Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Dem bones. And a recap on Birds of Prey.

Yesterday, my husband took the reins for the day's homeschooling adventures, while I was on a training course.  When I asked him how the day went, his only word was "fast".  Coincidentally, the first Birds of Prey Club meeting of 2013 was yesterday.  So, he was responsible for coming up with an activity, sharing it with the club members' parents, and then following through on those plans.  I did ask him if he wanted to do a guest post, and while he didn't say no, he didn't say yes either.  So here's a little recap of their afternoon.

Chris wanted to introduce the Club to bird calls.  First though, he wanted to give them a sense as to what it would be like to track an animal in the wild.  Being in an urban area, there isn't reams of wildlife - squirrels, small birds, cats and dogs rule the day here - so they played Let's Go Hiking (see here for more on our other experiences with the game).  I understand the room quieted down quite a bit once they got into the thick of it, and they had to negotiate with one another a few times.

Chris found some bird calls here.  He gave the club hints, like what the bird looked like, where it lived, what it preferred to eat, then he played the call.  As I understand it, the boys were begging to try just one more call as the end of club time was drawing near.

Today, I led our homeschool co-op through some learning about bones.  The co-op moms decided we would focus on all things science during the winter.  With limited planning time (if a week and a half is limited), I was a little mystified with what I could do, and what I would feel comfortable teaching.  After all, the last time I did anything related to "science", beyond gardening and cooking, was...hmmm....when I tried to take a university physics course by correspondence, and stumbled all over Newton's laws.  But before that, I had a love affair with anatomy and physiology.  This too I hummed and hawed over, because I didn't know if the kids would be interested.  Then I thought about some of my awesome teachers, and how the subject came alive simply because they were so passionate about it.  And I remember how I became more amazed and in awe of the human body just by better understanding how it worked.  So surely, if I showed up with the same amount of enthusiasm, it would rub off on someone.

The next trick was finding a suitable level of challenge for all in our group.  It was possible I would be working with children whose ages ranged from 4 to 10.  I decided to have some very basic things (singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and "Dem Bones") while also providing challenge by introducing the words in a different language (French), and the scientific names.  We talked about how the scientific names helped scientists speak in the same language and communicate about the body very precisely.  Then we talked about how many of the bony structures in a human body are named the same as those in another animal's body. 

While I was planning, I found I was struggling with how to give the children something to explore with their hands.  I wondered if I could borrow a human skeleton from somewhere.  I wondered if using anatomy colouring pages would really give the children the depth I wanted to provide them with.  With my brow furrowed, deep in though as to how to make bones tangible, I stumbled across the last of our stash of owl pellets.  Yes - I had that hands-on experience I wanted to provide, just in the form of a rodent instead of the human form I was more familiar and comfortable with.  

There was some apprehension from some of the children because of the tactile sensation of touching wet fur (we soaked the pellets before dissecting them).  It seemed, though, that once they saw a peak of their first bone, the apprehension fizzled away.  And I had a great time sharing some of my knowledge with these little ones.  We had a few exciting moments - one was when we found a vole skull fully intact - we could see the opening where the brain stem would leave the skull, which was a first for all the pellets we've been through.  I heard one child shout out "I found a humerus!" (upper arm bone), and was delighted that the songs we sung may have helped her remember the scientific names. 

Here are some websites I found that may help you and yours dive into the world of bones:

  ~ Build a skeleton on-line
  ~ Spongelab Build-a-body
  ~ Student activity page for dissecting an owl pellet, with links to the human skeletal system

Oh, what a fun afternoon!

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