Friday, November 30, 2012

Titanic at Night

I thought it would be fun to do some art activities that took place at night.  Working on black paper gives different effects but we don't do it very often.

I took this coloring page at Kids-n-fun and redrew a simplified version on to black paper.

Titanic at Night

I cut a sponge into a star shape and glued it on to a cork.  Keeping my Toddler entertained did a blog post about her button stamps that gave me the idea for this.

Then I gave younger Toad his paint which included iridescent medium.  It's the best thing ever because it makes all your paint shimmery.  The boys went through a phase where they refused to paint without it.  The picture above is his interpretation of the project.  He had colored pencils and a paint brush too.

For older Toad, I took one of his premade books and glued black paper to the front.  On the back I glued his ticket from the exhibition.  I talked about the exhibition in my first Titanic activities post here.  I gave him our box of Prismacolors and asked him to do a drawing of the Titanic hitting the iceberg.  I said the project as a whole was to describe his experiences the night the Titanic sank from the perspective of Nils  Odahl.  Mr. Odahl is the passenger that he was assigned for the exhibition.  Then he chose to fill one whole side of the book with a drawing of the Titanic with its lifeboats being lowered.

On the other side he wrote his story.  It said:
The night was quiet.  Suddenly the Titanic crashed into an iceberg.  Just before the Titanic sank it split in two.  The bow sank right away.  The stern bobbed for a few seconds then sank.  The Titanic was gone.  Survivors huddled in lifeboats.  Around 3:30 AM a signal rocket streaked the sky.  Mr. Nils sank in the disaster.

To focus on the good things about this story - Older Toad's handwriting is soooo much better.  It's great that it's legible.  His spelling is awesome.  Now I have to interject as the nitpicky teacher and detective of all things curriculum.  We've been using All About Spelling as our spelling curriculum.  I've been really pleased with it and have continued to use the lessons in order thinking learning each spelling rule would give him a good foundation.  Which after doing this story I think I need to reevaluate.  Toad's become a cautious speller.  He wants to confirm every letter before he commits it to paper.  If you press him he will spell every word orally fine.  I think I'm stifling his writing by focusing on the handwriting and spelling.  

During this story I told him he spells great and needs to be more confident and just write it down.  I told him I'd help him with his spelling after he was done but I'm sure he'd spell everything right.  Starting with ...Survivors and ending, rather than try and spell he got out one of the Titanic books we've been reading to confirm the spelling of the words since I said I wasn't helping him until the end.  Coincidentally, those two sentences in his story sure sounded exactly like the ones in the book.  When we read his story together at the end, we had a talk about what plagiarism is and why it's bad.

Moving forward on our creative writing journey I think I need to jump ahead in the All About Spelling curriculum so he's being pushed more.  If he's being pushed he'll make some mistakes and correct them, and see it's all okay and part of learning. I'm also going to get the Grammar Island curriculum from Royal Fireworks Press.  I've heard good things about it and I think focusing on aspects of writing more than mechanics at this time would give him more opportunities for creativity.  I'm hoping it'll help him see his story as a large work of art rather than focusing on the minutia of each letter.

Iridescent Medium 2.5 oz. Iridescent Medium 2.5 oz.
When mixed with watercolor, this medium gives an iridescent, glittery effect.

Premier Colored Pencil Sets set of 36
Premier Colored Pencil Sets set of 36
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Drawer Monsters - Sewn gifts from boys

It's Grandma's birthday and the boys wanted to do something for her.  Older Toad has been drawing reams of monsters so I thought we could combine his current interest in monsters and their love of sewing with something for Grandma.  Everyone likes their drawers to smell nice so the boys made monster sachets.

First I asked older Toad to draw some monsters on to 5" square pieces of paper.  Then we sorted the monsters by which were doable and which were too hard to sew.  I xeroxed his drawings on to multiple sheets of regular paper for pattern pieces.  He cut out his pattern pieces and then pinned those to the colored felt he chose.

I let him use my fabric scissors for this so I sat and watched him.

Then younger Toad and I did all the machine sewing.  I put the presser foot up on a box and let him do the footwork and I did all the steering.  Once we had them stitched up (except for the hole for stuffing) we filled them with lavender and stitched over the last hole.  While we were doing the machine sewing, older Toad was doing the hand sewing of the eyes.

When we chose our monsters we talked about using buttons for eyes.  Once we opened up the sewing box, they were drawn to the sparklies so we used those instead.  I had to finish the hand sewing on the last one as fatigue was setting in.  I thought they all turned out super cute and it was a good project for this week.  Older Toad is sick so we're emphasizing fun over drudgery.  I think Grandma will be happy.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Please Tell Us About Your Country - German Edition

I requested materials from many countries' embassies for our upcoming year of school.  This is the last country in the series of posts.  You can read the original post here The German embassy went well above the call of duty and an sent amazing array of materials.  They were very prompt in replying and these two photos are of the things they sent us.  They also sent an email with a great list of online resources.  Those I've added in at the bottom of the post with their descriptions.

The embassy sent in triplicate:

  •  lanyards with the German and US flags
  • German flags and wristbands
  • Pens, pencils and stickers for the German Information Center
  • Get to Know Germany Coloring Book
  • Facts about Germany
  • UNESCO World Heritage in Germany (that was my favorite) 
  • All this is Germany - magazine highlighting historical towns and cities
  • DE Magazin Deutschland - Politics, Culture and Business (the current issue highlighted sustainable development).  They also an issue from 2007 focused on Art and Culture.
  • Religious Germany
  • Vibrant Towns and Cities - A large travel magazine
  • Welcome to Germany - The Magazine for Independent Travellers (Issues Winter 2011 and Summer 2012)
  • Destination Germany
  • A 2 sided map with political and physical boundaries.
  • On the ball with the beautiful game - Women's World Cup booklet      
  • A road map

It was so much stuff it made me feel guilty for asking.  I'm sharing all the duplicates with homeschool coop families.


Online Materials suggested by the embassy:

Educational videos and dvds are available online and for download through the following website:

For additional educational material, we suggest contacting the Goethe-Institut, Germany’s center for language and culture.  To find an institute near you and to view their material online, please visit the following website:

In addition to these materials, I would like to direct you to our website,  There you can find information about Germany for various grade levels and interests.  Germany for Kids ( and Germany for Teens ( are accessible websites especially designed to introduce students to various aspects of German culture and life.

Also located on under the heading "Education and Exchange," you can find teacher kits and other educational resources for teachers.

The German Information Center USA also provides several electronic newsletters, including a bi-monthly newsletter for educators, "Germany in Class." To find a description of all electronic newsletters and instructions as to how to subscribe, please visit the following website:

Finally, the following Web sites may provide you with additional materials for your class. (for children) (about European Union)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Titanic activity for preschoolers

The Titanic exhibit is currently in town.  I thought it would be something fun for older Toad and I to do together.  I got What Sank the World's Biggest Ship as an introduction to the subject so we could learn a bit together before we went.

Younger Toad enjoyed it a lot too, and learned enough that walking through the library he found this DK book in the aisle, recognized it was the Titanic, and insisted we check it out.

Once we got home, even before we read the book, we had a long talk about the boilers on the ship and how they ran the motors and propellers and steam came out the smokestacks.  By now I was feeling guilty that I hadn't planned on taking him, so we went as a family on the day after Thanksgiving.  He did not behave all that great but it did seem to make an impression on him.  He's still talking about the iceberg in the exhibit.  I was glad for all the reading we did beforehand because there was not a lot of interpretation of the objects.  The kids were able to insert the objects into their memories of what we'd read and I think it would have been rooms of meaningless stuff if we hadn't done our homework.

There was a large picture of the boiler room in the exhibit. After our previous conversation about the boilers and pipes I thought younger Toad might enjoy a project designed around them.

I drew an extremely simplified version of the center of the ship on 12" X 24" paper.  I provided glue, aluminum foil 'boilers', pipe cleaner 'pipes" and cotton ball 'exhaust' to get glued down.

He enjoyed the project and we had to reread all our Titanic books several times after finishing.  He had a hard time with getting the pipe cleaners flat but enjoyed connecting the boilers to the smokestacks.


It would have been downright mean of me to break out the pipe cleaners and not let the older Toad play too so this is his interpretation of the project.

Below are some resources for elementary students that older Toad also did a few selected things from.

Here is the website for RMS Titanic who has salvaged the wreck and organizes the current Titanic exhibits.  If you click through to the learning center you can download a free educators guide (for K-12 students).

Older Toad also put together the Rick Geary postcard of the Titanic for a small paper model.

Magic Treehouse activities has a companion to Tonight on the Titanic.

We're finishing up our Titanic readings with T is for Titanic.  Teacher's guide to T is for Titanic.

They give each exhibit attendee a ticket with a brief biography of a real Titanic passenger.  At the end of the exhibit are the names of all the passengers organized by class and crew divided up into who survived and who died.  As a family (Grandma and Grandpa went too) three of us survived the tragedy and three of us did not.  Even though three of us "died" on our journey we all learned a lot and enjoyed the exhibit.

If you want to do this too here's the blank.  It's more fun enlarged if you want to redraw it.  This activity would also be fun for preparing for a cruise or a unit study about ships.

Blank Titanic

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wood Sculptures inspired by Louise Nevelson

Up to 75% off art & craft supplies at MisterArt

Our second sculpture project of the class focused on the assemblages of Louise Nevelson.

To source the wood for this project, I scrounged through my neighbors trash. He's a cabinetmaker so I'm very fortunate. If you don't have a local source for interesting little pieces of wood, the art supply places sell packs of them. If you dumpster dive wood, be cautious of painted pieces. Only because this is a kids project, you don't want a lot of lead paint. That's a real problem in our area so I didn't want anything off old houses. For the majority of scrounged wood this is of course not a problem, just be aware.

I cut 12” X 12” pieces of masonite for their background. The students got glue and a big pile of wood pieces and got to arrange them in any way they wanted. They came up with an interesting diversity of work. One piece was very symmetrical.  The two boys treated it like a block project and kept piling on more height than was realistic for a wall piece.  Everyone thought it was an interesting project and put a lot of thought into their pieces.  Due to time constraints, the students got white paint to apply at home and a hanger for when the piece was dry.

In class we focused on these three works:

left:  Royal Tide I and right: White Vertical Water, image source:  The San Fransisco Sentinel

Royal Tide, image source:

We discussed what materials she used and what they might represent, as well as why the pieces were painted all one color.

For more information about Louise Nevelson, check out these websites:

The Louise Nevelson Foundation

Jewish Museum of New York Nevelson exhibition.  Family guide for the exhibition.

There aren't any current books about Louise Nevelson but your local library might have these two.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rosie's Walk Craft

Younger Toad loves Rosie's Walk.  He loves slapstick humor and giggles his little head off when you read it to him.  I thought he'd enjoy a project using Rosie's Walk and our chickens.

The booklet itself is construction paper cut to 9" X 11".  The square section not cut away is 2" X 2".  You leave the 2" X 2" tab at the top left and with each succeeding page, move the tab over 2"I should have done 8.5" X 11" because 1" was too big for the margin.  You can see there's some blank bit at the top right corner instead of being smooth below the last tab.  Dinah Zike's books are great for learning how to make these interesting projects.

I found some leaf foam stickers and large fall foam decorations at the dollar store that we used to decorate our story.  I even had some small fox stickers that all got stuck to the same page.

Toad told the story:

Rusty walked into a wheeler [that's the name he gave our chicken palace.  I did a post about that here].  

Then she was trapped.

Mama ate Rusty.  

I don't eat chicken so I thought this was a pretty funny story.  Older Toad came home from Nature camp and liked his brother's work so much he got himself out some paper and decorated his own story with the materials.  He even called it 'Mama eats Rusty'.  I'm not sure what they're trying to tell me.

If you don't have your own chicken spokesmodels, I've attached the sheet of ours I worked up.  I printed them out on  full sheet sticker paper.  The down side of that is you'll have to help the kids peel the backing off, it's a bit tricky for anyone.  You could always print them on regular paper and use a glue stick after trimming.   Toad did not like that I stuck the chicken stickers to the top tabs  -  just passing on that feedback.Rosies Walk Sheet

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