30 January 2009

What's it for - wood?

(or 'Maybe this classroom should become a stuff-free zone')

We know that wood is not stretchy.  Neither is it magnetic.  It feels warm to the touch and it is opaque.  Plus, it can be soft or hard (just ask Meghna about that!); it can be heavy or light; it can be flexible or rigid.  And probably a lot more things besides.

But what can it be used for?

What, for example, can this be?  'It smells,' explained Shouq. 


And indeed it did.  It sent us off of a deliciously scented tangent; past cinnamon and camphor by way of hickory and sandalwood.

Then Tatiana showed us this:

IMG_2360 IMG_2361

'It's a chair.  It's warm and not flexible,' she explained.

'I think it's made from a hard wood,' Meghna thought aloud.  'That means it comes from a deciduous tree,' with certainty.

Chloe showed us some light, flexible wooden stuff.


'Its for putting stuff on cakes and stuff,' she told us.  Useful word, stuff!

'I have a wooden spoon,' began Martin.


'It's a bit flexible and it's soft.'

'Coniferous tree.'  Meghna again.

'My giraffe,' said Leon,


'is hard and not flexible and it comes from Africa.  It's a decoration,' he said.

More decorative stuff now.  'This is a wooden owl.


I got it for Christmas.  It feels smooth but the branch feels rough,' Tommy said.

'My elephant,' began Sivert,


'is made from a different wood.  I think it's a hard wood.'

Meghna?  'Deciduous trees have hard wood,' emphatically.

Aabis too had an animal.  Part toy, part decoration.


'It's from Pakistan,' he said.  'They took the small bits of wood that were left and they carved them with their hand.'

Next up, an alligator toy from Viivi.  'From Italy,' she said.  Made from a very beautiful wood, isn't it.  I wonder what tree it came from.


Another 'toy'.  This time from Thomas.


'My dad made it.  I think it's a soft wood.'

Battle-scarred, dented.....


Meghna thought that meant it must be a soft wood.  Coniferous of course.

Harrison brought us another toy.  A puppet:


He also had a box (that once held rather fancy chocolates):


And a bit of his very own handiwork:


'I did the nails,' he told us.  'It was difficult.  I had to hit them hard with a hammer.'

'It's for doing sushi,' said Ryoma of his mat.


'It's bamboo.  It's flexible and smooth.'

Still in the kitchen (well, kind of).  Shani showed us this beautiful bowl.


'It's from Africa.  Kenya,' she clarified.  'It's a light wood.  It was carved.'

This was carved too.  'It's a cup,' said Viivi.

IMG_2379 IMG_2380

'It holds water.  It's waterproof.  It comes from Finland.'

'My drum,' said Dylan, 'comes from Africa.'


And now, a musical note to end on.  'This is my violin,' Meghna told us.


'I don't know what wood it's made from, but I think it's from a deciduous tree.'

'Hard wood,' the chorus.

Do I need to summarise?  Perhaps.

Coniferous (evergreen) trees have soft wood.

Deciduous trees (which lose their leaves) have hard wood.

Both kinds of wood are useful for different things.  What things do you think might be best made using a hard wood?  What things do you know that are made from soft wood?

As we have seen, wood can be used for making things smell and taste good; for furniture.  It can be used for kitchen implements; for decorations and toys; for containers and for musical instruments.

Useful stuff wood!

28 January 2009

What an elephant is like - no really!

When did you last see a real live elephant?  What; have you never seen one?  Well, not to worry, because in our class we know exactly what they look like.  We have been busy drawing them using the very best descriptions from the most reliable sources.

Take a look:

IMG_2393 IMG_2400


IMG_2394 IMG_2395


IMG_2396 IMG_2397

And again:

IMG_2398 IMG_2399

What do you mean you've never seen an elephant before that looks like that?  Surely everyone knows that:

An elephant has a trunk; long and rubbery like a snake


It has tusks; sharp and cold like a knife


Ears; smooth and flat like a leaf


Legs; round and hard like a tree


Sides; high and wide like a wall


And a tail; long and thin like a rope


Well - how would you draw one if that is what you had been told?

What an elephant is like

We had a bit of a panic on Wednesday.  Ten minutes before break came the realisation that immediately after break we would be responsible for the weekly assembly.  What to do?

To the rescue a book; 'The Six Blind Men and the Elephant,' a Hindu parable, our version of which was retold by Clare Boucher.


I begin by asking; Why do you think I am going to read this book to you?

'Because we have to do assembly,' came the obvious answer.  Yes, but.....

Amelia thinks she knows: 'Maybe the elephant is made out of a material instead of being a real elephant,' she suggests.

Thomas has a different idea: 'Maybe it's because of what the blind men are wearing.'

Sharukh's suggestion: 'I think it's about that they are blind and walking all around materials.'

Meghna: 'The blind men went to a material shop and they were blind and they picked up some stuff and they didn't know what it was because they couldn't see.'

Ah ha.  Time to begin the story I feel.

"One day a little boy runs into the village to the place where six blind men are sitting in the shade of a neem tree.  'There's and elephant down by the river,' he shouts.


'An elephant!  What's an elephant?' they wonder.  And off they set to find out."

'But they're blind!' interrupts Sharukh.

'Well they can feel things!' explains Amelia.

And of course there is only one way to find out what something is like, if you are blind.  By touch.  By feeling things.

"And so our blind men take turns to feel the elephant.  And of course they each feel a different part, which means they each have a very different idea of what an elephant is like: It's.....

long and rubbery like a snake

sharp and cold like a knife

smooth and flat like a leaf

round and hard like a tree

high and wide like a wall

long and thin like a rope

An argument ensues.  'No! No! No! I am right and you are wrong!'

An argument that was eventually settled by the elephant himself, who told them, 'You are all right!

My trunk is like a snake

My tusks are like knives

My ears are like leaves

My legs are like trees

My sides are like walls

My tail is like a rope.'

'Oh,' said the six blind men.  'That is what an elephant is like.'"

And so 14 children very magnanimously gave up their break to practise a re-telling of the story.  Which they shared in assembly some 30 minutes after first hearing of 'The Six Blind Men and the Elephant'.

Oh and why did I read the story in the first place (other than out of sheer panic)?

24 January 2009

What's it like - snow?

OK - this is merely an excuse to show off some photographs which were taken on our recent ski days.

Snow is white


Snow is slippery


Snow is delicate


Snow is powdery


Snow is sticky 


Snow is cold


Snow is light


Snow melts 


Snow is sparkly


But most of all, snow is fun!


What other words can you think of to describe snow?  Let's see how many different ones we can come up with.

It's puzzling.....

Remember these pretty things?



The CD and the mirror?  Both of which were described, quite accurately, as shiny; warm; flexible?

Well, we tried a little experiment on Friday, using a pen that Virginia had brought to show us, because, as she told us, it was made from metal.

In fact, it was made from two different materials, supposedly metal and plastic.  And I wasn't sure that the supposedly metal was metal, even though it looked shiny, so I touched it to my lip just to make sure.  Of course there were puzzled looks as I did this.....

You see, the upper lip area is very sensitive to heat and plastic tends to feel warmer than metal.

We named this test the 'patent upper-lip touch-test'.  And Virginia kindly tried it out for us:


She was able to confirm that indeed her pen was made from metal (the shiny cooler part) and plastic (the dull warmer part).

And now back to our two pretty, puzzling things: the CD.....


and the mirror.

Metal or plastic?