Maryland :: Geography Postcard Album

Early in the summer, I was inspired by the way the family at All Things Beautiful learns about culture and geography with postcards.   We had quite the collection of postcards already … but once we received them, we did little more than locate the destination on our world map in the hallway and tape it onto the wall.  I wanted something of more value … a way to organize the cards as well as provide us with a more meaningful exchange.  The Geography Postcard Album was just what we were looking for.  While we have already logged the postcards we already have with my earlier post, Getting Started with Postcard Albums … we have yet to document what each has provided us.  
I thereby begin with Maryland – to commemorate the Bergenholtz Family.  We received this postcard in the late spring .. just after returning from Scandinavia, if I recall correctly.  The wonderful thing about this postcard is that it features a recipe for Crab Soup as is pictured on the front of the card.  Though we haven’t yet tried the recipe … nor have we been able to obtain blue crab from the seafood departments here on the West Coast at a reasonable fee (I looked into special ordering it but the minimum order was over $100).  We thereby opted to just keep our eyes open … it shows up once in a while.  We did, however, have an opportunity in June to try soft shell blue crab at a Japanese restaurant.  The kids didn’t like it at all .. at least prepared in this way.  I enjoyed it but did find it a little on the salty side.
The picture below is one I took in Chinatown in New York City when my husband and I were there a year ago.  I shared it with the kids and they remarked, “Ah!  I see why it is called blue crab.  That’s cool!”
After looking over the picture and discussing the postcard, we located Maryland on our wall map of the United States.  Coincidentally, this week in Story of the World, we are also studying Jamestown as well as Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.  The kids thereby had no trouble finding the Chesapeake Bay and the state surrounding it.  The kiddos then completed a State Profile sheet and filed it in their new United States Geography Postcard Album.

Adventure Corps :: Africa

Every summer, our public library encourages kids to continue reading and to do so, provides a variety of incentives.  From what I understand, most libraries in the United States participate in the program and while the theme will be consistent whether you are in Oregon or Minnesota, the way in which each library implements the program will vary.
I have always been impressed with our library … particularly the children’s librarians who go out of their way to develop fun, engaging and educational programing for all ages.  The 2011 theme is One World, Many Stories and children ages 6-11 take part in Adventure Corps – stories and crafts specific to this age group.  We have attended when we can – though sadly, not as often as we would like.  This week, we journeyed to Africa.
African Adventure
Jambo, rafi ki! Hello, friend! “Safari” is Swahili for journey, and that’s what we’ll do. Travel from east to west Africa with a story from Kenya, and a story and game from Ghana. Learn to speak Swahili and make a mask.

Upon our arrival, the kids were given an opportunity to play with a number of the musical instruments that Heather McNeil had brought in to share.  Heather is one of the most dynamic storytellers at the library and we discovered that she has traveled to Kenya multiple times herself to collect stories and perfect her craft.  We were delighted to spend the afternoon listening to her as learned more about Africa.

The instruments the boys are shown with here are called, shekere.  The shekere is a handmade rattle consisting of a hollow gourd or calabash, covered on the outside with a net of seeds, beads, shells, or any available material. Although its origins are West African, today it is found in the Americas and Caribbean as well.  Check out this website to learn more and to find instructions to build one for yourself, The Beaded Gourd.

The girls are modeling a kalimba or thumb piano.  A kalimba is an African musical instrument, a type of plucked idiophone common throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, consisting of a wooden board to which staggered metal keys have been attached. You can play one here at PBS: AFRICA.

The program began with Heather sharing with us a wonderful oral telling of Who’s in Rabbit’s House (Masai Tale) by Verna Aardema.  Her animation and voices had everyone – adults and children alike – enthralled.  We then learned to count in Swahili and jumped to count out each number.  She then read aloud Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa by Gerald McDermott.

Last summer, we spent several weeks inundating ourselves in the culture of Africa as a part of a Geography Co-op.  You can read all about our activities on my Squidoo lens, Africa: A Homeschool Unit Study.

Eberhard’s :: Field Trip

Earlier this week, we had the delightful opportunity to visit our local dairy.  The family owned business was started by Jack and Nelda Eberhard in 1951, and today is operated by 2nd generation, Bob, and 3rd generation, Mark. The experienced staff at Eberhard’s Dairy Products, consisting of 50 people, has over 460 years of combined experience in the dairy products business.  Eberhard’s offers a full line of locally manufactured milks, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter and ice creams under the Eberhard’s Quality Chekd label (since 1983).

In the photo above, Bob Ebherhard begins our tour showing us the room where the temperature of the storage tanks (pictured at top) are controlled. The raw milk is brought to these tanks daily and they process the milk from one tank at a time.

From here, we all donned hair nets and proceeded into the processing plant where we followed the milk through the process of pasteurization and homogenization.  We also visited the room in which sour cream and cottage cheese is made. The picture below shows where the pasteurized milk is poured into the jugs (background) and the label is attached (foreground). 

The picture below shows a portion of the machinery with which ice cream is produced.  Bob explained that they now use ammonia as their freezing agent (which is still the most efficient way to operate).  We learned that at Eberhard’s 20 different flavors are manufactured, 13 of which are available only in gallon sizes.  The most popular flavor, making up over 50% of their ice cream sales, is vanilla.  Three vanilla varieties are made … vanilla, french vanilla and vanilla bean.
 

We were shown how the milk crates are sanitized before the product is loaded (a mechanized case washer that transports stacks of crates along a conveyor belt), the dry storage area, and the cold room.  We also briefly stepped into the freezer storage, the largest (7,000 sq. ft. + 24’ high) and coldest (20°) storage freezer in Central Oregon.  

It was a very informative trip and we enjoyed every moment. Bob was very gracious to open his plant to us and the kiddos now feel a special bond with Moo Moo Belle, pointing her out when we see her face on the trucks and product labels in the stores.

The Diary of Ma Yan :: Book Sharing Monday

Ma Yan is a young girl determined to continue her education despite the hardships and struggles that ensue. Knowing that an education is the only thing that could rescue her from a life of poverty, Ma Yan continues her fight to stay in school. Her resilience is inspiring.

When Ma Yan’s mother gave her daughter’s diaries to a foreign journalist … it paved the way for an incredible outpouring of love and financial support … not only for Ma Yan but for other poverty-stricken children in China.  Her journals were translated and published as, The Diary of Ma Yan.

Some of her journals were lost,  as a result, the entries are broken (September – December 2000 and July – December 2001).  All entries are brief and from the heart as she writes of poverty, hunger, frustration, desire for an education, and the hope for a better future for herself and her family. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will encourage my daughter, who is passionate about Chinese culture, to read it for herself.  Ma Yan proves herself an articulate young woman and through her journal, we see glimpses of life in rural China.  This book also instills a greater appreciation for Americans’ access to education and opportunity.

Explore Our World: Africa – Unit Study Wrap-up

Where did the summer go?  I completely forgot to summarize our activities each week during our unit study Explore Our World : AFRICA.  We were actively engaged in a variety of learning activities but as the summer progressed, other obligations began to conflict with our plans and my neighbor and I were not able to get together as often.  Not surprisingly, I also neglected to take many photos!

Week 3 :: Western Africa

  • Key Points – Region more diverse ecologically than Northern Africa.  Many European nations had colonies in this area.  The cultures are more settled (as opposed to nomadic) and thereby agricultural cultures dominate.
  • Read aloud Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears by Verna Aardema and created a crayon resist of a savannah animal
  • Did a comparison (Venn diagram) of Little Red Hen by JP Miller and Talking Vegetables by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret Lippert
  • Discussed the meaning of onomatopoeia
  • Sampled cassava chips
  • Began a mini-book of African animals
  • Played several games of Mancala
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD.

Week 4 :: Western Africa, cont.

  • Key Points – Slavery was once prominent here –> huge impact on economy –> formerly rich region now poor.  Masks are a key component/feature in festivals and ceremonies.
  • Read aloud In the Rainfield by Ann Grifalconi, Mrs Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye, Talk Talk, Why the Sky is Far Away and Anansi and the Talking Melon
  • Painted an animal in Naïve style of Ghana and read aloud Man Who Painted the Sky (illustrated in a similar style)
  • Began a mini-book of African style homes
  • Cooked Benne Cakes (a recipe from the Malinke) and sampled dates and chocolate from West Africa
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Watched a Schlessinger media video on Ancient Africa.

Weeks 5 & 6 :: Eastern Africa

  • Key Points – Animal / Wildlife Reserves prominent in Eastern Africa.  Water is a valued resource for life.  Differences and similarities among daily use of water in Africa and in the United States.  Mt. Kilamanjaro.  Lake Victoria – source of the Nile River.  Madagasgar has unique (endemic).
  • Did a water comparison study.
  • Read aloud Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, Trouble, The Good Lion, Young Mouse and the Elephant, The Lonely Lioness, Rain Makes a Monkey of Lion, We All Want a Safari, Count Your Way Through Kenya and Kenya A-Z
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Created beaded bracelets inspired by Maasai.

Week 7 :: Central Africa

  • Key Points – Ethiopia considered the cradle of civility, so many fossils, etc.  Birthplace of coffee.  Region is dominated by rainforest.  All countries are former colonies of European countries.
  • Played a thumb piano or mbira on PBS Kids.
  • Read aloud The Elephant’s Wrestling Match
  • The kids wrote their own African fable.

Week 8 :: Southern Africa

  • Key Points – Apartheid.  Nelson Mandela.  Desmond Tutu.
  • Read aloud Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, A Child’s Day in a South African City, Marriage of the Rain Goddess, Count Your Way Through Zimbabwe, The Girl Who Spun Gold
  • Put together lapbooks with all the mini-books we had begun
Check out my Hub page for more information about our Africa Unit Study

The Benefits of Service Learning from an Early Age

I have always loved learning and believe that education is a community effort.  As an elementary teacher, I continually sought out service learning projects that enabled my students to become involved in the community while simultaneously complementing our classroom lessons and skills.  As a parent, I want my children to grow up with volunteering as an integral part of their lives.

My children and I began volunteering together in the spring of 2006 when my daughter was 3 ½ years old and my son was 15 months.   We volunteered as Living History Interpreters.  We dressed as homesteaders near Prineville, Oregon in 1880 and interacted with the public as they visited our homestead.  In this role, we utilized our knowledge of the region’s history to educate the public about the past.  With the exception of the winter months, we typically volunteered one day a week for approximately 5 hours.

We also worked with the Adopt-An-Animal program, whereby donors provided financial support for the care of the animals at the museum.  In turn, we sent the donor a thank you letter and a packet of information specific to the animal they selected which included an animal fact sheet, a certificate with a color photograph of the animal, a decal, and an activity sheet.

The children helped me by finding the necessary photographs and thereby learned to identify the names of our native wildlife.  They also learned about why the animals are in our care — all were unable to survive in the wild, typically because they were injured or became dependent on humans for food. Specific needs of the animals such as diet, habitat, and medical care provided great learning opportunities as well.  We typically worked 1-3 hours a week throughout the year.

While we no longer volunteer at the museum, I continue to involve the children in a variety of activities around our community.  We collect trash and pull non-native, invasive weeds along the river when we go for walks.  We donate canned food for the local food banks.  During the holiday season, we donate gifts for children in need.  Last spring, we began a garden to grow a few organic vegetables for our table.

Each service learning endeavor helps the children to think about what it means to take care of our community, animals, and the environment.

Service-learning is a teaching method that enriches learning by engaging students in meaningful service to their communities. Young people apply academic skills to solving real-world issues, linking established learning objectives with genuine needs. They lead the process, with adults as partners, applying critical thinking and problem-solving skills to concerns such as hunger, pollution, and diversity.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what sort of volunteering made sense for young children. In selecting activities, I take into consideration the interests and concerns that each of my children have developed.

One of the least expected outcomes was recognizing how the children have discovered themselves.  When we started, my daughter was a little timid and slow to talk with adults. In a short time, she learned to interact with the staff and other volunteers as individuals, carrying on conversations and discussing her thoughts openly.  On the homestead, she was always eager to show visitors how to pump water for the garden and can easily identify the vegetables we grow.

It is already clear that their life experiences and these service learning opportunities have helped to ensure that they will be self-assured and outgoing.