BIG HISTORY CONCEPTS FOR LITTLE TOTS.

We’ve talked before about the importance of introducing a bit of ‘big history’ into early learning, and with everything from the dinosaurs to when mumma was born classed as ‘the olden days’ this project will help give a little perspective to our place in time.

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Our strategy for the year is to provide some understanding of big history concepts. We have created a time line on one wall and as we come across facts, figures, dates and details we add them to our timeline.

When we visited a cave (that began forming tens of millions of years ago) we added that to our timeline, giving the experience even more historical wonder than the simple beauty they saw. When we talked about how the waterwheel that was used to make flour in the ‘olden days’ we were able to add that to our time line and see that it is relatively recent in our history. When the kids asked when the first person was born (being a believer in evolution rather than creation) we added that to our timeline and could explain the idea of evolution far more simply when they could physically see the degree of time passing and the changes happening.

We have left some space for the future too, so they can imagine and dream about what might be in store in the near future. We hope to get to this after a few more history concepts are visited. (Over the coming months as we work through the letters we will look back at the first civilizations, dinosaurs, and so on). I am also excited to see a few more concepts overlapping (ie “this was happening at the same time the pyramids were being built” etc).

Now, if you plan to set up your own timeline you may wish to ‘cheat history’ a little as we did. Human history is so tiny in relation to many of the other big history concepts (such as the evolution of plants, Dinosaurs, mammals etc) that our entire human history is just a dot at the end of a 2m stretch of history (and that’s not even going back to the formation of planets etc!)

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To solve this problem of scale we ‘expanded’ our little dot of history into another timeline to allow for more detail in the human history. We used a coloured ribbon for each timeline (blue for the overall time line, with a dot of orange at the end. And orange for the human history.) This colour reference made it easer for the little historians to understand that the orange line represented that tiny little dot at the end of the blue line. We marked up our history over a 3m stretch of wall, simply using chalk directly on the wall to label the periods in time, and to add new concepts. When adding new ideas the little historians often create an image (painting, gluing, drawing etc) and we blue-tack that image to the wall at the relevant place on the timeline. This visual cue that they created is far easier for them to remember and explain to the other adults in their life than a simple text ‘entry’ on our timeline. By re-visiting the concepts as they explain their work they re-enforce their understanding of what they have learnt.

If you wish to create a similar timeline in your own learning space, we used this as a guide for our own timeline (you can calculate and measure this out to fit your space, but we were not so precise as the exact accuracy of the spacing is not so important – it’s a general concept that we are working towards at this stage so just sketching up an approximation is totally fine!)

World History:

  • 600 million years (before common time) – until the year 3,000(ish)
  • Separated at 100 million year intervals.

Human* History:

  • 10,000 years (before common time) – until the year 3,000.
  • Separated at 1000 year intervals

*Please note; the beginning of ‘human history’ that we expanded is determined at a point where there are some interesting things to add to the timeline (ie beginning of farming etc) rather than the beginning of Humans as a species. For practical scale reasons we found this to be more workable as it allowed a little more space between centuries once scaled to fit our space.

While my own little historians are not the ‘remember exact facts and figures’ type of learners, that is not our primary goal. Our aim with this timeline is to give the little historians a sense of their place in history. A sense of belonging in something much greater than themselves, an idea that things change gradually over time, and (as we enter further into human history) some understanding of how they can alter the future by their own actions.

A sense of belonging in time (as well as in space, community, culture etc) is vital for growing our young people into the adults we want in our world.

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EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: PLAY OCTOPUS WITH TOILET TUBES

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Octopuses are wonderful creatures, and the slimy things have managed to work their way into every childhood. Maybe it’s because they start with O (and that’s handy for the alphabet), or because their distinctive body shape is so easy to recognise, or maybe it’s that they conveniently have 8 legs (and that’s nice when we’re looking at numbers!)… Whatever the reason, we’re in love with the concept of an octopus.

Yet their truly fascinating qualities are often overlooked, this little hands on project is a fun thing to make with little hands, but it is also a good chance to talk about a few of the things you know about the lovely Octopus.

You might talk about how Octopuses are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates. That the ink they shoot out even contains a substance that dulls a predator’s sense of smell, making the fleeing octopus harder to track… and if they are really under threat they can loose an arm and grow it back latter! Here is a good site for a brief refresher on your Octopus knowledge.

Make a couple of these little Octopuses and get playing with your knew found knowledge!

You will need:

  • Cardboard tube
  • Scissors
  • Paints/drawing or decorating implements
  • Googly eyes and string (optional)

Let’s make an octopus.

Cut the base into 4 equal sections (you may like to refer to this as quarters to help with fractions)

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Ask what would happen if you made each of these into 2 parts, how many would you have all together? (In our house we talk about it as 4 “lots of” 2, or 2 “lots of” 4)

Once you have worked out your sum, check by cutting each in half… count 8 parts… how many legs does an octopus have? You just made an octopus!

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We then decorated our octopus and added googly eyes.

To create a more ‘swim like motion’ we hung our octopus from string, and like our tube kites we watched it fly with much joy.

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O – IS FOR FREE OCTOPUS COLOURING FROM TASSIE ILLUSTRATOR!

To introduce you to our creature of the week we have another free designer printable for you to download, this time it’s an octopus from Tasmanian children’s illustrator, Bec Adamczewski of Bon Mot. You can download the free printable PDF here:

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(Simply download, print and get to work!)

If you’d like to meet this awesome illustrator then she’ll be holding stalls at the following upcoming markets;

  • Hobart Twilight Market 4pm-8pm February 20
  • Barn Market 10am-3pm March 1
  • Niche Market Bazaar 9am-3pm March 28 (Launceston)

In the mean time shoot on over to Facebook and send her a Like to keep up to date with what she’s creating, and to say a big thank you for sharing this lovely work with us and our tots!

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Enjoy your colouring and remember to sing along as you colour. (The “Octopus’s Garden” is a song by The Beatles written by Ringo Starr from their 1969 album Abbey Road – and it’s perfect for young ones to enjoy!)

W – IS FOR FREE WHALE COLOURING FROM TASSIE ILLUSTRATOR!

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To finish off our week of W we have a free designer whale printable for your young tot (from the super talented Tasmanian children’s illustrator, Bec Adamczewski of Bon Mot.) You can download the free printable PDF here:

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(Simply download, print and get to work!)

If you’d like to meet this illustrator in the flesh (and maybe grab a few of her wears to spice up your tot’s space!) then get on down and meet her at your local market:

  • Hobart Twilight Market 4pm-8pm February 20
  • Barn Market 10am-3pm March 1
  • Niche Market Bazaar 9am-3pm March 28 (Launceston)

In the mean time (if your love her work and just can’t wait that long to see more!) then you can always find her work virtually:

Shoot on over to Facebook and send her a Like to keep up to date with what she’s creating, and to say a big thank you for sharing this lovely work with us and our tots!

Enjoy your colouring and look forward to seeing you for the letter O next.

EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: WINDOW WONDERLAND.

Transform a window into a wonderful water wonderland that can house all your sea creatures.

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What you will need:

  • Cellophane (blue)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Whiteboard markers (or we used chalk pens, the kind they use to write menus – there are a good selection to choose from at Artary)

Hand your children a ‘special window pen’ (and in our part of the world it’s important that we make that definition – drawings tend to ‘creep’ here!) Talk about all the things they might like to draw in their watery wonderland. Do they want to draw a seahorse like last week? How many legs do crabs really have? Where is that fish swimming to? (While drawing you may like to show them images of the creatures that they are drawing to assist them in ‘seeing’ rather than simply representing with the symbols they have learnt represent particular features – though if your fish still needs a belly button and a nose to be complete, then let them go for it!)

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After the artwork is complete simply tack your cellophane waves to the window (overlapping looks great as it gives various shades of blue). On a sunny day this will give blue light to your room, with little shadows of their drawings – it is quite sweet to see.

Once you have finished take a photo of your young tots from the other side of the window so they can see themselves ‘swimming’ in the water. (Seeing ourselves is an important part of developing self-reflection – plus they will think it’s a hoot!)

EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: PAINTING A PAPER PLATE WHALE.

We’re looking at Whales at the moment, and this is a sweet little project you can do one afternoon, (if you’re up for something a bit more challenging have a go at making your own giant box whale sculpture!)

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For this little exercise you will simply need a paper plate and a pair of scissors.

  • Fold your plate around 1 third of the way across the plate (this will be the whale’s somewhat flat head!)
  • Turn your plate 90degrees and fold down the middle of the plate (this will form the ridge of the back, feel free to add a blow hole later if you so wish!)
  • From about half way along the body, cut the curve of the back towards the tale (imagining how a whale back curves down then back up to it’s tail) Don’t cut all the way to the end!

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  • Instead of cutting the tail off, make your brain do some Olympics and cut a half tail facing back towards the whales back.  (When you unfold the tail away from the body you will have an open tail that moves up and down (like a whale) rather than side to side (like a fish).
  • Bend your tale out and paint/decorate as you wish

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EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: MULTI-SCHOOL GIANT WHALE PROJECT.

This is a not quite as big as a real blue whale, but it certainly is a monster project (unless you are working with a large group, or have an enthusiastic marine biologist on your hands, you may like to scale this one back a little – the Blue Plate Whale is a smaller one to do at home!) IMG_4661 First, fashion a ‘box whale’ from a few cardboard boxes and lots of packing tape. The exact shape of your whale will be determined by your boxes, but we found it far easier than initially imagined to make the basic whale shape. (We also used some packing to help support the inside of the shape, though this was more about what happened to be in our boxes rather than something you need to seek out.) We then had a little more ‘softening’ to do before our box looked truly like a whale. We scrunched newspaper and taped this down with sheets of paper (like wrapping a big newspaper present!). We did this in any places our whale needed a few more ‘curves.’ IMG_4649 Once the shape is achieved mix 1part water ; 1 part PVA glue in a tray. Tear paper into more manageable pieces and dip in the glue before placing over your whale. Aim to overlap your paper for strength and cover as much of the whale as possible. (Our young sculptors were not so focused on the idea of overlapping for strength, but their enthusiasm for covering the top of the whale meant that it happened anyway!) Your whaled dry time will be different depending on the thickness of your layers. Ours took about 4-6 hours to dry on a sunny day. IMG_4926 Once dry we painted our whale (blue of course!) and the squelchy squashy finger paint was a hit, as always. IMG_4930 This particular whale will then visit my 5yos Prep class soon, for a little more decoration and as they are investigating sea creatures at the moment, it will then come back to us for an under the sea birthday party, and then find it’s home at the daycare centre – not bad for a bit of news paper, a few old boxes and lots of little enthusiastic hands!

BAKING GEOGRAPHY (THE IMPORTANCE OF CAKE IN A CLASSROOM)

We’ve talked before about our mission to cook around the world, but in this case we are baking the actual world it’s self!

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To link in with our concepts surrounding volcanoes (inspired by our destination of the week; the volcanic islands Wallis and Futuna) we’ve been investigating the layers that make our world.

The inner core is the hottest (imagine the seed of a tick skinned fruit) the outer core is still darn hot, but a little cooler than the very centre (think of the flesh of your fruit) then there is the far thinner crust of solid, hard rock (imagine the skin of the fruit) and on top of that are all our oceans and islands. That’s our world in a fruity sense, but we decided it would have a more memorable impact on our learning to EAT CAKE!

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I’ve reflected a little in the past about the importance of a ‘Purple Cow’ approach applied to learning activities (that is, a thing so remarkable that you actually remake on it, and then by re-telling that exciting story you wire those nurons again and again). It’s a marketing concept (by marketing guru Seth Godin) combined with the brain science (best explained in easy reading books like The Whole Brain Child By Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson). While you might not want to fill your kids up on sugar every time you learn a new concept, tossing in a ‘purple cow’ now and then (something they’ll be excited enough to talk about) will enhance their learning as well as bring a wide grin to their faces.

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First get measuring and mix up a cake batter, any think cake batter will do, but we used this slightly modified recipe from the Country Women’s Association Cook Book (that I’m proud to report 3yo Elka corrected me to: ‘Country Women’s and Men’s cookbook’ – I’m glad to see equality going both ways in my young lass!)

RECIPE:

  • 2 Large tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup milk

Mix all. Bake at 180 until a skewer comes out clean.

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We doubled this recipe (making 2 sides of the globe) though I have left it in it’s single form. The task of doubling the recipe was given to the 5yo, who (on top of the usual measuring and mixing) enjoyed the challenge of a little extra numeracy. The fraction was a little too advanced for her, but she was able to deduce that 2 halves were one cup, and 2 quarters were half when it was broken down for her. Fractions is not really something that she needs to concern herself with in terms of formal learning, but introducing the concept in relation to cooking (where there are so many fractions!) is a great place to begin to build her understanding.

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We then separated the mixture into 2 bowls and each child was responsible for mixing the colour for a different layer in the centre of the world. One for the inner core (red) and the other mixed the outer core (yellow/orange). This sense of ownership (and also colour reference) came in particularly handy when we re-visited the concept of layers later.

We then poured our otter core (yellow mixture) into the ‘ball tin’ (yes, I bought a ball tin on impulse years ago and it gets very little use – 2 rounded bowls would be just as effective!)

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We piped our inner core into the centre of each tin, and then popped it in the oven.

Due to the nature of cooking both colours at the same time the exact shape of your core will be a little unpredictable, but the thick mixture should hold it’s place fairly well. (Plus the neater alternative of cooking 2 separate cakes and ‘nesting’ the cakes during the icing process is far too complex for me to attempt with children!)

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We then iced the world in blue butter icing, and made some (roughly shaped) continents to place on our world. To create the continents we printed this map, taped it down with clear plastic on top. The kids then filled the continent shapes with fondant (we happened to have some coloured fondant left over from a cake, but most supermarkets also stock batches of ready made pre-colourd fondant in an easy pack).

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Elka (3yo) particularly enjoyed making these play dough like shapes out of fondant – though she did ‘accidentally’ eat Australia (see the photo of her face just as she was caught popping Australia in her mouth!)

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The kids learnt the continents more than I thought they would from this exercise, more than I thought they would. They also took a lot away from the concept of a world made out of layers. When entering a cave they asked if we would get far enough down to see the lava, and each time we talked about the layers after they would tell me ‘that’s the one I mixed’ and so on.

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EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: MAKE A WATERMELON WHALE.

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Pumpkin carving has captured the imagination of generations, but in the heat of an Australian summer it seems far more appropriate to carve a watermelon whale:

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  • Firstly obtain a whole watermelon. (Most supermarkets will have them available; just ask if there are any out back if there are only pre-cut ones on the shelf)
  • Cut off the base and have the children scoop out the flesh. (This flesh can go strait into the juicer to make a refreshing beverage – obviously this was much enjoyed as the productive little people set up a production line taking turns to make the juice!)

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  • Cut a ‘mouth’ wedge from the front of your whale head. (Fashion some teeth at this point if you so desire)
  • Use part of the wedge that you have just removed (from the mouth) to fashion a dorsal fin (if your species of whale has a prominent one). We used the ‘base’ as a tail.
  • Cut some eyes and a blow hole (a good time to talk about how they are mammals like us and need to surface to breath).

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Congratulations, your whale is finished! Fill with fruit salad if you wish, surround with blue jelly water if you feel like a bit of extra sugar. (We put a candle in ours as a glowing lantern. (Anica recalled the tale of Pinocchio at this point, though others might be more inclined to go with a religious tale, or perhaps Moby Dick.)

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Our whale was carnivorous and Anica thought it was hilarious when it ‘ate her arm’ (she photo above). Elka, however was later found eating the whale’s teeth one by one, she REALLY likes her watermelon!

EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: THE POWER OF THE WIND.

If the breeze is blowing grab a few craft supplies, your young engineers, and head down to Sullivans Cove Waterfront for an investigation into the invisible force that is wind.

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What you will need:

  • 4 paper cups
  • Strong cardboard (2 lengths about the shape of a ruler)
  • Pin (drawing pin, dress makers pin, or sewing needle)
  • Pencil (with rubber on top)
  • Tape
  • Scissors

Make a cross with the 2 lengths of cardboard, and tape at the middle so they form a ridged and evenly spaced ‘X’

Tape a cup to the end of each of the ‘arms’ of the X (ensuring they are all facing the same way when it turns)

Place the pin though the centre of the X and attach it to the pencil (by sticking the pin into the rubber end of the pencil as in the picture).

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The X should now rotate freely and the cups should catch the wind to make it spin.

Finished! You just built a wind turbine (admittedly it is not turning anything at the base, but that is probably an engineering feat for slightly older children!)

Of course this is a great time to talk with kids about how the wind holds energy, and how that energy can be ‘caught’ and transferred through rotation to create power that we can use.

If you do this experiment on the waterfront you will be able to point out the wind turbines turning in the wind on top of the buildings.

If you are venturing through the midlands (or feel like a day trip) you may like to visit the Callington Mill at Oatlands for this experiment. We visited this earlier in the year and being able to reference the internal cogs that they saw at the windmill really helped our kids understand that the rotation caused by catching wind was able to to run a ‘motor.’

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We’ll show you how water can generate power in a post soon, so no worries if you don’t get to Oatlands today… that turbine action will come back into play soon with another little potential road trip!