Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Anchoring our Week

I like having anchors to start our week and end our week.  It is too easy to roll out of bed on a Monday morning, stay in pjs, drink that second cup of coffee and rationalize why it is totally okay to let the girls sleep until 9am, after all their bodies need it......

Sometimes their bodies do need that extra sleep.  They seem to grow in their sleep and wake just a little bit bigger and just a little bit older than when I kissed them goodnight ten hours earlier.

However, I know that we have better days, and better weeks when each day has a plan.  In the fall, SoundWaters kick started our week.  The weather was beautiful.  The girls had a great class with friends, and I was able to spend time with one of my friends as well.  When class stopped, I kept up our routine of science Monday and invited one of their friends to come join us for the day.  We began with oceanography which led to chemistry (the periodic table), and included field trips to UCONN and Yale’s Peabody Museum.  We made time to begin a nature journal, grew a container garden, studied our backyard squirrels and wrote a rough draft for a grant application which will be used to build and prepare a backyard vegetable garden that will grow food to be given away to local charities that feed the hungry.  And let’s not forget that we finished a lapbook!  That alone is an accomplishment for us!  We have a horrible track record of beginning them and never completing them......

When we had the opportunity to return to SoundWaters for another class for 6 weeks in the winter, we took it.  This class is smaller, older, and more focused on lab work, experimentation and research.  It combines the information they learned in the fall about marine biology and marine habitats with what we learned about chemistry, oceanography and the periodic table.  

Week 1 involved looking at newly hatched horseshoe crabs and setting up two tanks for observation.  Each tank has a different salinity and this will be the factor that is used to compare growth rates in the horseshoe crab samples.  They also learned how to test for oxygen levels in the water samples through a chemical process that I do not have the details about.  They enjoyed working in the laboratory with microscopes and chemicals, test tubes and petri dishes.  

I asked them to take pictures and video for a class-end video project.  One reason I wanted them to take this class was due to its unique content.  It is unlike any middle school or high school class I have ever taken.  Since I am not present for the class, nor am I administering a final “test”, I want to know what they are learning.  I am also always looking tie in many parts of the learning process simultaneously.  Each week the girls make a nature journal entry (art and writing), they take pictures and video (technology), they get their science work done in the laboratory, they are working together, and they are working independently.  They are working on things that are completed each week (their journal entry) and they are learning about project management (multi-week research).  

This class takes up the bulk of our day.  We need to allow for an hour travel time there (due to morning rush hour traffic on I95) and when we are early there is a fantastic Whole Foods we stop at for a quick snack.  The class lasts 2 1/2 hours and we tag on another 1/2 hour with the nature journal entry.  Travel time home is about 30 min.  It is 4 hours well spent.  

I am very excited for the girls.  I love that SoundWaters has brought so much science into our lives.  


Sandra said...

That looks fabulous. Just wish I could fly Miss 13 over to join in!

dstb said...

What a unique opportunity! I wish we lived a little closer (okay maybe not - too much traffic!)


Karen said...

This looks so wonderful Jess. It looks more hands on that the first class they took. I so wish we had opportunities like this. Maybe I am just not looking hard enough.

Jessica said...

This class was not offered by SoundWaters, nor was the fall one, until a homeschooling Mom approached them and asked them to design a program for middle school age homeschoolers. This was born from just an idea.

I think as our kids get older we have to make the classes we want to see. It is a lot of time and effort. I know my tiny little sign language class took a few hours of work to pull together. You just have to have an idea and then find someone to make it happen. That someone could be a retired teacher (like Grace's history class last year) or a current teacher looking to make extra money, a professional in the area of interest, a company or an organization.

I am so grateful that this mom keeping putting together classes through this organization.

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