Thursday, December 14, 2017

#7 The Endocrine System

Main Lesson Book
We began, of course, by reviewing the previous lesson, The Ear. Students completed their summaries and illustrations for their main lesson books.

Day One Topic & Exploration
The Endocrine System is actually another office in the Department of Communication, with signals sent via chemical messages as opposed to electrical ones (which is what The Nervous System uses).

These chemical messages are called hormones, a term which most of the kids had heard before.

I used the paragraphs of explanation from the Unlocking the Endocrine System lesson plan, and we briefly discussed a few specific examples, such as insulin, epinephrine (also known as adrenalin or adrenaline), and growth hormones. I have a cousin who stopped growing when she was about four years old as a child and didn't get any taller for several years until my aunt and uncle decided to give her growth hormones. Then she grew taller. The children found that really interesting.

Then I took out a large envelope which was filled with messages written on colored 3 x 5 index cards. I created the set of cards in advance, writing messages on them and then cutting each one into two pieces, curving the cut lines so that the pieces went together like a puzzle. I explained that this is like a hormone matching up with its hormone receptor. There MUST be a match. Only then will the body be able to read and follow the message. (This is why the mis-directed letter to Mr Hatch -- below -- would end up being confusing. It's not really true that any old receptor site will work.)

I passed out several card parts to each person and they had to work together to match up their messages and then complete the task.

Here were the task cards I created:

    Run around the house three times.

    Do four jumping jacks.

    Quack like a duck.

    Water the bonsai.

    Ask Ms. Renee if she would like a cup of tea.

    Pet the rabbit.

    Count to 10 in ASL.

    Give the dog a treat.

Day Two Story & Exploration
Start by reading "The Letter" chapter from Frog and Toad are Friends, then ask the children, "What does this have to do with The Endocrine System?"

Nearly any story which involves a mailman delivering a letter would be fine. This one works well because the message is delivered slowly, a good contrast with the speed of The Nervous System. Somebody Loves You, Mr Hatch is one of my favorite books but wouldn't really work for this topic because it is about the accidental delivery of a mis-directed letter.

Review The Endocrine System. Look at the side of several milk cartons for the notice about bovine growth hormones. Bovine somatotropin or bovine somatotrophin (abbreviated bST and BST), or bovine growth hormone (BGH), is a peptide hormone produced by cows' pituitary glands. Discuss that some people worry that bovine growth hormones might negatively affect humans. Point out that, as the milk label states, "The FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from artificial growth hormone treated and non-artificial growth hormone treated cows."

We also talked about the hormone seratonin and how people who have trouble sleeping, or people who travel and have to adjust to a radically different time zone, can take seratonin.

For students who want to delve into The Endocrine System in more detail, and learn the specific names of some of the glands and where they are located on the body, I suggest using the nomenclature three-part cards from ETC Montessori.

Note: there are sexual body parts and hormones included in this set of nomenclature, which may be an issue for some families depending on the age of the child. You could always adapt the set by removing some of cards (testes, ovary) and leaving others (pineal gland, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, adrenal gland, pancreas).

Main Lesson Book
Students began to draft their summaries and illustrations for The Endocrine System.

Pass out colored index cards and markers and scissors and let the children create and cut task cards to use as their MLB illustrations. There are three options. Cards can be written, cut, matched back together, and glued in readable pairs on the page. They can be written, cut, left separate, and glued down scattered around on the page. For kids who want to include an actual activity in their MLB, they can write and cut several task cards which can then be put into an envelope and the envelope can be glued to the page.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#6 The Ear

Main Lesson Book
We began, of course, by reviewing the previous lesson, The Vestibular System. Students completed their summaries and illustrations for their main lesson books.

Day One Story & Exploration
I took my story for The Ear from Linda Allison's book, Blood and Guts: A Working Guide to Your Own Insides.

The chapter is called "Ears: Receivers for Vibes from the Outside." I required that the older students take notes during the lesson.

It may seem incredible that we are STILL doing stories for The Department of Communication, but I reminded the children of the bearded mussels we observed. They are such simple organisms and they don't need a complex nervous system. We, on the other hand, are very complex organisms and capable of amazing things (and we talked about Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking and Wilma Rudolph and other famous people), so it is only logical that we would have an incredibly complex Department of Communication to help all those moving parts coordinate smoothly with one another.

I think it really helped to bring those mussels into the classroom! When I ask the children to think of a simple animal, they have something to picture.

We began with page 97 (How the Ear Hears) and I had a little drum available to show to the children. It is hollow (open at the other end, opposite the head) and so I could put my hand inside it, which I recommend. It was helpful when we came to the part about the Eustacian tubes later on.

We looked closely at the diagram of the outer, middle, and inner ear on page 98 and then read the rest of the page (Silent Dog Whistle?) and looked at the diagram of sounds. I reminded the students that the retina in the eye translates the visual images into electrical signals which get sent to the brain; the cochlea in the ear does the same with sound vibrations. Both systems have a piece whose role is simply to translate events into a language the brain will understand: nerve signals.

We read page 101 (Eustachian Tubes) and did the activity Meet Your Eustacians, which is a little uncomfortable so I wouldn't recommend it with students who have sensory issues.

Then we did the activity Are Two Ears Better Than One? on page 102 and read the rest of the page (Sound Source). We read page 103 (Musical Bones [or, Bones and Overtones]) and I demonstrated how a tuning fork works. We then struck a tuning fork and put it in a glass of water. It makes the water splash out in quite a dramatic fashion! The kids loved it and they wanted to do it over and over. I got this idea from Torin Finser's School as a Journey: The Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class.

We did the Turning Fork Test activity at the bottom of page 103 and students reported that they could hear the sound vibrating in their teeth. Then we did the "Making Cutlery String Chimes" activity from page 51 of Roberto Trostli's Physics is Fun: A Sourcebook for Teachers. This is another dramatic, and very beautiful, experience. I let each child take his or her 2 foot piece of string home so that they could demonstrate this to their parents.

We ended with page 104 (The Inside Story on an Old Wives' Seaside Tale, Amazing Facts).

One student asked me if it was possible to be both blind and deaf, and so I told the children the story of Helen Keller and her early years and the peppermints and then the arrival of Anne Sullivan and the pump and water and learning what a word was. We also talked about Ludwig van Beethoven and how he lost his hearing later in life and was quite deaf by the end of it. They understood why he would lay down on the floor and try to feel the vibrations of it. They also asked me questions about hearing aids and Cochlear implants. For my older students, I gave them an assignment. I asked them to each choose a disease which was related to one of the body systems we were covering in this first block and to research its causes and its treatments. They will work on this at home all week and will add their final essay to the end of their MLB. They each went home to choose a topic.

Day Two Review & Exploration
We began by reviewing the parts of the ear which are used for hearing (ear drum, hammer, anvil, stirrup, cochlea) and then we read The Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori & the Invention of the Piano. This is a great tie-in on several levels. First, it is about an inventor so we used it as an example for our Virtue of the Week, Determination. Second, it laid the perfect foundation to the story of Beethoven which we will read tomorrow. Third, it is about the different volumes which sound can be, as well as the musical terms for them. Fourth, it is about a musical instrument which plays by a tiny hammer striking something, just like the bones in the ear!

After the story we listened to a recording of the 1720 pianoforte, which is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Then we listened to David Wong play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" on the piano. There are more links to music on Elizabeth Rusch's website; she is the author of the book.

My seventh grade students each chose a topic to research in more detail for this MLB. One picked asthma (The Respiratory System), one picked glaucoma (The Eye), and one picked Cochlear implants (The Ear).

Main Lesson Book
Students began to draft their summaries and illustrations for The Ear.

Additional Notes
We read two additional books related to the students' interest in people who lost their sense of hearing. I spread them out through the course of the final week of our main lesson block and, again, considered them to be books which highlighted the virtue of Determination. I presented these picture books in chronological order: The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven and Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller.

My daughter Becca also read Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, and watched the wonderful 1962 film called The Miracle Worker.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Monday, December 11, 2017

#5 The Vestibular System

Main Lesson Book
We began, of course, by reviewing the previous lesson, The Eye. Students completed their summaries and illustrations for their main lesson books.

One child even made a little index card for the experiment "The Blind Spot" and placed it in a small envelope taped inside the back cover of his MLB.

Day One Story & Exploration
I took my story for The Vestibular System from Linda Allison's book, Blood and Guts: A Working Guide to Your Own Insides.

The chapter is called "Balance: The Sense of Upright." I required that the older students take notes during the lesson.

In our analogy of The Great River, vision is one of the five senses which serves as Cabinet members and advisors to the President, the Brain. I explained to students that balance is also one of our senses! There are more than just five (in fact, Rudolf Steiner referred to twelve). As such, the Vestibular System is also part of the Department of Communcation. You can think of it as just another office in the Department.

For this system, more than for the others we have done so far, I wished I had extra items available for the demonstrations. I've put them in bold.

We read page 105 (Design Problem, Inner Ear) and talked about how unstable a two-legged stool would be! In fact, it would be great to have a four-legged stool and a three-legged stool in the classroom to show.

We read page 106 (Up and Down Sense) and talked about how the bone dust trickles down through the liquid like snow in a snow globe. Again, it would be great to have a snow globe handy! You could even make a snow globe as a follow-up activity. This "little hairs sensing change in liquid" is a technique the body uses again and again, so it helps if kids really can picture it and understand it.

How to Make a Homemade Snow Globe

We read page 107 (Sense of Direction) and talked about what it means that our world is 3-D. I actually had the students feel this out... bring your hands up toward the ceiling and down toward the floor, bring your hands to your right side and to your left side, bring your hands toward your heart and away from your heart. Each semicircular canal is responsible for sensing one of these directions. It would be great to have play dough available to model their curves, each in a different direction.

We did the Lag-Behind Effect activity on page 107. This is a simple demonstration that just uses a glass of water and some cinnamon. It helps if the glass of water has been sitting stationery on the table the whole time.

We did the Upright Without Sight activity on page 108 and then read the rest of the page (Quick Shifts) as well as page 109 (Incredible Balancing Act).

We finished with page 110 (What is Balance?) and I balanced a pencil on my outstretched finger. Then we did the activities in Equilibrium Appreciation.

Day Two Review & Exploration
On the second day we reviwed The Vestibular System using the nomenclature three-part cards from ETC Montessori. This taught us the name of each of the semi-circular canals, as well as the term cochlea, which was a great transition into the next lesson, The Ear. Students already knew this one was coming next... because they had already asked me about the parts of the ear which are used for hearing, as opposed to balance.

Main Lesson Book
Students began to draft their summaries and illustrations for The Vestibular System.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Photos from the Classroom

Since we came back from Thanksgiving Break, our main lesson topic has been The Human Body. (Our previous block was The Age of Exploration.)

I've been writing separate posts for each system of the body with teaching resources and detailed descriptions of our lesson activities, as well as our literature study of Lord of the Flies, plus posts for clubs like Philosophy and Science. But we have all kinds of other lessons, so here is one more post to catch up all of my parents on everything their children have been doing!

I also have made complete pages on my website for our current topics:

The week of Nov 27, our Virtue of the Week was Creativity. We read

The week of Dec 4, our Virtue of the Week was Determination. We read

We finished our read aloud of The Cat Who Went to Heaven and started The Book of Think, a tie-in with our Human Body main lesson.

In Farm Day news, students finished their Track & Field unit and began Survival Skills, learning first how to read a compass.

Our new Specials have begun including American Sign Language (ASL), Yoga, Music, Crafts, Structured Word Inquiry (SWI), and Script. Students were very excited on Friday to finally use their new fountain pens!

These beautiful fountain pens can be used as dip pens or they can have an ink cartridge inserted.

In ASL students have begun with the alphabet, numbers, and greetings.

We have also had individual lessons in math (addition, subtraction, and division using the Stamp Game; multiplication using the Checker Board; multiplying fractions by whole numbers using the Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles) and language (Commas, Homophones, Homographs, Homonymns, Prefixes, Suffixes, Guide Words) using the Montessori materials. We learned the Nim game from Jamie York (a fun math strategy game which you play with a pile of gems). I have also given Handwork lessons on making knitting needles and learning to knit. Students set up the badminton net in the yard as well as the horseshoes stakes, determined to enjoy the warm weather while it still lasted. Boggle and Labyrinth remain the favorite board games.

Some pictures from the classroom over the past month:

working on our coral reef sculpture of dyed coffee filters and cotton swabs

dyeing the coffee filters with markers

hand-stamped invitations for the "Creep into the Deep" Expo

dynamic multiplication with the Checker Board

the first step in making knitting needles:
sharpening the wooden dowels in a pencil sharpener

then sand until smooth, oil with grapeseed oil,
and glue an acorn cap into the end

working hard on his first project, a knitted chicken

"Under the fence,
Catch the sheep,
Back we come,
Off we leap"

brand-new silver folders for ASL!

Becca presents the Third Great Lesson:
How Humans Came to Be

the Timeline of Early Humans is a new work in the classroom

the whole work... completed and correct

dyeing pompom yarn to look like seaweed
for a Museum exhibit

tracing a sewing pattern

the U.S.A. Location map

looking at the simple nervous system of the mussel

trying to identify some body parts

making a life-size construction paper collage of a giant squid
starting with eight 9-foot long arms
(the two 50-foot long tentacles will extend up my stairs)

making tissue paper transparency Rose Windows
for the Middle Ages

the Montessori Teaching Clock

regrowing bok choy from its base

it is doing well!

collaborating / competing in a math game

dynamic addition with the Stamp Game

presenting the Second Great Lesson,
How Life Came to Be

sharing books from the Geologic Periods set

Joe, our life-size giant dragonfly from the Carboniferous Period

examining fossils from our collection

"something surprising I'll show you at the end is how much time
passed between these Periods"

the Earth emerges as a molten mass

 the rains fall for millions of years on a barren planet

the emergence of blue-green algae!


every day on his calendar = 13 million years

the Age of Fishes

the Age of Mammals

 Venn diagram comparing Zheng He and the Spanish conquistadors

our oil pastel map-transfer technique for the main lesson books

dyeing rainbow chickpeas for Zac's sensory bin

starting to drape seaweed all around the living room ceiling,
"The Sunlight Zone" in our Museum

making our krill swarm
(paint side of your pinkie finger orange, then stamp)

the krill look even better on black paper!

our badminton net, successfully put up,
doubles as a volleyball net

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!