It’s Halloween: Dust Off Your Candy Bank

By , October 30, 2009 9:45 pm

candy

Get your Candy Bank ready, it’s Halloween tomorrow!

If you are unsure about what to do with an influx of massive amounts of candy into your house, then read on.

If your children are young (younger than maybe 4 or 5?) you can probably get away with the “Hide It and They’ll Forget About It” method.

If you have older children, take it from me, that will not work.  Either let them have it all in moderated doses (and “lose” a few bits here and there and hope they don’t notice), or try a Candy Bank.

We have a jar into which all extra candy is put (as well as any junky little toys that somehow show up).  We use it throughout the year for birthday party candy, but Halloween is where it really comes in useful.

Once the Candy Bank is full, the kids get money for charity in exchange for the candy.  The first time I did this, I let them each choose a small present in exchange for the candy.  Ever since then, I have given them $10.00 collectively to donate to a charity of their choice.

I like that it goes to charity (rather than just more junk to fill the house) and I also like that they must agree amongst themselves as to how the money will be applied.  I can only hope that this will encourage a lifetime of negotiation and cooperation!

Nasreen’s Secret School (Jeanette Winter) – Review

By , October 28, 2009 9:48 pm

If you like multicultural children’s books, then I hope you are familiar with the books published by the Global Fund for Children.  The Global Fund for Children recently discovered my review of their wonderful Global Babies board book and contacted me regarding a review of a brand new book, Nasreen’s Secret School.

I am very picky when it comes to requests to review books, most queries end up in my email trash.   But I just knew that this book would be of great interest to us, and to many of you who read Unplug Your Kids, so I accepted this particular request.  Soon I was sent a free review copy of Nasreen’s Secret School.

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter is subtitled “A True Story from Afghanistan.”  It is published by Simon & Schuster for the Global Fund for Children.  The author based this book on a story told to her by an organization supported by The Global Fund for Children that aided secret schools for girls during the reign of the Taliban (1996-2001).

This is the powerful tale of young Nasreen, a little Afghan girl who has not spoken since her parents’ disappearance.  The narrator, Nasreen’s grandmother, is determined to get her out of the house and into school, but girls are not allowed to attend school in Afghanistan:

“The Taliban soldiers don’t want girls to learn about the world, the way Nasreen’s mama and I learned when we were girls.”

There were “whispers” about a secret school for girls behind a green gate.  Nasreen and her veiled grandmother hurry down alleyways to towards the green gate, hoping not to be seen by soldiers (women were not allowed to leave the home without a male relative):  “Please Allah, open her eyes to the world” prays her grandmother.

My 7 and 9 year-old loved this book and I still often come across them reading it and rereading it in quiet corners of the house.  My daughter (age 9) said she liked that it was a true story and how it showed that not all children have the same life she does.

Although the book is written in a simple picture book format, it is recommended for ages 6 to 9.  On every page you will find a vibrant acrylic illustration (also by Jeanette Winter) and just a few short sentences.

Despite its colorful picture book appearance, I would agree that this is not a book for very young or sensitive children due to the serious subject matter.  Nasreen’s father is taken away by soldiers and her mother never returns home after going off to try and find him.  Although mention of these events is brief, it could be distressing for littler ones.

The ultimate feel of the book though, is very uplifting.  It celebrates the strength of ordinary people (particularly women) to overcome adversity and carry on.  It is a wonderful lesson for older children in the value of education and how an education opens windows to the world, and that knowledge is always with you, “like a good friend.”

We also liked the tidbits of Afghan culture that are sprinkled throughout:  Nasreen’s ancient city Herat was once a beautiful place where music and learning “flourished.”  When a soldier demands to enter the school, he finds only a room full of girls reading the Koran, which is allowed (the girls hid their schoolwork).   The women wear a burqa and are completely covered while out in the streets and the girls wear headscarves.  This book offers lots to discuss and discover about Afghan culture, history and politics.

There is additional interesting information about Afghanistan in an author’s note.  Teachers and parents might find it helpful as a starting point for teaching about modern Afghanistan.

Thumbs up from us for this beautiful and educational multicultural book!

LINKS:

Change – Weekly Unplugged Project

By , October 25, 2009 8:19 pm

This week’s post is a change from other Unplugged Project posts.  The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was change.  We did lots of things this week that involve change, but no real sit down and do it kind of “project.”  None of these projects were planned around the theme, they just happened.

Change the world: On Thursday I took my oldest daughter and a few other children from her class to our local soup kitchen to help serve lunch and clean tables.  I am leading a community service workshop for our small Montessori school’s elementary class (6 to 9 year-olds).  If we want to change the world, we must start with the children.  More on this project later.

Small change (can change the world): Of their own initiative, my oldest daughter and two friends have formed a secret club called The Helping Hands Club (The HHC for those in the know!).  On Saturday they sold homemade chocolate chip cookies that they made (by themselves) and pumpkins (that they bought with their own money) to a few neighbors and made $21+ in small change for charity!  (Reminded me a bit of the great Heifer International Christmas ornament sale a few years ago.)

Change of seasons: It is fall in our part of the world and we walked together on this glorious fall day. The sky was blue, the fall colors vibrant, the air crisp yet comfortable. A fire is crackling in the fireplace now as I write this.

Changing the worm bin: Yes, the worms in our worm bin are still happily eating, reproducing, and pooping.  It was time to change the bedding and harvest the castings, so we did it today.  The kids love interacting with the worms.  We are trying a new harvesting method this time, more on that later if it works.

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If you did a change Unplugged Project, then please link to your POST not just your blog in the Linky below. If you did not join in, then do not link, but you can always read more here about how to participate in the Unplugged Project. We’d love to have you!

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The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:

Smell

Have fun and be creative!

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Treasure Jars – The Letter “B” (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , October 19, 2009 1:25 pm

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was “The Letter B.” We made treasure jars.  What is the relationship between treasure jars and “B”?  The children decorated their jars with dried beans and barley (and some of our colored rice, not “B,” but pretty!).  The Unplugged Project is as flexible as you need it to be.

I just gave the kids some white glue and the beans, barley and rice.  Then they chose jars from my packrat collection of “Useful Looking Jars” and went happily to work on their own while I made dinner.

By the way, this is a good toddler project too (great for exercising fine motor skills), as long as you don’t mind mess.  I recommend using a vinyl craft tablecloth and having a wet washcloth and a vacuum cleaner nearby.

Here are the results. My 3 year-old made the jar on the left, and my 9 year-old made the one on the right.  My 7 year-old son just made a big mess mixing things together, but he enjoyed himself.

I finished by spraying them with an acrylic coating to help keep things in place.

Remember, projects don’t have to be fancy or complicated to be fun!

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If you did a “Letter B” Unplugged Project with us this week, then please link to your project post in the Linky below.  If you don’t have a blog, you can leave a comment with a description of what you did.  If you didn’t do a “Letter B” project, then please read about how to join in here, we’d love to have you!

The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:

Change

See you then!

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Make a Salad Spinner Zoetrope

By , October 16, 2009 5:03 pm

zoetrope

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was wheel.  I searched around for ideas and came up with this one which sounded really interesting:  a zoetrope!

What is a zoetrope you ask?  (I didn’t know what it was either.)  A zoetrope works on the same principle as a flipbook, one of those little books where you flip the pages and it looks like an image is moving, but it uses a rotating cylinder to produce the illusion of movement.

I like this definition from Wikipedia:  “A zoetrope is a device that produces an illusion of action from a rapid succession of static pictures.”  The word zoetrope comes from the Greek zoe (life) and trope (turn), so it is really a “wheel of life,” perfect for our theme!

I found instructions for making a zoetrope many different ways:  using a round camembert cheese box, a PVC pipe, a straw and a printout, a paper plate, and ice cream containers.  We originally made up our own version out of black poster board, an old CD, a small lazy susan, and lots of tape.  It was OK, but a bit wobbly.

Then I found a totally ingenious person who made one out of a salad spinner!  Why didn’t I think of that?  We absolutely had to try it and the result was AWESOME!  It is an easy project that produces a maximum “wow factor.”  Try it, here’s how:

Use electrical tape to tape off the slits on the salad spinner basket leaving every third slit open. We used 3/4″ electrical tape and that just happened to be exactly the right size for the job.

For images, the salad spinner genius used cutouts of the phases of the moon from a calendar.  Very clever but I decided to draw my own pictures.

On a piece of white paper I marked off a series of 3/4″ x 3/4″ squares.

Then, using a black Sharpie, I drew a face with a changing mouth and waving hair, making each image slightly different than the previous one.

The tedious part was cutting out all 26 images and taping them in sequence to the blocked off areas of the inside of the salad spinner.

Finally, using a clump of rolled up tape, stick your zoetrope onto the overturned lid of the salad spinner, centering it as best you can. The zoetrope will be sitting on the rotating disk, and the salad spinner handle will be underneath.

Now for the fun: spin and look through the slots to see the “movie!” The view is best if you shine a bright light into the bowl of the zoetrope.

Hopefully you’ll see from this little 10 second video that we made, how cool this project really was!

Let’s not forget THE SCIENCE:

So how do flipbooks, zoetropes, thaumatropes (a rotating card with a different picture on each side, the pictures appear to combine when card is spun), cartoons, and old time film movies actually work?  Many people still believe in the “persistence of vision” theory, in which it is thought that an image remains in the eye for a certain time after the image source is actually gone (ie. the optic nerve is the cause).  Apparently that theory is no longer in favor these days.  A more popular theory at the moment involves something called Beta movement where the brain itself apparently combines rapidly flashing images thus forming a perception of movement (ie. the brain is the cause).  It seems that no one really understands any of this completely.

FIELD TRIP:

You can visit a real zoetrope at the following museums:

V&A Museum of Childhood, London, UK

The Ghibli Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Headwaters Science Center, Bemidji, MN, USA

Have fun!

(Be sure to visit the links to other people’s wheel Unplugged Projects on last Monday’s Weekly Unplugged Project post.)

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