Extra Fun with The Little Humpbacked Horse

This magic fable gives us a chance to look at the build of a ballet production, the harvest of a farm, how to make our toys fly and how to paint a puppet!!!

Science: Plowing Earth

The Little Humpbacked Horse begins at Ivan’s family farm, where we see farm equipment, typically a scythe or a plow. A PLOW is a basic farming tool that pokes into the dirt to loosen it and make it easier for air, water and sun to fall on anything we plant there. This lovely little video shows a plow breaking up the earth and a farmer dropping seeds into holes he makes for them. Simple and easy to follow.

Seeds need the air, sun and water to grow. Plows help.

Technology: The Scythe

The SCYTHE is a basic cutting tool that helps the farmer cut wheat, grass or any tall crops so s/he doesn’t have to bend over and hurt his/her back in the process. The Gentleman Farmer calls it FarmFit and shows how to do it properly below.

Like an ancient lawnmower–and you are the motor.

Engineering: Pulleys

If you’ve ever seen someone “fly” onstage, you know they’re not really flying, they’re lifted by ropes. The people get into the air with the help of a PULLEY. I made this simple, silly video to show how a “Firebird Feather” can help Ivan Fly.

I made a pulley, but the better video is linked to PULLEY.

Art: Puppet Painting

For a while I’ve had requests for puppet painting workshops–I’m open to the idea, but I thought I’d commit the act to video first. Below find videos for painting both Ballerinas and Cavaliers. In my demonstration I use a bamboo rice paddle, but when I’ve done workshops in preschools I’ve given everyone plastic spoons and sharpies.

I use bamboo rice paddles and acrylics…
…but you can use a plastic spoon and sharpies.

Math: Rows, Columns & Corps de Ballet

Corps (pronounced “core”) de ballet are groups of dancers who usually dance in unison. The word “Corps” means “body” and perhaps “Corps de Ballet” refers to the majority or heart of the company. For the dancers to move in unison means they are doing the same things at the same time, and to show that off, dance teachers put them into ROWS and COLUMNS. Costumes help as well. Can you see the unison?

Click to see Corps de Ballet dancers working together in this video.

When you have a class of 12 or 15 (common sizes) a dance teacher has to organize the dancers into rows. Here is a small video showing this principle using glass gems. Dancers think of it as choreography, but math teachers call it Array Division.

Putting dancers on a stage involves math.

Extra Fun with La Fille Mal Gardee

This delightful ballet takes place on a farm years ago, which provides lots to explore with our STEAM extra resource page!

Royal Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardee leaves YouTube FRIDAY! WATCH BEFORE IT’S GONE!

La Fille Mal Gardee

Science: Alain Flies with his Umbrella

In La Fille Mal Gardee, the silly boy Alain carries his umbrella with him even when it doesn’t look cloudy. It looks like he’s afraid of the rain, but at the end of the first act, the wind sweeps him up into the sky and carries him away! Of course, this is impossible, but that’s why it’s silly! Or, Alain knew something we didn’t?

He could never REALLY do that!

Most of the time, when wind hits an umbrella, it looks like this.

We are SO HEAVY the umbrella can’t lift us up…but what if we’re not holding the umbrella? It can fly open or fly away if the wind gets it just right. Umbrellas can just fly off if they aren’t tied down.

ACTIVITY: If you have a cocktail umbrella (of if you want to make one) and you put it in front of a fan, it float away! You can’t make it float unless the umbrella is open and the wind is approaching from under the bell. You can even make it float by blowing.

Technology: Wheat to Flour

Wheat is where flour comes from, and we need flour to make bread. And it takes A LOT of work to turn wheat in to flour!!

See the wheat bushells in front! BIG DEAL!!!

Wheat is bundled to be THRESHED more easily. In threshing, wheat berries come out their stalks. This farm in Morgan Hill does it with a pillow case!

Wheat is a long, tall plant and at the top of each stalk are a bunch of wheat berries.

Threshing breaks the stalk and chaff and the berry has to be separated in a process called WINNOWING. This animation calls it “Methods of Separation” and this is where children can get really involved looking at the berries as they vary in shape, size and wight from the chaff or the bits of wheat shaft that always stay in the mix.

People are incredibly creative with threshing. This family made their own thresher out of a bucket. After the berries are cleaned and separate, the wheat can be ground into flour. In this video, you see Mill Stones grind the wheat twice to get flour!

The old fashioned way!

This fellow grew a plot of wheat in his backyard and shows you harvest to flour in 5minutes! Today, it’s all modernized, but the basics remain the same.

Engineering: Locks and Keys

Do you remember when Auntie locked Lise into the house? Did you notice that key was different than the keys your family might use to get into your house?

That’s a big key!!!

That key is old! And in England, where buildings are quite old, it’s still fairly common for people to use old locks like that. This is why most of the videos you’ll find about old LEVER LOCK works come from the United Kingdom. This short video shows you how the lever works. Notice the locksmith’s accent:-)

This lovely animation addresses the inner workings of a modern lock with clarity!

Jared Owens made this and MANY other engineering animations. See his YouTube here.

Locks and keys are wonderful simple machines. Locks/Keys are both practical end intellectual tools so early education features a lot of activities with them . The blog No Time for Flashcards shows wonderful matching games to do at home with padlocks and luggage locks, and Voila Montessori argues locks can build resilience!

Art: Spinning & Weaving

Lise and Colas show they like each other early in La Fille Mal Gardee, when he hands her the end of a big ribbon and they twirl the ribbon into a big CATS CRADLE.

You can make your own Cat’s Cradle do this by yourself or with a friend!

Cats cradles are a kind of weaving, but it’s also an old game. This video shows how to set up and play Cat’s Cradle. All you need is string you can tie into a loop. Mom’s Minivan has trickier examples, but once your child figures out one Cat’s Cradle variant, it’s quiet fun for a long time!

Weaving is really important on a farm and so is SPINNING! Spinning is what you do to weave wool or cotton into yarn. From yarn you can make sweaters and scarves. Lise and her Aunt weave together.

How does that work?

This wonderful video shows you how a spinning wheel works. Ask your child if s/he hears the Scottish accent of the weaver.

Dancing weaves the maypole!

Did you noice the lovely MAYPOLE everyone dances around at the end of the first act? You can make your own Maypole at home!This adorable Waldorf teacher shares both a song and a model you could copy for a miniature indoor maypole. I especially like this tutorial which the Highland Plains Historical Society (#PPHMAtHome) uploaded just this May. This has a long tradition, and it’s also useful for teaching braiding, so you don’t need to instruct about it exclusive to May or May Day. You can see how this could get really elaborate, but how wonderful to see one that’s simple and easy! And this coloring book has some wonderful offerings, one which is available to print.

Click the picture to link to the coloring page.

Math: (Music) Meter & Time Signatures

La Fille Male Gardee has lots fun songs that play with tempo. Consider the Clog dance in the first act. This might be an easy example to use with your child because the clogs are a percussion instrument and part of the dancing at the same time. You’ll hear the music go fast four times and slow on the fifth. The music signature is 12/8, which explains the speed but the point of my example is that you can count the tempo by counting the sound of the clogs and that’s an apt introduction to

Most of my dancers are 3-6, however, I do have a community of lower elementary children from 6-10 and those children could approach the topic of music and math with an approach using pizza (fractions). I had a hard time learning my notes as a child, but I bet if someone explained it to me with a pizza, I’d have learned faster!

Steps: Asymmetrical jumps

Coloring the following coloring pages will help the dancer see the difference between symmetry and asymmetry as well as the position of the feet as they’re expected to be IN MID AIR. Since the children don’t really get to observe their feet in the air, these study tools (ahem, coloring pages) are the next best thing.

This is a symmetrical jump: both legs do the same thing.

THIS SHOULD BE FUN! We’re beginning with sauté, to remind the children when you jump you MUST point your toes and stretch your knees. In fairness, Sauté (aka temps levé) is a symmetrical jump (both legs do the same thing) and while it demonstrates fundamentals, it’s won’t prepare them for asymmetrical jumps.

Page 33 in a great book!

After sauté, the children will practice dégagé for stronger feet and to build into glissade, petit jete and assemblé. In other months, we learn sissonne and if the children are ready to zoom through these jumps, I’ll definitely test their abilities!

Glissade: from same book.

Please share when your child completes extras!

Extra fun for Peer Gynt

Hello, Moms & Dads! Below find easy EXPERIMENTS, tiny LESSONS and STEAM inspired ACTIVITIES for your dancers at home! PEER GYNT is born in NORWAY, takes a SHIP through FYORDS, and makes MONEY abroad. So, using something like a STEAM format, I’ve laid out these activities to support our learning in ballet!

This month’s ballet story is from NORWAY! National Geographic for kids has a wonderful page on the nation. Crayola’s Flag Coloring sheet is below. As with all coloring pages, click the picture to go to the link where the image should appear for printing.

Link to Coloring Page: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/68/f8/e2/68f8e2af5daa8e4d5ec5736f28b5ec57.gif

I hope the extras are fun! I loved finding them for you:-) Thanks to all the homeschool families for their great work and resources! Sharing really is caring!

Science: Fjords

It’s good to re-address BIG and SMALL. Whenever we have a map we’re seeing something very big in a way to make it look small. A child can’t imagine the actual distance a map covers. Using household objects can help drive ideas home. Don’t have glaciers to show your child? I bet you have ice cubes, and the difference between the two (BIG and SMALL) is part of the learning opportunity.

Location of Norway: Link to NatGeoKids

Norway is part of Europe, and has a very rich culture and history. The map/coloring sheet below shows a wonderful jagged landscape on the water-facing side of the nation and coloring this can help your child make a connection between the land and the FJORDS described below! Look at all the “U-Shaped” cuts GLACIERS made!

Click for Coloring Page

Fjords (img below) are long, narrow bodies of water running between mountains. Watch a beautiful short video of Fjords here.


Do you see the curves in this fjord? These curves in the fjord are often shallow so boats and people can make their ways into the water. They’re made when glaciers rolls down the land and slowly change the land’s shape. Glaciers roll because the surface of the ice melts and moves the heavy ice above.

Surface melting

EXPERIMENT: When you hold an ice cube, the ice feels wet. This is because the place where the ice is touching your warm hand is melting. That makes the ice cube really slippery. The same thing is happening to a glacier. When a glacier touches the land, the surface of ice touching the ground melts and helps the ice slide down. This is how the fjords were made! Watch a great animation describing the process HERE.

Maybe you did this sensory activity before: you put food coloring in water and freeze the cubes so the child can color with them. The colored liquid also demonstrates surface melting.

Technology: Viking Boats

Remember when Peer runs away and gets on a boat? He sails all the way to Africa. Norway has a long boating tradition. Below you’ll see two versions of the “VIKING LONG BOAT.” The first has OARS. An Oar is a flat stick a person has to put into the water and row to push the boat through the water. This boat has six oars, so it will sail well in the fyords, but it is missing one thing.

A simple longboat.

Engineering: Viking Long Boats

Can you imagine the long fjords with a long boat in them? These boats have oars and SAILS. The oars help the boat when there isn’t much wind, but a sail catches the wind to help the boat travel at sea. Below, find a wonderful activity that shows you how to make a Viking Longboat with a sail!

You can make this! Click for directions!

Art: Cartoons, Music and Sculptures

Every time we learn a new ballet story, we learn a story people loved so much they repeated it again and again. Peer Gynt is a story like that. It was a legend, then a poem and then–most famously–a play by Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen asked Edvard Grieg to write music for it and that music has been used in symphonies, operas and ballet.

See Peer Gynt produced by Ballet Santiago

Peer Gynt makes selfish mistakes, which means his story features bad examples (lying, cheating, stealing, etc). There are plenty of animations about Peer Gynt that are more explicit than you’d expect for a cartoon, so if you find one I don’t mention here, you might want to preview it before you show your child. The warning even applies to music history/appreciation videos like this one: which is very charming and witty, but does includes some stuff you may have to explain.

This 30min Russian Claymation from 1979 is fascinating, but includes drinking and…the BUTTONER (the story’s Grim Reaper). This puppet version from Jim Gambler (25min) is geared towards children, but you might find the puppets occasionally creepy. The best and most renowned is still the MEL-O-TOONS version from 1960, but it’s in pieces like “Arabian Adventures” (including Anitra’s Dance), Hall of the Mountain King and “Storming Seas.

Mel-o-toons Hall of the Moutnain King

Our ballet step progression includes arabesque with arms. Below is a coloring sheet. Coloring in the dancers, much like coloring in the curves of the map, helps reinforce the child’s visual understanding of the principles we’re trying to instill.

Coloring Arabesques to better see body positioning.

Math: Money

Most countries have different kinds of money and each kind of money has a different value. America has Dollars, India has Rupees, Japan has Yen, and Norway has Kroner.

The word Krone means “crown,” and one Krone is worth about ten cents, which means the 100 Kroner you see in the picture below is worth about $10 US dollars.

One US Dollar is worth about 10 Norwegian Kroner.

Maybe you’ve used this work at school? Each row is 10, each square is 100 and each cube is 1,000. This is counting like Krone!

Maybe you’ve used this work at school? This work is counting like Krone!

Thank you for reading and I hope you found something here that could be fun to do while it helps support our learning with Peer Gynt!

May 6, 2020: Extra Fun for Legend of Love

The Ballet We Are Studying Online

I’m so happy to see my dancers online! I wanted to provide some at home learning for you, all inspired by our ballet of the month: Legend of Love!

The story takes place in ancient Azerbaijan!

Azerbaijan is not often represented in western culture and that gives us a special opportunity to learn with this story!

Click the flag to download an Azerbaijan Flag coloring sheet.

You can also use this one by Crayola.

The story of the ballet is inspired by a 12th Century poem–that’s more than 800 years old! The Poet who wrote this romantic poem was Nizami Ganjavi and he came from Persia. Persia is what we used to call Iran. Can you see on the map how close Iran is to Azerbaijan? How might a person get from one country to the other?

Do you also see Turkey on the map? The songwriter who turned the poem into a ballet story was from Turkey. His name was Nâzım Hikmet and he was quite important, but we don’t have a lot of his work in America because it hasn’t all been translated into English from Turkish. Just like Maria Montessori, Hikmet is famous for speaking out for peace!

Do you know what interests me? The water. In the ballet story, there’s a spring that gets clogged or stopped up by a rock. I’ll bet it would be be an interesting science experiment to work that out with rocks and water. I might see about that.

The Ballet and the Music are Modern

See the whole ballet online by clicking on the image.

The Music was written by Arif Melikov; this is the name we practice after the puppet story. When you hear the music, you can tell it’s not melodious or gentle: it’s got a lot of hard sounds and it goes from loud to quiet and back quickly. You can also see, when you watch the ballet online, that the dancers are using their arms and legs in a way that looks like the loud and quiet changes in the music. See how they make their hands stick out? And see how they bend their knees where we’d usually stretch them straight?

This Month’s Step in Pieces: Pique Turn

This is the time of year when we try new things, because all of my students are older and bolder, so I thought we could try to learn Pique Turns! We’ll learn this in four parts. We start with 1. passe, then we 2. change weight from two feet to one, then 3. change feet and 4. pivot on demi-pointe.

The aspect of the step we’ll spend the most on is doing pique without the turn. It looks like this:

Adding a turn (pivot) is a big step. This is the first traveling turn we learn in ballet!

Here is a tutorial on the step in action. Notice how she travels across the floor.

Click on video or link to it here.

Below is a simple coloring sheet. The arms are different on this dancer.

I mentioned this is a traveling turn, which means we do the step to get from one end of the room to the other. Often, when we do many pique turns across the floor, we change arms for our last turn. Here, the arms seem to say “tada.”

Below is another coloring sheet–you can see this dancer is shifting weights from one foot to the other. Notice she is on demi-pointe.

Making this resource page has been so much fun, I want to make them for all the ballets I’m sharing (only with my students) via youtube. I’ll make one for Coppelia and update you as it’s done.

Let’s make this as fun as we can!