Category: project-based homeschooling

This is part of project-based learning in our house. 4-year-old (5 next week!) Katmai has been developing origami designs. He made a video tutorial of this model, but decided “Pictures would be better, because then you have time to think at every step and don’t have to just pause it.” He took the pictures, and dictated the instructions for me to type.
instruction 1

1: Fold in half to make it a longer and skinnier rectangle.

instruction 2
2: Fold to the edge.

instruction 3
3: Undo.

instruciton 5
4: Fold to the edge the other way.
instruction 6

5: Undo.
instruciton 5

6: Pinch in the edges and push the top down.

instruction 8
7: Fold to the edge on the other side.

instruction 9
8: Undo.

instruction 10
9: Fold to the edge the other way.

instruction 11
10: Undo.

instruction 12
11: Pinch the edges in and squash the top down.

instruction 13
12: Fold out the top layer on all 4 sides.

instruction 14
13: Pick a side and fold all of it down with the back legs.

instruction 15
14: Fold the tip to the fold.

instruction 16
15: Fold the back legs over.

nstruction 17
16: Turn it over.

instruction 18
17: Push on the fold to hop it.

After two years, I thought I’d resurrect this blog for a new purpose. Not what my kids do in the Alaskan wilderness, which is regularly featured on Ground Truth Trekking. But what they’re working on the rest of the time. We’ve been dipping our toes into Project-Based Homeschooling lately (love that book). It’s basically a mentoring handbook: how to take what a kid’s already doing and help them figure out how to go deeper and farther with it.

Dinosaurs! – Katmai’s Prehistoric Creature Project

Of course! What almost-4 year-old kid doesn’t love dinosaurs? After having read “My Favorite Dinosaurs” to him several dozen times, something more needed to happen for my own sanity. Luckily, prehistoric life is endlessly fascinating (I’m learning stuff too), goes beyond dinosaurs, and is well-represented in even our tiny town library.

Katmai’s Prehistory from Erin McKittrick on Vimeo. From multiple filmings of his favorite game in the world right now – his “evolution game”.

So, we’ve been in prehistory land for over a month now, in an infinite loop between the Pre-Cambrian and the Cretaceous. Katmai’s crumpled pieces of origami paper into “dinosaurs” to display in a museum. He’s drawn and dictated a prehistoric creature book – where the real creatures were quickly replaced by more and more fanciful versions. Squished wire into a “pachycephalosaurus skull”, and threaded beads onto a pipe-cleaner “agnathan” (early jawless fish). He’s cut out dinosaur printouts, scribbled his versions on a dino family tree, and stuck googly eyes on crudely-cut dinosaurs of felt. Cut eurypterid (ancient sea scorpion) claws from construction paper, and then cut the rest of the paper into “fish” for it to eat.

Prehistoric Creatures real…

And not so real…

Demonstrating his Eurypterid claws

He’s learned how to use the index in his library books (though his sounding-out word skills often need my help), and laboriously typed things like “trilobite” and “pachycephalosaurus” (also with help) into Google Images. He’s watched a few prehistoric life documentaries, who’s visceral realism has driven him to side, consistently, with the plant eaters. I’ve read him books geared way above his age level, over and over and over again until I think he must be memorizing them. Then he bursts out with quotes that make it clear he is memorizing them. Asking questions. Noticing where they disagree. Coming up with his own bizarre theories about which one is true.

a prehistoric jawless fish, with beads for bony armor

His project looks like crumpled paper and scribbled pen strokes. It looks like play. Snuffling in the snow as a Lystrosaurus, eating dinner as Barosaurus, raiding the fridge for swiss chard leaves as a Stegosaurus, slithering and crawling across the yurt floor enacting the evolutionary transitions between lobe-finned fish, early amphibians, and early reptiles, with Lituya slithering along behind him … It looks like conversation, as he eagerly tells me all about “the time that will come after now, when humans will go extinct, after being outcompeted by animals as big as houses that will evolve from giraffes”. Or the dinosaur called “blowcircus” that escaped becoming extinct by “flying way up high into space where the asteroid couldn’t hit it.” His everyday play and conversation is littered with references to the gait of reptiles vs. dinosaurs, the differences between amphibian and reptile eggs, the eating style of jawless fish, the ancestors and relatives of different animals, geologic eras, extinction, evolution, and all the ways the different creatures ate, hunted, and protected themselves.

Katmai wanted to draw his own dinosaurs on this family tree

Does he understand it all? Not as well as I do, but far more than I would have guessed a not-quite-four-year-old could. I’m curious to see where he goes from here. I think the next things on his list are to paddle across Seldovia Bay to look for clam fossils, and to prepare a costume and decorations for his “Plant-eating Dinosaur Bobbing for Apples Party” for his 4th birthday in a week and a half.

You don’t want to know how many times I’ve read these

Painting a squid