Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pondering Art on a Good Friday


What makes art worth stealing? As my friend Megan shared this week, Nazis robbed paintings from Jews whom they massacred in the Holocaust. Many items are in museums and private homes. Survivors have struggled to recover treasures of their perished beloved. By the way, this Portrait Study of a Child by Lilla Cabot Perry reminds me of Megan's daughter Hannah, a brilliant violinist with a fabulous voice and author of Brightleaf.

Why is art so important?

Edith Schaeffer—mother of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay who wrote For the Children's Sake, dear to ones applying Charlotte Mason's ideas—left a legacy of art to her children. She died yesterday. Her son Frankie wrote in his tribute to her,
Mom’s great-grandchildren were growing up loving what she’d loved: words, art, music, gardening, cooking and playacting. Mom was unable to speak any longer but she was nevertheless communicating with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren every time they were read to, listened to music or when we painted together.
Frankie lists the world's finest artists his mother introduced to him as a child. Now her great-grandchildren love them as well.

I really can't explain why art is so important.

We visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum, which may be an odd way to spend Good Friday. Then, again, maybe not.

Our aim was to meet a Winslow Homer in person. First, we bathed in the art of Europe. Steve spotted St. Francis of Assisi Adoring the Crucifix by Guido Reni. He snapped and posted this picture on Facebook. A new pope with a new pope name has put St. Francis in the headlines. Steve grew up Catholic in Latin America as did Pope Francis.

Speaking of which, Edith Schaeffer was both mother and wife to men named Francis. Frank, the son, wrote of his mother, "Mom was a wonderful paradox: an evangelical conservative fundamentalist who treated people as if she was an all-forgiving progressive liberal of the most tolerant variety." Francis I, also a paradox in thinking conservatively and acting liberally, showed his love for the marginalized by washing, drying, and kissing the feet of twelve juvenile delinquents at a nearby prison, including two girls and two Muslims.

Opposite to St. Francis was Christ on the Cross by Philippe de Champaigne. Christ. The ultimate paradox. And between them, Nicolas Poussin's The Triumph of Bacchus—the very opposite of that paradox, foreshadowing of the excess in our culture.

Studying Peace on Earth by Jacques Lipchitz on Good Friday brought Easter home. Love come down from heaven on the wings of the Holy Spirit. The dove's body, shaped into a cross. Love, the foundation to the gruesome reality of the ultimate sacrifice. What a lovely touch to see clouds hovering overhead, a symbol of the tears shed by our Lord on that dark Friday and of the tears of joy to come three days later. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

On our way to finding Winslow Homer, we came across a spectacular view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives by Frederic Edwin Church. Even this high resolution image fails to do justice to seeing the painting in person.



We met our Winslow Homer: Gloucester Harbor shared a room with Jerusalem. I admired the gorgeous pink and cerulean blue and wondered if the lads would fish some day like those fishers of men.

In our first meeting with American art, we saw a Georgie O'Keeffe (Apple Blossoms) loved two paintings by Frederic Remington (Teaching a Mustang Pony to Pack Dead Game and Hostiles Watching the Column) and a End of the Trail sculpture by James Earle Fraser.



This silvery illustration for Drums brought to mind the picture of the fluttermill from The Yearling for N. C. Wyeth illustrated both novels.

We explored Kansas City Sculpture Park, the grounds of the museum, for the first time. The weather warmed us as we watched robins seeking worms and daffodils sporting cheerful bonnets. How could one not smile with ginormous shuttlecocks dancing on the lawn? The last sculpture we will share offers one clue to the value of art: Auguste Rodin's The Thinker, which Pamela imitates in her pose.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gleaning Habits from Picture Study

People confuse classical education with Charlotte Mason's method for our materials are similar. What we do with books and things is quite different. The first four years of a classical education is the pouring in and spitting out of specific facts (the Grammar Stage). Connecting ideas is not expected until the next stage. Students in a Mason paradigm form relations early and remember what stirs the mind. Since I plan to blog art, I searched briefly for how a classical folks teach art, and most sites link to "Charlotte Mason style" lessons. Curious.

Mason educators aim for good habits. Mason wrote,
No intellectual habit is so valuable as that of attention; it is a mere habit but it is also the hall-mark of an educated person.... The habits of fitting and ready expression, of obedience, of good-will, and of an impersonal outlook are spontaneous bye-products of education in this sort. So, too, are the habits of right thinking and right judging; while physical habits of neatness and order attend upon the self-respect which follows an education which respects the personality of children.
The following video depicts order which Pamela learned from watching me. As discussed in my last post, she has taken order to a new level. For years, she saw me transition us from one task to another. When she seemed ready to take on these duties, I let her. Pamela is a bit slow in how she puts away a highlighter, retrieves the pencil, checks for lead, adds more lead to the pencil, grabs the highlighter, highlights the schedule to mark off a task, puts the highlighter back, grabs her language arts composition book, and turns to the right page. People with autism process more slowly. Some struggle with the level of executive function Pamela shows here.

video

The habit of order eases one's life. Mason wrote, "Consider how laborious life would be were its wheels not greased by habits of cleanliness, neatness, order, courtesy; had we to make the effort of decision about every detail of dressing and eating, coming and going, life would not be worth living." Where static thinking helps us most is in the execution of routine tasks. It frees up our working memory for higher-level thinking.

What is higher-level thinking? Dynamic thinking—which people in the spectrum find challenging. While picture study seems so simple—and it is—chances arise to think dynamically. My last picture study post recapped how we practice theory of mind, "fitting and ready expression," and attention, retrieve memory, and make historical connections. Picture study is how I scaffold Pamela in writing paragraphs, too.

Pamela knows what is expected of her. I have slightly altered how we do picture study to work on dynamic thinking. She picked one of the twenty-four Winslow Homer picture cards and studied carefully. She does the work of imprinting details from the picture into her memory and of describing it so clearly from her memory that I can pick it out of the stack. This is the "act of knowing" for a picture study. In the following video, you can see how fluently she narrates the picture which I have hidden from view. Although she has left gaps in her description, I do not interrupt her.

After she finished, I reflect upon her narration and ask her meaningful questions that help me construct an image in my mind. Rather than ask direct questions, I paraphrase her words. I tell her what I don't know. She spoke of something blue outside, and I told her I didn't know what was blue. Making a declarative statement about gaps in my understanding gives her a chance to listen more carefully and think. I do ask open-ended questions.

You can see how she enjoys our exchange of information. As you watch her listen, think, and respond, you can see how quickly she processes now. The pace of our conversation is much faster! Pamela illustrates what Mason said about listening with full attention, "We can all imagine how our work would be eased if our subordinates listened to instructions with the full attention which implies recollection."

video

Now, we come to the moment of truth! Can Pamela's efforts guide me to the correct picture? This process illustrates how differently we do things. When a teacher creates a worksheet, the teacher robs the opportunity to think from students. Some teachers explained to me not long ago that open-ended questions create anxiety in students of today. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing. They don't know what details teachers want. They fear low grades. While they are adept at static thinking (direct questions with only one right answer), they have difficulty with dynamic thinking. When we do picture study, Pamela does most of the work for she has to know how much information is good enough. I am more of a guide in our journey to a shared understanding.

In the next video, I go through each card and explain my decision to accept or reject it. You can see Pamela's anticipation until I find the right one. Then, interest wanes because the element of surprise is gone. I persist through the entire stack since two or more pictures might fit her description. In this case, I narrowed it down to two: Snap the Whip and School Time.

video

Below are the two pictures. They have so much in common that they almost look the same.



I use this opportunity to explain why I choose the top picture. Upon further reflection, I think I could have spotlighted "same but different" thinking instead. Then, I would have given Pamela another chance to think dynamically. Next time we have a close call, I will do that! I also spotlighted errors to help her refine her observation before doing a written narration. I asked her what season she thought it was to give her a chance to infer. At around minute 1:20, Pamela shifts her gaze and studies her schedule. I kept talking to see if she would turn to me on her own. She did not, so I cleared my throat. She inferred that I had noticed her lack of attention. (Note to self: slow down and talk less!)

video

When I ask Pamela to write the title of the painting, I see an opportunity to work on gray thinking. Winslow Homer named it Snap the Whip, and yet no whips are in sight. I am thrilled when Pamela immediately realizes the boys were the whip! To encourage her to lengthen her descriptions, I first ask her how many sentences she can write. After she said, "Six," I apply "Edge Plus One" (an RDI term) and suggest seven. Pamela balks vociferously, so I back off and leave the matter unresolved.

video

Pamela has written three narrations for picture study so far: Girl with Laurel, Fog Warning, and, of course, Snap the Whip. While she writes, I say absolutely nothing. I don't even peek over her shoulder. I try to find something else to do. She has to do the work.



Originally, Snap the Whip had six sentences. I scaffold her into writing a seventh by suggesting she had forgotten to mention the season. She comes up with "It's fall" and I prompt "because" to encourage her to write a longer sentence. And, she does!

video

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Getting Organized—Pamela Style!

The other day Pamela and I were packing for a trip. Here she is in the car, wearing her brothers baseball cap. She announced, "I'm pretending to be David." Then, she held an imaginary bat and swung. She was thinking back to a season in which her brother played baseball.

Pamela has been doing some amazing things lately. For about a month, she has held short conversations with Steve on Skype. The other day—without realizing what she was doing—she fooled her dad, who believed that I was chatting with him! Here is how it went down.

Tammy Glaser: Hi!

Stephen Glaser: Hi... Trying to wrap up things to get out of here at a reasonable hour, and ahead of the snow

Tammy Glaser: Four months ago! She died in 12/14/12.

Stephen Glaser: who died 12/14/12????

Tammy Glaser: Loa.

Stephen Glaser: oh yes... sorry, I was not thinking in the proper context.... sweet memories of the dog...

Tammy Glaser: What about hotel on saturday night?

Stephen Glaser: we'll stay somewhere enroute.... maybe knox or a little further perhaps

Stephen Glaser: wait.. you are Pamela!!!!

Tammy Glaser: I am going to watercolor class and see Julia.

Stephen Glaser: ok Pamela.... have fun at watercolor

Tammy Glaser: 9 years ago. Great grandma died a long time ago.

Stephen Glaser: yes she did, but we remember her fondly.... we love great Grandma

Back to our packing—Pamela packed a suitcase for her baby and filled it with clothes. She also packed a diaper bag for them!



As I reported last December, Pamela is becoming adept at organizing. This is something she has taught herself to do. She has even taken on the job of clipping Boxtops for a friend's school.



She enjoys going through our stuff, bagging related items, and putting things to their proper place. While I was busy cleaning for a visit from Steve, Pamela was doing her part! When he came home, she asked him to do a chore for her. She wanted him to take these plastic bins out of the shed for her to store old games. Pamela has gone through old storage boxes and carefully bagged game pieces together!



Many moons ago, I gathered all the old markers into one big jar. I suspect most of them have run out of ink. Pamela has sorted them by kind: sharpies, highlighters, dry erase, and other markers. She put all pens into one school supply bag (the durable kind) and all pencils, erasers, and lead into another. I wonder if she will figure out she needs to test them and toss out the dry markers, broken pens, and pens that are dry.



I posted pictures of her first two drawers. She still keeps them ship-shape!



A couple of thoughts come to mind.
  • Pamela never lined up toys when she was little. Children in the autism spectrum typically do this. She did not!
  • She chooses to do this. Unlike many children with autism, she is throwing away trash voluntarily. Some people in the spectrum are traumatized when people throw out what appears to be trash.
  • Watching Pamela come into her own as a person is an amazing thing to behold.
  • When asked by a friend if she would do this at their house, Pamela responded, "You're joking!" But, I do wonder if this could turn into a niche career. Most people hate organizing their stuff!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Frog Eggs in My Cracker Barrel To-Go Cup!

Another chapter in The Raptor in My Prius series and sequel to What Happens When You Kiss a Frog.

On atmosphere, Charlotte Mason wrote, "It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the 'child's' level." In science education of today, I believe examples of stultification are posters, plastic toys, puppets, magnets, and stacking blocks showing the life cycle of a frog. They reduce the interesting life of transforming tadpoles into a factoid to be learned. Anyone who has spent weeks following a tadpole from egg to frog does not need pricey memory tricks.



My friend Shea and I wanted to find some frog eggs so our kids could see metamorphosis firsthand. Her kids donned their boots and grabbed their net, and we hauled our buckets and searched promising puddles until we found some frog eggs. We had worked up quite an appetite, so we headed to Cracker Barrel for a hearty meal. As luck would have it (or I prefer a whisper from God), while we were eating lunch, in walked a fellow lover of nature study—the headmaster of a school nearby! We ran up to her almost giddy with excitement—or, at least, I did.

"Guess what we have in the back of our cars?"

"I have no idea!"

"You'll never guess, so just we'll tell you. FROG EGGS!"

"Frog eggs! Can I have some?"

"Of course! Do you have a container in your car?"

"No, but I can ask for a to-go cup!"

Which of course led to a rash of rather confusing stories being spread in the homes of first graders attending her school that Mrs. B got frog eggs from the Cracker Barrel. And, now, we are all hosting and observing Southern Leopard frogs in our respective classrooms. We settled upon that classification for a couple of reasons. We know they are frogs for toads spawn eggs in a long ribbon. Southern leopard frogs are common in our area since they thrive in our wet habitat. We found ours on what looked like a temporary wetland, brought on by winter rain. Other frogs in our area do not mate this early in the year. We also recognized their call in this you-tube video. The truth will out, however, in about three months, which is how long they take to transform! Raising tadpoles is not a short-term flirtation.

As I've not seen frog metamorphosis with my own eyes, this study is a perfect example of what Mason described as a "bracing atmosphere of truth and sincerity"— "the common pursuit of knowledge by teacher and class comes to our aid and creates a current of fresh air perceptible even to the chance visitor, who sees the glow of intellectual life and moral health on the faces of teachers and children alike." You can clearly see the delight in Pamela's profile as she tries to spot a toad tadpole shape matching ours.

What a poster? Not exactly! I printed out an illustration of the abundance of shapes a toad tadpole takes on in its journey to adulthood from my favorite book for study, Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study.



That illustration came in handy. At first, we thought some eggs had already hatched. But, these "tadpoles" visible in the bottom left corner of the picture below did not develop as depicted. They did not behave in the manner described by Comstock. Later, when we spotted some dead, striped bugs floating on the water, we surmised that the tadpoles had really been insects. When teachers let living things instruct students, the teacher does not need all the answers in advance. All we learners need are strong powers of attention and curiosity.



When the tadpoles first emerged, Pamela thought they looked like beans. They must have been only a few days old for they lacked the large prominent head. The only way we could tell the ones floating on the surface were alive was by disturbing the water. Then, live ones would swim away (in case you don't know tadpoles have a high rate of mortality). My first question was why my friends saw their tadpoles hatch first. We found out that southern leopard frog eggs hatch more quickly when they sense predators nearby. We kept our tadpoles rather quiet, while the tadpoles in my friends' home and school had far more frequent visitors!

Then, the tadpoles began to look like what Pamela called balloons: their heads grew large and they seemed to hang suspended vertically, head up. Comstock states that tadpoles secrete a sticky substance and attach themselves to weeds, resting head up. When Shea and her children discovered their tadpoles hanging around en masse, they felt like it was Christmas morning!



We are learning all sorts of things not found on a life cycle poster. Sometimes, in early development, tadpoles look like bubbles. Their bodies are almost transparent. They also play dead! When you move the bowl, they stiffen up and float to the ground. Violently disturbing the water will cause them to swim away, tails a-twirling! Shea and I both nearly threw out live tadpoles when we changed the water to freshen it up a bit.

Pamela records her observations in her science journal (not some contrived worksheet). Again, we are trying to avoid artificial relations set up by me. Mason wrote, "It is not an environment that these want, a set of artificial relations carefully constructed, but an atmosphere which nobody has been at pains to constitute. It is there, about the child, his natural element, precisely as the atmosphere of the earth is about us."



I will close with a page from the biography we are reading for South Carolina history this term, A Hunt for Life's Extra by Idella Bodie. Having heard the enticing croak of the southern leopard frog, Pamela and I know why the boys traipsed around in mud puddles wearing their finery. Do you?

When the inevitable day came, Hugh and Archie were dressed in their finery and told to keep themselves spotless while last-minute details were looked after.

Far more restless than grave, quiet Hugh, Archie wandered out on the spacious front porch to wait for the family. For a time he stood there marveling at the beauty of an April morning washed fresh in last night’s torrential rainfall. The trees and shrubs sparkled with cleanliness under the bright sunlight. Here and there rain lay puddled.

Thoughtful Hugh, whom Archie later said was his "balance wheel," came to stand beside him.

About that time Prince, wet, bedraggled, and happy, rounded the corner of the sprawling porch.

Seeing his playmates, he came to an abrupt halt as if he had slammed on brakes. "Listen to dat!" he grinned.

From somewhere behind the stable-yard frogs croaked.

"Des 'bout a thousand. Les ketch 'em."

"We can't," Hugh spoke up, "not in these clothes."

"But a thousand," Archie moaned. "Les just go look at 'em."

With that Archie and Prince struck out toward the wet, boggy field where last night's rain had formed a pond. As Prince promised, heads of croaking frogs thickly dotted the tawny water collected in the lower part of the field.

Archie leaned down to grab a frog at the edge.

"But you said we were just coming to look." Until Hugh spoke, Archie had not realized his brother had followed.

Prince had grabbed a burlap sack from the stable, and now he stood wide-eyed, holding it open for the catch.

In a moment Hugh, too, could not resist. It seemed the best frogs were in deeper water, luring the boys out farther and farther.

Every time they grabbed a big one, they had to make another sloshing trip back to Prince, who was grinning over the slimy, kicking collection.

Archie was standing in the middle of the pond when he looked up to see a curious expression spreading over Hugh's face. A quick glance toward Prince showed only a deserted burlap sack with frogs jumping gaily from it.

On the shore of the pond stood the Colonel. A little while later as their clothes dried and the brothers sniffed by a bedroom window, they heard Prince getting his in the kitchen.

Here are a few more pictures for all y'all to enjoy!







Sunday, March 10, 2013

"¡Tan! ¡Tan!" "¿Quién es?" "¡Soy yo!"

Lo siento. I am way overdue for an update on our journey in español. Even though my husband is fluent, this language was beyond Pamela and me érase una vez. Everyone seemed to speak it too quickly for our thick orejas. Delving into Charlotte Mason's ideas about teaching Spanish encouraged me to try. I learned from the mistake of letting Pamela see words in memorizing our first nursery song. She still pronounces pollitos (chicks) in that song−with an l sound rather than y. Sigh. Because we quickly changed course and focused on learning by ear only, she pronounces words like silla (chair), calle (street), and cuchillo (knife) correctly, even when she reads as you can see in the following video.

video

Notice that Pamela is READING in the video. How many reading lessons did we have before she could read Spanish? Zip, cero, nada. I applied the same method that my husband used to learn to speak, read, and write in English without formal education. First, Pamela and I spent several years hearing Spanish, which I intend to recap today. I can now testify that getting a second language in the ear prevents difficulties down the road.

Spanish and English have a similar alphabet, except for a couple of letters (accented letters like é, double l ll, and ñ, so I did not see a strong need to teach phonics. Because Pamela has already stored the sounds of all the words on the reading lesson, her mind searches her audio memory for a word that is a good enough fit for what she sees on the page. As shown in the video, she easily reads obvious words: el, la, está, and casa. Words like silla, sobre, and señora are so familiar to her that they come to her readily. Even though plato looks like plate, she has heard this word so often that saying plato with a long a would sound ridiculous. If she lacked long-term audio memory of calle, she might be tempted to start off like the English word call. Again, her mental ears would tell her eyes that no such word existed in her memory of Spanish. The long pause over the word cuchillo (knife) probably has more to do with its similarity to cuchara (spoon) than sounding out the word with English phonetics.

At first, Gouin's method of teaching a second language captured my attention as it did Mason. With the help of Steve, I created series for Pamela and me to learn. Since we were also learning Spanish rhymes such as Cinco pollitos and nursery songs, I tried out audio books of familiar fairy tales. We scrupulously avoided seeing words and concentrated on la oreja solo. When I assessed Pamela's progress in Spanish at the beginning and end of 2011, I began to realize that hearing words in context was the real beauty of Gouin's ideas. I believe that Mason came to a similar conclusion because her programmes offered a wider variety of contexts for French than the Gouin series. [Mason geeks may want to read Parents' Review articles on second languages for even more startling stuff if you think Gouin is the be-all, end-all.]

Because of Pamela's aphasia in English and my block-headedness in Spanish, I decided we needed to combine a more structured approach with the literary approach. I ordered the Spanish version of the Learnables Level 1 last year. Although they offer it for the computer, I ordered the book and four CDs. I preferred an activity we did together. We spent a whole year going through all five pages of all ten lessons. Words and sentences are spoken by a native speaker, and, as we followed along the pictures in the book, we enlarged our vocabulary of nouns (household objects, food, clothing, and family), simple prepositions, pronouns, and present tense verbs. Apparently, the computer version offers games and still photos. Although the material seems dull and repetitive, we only spent five minutes a day on it. In spite of her aphasia, she had no problems with the five quizzes spread throughout the book, and I overcame my dim-wittedness.

We continued the literary way of hearing and memorizing nursery rhymes and songs on albums by José-Luis Orozco: De Colores and Diez Deditos. We also listened to audio books of familiar literature (namely, Buenas noches, luna and four Bill Martin bear books recorded in English and Spanish on CD: Oso pardo, Oso polar, Oso panda, and Oso bebe).

Since our terms are eleven weeks, I divide a book (or series of books) into eleven parts. We cover the first eleventh during week one, add the next eleventh to week one for week two, and, so on, until the last week, in which we hear the entire book in one sitting. To ensure Pamela did not see words in the books we were hearing, I scanned and printed out pictures and put them in a folder. If a section contained a lot of new words, I printed pictures of them to review individually before hearing.

Then, I made an audio file using some free software called Audacitydid I say it is free? Since native speakers of Spanish often blend the final vowel sound of a word with the beginning vowel sound of the next word, I often turned to free online resources for audio such as SPAN¡SHD!CT. It gets a little tricky because sometimes I have to record a video clip in Audacity because I haven't quite figured out how to strip audio from a video on my Mac. The end result is that Pamela and I listened to audio of individual words and pointed to pictures as we heard them. After that, we listened to the audio book, pausing at the end of the next eleventh of the book.

I know. It's complicated but worth the effort. Pamela and I have learned a lot of Spanish that way.

The following video shows Pamela's "term finale" of narrating pictures de el libro, Buenos noches, luna, en español. She has no words on the pages in her folder—only pictures. Every word she speaks is from her audio memory. My two favorite parts is when she makes up the word for lamp in Spanish. She is clearly searching for the right word (notice the eye movement), and she knows lampara sounds like lamp. So, she says, "Lampia"—a very clever thing to do. She also turns the phrase—un ratón que corretea—into a unique sentence that she learned from our work on series—Un ratón corre.

video

What are our weaknesses? What are we doing this year? See my next post!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

One Swan A-Sleeping

From time to time, we have enjoyed walking at Swan Lake—an easy drive from our home. I finally decided to start a serious study of swans this term. Lately, whenever we head to Sumter for various sundry things, we pop in to peek at the swans, even if only for fifteen minutes. We try to find something new to observe about swans. Every time, our feathered friends have rewarded us with a surprise.

The first time, the trumpeter swans (one of two species native to North America) actually trumpeted for us! Pamela flapped out of sheer delight. Her watercolor teacher loves this picture so much that it has become the current subject of their new painting.
video

We first fell in love with trumpeter swans while listening to an audio book of E. B. White's Trumpet of the Swans as we drove the Alcan Highway to Alaska back in the summer of 2001. It is hard to tell the difference between trumpeter swans and tundra swans unless you are up close. Trumpeter have a slight line of "red lipstick" on the bill and no "yellow tears" where the black mask meets the eye.The other species native to our continent is the tundra swan, or whistling swan, which has both yellow tears and red lipstick as shown in the photograph below.



On our second visit, we noted several intriguing behaviors. We observed how trumpeter swans bob their heads when they honk. We shifted our focus to black swans, native to Australia, not North America. The arrangement of their feathers looks like a delightfully plushy, velvet petticoat! We watched one swan drink and caught them preening. At first, Pamela thought it was eating its feathers. After we read a bit on the subject, she decided preening is similar to how we brush our hair.

video

I call this whooper swan the bully. Almost every time we visit, somebody is fleeing this native of Europe. I snapped this picture right before it charged someone (note to self: film that on our next visit). When this whooper lowers its head to form a serpentine neck, start running! In the video posted above, you can even hear me warning bystanders unfamiliar with the park.

The royal mute swan, with its characteristic black bulb and orange bill, is not native to our continent. It hails from Europe, and did you know that all swans on the Thames belong to the Queen whether they know it or not. Mute swans were introduced to grace parks and estates in North America. Enough have escaped to breed in the wild. Ten years ago, we used to visit a pair of mute swans at Lake George near our former home in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Yesterday, we did a couple of things for our study. Pamela and I watched the videos and paused at spots to spotlight what interested us. In her journal, Pamela drew pictures of the swans neck taking various actions: trumpeting, drinking water, and preening. We both noticed how the neck of a drinking swan forms a loop with the water, just as a bean stem does when it emerges from soil.

We have been collecting feathers during our walks at Swan Lake and Santee National Wildlife Refuge. Pamela drew different kinds of feathers and roughly identified what they were in her science journal. I love what she wrote and drew. The preening swan looked absolutely smashing!



With all of these new thoughts of swans swimming in our head, we headed back to Swan Lake. The weather was chilly and overcast. Hardly any swans were hanging out in their usual spot. Then, we caught one taking a nap!!! The one swan a-sleeping offered us many things to explore. I marveled at the flexibility of the swan's neck, lying along the back, to tuck its head under its wing. We could not identify it, except to rule out the black and black-necked swans. The driving factor of our walk was curiosity: what kind of swan is it? As we moved in closer, opportunities for guided participation (what RDI parents do) emerged. We walked together and spoke in whispers. If the swan stirred, we stopped and waited for it to drift back into sleep. Eventually, we only took one step at a time. Once we were close enough to see its eyes, we noticed how wary the swan was until we grew quiet. Then, the bird slowly relaxed and the opening and closing of its eyes reminded me of watching a dog fall asleep. We even caught the bird yawning at one point! I thought of a fascinating episode of Radio Lab, while Pamela thought of Steve, who loves napping after a long run. I also cracked up Pamela's suggestion that the Canada geese at the beginning of the video freaked out the sleeping swan and caused trouble. The recording shows how much more fluidly and articulately she expresses herself and how she can modulate her volume.

video


Imagine our surprise when we realized the swan a-sleeping was the dreaded whooper swan. I seriously doubt this is the bully because it seemed so relaxed around us.