Posts Tagged With: nature

Kids Art Lesson: Sketching, Photography, Ansel Adams Biography & Connecting With Nature

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View of the Sierras, photograph taken by M, age 7

Grab some sketch pads & pencils, a camera, and the following information about photographer Ansel Adams, find a nice spot in nature, and you have a wonderful art lesson to share with kids!

The beauty of nature has been an inspiration to artists for all of time. I would like to share how I presented the works of Ansel Adams, and also touched briefly on Claude Monet, while taking the kids out to sketch in the mountains. All you need is a place in nature (mountains, parks, fields, and even your own backyard ), sketch pads, pencils, a camera, and some artist information and examples.

Captain’s friends came for a fun visit this week and we went on a hike in Sequoia Forest. I told them a little bit about how artists of many mediums have been inspired by nature, and that today we would be talking about the famous photographer Ansel Adams. We talked about his life and looked at photographs (see information below) and also talked about Claude Monet’s work. They learned  the term “impressionism” and its origin. I gave each kid a sketch pad and invited them to find a spot to sit with a nice view to sketch. We talked about perspective, lines and details, and then they went to work. The sketches were amazing! The kids took their sketches home to watercolor, and Captain painted hers right away that evening. I showed them a postcard book of Adam’s lovely winter landscapes and after they “oohed and ahhed” over their favorites, I gave them the opportunity to take 3 photographs each, with my iphone, encouraging them to take their time. They each chose their favorite photo and I promised to print their special photo in black and white and frame them. They were thrilled. *Note: I printed the photos at Costco for 13 cents each, and bought black frames at a dollar store. I can’t wait to give the kids their own photographic works of art this week!

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Beautiful Granite, photograph taken by Captain, age 6

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Bueller in the Mountains, photograph taken by J, age 5

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M with his mountain sketch.  He really loved the whole experience of sketching and photographing an amazing view of the Sierras from atop a giant, granite rock face.

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Captain’s watercolored sketch of granite and mountains.

Here is some wonderful, easy to understand information about Ansel Adams to share with your kids. I found these facts on a wonderful site called Mr. Nussbaum! Learning + FunClick on the link to easily print these biography pages, and also check out some of the cool science and other learning ideas and lessons presented there!

Ansel Adams Biography for Kids

Glacier National Park

Early Life

Ansel Adams was a famous American photographer and environmentalist. He was born near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, on Feb. 20, 1902. When he was four years old, his nose was broken when he was knocked to the ground by an aftershock of the great earthquake. His nose was crooked for the rest of his life. One of his earliest memories was seeing smoke from the great fire that followed the earthquake.

Growing Up

He was an only child who performed poorly at school, so his parents had him tutored at home. Although he was hyperactive and possibly dyslexic, he was thought to possess an eidetic memory, which is a form of photographic memory that includes memories of smells, sounds, and other senses. Ansel enjoyed music and taught himself to play the piano when he was twelve. He also enjoyed nature and loved walking in the sand dunes near his home. His father gave him a telescope, and they shared a great interest in astronomy.

A Photographer is Born in Yosemite National Park

When he was fourteen, Ansel read In the Heart of the Sierras by James Mason Hutchings, and he convinced his parents to take a vacation in Yosemite National Park. His parents gave him a Kodak Brownie camera for the trip, and Ansel’s interest in photography was born as he tramped through the park’s mountains. When he talked about the trip, Ansel said, “the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me.” Some of his most famous photographs were of Yosemite. His work helped raise awareness of and interest in America’s national parks. In 1927, Ansel took one of his best known photos, “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome” at Yosemite.

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The Sierra Club

When he was seventeen, Ansel joined the Sierra Club. The club works to preserve the earth’s natural wonders and resources. He spent four summers as the caretaker of the Sierra Club visitor center in Yosemite Valley, and was an active member of the club for the rest of his life. Ansel was interested in environmental issues related to national parks, especially Yosemite, and the preservation of wilderness.

Photography as an Art

Ansel learned basic darkroom technique working part-time for a photo finisher in San Francisco. In 1927, Albert Bender, a businessman and patron of the arts, helped publish Ansel’s first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras. Ansel soon got paid for photos, and he began to think about a career as a photographer instead of a pianist. In 1933 he opened his own art and photography gallery in San Francisco. He often worked for eighteen or more hours a day, for days and weeks on end. He learned from and exhibited with other famous photographers of the time including Alfred Stieglitz, Imogen Cunningham, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston. They developed photography as a form of art. Ansel helped to establish the first department of photography at a museum at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Ansel’s Work in Space

Ansel Adams’ photographs recorded what many of the National Parks were like before tourism. His photograph of the Grand Tetons and the Snake River was one of 115 images chosen to grace the Voyager spacecraft in an effort to share information about life on Earth with a possible alien civilization. He died on April 22, 1984 in Monterey, California.

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No matter how I photographed these lovely works, I couldn’t help but get glare off the glass. Funny how it made the cloudy, gray sky look blue in M’s photo!

Thank you so much for reading. I wish you a glorious, dramatic, black and white day, filled with color!

Good thoughts, Karen

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Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Bringing Circle Time to the Homeschool

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I can’t believe we waited so long to do this!

Have you ever tried starting your day with circle-time? I am astounded by what has developed into a much-needed routine for my daughter and I. I always thought of “circle-time” as being something a lot of kids would do together: sitting on the floor, talking about feelings, or hearing a story. Honestly, I thought we would need, well, more people, to do one of our own. I was wrong. Our homeschool mainly consists of my daughter and I, working through projects, learning new things together, and attending wonderful enrichment classes twice each week at a lovely charter school. I was inspired to implement circle time into our routine when my friend told me about how the kids start their day at an outdoor-based enrichment program in Atascadero, CA. Wham! I realized with a powerful instinct that we needed to try this too. Thank you dear Annabell!

Last week I asked Captain if she would like to come with me to find a place to sit outside, under a tree, for circle time before we started our busy day. She grabbed my hand and said “let’s go!” We sat down and shared things that we are grateful for. It is wonderful. Not only do we talk about the good things in our lives, we are remembering to give thanks for the simple things, and that is priceless! We tell stories to each other, and it is a time for her to feel safe about addressing things with me, or talking about things that might be bothering her. For example, I found out that she would really rather do math earlier in the day, and that she doesn’t like for me to comment on her paintings until she is completely finished with a session. She expressed her concern for wild horses, and her gratefulness that kids can be adopted by new parents if the parents are unable to care for them. Wow. She wanted to hear detailed stories of her birth, about the time when the puppies were born, and tell me all about how amazing ants are. I find that after we are finished, we are both ready for our day. She is calmer and more receptive to some of the things she needs to do that aren’t her favorites. I love how it has changed the start of our days!!!!

Remembering to be thankful, expressing feelings, and getting some body-earthing in at the same time is a beautiful thing. If you homeschool, or not, do you have circle-time as a part of your morning routine? Would you be willing to give it a go? Does it seem silly or unimportant? I welcome you to write in, please! I would love to keep an open discussion going and hear any thoughts or ideas.

Luscious round thoughts to all!

Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Positive Parenting, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

DIY: Make a Rockin’ Backyard Tipi For Kids!

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Captain, or “Princess Akeezia” as she calls herself, may never stop playing in her $3 backyard tipi! 

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What you need:  5 or 6 heavy bamboo stakes (6 to 8 foot length), a heavy-duty rubber band, and something to cover the tipi (piece of fabric, burlap, or a sheet)

I cannot recommend tipi-making enough!  What a fun and inexpensive way to provide your child with endless hours of entertainment and play (not to mention being a hero for it!). We bought our 6′ heavy bamboo stakes at an orchard supply store for less than 50 cents apiece. We will be going back for some 8 foot pieces as well!  Simply gather them and secure at one end with a heavy-duty rubber band and, voila!, you’ve got the frame.  Wrap it in fabric (we used a brown sheet, but wouldn’t a piece of fabric that could be painted be fun?!) and that’s pretty much it. We set the tipi up inside and then promptly took it outside for obvious reasons. The bamboo stakes are weather-proof, and a tipi can easily be constructed and left outside all summer. They don’t take up much room, and can transform even a small space into a wonderful imaginative world.

** Note:  I tried to find the bamboo stakes at the local home stores but couldn’t find them long enough.  You may have to call around to orchard, or farm supply stores to find big enough stakes.

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Secure with rubber band

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Dad wrapping the outside of the shelter.  The tipi is STURDY!

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Princess Akeezia

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Trying to knock the tipi down but realizing it is quite sturdy 🙂

We would love to hear about family tipi-building here at Kartwheels!  We hope your summer is a beautiful one, and three cheers for all of the kids out there; their imaginations, their beautiful hearts and minds, and their need for FUN..

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Make Summer “Camp” Lanterns From Recycled Cans!

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Sweet little lanterns make the table look so festive!

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You’ll Need:

Recycled tin cans, hammer & nails of various sizes, wire for handles, battery operated tea lights or tea candles (supervised), freezer or boards and clamps (explained below)

This project is so simple and fun… perfect for lighting up warm summer nights, or dressing the dinner table. They also make a sweet gift for loved ones!

Captain and I camped with a group of homeschoolers from HSC last month in Mono Hot Springs, CA. What an incredible place, and the people were wonderful! One of the moms, the eco-crafty Mary Ann, brought all the fixens’ to create tin can lanterns, and a great time was had by all who made one. Mary Ann said that she saw online that these can easily be made at home by placing a recycled tin can, filled with water, into the freezer. The block of ice inside the can helps prevent it from getting dented when hammering the holes in. I would highly recommend using the freezer method if you can. If you decide to try this project while camping, Mary Ann came up with a great idea to replace the ice. She brought boards and some clamps to secure it to a picnic table. As you can see in the photos below, a piece of wood that will fit inside the cans extends out far enough that the can will slip on. This provides support inside the can so that it won’t dent while hammering the holes.

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You can use a permanent marker to make a design on the can, or just go free-form.  When you have your design in mind (think constellations, hearts, names, or random patterns!) use the various sized nails and hammer to pound holes into the can. Hold the nail in place and give it a tap to “seat” it, and then give it about two more solid pounds and you’ve got a hole!  Using large nails and small nails give the lantern a really nice look! Add two holes at the top of the cans, on opposite sides, for your handle.  Handles can easily be made by snipping about a 6″ piece of wire and crimping it on. Kids can write their names and the date on the bottom of their can and they have a lovely summer keepsake for their rooms!

** A note about hammers, nails, and kids!  I helped about 6 different kids with their lanterns, as hammering is hard work and they could only do a few holes before getting tired. The kids were in the 5-8 age range, and although a couple of them did whack their finger once or twice, they never complained or gave up. I told them how to seat the nail with a tap, and if they were a little afraid of hitting the nail with the hammer, I just encouraged them to try, looking only at the head of the nail when they swung the hammer.  It’s like the idea of “keeping your eye on the ball”- it works! The kids felt empowered and special to be hammering tin cans and doing it for themselves. So, don’t be afraid to let them go for it, just remind them to watch the nail head and they’ve got it!

*We used both tea light candles, and little battery-operated tea lights for our lanterns.  I highly recommend the battery ones for fire safety.

Captain LOVES her lantern and was so proud to bring it home to show dad her memento of a very special camping trip. I made one too, and it reminded me that I had done this project on a Girl Scouts camping trip when I was a kid! What fun! I hope you decide to make these with your kids.

As summer rocks on, I wish you many good thoughts, glowing like little lights around the campfire!

Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Great Day to Hug a Rock!

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Good thoughts for a beautiful weekend to all!

Categories: Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Solitary Cougar: 13 Fast Facts!

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Gorgeous Puma Concolor, I admire and respect your ways, and I hope we never meet…

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Captain and I discovered this incredible adult cougar print on our road in the forest.  It was about 4″ long!  We regret deeply that we didn’t get back out to take a plaster cast of it before the rains came…

Oh mountain lions! We are certainly on the lookout these days for these magnificent creatures, as we have been finding scat around regularly.  We do live in the Sierra Nevada, where cougars, black bears, rattlesnakes and bobcats share the land, but there is something especially eerie about the thought of a large cat stalking my kid or dogs.  It is simply a responsibility of the land in which we live.  Captain knows that she cannot run around outside alone during these times. She is learning to live as safely as possible in a remote mountain location.  This does not mean that I don’t watch her like a hawk!  It just means that we exercise precautions as necessary.

Lately, we have found a LOT of cougar scat all around us, and do know that they are on the move.  They are solitary and elusive, mostly moving about at dawn and dusk, and to see one is a rare sight. My husband, K, and I did see one years ago while driving slowly home down the dirt road one night.  The headlights flashed upon a face in the trees that nearly took our breath away!  A fleeting glance was enough to see and feel the power and beauty of this animal.  I would like to share some facts about our calm, and quiet, friend, the cougar.

1. Mountain lions are also known as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts, and many other names as well.  In fact they hold the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of names in the world.  The term “mountain lion” is incorrect actually.  They do not only reside in the mountains, and they do not roar like a lion, but it is a name coined “back in the day” and it has kind of stuck.

2. Cougars have powerful limbs and can leap as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet.  Their top running speed is between 40-50 mph (64-80 km/h)!

3. Cougars can swim.

4. These big cats measure 2+ feet at the shoulders and weigh 110-180 pounds typically.

5. They have a lifespan of about 12 years in the wild.

6. Cougars are solitary animals.  They are extremely territorial and actively avoid other cats, except during courtship.

7. With the exception of humans, cougars have the largest range of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Their range can vary in size from 10 square miles to around 370 square miles. They are found from Canada to Argentina.

8. There are an estimated 30,000 mountain lions in the western United States.

9. They eat large mammals like deer, and also smaller mammals like mice, raccoons, rabbits, beavers and squirrels.

10. They are active hunters and will travel long distances in search of food.  They hunt alone and attack from behind, breaking the neck of their prey by biting it at the base of the skull.  Their weight coming down helps with the kill as well.

11. After killing their prey, they will bury it and leave it, coming back to feed when hungry.

12. Cougars commonly mate from December to March, but are known to mate at any time of the year.  Moms have 2-4 kittens, which they raise alone.  The kittens nurse for two months, then start to travel with mom so that she can teach them to hunt.  They will stay with her for about 1.5-2 years.

13. Mountain lions are on considered a low-alert species on the United States endangered species list, due to population increases.

Cougars are fascinating, and beautiful, and I hope they stay healthy and at a distance from our home!  We have learned to identify their scat, and will keep an eye out for scat that contains a lot of hair.  Healthy cougars tend to eat the fleshy, good, parts of their prey, and leave the skin and hair behind.  If they are unhealthy, or mal-nourished, their scat would contain hair, which would put us on extreme alert.  Mountain lions don’t tend to attack humans unless they have been imposed upon and their habitat taken, or if they are unhealthy and HUNGRY!

Let us not have these creatures get a bad rap for taking down the occasional human.  I suppose if we delved further into the story, we would find out that whole neighborhoods have been built on their land and whose fault is that?  In the meantime, we root for them!  Let them live in the peace and quiet that they are born for, and we will do our best to stay out of their way.  Thanks for reading.

I stalk you with good thoughts!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids!, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Take a Photography Paint-Sample Walk With Kids, and Make a Cool Scrapbook too!

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Have you ever wished you could find a use for those colorful sample cards found in the household paint aisle?  Well, they’re not just for choosing colors for your walls anymore!

Greetings nature, colors, photography and scrap-booking! This is a neat project that is perfect for the kiddos who love to be outdoors in nature, with a camera.

You’ll need:  paint sample cards from your local hardware store, or paint store, a camera, pages for a scrapbook, and glue.  *The photographs will need to be printed in order to make a little scrapbook.

What to Do:  Invite your child to join you on a “paint-card picture walk”. Go to the hardware/paint store and pick out paint sample cards that are in colors that might match your surroundings, or your local park.  Greens, yellows, browns, reds?  The colors of rocks, of wildflowers? What do you have living outside around you? Collect some of the cards to bring home.

Grab the cards, and a camera, and take a great big nature walk (a lovely time to bring a picnic lunch along!). The object is to find things in nature that match the colors of the cards.  Not exactly matching, of course, but of a similar color family. The child will take photos of the plants, rocks, trees, etc. This is great fun!!!  *I took a moment to remind Captain know that we were not going to print ALL of the seemingly hundreds of photos she took, but that she could choose 20 of her favorites to create a little scrapbook. Kids take their photographs seriously, and I think it is best to let them know, ahead of time, that there are limits.

After the walk, review the photos with your child.  Captain was excited at the dinner-table that night to share her experience with her dad. After the selected photos are printed, a scrapbook can be made with the paint cards displayed on a page with the photos, perhaps a little writing about what is in the photos, and Captain even suggested that we find some of the featured plants and flowers to press between waxed paper (under heavy books) to add later!

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“These colors don’t match, but don’t they look nice together?”

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Captain’s colorful photos of a dog bone on granite and wildflowers

The creative skies are the limit when arranging pages for the scrapbook. The colored cards can be pasted side by side, or in a fan-pattern, with the photos over the top etc.  Each project is unique to the child who creates it. Oh yes! You can take these picture-walks more than once and keep adding to the scrapbook. What a sweet way to let loose the creativity, spend time observing nature, and have a neat memorable keepsake!

I got the idea for this project on Education.com. They offer tons of great project ideas, sheets and activities for kids of all ages.

If you go on a picture walk with your kids, we would love to hear about it here on Kartwheels!

Thanks for reading.

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Science AND Fun: Build and Erupt a Cool Papier-Mâché Volcano With Your Kids!

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Hooray!  The volcano erupted to squeals of delight from us all!

Greetings science (and fun) enthusiasts!  I want to share a terrific project that is challenging, and fun, from start to finish. Please note that this is not a “quickie” project. The newspaper will have to soak overnight, the paper mache volcano will have to be built, and have a chance to dry for a few days, and then it will be painted and sealed.  It is worth it, the volcano is super durable!  Captain, for her young age, had no trouble waiting in between steps. In fact, to do it all quickly would have taken away from the learning and fun. The photos you see here are of Captain’s experience, last year.  I helped her blend up the paper mache mix and to construct the volcano. She painted it herself and then I sealed it for her. She did all of the mixology to create the eruption herself.  Did she learn exactly what the chemical reaction did when it took place?  No. I explained what was happening and she has never forgotten what happens when baking soda and vinegar are mixed together! Once again, simply brushing up against all of these “scientifically based ideas” at a young age, in a fun (and completely excited and willing way) just puts those crumbs of knowledge in the brains of kids and makes learning all of the deeper details later much easier and fun!

One other side note:  The chemical reaction that causes the eruption took place in a small film container.  This small-sized receptacle was recommended for use in the instructions that I used (see below) and keeps the “lava flow” from being too much, and too messy.  We were completely satisfied with the eruption for our first time, and have a wonderful, sturdy volcano to this day to erupt any time we want.  However, we have decided to build another one with a much BIGGER receptacle (like a soda can?) as we like to do it up big here at the Cabin and will do it outdoors again!

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Little volcano drying…

Part 1 of 3:  Making the Papier-Mâché!

You’ll Need: 

At least 2 full sheets of newspaper,  large bowl,  water,  measuring cup (or two),  blender

Nylon stocking, white school glue

What You Do:

1. Have your child tear the newspaper into pieces about 2″ wide or smaller. Encourage her to have fun with it! These pieces are going to be turned into a pulp, so there’s no need to make them perfect.

2. Soak the newspaper in a bowl of water for 1-8 hours.

3. Ask your child to scoop 1/2 cup of newspaper and 2 cups of water into the blender. The water is necessary so that the blades of the blender don’t jam up and burn out the motor.

4. Put the lid on the blender and puree on high power until you have a nice newspaper pulp.

5. Have your child hold a nylon stocking open for you and put the newspaper mixture into it. Now she can squeeze the extra water out!

6. Repeat until you have about 4 cups of relatively dry pulp. *Note from Karen:  We didn’t find 4 cups to be quite enough.  I would recommend using more newspaper and making about 8 cups of pulp…

7. Mix in about 1/4 + cup of glue. Your child will probably want to help with this step, since it works best if you use your hands.  Squoosh it on up, it’s fun and messy! The papier-mâché is ready! Now it’s time to construct the volcano.

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Part 2 of 3: Making the Volcano!

You’ll Need:

Papier-mâché mixture,  more newspaper, plastic juice bottle, scissors

Hot glue (for adult use only), film canister (or other small container), acrylic paint (brown and red are good volcano colors), paintbrush, polyurethane (for adult use only) to seal the paint on and make it water proof.

What You Do:

1. Lay some newspaper down before you start. Papier-mâché and paint can get very messy!

2. Cut the plastic juice bottle in half. The cone-shaped top half will be the base for the volcano.

3. Use the hot glue to attach the film canister inside the top of the juice bottle. This is where the chemical reaction will take place and the lava will flow! (For a mini volcano, use the film canister alone and cover it with papier-mâché to make it cone-shaped.)

4. Let your child construct the volcano by applying the papier-mâché mixture to the outside of the plastic bottle. It should be about half an inch thick, but don’t worry about making it smooth! Volcanoes are always lumpy and bumpy and would look very strange if they were all “smoothed out”.

5. Let the volcano dry for about a week before painting. (Also, remember to wash the paintbrush.)

6. When you’re sure that the papier-mâché is dry, it’s time for your child to paint it. Let the paint dry for about a day.

7. Since polyurethane is flammable and can irritate the eyes and lungs, you (not your child) will be responsible for waterproofing. Use the paintbrush to coat the volcano and let it dry for at least a day.

8. Before the eruption, you can grab a cool volcano book to read.  Hill of Fire by Thomas P. Lewis was recommended in the book.  We didn’t have it, but looked online and found some other books (there are dozens out there!).  Check out this wonderful fact page from Scholastic! Kids really connect with what a volcano is when they are excited by this project. This is the perfect time to read about them, or find video online!

As soon as the volcano is dry, it’s ready for action. Your child will be glad to help you gather the materials; this is the fun part.

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Part 3 of 3: Erupting the Volcano!

You’ll Need:

Your new papier-mâché volcano, baking soda, white vinegar, red food coloring (optional, but c’mon, it has to be red!!), small scoop or measuring spoon, small pitcher or cup

Towels and a bucket for clean-up

What You Do:

1. Have your child scoop a little bit of baking soda into the film canister.

2. For realistic red lava, let her add a few drops of food coloring to the film canister as well.

3. Pour some vinegar into the cup or pitcher. (Captain wanted the whole vinegar jug!) Ask your child what she thinks will happen when she mixes the liquid vinegar with the dry baking soda. Then, hand her the pitcher and let her see for herself!

4. Watch as the ingredients react. Ask your child what happened to the vinegar and baking soda. What does the lava look like? Is it runny? is it bubbly or smooth?

5. Chances are, she’ll want to do it again. Go for it!

This do-it-yourself eruption sure is fun, but it’s also jam-packed with science! Try discussing these scientific concepts with your child:

Changing states of matter (Chemistry): Is baking soda a solid, liquid, or gas? What about vinegar? What happened when she mixed the two together? Was the mixture solid? Liquid? What about the bubbles? Volcanic rock (Geology): When real volcanoes erupt, rock melts to form the magma or lava and re-solidifies (changing states of matter again!). If our lava could solidify into rock, what would it look like? Show your child pictures of igneous rock to extend the discussion. Why do the rocks look the way they do? Why do they have holes in them? (Hint: bubbles!)

Keep your volcano for the science fair, just for fun, or for “historical reenactments.” This little project has a lot to give!

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To find the complete volcano project, and tons of other activities, click the image to access the book.  I would like to thank Peggy Ashbrook for sharing such a terrific project with us, and Stephanie Roselli, of Gryphon House Publishers, for assisting me in obtaining permission to print the adapted instructions here on Kartwheels!

I wish you all an explosively colorful day!

Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Why I Feel Easels Are Vital For Young Artists!

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Captain standing at her easel with her painting titled “Sunset Della” June 2012

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Painting outside 

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This is a painting she made for me back in November, 2010 when she was 3 years old.  Because she was outside painting, she got inspired to add walnut leaves and pistachio shells, which give it terrific dimension.  I love it!

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Painting outdoors rocks!

ART FREEDOM!!!!  OH YES, LET THESE KIDS HAVE THEIR ART AND EAT IT TOO! (Okay, maybe just a little taste…..)

I was given an artist’s easel many years ago and it sat in my closet unhappily gathering dust. Well, my daughter, Captain, has been interested in art and painting and creating since she was 18 months old. I realized early that she needed to touch and use everything that was safe for her right from the beginning. That is when I made my commitment to let her artistic freedom go wild and I would be the one to run along after her and gather up the pieces. I also realized that it would be my responsibility to be sure she was exposed to many new ideas and techniques. Voila! That was all it took.

When Captain was about 2 1/2, I pulled the easel out of the closet and set it up for her. It sighed in relief and stretched its legs. It is a French-style easel, with adjustable legs, and it was pretty easy to drop it down into the right level for her. It was amazing! Someone commented to me that it seemed a little “advanced” to set up a “real” easel for a kid that age, but they were wrong. Why would I try to “control” her desires to create her own artwork, or think that I somehow know something more about it than she does, simply because I’m an adult?  Bulls@&t!  I say let them have it all, as long as they are ready to handle it and WANT it, whether it be age 2 or 92!  I also gave her (safe) scissors at a very early age and she never cut off her finger or stabbed herself in the eye.  I practice good parenting (I think) in that I supervised these new things.  I certainly don’t have to do that now.  Captain is 5 and does her own thing.  She comes up with amazing projects all on her own and has an artist’s secrecy many times while she is working.  We have provided her with an indoor small oak table with shelves to work indoors and outside is at her discretion. You can see this simple, effective set-up here.

Now, back to the easels.  I truly believe that sitting down at a table and drawing and painting is a very good thing for many projects.  However, there is something incredible that happens when an artist of any age can be standing up, their paper or canvas right where they want it, and at a good angle.  We hold the brushes in different ways when we are standing. We can be outside or in, and can find inspiration in different ways than sitting down.  Kids feel special when they stand (or wiggle and bop) at an easel. Try setting up an easel for your kid and turn on their favorite music, or something culturally different than what they have heard before. Paint to African drumming, Scottish clan chants, or grab some Tito Puente and go for it.  It rocks!!!

Or, how about a little quiet outdoor nook, where the sounds of the wind sway in the trees and you suddenly notice a robin jumping across the grass?

My point is, that it is so worth it to provide kids with good materials from the start.  You are wondering how much one of these easels might cost? Well, the prices can start at shockingly reasonable and shoot skyward from there.  I do have a few suggestions:

A very affordable, wooden desk easel: Art Alternatives Marquis Desk Easel sells for $15 on Amazon.  It is a desk model so it can be used inside too, and folds up nicely.  It doesn’t have legs so it would have to be placed on a chair, stump or something else for standing outdoors.

I prefer “adult” easels that are adjustable, as anyone can use them and they “grow” with the kids.  These start at about $70 and are everywhere online.  Melissa & Doug make a Standing Easel for $59 on Amazon.

Both Amazon and Costco-online sell the Kid Kraft brand easels that are super cute, quite sturdy, and they have storage space too. They run from $97-129. Scan Craig’s list, ebay, and whatever other local sources you have to find them for good prices.  Again, it is SO worth it!!

I also have one last, quick recommendation.  You can buy “kids” paintbrushes everywhere, but I find that a set of the “real” brushes, in varying sizes and styles, is way better, and often cost the same or even less than the kid ones.  I have been buying Artist’s Loft basics brushes at Michael’s Craft stores for years.  They come in sets of 12 for about 6 bucks and are terrific!

If I could, I would start a foundation to buy, and deliver, easels, paints and brushes to kids all over the world.  I just want them to have a chance to create with good quality “ingredients” in a world where the focus on the arts in everyday life seems to be dwindling.  I would like to throw out big kudos to all of the art teachers, artists, parents, and others that are keeping the freedom of artistic expression alive for kids.  They are the now AND the future, and they have so much to say….

A big, drippy, colorful palette of good thoughts to all!

Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

A Simple Way to Excite Young Scientists: Go on a “Specimen Tube Walk”!

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Captain had a blast with her test tubes today!

Who wouldn’t love collecting little bits of nature into neat little vials?  It is so much fun!  Today Captain requested some specimen vials to go outside and collect some samples of nature.  She told me that she needed to go out alone and “be a real scientist”, and she had a great time!  She stuffed her pockets with 5 little vials that I found at Target in the dollar bin (they were $1 for a pack of 10~ great price!) and proudly walked out the door.  I can’t believe how valuable these simple tubes are for homeschooling, or for just about any curious child.  It is a great way to get kids outside exploring and collecting, and the learning possibilities can go on from there.

For example, Captain collected her plants and brought them back to the house for identification.  The vials each had a separate specimen contained within.  She had gathered: wild strawberry leaves, rosemary, oregano, a wild grass and the leaf of a wild plant that is native to our area, that we have been meaning to identify.  The act itself of collecting the samples is great fun, but to be able to find out what is inside these cute little vials is the basis for scientific experimentation in all of its budding wonder!  If you are lucky enough to have a decent microscope, kids can really have fun looking at their treasures up close.  What happens when you compare a pine needle with a strand of your own hair? Hmmm.. We plan to get a microscope as soon as we can since Captain is ready for it, and the cheap one we bought doesn’t work…It will be a joyful addition to sample-collecting!!

Even very young kids can have fun with these tubes, as long as they are old enough to know not to pop the caps into their mouths.  The vials are made of sturdy plastic and are terrific to fill with sand, plants, tiny pebbles, pine needles, colored water, etc.  (They are helpful storage for leftover glitter as well 🙂 ) I want to add that kids don’t necessarily need to be “learning something” by collecting samples and having fun stuffing test tubes.  The very act of being excited to collect things, especially bits of nature, is very stimulating for kids, and it doesn’t hurt that science exploration grows from the basic desire to gather and observe!

I highly recommend inviting kids to go on a “specimen tube walk”! Each child should have about 5 vials for collection and it is wise to instruct them to take their time and be selective.  The tubes can be purchased at learning stores, and sometimes at dollar stores, so if you see them, grab some up for future projects! Plastic test tubes with caps can also be purchased on Amazon.  They come in a pack of 10 for around $8 with free shipping.  Learning Resources has a terrific 6 pack (with rack) of larger size test tubes with colorful lids for about $12 (We really want to try these!).

We would love to hear about your adventures with specimen vials, or other fun uses for them, here on kartwheels.

Happy exploring!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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