Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Painting the Planets

I was at a meeting for our homeschool co-op and I heard about a women who is a performance artist. At first, I thought they were referring to a dancer or a singer but it turned out to be much cooler than that.  There is a woman that attends events and as she listens to the speaker, she paints.  She is inspired by the words she hears and by the end of the event, there is a gorgeous work of art ready to be auctioned or sold.  I wondered if this same idea would work with my busy little boys.

We have been reading about the solar system over the last few weeks and I expected them to be very engaged.  No luck.  I have done crafts, shown them movies, made them be the planets orbiting the sun...anything I could think of to make the mystical aspects of space come to life.  Still, they seemed bored.  "Oh, we're still doing the planets?" my five year old would ask as I brought out our science book.  I thought that maybe we this performance art idea would help us zap some life into the topic.

"How about we paint as I read about the planets?" I suggested to them.  "Listen to the words and then create your own pictures to represent what you are hearing," I said.  At the sound of the word "paint" they lit up like Christmas trees.  They ran around grabbing paper and paints and I set-up an old sheet on the garage floor.  I started reading and something amazing happened.  They really listened.

I read about volcanoes that spew gas and lava on one of Jupiter's moons and my preschooler said, "I need red paint!"  He scooped some up and made broad sweeping strokes that looked like a volcanic eruption.  I read about the size of Venus and Jupiter compared to the Earth and my oldest painted a massive yellow circle with rings around it for Jupiter and a tiny little blue dot for Earth.  They were engaged the entire time.  And even better than that - They remembered what we had learned.

"Drew, did you know that gas planets are much bigger than dirt planets?" my oldest asked his brother as I walked out of their room at bedtime.  "Yeah!  I remember that!  They are really really big!" my two year old answered.  

You just never know what is going to make a child excited about learning something.  As parents and as teachers, we just have to keep trying.  My goal is not for them to know everything about the planets or anything else.  My goal is to have them want to learn; I want them to feel alive every time they find out something new about the world or the universe or the people around them.  If they have that, they will be able to lead a very a rich life.

As we get our children ready to go back to school, how can we help them become engaged with the topics they are exploring?

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