Extra Fun for Peter & The Wolf

As a child, my elementary school had a visitor with puppets who acted out the story for us after teaching us about the instruments in the symphony. It’s a lovely memory! There is one thing they did differently, though: they used some music from Peer Gynt (which is a wholly different story) to fill out the saga of the little boy brave enough to deter a wolf. This music borrowing is actually a tradition–when the intended music is not available, ballet companies and other arts orgs will use whatever music is available and choreograph the desired story to fit the music. I once saw a production of Coppelia set to the music of Prokofiev’s Cinderella.

Science: Digestion

The Wolf eats the duck and falls asleep. We used to say that we get sleepy after we eat because all our blood rushes to our stomachs to give us extra energy to digest, but research has shown us it’s much more complicated than that!

Even if the science behind this aspect of digestion is overcomplicated for our 3-10 year olds, we all eat and experience digestion so here’s a practical exercise to do with your child to bring more awareness and intention to the workings of the body. This Pinterest Board has pictures and lesson plans, but, as usual. the homeschooling blogs take the cake with bottomless practical exercises. I like this blog best as it offers two practical exercises about the movement of food into the stomach (stand upside down and the food will still travel to the stomach!) and the amylase (enzyme) in saliva that breaks down starches.

Technology: Rope

Rope is a basic tool we have been making from strands, strings and a lot of creative things for centuries. This video from the Science network, shows an old fashioned rope factory making natural fibers into really thick rope. They use some big words but the most important thing about the video is what you can see with your eyes. You’ll notice the tools in the rope making facility may be big and different, but the process to make rope you see here, you can copy in your own home!

Follow this video to make your own rope out of yarn–and then, please email me a picture!

Engineering: Pulleys

Pulleys are the third and most complicated SIMPLE MACHINE in engineering, and Peter and his friends create a makeshift pulley to catch the wolf. All they do is hang a rope over a branch, put the wolf into a loop in the rope and then Peter holds the rope as he jumps out of the tree, pulling the wolf up off the ground.

Turns out kids love to make pulleys!

The following videos (created by a brilliant young YouTubers) shows how to make a wonderful pulley–however, the use of hot glue makes this a project best done with parent guidance. Both give great directions!

Art: Music

Sergei Prokofiev wrote this symphony to introduce children to the orchestra. When we hear the violins, we know Peter is in the story. When we hear the oboe, it’s the duck. When we hear the piccolo (which is a tiny, high pitched flute) we know the bird is talking. And we hear serious sounding, heavy brass horns when the wolf appears. Look at the following illustration. You can see the characters playing the instruments that represent them in the music. Clicking on the picture will also take you to the youtube link of David Bowie narrating Peter and the Wolf. Enjoy!!!

Coloring Book:

Extra Fun for Cinderella

Cinderella is the spring season’s gateway drug for ballet. Have you heard that expression before: gateway drug? We use it in education to talk about the really attractive items in our teaching or storytelling that gets the students interested–interested enough to keep learning even when the material stops being as alive or curious to them.

Cinderella, just like Nutcracker Suite, is in the winter, excites and intrigues children with a beautiful, accessible and bright story that can inspire them through hard ballet lessons for months to come. Imagination is an important part of my work with my dancers. When I began teaching, I had a brilliant Montessori site director tell me “You can say you’re teaching the ballet but…what they see when you say Cinderella is the cartoon movie.” This is why I do a lot of compare and contrast (alike/different) with the children, and I make a point to talk over the difference, because in the difference the children naturally find the nature of the ballet to be different. Eventually they find a lot of pride in knowing the different stories from different mediums. I know it sounds lofty for a child to grasp, but they do. I promise!

I’m sure you have already seen and/or shared the Disney animation Cinderella with your child and I encourage this. Don’t think the exposure confuses them or hinders anything. It’s all learning. And about gateway drugs: we never know just what will excite a child into exploration, but with little hooks like the ones I offer below, hopefully you’ll find a new point of excitement to share with your child and deepen your study and bond using Prokofiev’s Cinderella as a catalyst:-)

Science: Cinders

Ella gets her mean nick-name from her step sisters because she’s always dirty from cleaning–in particular cleaning the fire place. Cinders are the magic little pops of fire that take flight when the fire burns brightly, and as they’re so special and so fleet, they’re really hard to find videos or gifs of! However, the basics of fire are always of use.

Technology: Wheels and Axles

Most of us have an idea that Cinderella rode to the ball in a PUMPKIN CARRIAGE. It’s a super pretty image and it might be related to a rather french study referred to as “vegetation myths,” but I am no folklore scholar so I won’t pretend.

What I do know, though, is how to make a pumpkin roll and I learned how to do it with a different kind of squash–a zucchini! I’m talking about Wheels and Axles and they’re easy to make into at-home-projects! See below!

Here’s my friend Squeaks again, in a great and developmentally appropriate video on the science of wheels and axles.

Engineering: Clockwise, Counter Clockwise & Gears

I find clocks so soothing. I love the tick-tock noise and the constance clocks are so famous for. Clocks measure time but to do that they involve a system of interconnecting GEARS which work with and inside each other to keep the movement of the clock steady and/or constant.

See the clock arms moving clockwise!

The first important thing to learn about clocks is the direction the hands move. This direction is called Clockwise (named after clocks) and anytime you see something turning it can either be turning in the same direction as a clock or in the opposite direction as a clock: COUNTERclockwise. The movement of the clock hands has to do with GEARS which move the clock’s arms to help the clock keep steady time. The following video from the Children’s Museum of Houston does a great job offering vocabulary about gears and demonstrations of how they work!

Clocks are not simple machines but can be explained with patience. Below, the curator of horology (clock studies) at the British Museum describes the 5 things that go into the make of a clock. This is probably higher elementary level information, so don’t expect your preschooler to be impressed, but if your dancer demonstrates a real grasp/interest, this is the best place to go!

Art: Etiquette

Last year, I created a system of videos to teach domestic etiquette. I’m sharing a few of these here. Primarily those (which you could certainly follow and learn from at home) on the first elements of proper DINING. Dining begins with table setting so I’m including two videos below: 1. How to fold the napkin and 2. The five uses/rules of the napkin.

Math: Clock Reading and Roman Numbers

There are many lessons, worksheets and other tools for teaching students how to read a clock, but many people don’t think it’s necessary. I do, but I’m not always in the majority, so I give you this short and easy video if you’d like help teaching your child.

Growing up, my family valued education and the classics. The phrase, “The Classics,” is an old expression that lumps together the arts (music, painting, sculpture, literature and architecture) and includes the study of history (when things were created) and appreciation (how to participate in art). In that context, old things like Roman Numerals, are important to learn. However, I don’t push the idea all children or all people need to know the roman numerals any further than you and I might need to read a clock, as that’s our most common application of the numerals. This second grade math lesson is still of use, even to younger children. But a longer explanation of roman numerals follows also.

Coloring Books for Cinderella:

Extra Fun for Sleeping Beauty

The Frenchman Charles Perrault documented many famous Fairy Tales, and plenty of ballets that used his inspiration for their stories. Somehow, though, his name comes up most for Sleeping Beauty. I feel this is worth mentioning because when you see a ballet company perform Sleeping Beauty you can see it performed with one of two different sets of choreography and character names. Despite these differences, the story elements stay mostly unchanged. I begin this way because, when I first saw Sleeping Beauty, I was very impressed with one scene which is not always included in every production: one scene in which the prince has to find Aurora at the top of the unkept palace. He has to trudge and climb up the grand staircase where vines have grown and grasses have gathered and many little animal families have made dens and nests for themselves. He does this hard climbing guided by the light provided by the Lilac Fairy and powered by his devotion to the princess he’s dreamed about. With this, let’s start our STEAM extras!

Science: Gardens, Growth and Pruning

When the prince stumbles upon the palace the gardens have not been pruned or trimmed for 100 years. The gardens have been let to grow all over it, and you can barely see the palace is there because all the plants cover it up..

When I was young, I remember thinking that pruning was just a terrible thing to do to a plant, but it actually makes the plant stronger. It’s one of those things that looks hard, but in the end is good. When plants are young (baby plants) you leave them to grow. Look at this wonderful video of a plant growing from seed to see one very big thing: that plant is moving ALL THE TIME. It never stops. This is a time-lapse video which means it was a video taken over a long time, and then the video speeds up the movement it sees. This means that when you see a sprout become a plant in real time it’s moving so slowly you can’t really see the movement, but when you see it here, it’s clear the plant is moving!

When plants get big enough, they grow leaves and the leaves help them get energy from the sun while the roots help them get water and other energy from the soil. But…after a while, the leaves change. Maybe a caterpillar takes a few bites off a leaf and that leaf turns brown and dies. Or, maybe a bird pecks at a branch and that branch gets sick. If you leave that bitten leaf or that damaged branch on the plant, the plant would put all its energy into fixing the leaf or branch, even though it’s going to die. If we cut the dying piece off the plant, the plant will use all its energy in its healthiest parts and that’s why we prune. Not all cutting is bad! But it’s not all good either.

You have to CHOOSE WISELY when, how, and what parts you prune so that you help the plant and not hurt it. If you cut a healthy piece off the plant, you might not be helping it at all. This video says pruning is like surgery.

Art: Fashion

In the ballet, to show that Aurora sleeps so long that generations pass, the characters wear different costumes. We like to call fashions for other eras–eras from long, long ago–“period costume.” This means a style or shape of clothing was special for a special time. You’ll see some productions of Sleeping Beauty show the princess and her family wearing big curly hairdos, capes and boots like the Three Musketeers–this is a style popular in the 1600s. Then, when the prince finds Aurora and they have their wedding, they’ll wear white, powdered wigs, which was fashionable in the court (royalty) during the 1700s. This is how the ballet proves 100 years have passed!

Also, as always, here is a a coloring book including the steps we learn in this month’s classes with SLEEPING BEAUTY!

Math: Generations

Everyone likes to mention the Disney movie Sleeping Beauty when we study this ballet, and I love to use the movie as an opportunity to talk about SIMILARITIES and DIFFERENCES. This is a kindergarten level area of discussion but preschoolers are also often engaging in the topic so it’s not off limits to any age. The most notable difference is the ballet’s villain: Carabosse (see the photo slideshow below for more inspiration on this point). Students also like to bring up the difference in the number of Fairies: the movie has 3 important fairies while the ballet has between 7 and 11 fairies. But the biggest literal difference between the movie and the ballet is how long Aurora stays asleep. In the movie, she might be asleep for as little as 4 hours or as long as a few days: it’s not very clear in the movie. But in the ballet Aurora sleeps for 100 YEARS–this is as long is takes for the prince who is right for her to be BORN. What that means is the princes she meets at her 16th birthday party, the same princes she dances the Rose Adagio with, they will get married (to other princesses) and have babies for many generations before she is awakened to meet the grown prince she’ll marry. So, let’s do some guessing about how many generations Aurora sleeps through. If we guess each prince is 20 years old when they have their own prince we can make a guess at how many GENERATIONS will pass in the 100 years Aurora sleeps. It’s also worth

Slideshow: Costume Art with Carabosse

It’s worth noting that most recent productions make Carabosse a female, but in ballet history, it was a role for men. In fact, you might notice that my Carabosse puppet in our puppet story is one side Carabosse and the other side Blue Bird. This is to honor a piece of ballet history. Enrico Cecchetti is an important person in ballet and one of the special things he did was perform Carabosse AND the role of the Blue Bird, which is known as the hardest choreography for men in all classical ballet!

Extra Fun for Swan Lake

Swan Lake is a beloved ballet. Dancers have long been inspired by the the graceful “S” shaped birds that glide through the air and water alike. And the music for the ballet (by Peter Tchaikovsky) is STRONG: it’s romantic, it’s dramatic, it’s sad and it’s glorious. And that’s part of what makes the ballet so special: it’s full of extremes. Let’s start on a few STEAM ideas to get you more interested in Swan Lake!

Science: Day/Night, Light/Dark

In the ballet, the Princess Odette is cursed by Count von Rothbart to be a swan by day. She becomes Odette again when the sun sets. By day she’s a swan, by night, she’s Odette.

You know already that there’s light during the day and dark at night. Day and night, just like Light and Dark are OPPOSITES. So are Black and White. You might already figure out where I’m going here:-)

Swan Lake is special to ballerinas–it contains TWO roles which only ONE DANCER does: Odette and Odile are the same dancer in two different costumes. Doesn’t that sound like Odette having to be an animal during the day and herself at night? Humans and animals aren’t exactly opposites but when you think about it, pretty much everything in the story of Swan Lake leans on a PAIR: day/night, white/black, animal/human, good/evil.

Engineering: Symmetry

Maybe the most beloved dance in the whole of Swan Lake is the Dance of the Little Swans, or the Pas de Quatre (dance for four). In this two minute dance, the dancers hold hands and stand close together. And they do EXACTLY the same things at EXACTLY the same time. When dancers are this close together, an error could hurt their neighbor and ruin the dance for the whole group, so they practice a lot to keep the conformity–which is why this dance is just mesmerizing to watch. Also, notice that every movement the dancers do in one direction they repeat in the other direction, too. They almost look like a machine and this is partly because their shapes are SYMMETRICAL.

Symmetry may sound like a big, new idea, but you’ve seen it a lot. Symmetry occurs when two sides of an object are the same, or “equal.” There are TONS of things you can do with symmetry in art, and as dance is an art, it makes sense we’d like to see symmetry there as well.

Art: Melodrama, Swan Making

Swan Lake is a story with a lot of OPPOSITES in it, right? Opposites are pairs that show the EXTREMES of something. Stories that have a lot of extremes are called MELODRAMAS. These are usually serious stories with big problems and bigger feelings. Remember when Odette and Siegfried realize they love each other? They don’t smile and hug like might happen in real life–instead, the bad guy comes and breaks them up and Odette goes running into the sun. These are EXTREME situations and they’re like that to help you feel STRONGLY. That’s also part of the intrigue of Swan Lake! The extremes give you a lot to feel and a lot to think about.

I mentioned ballet has a long love affair with swans–and we show it in lots of ways. There are many, many swan-inspired projects you do when you’re young and you dance. I, myself, liked to sculpt and made lots of wire swans, but I’ve found a few charming swan crafts to do which I think are very good for the mind of the dancer. As you craft swans, out of whatever material you like, you get a chance to study the animal, the shape, the curves, it’s very instructive because in time you’ll be dancing in front of a mirror and trying to make your body do things you’ve seen. You will try to “fly” with your big jumps, stretch your neck longer, or make your port de bras look like a “swan dive.” Here are a few swan crafts to help you study the lines.

Math: French words for Numbers

You don’t have to learn many, but you need to learn a few. Two, three and four are the most important for now!

vonRothbart SlideShow

I love pictures of Swan Lake because people have been so inspired by it they’ve been very creative in the costumes and the imagery. The best example of creativity among the different productions of the ballet is how we see the bad guy: Count von Rothbart. Sometimes he looks like a bird of prey, other times, he’s witchy, sometimes he looks kind of messy, with torn robes, sometimes he’s like a butterfly or a goat!

Symmetry Slideshow: Corps de Ballet

The villain (aka bad guy) is typically in dark colors, and the swans are always in white. When many dancers wear white tutus together, they make the stage look full and clean and they can be very impressive in their numbers. This is something people always expect of Swan Lake–an impressive stage filled with white tutus. It’s another point of inspiration that I hope you enjoy!

Extra Fun for Song of the Nightingale

This modern ballet is a simple story about appreciating what you have. It’s timely for Thanksgiving and it lets us go to a country we haven’t yet seen in our ballet voyages: China! Please enjoy these tiny extras for homeschool, fun and deepening our studies into ballet culture!

Science: Senses

The Song of the Nightingale is a lot about our senses. The Chinese Emperor is so used to hearing the Nightingale he forgets she’s there. And when he gets the mechanical bird he is delighted how the toy sings. Maybe it replaces the real Nightingale?

I wanted to send along directions for little toys that also trick your senses. Maybe you’ve seen these: Thaumatropes. You can make them with handles or strings. You see, the eye lingers on the things it sees for a moment–even after that thing is gone–and that’s how you can see the bird inside the cage even if you know the bird and the cage are two different pictures in two different places!

To add technology to this mix, you might see the second video is from a place called The George Eastman Museum. This is a FILM museum, George Eastman founded Kodak, the film company. When you see a movie, you see one image at a time but they happen so close together your mind puts them together and you feel like you are seeing movement. That’s how we experience movies on film!

Engineering: Mechanical Birds

There are a lot of ways to make bird toys. We are going to start small with things you can make simple mechanisms for. You’ll see quickly how much art you can put into these projects! Just think how you could color this bird!

These wings can move…but we have to find a way to move them.
This projects shows you how to make moving wings AND make the bird fly!

Art: Costumes & Sets

The Nightingale fights with sickness. The emperor dances with sickness. The servants dance.

This is a drawing of the original costumes for The Song of the Nightingale. This was a ballet made by the famous Ballet Russes. They were a ballet company that brought together some of the most important artists of their time! Igor Stravinsky, the writer of this ballet’s music (also wrote Firebird, Petrushka and many others) did a lot with the Ballet Russes. And they often brought artists in to design costumes and sets. The sets and costumes for this ballet were designed by Henri Matisse, an artist you may have heard of before.

Coloring Book: Coming Soon

Watch the Ballet Online:

This ballet is hardly a half hour and features some of the lovely costuming you see above!

Fun, Final note: Birds!

Birds, I understand, are super trainable–like dogs! And there was a culture in China where people would take their pet song birds outside and even go to cafes with them to enjoy their friends, tea and bird song. Doesn’t that sound beautiful?! Here is a five minute, silent video of people at a bird cafe. See the birdcages hanging from the roof? What a lovely custom!

Tiny Extra Fun for La Bayadere

La Bayadere takes place in Ancient India! One thing you’ll notice when you see India on a map is that it’s got a lot of water around it and when a body of land has a lot of water around it, the place is usually HUMID. Humid places are wet: you can feel water in the air, it rains often and it might even be a warm place with little pockets where the water stays in the ground like lakes or rivers. Also notice, India is pretty BIG!

India has a lot of green plants, because it’s got so much water. It’s got LOTS of rivers.

The first picture can be downloaded for coloring: make sure you have a big blue crayon to outline the rivers!

And now that you see how much water there is, consider this: the story of La Bayadere starts when they find a FIRE they can’t put out.

Science: Fire (in many forms)

You probably already know that water puts out (or extinguishes) fire, but if we don’t have enough water to cover the flames, a fire can keep going and eat up whatever is in its path. How can fire do that?

Fire is very both strong and beautiful. Did you notice in this video, the teacher talked about the colors inside the fire? In La Bayadere, we also see the dancers move their bodies to show they are looking at the SHAPE and MOVEMENT of the fire.

There are lots of ways to look at and think about an element like fire and doing crafts to work through what you see when you see fire is a really good way to start. What do you observe about fire when you recreate it using paper, crayons and glue?

This one is for my preschoolers.
This 2D and 3D model may be best for my kindergarteners.
This 3D mixed media project may be best for my elementary school dancers.

I know that, when I was young, I got really frustrated that my art didn’t show others what I saw when I looked at things. If you’ve ever had that feeling, don’t worry, we aren’t stopping at coloring, drawing or crafting: we are also DANCING. The fire can be in your dancing, too. It is for Nikiya!

When Nikiya dances, she looks like a graceful flame.

Watch the Ballet Online

La Bayadere is a high water mark in classical ballet and, as such, it’s not 100% easy for children to consume. I share this in the event you’d like to share one piece or another with your child but I don’t rightly expect that anyone will share this with their 2-10year old and make it through two hours of high drama in toe shoes. Mind you, it’s one rousing performance and the video production is great: clear and colorful and well danced. You’ll see many characters my abridged storytelling glosses over (e.g. servants, ghosts, tigers) and you’ll see dramas here that put “Real Housewives” to shame.

All this said, the music we use to dance through the story is from the KINGDOM OF SHADES scene, beginning 1:34 and this video’s Kingdom scene is breathtaking.

Coloring Book!

Extra Fun for Giselle

Giselle is a girl with “weak constitution” (meaning she gets sick very easily) who lives in the Rhineland. The Rhineland is a very green part of Germany. You can see Germany in red on the world map here:

Science: The Rhineland

This a map of The Rhineland. Do you see the thick blue line on this map?

The Rhineland is a part of Germany around the Rhine river. Like any place around a river, lots of plants grow nearby. The area is known for vineyards (fields of grapes), and the famous Palatine Forest. The Willis (who are make believe) are supposed to live in the Palantine Forest. You can imagine how thick the trees there must be, and how dark the forest is! Here is a little travelogue video with about the forest. It’s lovely but what I’d like you to notice how OLD everything in this area is, and old areas often have old buildings. In this video they say the Forest had something like 500 castles!

The castles and big fancy houses are usually on the top of the hills and the villages are down below near the water and in the valleys. This is a neat illustration I found of a view of a castle, or a big house, from the valley. You can imagine Albrecht and his fiance walking down the hill to Giselle’s tavern!

Can you see the castle on the hill?

The Rhineland has a “Wine Walk” which is so called because the area had vineyards and those vineyards grew the grapes they’d make into wine. They’ve been doing this for centuries! Imagine: Giselle’s tavern could have been a house on what we now call the wine walk!

Technology: Timber Frame Houses

Do you notice anything special about these houses? They have wood beams on the outside making beautiful patterns around the windows and walls of the house! These are Timber Framed Houses and they are all over Europe, but especially in Germany. People could make these houses for themselves and, if they made the frames strong enough, they could take the house apart wall by wall and carry the walls to their new home location and just rebuild the walls somewhere new!

Can you see the wood frames on the outside of the house?

Engineering: Paper House

There are so many methods of making houses from paper, but the reason making a paper Timber Frame house is smart is that the principle of building whole, movable walls matches the principle of making walls from paper and folding them to build a 3D building! I might also mention that this project matches the principle of Gingerbread House building, and so is a wintry type of activity. See this darling blog, for a very DIY how-to. The basics are simple.

Paper House making is a craft people love so much they do it into their adulthood and as a result lots of templates for real-world houses exist. This Templom House Cut-Out Template looks quite hard to build because of it’s careful details! While this Model Villa is probably good for my clever dancers!

Click on the picture to download the 6 page description–or just follow the picture you see on the first page:-)

Willis Slideshow

Giselle is a romantic tragedy, but when I tell the story I don’t focus on those elements. It’s a “white ballet,” so called because it features a corps de ballet (rows of ballerinas) wearing white tutus and the sad mood is really felt with these tutus in the “woods,” so I’ve put together a little slideshow of Willis.

Math: Centuries & Daisy Petals

Giselle takes place in the middle ages. The middle ages happened between the 5th century (400-499) and the 15th century (1400-1499). That’s 1,000 years we think passed without many changes or new technologies.

We are in the year 2020, which we call the 21st Century. I know it seems like we should call it the 20th century. It works like this: The first century was 1-99. The second century was 100-199. The third century was 200-299. And on and on!

When Albrecht says he likes Giselle, she picks a daisy and plays “he loves me, he loves me not.” This is an old game of “chance.” The idea is that if someone you liked also liked you in return, you’d pick a daisy that could tell you that. But there isn’t too much magic to this game (it is a game, and not really a way to learn if someone likes you:-) It’s a simple example of EVEN AND ODD NUMBERS. Have you learned about these in school, yet? You usually hear about it in first or second grade.

If a daisy has an ODD NUMBER of petals then, when you play “he loves me, he loves me not” you’ll end on “he loves me.” But, if the daisy has an EVEN NUMBER of petals, you’ll end on “he loves me not.” So if you had the ability to count the petals before you played “he loves me, he loves me not” you’d know the answer before you began! I guess you can only really count the petals on a daisy if you’re drawing it yourself:-)

Giselle Coloring Book

Extra Fun for Don Quixote

Don Quixote is a very special, very old and very BIG book. As you might guess, big books are full of stories–often more than one–and this ballet is based on only the first few chapters of this big, old, magical novel written by Miguel Cervantes.

This is my favorite ballet. When I was young, my mother gave me a VHS tape (remember those?) of Baryshnikov and Cynthia Harvey dancing this ballet and I watched it to shreds. This is the production I link to below.

Science: Spain and Wind

Have you been to the beach? Did you notice it can be really windy at the beach? It’s almost always windy near the water and if you look at the country of Spain, you see it has water almost all around it. The picture below is trying to show with arrows the directions of the winds–so you can see Spain is sunny and windy!

Wind is energy and Spain makes a lot of wind energy! Here is a video that explains how wind is energy you can feel but not see.

Wind can be turned into energy! And that’s why Spain has so many wind farms! This is what wind farms look like. You may have seen one nearby…maybe in the East Bay?

Wind farms are hilly pieces of land covered in wind turbines–that’s why these look different, they’re doing a different job than windmills do but they’re not windmills, they’re TURBINES. Wind turbines capture wind energy to share with a community, so houses can turn on lights or power computers or run air conditioning.

Technology: Windmills

There are lots of kinds of windmills, and the most famous kind, the kind in Don Quixote, aren’t the kind we use today. The kind in Don Quixote grind wheat. This kind of windmill is very old. They look like this. In fact, this is a picture of exactly the windmills in the book by Cervantes!

The Windmills in Don Quixote are the kind that grind wheat. The wind moves the SAILS on the windmill (this is the part that bonks Don Quixote on the head) and that makes a big wooden plate turn inside the building. The miller puts grain berries down and the wood plates push the mill stones to grind the wheat until it turns into flour. This is what you’re eating when you eat bread!

Did you notice: this building MOVES. How many buildings do you know that move?

What other buildings move?

Imagine you were like Don Quixote and you couldn’t see very well. Cover your eyes with your hands and just look through your fingers, or try to look through a piece of fabric to see what it’s like not to see clearly. Then imagine you saw a building move. Can you imagine why Don Quixote thought the windmill was a monster?!

Engineering: Make a Windmill

The simplest windmill is a pinwheel. We can make simple ones or tricky ones.

Simple Pinwheels.
Trickier Pinwheels.

There are countless methods using Toilet Paper Rolls, Ice Cream Cups, or Solo Cups. There are also demonstrations for how to make a wind turbine out of plastic soda bottles but they require drills and therefore can’t be done without a parent. This said, it’s incredible engineering with things you already have around the house!

And if you’d like to make a fan in the style Kitri has, see here:

Art: Coloring Book!

Photos: Kitri

I got a lot of feedback from the children on the photo slideshow for Firebird so, I’ve created one below for Kitri, the ballet’s “star.”

I’ve put a still moment first so you can see the roses, tassels, and embroidery this character’s costume is know for, but what you’re most likely to notice is I took photos of Kitri doing a SISSONNE. This is a step we learn as it’s done by Basil (a la seconde), but Kitri is the one who made it famous. This is in part because a dancer named Gelsey Kirkland did this step on the cover of Time Magazine–this was a very big deal. That magazine cover is the last image of the slideshow.

When I was studying ballet, my teacher didn’t call it a sissonne dérrière, which is the step’s name, instead she called it a Kirkland jump.

Watch the Don Quixote Online

As promised, here is the production I fell in love with as a girl. All on youtube. <3

Don Quixote Coloring Book

Extra Fun for Sylvia

You have heard this music before: whether it accompanied Buggs Bunny, Chico Marx or Knight Rider, Leo Delibe’s ballet score is more familiar than you expect–and yet the ballet is barely known. If more people knew about Sylvia, more people would love it, so with that, let me send you some cute activities and access topics to help you get your child more intrigued by classical ballet using Leo Delibe’s mythic romance, Sylvia!

Science: Sea Caves

The story goes that Aminta sees Sylvia and Sylvia blames Cupid for letting her be seen. She gets mad, shoots an arrow at Cupid and Aminta jumps in front of it. Of course Cupid won’t let him be hurt, but to make Sylvia feel bad Aminta sleeps as if he’s hurt. When Sylvia comes to check on Aminta, Orion (the bad guy) kidnaps her and takes her to his Sea Cave.

In a tale so full of fairies and fauns, it’s funny that Orion is not so clear: sometimes he’s human, sometimes he’s a demi-god, but no matter what he’s always the baddie. So his cave has an underworld-vibe. Sometimes, set design makes it looks like a Solution Cave, all red and fiery, other times there are smooth stone walls and water. What kind of cave do you see in the ballet linked to below?

Technology: Bows and Arrows

Sylvia and her girl squad of fairies (Nymphs) all carry bows and arrows, and are related to Diana (aka Artemis), the hunter goddess. I told my dancers last week the fairies use a bow and arrow like Merida in Brave, so they expect a little intel on this.

When the children learn leaping, I tell them about arrows and show them how an arrow that’s bent or broken can only hit the ground. If your leg is going to fly through the air like an arrow, it has to be straight and sharp. I feel the below video does a much better job of describing the phenomenon than I could. A wonderful archer named Nu also gives a longer description which would be a greater use to parents than children, but it doesn’t hurt to share.

Engineering: Make A Mini Bow & Arrow

Below, see a tiny project to make a tiny bow and arrow!

Art: Motifs

This story is about fairies but the fairies aren’t airy or light: they’re feisty and physical. And did you notice: no wings!

Wings are a MOTIF. This is a detail in art which you see repeated. Each time and place it’s repeated it means a slightly different thing and when you look at all the times you saw the motif you can get a bigger idea of what it’s means to the story!

So how do we know they are fairies? In this ballet, we have “nymphs” who are like Diana so they have motifs in their costumes to show what they are and who they are like. I’ve made this little photo gallery of images of Diana. Notice she always has a bow, sometimes has a dog or a deer, and (most importantly) wears an emblem that looks like a crescent moon. Do you see how the bow can also look like a moon?!

Watch Sylvia in Full: here

I could share a more modern production (this one was shot in the early 70s) but this production is so very charming, I think you’ll like it!

Sylvia Coloring Book:

Tiny Extra Fun for FIREBIRD

The Firebird Suite was written by Igor Stravinsky for the Ballet Russes and the collaborations between those artists were historically valuable and inspired to folklore. Children find Firebird entrancing and I presume they have for a very long time. Your dancer might remember that the young farmer, Ivan, from The Little Humpbacked Horse, found a Firebird feather. This is a continuation of lore among stories. I describe it to the children using movies: If you see R2D2 in a Star Wars movie and then see a totally different Star Wars TV show or cartoon with a character that’s just like R2D2, this is because the movies and shows about Star Wars all happen in the same universe. (They understand this somewhat despite it being rather conceptual.)

As we’re only enjoying the story of Firebird for two weeks, I’m doing an abridged STEAM entry on the ballet: we’ll touch on apples (because golden apples are lure of Katschei, the story’s villain) and the many versions of the Firebird’s costume.

Science: The Oxidation of Apples

The apples in Katschei’s Garden are magical and golden (special!), but the apples in season in the fall are available everywhere (not special). It’s a lower elementary tradition to talk about oxidation in apples. Your preschooler or kindergartener can also participate in this simple science, as they can observe the cause and effect of an apple browning after it’s cut, whether or not they absorb the words “oxidation” or “molecule.” A simply described experiment for observing oxidation follows.

I’m also fond of this “next step” video in which the science teacher observed the browning of the cut apple and looked for different ways to prevent that.

Art: The Firebird

She’s a character from folklore, so we’ve had a long time to imagine how she looks. She is always a girl, cruelly changed into a magical bird by a mean magician (Katschei) and she always sacrifices herself so that her captor is stopped from wrongdoing. She’s dynamic and highly honorable, but only occasionally feminine.

The original costume drawing for The Firebird is not what you’d call pretty. There’s a great video on this from the NYMoMA the parents will like more than the children. But I’m providing a little feast for the eyes below. See how many ways we have imagined the Firebird? How many colors make the fire? Perhaps use these for inspiration when you color the coloring sheet below the slideshow.

I hope this is easy to print.

Watch The Ballet Online

As always, here is a link to see the ballet in its entirety online. Firebird usually takes less than an hour and it’s full of captivating imagery so it’s got a fighting chance of keeping any child’s attention. The link below is to a production with super star Diana Vishneva.

The Firebird Suite Coloring Book