Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lessons in Navigation

This week was our first week studying Inquisitiveness.  We are jumping right into navigation and the explorers unit. 

At home we have discussed different types of navigation and are mainly focusing on the means they would have used before electronic navigation came into practice such as stars and compass, piloting and sounding.

Instead of meeting at my house for co-op this week we chose to meet at a local park that also has a small lake.  One of the families brought along their canoe so the kids could actually try sounding and piloting on water.  This was definitely the highlight of the day as each child eagerly awaited their turn in the boat.  Two adults took the kids out two at a time for safety reasons and it also made it a much better lesson for them because there were fewer distractions with the one on one interaction.  They each had a turn using a marked rope to sound many points on the lake and found out that our chosen lake is actually quite shallow, never getting more than 2 1/2 fathoms deep and less than 2 fathoms in most places.  Fortunately it did get to 2 fathoms in some places so the kids could have a chance hollering the warning, "Mark Twain!" 

While this was happening on water, the rest of us did some compass work on land.  We started with a bit of magnet review from last year and then proceeded to make our own compass using a pin and a magnet.  Sadly, either our pin was not magnetizing or there was too much motion...Our compass did not work.  The ball end of the pin kept sinking and the other end of the pin wouldn't consistently point north.  (And this is why I strongly dislike science, because the experiments rarely go as planned!) On a side note, my son who was home sick that day made a compass of his own using the exact same supplies inside the house and it did in fact work.  I was so happy for him.  (Maybe HE will like science.)

Fortunately one of the kids brought a compass from home and we were able to use that.  Each child had an opportunity to carry the compass and lead the group to a given location.  All this while sort of reviewing the navigational method of piloting.  Piloting comes under the unit of inquisitiveness because the explorers were inquisitive, although it could easily have been an exercise in attentiveness.  The children needed to pay attention to their surroundings including any noticable rocks, trees and other things in nature as well as the position of the sun and the direction of their compass.

For extra fun we sang a couple good theme songs including "A Sailor Went to Sea" complete with partner hand clapping and then "Fire Down Below."  We discussed how sailors needed to use their listening skills to navigate as well, especially in fog.   When foghorns were used, a sailor could listen for the horn and steer away from land.  This led to a rousing game of foghorn where the person who is "it" gets to be the foghorn and all the other kids have to close their eyes and use only their ears to find the hornblower. 

With the help of the kids, a grapefruit, a flashlight and a golf ball we finished up our lessons with a quick demonstration of the earth's rotation around the sun and subsequently the moon's rotation around the earth. 

All in all it was a perfect KONOS day that exhausted us all.  Or maybe that was just me who was exhausted. 

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