09 February 2007

More Zoology

We've started our zoology block with an overview of humans. Much of this has taken place sort of casually, while we've been hanging around in the family room or dining room. Some comment will spark a discussion, and off we go.

We've discussed that humans can do a lot of things moderately well, while animals tend to do certain things extremely well (for example, my cat is much better than I at seeing in the dark, but he can't imitate bird whistles; actually, I can't imitate bird whistles, either, but I know people who can).

We talked about how interesting the human body is: the head is all hard and round on the outside, but squishy inside; the limbs are long and hard inside, but squishy outside; the trunk sort of mixes it up. The head doesn't do a lot of movement (much chomping of jaws and wiggling of noses occured during this discussion) compared to the limbs; and the trunk is somewhere in between, with so many of the automatic movements such as breathing, heartbeat and peristalsis occuring in it. The head has much to do with sensing things (taste, sight, smell, touch, hearing, balance) while the rest of the body doesn't have so many senses associated with it.

We talked about teeth.

We drew pictures of ourselves. We then drew more pictures of ourselves with a sun for a head (regally shining out over all), a moon (rhythmic) for a trunk, and shooting stars (with 5 points) for our limbs (this is a classic Waldorf exercise) and then drew several other planets from our solar system (not classically Waldorf, but we had worked a lot on astronomy last year and felt like doing this). We read Walter de la Mare's poem Unstooping.

We also discussed what animals we would like to study. Often classes will study a head animal, a trunk animal, and a limb animal. Another way to split it up is a nerve-sense animal, a metabolic-limb animal, and a rhythmic functions animal. I chose the latter, partially because I could think of animals we're already familiar with in each category, and partially because Schad's Man and Mammal book splits up the mammals that way.

(Also, I really really did NOT want to do a cuttlefish as a head animal, since my kids have never seen nor heard of a cuttlefish before except in a Jane Yolen book; I think cuttlefish would be fine to study if we saw them in the fish market on a regular basis, but we don't. So, right there I was put off the entire idea that's bandied about to "start with a head animal and, oh, by the way, a cuttlefish would be great for this". I'd like the basis for this study to be looking more deeply at what we've already seen on a fairly regular basis, sharpening our powers of observation.)

So I opened the discussion for which 3 mammals we'd like to focus on: some sort of rodent (nerve-sensing: mice, hamsters, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, etc.), some sort of hooved animal (metabolic-limb: cows, bison, horses, deer) and some sort of carnivore (rhythmic funcitons: cats, dogs). Later on we'll also look at birds (maybe focus on owls for a head animal, or maybe get around to using that Apologia book about birds) and perhaps fish, amphibians and/or reptiles. I picture this leading to some rabbit trails about what else we'd like to study in the animal kingdom.

I pretty much presented this as a menu of choices, "Okay, which of these would you like to do -- cows or horses or deer or bison? Okay, then let's also do something like cats or dogs or I guess we could do something like lions if you want -- which of those? And a rodent would be good -- which one?"

The kids chose mice, cats and deer. Cats and deer are plentiful around here -- we have 2 cats, and deer wander through our yard fairly regularly. We also have plenty of squirrels and chipmunks, but apparently mice are more appealing, so mice it is.

To be continued.

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