Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Water Balloons, Chalk Drawings and the Monument Men - 10 Minute History

I've been listening to an audio version of Robert M Edsel's The Monument Men, Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.  The movie based on the book was a little lack luster.  I'm hoping the book is better, because the true story is quite intriguing.

The children aren't officially listening, but have been catching snippets of the story as they pass through whatever room I happen to be in. 

So, when I saw our chalk tracings had survived the night, and the sprinklers this morning, I couldn't resist setting up a quick Monuments Men inspired history activity.
First, I sent the younger children out to draw armies (rows of x's and o's  in different colors) advancing on each other in and around our irreplaceable works of art.

I lined the children up, a short distance from the patio, gave them a bucket full of water balloons, and a mission.

The girls' objective was to destroy all of the o's, while their brother attempted to wipe out the x's.

When all the water balloon bombs had burst, and peace was declared, the o's were gone, the x's were fading...

...the artwork was washing away...

...and the children had learned, lives aren't the only things lost in a war.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Sidewalk Chalk Tracing Box

We traced coloring sheets onto plastic page protectors with permanent markers.... tape over a hole cut in a cardboard box...

...creating a shadow projector of sorts, to make traceable images outside on the pavement...

...for our sidewalk chalk.

The younger girls (ages 8 and 9)  tried their hand at tracing, and coloring the Mona Lisa...

...while G (age 15) and I took a stab at Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring...

...sort of blowing the camera obscura, and optical theories of Tim's Vermeer out of the water (at least in our minds).  The film, starring Tim Jenison, explores the possibility Vermeer might have used a camera obscura, or some sort of mirror set-up, to copy, and create his works.  It's an interesting theory, and a fascinating film, but after just a few minutes of tracing the simple outlines...

...with the sun coming and going from behind the clouds, and moving across the sky, we decided Vermeer would have gone insane working that way.  Using an image generated by the sun is great (really great) for tracing simple outlines on the sidewalk, but depending on natural light to create images for a full scale masterpiece...

...seems like an unlikely prospect, to say the least.

Resources (non-affiliate links):

Tim's Vermeer, a Penn and Teller Film

Color by Numbers Mona Lisa coloring sheet from

Girl With a Pearl Earring coloring page.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Making Mosaic Minecraft Creeper Cookies

I've been wanting to do some kind of cookie mosaic project with the children, since Phyllis at All Things Beautiful, posted a very inspiring mosaic round-up, back in May.   This morning, I finally got around to mixing up a batch of sugar cookie dough (click here for the recipe), and started in on the tedious task of rolling, and cutting out the tiny tiles we would need.

Actually, it worked out quite well.  One of my girlfriends from Oregon called, and we chatted away, while I sipped coffee, rolled dough, cut squares, and baked up the cookies.  By the time I was all caught up on the "news" from home, I had a batch of cookie tiles cooling on the counter.

With a Minecraft theme in mind (because Minecraft lends itself nicely to mosaic patterns, and is something all the children are into), I set 1/3 of the batch of sugar cookie dough aside for 8cm x 8cm base cookies (made with this set aside dough, and the scraps left over from the mosaic tiles).  For the tiles, I added a tablespoon, or so, of dark cocoa powder to 1/6 of the rest of the dough, rolling it out about 1 cm thick, and using a pizza cutter to slice it into 1cm squares (more or less).

I added a drop of green food coloring to the remaining dough, rolled and cut out about 80 little squares (the small tiles baked for 10-12 minutes at 350° F, while the larger squares baked for 13 minutes at the same temperature).

For each 80 to 100 squares, I added another couple of drops of green food coloring, until I had a nice assortment of greens, and chocolatey black tiles to go with a blop of frosting, and a base cookie for each child.... frost and puzzle out...

...their own cookie mosaic...

...versions of a...

...a Minecraft creeper face.

The "tiles" weren't all even, so creating the patterns was a challenge, but...

...a fun, and tasty challenge.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Marshamallow and Toothpick Geometry - Finding the Cubes in a Hypercube

I did a little bit of research, and it turns out the octagon full of squares, and triangles, and stars which the girls had so much fun coloring in with sidewalk chalk paint... really the outline of the shadow of a tesseract - not the glowing blue cube from The Avengers, or the 5th dimensional wormhole Meg Murray travels through in L'Engle's  A Wrinkle In Time, but a 3-dimensional representation of a 4-dimensional hypercube, "that is to a cube, as a cube is to a square".  I'm totally not making this stuff up, either.

What we found really interesting though, is that what all that gobbledegook means, is that besides being filled with squares, and triangles, and stars, our painted picture is also filled with cubes.  Can you see them?

We couldn't see any cubes at first.  So, we built a couple 3D models out of toothpicks and marshmallows, that we could hold, and turn, and flip around... starting with two cubes...

...and then connecting the respective corners - "front top left" to "front top left", "front bottom left" to "front bottom left"...

...and so on, until they were all connected and...

...we could smoosh, and pull...

...and flatten the shape, looking for the cubes.  How many can you find?

We found eight.

And, if I understand correctly, eight is the total.  Can you see them now?

It's great to be a homeschooler.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott.

Carl Sagan's Comsos - Tesseract.

Wikipedia - Hypercube and Tesseract.

Animated Hypercube by Nicholas Mee.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Sidewalk Chalk Paint Tape Resist - Marvelous Math Madness

Coffee Cups and Crayons posted a tape resist project using sidewalk chalk paint, a week or so ago.  It looked like so much fun, I knew we were going to have to try it.  As soon as I pulled out the chalk for the girls' starburst driveway drawings, and they started asking when we were going to make more chalk paint, the time seemed right to give it a try.

We pulled a shape from the Marshall Hampton's Mathematical Coloring Book , settling on an "orthogonal hypercube projection", because it while it was pretty, and looked like it would be fun to color in, it also looked like something we could manage to outline with masking tape.  Basically it's just an octagon, filled in with eight squares coming off of each side.

I taped out a slightly lopsided octagon...

...and E (age 9) helped by marking 90° from each corner...

...for the squares.

Considering we were eyeballing the lengths of tape...

...and had a nine year old marking the degrees...

...I thought our shape came out pretty good.  Not perfect...

...but close enough for painting, anyway.  The girls smashed up a pieces of sidewalk chalk to mix with water, for their paint, and then got to work...

...filling in the shapes.  They were so intent on the squares, and triangles...

...they didn't even see the pretty star pattern emerging.  Pretty enough in fact, to draw one of their older sisters out into the sun, to join them.

They ended up using the tape more as an outline, than a resist project, but still thought it was pretty cool, when we pulled the pieces away from the dry paint..

...revealing their design.

As it turns out, this particular shape is even more fun to model in 3D, than to color when it's flat.

You might want to gather a package of colored toothpicks, a bag of mini-marshmallows, and consider coming back tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Finger Crochet a 4th of July Bracelet


- Red, white and blue worsted weight yarn

- Scissors

- Bells or beads

- A darning needle

- An index finger, and a free hand.

Line up the three colors of yarn, to use as if they were one yarn.

Tie the yarn into a slip knot...

...over your index finger.

Tighten the knot (not too tight)...

...and slip it back on your finger to make room...

...for a second loop of yarn.  Wrap the working yarn (the part attached to the balls of yarn) around your finger to form a second loop (draping it over the top, rather than wrapping it all the way around).

Pull the slip knot up, and over the second loop...

...and right off the end of your finger.

Tighten the stitch by pulling on the working yarn, while holding onto the slip knot end of the chain.

Push the second loop back and continue wrapping, slipping over and off, and tightening until you have a single chain long enough to wrap loosely around your wrist.

Remove the chain from your finger, being careful not to lose the last loop.  Cut the working yarn loose from the balls of yarn, leaving a long tail... slip back through the last loop, and tie.

Tie the two ends of the chain together, to make a circle.

Trim the tail pieces to make them even, or until they look a little like the trailing ends of a firework.

Thread beads, or bells onto the ends, using a darning needle, or your hands if the hole in the bead is big enough, tying them in place with a knot at the end of each piece.

Slip the bracelet around your wrist, and get ready to make a great big...

...patriotic noise.