Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sixth Grade Waldorf: Astronomy

Tides and the moon, chalk pastel

We had so much fun with this block; we could've just kept going, I think. Just sitting outside staring up at the stars—wondering and imagining—made for a refreshing, creative block. It was fun, incorporating Greek/Roman myths (constellations), explorers (navigation), and just plain old observation, watching the sky spin 'round the earth. (Yes, I know it's the earth that spins, but it seems the other way around. No wonder early philosophers thought everything revolved around Earth.)

The main resource I used was Kovac's "Geology and Astronomy," supplemented with appropriate library books to expand on the chapter topics:
    Stars, Seymour Simon
    Find the Constellations, H. A. Rey
    The Moon Book, Gail Gibbons
    Sky Phenomena,  Norman Davidson

 Following are some of our Astronomical studies and activities:

The making of Stickhenge.
At noon on the December solstice, we ventured outside to a small clearing to hammer a garden post into the ground. We then marked where the shadow of the post fell, inserting a stick at the topmost point of the stake's shadow. That evening we returned and using the post as a visual reference point, we marked the direction in which the sun set, again inserting a stick into the ground in the line of sight from the stake to the point on the horizon in which the sun set. And then we did it all over again. A lot.

This was a long term project, being updated weekly from winter to summer solstice. Eventually we pulled out all of the markers except the ones marking the two solstices and spring equinox. (Some weeks there seemed to be no movement, others the shadows would just "jump") In this way we "illustrated" the movement of the sun through the months. If I were a morning person, we would have marked the sunrises as well, creating a more circular pattern, like Stonehenge. But I am not a morning person, and neither is the Boy. So we opted for 1/2 of Stickhenge. Good enough.

Movement of the sun from southwest to northwest over a six month period.

Lengthening of shadows over a six month period.
Planetarium visit:
The York County Astronomical Society operates a planetarium out of an old high school,  offering shows once a month. We observed a show about the winter solstice, including some of the history of solstice celebrations, and a show regarding what we should be seeing in our local winter sky.

We also visited our middle son at school during a parent's weekend, where they had a planetarium show about constellations, and tricks on how to find them.

My favorite part! We have a fire circle in a small clearing in our back acre. (An acre that we've been naturalizing over the past 10 years). It is the perfect place to light a toasty fire and just gaze up at the stars. That college planetarium show (above) proved very helpful as we looked for the M-shape of Andromeda, the rectangle of Gemini, the belt of Orion, and others. Finding the North Star is a breeze, if you can find the dippers!

We studied the moon phases, tides, equinoxes and solstices, the zodiac (from an astronomical view, not astrological, although some may want to incorporate that), comets and asteroids, position of the planets, and a bit about navigating with stars.

Here are some excerpt from the Boy's main lesson book:

The Moon, colored pencil

Hercules, metallic sharpie

Rotation around the north star

The Solar System, chalk pastel


Shooting Stars, chalk pastel
The zodiac


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ancient Civilizations: Greece Part II History

The year has gotten away from me. It's time to wrap up final plans for seventh grade, and I realized I've not yet documented all of sixth grade. I will do my best to show what we covered in during our second semester, beginning with history.

Greek History. Hmmmm, what fun! Most of our stories came from Kovac's Ancient Greece . Each day I would deliver a story. Using the 3 day rhythm, we would review on day 2 and develop the ideas through artwork on day 3. But this semester, instead of focusing on painting or drawing, I had the boy write, write, write.

I realized about mid-way through the year that I had been rather lax on the writing skills. My goal was to get the child to write at least one paragraph, coherently and completely on his own. I started with having him write his ideas down. Then he formed them into complete sentences, then arranged them into a paragraph. Sounds simple, but for a boy that doesn't care for writing (Can't we just draw this story?") it was fairly exhausting!

 The "big" project was to write a comparison essay, using narrative. He chose to compare Sparta to Athens using the stories of two characters from the Kovac's book to illustrate the differences. (Solon and Lycurgas). The major struggle during this project was the Boy wanting to do it his way, rather than following my directions.

Doesn't look so intimidating, but this was a two week process!

 At one point he made two lists of characteristics, one for each city, handed it to me and said, "I've finished comparing." My response, "Hmm, yes, you did compare the two cities, but I would like you to put these characteristics in story form. Not list form." And his, "Well, I like my way better. "  This is when I had to put on my teacher face and get firm about completing the assignment, not changing the assignment to suit his wants. This time, anyway. It took two weeks of writing and rewriting, working through the draft process, but he finally completed it.  And was so proud of his accomplishment when he had.

During his free time, the Boy read some library books about Ancient Greece, including Black Ships Before Troy, Rosemary Sutcliff. One we thoroughly enjoyed was Wise Guy:The Life and Philosophy of Socrates. The Boy spent the next few weeks tossing out Socratic quotes. (Where were those nosy homeschool quizzers that week? No....they only quiz on stuff we haven't covered yet!) 

We transitioned into our studies of Rome by reading aloud the Aenid, closing our books on the study of Ancient Greece.