Playing with Pentagons

I haven't really written too much on here about my process for planning our homeschooling days. I'm counting this as our first "for realsies" year and I'm definitely learning as we go, taking a little bit from all the theories that I like in order to craft something that really works for us. Our core is a wonderful Waldorf-inspired curriculum, but I've included snippets of Montessori as well. 

Last fall, as I was planning the upcoming year, I primarily consulted this free Montessori primary guide. I was really only interested in the math and sensorial works and so just read through the progression of activites in those categories and decided what I wanted to include. I knew that I wanted to touch on the geometric cabinet, but wanted to do so in a way that was at least somewhat aligned with Waldorf. It wasn't until Christmas break that I really had a chance to think through the material and figure out how it might work for us. 

Obviously, Silas already knows his basic shapes; square, circle, triangle, etc. I decided I wanted to introduce one new shape at a time and really spend a good deal of time on it - two weeks - so that he would really imprint the shape in his body and absorb it into his life before we moved on to something else. I decided to start with a pentagon because he's five. It made perfect sense to us both.

I gathered a whole bunch of inspiration online, chose what activities I wanted to do, and then divided them into three categories: body, heart, and head.

In all things, I try to start with the body. So, together we built a pentagon outside with logs. This was great gross muscle work! Hauling the logs, hauling them back and choosing different ones when they didn't quite fit right, balancing as we walked across them. It was right in the front yard so we could walk the form at the end of our morning walk every day. Later we made a pentagon with tape on the floor inside so that we could continue to interact with the shape with our whole bodies.

After engaging in this way with pentagons, I wanted to experience them through nature and art and to do an activity where he could really discover the shape in a hands-on way.

We used sea stars. First, making a dot at the end of each arm. Then, using a ruler to connect the dots. As if by magic, a pentagon appears! We then traced the sea stars inside the form and colored them in. This activity was so magical - almost a month later Silas still talks about how he discovered a pentagon in a sea star.

A pentagon path. I pre-cut the pieces and we each had a stack. I laid the inset down first and then we took turns adding a form; the only rule being that each pentagon had to touch another one at least one side. Lots of rearranging and experimentation took place.

Both the sea star activity and the pentagon path were borrowed from a wonderful (but no longer active) blog called The Moveable Alphabet.

Then a little more art with the insets, which have the bonus of also being great work in preparation for writing.

We did this project several times over our two week period, and I used the Montessori guide for inspiration on ways to vary it. We traced the pentagon inset by itself, tracing it multiple times in different orientations, and combined it with insets of contrast (circle and square) to make different patterns and designs.

This was about as "heady" as our investigation got. We played several games with a set of geometric cabinet cards that I printed and laminated. In this particular game, I asked for a specific card and Silas chose it from a sea of cards spread on the floor. Other games were gleaned from here.

I also found a great collection of photographs online of objects that are pentagons and used them to make sorting cards. Did you know that the cut end of okra is a pentagon? As is a morning glory blossom? Neither did I!

One of the last things we did was to use rubber bands to make a pentagon on the geo board. The wooden geo board is a little more spendy that the plastic versions, but we have gotten so much use out of it that it was totally worth it. For a long time, when he was a bit younger, making shapes and designs on it was his absolute favorite thing to do.

Here's a handy list of the activities that we did and how I divided them up. These were spread out over the course of two weeks and on any given day I started with a body activity, followed by a heart activity. The mind activities were introduced in the second week:

Make form outside with logs and walk on them.
Make form inside with tape and walk it.
Walk form along an imaginary line.
Increase challenge by walking backwards, with eyes closed, or with bean bag balanced on head.

Pentagon in nature: a sea star.
Pentagon Path.
Tracing with pentagon inset.

Build pentagons out of loose parts.
Make a pentagon on the geoboard.
Find pentagons in the world around us.
Sort shape/object cards.

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