Thursday, March 19, 2015

More Cultural Studies

The cultural folders are DONE!! I am working hard to put together a small collection of cultural items to for the kids to explore. These could be considered continent box-like items, but I am just not putting them in a box. Some are too big to go in a box. 

Not all of these items have arrived at our door yet, so some of them will be revealed here on the blog later. So, on with what we do have out on the shelves now...
This is our small, but growing, coin collection. (Man, you can't even see all the coins in this shot.) Here I have just two small collections of coins from Morocco and Egypt. I am waiting to receive coins from Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. (I purchased these coins in small lots from various sellers on eBay. These lots specifically listed coins from these countries. I don't purchase bulk lots because I am not sure what I am getting and because I'd also have to spend hours on the internet identifying what I received and I don't have this kind of time. I barely have time to search for coins from the long list of countries T gave me.)  

This is a very colorful, and highly durable, Zulu wire basket from Baskets from Africa. (Search Zulu Wire.) They have specific listings for baskets from many countries in a variety of styles. You can read more about Zulu style wire baskets here. These baskets are woven in South Africa from recycled telephone wire. They are very beautiful and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The one in the shot above is a very small one. 

D can segment the word basket perfectly: b-a-s-k-e-t. He also likes to roll this one on edge around the floor and see the spiral pattern rotate.

Baskets from Africa has a lot of information about the many styles of baskets woven all over the continent of Africa. It is amazing to me that each region makes baskets with a unique style, shape, size, pattern, color, and material.

 He also likes to use the basket as a hat.
My cultural cards reflect the directions in the Keys of the World primary language album. The cultural cards are a huge material, that takes hours and hours to put them together. (I think I may have spent 30 hours on this project.) But it is one, I feel, that opens so many really amazing, and exciting doors. While putting this card set together I've had the time to reflect a lot on my life and my personal experiences. I came to understand what one decides to include in these folders is highly personal. 

I forgot to include the Andes, the Alps, and the Himalayas in my sets. I just forgot. The next person would probably scoff at my set and wonder, "why did she forget these super important, very well known, land formations?" I picked topic themes and countries I had personal experience with and knowledge about. How else was I going to be able to sift through the clutter to find the most representative and most authentic subject matter? If you are putting this material together, all I can say, is make it what you know, and make it your own. Maybe this is why so few companies out there sell this material.

The set you see above is part of my set 4 about African baskets. I chose to focus on Bolga, Binga, and Zulu baskets. I borrowed a number of pictures of weavers and baskets to put in my collection. I uploaded all of my found images to a photo printing site, made sure that they were all high resolution, printed them out, mounted them on green copy-paper, created labels that display a title description, location, and the set number they are a part of, stuck this on the back of the green paper, laminated everything and cut it all out. I am choosing to organize all of the cards in plastic zippered 5 3/8" x 8" envelopes from Jam Paper. I made my own labels that display the name of the card set and country or continent they represent and I stuck these labels on the front of the envelope with packing tape.
I made anywhere from 8 to 28 photos for a single folder. The shot above is S exploring the set 1 Africa continent folder.
There are four cultural folder sets. Set 1 has a folder for each continent and the images should generally represent the entire continent. Set 2 also has a folder for each continent and the images should generally represent more of the human needs of the inhabitants of the continent. Think homes, transportation, clothing, religion, art, children, food, etc. I didn't make cards for set 2. I chose to use books as a substitute. These books focus on a particular theme, like food, or clothing, and don't divide the topic up into continent specific pieces. By the time I had made 314 cards for sets 1, 3 and 4, I was DONE making cards. 

Set 3 has a folder for each country you choose to include. I chose to do a folder for: Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Ireland, Morocco, Egypt, India, Korea, and Australia. These country specific cards, should represent all aspects of that culture. And finally, set 4 has a folder for each theme you choose to include. I chose to do one theme per continent: American dance, French pastry, Peruvian textiles, Australian animals, and Japanese calligraphy, and African baskets. I am just so very, very glad that this set is done!

These folders of cards are supposed to inspire conversation about different cultures and help develop language and vocabulary skills.
I also ordered the African Playground CD by Putamayo Presents. It is a good mix of child-geared songs, many in English and many in other languages. D loves this CD. 

(You can also see our Bolga basket from Ghana on the shelf next to the CD player. This is also from Baskets from Africa.)
This is D dancing to the CD music.

S helped me pull some of our extra Safari Toobs plastic animals that represent species that might live in Africa. We are keeping these in the handled Bolga basket. (Do gorillas live in Africa? I couldn't remember off hand.)
Another fun Africa activity I picked up was this Nano block set of the Sphinx and Pyramid(s) in Egypt. Nano blocks are apparently like super, duper, tiny Legos from Japan. SUPER tiny. But duper fun. (Those other plastic figurines there are from Safari Toobs.)
T helped D put this together. Or maybe it was D who helped T put this together. If you've ever put together Legos, these instructions, (D calls them "con-structions") aren't like Lego instructions. You build these tiny guys layer by layer.
This is the back of the box. There are a number of other Nano block landmarks you can collect. I have a couple for Asia in hiding, because I thought for sure that we'd start our cultural studies with North America and then proceed directly to Asia. Nope, D picked Africa first.
A while back, I Googled, "African crafts" or something of this nature, and came up with a lot of rain sticks, make a thumb piano (but you need a drill press) or make a paper-plate mask with zebra stripes-kinds of activities. In my mind, I didn't think that these were quality activities that were going to excite my children. (Really, I didn't want to have to make the decision about whether or not I keep or toss three zebra paper plate masks that the kids made. It reminded me of the gobs of paper the kids used to bring home from pre-school.)

The other night, D was up with daddy and told him he wanted an Africa cake. So last weekend we went shopping for the easiest Africa cake I could make. You can read that, one in a box. While I was all about getting a yellow cake from Betty my husband noticed this camouflage cake by Duff Goldman. (We used to live pretty near his Charm City Cakes!) It was a bit tricky to make, but it came out looking kind of cool. But because it is so many different colors, I couldn't bring myself to eat it. 

As a cake-snob who makes gumpaste, hand-painted orchids to go on top of cakes, I felt this icing job was a bit "sticky." If I hadn't thought that someone might actually eat this cake, I would have used fondant. (Fondant doesn't taste that good. Even homemade fondant.) I didn't think it looked like Africa, but S assured me that it did. I think she was just being nice. 
And then D wanted, "that" piece. It was no one's birthday, but the kids think that all cakes with frosting deserve birthday candles. And yes, that is "jambo" at the top, which means "hello" in Swahili.

Oh, and then S told me I forgot Madagascar, and T told me I should have added southern Europe and western Asia. What do you do when your children know too much?
This is a bit of what the camouflage looks like. I guess we got our African "crafting" in.
Moving on from the green continent, (though I'll be back to this one as there is more to share) one of the library books the kids loved when we lived in VA was this one: The Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whately. This little guy is native to Australia. (No, I forgot to put this animal in our Australian Animals cultural card set.) Here, D was working on his sound objects and the kids noticed that he was segmenting "m-a-t" and that our tiny mat is like the one in this book. In the book the wombat fights a major battle with its neighbor's welcome mat because it thinks it is a hairy creature.
S is reading and reading and reading. Recently I gave her Martha Stewart's Crafts for Kids book. One of the crafts in this book is this little guy. She read the pages that had the information about the materials needed and the instructions. Then she wrote down a shopping list of items we needed. She consulted with me to see what we had on hand at the time and then we went shopping. It took us a few weeks to actually get around to making this animal but we finally did and she hasn't put it down since. I think she calls it "blueberry" and she says we need to make him a shirt. 

Basically, I did all the drafting, patterning, cutting and sewing but she sat on my lap as I did the sewing machine part. She watched everything from winding the bobbin to threading the needle, to finishing the stitches. She is very in love with this little guy and is planning to make like-animals for her brothers as presents for their upcoming birthday and first communion.
We also did an improvised biology lesson all prompted by a package we received in the mail. I was unpacking our plant press and acid-free-mounting papers when the kids saw the tiny boxes of glass microscope slides. One of the boxes held slides with a shallow depression on them that could hold water samples. So we went to gather some water samples out back and use our new slides. As you can see here, we used some left over glass bottles with pipettes to gather samples from our rain barrel, the water table, and the tap.
We purchased these slides from Home Science Tools.
We managed to isolate a small worm-like animal on the slide in a drop of "rain-barrel"water. (This was from the standing water on the top side of the rain barrel.) The little guy wouldn't stay still! And the kids thought that it was soooo cool to look at it under the microscope. At this point, we didn't do more than illustrate on paper what we saw. Later on, perhaps we'll work on documenting where and when this species was found, and work on identifying and classifying it.

I think I read somewhere in the KotU album about seeking out decayed leaves that only have their veins remaining. I found this leaf in the rain barrel top and we brought it inside. It was covered in debris so we "irrigated" it the best we could, placed it on a flat slide, and took a look at it under the microscope.
Sometimes you can see the specimen better when your older sister is holding the back of your neck and pushing your head toward the eye piece. I've noticed that the kids don't always focus on the specimen well and that things are kind of blurry most of the time. We'll have to work on this skill a bit. I like our compound microscope from Home Science Tools and I forget what model it is. But one thing I would love to upgrade is the focus. We have one knob but I would prefer to have separate course and fine focus knobs.

I don't know where in the albums there is a lesson even remotely related to this work. But I am writing about it here to illustrate one of the ways that we follow the child. The child finds something interesting in a package that came in the mail. We set out to find ways to use said item. They get excited about learning more about the world around them using the tools that we have available to explore what is interesting.
D is still working on his sound objects. We are still shaky segmenting words with more than three sounds and that have consonant blends, but he did correctly segment the words b-a-s-k-e-t and rh-i-n-o-ce-r-o-s today.
T completed the calculation of multiples and factors tables, A, B, and C. These are part of exercise 4 in the Multiples of Numbers lesson sequence in the Numeration portion of the math album. T did these charts last year, so this is a review. I am having him re-do this work because I feel he might need these charts again when he does some of the future lessons and the charts he made last year have evaporated in the move. Since he knows how to skip count, recreating these charts was a cinch for him.
Table A is 2x1 - 2x26 and then 3x1 - 3xsomething that will equal less than 50 all the way through to 10x1 - 10x5. Table B is 2x26 - 2x50, and then 3x something that will equal more than 50 all the way to 3x33 though to 10x6 - 10 x 10. 
Table C is a chart of all the factors for all numbers 1- 100. When all the factors have been filled in we see that some numbers are multiples of many numbers and other numbers are multiples of only themselves and one. The numbers that are only multiples of themselves and one are called prime numbers. These lessons are indirect preparations for fractions and factors.
T also did this lesson last year too. (We are fast approaching new lessons!! Typically children his year in school (we held him back a year) complete the early numeration lesson sequence by the end of the school year. We still have multiples, factors, and least common multiples leading to abstraction as well as divisibility left in this sequence.) 

Here he is using the algebreic peg board to find common multiples. I wrote more about this work here with a complete how-to-description.
T is remembering how to exchange the unit pegs for "blue tens" pegs here.
He found that the lowest common multiple of 3, 4, and 5 was 60. (LCM 3,4,5 = 60)
T also loves messing around with the peg board in general.
And we had visitors again this week! It feels like everyone is still getting their sea-legs a bit. Think - an environment with not quite normalized children in it. I feel this is totally to be expected. Our friends have their own wonderful classroom in their house where they know where all their work is located. Our classroom is arranged completely differently and they only know the works my children have invited them to do. It is a great grace and courtesy lesson for my children to be the hosts and the normalized children who need to lead. And it is exciting to see other children sharing our environment and learning in our space.

The girls started off with the blue triangle cards.

 MJ did a little LBF with his mom.
Tes did some reading.
MJ did some pin maps, Texas in particular.
And Cat helped S with a little stamp game division.

I am not sure I'll be back this week for a Friday re-cap. Since I say this, I'll likely post something. If I had said that I WOULD be back, something would happen and there would be no post. So, you guess. Post or no post? :)


  1. As you were searching African music, I thought maybe you'd like also to get some more influence from Brazil (as you know, we have a lot of African influence in my country, since it was a Portuguese colony). It is a multicultural and really interesting country, with some beautiful natural resources too. I work as a teacher for kids and I have a 2 years child. There is a very nice band from Brazil called "Palavra Cantada" and my child just love it. They make their own songs but also sing lots of old Brazilian folk music for children.
    I love your posts and the photos. They are giving me inspiration to teach montessori for my kids here too.

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  3. Have you looked at Global Art by MaryAnn Kohl? I picked it up at a book sale several years ago, but never used it with my kids. I just rediscovered it while I was looking for resources to accompany our cultural folders. Several of the crafts involve fabrics and natural materials. There are definitely a few paper plate type activities, but I think there are more gems than not. As far as finished products, we often display/play with them for a while, then when we tire of them, we take pictures and recycle them. Every once in a while I have a photo book printed with their works.