Thursday, July 05, 2007

4th of July Learning Project

I hadn't planned any major sort of project with the sweet girl over July 4th. But with a day off from the office and a little girl clamoring to do something fun with Mommy during a gift-morning at home, I decided to see what I could come up with on short notice.

Within the past year I've definitely learned that my daughter's best learning seems to take place through hands-on art projects and something auditory (listening to a story or music). As I reflect on her learning style, I think I am coming to grasp that she learns best with her hands and her ears, even more than visually. It's a good thing for me to know.

Here's what we ended up doing for an hour or so yesterday morning:

*Making a paper flag. We used cardstock, construction paper (red, white and blue) and white poster paints. I measured stripes on the red paper with a pencil and ruler, and she cut them out. We pasted them together on a white page (I helped with spacing, and we made sure that there were seven red stripes and six white). Then we cut and pasted the blue field on the left and dabbed white paint spots, fifty of them, to resemble stars (a lesson in impressionism...and much easier than trying to draw or cut tiny white stars!...if we'd had stickers, maybe we would have used those, but this worked well).

*While we made our flag, we listened again to a "Songs About America" a CD we borrowed from the library last week. It's a CD of American folk songs produced by Kimbo (the folks who did the Moving With Mozart CD we liked so much a while ago). This CD has all sorts of things on it, from a kids' choral rendition of Neil Diamond's "America" (cheesy but fun) to the Star-Spangled Banner, The Yellow Rose of Texas, the Wabash Cannonball, Erie Canal, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and several other songs. It even includes snippets of Emma Lazarus' poem "Colossus," and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. And it ends with "This Land is Your Land..." which definitely casts me back upon my own grade school days!

*While listening, cutting and pasting, we talked about why the flag had thirteen stripes and fifty stars. We got out the sweet girl's wonderful U.S. puzzle map and pulled out the pieces for the 13 colonies. Quiz time -- can you name them all? I wasn't positive I could anymore, so printed a list from an online source. It was eye-opening for S. to see the small little bit of east coast that was the original U.S. She ended up asking some interesting questions about when some of the other states, in the west, became states.

*I also found a great project (at the "Enchanted Learning" website) where you could learn to fold and snip five-pointed stars, just like Betsy Ross! We had just read a book about Betsy Ross (called A Flag for Our Country) the night before, and it had mentioned the story of her showing General Washington how she could make a five-pointed star with just one snip of the scissors, so this was fun to try. The first set of instructions I found, on another website, were way too complex, but the other set worked great. I made several big five-pointed stars and S. painted one of them with lots of beautiful, swirly colors.

How we came to be reading a book about Betsy Ross at almost 10 pm on July 3rd is a story unto itself. Our town always does their fireworks display on the 3rd. This year we had intended to go down the street to the h.s. stadium to watch them, and the sweet girl had been excited all day about getting to stay up late and go out. But she had a panic attack (no other word will do) as we walked down the sidewalk a little after 9 pm and she began hearing some of the fireworks being set off just in the neighborhood, even before the big ones were due to start. Loud noises have always frightened her, sometimes excessively. That's been getting so much better of late that it didn't even occur to us to worry, but she was so freaked by the loud booms and pops that she simply planted herself and began screaming and crying. No amount of comforting or assurances could seem to assuage her fears (and I think she was over-tired anyway, being up past bedtime). Rather than ruin the fireworks for anyone nearby who might have to endure her wailing, we opted to come home and watch them from the windows, even though we knew our view would be partially obstructed by the sycamores across the road.

Were we wise in that decision? I have no idea. But I do know how much fun we had, turning out all the lights, hunkering down on the living room floor with blankets and quilts and a big flashlight, swirling the light on the ceiling (making our own "fireworks!"), making shadows, reading the Betsy Ross book, and hiding under the blankets whenever we felt scared. The sweet girl's daddy was especially wonderful over this last, getting her to act out her fears and even giggle about them. And I have to confess there was an odd sort of beauty about seeing the fireworks from a distance, with the colorful sparks almost seeming to swim through the sycamore leaves. We got a wonderful view of the planet Jupiter too.

Happy day after the 4th!


Rebecki said...

Were you wise in your decision to go back home and enjoy the fireworks from there? I would send a resounding "yes!" to that question.
I think all three of you, and particularly S., had an unforgettably precious and fun evening TOGETHER.
I also believe that respecting - and allowing (playful) expression of her fear of loud noises is more nurturing than forcing acceptance.
Sounds like a wonderful evening/day that all will remember for a lifetime. :-)

Beth said...

Thanks Becki! Lovely to hear those affirming thoughts. We were pretty sure we were on the right track too. :-) With S. it's sometimes a tough call. She is remarkably resilient and fearless in the face of some things, but the "little things" (which seem more ordinary to us) can sometime seem to throw her off balance completely. That's just who she is, and as we encourage her to grow and learn, we're finding that often we're just praying for wisdom in the moment. Perhaps that's true of much of life, and not just parenting, but I think it's a way of life I've lived more into since becoming a parent. :-)

And yes, we had a wonderful evening. In fact, it was really beautiful!

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting...I miss you, friend!

Erin said...

Glad that you had such a nice Fourth, or day-before-the-Fourth! That flag sounds like it turned out really nice, and it sounds like you had a great evening at home together. We didn't end up seeing fireworks here, other than a flash here and there; they moved them, and we erroneously thought we could see them from the park near our house, which overlooks the lake; our view was blocked by the trees. So we went home and watched Boston's fireworks on TV. :-P

I really enjoyed your Harry Potter ending, and it made me even more eager for the last book. Down to the wire now... Less than two weeks!! Anyway, something tells me that epic romance between Ginny and Harry definitely will play a part in book seven... And you really had them pegged. I guess there's always been a hint of Harry and Ginny as an item, but I don't know that I went into book six thinking they were definitely going to end up together...

Beth said...

Glad you had such a nice 4th! Funny that we both had fireworks blocked by trees this year!

The 4th is one of the few times of year that I really miss having t.v. I would definitely watch fireworks from somewhere (probably DC) if we had television. We used to spend every 4th in DC, at least for the first several years we were married (my husband's family lives near there, and it was an old tradition of his). I don't miss the crowds, but it really was lovely seeing fireworks from the Jefferson Memorial each year.

Thanks for the kind words about my HP ending. :-) I have always had a pretty strong "gut feeling" about Harry and Ginny, and for some reason I was really taken with the idea of a woman's love helping Harry (the love of his Mom when he was a a child, the love of his life when he's a man) and I wanted to find a way to try to link those thematically and visually. I kind of liked how that part turned out, though upon re-reading the other day, it struck me as very un-Rowlingish. :-) I don't think she's as a big a romantic as I am. Probably a good thing!