Category Archives: Hands on Learning

Pit Fire Time!

It was a cool but damp late October morning when we arrived at Jeff’s Studio. Pots had been thrown the week before and bisque fired, now it was time for the glaze. We were trying our hands at a pit fire. We gathered all types of wood from around the farm, sprinkled and piled dog food, egg shells, seaweed, and salt into and over the pots, hoping to have color and texture merge onto the waiting surfaces. Jeff lit the fire and instantly, it was a blaze! The fire was then covered with wet cardboard and wooden boards and after hovering around the warmth of the fire, back into the studio we went so Olive could throw more clay.

After about an hour, the fire had died down, wood was cinder and we went to the pit to see the results among the still smoldering ashes. See what you think! We were very excited with the outcome – the texture and mottling appears to be galactic and the depth of the black is beautiful. We are already planning for another one. Very fun and interesting to see the reactions (and non reactions) that showed themselves on the final pieces. What a great way to spend a fall morning in West Michigan!

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Circuit Bending 1.0

Welcome to tech class! Before we begin, a brief over view of what circuit bending is: A man named Reed Ghazala created circuit bending in 1966 when unexpectedly, a toy shorted-out when it touched a metal object in his desk drawer. This created surprising types of unusual sounds. Circuit bending today is when people (like us!), customize the circuits in electronic devices, like toys and digital synthesizers to create new musical or visual instruments! WHEW! Now that you know what circuit bending is, let’s move on.

Over the last couple weeks we’ve made changes to over 8 different toys! We’ve changed things like the color of the lights inside, on toys that spoke we shifted the pitch of the words and even the speed of the sentences! By far the most complicated toy was Reggie the rooster. He has all sorts of springs, wires, lights, speakers and buttons which are all controlled by the circuit board inside. Plus, he sings great little songs… One thing that was particularly interesting with some of the toys that we first opened, is that some of them (the ones that have buttons that we could press and it starts talking or making noises) have these little plungers that are connected to the button, so when they touch the mother board, that triggers the lights and sounds! Cool right?

We used a jump wire to find circuits that made new sounds or glitch. By doing this we could make the lights change color, sounds go deeper or turn the board off or on entirely. We then took sounds and worked with Dad to loop them into his audio system. Now, we can use it to make MUSIC!

As an ongoing project, there will be more updates on this especially if something groundbreaking happens, but be sure to keep your notifications on and if you’re not willing to do that, keep an eye out for our next post!

 

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There’s dear little Reggie! (May he rest in peace.)

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Heres the inside of Todd- we ended up temporarily changing the color of his lights!

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Later, we hooked up one of the toys to dad’s music-ing machines and it made some pretty spooky sounds!

We have ‘Egg’straordinary News!!

After 7 months of hatching, choosing, feeding, watering, coop building, holding, singing, walking, admiring and loving our small flock of chickens, the first eggs have been laid! They are tiny and absolutely perfect!! We are so proud of our little hens and lucky to have them as part of our family. We love our feathered friends!

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A comparison of a standard hen egg and our little banty egg!

 

Butter Bots!

Please read in a British accent (it’s a critical part of comprehension)…

“It is very well known that one of the most thrilling ways to enjoy summer is to go out  into the stunningly crowded world to eat breakfast. The risks we take are immeasurable and quite satisfactory, especially when you get your favorite booth! And to ensure power over the (probably) inferior tables, our family constructs butter bots out of Plus-Plus toys and little butter pats! The little plastic pieces fit together to create the perfect vessel for the butter and perhaps a become a transport vehicle for the butter to find its appropriate spot upon a steaming stack of flapjacks or the ever enticing slice of sourdough bread.

Our contest was based upon who’s creation could hold the most pats. I leave you to decide who may (or may not) have won the challenge! Cheerio and a pleasant summer to you!”

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Whatever way they grow, we go!

It’s summer and some of the most beautiful flowers are in bloom. Luck was with us when we participated in a special workshop led by a seasoned floral expert in Japanese flower arranging known as Ikebana. She is otherwise known as… our Grandma!

Ikebana is all about simplicity, the arrangement of the flowers and the intention behind it, so we spent lots of time picking flowers and choosing things that complement each other. We learned about the roles the flowers have in the arrangement: the dominate – is tallest, sub-dominate – the second tallest, and of course the subordinate – smaller and the compliment – the accent. After spending a lot of time organizing, trading and trimming we had finished! Afterward, each of us were asked to create a Haiku to accompany our final arrangement. A Haiku (if you aren’t familiar) is a poem, 3 lines with 17 syllables – 5 on the first line, 7 for the second and 5 again on the last.  It’s quite fun and a great way to round out a SUPER fun and informative workshop!

Mom’s Haiku:

Grandma overseeing life

Five grandchildren, flourishing.

Bright, positive, love.

Thank you to our fabulous, fun-loving Grandma who sponsored  and designed this fun workshop! She even came with handouts!!!

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These are what some people call frogs, see the little spears? By placing the stem on one of these, the flower will stay upright!

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What’s That I Smell?

Happy Summer from Water Street Academy. This year, we’ll try to do a better job posting on our summer learning adventures! Now, on with the show…

Cinnamon, clove, lime, lemon, grapefruit, lavender, thieves blend, vanilla…..coffffeeeee!

Essential Oils. It seems they can be found everywhere. We recently had a workshop with an ultra awesome “Scent Jeanne” (magic in a bottle – get it?) who has her own skin care line and has spent 20 years researching and experimenting with essential oils, teas and natural remedies. After a talk about plants and their properties, possible uses for them and ways essential oils are obtained from the plants, we headed outside blindfolds and essential oils on hand. Jeanne loves the brand Mountain Rose Herbs because of their craft and attention to the growth, care and harvesting of their plants.  Eden’s Garden is also a brand she appreciates the quality of.

One by one, accompanied by a breeze and the sunshine, we teamed up to explore our experiences with different scents. I partnered with the famous Emmy, with one person blindfolded, the other dabbed oils on a q-tip and allowed our brains to figure out what they thought of it. And boy, did mine think! In retrospect, I wonder how great my sense of smell is. I couldn’t tell if it was that I was trying too hard or I simply couldn’t smell as well as I thought I could. Later, we had a scavenger hunt in which we would smell the plants in Jeanne’s garden and pair it by smell with the right oil! That was tricky stuff, but it was super duper fun!

Thank you to Jeanne for just being so cool and teaching us about all of this radical stuff and to Emmy for being my excellent buddy and class partner! We hope this post made a lot of “scents” (get it?).

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This is our dearest friend whom we almost stepped on. His name is Theodore!

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Flower Tracking

Spring is such a fun time to be outside and see things growing before our eyes. It happens so fast! One day there is snow on the ground, the next tulips are in full bloom. We used this opportunity to track the growth of bulbs we planted last fall. Every other day, for 10 days, we observed the changes, measured the plant and documented the process. We were amazed that on average, the flowers grew in overall height 1/2″ per DAY! That’s a lot of work from a little bulb!

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*Featured image found on inhabit.com