Rainforest wrap up

We’ve been busy throwing ourselves into our next project but before I get into that it is about time I conclude our last one.

We didn’t get as deeply into this as we could have done.  Interest in the subject was enough to go along with it and enjoy the reading and days out.  But it wasn’t enough for him to get focussed and push it along himself.  Happy he picked up enough of a general knowledge on the topic though.  A short half term combined with us using a fair amount of our project time on politics and the election meant this was a light overview really.

We discussed and learned about ecosystems, where and why rainforests grow, the different layers and what lives in each and what the rainforests give us and why they are so important.

Where we went

20150501_67We used the resources downloadable from their website to find the rainforest animals at Marwell Zoo and in particular their tropical house.

We also went to Brighton Sealife Centre as they had a rainforest section.  Can’t say we got any value out of it apart from a nice day out.

20150513_16Stretching it a bit we explored one of the important products of the Rainforest at Cadbury World

20150528_125I had intended to visit Amazon World on the Isle of Wight.  Sam was a toddler when we last went and apart from the blip of losing Jack for a while it was a good day.  However I’d banked on the buses from Ryde starting at Easter and they didn’t start until half term so that bypassed us.

What we did

We made a rainforest in a jar (and I was correct without the charcoal it only lasted a few weeks).

20150516_9We made fruit salad from plants that would grow in the rainforest but the camera ate the photos.

We also made a rainforest in a box.

20150529_5 20150529_6Sam painted the box into different layers and we made trees from cardboard tubes and green paper with thick yarn vines.

On the inside door of the box we labelled the layers, made a ‘word cloud’ to describe each layer and added photos of an animal that lives there (from the ones we took at Marwell).

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We made a parrot for the canopy

20150606_168 a colour changing chameleon for the understorey

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and a paper plate venus flytrap for the forest floor


For the front Sam made a leaf collage decorated with Rainforest stickers


I also managed to find some Lego Rainforest animals

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What we watched

Relevant episode of The Living Planet


What we read


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Highly recommend the three picture books in the first photo.  Truly beautiful books.  The middle one also has the advantage of being based on one of my favourite campfire songs.


Back Home

Thursday was a ‘chilling’ sort of day recovering from Birmingham.  Besides the noise of various teenage boys sneaking in and out (not very stealthily due to an inability to close doors) and doing goodness knows what in Jack’s room (possibly trying to throw themselves through the floor :/) all was peaceful.

I spent the day catching up on housework, blogging, soaking in the bath and making plans for next half term.

Sam spent the day embracing his geek side,

20150529_1 building rainforest themed Lego (the parrot is hollow and can therefore eat and poo – oh joy!),

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eating chocolate and watched Madagascar.

20150529_4Friday was far busier. Most of the morning went on homework for Jack and finishing off Rainforest project for me and Sam (will blog this properly another time).

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We went swimming.  Sam is coming on and Jack and I are keeping up with the schedule of increasing the lengths every week.

Jack disappeared to a friend’s house.  Sam and I put together his rainforest stuff, baked brownies and packed for camp.  He’s now on second camp in a month.  May is always rather manic.

I then spent a good hour and a half cleaning and tidying after as looked like house had been hit by a tornado.

Arty day

Yesterday was an arty type of day.

I had an idea that I wanted to try for a visual maths project that I’ve been waiting to do for a while.  Our second weekend of the year with no Guides/Scouts commitments (only other was Easter!) gave me time to prep at long last.  I marked a circle on a corkboard and separated it into 10 equal sections.  10 equally spaced pins around the circle with stickers of the digits 0 – 9 stuck next to them.

We then tied wool around pin 0 and started to wrap the wool around the pins following the last digit in the times tables, so for 3 – 3,6,9,2, 5,8,1, 4,7,0.  Watching the patterns unfold.

20150519_5 20150519_3In fact we spent a lot of time playing with it at the weekend (Sam was intrigued when he saw me make it) testing the various times tables. So yesterday we used a different colour wool for each times table 1 – 9 and watched the pattern build up, saw how sets of two numbers that add to 10 make the same pattern just one clockwise and the larger anticlockwise.  Will it help longterm?  I don’t know but it gave rise to interesting discussion, was a bit of fun and looks pretty.



Idea came from this video which explains it better.

For our rainforest project (and to leave in the bed to scare Dad!) Sam wanted to decorate snakes.  We’d ordered some wooden ones from Baker Ross.  We looked at some rainforest species and discussed why some are camouflage and others bright.


Our final art project on Degas took us back to sculpture.  We looked at ‘Trotting Horse’.

This is a bronze cast of the wax sculpture.  We bought some mouldable candle wax from Baker Ross and did some sculpting.  Learning from the many times I’ve done this with Rainbows we softened it by the fire.

20150519_11 20150519_13 Then of course we had to light them.20150519_16 And being a Guider use them to toast marshmallows for s’mores 🙂  Usable art projects are the best, particularly tasty ones.20150519_19 20150519_22

Procrastination and Productivity

The contrast sums up Thurs and Friday.

To be honest not a lot seemed to happened of note on Thursday.

We managed English, Latin and Spanish before Sam went to a friend’s house for a couple of hours.  When he got home there was just time for lunch before more friends arrived for their Spanish tutor.  By the time that was over day was disappearing. Mathletics again sucked up a surprising amount of time.  Reading about the rainforest continued and then there was some play on Kinect Adventures.  We had a rare evening where no one had to be anywhere so a family tea and board game evening followed.

Actually that sounds a reasonably full day.  I guess it was me doing the procrastinating then as I’d had big plans for when he was out that never came to fruition.  I’ll blame the downpour as it was hard to concentrate with the noise (conservatory is not the best workspace at times – deafening out there).

Sun was out on Friday though.  For the first time in a fortnight Sam got up in his own time at a reasonable hour.  We finished English, Latin and Spanish quickly before going out.  I needed a couple of bits from the Range so my Dad drove us up there and then we nipped in to Explosion for a while.  I like Explosion, not as a big day trip but can happily kill a couple of hours exploring and having coffee out by the water.

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Home, lunch, more Mathletics.

Then it was art.  This week’s picture was Degas’ Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando.

We discussed how Degas pictures weren’t posed and how he captured people (mainly dancers) as they did things such as put their shoes on, fasten straps etc.

With soft pastels he had the challenge to pick any sport and draw an activity connected.  His chose football.


We then made a rainforest in a jar.  Perfect activity to discuss ecosystems and water cycles.  More reading about the rainforest followed.

20150516_7  20150516_8 20150516_9Final activity of the day before everyone wandered off to do their own thing was swimming.  While me and the older two are doing lengths (on a health kick) Sam has taken it on himself to learn to swim.  We tried lessons about a 18 months ago and they didn’t go well, neither of us liked the teacher.   Anyway as ever with Sam he gets there in his own time and a couple of weeks after picking up swimming again having not been for a couple of years he’s starting to be able to swim a few strokes.  Not the best style in the world but neither Jack or I have either.  It is being able to enjoy and keep afloat if need be that matters to me.  Should say we are really lucky in that there is a private hydrotherapy pool at the end of the road.  Hire by the hour and have it to ourselves.  Lovely and warm too.

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Oh She Had a Fishy…

Yesterday we had a trip to Brighton to the SeaLife centre.  The idea of the trip was to look at their rainforest area.  In reality we took some friends along and just had a fun, relaxed, keep losing children sort of day.  Sure things were learnt (particularly about sea anemones grabbing fingers) but more playful type of day.

I was impressed with the aquarium far, far better than Southsea (as a visitor attraction).  Highly recommend the glass bottomed boat.

Unfortunately my camera died 5 mins after we arrived so had to resort to phone which minus flash is rubbish.

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Random photos of the rest of the day.  They spent most of the train journeys playing Story Cubes to Sam’s delight (he wasn’t the one to bring them).  He loves Story Cubes as I may have mentioned ;).


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Politics, Pavement Painting, Passion fruit and Pools

Been a much needed at home few days.  Hayfever is kicking in and the boy is struggling with mornings and evenings which causes all sorts of problems.  Change of routine needed I think, I’d hoped to make it to June without having to slip into summer mode but not looking likely.

Days blur a bit so two days in one.

Politics have obviously been on the agenda.  We’ve read through the wonderful Who’s In Charge.  I had the shocking realisation that I bought it last General Election for Jack and by the time the next election rolls around he’ll be eligible to vote!  Where does time go?

We looked at manifestos and party political broadcasts.


And wrote their own (Jack wanted a go when he got home)20150508_20We’ve done lots more work from the create your own country book we started a couple of weeks ago.  The end result is our United States of Smiley Faces Factfile.  Fabulous project.  Sam was also very taken with the notion of Cyber Yugoslavia.


Sam read The Accidental Prime Minister.  Lots of discussions have been had; suffragettes, secret ballots, class systems, feudalism, Peasants Revolt, Marie Antoinette, immigration, racism, slavery and so on…  We’ve been and voted (well I did) and watched a lot of news coverage.

Art this week was The Star by Degas.  We read this lovely picture book that tells the story of the life of Anna Pavlova illustrated by Degas’ artwork.


Then using an activity from My Art Book we had a go at pavement painting.


Ours didn’t look like theirs 😀  It was still drying at this point did come up really white.  The paint is cornflour, water and food colouring.

20150508_220150508_4Since the chalks were out the rest of the garden got decorated too.

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Rainforest project went on the back burner really but we did manage a fruit salad made from ingredients grown in rainforest regions.  We kept the head of the pineapple to plant.

20150508_14 20150508_16Finally we’ve managed to scratch out some time for regular swimming again 🙂


In with the new

When I introduce a new topic that is something I’ve chosen rather than a development of his interests, I try to do it in such a way that it grabs his attention and interest and everything should hopefully spiral out from there.  It is not unusual for things to go not exactly as I pictured but the majority of the time if I put in the effort I can make pretty much any subject interest Sam.

Yesterday we made a start on our Rainforest project with a trip to Marwell Zoo.  I printed off some resources from their site and we used them for an indepth exploration of the tropical house.  It was evident from conversation that Sam has already absorbed most of the basics from general reading and probably Horrible Geography.

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20150501_13 20150501_14 20150501_15 20150501_18 20150501_20 20150501_4420150501_21 20150501_3320150501_49 We then had a look around some of the rest of the zoo (busy day) to catch some of the animals that live in rainforests and discussed  what layer they would live at.


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We had a picnic lunch before heading home and having some time to relax (well I had some admin to do).

Then we started our new artist study.  Although art wasn’t working for us as a group activity any more it is something that I want us to carry on with, just need to fit it in.

Artist this half term is Degas and we started with the Little Dancer as that was the piece focussed on in the Anholt’s Artist book (really can not recommend these enough).


The art activity set was a mixed medium sculpture using clay and what ever else he wanted from the craft supplies.20150501_105 Result was this statue inspired by the Incan style statues we’d seen on the gibbon enclosure at the zoo.20150501_108


The final new thing of the day was camping.  He’s done overnights indoors with Cubs but having ended up in hospital at this time last year, this is his first camp.  Big brother and the scouts are along too to keep an eye on him.

20150501_106Photos included for cuteness factor.  As we walked around the zoo Sam wanted pretty much everything for a pet.  But after serious consideration a penguin is still where his heart lies (we have many soft toy penguins as this is not a new desire).

20150501_2 20150501_3 20150501_4 20150501_5 20150501_85 20150501_86 Like most other locals suspect we can chart our children’s development in photos at this location.20150501_100 june08 003