A Post About Birds
My last post included photos of a rocket constructed by one of my students after careful study and frequent use of the geometric solids. Cone + Cylinder = Basic Rocket Shape.
He added a parachute and referred to it's slightly inflated shape as a dome. It was an amazing, independently motivated and actualized project that illustrated his keen understanding of geometry outside the cabinet and solids.
When I first viewed him working on another project, the illustration of a jet, I remember noting in my observation journal - bird beaks. I had noticed that the cone of his jet had a slightly bent tip. This immediately made me wonder how I could interest him and his fellow work mates in the variations of bird beaks and how these variations serve each, particular bird. I have asked a parent that works at the local Nature Society to assist me and she is piecing together some handouts for me.
My students had already had two art projects focused on birds. One I gave and it was a simple, illustrate the cut out shape of a bird, project.
The second was a project I selected due to its geometry, but it was my assistant Sarah who did all the cutting work for it and so I invited her to present it to the class (she is taking her AMI Primary training in the fall, making her the fifth assistant I have had working with me to become a Primary teacher). It was wonderfully successful.
Let me note that I added one preliminary work / practice which was then done by each student just before they did this work and while they also waited their turn to do it. I was concerned that some of the children would not understand the word spiral or have muscular memory of constructing a spiral, so I asked Sarah to include this dish (photo below) I had purchased which has a raised and very tactile spiral constructed on its surface. I clarified my request by stating that I want the students to use the tips of their fingers to trace the spiral so they could understand it as a concept and a movement. I believe it truly aided in the success of the project, as each of the paper birds were constructed with circles and spirals. This dish remains on the Practical Life shelf and is often used simply by itself.
Here is one of the paper, geometry birds made by a student.
----Returning to thoughts about bird beaks - anticipating the bird information from my parent, I put together a bird watching tray which includes binoculars, a local bird identification book and both a journal and small sheets of sketch paper. I gave a lesson on how to use the binoculars and, too, how to note or sketch what was observed with them. It remains a popular work.
Early one morning, after the work had been on the shelf for several days, I caught this lovely scene.
Below is a photo of a student who had just used the binoculars, had returned them to the tray and then next made a drawing of what he had seen in the bird watching journal included in the tray/basket.
(I thought I had a photo of the tray/basket - but I don't, so I will add one later this week. Too, I will add photos of some of the more recent bird-watching drawings - look for the post "Birds - Updated.")
Bird imagery started showing up here and there. The drawing below was a gift to me from one of my students who arrived to school one morning with it, along with some other drawings.
A "finish the picture" art project resulted in a magnificently illustrated eagle's body and wings with incredible details. The boy, that did the work below, often uses the binoculars.
Bird beaks - ok...so, I was sitting with a five year old and we started talking about the rocket that had been made a few days earlier and I interjected a comment about bird beaks - that they had a cone-like shape to them similar to the nose cone on the jet that was drawn. Immediately, he started to tell me about all types of bird beaks and how some are curved downward, etc.
I asked him to bring me the cone from the geometry solids. I also asked him to see if there was one that resembled a bird's body. He returned with the cone and the ellipsoid - they still have the tape on them that I used to bisect them in order to illustrate other lessons.
He lifted each in his hands and, with complete seriousness, began telling me how birds are designed in such a way as to facilitate flight.
I listened carefully and then encouraged him to trace them. I then suggested he use the ellipsoid from the geometry cabinet and, perhaps, a triangle that he felt would represent the cone 2-dimensionally. These, I told him, would be easier to trace then the solids. He placed the solids on the table and fetched the two insets. I got paper large enough to truly allow him the freedom to document his ideas.
First, he traced the ellipsoid and the triangle in a manner that would look like a bird's head and beak.
I asked him to draw the base line of the triangle and to carefully draw a much smaller ellipsoid for an eye. Next, we talked about a lesson my co-op student had recently given on joints. "Does a bird have joints?" I asked. He answered, "Yes." I assisted in placing the ellipsoid in such a way as to illustrate the curvature of a bird's neck, such as a duck's. He then took over, asking me now and then if he should perhaps stop or add one more, and then another, ellipsoid outline.
I encouraged him to continue. When he had pretty much composed the bird's body, I asked him how he thought he might make a tail. "Easy, Miss Susan. That's just a triangle." A minute later, he said it was done. I agreed.
He got up, briefly left the table and then returned with a pair of scissors. He cut out his bird drawing and then placed it near the geometry bird he had constructed weeks earlier. I snapped a photo or two and then out the door he went. I could see his ellipsoid bird drawing folded and sticking out of his coat pocket as he grabbed his lunch box and left for the day. When he opened the school's front door, I could hear birds chirping and hoped that he could, also.
A second child, who had occasionally swung by the table where I was working with the above student, walked up to me, smiled and handed me his own interpretation of the work above.
He said he wanted to do the work, but wanted to try and do it on his own. He did a great job. He was out the door moments later, also. I sat and thought how some days I can almost see their wings - my students' wings that is - they seem to be taking flight, or to use the classic Montessori phrase - leaping to abstraction, all around me.
Ok...hmmm...let me put this out there as perhaps it will get the solids off the shelf more. The geometric solids are complex mathematical equations, too. They are mind blowing! Perhaps it is because after so many years of touching them myself, I have my own muscular memory regarding their use and this memory is activated and built upon every time I use them. This insight into my own hand/mind relationship allows me to imagine the relationship my students may have with the solids, and all of the other Montessori materials, after working with them for 3-4 years. So, I have included the image below as an invitation to begin or re-begin a relationship with this truly magnificent, mathematical material called the geometric solids.