Monday, June 19, 2017

Oceans and Coasts Mini-Unit Schedule and Lesson Plan

It's always fun to do a little studying about a place before you go there, so even though we didn't have much time to spare, we squeezed in a quick mini-unit about Oceans and Coasts before our summer trip to Oregon this year. I was glad we did, because—I don't know what it was, maybe it was just the fact that we were staying by a bay where the tides were very obvious, or maybe it was because we'd read a bunch of books about them—but the tides and tide pools were fascinating to all of us in a way they haven't been before. I could have sat by the upstairs window of our rental house and watched the patterns of the tide ALL DAY. I loved hearing the difference in sound when the tide was in versus when it was out: crashing waves when it was high, and quiet lapping (thanks to a sandbar that shielded the bay somewhat) when it was low. Beautiful.
We mostly read lots of books for this unit, as there was preparation and packing to do, but we did do a few fun activities.

One was making these ocean layers bottles. Here is one version (probably better than the one we did—but we've done this one before to learn about density, here) and here is another more like we did this time. They're so pretty!
I let the kids make models of the ocean layers on Cookie Pizza. We used pictures like this for reference. (If something can be modeled on a cookie, we will model it.) Here's our favorite recipe for Cookie Pizza (it's basically just sugar cookie dough, although occasionally I use snickerdoodle dough instead). We made frosting of different shades and then the children used chocolate chips and whatever else we could scrounge up to make fish, seaweed, phytoplankton, and so forth. Obviously this would be cuter if you used Swedish fish or something.
We totally overcooked this one. It should be much paler. But the children ate it anyway. Note the deep, dark Mariana Trench at the bottom right of the picture. Also the condensation, forming clouds above the ocean.
That big chocolate candy in this representation is a blobfish. My children were very taken with the blobfish when we learned about it. Though, it probably should be a blue whale if we are taking the scale of things into account. Of course, this isn't the whole ocean…just a cross section.
I like the white bioluminescent fish down in the deeper layers of Abe's ocean.
A few more things we enjoyed:

This page about tides, and also these. Here are pictures of our visits to the tide pools during this Oregon trip.

A couple of our books trotted out the "floating island of plastic" myth. Here are a couple sources debunking that. Too bad this hyperbole risks obscuring the real problem of ocean litter.

We'd never heard of "Velella velella" or "By-the-wind-sailors" before (they're sort of like tiny jellyfish) but we enjoyed these videos of them washing up on Oregon beaches!

Bioluminescent Plankton (more on bioluminescence here with our Light Unit)

Short video about puffins (we like puffins)

After we saw clams squirting on the beach at Netarts Bay, we got really curious about them (we've never seen live clams before!) and found these videos.

We also got interested in sand dollars (we'd never really thought about what, exactly, they ARE!). Junie found a spinier one on the beach and we wondered why it looked different—the video says how you tell if they're alive or dead.

Here's my Oceans Unit Pinterest Board

Friday, June 9, 2017

Egyptian Feast and Treasure Hunt

This celebration was so much fun. While planning it, I found so many awesome ideas that I DIDN'T want to do (complicated/expensive/time-consuming)—elaborate parties like this—but I had a lot of fun browsing around anyway. And luckily, I was able to compile enough fairly simple things from those resources, that we were able to have a great time! You can find a lot of the ideas we didn't use on my Pinterest Board.
The children dressed up in Egyptian costumes and wore all their jewelry (well…the girls did, anyway). And here was our menu (complete with totally inauthentic "hieroglyphs" and lame "Papyrus" font):
We love hummus and I make it fairly often, but anytime I run out of tahini, it takes me a long time to get again since I often don't see it at the regular grocery store. So, I was happy to find this recipe for hummus without tahini. I think I just needed…permission, or approval, or something, to do this. Because it's perfectly fine without tahini! Really good, in fact! I put in some sesame oil to see if I could get some of that sesame taste back, and I think a little peanut butter might also be good…or even sesame seeds!

The "yogurt Thoth" is just a joke for the older boys because they always joked that the god Thoth sounded like someone trying to say "sauce" with a lisp. Really it was labneh (sort of like a really thick yogurt cheese?), which we love almost as much as hummus with our pita bread. Or naan. Yum!

And Pie of Horus! My own invention! Not the pie, just the name. I had been wanting to make a pink lemonade ice cream pie and this celebration night seemed just the time. I was very pleased with myself for calling it Pie of Horus, as it seemed to strike just the right note. Ha ha.
It really was a most lavish feast! And I even got gold plastic plates for the occasion. So fancy!

But the very BEST thing I did for this party was have Abraham (my 14-year-old) be in charge of a treasure hunt. I knew we should have some sort of hunting-for-ancient-treasure activity, and Abe is so great with that sort of thing! He made it so fun, with coded hieroglyphs and riddles in the clues, and the younger kids LOVED it.
Hunting for treasure!
Totally clueless. But thrilled.
Abe hid the treasure-filled sarcophagi in the shed.
Inside, I had wrapped up stuffed animals like mummies, in toilet paper. (This was quite fun to do. You have to be really gentle with your wrapping or it will tear, but I found it strangely satisfying.) I drew faces on the front of them, like you'd find on a sarcophagus.
Each person's favorite animal! Oh…you can't tell what they are? Ha ha. I should have had Sam draw them. Penguin, elephant, monkey, bear, pig, owl.
I had used a gold-foil tablecloth to wrap up these "sarcophagi" made from cardboard boxes, with appropriately dire warnings for those who disturbed the treasure. If you can't do this during your Ancient Egypt Unit, when CAN you do it? One of the boxes was also filled with gold chocolate coins, and other candy "jewels." The children thought it was all so exciting and fun!

And then we watched "Prince of Egypt" while we ate our pie. It was a great end to our Ancient Egypt Unit!
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