Today we opened with this beautiful song.  I like this version because the kids can see the words and sing along – which many of them did. We had a discussion about the talents they are recognizing in themselves that perhaps they hadn’t noticed before. It was quite profound.

After mind math and math we turned to history.

One thing  I missed in my own high school geography and history classes was understanding the whole picture.  (That and the fact that I just didn’t find it very interesting which I feel sad about now because history is fascinating!) Our cooperative class is amazing because they really love to learn and they ask great questions.  The more questions they ask, the more the rest of the students begin to understand. Questions generally come because the students find a reason to be curious about the discussion which generally requires an interesting activity to get things started.

Today we began with a game I like to call “no peeking.” Each student takes a clean sheet of plain white paper and a pencil. Then they begin to draw by listening to my instructions. The only rule is that they cannot look at their paper no matter what! Since I wanted them to get curious about Magellan and DeGama I used facts from the lives of these explorers. We are also using Columbus since we have been learning about him.

  1.  In the top right hand corner draw Columbus
  2. Somewhere on the bottom half of your paper draw Magellan
  3. In the bottom left hand corner draw DeGama
  4. Draw the Santa Maria so that Columbus is touching it (here they have to make a guess as to where their original Columbus was drawn and get the ship as close to him as possible)
  5. Draw the earth next to Magellan so that he is touching it
  6. Draw Africa next to DeGama so that he is touching it
  7. Draw Spain under the ship that Columbus is hopefully standing in. Try to get it to touch the ship
  8. Draw Portugal within 1/4″ of Magellan
  9. Draw an additional picture of Portugal that is within 1/4″ of DeGama

You can add more questions if you desire but I find that 10-12 is sufficient.  Next everyone scores themselves: one point for each picture that was added correctly. The kids always get a chuckle when they finally get to look at their amazing artwork!

Once the activity was complete, we went to our map to show what each of these explorers actually did.  Each had a unique mission and each had received help and information from others who had gone before them!  Imagine a trip that would take you around the globe, (when no one knew what that actually looked like) and when scurvy and bad weather, starvation and hostile natives would take the lives of so many! Yet the captains of these excursions still left everything behind and set sail!

We split up into three groups and asked for a volunteer captain.  Each group was to build a sea worthy vessel that could be taken to a nearby lake and sailed.  The race was on to make the most efficient boat and one that could make it to our predetermined “Spice Islands” and back.  I heard a lot of comments such as, “Our boat would have made it if the wind had been blowing in the right direction.”  We should have made the sail a little more sturdy.   Our boat keeps tipping upside down. Our boat was practically perfect! Don’t get so much water in the boat, it’s sinking!”

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Finally we came back to class and tasted some of the spices that are used in Africa.  We sprinkled them on rice so that we could better enjoy the flavors and decide which ones we each liked the most! Some were new to most of us, but they were all pretty yummy!

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