Thursday, 30 May 2013

Brown sugar

We are starting to prepare for a family get-together and our first task, at Jaelyn's request, was to make chocolate chip cookies.  After discovering our handed-down recipe was not where it was supposed to be and a phone call to grandma later, we gathered our ingredients, only to discover we were short of a key ingredient - brown sugar. 

Not wanting to make a trip to the grocery store, I mused that we would simply make our own brown sugar.  I don't know what caused me to even think such a thing, but once we were off the phone with recipe in hand, I grabbed Homemade Pantry.  If I were to find how to make such a thing without turning on the computer, it would be there.  And it was!  All we needed was sugar and molasses - easy peasy!

As we poured those two humble ingredients into our stand mixer and watched the molasses clump into a gooey blob with the sugar, we talked a bit about where sugar comes from and how it is processed.  As we scraped the bowl down, we started to get a glimpse of what our brown sugar would look like.  Eyes were glued to its progress, and mouths were anxious for a taste.  What patient babes I had in my kitchen this afternoon!

Soon, in not too much time, our brown sugar was ready.  It looks just like the store-bought stuff, except it has such a lovely soft, moist quality to it.  I don't think I will ever go back to buying store-bought brown sugar again (especially when it costs more for less)!

Just as quickly, our chocolate chip cookies were in and out of the oven.  We've solemnly sworn that we will share just one before we hide them away in the freezer until the weekend.  Wish us luck on that front!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Circus gardening

The Selinger crew definitely had looks only a mother could love as we pulled up to our community garden plot after a fabulous spring party hosted by one of the families in our homeschool co-op.  I was dismayed to see that there were several other gardeners out, but thought they would be far enough away not to really get a good look at our painted faces.  I quickly unloaded our gear while the kids hopped out and set to work organizing them with where I wanted them to start digging holes for our tomatillos and Japanese eggplant.

But we must have been noticeable.  The community garden coordinator appeared out of nowhere and mentioned he needed to get a look at our scary faces (his exact words, no lie).  I simply smiled and told him we were kicking off our first time in the garden this year with a circus act.  I think we all had an opportunity to be more child-like and less serious, even if just for a moment.  It did my soul good.

(My facepainting was done by one of our generous hosts this afternoon - I'm a butterfly)
After a few more holes were dug, the kids were off to mingle with others they had met last year.  The were delighted to see the fellow with his bearded dragon and learned more about where these lizards come from and what they like to eat.  They headed off to talk to one of the garden watchdogs and picked some edible weeds (dandelion leaves) under his tutelage.  They were still in full conversation mode as I went to gather them up (leaving quite the impression with my neon painted face).  At least they left me a bit hopeful that our spindly little tomatoes may do alright in the end, and that it really was okay that not everything was in yet. 

There are such wonderful people, of all stripes, at our homeschool co-op and oucommunity garden.  It's a blessing to be a part of it all.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Club Day. The Birds of Prey version.

Oh, I am so glad that we had an opportunity to test-drive today's Birds of Prey navigation-themed project before the Club actually showed up. 

I've been so excited and pleased with the projects in Tools of Navigation that I had great expectations for the homemade compass project described in the book.  It's a dry compass, which I had difficulty finding projects and instructions for making on the Internet.  The premise is that a milk carton bottom serves as the box that the compass resides in.  A heavy paperclip is magnetized, then sandwiched between two circular pieces of paper (one a cardboard and the other plain printer paper), which forms the compass rose.  Lastly, the rose balances on a nail or screw that comes up through the bottom of the milk carton.

Our problems began early during our experiments.  The book specified that the nail should be steel and not iron, presumably because the nail should not be attracted to the magnetized paperclip in the rose.  As I dug through the containers of nails and screws in our garage, I discovered that they were all attracted to magnets.  An internet search revealed that plain old steel will usually be attracted to magnets, but certain types of stainless steel will not.  My husband wound up finding five stainless steel screws in the basement, and my dad supplemented our collection.

Then we tried to build the contraption.  We found it extremely tricky to balance the rose on the screw, even before trying to sandwich the magnetized paperclip, and I expect that it wouldn't have stayed in place with the slightest movement or gentle breeze.  After three attempts, we decided to ditch the dry compass and went with a tried and true do-it-yourself water compass project.

The water compass project is quite easy, and there are may sources on the internet for finding instructions for how to do it.  The materials needed were simple - a circular piece of cork, a needle, a magnet, and something to hold water.  We cut up a few corks we happened to have handy to serve as our compass rose.  Then we magnetized a sewing needle by running a magnet over it for several minutes.  Lastly, we used the bottoms of the milk containers that we were planning to use for the dry compasses to hold the water.  The magnetized needle was then inserted through the side of the cork, and then the cork and needle was placed in the water.

I read a bit of the history and science of compasses to the Club as they magnetized their needles (from Tools of Navigation).  Did you know that while the Chinese invented the first compass (in 210 BCE), they didn't actually use it for navigation?  Instead, it was used in feng shui.  In fact, the first known recorded use of a compass for navigation in the western culture wasn't until the 1100's CE. 

We learn something new every day, don't we?

Monday, 27 May 2013

Reporting in

We are nearing the end of our first year of homeschooling.  The calendar, and provincial policy, dictates that I have my plans for next year in soon.  And it only makes sense to me "finish" one year before I start thinking about the next.  So, late last night after the kids were finally tucked into bed, I started writing up my first "annual progress report".

I have been thinking of what I would write for about a month because it seemed like it would such a complex, detailed task to complete.  We've done so much - how could I possibly write about all we've done succinctly!  Yet when I sat down and stared at the blank computer screen, it seemed like too much detail would mask what my children have learned.  To boil things down to their simplest terms, one of my children has grown into a reader.  She's gone from recognizing single digit numbers to adding and subtracting three-digit ones.  She knows how to spell her full name and remembers the date on which she entered our earthly world.  She's even dabbled in handwriting.  These are all things she could not do a year ago. 

My son has gone into the business of devouring books (in the open and not on the sly anymore), and he can figure out the sales tax and total cost of a purchase more efficiently.  He's gone on fact-finding missions about coins, birds, shrimp, the War of 1812, and outer space, to just the right level of detail for him.  While the extent of his growth is harder to see, simply because he came home "equipped" with most of the basics, I do know that he has grown and learned through the projects we've done and experiences we've had together.

They have both learned about caring for a younger sister and how to be more independent.  They have learned about the world around them.  They've imagined what the past was like, stood solidly with eyes wide open in the present, and dreamt of the future.  They are happy. 

I think that pretty much sums it up!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

How we grow

I clearly remember a year ago about this time, and the feeling of dread that would by causing my stomach to turn into a knot as I stared down a weekend with my husband away.  The thought of what would essentially be two straight weeks with no help during the daytime left me anxious and panicky.  It was not a good place to be.

Fast forward to today.  There wasn't a lot of anxiety to be had, save the moment this evening when I remembered that there still could be another activity later on and that I had best get supper on the table sooner than later.  I'm sure that a lot of it has to do with each of us having another year of life experience under our belts.  The children have had another year to grow their independence muscles.  I've had another year to learn how to relax and enjoy the children.  And I feel like the past year has been an immersion course (for me, at least) in being comfortable with other people's children too.  We truly never stop learning.

It helps when the day is as lovely as today was.  We had a full, but flexible, agenda for today.  After Jaelyn's ball game this morning, we joined in the wind-up celebration of the Arts Festival.  There was too much to see and do, and of course I opted to remember snacks and water instead of the camera, so I can't take you on a visual tour (until after our arrival home).  But I can share that faces were painted (independently), goo was made, dancing was done, storytelling was shared, and ice cream was enjoyed.  We capped it off with some gardening (potatoes, popcorn, watermelon and onions are in - yay!) and Jaelyn set up a lemonade stand.  Astrin dug in the dirt and drew some pictures.  We enjoyed an evening of popcorn and a sister bath.  Everyone is wiped and the house is quiet.

I go to bed tonight with a happy heart, as I realize how we have all grown. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Club Day. The Nature Version.

Nature Club took another step forward in making the pizza garden a reality.  We got their hands dirty today, as we moved the peppers we started indoors out to one of the garden boxes.  As we worked, we talked about why there was wood (mulch) in the garden and the purpose it serves, which is to allow the soil to retain as much moisture as possible, as opposed to it evaporating.  We walked through the steps (dig a hole, gently push the seedling out of its cell, place it upright gently in the hole, cover, and replace wood chips as necessary.  We served our little peppers a bit of compost tea, then gave them a generous watering.  I was amused that the Clubbers thought that a little water bottle of water was sufficient for their plants.  They were amused when I squirted myself in the face as I replaced the watering lid to the water bottle (I found these awesome lids at Lee Valley, so each child can have a water bottle of their own to use). 

How did the Clubbers know where to dig the holes for their seedlings?  I placed large rocks in the garden box in the spots where I wanted the seedlings to go.  Each Clubber got a row to work with - they would remove a rock and go through the steps as independently as they felt they could.  My main job was to help get the seedlings out, and warn if the digging of one child would bury the seedling another had planted.

We also prepared a pot and moved one spindly tomato into it, as I've decided the rest of the tomatoes will go out into the community garden plot, where they will receive tons of sunshine.  This way, I can do a better job rotating the produce we grow, and hopefully we'll see the same bumper crop this year that we had last year at the community garden!  The girls did most of the work to prepare the pot.  They lined the bottom with small rocks, collected some composted manure from our neighbour, poured soil, mixed some Soil Moist (which we're trying in our clay pots for the first time), then planted and watered.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Slow gardening

It appears that we are (I am) embracing the concept of slow gardening.  I'm finding it easier to let go of the need to get it all in quickly and in one giant attempt.  Yes, this garden of ours is going to go in nice and slow.

I think that children will be more willing to help if they know that there will be a finish time.  While I struggle with the seeming paradox of keeping the peace and teaching to finish the job that is started, I think I should be able to manage our garden work in bite-sized chunks.  So, today, in our hour-long window, we planted zucchini, cucumbers, sui choy, pak choy and broccoli.  We did a bit of watering.  We stared wide-eyed as an ant dragged the body of a much larger insect along the dirt.  And we did a bit of garden art.

Our garden art project came about from a deficiency in last year's garden.  Last year, I did a poor job of marking our rows.  In the heat of the moment, I just didn't take the time to purchase or make proper row markers.  So this year, I thought we would use paint stir sticks (free!) to mark the rows and the children could decorate them, if they wanted to.  But it turns out that paint stir sticks are scarce right now, and we needed to make new fences for our peas to grow anyway, so we purchased longer 1" x 2" than we needed and cut them down, with the short left-over ends being our row markers.  As one set of large hands was finishing up his tasks while the smallest was starting to get restless, I brought out the acrylic paint, the paintbrushes, and let them decorate (and label) to their heart's content.  I'm feeling as though I came across a brilliant idea to keep the littler hands occupied while the larger ones and I do our garden work, as I can see there will be plenty of leftover space for future paintings.  All I need to do is add the painting supplies to our gardening stuff and we're set!

Monday, 20 May 2013

May long

Oh, what a glorious weekend that was enjoyed by this little family of five!  With more time spent outside than in, whether it be in the garden or at the park with friends, it was a refreshing, easy weekend.

Our neighbourhood hosts a week-long arts festival that kicks off on Victoria Day with an afternoon picnic filled with entertainment and activities from those literally just learning to walk to those well into their golden years.  It's a day for costumes and face-paint, running and playing, drawing and crafting, drumming and dancing.  We've been coming to this festival for many years now, and we've had so many wonderful experiences.

This year, my girls and their father walked in the parade with their butterfly wings (from Sarah's Silks) and noisemakers.  We ate our packed lunch in the sunshine, then each slowly wandered off to the activity that caught their eye.  At an easy, steady, no-need-to-rush pace, they explored their creative side with sidewalk drawing, parachute games, a comic jam (where each artist's work is published in a commemorative book), hula hoops, do-it-yourself face-painting, paper airplanes, and a drumming circle.

Over and above all the creative goodness of the day, I also saw my children making their way towards independence...where they felt safe to be at a further distance from my husband and I (and we felt they were safe as well).  They were mature enough to tell us where they would be so we could find them if needed.  I also noticed that the circle of people we know who attend the festival has gotten larger every year we've attended.  It seems a lot easier to let those little ones fly further away, knowing that there are other people there who know them and will take care of them (and that we trust) if we aren't there immediately.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


You know those evenings when you collapse at the end of the day, knowing your body is going to ache tomorrow but your still happy for the day that was?  That was my day today.  Amid carrying squirmy toddlers, visiting our local greenhouse, hauling pails of manure, picking weeds, raking dirt, and playing fastball against high-school girls, it was a full day.  As I put up my feet (my that feels good!) and eye up a bottle of wine, I feel content.

Content in the fact that we are on schedule in this garden-planting business - I'm feeling confident we'll get most of what we need to get done in the days ahead.  Content with the fact that we are giving back to the earth and it will reward us with its bounty.  Content with what the children have learned about the plants we grow, as they were the first to spot the plants we needed amongst all the variety at the greenhouse, and were the first to transplant them, with no help from me.  Content with the fact that though this body is getting older and isn't quite as resilient as it used to be, there is wisdom with age, and sometimes that's enough. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The cure

I feel as though today is one of those war days...where anything and everything is a battle.  The energy with which I started the week has quickly dissipated, and my heart has a heavy, melancholy feeling.

The source of this tired soul could be many...getting through the last several days on my own before my husband returns home...too many activities that find us on the go and unable to settle for a rest...the surprises that crop up and put our day out of its anticipated rhythm...realizing the mountain of work before us now that spring has truly burst forth. 

So, for now, I've asked one of the other children to watch Astrin while I prepare one of my favorite dishes for supper tonight...a tomato and green bean salad from Madhur Jaffray's World Vegetarian.  I'm soaking up the smells of our kitchen and savouring the quiet as it cooks.  I guess food like this is called soul food for a reason, for it nourishes not only our bodies but our psyches as well.

And, as I find myself in a moment of peace, I wonder if practicing some gratitude can help lift that melancholy grip on my spirit.  Here goes...

  ~ I'm grateful for all the help I've had this week - I can't imagine how we could have coped without it.
  ~ I have enjoyed our daytime and evening adventures, once they started, as have my children.
  ~ I'm grateful that our days have enough space in them for surprises, for we very much looked forward to the creativity that could flow out of unstructured time when we started this homeschooling journey.
  ~ I'm grateful that we can grow our own food and can enjoy it's bounty.  And grateful that my children consider a trip to the greenhouse a field trip.
  ~ I'm thankful that my children enjoy one another and will spend time with one another.
  ~ I'm blessed with an abundance of food in our freezer, which comes in handy at times when the fridge is bare.
  ~ I'm thankful for the kind and supportive words of a friend.
  ~ I'm grateful for the opportunity to have a front-row seat as my children test their real and perceived boundaries and grow into the selves they are destined to be.

And how does it feel now?  Not completely cured, but definitely uplifted.  Feeling able to respond to children with a smile and kind words.  Feeling space within me opening slightly so that peace can penetrate more deeply.  Feeling ready to work with my children from a place of love.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Club Day. The Birds of Prey Version.

I must say, I am loving the navigation and orienteering unit the Birds of Prey Club is working through this spring.  There have been so many neat, hands-on activities for us to do, in topic areas that are new to most of the kids.  Today the Club learned about topography and contour maps.

Our project was taken from The Sierra Club Wayfinding Book.  We looked at an example of a topographical map, taken from the book, and talked about the useful information this kind of map provides, particularly for those going on a hike that would prefer to avoid a steep cliff.  We talked about how the closer the contour lines are, the steeper the rise in elevation.  Then, we took an example contour map and made a 3D version to really drive the usefulness of the map home.

The simple map we used was provided in the book.  It consisted of 14 rises in elevation.  I traced each of the contours onto cardboard and numbered them to coincide with the numbers on the map.  The Club then had to cut them out and glue them in order, being sure to refer back to their map so that they could see where each contour needed to be placed in relation to the others.

This proved to be a challenging exercise for some of the Clubbers, as they had difficulty cutting the rigid cardboard.  I asked those Clubbers to do their best to cut around the outside of the shapes and then I trimmed the edges as necessary while they glued the layers of the map.  Others who were able to cut and paste on their own eventually made some modifications - a bridge here, a gondola there.  Some mentioned taking it home to paint or decorate with trees at a later date.

Now, to finish cleaning up the scraps of cardboard that surround my table!

Monday, 13 May 2013


We had a really awesome day today.  Not awesome that knocks your socks off and is filled with extroverted excitement at every turn.  But a quiet awesome day - the kind that sneaks up on you and you don't really feel it's awesomeness in the moment, but at the end of the day when you have some time to put your feet up and think about it.

After everyone had finished up their schoolwork this morning, each little one and grown up made it outside at their own pace. 

Jaelyn had decided to make a blanket and was hand-sewing patches on while sitting on the back step. 

I decided it was time for the plants we had started indoors to get acquainted with outside.  I fertilized them with some more compost tea, gave them a good dose of water, and let them bask in the glorious sunshine.  I can honestly say that they look happy after their day outside...their leaves are a little greener, they are a wee bit taller, and working on building healthy, hardy roots to stand up to our strong prairie winds.

Nicholas later emerged and we noticed that it seemed everything around us was coming to life...leaves were starting to burst forth from the trees, the rhubarb is growing in great leaps and bounds, and the asparagus has made its entrance into the world.  It seems as though the earth has exploded into life.

After lunch, Nicholas and Jaelyn proceeded to make "potions" on the front step, including a batch of food-dyed sugar water for attracting butterflies. 

And what do you see on this blog?  Pictures for the first time in a long time!  Astrin was toting around an old camera case this afternoon as we walked between our two big elms.  She showed me everything she had packed in it...including the cable that links our camera to the computer that has been missing since Jaelyn's birthday.  I had a feeling the lost would be found today!

Sunday, 12 May 2013


I thought about what I would write in this post about an hour ago, as I listened to my youngest singing herself (and her siblings) to sleep.  This poor little girl whose actions earlier this evening clearly indicated she was two hours overdue for a sleep, yet who was suddenly wide awake.  I couldn't help but smile at her crazy antics.  Then I checked out Facebook and felt a twinge of jealousy as I read about all the amazing things other mamas' families had done to celebrate and honour them.  It took me a moment to find the grace to savour what was wonderful in today... daughter bouncing into my room at 6:15 this morning (6:15!) to give me the Mother's Day present she made for me, which was a binder where she had collected some of her art and other favorite things.  So sweet.

...plenty of time outside in the sunshine with my three babes.

...watching Astrin go down the slide with no one to catch her at the bottom - could it be she's becoming fearless like her big sister?

...feeling elated as I witnessed my son hit a line drive at his baseball practice.

...sitting closely with my lovelies as I checked them for ticks (only found one!)

...enjoying a lovely meal of Chinese take-out with my own mother, and seeing her showered with love by my children as well.

...a late-night phone call with my hubby.

Ah, this mothering journey...this path of nurturing and nourishing bodies, souls, and minds.  It forces us to dig deep sometimes.  It humbles us.  Once it's started, it's never really finished, even as we pass on.  For I'm sure we all feel in our hearts the imprint of what our mothers, and our mothers' mothers, and so many mothers before that wanted for us.  Peace.  Happiness.  Love.

Happy Mother's Day to all the nurturers out there. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Club Day. The Nature Version.

The book Green Crafts for Children has been seeing some use these past couple of weeks.  So it was literally quite handy as I sat down this weekend to put together what Nature Club would be up to this week.  As I flipped through its well-worn pages, I was reacquainted with the tic-tac-toe game made of found materials that looked easy and fun.  After all, it would be a breeze to find stones and fallen twigs, and we had leftover string from other craft projects.  Jaelyn, Astrin and I set out to the park to find enough twigs this afternoon.  It was a blissfully wonderful way to while away the afternoon.

Actually pulling off the project was easier said than done.  To assemble the board and X's, the twigs needed to be lashed together.  I had quite a bit of difficulty explaining how to lash to the group as a whole.  It didn't take long for me to break them into pairs, and then I showed each pair how to lash the twigs together, with one holding the twigs in place, if needed, while the other joined them together with the string.  The Clubbers persevered through making the board, then ran into the warm sun to collect rocks for the O's.  And it was there that they stumbled upon the ladybugs.

Yes, there were many ladybugs roaming around the rocks.  Which led to a marvellous ladybug hunt, followed by creating homes for the ladybugs in jars.  The Club very enthusiastically and lovingly placed stones, plants, raisins, and a wee bit of water into the jars, followed by a handful of ladybugs, then topped with a piece of scrap fabric secured by an elastic band.  As one Clubber ran past, she shouted, "We're going to take care of the ladybugs at every meeting!"  And then she was off collecting more ladybugs.  What a fun way to cap off the afternoon!

In other news, I found myself witnessing firsts today, as Jaelyn, Astrin and I walked to picked up some of our Nature Clubbers.  Relatively obscure firsts, but firsts nonetheless, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to witness them.  On our walk, Astrin stepped into the realm of the imaginary.  She was pushing her stroller, then stopped and informed me she needed to move the baby to a different spot.  She toddled to the front, reached in, cupped her hands around the imaginary baby, then carefully placed it elsewhere.  So sweet.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Life is all around

A little passage to bring comfort today, from Dan Millman's Way of the Peaceful Warrior:

"In that moment, a warm breeze caressed my face, mussed my hair, and a falling leaf slapped my cheek as it floated down from the elm.
"I threw my head back, laughing with delight, and looked up through the elm's outstretched branches, into the clouds drifting lazily by.  I gazed above the stone fence, out over the houses dotted in the green forest below.  The wind gusted again, and a lone bird soared by.
"Then I felt the truth of it.  Socrates hadn't come, because he had never left.  He was only changed.  He was the elm above my head; he was the clouds and the bird and the wind.  They would always be my teachers, my friends.

"Before walking back...I surveyed the world around me.  Socrates was here.  He was everywhere."

Life is all around us, indeed.  It just looks different than its original form.  Sending peace, love and comfort out to little hearts that need it.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Spring traditions

Oh, I must say that it feels good to live in my part of the world right now.  Most of the snow has finally melted, and while our city is bracing for flooding in certain areas, there has also been ample time to prepare.  It's with a happy heart that we welcomed the first truly warm days of spring,  complete with shorts, shades, and smiles.

Our family has a treasured tradition for days such as these.  We are transfixed by the Weather Network and the little corner of our car that tells us the temperature outside.  Why all the sudden curiosity about the weather?  Because the first glorious day that goes above 20 C is the first day of the year that our family goes for ice cream, that's why.

This tradition was born out of having to explain to our children that ice cream is best savoured on warm days, rather than in the frigid temperatures of February.  In fact, I even drew a little comic strip about it one year during a comic jam.  In fact, we needed to refer to that little comic this weekend to refresh our collective memories as to whether the magical number was 20 or 25 degrees.  I should know not to question the memories of babes who have been waiting for six months for that first cone!

And the day finally arrived.  It was a split affair this year, with my husband taking the children and then sharing a bite with me later after I had returned home and the children were in bed.  But I hear the smiles on their faces, combined with the funny antics of our littlest one as she explored eating the cone from the bottom up, was priceless.

While there are still so many other traditions I would love to add to our small repertoire, I'm thankful for the few that we have been able to create and make our own.  Feeling the anticipation, savouring the joy of those "firsts" of the season, and making the time to celebrate makes an ordinary day truly memorable.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Club Day. The Nature Version.

It feels like we have been cooped up inside for so long that Nature Club just had to get outside.  So, our grand plan for today was to walk around the neighbourhood and look for signs of spring. 

At least that was the plan when I sent a little note out to parents on Sunday letting them know what we would be up to.  But then it snowed again on Tuesday, and I thought to myself that the only sign of spring we might see were sandbags lining the creek close to our house.

Luckily, fate has a way of intervening.  As I was making my way home from my morning jog, I spotted something sticking out of the ground where our lot meets the alley.  "What is that?" I thought to myself.  I didn't recall planting anything there in the fall, and I felt my heart drop at the thought of weeds thriving in our topsy-turvy weather.  As I crept closer, it looked familiar and too organized to be a weed.  It looked like garlic in fact.  Garlic that I had planted 2 autumns ago and I thought had died last summer, the cause of death being camouflaged and mistaken for overgrown grass!  What a lovely spring surprise!

Thinking my early morning spring encounter was merely a fluke, the children and I went on a hunt for spring things this morning - and were delightfully surprised to find all sorts of treasures making their way out of the ground and into the cheery sunshine!  Tulips topped the list, followed by daffodils.  There were even signs of the grass returning to life!   

Later this afternoon, the Nature Club spent quite a bit of their walk just in our yard, overturning mulch and rotting leaves in search of ladybugs.  We did eventually get out to find some other spring treasures, but the ladybugs were the hit of today's scavenger hunt!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Club Day. The Birds of Prey Version.

I'm so thankful for the navigation books I found at the library that are geared towards kids.  When we started this navigation unit, I only had three activity ideas:  learn how to use a compass, use a map, and geocaching.  Today though, thanks to these books, we took a brief foray into the navigational techniques of long ago and learned some basics about latitude and longitude.

At the last meeting, we talked about how virtually all birds use the sun to navigate, while fewer use the stars.  Today, we created a simple astrolabe, which was used by ancient seafarers to find their latitude with the help of the North Star (or Southern Cross for those exploring the Southern Hemisphere). 

The astrolabe project idea and instructions came from Tools of Navigation:  A Kid's Guide to the History & Science of Finding Your Way.  But before we dove into our project, we looked at a globe and talked about the lines of latitude and longitude.  We talked about how the equator is measured at 0 degrees and the poles are at 90 degrees, and that there are lines drawn on our globe that run horizontally that help us understand how far north or south we are.  Latitude was the focus of our discussion because the astrolabe can only be used to estimate latitude.  We did briefly talk about longitude, stating that they were the lines that ran perpendicular to the latitude lines, sharing that it took humans considerably more time to figure out how to measure longitude, and that location can be determined by knowing its latitude and longitude. 

The project itself was very easy to pull off - the only material we didn't have on hand were the protractors.  Asking the stars to come in the middle of the afternoon was trickier, so instead of using the actual North Star to determine our location, as the project directions instruct, we used other landmarks to get the hang of how to use the astrolabe and how to perform the calculations to estimate latitude.  I typed out instructions and sent these home with the Clubbers so that they could try to use them when they are out and about on evening excursions.

And we had fun going through the calculations as well!  The Clubbers pondered how their heads (and astrolabes) would be tilted if they were searching for the North Star while standing right on the North Pole, as well as at the equator.  At least one of the Clubbers wanted to continue experimenting with different landmarks.