Archive for February 6th, 2008

A Little Bit More About Journey North

February 6, 2008 @ 8:23 pm | Filed under:

A couple of people had questions after last week’s post.

Do you think a 7yr old could handle this? With parental guidance, of course. Or would it be way over her head?

I’d say it totally depends on the kid. The math would be way too hard, but I can see some seven-year-olds enjoying the graphing and the detective work. My Rose is 9 1/2 and had no interest whatsoever in the project last year or the year before, even while her big sister was jumping around the room with excitement over discoveries. Today, for the first time, I noticed Rose hovering on the fringes of the discussion. Our group is mostly the ten-to-twelve-year-old crowd, Jane’s peers, but one or two younger sibs have joined in.

I think if I were doing it alone with a seven-year-old, I’d pick just one or two of the ten mystery classes to work with.

I am new to Journey North and trying to set up an every other week
class like you describe above. Can you tell me a little bit about the
structure you envision for the "class?" I am picture mostly group
discussion, sharing of data, etc. Do you intend to offer any actual
lessons? How long will the every other week class last? Is an hour
appropriate? My class will be composed of 5th through 8th graders.

Well, our every-other-week Shakespeare Club has become a meet-EVERY-week club for Journey North. However, most of the kids will probably skip a week or two somewhere along the line. Today we were missing two families, which was fine. They’ll do this week’s graphing at home, or catch up next week. I am very low-key about this kind of thing—I have to be, or else the structure & planning would intimidate me right out of doing it at all.

So here’s how we’re working it, more or less. We have about 11 kids participating, give or take a younger sib or two. Almost everyone shows up at our house for lunch, for most of them are coming straight from other activities and I wanted to make things as simple as possible for the moms. They bring their lunches and wolf them down so they can play for a while before we begin.

When everyone is here and has eaten (and that includes me!), I round the kids up and we crowd around the kitchen table. (And may I interject here another gigantic whoop of gratitude for the wonderful BIG new dinner table my parents gave us for Christmas? I can’t imagine how we’d have pulled this off with the old one.)

Last week, the first week of the project, I began by trying to set the stage a little: we looked at the globe and I emphasized the mystery element, the ten classes of schoolchildren hidden who knows where around this globe…and we talked a little about latitude and longitude, looking at the lines on the map. We looked up our own hometown latitude and noted how relatively close we are to the equator.

Then we looked up our local sunrise and sunset times for the previous Monday (all the photoperiod data relates to the Mondays) and worked together (with Jane at the chalkboard) to calculate our photoperiod. We did it both as a subtraction problem on the board and just by looking at the clock and figuring the minutes and hours.

Then I passed out the graphs (we had printed them out in advance), one for each kid, and we graphed our hometown photoperiod. Nice simple beginning. We divvied up the ten Mystery Classes (again, one for each kid, with two kids sharing a class) and that was that for the first meeting. We are still working on our scenes from Shakespeare Club, so we practiced those for a while and then there was a snack and free play time.

Today was more Journey North, less Shakespeare. (We will keep working on our scenes for a few more weeks and then perform them for the parents.) I think today’s meeting set the pattern for the whole project. Again, we worked on hometown photoperiod first, graphed that, and then everyone pooled their Mystery Class photoperiod findings and graphed all ten locations. This was a busy, noisy, jumbly activity. Another mom helped me help the kids who needed help. (You follow that?) We took one Mystery Class at a time, graphing everything together. Some of the kids had already calculated their photoperiod, but most had not, so we just did figured it out as we went.

It went pretty smoothly, though there was certainly some confusion in places over how to read the chart, which class # were we doing now, etc. I imagine it’ll get a bit less jumbly as we go: these beginning weeks present a lot of hands-on activity that is new to most of the kids. Only two of our group have done Journey North before.

All this figuring and graphing took under an hour, I think. I know we were finished quite early in the afternoon, and then of course the kids stuck around for some play time. Our Titania and Oberon performed their scene for us, which was delightful (and included a cameo by Beanie as Puck).

I won’t be teaching any formal lessons during the project, but I’ll pull in other resources as we go…there are some good books about longitude, for example, and some fun websites that show what part of the earth is in daylight at any given hour, things like that.

Honestly, I’m very much a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person. The main thing is for the kids to have fun, and I figure the less they have to listen to me yap, the more fun for them. Today they were all giggling because I kept getting the times mixed up and announcing (authoritatively) the wrong answers, and the clever twelve-year-old girls at the other end of the table had to keep correcting me. Which is why I keep clever twelve-year-old girls around, of course!