In the other gardens,
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires,
See the smoke trail!
This is a busy week coming up for us, particularly science-wise. We'll begin our homeschool classes at the New England Aquarium and we'll have our first Nature Study Group meeting! But this afternoon we kicked off our study of chemistry with a bonfire, a first step in an exploration of the elements.
Last week we began reading our main science resource, It's Elementary: How Chemistry Rocks Our World. I am so pleased with this book - it is just the right blend of exciting presentation and solid information. We read about "Greek Geeks," and how Empedocles was the first great thinker to come up with the idea of everything being divided into four elements. He used a burning log as an example: the ash is earth, the liquid sap is water, smoke represents air and heat, the fire.
I thought it would be fun to burn a log in our chiminea and then record our observations of the process. This kind of project is decidedly a Daddy-kind of activity, so I waited for the weekend to begin. :)
What follows are the pictures we took of our process, which will end up in our science notebooks. (We are also toying with the idea of keeping a family science blog in addition to notebooks.)
I also read this encouraging passage in From Nature Stories to Natural Science: A Holistic Approach to Science for Families (a Waldorf-inspired science book):
"Fire is always the starting point for the Seventh Grade chemistry, and the place to start would be with a lovely big bonfire in your yard (assuming that is possible for you). Watch how it burns, how it smokes, the colors and qualities of the flame. These observations should be drawn and written up for the Good Book. The next morning examine the undisturbed bonfire site and and note the patterns of ash and charred wood. Record."
So this week we'll begin our notebooks, with drawings and narrations from our bonfire (pictures, too). I will also have the boys write down information we glean from It's Elementary! - dates, names and definitions. Any experiments we do will go in as well, recorded in both words and pictures.
So without further ado, here are pictures from our afternoon bonfire:
Daddy began with kindling and a few wooden blocks.
A harvestman residing inside the chiminea made a narrow escape!
The fire wasn't catching so we added newspaper, and opened the lid to let in air.
The view from above.
Now we were cookin'!
My fellas all gathered around the "bonfire."
After a while things were really blazing (see top picture) so we decided to wrap things up with a bit of help from the hose.
Inside, in our learning corner, I displayed our wooden nesting elements and opened our book to the page we are working on.
Here's that page close up:
The book is very colorful and child-friendly (mother-friendly, too!).
And, it just so happened this weekend we turned our fireplace back on. I'm going to have Bill talk with the boys about how this (gas) fire is different from the (wood) fire we burned outside today.
More notebook material. ;)
Sing a song of seasons,
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!
(Robert Louis Stevenson)