Learning About Our Insides by Making an Anatomy T-Shirt

 

 

In my proactive search for cool hands-on science activities, I came across this blog post that explains (with free printable templates) how to make a t-shirt with a realistic drawing of human internal organs on it.  While the kids already know basically what their heart, lungs, and stomach look like and where they are located, I thought this activity would be a great way to help them remember the names and locations of some of the organs they might not be as familiar with, such as the pancreas, appendix, and spleen.

To do this project, I bought white long-sleeved kids’ undershirts, which came two in a pack and were less expensive than regular shirts.  Since I wasn’t sure how excited the kids would be about going around town with their organs in full view, I thought they could just use them as pajama shirts or for wearing around the house (especially when we are doing science together!)  The t-shirts could easily have been short-sleeved, but since it’s winter I thought that long-sleeved would be cozier.  I printed out the templates from the website on white card-stock.  The templates were two pages so I stapled them together to make the full picture.  Then I inserted them inside the t-shirts so that the picture was where we wanted the drawing to be when it was done.

The kids then used fine-tip black permanent magic markers to draw the outline of the organs.  Since the card stock paper was in between the two layers of the shirt, it kept the pen from bleeding through to the other side.  The t-shirt really needs to be white so that you can see through to the template underneath.  This part of the project was a little bit tricky because depending on the light in the house it was harder or easier to see through to the picture on the template.  Austin and Ethan moved around to different locations until they found a spot where they could see best.  They also had to be very careful not to move the template if they moved the shirt so that the picture would end up in the right spots.

After the kids finished tracing the organs the best they could, they used another copy of the picture that I printed out that had the organs labled (also from the same website).  This helped them see where the different organs began and ended.  They then colored the different parts their colors of choice using fabric markers and fabric crayons I had gotten on Amazon Japan.  With both the markers and crayons, you have to place a piece of paper over the colored places and then iron it for a bit to make the color permanent when you have finished coloring.

We all really like how the t-shirts turned out and they came in very handy when we were reading about digestion the other evening!  When the book mentioned a certain body part involved in digestion, I had them find it on their t-shirt.  We also used our science textbook’s description of where each body part is located to see if their t-shirts placed their intestines, heart, stomach, etc. in anatomically correct locations.  They weren’t perfect (the amount of intestines is a bit less than in a real human body) but they were pretty close!

All in all it was a worthwhile project that will hopefully help our anatomy studies “stick” in their brains better this year.  Katie was actually so excited about her t-shirt that she wore it to school and showed it off to all of her friends and teachers!  So, I’m calling this project a success!

 

Learning about DNA – the Hands-On Way

One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to blogging more frequently.  Another is to make sure I include plenty of hands-on activities in our homeschool on a regular basis.  I feel like the hands-on component of our school time has waned recently.  It’s easy to feel like I just don’t have enough time to fit it all in.  But reading blog posts like this have been reinspiring me to make sure we don’t leave out the fun stuff!

We’re studying about the human body in science this year with the Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body as our base.  It’s a fantastic book with lots of great photos, but it is still easy to have the content of the book go in one ear and out the other, especially when the topic is something complicated like DNA.  So, I decided to take a chunk of our day yesterday to first brainstorm together what we already knew about DNA and then watch several youtube videos like this that did a great job of explaining what it is and what it does.  Then I let the kids make edible models of DNA out of Twizzlers and mini-marshmallows with this method to help solidify what we have been learning.  It worked out great and we all had a fun time doing it!  Now that the kids are getting a little older, the hands-on projects aren’t quite as chaotic as they used to be.  My kids actually don’t like the taste of either Twizzlers or mini-marshmallows, so they still haven’t actually eaten their projects yet, but they turned out to be terrific materials to use!

Yesterday’s success definitely inspired me to keep the hands-on activities coming on a regular basis again and I will be sure to write about them here.

Here are some photos of our learning time yesterday.  You can click on individual photos to enlarge them.

Mom and Daughter Beret Sewing Project

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Sewing and crafting are in Katie’s blood!  Unfortunately, I don’t come naturally to those arts.  However, I do my best to encourage Katie in her crafting and to help her find projects to try when she expresses an interest in creating something.  So, when Katie developed a passion for sewing a beret, we searched the internet and discovered this website with instructions that looked easy to follow.  We don’t have a sewing machine (yet!) so we had to sew it by hand, but it was very easy and turned out super cute.  The instructions call for taking an old t-shirt and “upcycling” it into a cute kids’ beret. Katie sewed what she could, I sewed what she couldn’t, and I ended up sewing over her stitches to make them a little tighter so that there wouldn’t be gaps in the seam.  Though Katie wasn’t quite able to do most of the project herself yet, it was a great learning experience and a bonding experience as well.   Katie wears her beret whenever she can and often gets compliments on it, so we dub this project a success!

 

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Katie trying to look elegant in her beret.

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The t-shirt we used for the project had a heart design on it so that became the top of the hat.

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Looking stylish at the park.

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Katie wore her beret to a recent bridal shower with a matching t-shirt.

Crazy couch jumping photos

Our family is a little bit weird. One of our kids’ favorite pastimes is taking photos of each other jumping on our couch. It’s weird (and hard on the couch!) but it gives us a chance to laugh together and what family doesn’t need that?! Here are a few of the kids’ best shots so far…

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Embroidering the Kanji

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It’s always a challenge to find fun and memorable ways to help my kids (and me!) remember the 1006 elementary school level kanji (Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese language). (See these posts here and here for what we’ve done in the past). One thing we commonly do together during homeschool kanji study time is to look closely at the characters, figure out what their parts are, and then make up silly stories about them. For example, the kanji means “what” and the part on the left means person.  The kids and I decided that it looks like a person wearing a huge backpack with some secret stuff inside of it.  Looking at it makes us wonder, “What is in the backpack??” So that helps us remember that the kanji means “what” and how to read it in Japanese. The kids also write the kanji on paper (or sometimes in the parking lot with sidewalk chalk or on cookies with chocolate pen if we’re feeling creative) and of course they practice reading sentences or stories that have the kanji in them.

Katie is now in second grade so this year she is charged with learning 160 of these characters. To help get the kanji to stick in her brain better, we decided to start a kanji embroidery project.  After Katie practices a kanji in her book and then sticks it to her “kanji tree” on the kitchen wall, she gets to embroider it onto a blue sheet that will later grace her bed.  Not only has this helped Katie remember the kanji she has embroidered so far, but her embroidery stitches have really improved with all the practice.  The project has also inspired her to watch Youtube videos on her own to learn new stitches like the lazy daisy stitch, the french knot, and the chain stitch. (Now all I have to do is find a way to combine kanji memorizing with Lego building and the boys are all set!)

Here are a few more photos of her adventures in kanji embroidery.

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After Katie practices the kanji in her textbook, she writes it onto a blank fruit, flower, or leaf shape and then sticks it to her kanji tree. This tree is for kanji that relate to people. Once she learns all the people-related kanji we will add more trees with other themes to make a kanji “forest.”

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Family Fun at Green Park

Friends from Katie’s jazz dance class recently invited us to have a barbeque at Green Park in Utsunomiya.  We’d never been there before, but were really impressed with how many fun things there were for kids to do!  After feasting on delicious barbequed meat and vegetables next to the Kinugawa river, the kids set off to ride funny bicycles and then test their physical prowess on the “over water obstacle course.”  There was also a water play area, a paddle boat lake, and venders selling ice cream, crepes, and other delectable treats.  The weather was perfect and we greatly enjoyed the time with our friends.  We definitely plan to visit again!

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Pottery Making in Mashiko, Japan

We live in the Japanese city of Utsunomiya, which is less than an hour away from a town called Mashiko that is famous for pottery making.  Tourists from all over Japan make their way to Mashiko to buy pottery and to try their hand at making it themselves at one of the famous pottery kilns.  Despite living close to Mashiko, we rarely go there and no one in our family had ever tried pottery making.  But one weekend Bryan had plans to take Austin and Ethan to a sports camp so Katie and I decided to head on over to Mashiko and let the family Queen of Arts and Crafts give it a try.

We ended up going to a place called Hasegawa Touen, one of many pottery makers who have inexpensive classes for beginners and who welcome children.  Most of the shops in Mashiko offer two kinds of pottery making experiences: forming pottery out of a ball of clay with your hands or using a pottery wheel.  We decided to go with hand forming the clay since it sounded easier.  The staff woman who helped us was very friendly and she assisted Katie whenever she had any questions.  Otherwise, Katie was free to make whatever she wanted and could make use of various tools and clay stamps that the staff provided.

After a bit of deliberation, Katie decided to make a mug that she decorated with various animal-shaped stamps.  When she was finished, the staff woman engraved Katie’s name and the date in the bottom of the mug and told us it would be ready  in about a month.  When we inquired about why it takes so long, she said that first they have to dry the clay, then bake it, then glaze it (in the color of Katie’s choice), and then bake it again.

Several weeks later, we received a call from Hasegawa Touen and went to pick up Katie’s pottery creation.  She was very happy with the results and it is now her go-to mug for all types of beverages!  Way to go, Katie!  You did a great job!  Maybe next time we will try the pottery wheel!