Thursday, April 24, 2008

Toast the Knees?

Before starting on their language arts and math work for the day, we spent over an hour reading for our astronomy unit. In our spine, Kingfisher's Astronomy: Discoveries, Solar System, Stars, Universe, we read a basic introduction and some history of astronomy. The book had a short snippet on Eratosthenes, a Greek astronomer in 200 B.C. Having saw that name in the book when I did a quick glance through it at the library, I also picked up another book about Eratosthenes. That book, The Librarian Who Measured the Earth, was quite interesting.

So, what's with the funky title of this post? The kids got a kick out of my incorrect pronunciation of Eratosthenes. I pronounced it Air...uh...toast the knees. That got the kids going as we laughed about toasting our knees. Turns out, the real pronunciation is fun, too. It's Air...uh...Toss the Knees. So, instead of toasting our knees we are throwing them around.

Anyway, back on track. We learned that the early Greeks knew that the earth was round as early as 450 B.C. and that Eratosthenes accurately calculated the circumference of the earth around 200 B.C. (He was 200 miles off which is pretty close when you consider that the actual circumference is 24, 662 miles). Now, why is it, that school never taught me that people knew that the earth was round 2000 years before Columbus? Did you? And how did people go so far backwards as to believe the earth was flat 2000 years after they knew otherwise? Interesting!

One of the things I liked about this book is that it provided plenty to talk about other than Eratosthenes. There were mathematical concepts that my kids haven't yet learned that I needed to explain a little. I needed to explain what papyrus scrolls were and how they were the "books" in those days. The book mentions Ptolemy III and that he hired an official flatterer so I explained flattery. There's little tidbits of ancient Greek culture: the lyre, the Olympics, boys going to school but not girls, the importance of scholarly pursuits in Athens, a couple of important Greek discoveries were mentioned, some geography, and Greek vocabulary (gymnasium, museum, stade, bematist). Most importantly, the book emphasizes the importance of being curious, observing the world, asking questions, and seeking answers to those questions. All this in a 48 pages children's book! It took us an hour to get through it. Amazon has the reading level listed as 4-8 which is incorrect. It is more appropriate for 2nd through 4th grade.

So, when you study astronomy, don't forget to Toss Your Knees!

P.S. So far today has been a good, productive day. We spent over an hour on astronomy. The kids finished their language arts and math for the day which took about an hour. Mika is upstairs working on revising her 12 page story and Sammy is bouncing between practicing taekwondo, studying the world map in the back of his dictionary, and playing with Josh. Over two hours of "school" has happened and it is only 11:00am. Whoo hoo! I like days like this.

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Anonymous said...

Since Mika seems so excited about her 12 page story, she's more than welcome to write any of the numerous papers I have due in the next week and a half :)


Anonymous said...

LOL! That's cute!