Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walrus Classroom Activities

Imagine your living room sofa with tusks.  That's about the size of a walrus!  These huge sea mammals are perfectly adapted to the icy waters of the Arctic. You can read about them in my book A Walrus' World.  As part of my research I watched walruses swimming in their huge tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. They are surprisingly graceful swimmers. Gliding past the window, the walruses resembled furry underwater spaceships.  SeaWorld's teacher guides include classroom activities that help children learn about the features of a walrus and demonstrate how its large size helps it stay warm.  Click here for an activity for grades 4-8 that uses peanut butter to test whether objects lose heat faster in water or in air. Click here for a singing activity about walruses for grades K-3.  You can find cards and prints of the art from my walrus book at my Etsy gallery CarolineArnoldArt.  Have fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sun Fun Activity Book on Kindle

SUN FUN: An Easy Read Activity Book by Caroline Arnold.  Here is the perfect book to inspire activities to do with your kids, grandkids, or students, on a hot summer day! 
     Did you know that you can tell time by the sun, cook with the sun, and make pictures with the sun? This book for children ages 5 to 9 has ten fun activities that use energy from the sun, including making a sun clock, shadow puppets, and sun reflectors. From an ice cube race to learning how to watch a solar eclipse, this book uses easily found materials and simple directions to learn about the sun and solar energy.
     I wrote and illustrated this book in 1981.  Many of the projects were ones that I did with my own children and their friends (who became models for my drawings for the book.)  The book has long been out of print but is now available in digital format as a Kindle book on Amazon.  Although images on Kindle are only black and white, if you download the book to your phone or computer, the pictures will be in color.  Have fun and stay cool!
You can preview the book in this video on YouTube about how to make a sun clock. 
     Illustration note:  This book was illustrated back in the days of preseparated art.  I had only three colors to work with--black, red, and yellow--and had to create a separate drawing for each color.  I worked on a light table to make sure that the images for each color would line up (or register) when the pages were printed. In the printing process, the colors combined to make the final image.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Unstuck

Moon over Los Angeles
What do I do when I'm in the middle of a project and I get stuck? (It happens to everybody!)
    The first step is to go back through what I've written and look for gaps.  Filling holes often provides the connections that make ideas link together.  When this doesn't work, I often find it more productive to get away from the project temporarily. Basically, to get a good night's sleep. When I go back to the project the next day with a fresh, and sometimes, an empty mind, it is easier to see the big picture and not get hung up on the nitty gritty.
    As far as my illustrations go, one of my techniques for getting unstuck is to lay them all out in order, either on the floor, or on a big table. That way I can see sequences and whether the pages flow from one to the next.  I can also tell if I have a good mix of close-ups, medium shots, and panoramas.  I can also check to see if I've been consistent with my colors and backgrounds.
And, in either case, it is always useful to take my project to my writers' group.  It is amazing how an outside viewpoint can zero in on a problem section, that I, as the author or illustrator, am too close to see.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

School of the Air, Australia

School of the Air main classroom in 1999
   The School of the Air is one of Australia's solutions to teaching children who live in remote places.  To find out how it got started, go to my travel blog, The Intrepid Tourist for my entry on Alice Springs.  The School of the Air teaches about 200 children, some of them living as far as 1000 kilometers from Alice Springs.  In 1999, when I was in Australia, I visited the main facility in Alice Springs. I listened in as a teacher gave a lesson to a six year old student.  Kids get group lessons by grade level each morning for an hour and then once a week each child gets an individual lesson.  The kids get lesson packets every two weeks in the mail and the work is supervised either by a parent or a governess.  We saw samples of work on display at the school headquarters and it was well done.  In many ways these kids have all the advantages of individual attention in their home schooling and at the same time they are able to grow up on their cattle stations and be part of that life too. 
    School of the Air goes to grade 7 and after that the kids go to boarding school.  Our tour guide on the cattle ranch where we stayed (it was also a B and B) had grown up there and went to School of the Air with his brother and two sisters (in the 1970's and 1980's).  We saw the room that they had used for their lessons, which has been preserved as it was when they were growing up.  Although we had driven into the ranch on a dirt road that was in bumpy but reasonable condition, until recently there was no road at all.  Getting into town was an ordeal, especially if it rained and the creeks filled with water, so School of the Air was the best option. After our visit, I had an increased appreciation of the challenge of bringing up children and educating them in remote places like Australia's outback.