Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Journey North Mystery Class

We started the Mystery Class this week, and I thought I'd give a summary of our first get together. I found it difficult to figure out what to do, so maybe this will help someone else, or simply be a reminder to myself next year. I'm feeling my way through it, but I think the class offers a great opportunity to use data as clues, draw conclusions from graphs, discuss how seasons happen in an astronomical sense, and look at the geography of the world. I homeschool in part to be able to take advantage of integrated learning opportunities like this one!

We printed out data sheets and graphs -- a data sheet for each location (10 in all, and an additional one for each student to record their home data), and one graph for each student. I cut off the bottom inch of the top page of the graph and then taped the two pages together from the back. All the action happens around the 12-hour mark, so make sure the graph can be written on where the two pages join!

We introduced the class as simply taking time clues such as sunrise and sunset to find locations in the world, and that we will be doing this over time.

For the first week we had each student record the sunrise and sunset times for their home location, and calculate the photoperiod -- that is, how long it was light. By our first meeting we had two weeks of data for the home location. We split up the rest of the locations between the students and recorded sunrise and sunset times and calculated photoperiods. Each student then graphed the photoperiod for all eleven locations on their graph, using a separate color for each location (color a box of that color on the top of the data sheet), and noting the number of the site next to the first data point. Data can be graphed as a dot or an X, and as time goes on the data for each location can be connected in a line. So on our first week we had two points for Home and one point each for the other 10 locations.

We used a globe to discuss some of the simpler concepts, such as where it's light all day and when, and vice versa (the poles). (This would probably work better at night with a flashlight -- we did it in the daytime with sunlight -- or by using these pictures which I just found.) We looked at the line dividing day from night and talked about how it slants and what that means for the length of the days and nights in north and south hemispheres. With a flashlight I could have taken the globe around to the other side (retaining the same slant) and discussed the opposite season.

We talked about latitude and longitude in very general terms (latitude being measured by the lines parallel to the equator, and longitude being measured by the lines that go through the poles.) We read the Latitude Rap, which might be more interesting later -- right now it had too many new ideas. We mentioned the Prime Meridian as the base (or Universal) time used in the world (which lead to a brief discussion of the extent of the British Empire).

We looked at the completed chart included in the teachers pack on Latitude and used what we know to make some guesses about the locations on that graph.

We also viewed the video included in the clues for Location #6 and made some guesses on where it might be based on our data for the first week, their data for the first week, and a guess on the nationality (or native language) of the students.

Our students picked a pet location and filled out one sentence about it on the weekly worksheet. There will be more to write later, I think.

I think that's it! Next week I may have new students, so we may review. I may get a better grasp of the materials available on the Journey North site, also, and make use of more of them.

Check out my friend Kris's preparations too, at At Home Science.