Tag Archives: Social Studies

Art Lab :: Minecraft Paper Sculptures

As part of our ongoing series, the boys are testing projects from the book, Art Lab for Kids. This week’s lab: paper sculptures. They don’t have to be Minecraft-related, but in my house, Minecraft is always on the brain. The kids’ brains anyway, not mine.

Check out the past Art Lab posts: book review and reverse color underpainting.

a picture of a paper Minecraft sword. Inspried by the book, Art Lab for Kids

C, age 8, made a Minecraft sword. All of those cuts too him a long time….not to mention the stapling!

Minecraft Paper Sculptures

So…you may be thinking: Minecraft, eh? I thought they were learning about art!

Yes, it seems like they just made toys for this particular lab, but the concept was the same. They created a stuffed paper sculpture, but instead of a fish (the given example), they took a familiar idea and ran with it. Even though I do try to discourage consumerism and branding, this was a great pairing. (Besides, I may have a thing for Harry Potter and the Florida Gators…some branding is allowed, and possibly encouraged). Anyway, the boys were super excited about this lab, and they had to use the design thinking process to figure out how their sculptures were going to work.


a picture of a green construction paper being used for paper minecraft sculptures. Inspired by the book, Art Lab for Kids.

R (age 11) made a complicated creeper and had to sketch out his design ahead of time.

Crafting to Retain Information

It should be no surprise that we do a lot of arts and crafts at our house. What I find surprising is how much information my kids retain when they make something. Our crafting isn’t just limited to “art time.” Over the years, we have done a number of suggested crafts from our social studies curriculum, Story of the World. During the weeks when we “crafted,” the boys remembered the event much more clearly. I think it has something to do with the generative process of using information to create something new.

We are definitely one of those families that takes time to make things. We don’t cover as much material, but the topics are easily recalled.

a picture of paper sculpture Minecraft creeper and diamond sword

Creeper made by R, age 11. Sword made by C, age 8.

**This post was originally published on June 19, 2017. Sadly, it was deleted from the site when my server was switched. I have finally fixed the issue. (P.S. Don’t use GoDaddy for web site hosting. Their customer service is awful). **

Return to SOTW Ancient Times

Since I already had the activity guide and the book, I bought the optional set of CDs, read by our favorite actor, Jim Weiss.

I already had the activity guide and the book, so this year I bought the optional set of CDs, read by our favorite actor, Jim Weiss.

A Return to SOTW Ancient Times

This year — our fifth using SOTW — we returned to ‘Ancient Times’ and my youngest son was excited to join us. Typically, I would not do so many activities with my six-year-old, but he seems eager for more work than my oldest was at that age. Perhaps that’s the fate of second born children?

Regardless, we needed to move beyond listening to the story and writing a story map, at least for my ten-year-old. I wanted to start with the big bang theory and capture the knowledge of how long ago the dinosaurs lived. I felt that a timeline would be the best way to introduce this idea. It didn’t hurt that a timeline was strongly suggested for the fourth book on modern times. While we didn’t do it last year, I felt it was time to see these historical events spread out on paper.

A picture of a boy making a homemade timeline for SOTW Ancient Times

Our friend A helped us to start our timeline for SOTW Ancient Times.

Deepening Understanding
I wasn’t quite sure how to encourage deeper learning with my ten-year-old – without asking him to do a lot of summary writing. I dislike writing for the sake of writing. When we write, I want it to be relevant and useful. So, I bumbled along with the first few stories and made sure my six-year-old was grasping the concept of history, nomads and the distinctions between countries and continents (he had studied continents last year).

A sample of the map activity for Ch. 15 by C, age 6.

A sample of the map activity for Ch. 13 by C, age 6.

To help with comprehension, I made copies of the map work so the boys could see what location we’re reading about, and together, everyone listens to the chapter as I read it aloud. Often, the globe is present by our side – to help place the location in our brains. After I finish reading the chapter, everyone does the map activity from the activity guide. Occasionally, the map activities are too ‘simple’ and the boys will add the major rivers and mountains for the area we are studying – just because they want to do so.

Afterward, we take a break for a couple of days and when we return to SOTW, I let Jim Weiss re-read the chapter and the older boys make summary maps and my six-year-old draws a picture.

C, age 6, draws a summary picture about the first Olympic Games in Greece.

C, age 6, draws a summary picture about the first Olympic Games in Greece. “They are running a race.”

The activity guide recommends literary suggestions to accompanying the stories, and if I think about it ahead of time, I will put a few on hold at our local library. Sometimes these are picture books and sometimes they are books for independent readers. I think these books are great way to plant the historical idea (or place) in the heads of my children.

But, I wanted my ten-year-old to go just a bit further in his understanding. Having a lively discussion about the chapter is good for that, but I wanted him to notice more of the details. Thankfully, a fellow homeschool mom turned me on to World History Detective from The Critical Thinking Co. This is a great activity for my older son to work through on his own and for us to discuss together, once he is finished. It also gives us a chance to notice various aspects of ancient history and see how they are covered differently between SOTW and History Detective.

He doesn’t do these exercises every week, but I use them to spark conversations about the time period and the written passage. Since my kids do not take standardized tests, this is a good way to work on some test-taking skills. We talk a lot about the best answer – based on the evidence in the passage. I wouldn’t want to do all of my teaching this way, but I also don’t want my kids to be blindsided when they do take a standardized test.

A picture of the book, World History Detective.

A side path into Ancient Greece – paring fiction with history

Although I’ve been wanting to read Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief for some time, it wasn’t until this past December that I finagled it. Since it was for my bookclub, my oldest son wanted to read it with me…which was exactly what I was hoping would happen. I didn’t make him read it, but he took off and finished the series (and Riordan’s next series) WAY before I did. But, in doing so, his understanding of Greek mythology was strengthened. I had bought the D’Aulaires Greek Myths back in August, and he found it and read through it…all because he was curious and wanted to know more. All on his own. I just made sure the resources were available and left where he could find them. I like to think that this is the value of a prepared environment.

A picture of the D'Aulaire's book of Greek Myths

This year, we also introduced the stories of Odysseus. Five years ago, none of us were prepared to sit through an abridged version of the The Odyssey, but this year, I brought book one home after Christmastime and Dad began an evening read-aloud. At the present time, they are awaiting book six from the library and can’t wait to find out what happens when Odysseus’s true identity is revealed. (Spoiler Alert: It’s a bit bloody and I hope Mary Pope Osborne has toned it down a bit. We’ll have to see).

A picture of a handmade timeline for SOTW Ancient Times

An up-close picture of our homemade timeline.

We are currently on chapter 26 in SOTW, but there are 42 chapters all together. We may skip a few, or we may read through them, but not make any writing or drawings to reflect our learning. As you can see, we don’t add to the timeline for every chapter – that would make it tedious and not very exciting. Instead, if we have extra time that week (or if I think the event is very significant), I’ll ask if they want to draw a picture for the timeline. Often, the answer is a resounding yes!

A picture of a homemade timeline for SOTW Ancient Times

A bigger look at the partial timeline for Ancient Times

My older son loves history and I think that’s what drew me to the Story of the World series. My husband and I are both history buffs and we love hearing about (and remembering) some of the stories from our youth. Our youngest son is also coming to love these historical stories and in turn, we are creating a shared cultural knowledge. We probably would read these stories anyway, due to our love of history, but it seems especially relevant when we consider our place in a global society.

A picture of a homemade timeline for SOTW Ancient Times

The start of our timeline. We used books from the library to find out what happened millions of years ago.