about halfway.
Put in pretty coloured water (use food colouring).

Wombat Girl's hypothesis was that she would get orange leaves (red and yellow mixing)

But the dye only travels up the side the xylem vessels are one - half blue and half red!
Or half red, half yellow.
We also observed germination in borlotti beans:

And I found this FANTASTIC resource on botanical drawing (art really ticked this time!). We have drawn leaves, flowers, used shading, stippling, done watercolour and lino cuts (remember them?). (part two is here!).

I ordered in a beautiful botanical drawing book from the library:

And it wouldn't really be plants unless we actually went out and looked at some in real life. Don't forget, every living thing can be named scientifically with two parts - Genus (always capitalised) and species (never capitalised) (binomial nomenclature or informally known as Latin name). They should be italicised when in normal text (bit difficult on Facebook!).

Allocasuarina littoralis (black or coastal sheoak)

Banksia ericifolia (heath banskia)

 Baeckea sp.

Epacris microphylla (coral heath)

Drosera spatulata (rosy sundew) 
Lambertia formosa (mountain devil)
Banskia spinulosa (hairpin banksia)

Eucalyptus haemostoma (scribbly gum) - it was Mother's Day!!!

We had such a lovely time on the walk and learning about plants in general. Hope you found some good resources and inspiration too!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

PS: Maths and Beauty, a postscript...

Isn't it always the way? You press the "publish" button, reasonably happy with the story you've told and then a bit later (a minute, an hour, a day...) you find something or think of something that would have gone perfectly in that post, except by now you've have 50 hits and 3 comments and you can't go back and edit, or people might miss it.

So I found this video - I watched this afternoon, and it is PERFECTLY about what I was talking about in this mornings rant about maths and beauty. Do watch - I think you'll like it.

Mathematics, beauty and the real world

I'm about to get my ranty-pants on...No, not about the shoes that certain members of this household leave lying, not about the fact that my Hubby leaves his dirty clothes on MY side of the bed even though I have asked multiple times for him not, even about the deplorable state of Australian politics!

No - I'm about to get all ranty about those people who loudly, proudly even, declare that they "hate maths" and "don't get it".

Memes like these have done the rounds of Facebook, and yes, I've even shared them:

All amusing stuff and even I had a giggle. But you know, I get a bit sad because apparently it is cool to hate maths. Admit you hate maths, and you get a bunch of people joining in and saying "hey, me too!". This disturbs me somewhat, because in general, you don't get the same sense of collective pride from admitting you hate reading (or can't read) or don't value literacy.

I had this response from an English teacher on Facebook yesterday when I dared to be different and declare my love for maths:

"Maths has never been beautiful for me. Beauty doesn't exist in an x = mc 2"

I can't tell you how sad this statement, made so vehemently, made me feel (apart from the fact she got the world's most famous equation wrong). It wasn't just that she didn't get it. It was that she was proud to say it out loud. And that she was so shut off as to what "beauty" could be.

She has obviously never played with patterns of numbers:

or explored the golden ratio or Fibonacci:

or done origami:

or played with proportions:

or seen a fractal:

or watched a Vi Hart video:

Maths is not easy for everyone. I totally get that. I don't totally get the above video, but I love it! I don't pretend to be a mathematical "genius" - my daughter is infinitely faster and more perceptive about maths than I am! But I can appreciate it. I have my eyes open to glimpse the beauty and my mind open to new possibilities.

I'd like to think that just because my strengths are in science and maths that I don't exclude language arts or humanities or creative arts in my world outlook and even in the other interests I pursue. Hell, I can even appreciate physical achievements (marathon runners, gymnasts, weight lifters), even if I have issues with organised team sports and the over-emphasise our society places on them.

I think we actually teach Maths Aversion and Maths Phobia much more effectively than we teach mathematics! Maths is soooo much more than arithmetic, but you wouldn't know it in our average classroom (and by default, largely, in the average homeschool home). We don't teach creativity and inventiveness in maths - the answers are either right or wrong and there seems to be a never-ending stream of drill and kill arithmetic stretching onwards forever (and the prospect of getting more wrong as you build on stuff you never learnt properly in the first place).

I find this really sad, this concept that maths doesn't contribute to human society in the same way as poetry or music or art does. Oh, but it does! So much of our world is a result of mathematical thinking - creativity and inventiveness and "playing" with numbers. What a pity so many people don't view it that way.

So I leave you with this thought, from the inspiring words of L.M. Montgomery and Anne (of Green Gables fame):

So are you a maths phobe? Do you openly or even sub-consciously pass on your fear and dislike of maths to your children? Or is it something you don't think about much? Or is it something you love and feel should be defended?

Embroidery Project - Blue Butterfly

I downloaded this pattern as a PDF from Hoop Embroidery Co on Esty as my first attempt at the technique known as "thread painting"...