Friday, 17 October 2014

The solar system and other projects

Painting one of the planets

Charlie has done a lot of hands-on learning over the past week. Some of it was planned by me, but most of it was of his own choosing.

He has been very busy in the kitchen, using the Usborne First Cookbook as his guide.  

First, he made garlic bread, being very careful to follow the steps in the recipe.

Then he decided to make a recipe called 'Juicy Oranges', which only required oranges, lemons and a couple of spoonfuls of sugar. It was absolutely delicious.

He also wanted to use up the leftover clay from our recent science experiment to make a cup and spent quite some time concentrating hard on this.

This week, our studies have moved from the depths of the ocean up to space. When I suggested we make a model of the Solar System, Charlie was very enthusiastic. We spent some time looking up the planets and working out what we would need, then made a trip to our local art shop to buy our supplies. We bought a selection of polystyrene balls in various sizes to represent our planets, as well as a large sheet of black cardboard for the display. We already had a variety of acrylic paints at home.

Once home, I sliced the balls in half, as we were planning to stick them onto the card, rather than hang them up, then Charlie set about painting them, using books and the internet as his reference.

We labelled the balls with the planet names first
Charlie found an image of the Sun online
He mixed colours to match each planet
Painting Neptune

The finished results

We then left them to dry overnight. The next day, we set about painting the stars on the black backdrop. I discovered the easiest way to do this was by using my meat thermometer, which had a tiny, sharp point.

Once that had dried, we carefully placed the spheres on the backdrop, taking care to put them in the right order from the Sun. We ended up with 11 spheres because Charlie had particularly wanted to include the Moon and Pluto, as well as the Sun and the eight planets.

Charlie was very pleased with the result.

This morning, he was able to recite the names of the planets in order, simply because he had learned them effortlessly by working on this project. Just to make sure he remembered them, however, I told him about a mnemonic he could use: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Tom contributed by suggesting that, as Pluto has now been demoted (and we all agreed that we felt rather sorry for Pluto), the mnemonic should now say, 'My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nutella'.

We interrupted our study of the Solar System to watch the BBC's 'Ten Pieces', which aims to inspire children to love classical music. It includes a variety of works from the familiar, such as Beethoven's 'Symphony No 5' and Mussorgsky's 'A Night on the Bare Mountain', to the more contemporary, such as Anna Meredith's 'Connect It'. Aptly for us, it begins with Holst's 'Mars' from 'The Planets'. 

The film is available online (see here) until 2 November.

Continuing with the space theme, Charlie has done some English comprehension, looking at a poem about the Moon in our Galore Park textbook.

And he has spent some time online, looking at several websites I'd found for him about space and playing games to reinforce his learning.

The websites Charlie most enjoyed were:

Earth, Sun and Moon Play (part of the Sarah Jane Adventures) on

Earth, Sun, Moon on

Learn About Space on

Earth and Space on

Earth and Space on

This week, we have also been outside, looking for conkers and berries. 

I printed off some resources from the very useful Nature Detectives website, part of The Woodland Trust. Charlie loved the neat little conker-collection bag that we were able to download and make (see here) and had soon filled it with shiny new conkers. 

We also used the Nature Detective's ID list for Autumn fruits and seeds to identify the various berries we discovered during our walk.

After a busy week, it was good for Charlie to be able to relax with the new edition of Aquila , a children's magazine full of puzzles and articles. He has read all his older brother's copies and is happy that he now has his own subscription. This month's edition focuses on fungi. Forthcoming topics cover the mechanics of music, storytellers and robots.

On the wall behind Charlie's bedside table, you can see a glimpse of his weekly timetable. He likes being able to see what we'll be doing over the week. We will be continuing with our space theme next week, then it's half term and we'll probably take a break.

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