Our Arts & Science Homeschool Enrichment program during Winter and Spring trimesters was dedicated to World Geography — Africa.
The diversity and abundance of Africa left the kids in awe and excited to travel there one day. The goal for our lessons was not only to have the children learn the information, but most importantly to inspire curiosity and self motivation to discover the world around us and beyond! What we learned was just an introduction to this beautiful continent and we desire to encourage our students to continue their own learning and discussions at home!
Click here to see our full overview of all the activities and fun we had during this curriculum.
As we are wrapping up our 2022 fall trimester we wanted to share with you some of the photos from our STEAM program (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math), this fall it was dedicated to human anatomy.
Skeleton clay modeling
Our core project was playdough modeling of human skeleton. Over the years we developed and worked with the children on a number of playdough modeling projects on topics such as birds, hibernation, ant hill structure and botany. These projects are both science and art. Children find them fun and engaging, while slow pace of the step-by-step project offers deeper understating of the topic and better retention of new knowledge.
While working on a playdough modeling project the following disciplines are incorporated:
- ✓ Science — botany, anatomy, biology, etc. Depending on what we are modeling.
- ✓ Mathematics — children use measuring tape and rulers, we discuss proportions, comparative sizes and shapes.
- ✓ Fine motor skill and sensory work through making of various elements needed in the course of the lesson.
- ✓ Arts and self expression — during the project children learn both to model someone’s else’s work (essential in development of new skills) and once new skills acquired children are free to create and add their own elements to the project.
- ✓ Logical thinking — learning to plan a project made of multiple steps.
As each week we worked on building a next section of the human skeleton we discussed with the children the function of that skeletal segment. Children learned about nerves and their role in communication between the brain and all of the body. We discussed the essential role of the rib cage in protecting vital organs, such as heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. The children were fascinated about the dual bone structure of the forearm and lower part of the leg, and seeing how that structure makes twisting movement possible! We had a fun experiment on digestion, and even built a little robotic hand.
Scroll down to see some of the photos from these projects of fall’s STEAM curriculum.
Hands-on experiment topic: spine, vertebrae and spinal disks
Hands-on experiment topic: lungs
Hands-on experiment topic: hand structure
“Children have a natural affinity towards nature. Dirt, water, plants, and small animals attract and hold children’s attention for hours, days, even a lifetime.” – Ben Hewitt, Homegrown
We are excited to share the news that our forest school has adopted a pack of African Wild Dogs in order to help this wonderful, but critically endangered species to survive.
Further in this post I tell a little bit about how this adoption came about. But first, I wanted to share this wonderful documentary about African Wild Dogs. The documentary is by Kim Wolhuter, and I highly recommend his other nature documentaries.
“Dogs in the land of lions” film
If this video fails to load you can find it available for free here on PBS.ORG.
If you are looking for a beautiful craft with fall leaves to do with children I got a wonderful little art project to share with you. It is a rather simple, but very beautiful forest craft. And it requires minimal supplies that don’t come from the forest, and could be easily done in an outdoor setting.
Over at our school cabin we usually have various logs and old branches left from pruning of the trees, or from dead old trees that got taken down. I had a stash of slices from an old aspen trunk and this craft was a perfect use for them. If you would like to try this craft, but do not have a slice of wood handy, you can use a piece of cardboard from one of your latest Amazon shipments. 🙂
Our outdoor school program in Palmer Lake has a little cabin right by the mountains. The school cabin is used solely for the purpose of the program, and not as a residence. It is a charming, almost fairytale-like environment with a beautiful outdoor space for playing under the canopy of majestic evergreens, working on art projects and learning about nature.
“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” ~ unknown source
In our Palmer Lake outdoor school location we start every day in the forest where children spend a few hours playing and exploring in the mountains. Around lunch they return to the school cabin where we work on a variety of different projects, such as playdough sculpting, watercolor painting, sewing. And gardening and tending to plants is also one of our essential activities there. As a part of that we have a small greenhouse, each child also has a small garden allotment where they grew snap peas and we also have a beautiful pollinator -friendly flower garden.
Last year in this blog I have shared the recipe we have used that included flour, vegetable oil, salt and citric acid. It was a good recipe. Also, importantly, it was a zero-waste recipe, so you could make it using the ingredients that come without any plastic packaging.
But since then we have simplified our play-dough recipe which now only uses flour and salt. We found it work just as well, in some ways even better. It appears that the acidic ingredient makes the play-dough more silky to the touch. But at the same time it seems like the dough is a bit more springy, so as kids try to roll out out into think sheets or spaghetti-like shapes it shrinks back. The salt-only recipe allows kids to roll it out into very thin sheets or strings.
So, I’m going to share our new recipe here, and also will leave our old recipe up on the website as well, in case you’d like to try it out. In that blog post you can also see the organic plant-based ways to give your DIY playdough beautiful colors. And also has a list of our favorite supplies for kids to use when working with play-dough.
With the hot and dry weather conditions it seems like the leaves started turning colors early this year. And as leaves that started changing colors will fall off shortly anyway, we feel collecting them for crafts doesn’t go against “Leave no trace” philosophy that we try to instill in children.
This past week we collected some very beautiful yellow leaves on our hike. I wanted to share here few simple little art projects we did using those leaves that the children loved. The projects could be done both while on a hike or nature walk, or at home/classroom. The only thing that wouldn’t work out in the forest is glueing the sticks as they require a hot glue gun. But the sticks could be substituted with grass stems, as those tend to be straight and smooth.
Outdoors or indoors
This week we did 2 version of crafts using leaves — one was just laying out leaves into different patterns while on our forest hike. And the other one we did once we returned to our school cabin and had paper and glue available to us. I think next time I’m going to bring kids nature journals with us and a bit of glue, so we can make a few leaf pictures right into their nature journals during a break on a hike.
One of the projects we worked on during COVID lockdown this past Spring was expanding our outdoor classroom space.
As a forest school we spend first half of our day in the forest and mountains. But around lunch time we hike back to our school cabin for some learning projects.
Even before COVID outbreak we did most of our learning projects outdoors, rarely going inside the school cabin during the warm months of the year. We already had a set of tables and benches built underneath and around a beautiful evergreen in the school yard. There we had all our meals and worked on the art and craft projects, see two photos below.
Keeping busy during the COVID break
If you are following us on Instagram you’ve seen that we stayed quite busy during our temporary closure due to COVID-19 guidelines. Over the 3 months that the school was temporarily closed we built a green house, added a large flower garden, set up a beautiful new outdoor classroom and most recently I replaced a fence to go with our new sign.
I haven’t shared anything about the fencing project over on Instagram, as it was probably most exhausting of them all 🙂 Our old fence was badly bent by the deer jumping over it. And as I was in the process of installing our new sign I wanted the fence to look the part. So after some time spent on Pinterest I chose this look for the new fence. It didn’t seem too complicated. But while it wasn’t particularly complicated it did involve a lot of heavy work. And so it is going to be our last building project (at least for June :))) as I actually already have a few more on my mind).
I’m very excited to finally get a chance to post about our new school sign. It’s been in the works for close to a year, as I had a very specific vision and it took time and finding the right people to make it come to life. But at the end it turned out so beautifully and it reflects the school’s ethos very accurately.
Creating the sign
I worked on creating the sign as the side project, so the overall process took a long time. I started on the process back in August 2019. I wanted a beautiful wooden carved sign for the school with our logo on it. After some search I can across this wonderful company “Foxwood Signs” whose work was exactly what I envisioned. However, it turned out that it would not be possible to transfer our original logo, as it was a custom watercolor painting. So the next step was to get the logo re-created in a format workable for the sign carving process.