mama scout lab e-course

Friday, August 31, 2012

make paint chip poetry

Paint chip poetry has to be one of the funnest word activities to do with kids or adults. I got started making a collection a few years ago when I was part of an online creativity group. We held many exchanges (mixed cd's, artist trading cards, decorated recipes and paint chip words). The idea must have come from the book Poem Crazy, in which Susan Wooldridge shares the idea of making word tickets to collect words. 

I used words from magazines and glued them on to cut up paint chips. I also laminated them because I had access to a laminator, but that is not necessary. You can also just write the words on the chips.

For a recent writer's workshop, I covered the table in white butcher paper and strewed the chips down the middle like a lazy river. The kids were asked to make poems (serious or nonsensical) from the words. Now, the idea was that you use only the words on the chips, but soon they started adding words by writing on the paper too. They were laughing and having a great time. In fact, it was hard to move them on to the next project. 

A set of these would make a great gift for a writer or teacher. 

Have you made these or something similar? How do you use them with your writers?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

learning at the "we buy gold" place

One evening while walking in the alley my daughter found a crushed Air Force class ring. Our alley ways are heavily traveled and as there was no identifying information on the ring, I told her she could keep it. 

This was the beginning of a multi-day adventure. The first thing she exclaimed was, "Let's take it to the "We Buy Gold" place." I am not sure if you have these in your town, but we drive by one on our way to the grocery store several times a week and the kids are fascinated because there is always a man outside dancing, trying to lure customers in. They really wanted to go to a place like this. The kids chattered as they speculated how much money they could make. Then they negotiated if she could keep the money, split it equally, or use it for a family adventure. All points we discussed fully as you might imagine.

Before we went to the shop, we remembered that we had an extracted tooth with gold in it. We decided to bring that too. (On the phone the shop assured us that they bought teeth all the time, ew).

We headed in to make our fortune. The kids were so excited. As usual, I am reminded about how much real learning happens in the everyday. Especially, when the adventures are organic and embraced by everyone. When you are open to all that is around you, one thing inevitably leads to the next and so on. Our little adventures are like rivers, pulling us along.

This story has a bit of a sad ending. We made no money. 

But we learned : 

what class rings are and who in our family has them.

about different grades of gold and what gold is mixed with

how they test for gold (we were given a demonstration of this)

some of the properties of gold (heavy and malleable)

what other precious metals can be sold

why the gold shop might have to buzz you inside

that metals are measured in oz.

that if our ring was made of real gold, we could have made about $300 bucks

I actually think we made out pretty good!

Monday, August 27, 2012

monday mission :: find your local wildlife rehab

Monday Missions: a simple idea to add a little magic to your week.

This week's mission is a little serious, but important. I urge you to find your local wildlife rehab center. Maybe you have already done this and can share in the comments. If not, please take the time to prepare yourself in the event you find an injured wild animal. Put the number and address in a place you can find it easily if you need it.

Our family seems to attract wildlife that needs help. In the past few years we have taken in countless birds, squirrels and just last week an owl (the one in the picture above- unfortunately he died later that night). 

Kids do not want to come across an injured animal and then just leave it, hoping someone else will take care of it. I know my kids get really invested in taking responsibility for the animal. They feel empowered and great compassion. Even if we are just helping a turtle across the road, they know it is the right thing to do - and insist upon it. Of course, for the most part, parents need to be the ones picking up the animal. A towel and animal carrier usually do the trick just fine.

We always give the Rehab Center a donation when we drop off an animal. And we have gotten to know the woman who runs it, so we can periodically take a tour of the facility and bring in wish list items. Over the years we have learned so much about wild animals and have even been able to care for some ourselves.

So, please find a local center where you take an injured wild animal. It is not always convent, but it is always worth it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

book review :: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The memoir The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating should be read slowly and savored in little bits. As a young woman recovering from a chronic illness, Elisabeth Tova Bailey was gifted a little plant with a snail picked from the wild. At first, she grumbles at this perceived responsibility as she is so sick she can not even take care of herself. Slowly, she becomes fascinated by the snail and its habits and is able to find deep connections between her struggle to regain health and the impressive abilities of the snail to regenerate and sustain itself in an often harsh world. 

What made this particularly sweet to me, was that each day my naturalist son would ask me what I had read the night before. Much of the information I would share he already knew, but there were many new facts we learned along the way.

The first night Bailey spends with the snail at her bedside, she is stunned by the remarkable sound of the snail eating. It sounds like a little man eating celery, she writes. When I told this to my son, he was fascinated. We have raised snails several times, but have always kept them enclosed in glass, so never heard them. 

"That would be pretty amazing to hear, huh?" I remarked. 

A few days later, my son came up to me and whispered loudly, "Mom! Come here!"

"What?" I said.

"Come HERE!" he whispered louder with wide eyes.

I followed him as he led me to our snail habitat where he had fed the snails and left the lid off.

"Listen," he said, lowering his head.

I lowered and tilted my head and heard it! I heard the snail eating!

Our eyes met and I nearly cried at the magical gift he had just given me. 

We are often moved by big, natural phenomenon like huge crashing waves and lightening strikes that light up the whole sky, but in that moment I was just as mesmerized listening to the sublime activity of  this little snail munching on vegetables. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

re-fashion fashion

My budding fashion designer daughter has been spending her time cutting up and re-sewing my old clothes that were headed to the thrift store. Before the bag could get into the trunk of our car, she had squirreled away a pile of shirts to rework. 

I love this.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

spend an afternoon at The Tampa Museum of Art

If you find yourself in the central Florida area and are looking for an attraction to enjoy that is not of the theme park variety, I recommend Tampa Museum of Art. It is the perfect size for a quick dose of culture with kids before you climb onto another roller coaster. 

We have visited several times in the last few months and loved it each time. The building is modern and impressive to kids, offering a big interior staircase and big, open galleries.

The last show we saw was A Hundred Years, A Hundred Chairs. (Locals, this show is running for another month - go!), which was a review of the last century through chair design. We spend about an hour looking through the show and each picking out our favorites and even counting to see if indeed there were one hundred chairs (there were).

One of the things that makes the museum great for families is that in addition to the small permanent collection of Greek artifacts (good for Percy Jackson fans), and the kid friendly cafe, is the proximity to a great outdoor space. Just outside the museum is the Hillsborough river and the Curtis Hixon Waterfront ParkThe park hosts a splash pad, picnic tables, big grassy lawns and play structures. 

We planned for a whole afternoon and brought a picnic lunch and art supplies. After the viewing the exhibitions, we settled in to homemade pizza and tomato salad. Then we started designing our own chairs in our journals while our food digested. 

This is such a beautiful area to sit and relax in. Within walking distance is the Glazer Children's Museum, the Florida Museum of Photography Arts, and many restaurants. 

We have really taken a liking to this little area in Tampa, and will be there again soon to check out the Henri Cartier-Bresson show. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

monday mission :: write on your fruit

Monday Missions:a simple idea to add a little magic to your week.

Buy some fruit.

Write on it. (write a love letter, describe it, thank it).

Eat it. 

This project was inspired by two things. First, we love to write on a watermelon and give it as a gift. And more recently, Patti Digh asked me to write on a banana. My kids thought that was an awesome idea and made the project their own. I am planning to try it with my young writers' workshop this Fall too. 

Who could you invite to write on fruit with you? 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mama Scout Interviews :: Awesomely Awake (+giveaway)

I am starting a new little project on Mama Scout. Every so often, I am going to interview someone from the world of awesome. 

This week, I interviewed Shawn from Awesomely Awake. Shawn is one of those amazing bloggers who is able to motivate her readers into action, helping them create the happy family life they want. Her blog is packed with bookmark worthy, informative and inspirational articles.  As soon as I met Shawn, we had an immediate connection and I knew I had found a soul mama! Enjoy!

1. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
I am the founder and author of Awesomely Awake, a blog dedicated to parenting from the heart. I'm a creative soul and a Mama to a set of sweet twin girls. I'm on a mission to create a world of happy parents, happy children and happy communities. I believe firmly that we must be the change we wish to see in the world -- and how many of us wish parents did a better job raising children?

2. How do you encourage creativity and open ended learning in your home and in your own work?
We recently had an interesting experience and a first of its kind. My daughters were painting with acrylics on canvas on the front porch. One messed up almost instantly. She cried and cried. It wasn't what she expected. We stuck with her and encouraged her to keep working at the painting until it becomes something she would be proud of. She cried about it all day, in fact, and never really came around to liking it. The next morning, though, she confessed: She liked it after all. It now hangs in her room with a second one that she likes even more. All this is to say that we have allowed for creative expression of all kinds in our house and we try very hard to turn our mistakes into works of art. The beauty is in the trying at our house.

3. What has been the biggest internal shift in you since you became a parent?
Focusing on what truly matters. I have, in the past, gotten worked up over things not only out of my control but things that had no direct influence on my family. Since becoming a mother, I have highly refined values and I stick to those. This helps me determine how to spend my time and energy.

4. Have you earned a Mama Merit Badge? Which one and for what antic?
Yes, for traveling with kids. (You can read her merit badge tale here.)

5. Turn us on to your current favorite book, film, music, performance artist, or idea.
I do not watch TV at all. However, my husband and I discovered a mutual love of the television show Parenthood and we've been watching it for couch date nights on Netflix. The show is emotionally moving, wise beyond its years and helps put our family life into perspective. We just finished Season 2 and I'm bugging to get Season 3, which is not on Netflix yet.

Shawn has offered us giveaway! Leave a comment about your favorite way to connect as a family and you will be entered to win a copy of The Playful Family: Simple and Fun Ways to Connect and Engage as a Family. I will pick a random winner next Friday!

++++++Winner is Peterson Party!++++++++

Want to see more of Awesomely Awake's work?

Did you know Shawn wrote an e-book? 
Click on the picture to find out more!

You can sign up for her e-zine, Wake Up here.
And she is offering an e-course in October called Messy Family!

make a life sized doll of yourself

Inspired by Steven Caney's book Kid's America, my daughter decided to make a life sized doll. Then my sons decided to make them too. This project took one evening and the following morning to complete - but it seems like the fun just might be starting. These dolls go everywhere with us now. They ride in the car and occupy the driver and passenger seats while we are in the grocery. They sit at the table and eat with us. The are danced with and fought with. So much fun, and so simple to make.

Each kid needed 3 yards of white muslin (this cost us about $10 all together). We traced their bodies gingerbread man style, pinned them up and sewed them on the tracing line (leaving a whole in the head). Then we cut them out and turn them inside out. We filled the hands, feet and head with old pillow fluff and the bulk of the body with newspaper. We put extra stuffing along the belly to make it soft.

My daughter drew her face on with sharpies. The alternative, that the boys took, was to print out a photograph of their faces on fabric and glue them on.
The best part about these dolls is that they can fit into your child's clothes. Dress up is easy and fun.

My daughter sewed yarn hair on to her doll, while my son had me take a picture of the back of his head and print it on fabric so he could glue it on the back of the head. 

This was well worth the work of making the dolls. They are taking creative play to a new level around here!

Here is the link to the book we were inspired by. Despite the horrible cover, it is a gem and I highly recommend having this and all Caney's other books in your library. He takes kids play and design seriously and seems to have so much respect for the process and abilities of children. I am a huge fan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

map your room with blocks and words

This idea came from the wonderful book Playful Learning.  My kids' learning co-op is spending the month doing a self ethnography. They are compiling many fun projects (self portraits, various measurements, family trees and oral histories...) into books all about themselves. After seeing my friend's version of this map, I knew my kids would love to make one too. 

They set out their blocks into a map of their shared room. There was much discussion about how to represent things and even if some items should be represented at all. 

I then took a photo and printed it out for them to label their maps. That was it! Simple, fun and a great scrapbook item that I am sure they will enjoy looking at when they are older. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

make a recycled bag ball

Recently, when I was in New York City, I went to the Museum of Modern Art to see The Century of the Child exhibition. It was an amazing investigation of the last 100 years and the many ways childhood has been expressed through design, education, and philosophy. I left with a hefty exhibition catalogue and a long list of things to research further. 

One very simple idea, that I nearly missed at the end of the show was how kids themselves become designers, especially in impoverished countries. There were several examples of playthings that kids had made from the refuse they found in their environment. A short video of a child making a ball from plastic bags caught my attention and the fact that a ball had been brought back and displayed in the museum both broke my heart and made me marvel at the resiliency and ingenuity of kids. 

I told my kids about all of this and we decided to make our own bag ball. I will be honest, they were more excited about the project than considering the poverty of other children. They love working with recyclables so saw nothing too sad about other kids making balls from trash. 

It is the same activity, but obviously a different perspective. 

The whole time they were making it, they were happy and excited, making their own design changes. It made me think that this would be an excellent class or club project. "This is awesome!" I heard several times as it was being made and then was taken into the back yard for some free form soccer. 

How we did it.
Well, if you have read this blog for very long, you know I am not big on step by step tutorials. That kinda takes half the fun out of any creating, if you ask me. There are many methods of making a ball. You can use cloth, corn husks, string bits and of course bags. 

We wadded up a few sections of the newspaper to make a soft core and then wrapped the ball in a few dozen plastic grocery bags. We used duct tape every now and then to help shape the ball and at the end, the boys covered the whole thing in tape, thinking it would keep the ball waterproof. We also put a citrus bag over the last layer thinking it looked cool and might give it more gripping power. 

That is it.
I loved this project so much.

Have you made these? Do you think you might?

Monday, August 13, 2012

mission monday :: start an adventure fund

This week, put all your loose and extra money in a jar and at the end of the week, using ONLY that money, see what kind of adventure you can have.

Can your family have a little adventure with $5? What about $1?

Some ideas:

photocopies (did you see last week's post?)

buy a box of popsicles and eat them at the park.

buy crepe paper and decorate your bikes.

rent a $1 movie and use the rest to buy some candy to share.

buy flowers to put at the dinner table or to cut up.

buy a box of sparkers and light them while your kids are taking a bath (use all reasonable caution of course).

go to the used book store and let everyone pick out a new novel.

use it all for random acts of kindness!

buy glowsticks from the dollar store and make sculptures that you hang from the ceiling at night.

Let me know about the cheapest family adventure you can have!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

exploration lab :: photocopied self portraits

As I mentioned yesterday, we are digging the embellished photocopied projects. Our co-op got together and made self- portraits using this method. 

First, we looked at artists' self-portraits and talked about what we could tell about the subject by the way they chose to depict themselves. 

Then, the kids used a variety of art materials to tell the story of who they are through their photocopied faces. At first glance, they look a little creepy, with the rich oil pastels covering up their faces, but after talking to the kids it was fascinating how they decided to portray themselves.

 This kid is really into electronics and robots, so he transformed himself into an electric machine. 

This child is a budding naturalist. He drew vines all over his hair and body and gave himself a reptile eye honoring one of his favorite types of creatures. The eye patch was both practical (he did not like how his eye was placed in the photograph) and symbolic (showing that he has a great love of adventure).

My daughter is into shopping, fashion and make-up right now. She drew little pictures in the background to represent these budding areas of interest.

This project looked so fun, I thought it might be cool to do with adults. You could write or paint or collage yourself. 

The possibilities...

Have you done this too? How did the portraits turn out?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

exploration lab :: photocopy your body

For this exploration lab, we had to field trip the first part. The kids loved going to the office supply store and photocopying their hands. If the copiers were not so high we could have done other parts of our bodies, but this time we focused on our hands.

When we came home we used markers, stickers, crayons, colored chalk (the most vibrant) and water colors to decorate them. We made plenty of copies, so were able to try so many different ideas and techniques. 

We made maps of our hands.

We decorated our hands.

And we turned our hands into landscapes. 

This is such a great activity, and the variations are limitless. We are still experimenting and thinking up new ideas. 

Tomorrow, I will share our self portraits that we did using this technique. 

Have you done this with your kids? What was the experience like? Did you have a favorite art material?


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