Posts tagged: homeschool

Make a Salad Spinner Zoetrope

By , October 16, 2009 5:03 pm


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  We originally made up our own version out of black poster board, an old CD, a small lazy susan, and lots of tape.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.


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.)

Non-Toxic Haiku Books for Children

By , November 8, 2007 1:56 pm

I must immediately write about something cheerier than lead paint and toxic Aqua Dots in order to rid myself of this bad feeling. How about haiku?

If you haven’t been following our weekly Unplugged Projects, last Monday’s project involved haiku. I wanted to suggest some children’s haiku books but couldn’t find any at my local library.

A few people came to the rescue and I would like to share their recommendations.

+++ First I must send you over to cloudscome’s blog, A Wrung Sponge. As a professional children’s librarian, she is my most authoritative source. Cloudscome kindly took the time this morning to pull her favorite haiku books off the shelf and listed them for me on her blog. Here are her recommendations:

Today and Today, Issa Kobayashi

Cricket Songs, Harry Behn

Cricket Never Does, Myra Cohn Livingston

One Leaf Rides the Wind, Celeste Mannis

A Pocketful of Poems, Nikki Grimes

Basho and the River Stones, Tim Myers

If Not For the Cat, Jack Prelutsky

Wingnuts, Paul Janeczko

Baseball Haiku, Cor Van Den Heuvel

Dogku, Andrew Clements

Thanks so much cloudscome! If you have never visited A Wrung Sponge it is worth a stop. Cloudscome writes lovely haiku herself and also gives great kids’ book recommendations (she is particularly interested in multicultural children’s books).

+++ Jenny of Wildwood Cottage found one haiku book at her library that 2 year-old daughter CJ enjoyed. She also recommends:

One Leaf Rides the Wind, Celeste Davidson Mannis

+++ Heather of Homeschooling Fun found this haiku book at her library and liked it a lot:

Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids-Haiku, Patricia Donegan

Thank you all for your recommendations! I’ll have to get busy with my Interlibrary Loans.

Dona Nobis Pacem (10 Ideas for Fostering International Understanding in Your Kids)

By , November 7, 2007 12:59 am

Sometimes I am a glass half-full type of person, and sometimes I am more inclined to be a glass-half empty type.

About peace…I think I am running on empty. I feel that throughout history there never has been peace. There never will be peace in the future either. It is just human nature to fight.

Religion, which is supposed to be all about peace (no matter what the religion), seems often to make matters worse. The Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. I’ll stop my brief list there so as to not get myself into too much trouble.

The glass half-full part of me says: “Hey, wait a minute! Why not start with the children?”

Well, why not start with the children? What an excellent idea. If all the world’s children could learn about and appreciate other cultures, races, and religions, then wouldn’t there HAVE to be peace?

Glass half-empty says: “There is no way to teach every child in the world these things!”

Glass half-full says: “Maybe not, but the way to start is with our own children. Let’s teach them about the beauty of diversity.”

Yes let’s.


Here are ten thoughts on how to do that:

1) Have your child learn a foreign language, either through their school or through home, online or language school study. The US is one of the only countries in the world where a child/adult can get all the way through school, and even college and beyond, without learning another language.

2) Take your children to local multicultural events such as Chinese New Year celebrations, Greek festivals, etc. Check your local paper for details.

3) Travel with your children, which leads to the next suggestion:

4) Get your child a passport now so that he or she can travel with you when old enough, and the opportunity for foreign travel arises. Passport processing is taking a long time these days, so why not simply put it on your to-do list and get it over with right away. (Most US post offices can issue passports and even take the passport photos, it is very easy). By the way, passports are now required for air travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, even for infants.

5) If your children are teens and are interested…let them be an exchange student. I did it as a teen (twice) and it totally changed my life!

Youth for Understanding (the program I used)

AFS Intercultural Programs


6) Host an exchange student in your home (it doesn’t have to be for a year, it can be a semester, a summer, or even less!) Check out links above, or Google “international student exchange.”

7) Get your child a penpal. Google “penpal” for some sites that can arrange this. Being the paranoid parent, I would check it out carefully first though before signing up. I would choose a “snail mail” penpal over an email one, and would monitor the whole thing very carefully. Check with your child’s school too. Often penpal arrangements can be made through a teacher at school. If a teacher has contact with a teacher in a foreign country, many times classes can exchange letters.

8) Go to the library and check out an international cookbook. Cook an exotic foreign meal together, talk a little about that country, and find it on the map or globe.

9) If you and your family are really in the mood for adventure, either rent a house in a foreign country or do a house swap. A house swap is where you trade a month in your house, for a month in someone else’s house for example. Sometimes the trade even includes the use of a car. There are many websites dedicated to rentals and home swaps. The classifieds in the back of alumni magazines are also a good source. Many college alums prefer to rent their foreign house or apartment to another responsible alum rather than a total stranger.

Here are some house swap websites (note: I am not personally familiar with any of these):

HomeLink International

Home Exchange

Home Xchange Vacation

10) And of course the simplest and cheapest way to expose your children to other cultures, is to read to them. Go to the library. Read multicultural books to your children. Check my International Children’s Book Day post for detailed suggestions of books and web links to books for some ideas.

For inspiration, here are some of our favorite multicultural/international books. The last one is a real eye-opener: Material World: A Global Family Portrait, is geared more toward adults, but children will find it fascinating too, when read with an adult.

(For more info on two of these titles: I have written posts about Wake Up World, and Let’s Eat – plus another here about Let’s Eat)

Dona Nobis Pacem…Grant Us Peace – PLEASE!!!

Please visit Mimi’s Blog to find links to many, many, many more Peace Posts today.

Also, for more thoughts on peace, please visit my June Dona Nobis Pacem post.

Weekly Unplugged Project – Haiku

By , November 4, 2007 9:29 pm

This has been a hectic week for us, so we were never really able to sit down and do this one all together, but rather in bits and pieces throughout the week.

My 5 year-old son didn’t feel like doing it (I was going to have him illustrate one of my haikus), so it was an all girl event at our house!

My 7 year-old daughter really loved the whole exercise and of course chose to write about her new fish that she acquired by trading her Halloween candy. She immediately hung her haiku and drawing up in her room by her fish (along with some very funny “Fish Rules”).

The way I decided to introduce it to her was the following:

1) She picked a subject (her fish)
2) She wrote down a list of words that described her fish
3) She wrote the number of syllables in each word next to that word
4) She combined them and added a few words, to create the appropriate number of syllables for each line (I had to help a bit with this part – finding and extra word here and there to help fill things out, but basically this is her creation).

Actually, it was hard to get her away from thinking in terms of sentences, which is what she is used to when she writes at school. Very interesting!

Here are the results. My haikus are not high quality, but considering I have not written one since elementary school, I guess they’ll do. I had so much fun with this since it has a very logical, almost puzzle-solving aspect to it, unlike a lot of poetry. I might even inflict more haikus upon the blogosphere! (Sorry!)


Our Gallery:

Author: Oldest daughter, age 7
Illustrator: Oldest daughter, age 7

My Fish

He is a Betta
With sparkly shiny scales
In a tall glass vase


Author: Me, age more than 7
Illustrator: Oldest daughter, age 7


Chattering gray clowns
Who do tricks for a peanut
Make me laugh out loud


Author: Me
Illustrator: Youngest daughter, age 22 months


Color of envy
Cool spring rains bring emeralds
That taste like a lime


Author: Me
Photographer: Me


Ebony silk coat
Black cat sits on my paper
Fur tickles my nose

(yes, black cat Pipsqueak helped me write the haikus!)


This was a fairly detailed, specific project. I hope it was fun, but for next week I have decided to go in entirely the opposite, very minimalist, direction. Here is next Monday’s Unplugged Project:


I can’t wait to see what we all do with it!

Haiku Help

By , November 2, 2007 11:32 am

Hopefully this week’s Unplugged Project isn’t too daunting. It involves reading or writing a haiku. If you have older children, then they can try writing one, if not (and you feel brave enough) then you can try it. A very basic description of a haiku is the following:

– subject: everyday things – often nature, feelings, or experiences
– length: three short NON-RHYMING lines
– form:
1st line: 5 syllables
2nd line: 7 syllables
3rd line: 5 syllables

Here a few links which might help or inspire:

Haiku for People

Internet School Library Media Center Haiku Page

eHow: How to Write a Haiku (good basic advice)

I went to our local library in search of some haiku books for children and came home empty- handed (but our library is quite small). If anyone finds some good kids’ haiku books, please write about it! A search on Amazon of “haiku” in the children’s books section turns up lots of good-looking options, so I know the books are out there somewhere, just not in MY library.

Remember, these projects are supposed to be flexible and fun, so if you want to do a poem other than a haiku, that’s fine. If you just want to draw a picture that’s fine too. The point is for everyone to have fun. Plus, I am trying to make the projects adaptable to all ages, little ones through adult. Here, again, are this week’s instructions:


1) Write a haiku and illustrate it, either via original artwork or photo


2) Read (and share) a haiku and illustrate it, either via original artwork or photo


3) For smaller children, parents can find (or write) the haiku and help their children “illustrate” it


4) Any other haiku/poetry possibilities that you can imagine! Anything is fine…just go with what you want to do!

(unless you have a newly budding photographer at home, the photo option is probably more one for any older children or adults who want to take part and would rather not illustrate)

– subject: everyday things – often nature, feelings, or experiences
– length: three short NON-RHYMING lines
– form:
1st line: 5 syllables
2nd line: 7 syllables
3rd line: 5 syllables

Click here for some examples.

Hope to see you on Monday!

Image from Wikimedia Commons: Calligraphy by Ishizaki Keisui

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