Thursday, April 26, 2012

Woodland Animal Identification via Disney Classic

In learning about animals found in Critter Country, our geography studies have focused on the North American woodlands. As a fun way to become confident in learning which animals inhabit the forest, Aidyn viewed the cinematic classic, Bambi.

The scene that still makes me tear up. It's probably not the one you think.
Prior to watching, I created a simple checklist on Microsoft Word. I listed several animals and included a realistic picture with a checkbox. I scrambled in some animals that do not inhabit the forest so that Aidyn could learn to distinguish between them.

Being six, he can easily identify familiar forest animals, but certain creatures, like quails and opossoms, had him thinking.
Once I started the film, he was on the lookout for woodland animals. Because it was structured as a hunt, his attention was keen. He even identified some animals I had forgotten to include. As such, he happily wrote in those animals' names.

When we watch movies, it isn't to take the "easy route," but rather it is a chance to interact with a moving model. In doing so, we talked about the animals, their movements and habits, the story's themes, and our feelings toward the movie.

Once the movie finished, we watched an extra feature, a reenactment of the animator's meeting prior to making the movie. The meeting, at the time, was transcribed so as not to lose pertinent ideas. A group of actors filled in the voices, including Walt's, and we listened to it as they re-played the film. It was amazing to hear how closely the ideas resembled the finished product!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pooh Sticks and Hunny Pots!

This weekend, our family went down to a local river where we know a bridge to exist and played Pooh Sticks. We hiked along the paths as Aidyn bundled up stacks of sticks in his arms. The hike, with all its greenery and serenity, was refreshing. When we made our way onto the bridge, we readied our Pooh sticks by tying ribbons on them (for identification purposes). I asked Aidyn, based on the river current, which side of the bridge we should throw our sticks. He selected the eastern side. We all chucked our sticks in and scurried to the western side to see whose stick would come out first. Funnily enough, Aidyn "won" every race, but the whole experience felt like a big win for family time and fun.

Later, when we got home, we made Hunny Pots out of terra cotta flower pots. Inspired by a Disney site hosting Winnie the Pooh crafts, we each painted a hunny pot. The next day, we walked to the store to buy some seeds. I chose beautiful blue Cupid's Darts, Daddy planted jalapeno peppers, and Aidyn planted corn. After watering them, we found a nice, sunny spot on our porch.

Me, painting my blue hunny pot.

 Daddy, meticulously outlining his "green slime" honey.

Our finished pots, sans dirt and seeds.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Venturing into the Hundred Acre Wood

After finishing our Br'er Rabbit unit, we gently moved onto A.A. Milne. It has been a busy week, with Aidyn playing outside during the sunny afternoons, but we have snuck in some storytime using Milne's classic poems about Pooh bear.

We also had a little conversation about the real Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals. I asked him, which animals do you like to bring everywhere with you? He mentioned a few of his favorites, including Duffy. That beyond-adorable bear has been with us on every ride at Disneyland, tucked in the crook of Aidyn's arm on Big Thunder Mountain, squeezed for comfort on a slidin' bobsled on the Matterhorn ride, soaring up high on Mickey's Fun Wheel.

I think the concept of stuffed animal companions are an important part of childhood, providing a comfort and source of imagination in such a simple way.

To build off the poems we read and conversations we had, Aidyn watched some classic Winnie the Pooh cartoons including, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and another episode about Winnie the Pooh and his friends playing Pooh sticks. Years ago when we first studied Critter Country, we took a hike to an actual bridge over a river and played Pooh Sticks. We intend to do the same this weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Home Performance of Brer Gator and Brer Rabbit

After a couple busy days helping a friend and waiting for public school demands to end, Aidyn and I got back to Critter Country. Yesterday we reread "Brer Gator and Brer Rabbit" and decided to act the whole story out. Aidyn played Brer Gator and wore a dragon tail to simulate Brer Gator's whiplashing tail. I played Brer Rabbit (complete with bunny ears) and Squinten Squirrel (with my silly Dale hat).

I would never have done this in front of people, but we overacted and made the story into a fun, slapstick comedy. After rehearsing a few times, Grandma watched our performance and offered a heart applause. Aidyn wanted to add more to the story so I followed his lead and stage directions, and it turned out well.

I'm a big fan of play-acting. I probably cannot list and categorize every little thing he learned in performing the story, but I know that "being" a character and living the story (if only for a moment) allowed the tale to melt into his long-term memory. I hope this crazy episode remains in his memory for a long time, even if his opinion of his mother is that she is beyond silly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Brer Rabbit Week and Introduction to the Trickster

(image is not mine)

This week we are highlighting one of the most memorable characters in Critter Country and literature: Brer Rabbit. I know many people shy away from these stories, particularly the Song of the South video, but much can be learned from exploring these old, traditional stories.

To begin our unit, Aidyn and looked at a map of the world. In child-friendly language, I explained our country's ugly past in slave trades from West Africa. This was the first Aidyn had heard of this history so he listened rather attentively. I told him about trickster tales and the use of such as a way of keeping spirits high during dreadful living conditions. I helped him identify by asking him if he ever sad if it helps to think of something funny. We agreed that we use humor and imagination to cope with difficult situations.

Using humor as my guide, I read two trickster stories from West African. One was about Brur Gator and Brur Rabbit and the other was about Brur Wolf and Brur Rabbit. With Aidyn at my side, I read the stories in my best Gullah accent. There are so many ideas to tease out from these readings, but we focused on the happiness that silly, light-hearted stories bring.

Afterward, while playing indoor soccer, we listened to some African music with folktales weaved in through song. Later we visited to learn about the Gullah culture and traced the path of African music from drum music to work (plantation) songs to blues to rap and everything in between. He also listened to some folktales spoken in Gullah.

So far, this was a gentle way to introduce the new unit and delve into the important history of some African Americans.

Rabbity Week

(pictures to come)

Last week, we learned all about rabbits as a sub-topic for Critter Country in Disneyland and for the approaching Easter holiday. We read several wabbity stories including The Little Rabbit, One Brown Bunny, and Gail Gibbon's wonderful Rabbits, Rabbits, and More Rabbits, among others.

Aidyn also made a lapbook chronicling the things he learned, particularly about what rabbits eat, the difference between a rabbit and a hare, the scientific classification of rabbits, and some drawn scenes from the chapter book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

As a mini-field trip, we visited a local feed store and observed rabbits and bunnies. There were adorable lion-headed rabbits (which we never knew existed before now!) and a whole litter of precious baby bunnies.

As a craft, the whole family made papier-mache rabbits. This new craft introduced Aidyn to a specific way of sculpting using mod podge, and he had such a blast.

The unit ended after a nice Easter celebration. The Easter Bunny brought Aidyn many goodies, and our church hosted a little egg hunt for the children.

We're still poring over Miraculous Journey as the rabbit theme continues throughout the month in Critter Country.