Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mad Scientists in Wonderland

Every so often during the "school" year, our local homeschool community hosts learning fairs. Obviously they don't fit into a rigid Waldorf curriculum for littles, but my kids love them. It's a chance to be a part of a larger, collective, learning community of their peers. It's a chance to find out what they're interested in, explore it for a bit, and then share it. Through writing. Via art. And of course to talk their heads off in front of a captive audience.

This time around it was the Biography Fair, and Sunburst knew just what she wanted to do. She had been reading the new Magic School Bus book that recently came out: Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition. It contains biographies of scientists, and she had a hard time choosing between Gallileo and Madam Curie. In the end Madame Curie won out. We did some heavy researching online, and Sunburst came up with this:

The portrait is watercolor and ink. I like how her lips and eyes bled... it makes her seem a bit "mad" scientist-like. Anyone that sleeps with radioactive material on their bedside table is probably a bit mad, or well on their way, don'tcha think?

Moonshine had co-opted Sunburst's last three presentations, but this time she was completely unsatisfied with the idea of doing a bit part project to go with her sister's talk. Oh no. This time, she had to do her own thing. She insisted on her own topic, her own presentation board, and her own air-time. That's right, she presented. Fearlessly.

You've got to love homeschool groups. They don't even bat an eye when a four-year-old wants to join in with the bigger kids. The range of biographies went from Tinkerbell to Genghis Khan, and it was really very cool. That said, Moonshine didn't do Tinkerbell (though she was awestruck by the idea.) She did "The REAL Alice."

We have a great book called The Other Alice which talks about the creation of Alice in Wonderland and the friendship between Charles Dodgson (aka Carroll) and the child Alice Liddell. It's a book Moonshine has spent hours looking at on her own, and it was fun for her to pick which pictures she wanted me to copy for her presentation board. We also grabbed some off the internet for her to color, and she asked me to make a line drawing she could watercolor, just like Sunburst did. I helped her with the eyes and lips (to stave off any tantrums) but Moonshine felt she could handle the rosy cheeks on her own.

And Moonshine really knew what she was talking about. A few times I prompted her with some ideas she had expressed interest in while we were gluing pictures down. Some of these ideas she had me write on the board for the benefit of people who could read. "Did she have any brothers and sisters?" and "Why couldn't Alice marry the prince?" Even without prompting though, that girl can talk! And she was hillarious. "So she married somebody else... whooooo mom?" "Uh, Reginald," I told her. "Reginald," she told them. "Reginald whoooooo?" "Hargreaves?" I whispered. "She married Reginald Hargreaves and had only boy children. This many. Three. No girls at all. Just boys. Hahaha."

Preparing for this fair pretty much dominated our week, but it was worth it. The girls had a great time.


  1. This is great! Makes me sad we missed the event!

  2. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Wow, their projects came out just beautifully! Very inspiring. Did they stand by and talk about their research to interested parties? I'd be curious to organize something like that for my group but I am not sure if they'd bite. I suppose it take awhile to get people started. How much work was it for you to find materials, etc? Ok, I'll stop drilling you. Love your blog!
    Kim from Relaxed Homeskool

  3. Our local group is maybe 40 families, and there are about a dozen kids that participate each time (4x/year - Biography, Science, History, and Geography Fairs.) Some of them talk about their poster, some don't, or some read reports they've written. It seems we all have different ways of approaching learning with our kids, so as long as it's on topic, anything goes-- from rigid to relaxed.

    For this fair my girls used one book apiece, and we printed a few pictures off the internet (thank you, Google!) Sunburst read a couple of biographies I found online, too. I imagine it will get more involved as she gets older. My girls do love to talk... so yeah, they stood there and pointed at their boards and yammered on.

    The audience was other homeschooling kids and parents and whoever else showed up. It's held at the public library in a reserved room, which seems to work out great. If you can get others to participate, it's a lot of fun! And you learn so much about your kids in the process. Best of luck!


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