As I’ve mentioned before, I mentor students at Aspen Cooperative. We meet together twice a week and we have a basic curriculum that we use as a “jumping off point.” Recently I was asked to share my thought process as I come up with some ideas on a particular topic. Before proceeding I have to mention that the whirling of my mind is similar to, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” and may or may not make sense!
This fall we get to share the beautiful stories of the Renaissance and so we chose Galileo as our subject for this little exercise. Here are my random thoughts.
Galileo: Where do I begin?
First, even though I’ve studied about him before, I want to refresh my mind on his life and discoveries. Why do I want to do this? Because I want to teach truth and not what I can best remember or what somebody else says. I want to check some primary sources as well as fun sites for children.
Now my mind begins to recall things – things that I’ve learned in the past which will come in handy. I know Galileo improved and patented the first telescope, studied the planets, dared to question the religious dogma of the time, looked at the moon and saw craters, looked at the stars, supposedly dropped items off of the Tower of Pisa, played with pendulums…and the list goes on. By the way he was also home schooled!
So I start thinking about stars and making planets out of clay, and glow in the dark stars – then I go and buy some glow in the dark stars and put them in my bathroom for the kids to check out. Next I remember a string of fairy lights that I have from my daughter’s wedding and think how fun it might be to add them to the bathroom. I do this and then realize that the fairy lights are too bright for the stars to be seen so we take them down and save them for another time. I get out the Play Do because it might be fun to make some planets or just about anything else.
I remember a time that we took Alka Seltzer and film canisters and made little rockets. They were quite impressive and the kids loved them. Maybe someone would be interested in that. I’m also reminded of when we took mud and dropped rocks into it while standing on the table to see what kind of craters we could make. The last time we re-enacted Galileo’s experiment, from the leaning Tower of Pisa, we used water balloons and got up on the roof! (This was with the older students mind you) I’m not sure if I got permission for that or not, maybe I should look into it if we do that again, or maybe we could just drop them off of our deck instead.
I spot a magnifying lens so I grab that because I’m sure someone will get excited about discovering tiny things – after all that’s what Galileo actually was – a discoverer! I also start thinking about Italy (I love Italy) and thinking it might be fun to show the kids some pictures of the places where Galileo lived.
I find a website for kids with jokes about space and stars and stuff, so I copy a few of them because some kids really love jokes. Here’s an example:
Q: Why did the sun go to school?
A: To get brighter!
Q: How do you know when the moon has enough to eat?
A: When it’s full.
Q: what do you call a tick on the moon?
A: A luna-tick
Q:What kind of music do planets sing?
Q: What’s a light-year?
A: The same as a regular year, but with less calories.
Then I get thinking that it might be exciting to play some “Star Wars” music or the theme song from “A Space Odyssey” to help inspire the kids. I find some of the music on Youtube and get inspired myself! What a great journey!
I’m never quite sure what it will all look like when the kids actually arrive, but it’s always an adventure!
I would start like this:
I would read “Starry Messenger” by Peter Sis or maybe just tell the exciting parts if the children are really young. For the teenagers I would encourage them to read the actual “Starry Messenger” written by Galileo himself. I would listen to questions and comments as we go along so I can better see what the children are most interested in. We would probably have a globe and a telescope and stars and planets and books on stars and planets and telescopes and maybe even lenses. We would put out some Play Do and the magnifying lens and probably have a YouTube video that shows some of Galileo’s experiments. Pendulums would be great as well as some water balloons and some mud with different sizes of balls for dropping. Remember this is just all of the thoughts going through my head, but certainly not everything will actually be utilized.
When I tried all of this with my grandsons they went straight for the Play Do. Mason made a lot of planets and Miles made some cows. Then Mason grabbed the glow sticks and made an apparatus for the planets to stick to. Miles went in to watch “Team UmiZoomi.” Mason took all of his stuff into the darkest room to see what it looked like. Then we played a game that I found on the computer where kids can design their own solar system and name the planets. He loved coming up with interesting names for his planets.
I tried it again with a student who is nine years old and he listened and then asked for the Legos so that he could make a planet. We talked a little bit about the experiment of dropping things off of the Tower of Pisa and he thought that the lighter items would definitely drop at a slower rate than the heavier items. We tried it, he saw the result and thought it was interesting. Then he wanted to do more with the Legos. Then we decided to go outside to find some sand to make craters. While we were out there he noticed a big wasp nest in the corner of the house so we went looking for some spray. He found three more nests with many wasps inside that I hadn’t even noticed! Then he went back into the Legos and we started talking about Star Wars. I played a couple of songs from Star Wars and he immediately recognized them. This led to us playing some sort of “Name that Tune” with lots and lots of Star Wars music. He said that he loved it! I’m going to add that to my bag of ideas! Then we played Forbidden Island and then we went back to the Legos. All in all it was a great time!