Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Making Armistice Day Poppies

Our World War I Unit happened to fall over Veteran's Day (or Armistice Day: 11/11) and we wanted to visit a veteran's cemetery. I hoped we might find the graves of some World War I soldiers, but we didn't. However, we found some WWII soldiers that had been alive during World War I. It was interesting to think about what their lives must have been like. And it was beautiful to see the cemetery all covered with flags.

We made some paper poppies to leave on the graves, and to wear in our buttonholes. The tutorial we used is here. It was really easy and the children ages 4-13 all had fun making them.

We also watched a time-lapse video of the ceramic poppies placed at the Tower of London last year for the centennial of World War I. It's an amazing display!

And this video tells the story of why poppies stand for remembrance (especially in the U.K.)
At the cemetery we saw the grave of a young soldier who just died last June. There was a letter on the grave labeled "to my husband." It made me cry. His poor wife and family! What a sacrifice.
We're so grateful for our veterans and soldiers, and we were happy to have a chance to remember them on Armistice Day!

Monday, November 9, 2015

World War I Unit Study and Lesson Plan

This unit was shorter than I expected it to be, and we didn't take a ton of pictures, but it was a really interesting topic. I didn't know too much about World War I. I had learned about it in European History classes, but I didn't have a clear picture of what went on and I thought it was mostly just a war over…nothing. Which isn't exactly true. I learned a lot as I read and studied the historical situation in the early 1900s, and I was interested to learn how much of the "modern world"—down to even our kind of pervasive attitude of skepticism and sarcasm—can be traced back to World War I.

Anyway, my pinterest board has some good ideas for a World War I study, and I'll highlight a few of our favorite resources on this post.
We had this book from this library, and it gave us the idea for a War Censor activity. I printed out a letter from a soldier, and the children went through with a black pen and "censored out" the parts that might endanger the soldiers or otherwise prove useful to spies. They had fun doing that.
We really liked this documentary "World War I in Colour." It's amazing how seeing color pictures of the war makes it seem more immediate and real! There are six parts and we found them all on YouTube.

We made paper poppies for Remembrance Day.

This was a good short video about a (statistical) WWI mystery!

These Horrible Histories shows (find clips on YouTube) are pretty funny. Some can be crude, so they're worth previewing first. But the children could not get enough of this song, by Tsar Nicolas, Kaiser Wilhelm, and King George V. They LOVED it. 

Interesting video showing cases of "shell shock."

Here's an animated map of WWI.

We learned about the term "doughboy" and made these World War I Salvation Army doughnuts.

We read several picture books about the 1914 Christmas Truce. I cried and cried through every one of them. Such a sad and touching story! Here's a video about it.

The Zimmerman Telegram was an important factor in the United States' decision to enter the war. Here's a decoding activity we did with it.

We looked at and studied this powerful painting by Sargent.

Here are some recordings of popular music during WWI--songs like "Over There" and "It's a long way to Tipperary."

On the lighter side, we learned about Charlie Chaplin and silent films (one of Chaplin's first movies came out in 1914 and many were popular during the war). We watched some examples. They are SO funny and good. We also particularly like Buster Keaton. Here are some good ideas for movies and books to try on this topic.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Monkey and Ape Celebration

We had a great time with our end-of-unit Monkey and Ape celebration. All the household monkeys (and apes) were invited.
We hung up some vines (a plastic tablecloth which Seb cut into strips).
And we had a lovely monkey-themed dinner. (Don't forget the banana-chocolate smoothie! We forgot to put it on the menu, but we did NOT forget to make and eat it.)
This banana-coconut soup was really good. Interesting foreign flavors (it reminded me of the curried groundnut soup I sometimes make, which is an African recipe. This one was Vietnamese, I think). I found the recipe here. Here's another version that looked good.
I had made this style of monkey cupcakes years ago, for Seb's birthday. They're cute (although for some reason, in this picture these look to me more like dogs than monkeys!) This time I tried a peanut-butter banana cake recipe. I did plain peanut butter instead of chocolate/peanut butter for the frosting, though. 
Abe made monkey cups to hold our drinks. We found this idea here. We also printed out these little paper monkeys to cling to some bananas, for decoration.
After dinner we did some games and activities, and then watched "Monkey Kingdom." We liked it. There are lots of good monkey-themed party games—here are two.
We had an origami station. The pattern for the gorilla is here.
We made a whole troop of gorillas!
The nut-cracking station was a big hit. We cracked open walnuts and almonds the way some monkeys do it, between two big rocks! (This is another way monkeys use tools.)
It was a fun Monkey Celebration and a fun unit! Perfect for a family of little monkeys.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Soak like a Monkey Field Trip

While we were learning about Japan a while ago, we watched a documentary about the Japanese Macaques that like to sit in hot springs when the weather is cold. (I'm sure you know the ones.) We liked it so much we watched it again for this Monkey Unit. And then I had the brilliant idea that we should visit some actual hot springs to see what they were like! I had been wanting to hike to the hot springs up Diamond Fork Canyon for some time, so I picked a day where the weather looked pretty mild, and off we went to soak like monkeys!

Before we even got to the trailhead we knew it was going to be beautiful. I had to turn off the audiobook we were listening to (much to my children's annoyance) because it was just too gorgeous. I needed all my attention to look at the scenery! I suppose it was a combination of the beautiful warmish weather—and the angle of the sun coming through the yellow cottonwoods—and the fact that we had a picnic and the whole day free just to explore—it made all of us feel pretty much on top of the world!
I have to say that this was one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever been on. There was lots of scrub oak and maple forest, and interesting looming cliffs, and the river flowing with us all along the trail. And it was partly that we caught the Fall at such a lovely time. Half of the trees were bare already, with just a few leaves left hanging to glow like fireflies in the morning sun. And the other half of the trees were still gloriously leafy and colorful, and shone through the bare-branch frames like stained glass.
The bare trees meant that we were walking over various stages of leaf-carpet throughout the hike. It felt so perfectly Fall-ish!
When we started out it was quite chilly in the canyon (which is what we had wanted—I thought the hot springs would feel nicer on a chilly day!). The boys were wearing their swimming suits as shorts, and we girls had our swimming suits under our clothes. The sun wasn't very high above the canyon walls for awhile, so there was lots of hiking in and out of shadow and tree-tunnel.
Teddy looked around with considerable interest.
It really isn't a hard hike at all. More of a nice walk. It took us about an hour and a half to get up to the hot springs because we were walking with a two-year-old who thinks it's a good idea to pick up every rock and pinecone on the trail. But the slope is very, very gentle and the trail is mostly smooth.
This particular two-year-old had also gotten it into her head that we were there for the sole purpose of having "a pit-nit" and eating "do-durt." This was in the plans, but not YET. It was a source of great disappointment and tears and dragging along. 
Finally Sebby saved the day. He was a hero. He took charge of Goldie and had her walking and giggling and cheerful as a little lark in five minutes. I don't know what magic he was working. It had to do with finding little treasures for her and making games and pretending about tiny "homes" they were seeing along the trail. She clung to him so trustingly, and listened to his whispered secrets and smiled her tiny smile. Oh, that Sebby! He is a star.
After hiking a while, you cross the large stream and start following a smaller one.
I loved this part of the trail because it was so leafy and sheltered. The stream had all kinds of cool rocks in it, covered with moss.
And we started to see greenish-aquamarinish patches in the water, and we started to smell sulfur in the air. Sebby, who had been feeling the water every now and then as we hiked up, stuck his hand into the stream and then pulled it out in surprise: "It's…not freezing anymore!"
The water got bluer, and the sulfur smell got stronger.
And then we were at the lower waterfall! One of the warm soaking pools is just below this lower falls. We went on to see what else we could see. And just around the bend, we saw:
This! The bright turquoise water, falling down in little cascades from pool to pool. It was so beautiful it took our breath away!
Everyone wanted to strip down to their swimming suits and get in right away, but Sebby and I kept hiking up a little way, to the upper waterfall. It was streaming down a rock, and there was a little cave behind it, which Sebby wanted to explore:
Looking downstream, with the bright water and the bright leaves. So beautiful.
And now the best part! We started testing out the pools. There were several different temperatures. Some were just warm and bathtub-y, which was perfect for Theodore, so I mostly stayed in those with him. The other children climbed all around and went in and out of the hot and semi-hot and warm pools. Everyone took a turn holding Teddy, so I could explore too, and take some pictures.
The hot pools have a strong sulfur smell, of course, but we didn't mind it (Sam certainly noticed it when we got home, though! Ha), and they are very nice for sitting in. There are lots of natural rock seats and the pool bottoms are fairly flat. I do wish we had been wearing sandals, though. I thought it would be too hard to hike in sandals, but the hike was easy enough it wouldn't have mattered. And it would have been nice to have our feet protected. Several of us got cut on sharp rocks.
There was a sort of rock waterslide here. Everyone liked that.
Abe's favorite place to sit was right on this hot waterfall. It was SO warm there, and if you sat just to the left of where he is in this picture, you could let the warm water fall on your legs and feet. It felt so nice. There was a little rock cavity which the boys called "the oven" because it was so steamy inside. They would put their hands in and then come out trailing ribbons of steam.
Theo really loved it. You can't much tell from the pictures, but he was cooing and splashing and kicking his little feet in the water. And protesting heartily anytime we lifted him out.
We stayed as long as we could; soaking; trailing our hands in the waterfalls; getting hot and then climbing out all boneless and steamy to cool off, and then plunging in and getting hot again. No one wanted to leave! But eventually more people started arriving, and we started feeling that perhaps sharing the pool with seven children wasn't exactly what they'd all been dreaming of. Anyway, we were getting hungry, so we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the pools, and balanced on the sharp rocks while climbing into dusty shirts and jackets (which immediately became muddy shirts and jackets), and perched on boulders while scrunching wet feet into socks and shoes. Theodore screamed indignantly the entire time as I peeled off his wet clothes and balanced him on Abe's outstretched arms to change his diaper, and stuffed him into his warm suit and crammed him into the backpack. Then he promptly fell asleep.
The rainbow of colors—red and orange and yellow leaves, green river grass, aquamarine water—was like nothing I've ever seen. Like something from Tolkien. 
I was afraid we'd be cold and wet as we hiked down, but the afternoon sun was warm as we walked, and we were quite comfortable. The light was, if anything, more brilliant than before.
After a while, something set Goldie off again. We sat her on a log to calm down. She was SO sad and her despair was so SUDDEN and COMPLETE, we were all trying not to laugh. After a few minutes she cheered up (I think it was when I said I was a mommy bunny and she could be my baby) and proceeded to talk nonstop to me the entire rest of the way down, pausing only for the occasional breath. "I was so sad and I sat on the side on a log but now I'm so HAPPY and I'm a CHEERFUL-girl and I hold your hand and I'm a brave little BUNNY" figured prominently and repeatedly in the narrative.
These R2D2s talked in beeps the whole time. They kept up a running translation. "Beep-beep, beep beep beep beep-beep! That means, Mommy, I found a pinecone!"
Malachi and Seb walked ahead, making monkey noises. Abe kept hiding off the trail, letting me walk by, and then creeping up behind me and scaring me out of my wits. The girls attempted to do the same, but I usually spotted them and had to act surprised. Abe, on the other hand, gave me several genuine near heart-attacks.
Can you spy a tiny girl?
I love seeing yellow leaf-light reflected in water.
A closer look. Liquid gold!
The leaves were coming down in a constant, glittering shower. Looking up into that sky, it was like staring into an ocean, with bright yellow fish glinting quicksilver through the water.
When we finished hiking down, we drove to a park in Spanish Fork Canyon, and finally ate our "pit-nit," much to Goldie's relief.
The girls played train with a long stick they found.
The children ran around, and Teddy and I sat and soaked in the sun and yellow light. Then the wind picked up, making us all chilly again, and I told the children to all stay in one place—just for one second, for goodness sake!—so I could take a picture. And then we headed home. But determined to come back again when we can!
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