Musings from Home

I have long bemoaned the lack of creative projects in Emerald’s education. I fondly look back at all the book reports and presentations, the maps, the films, the made-up civilizations, etc. of my youth. I felt that creativity and writing skills were taking a major backseat (like they were all the way in Nebraska while the front of the car was in Virginia) to the standardized testing to demonstrate compliance with “No Child Left Behind”.

Finally, last year after all the testing was done, Emerald was assigned a really cool project: She was to make a “Book in a Bag” report.

She had to write summaries of the chapters of the book she read and then come up with seven objects that represent happenings in the book and put them in a paper bag decorated with the title and author of the book on one side and a summary and illustration on the other. She was asked to make sure that not all of the objects were literal. Emerald had so much fun with this project; she loved discussing, shopping for, and making the items for within the bag. She is one creative, artistic child.

A couple of weeks ago, she was assigned another super neato project: She had to make a musical instrument from things that could be found around the house. She and I immediately began perusing websites of “build your own” instrument instructions. After combing through several pages showing how to make wind instruments from plastic soda bottles and such, we came to one which showed a Japanese kokiriko made from floppy disks. Her decision was instantaneous.

I know what you’re thinking, how do floppy disks qualify as something lying around the house these days? That may be the case in a normal house in 2011, but what about in a house of technology pack rats? Jim and I just happened to have an entire box of unused, colorful, floppy disks enjoying their retirement in a cabinet in our home office.

After explaining to Emerald what floppy disks are (she was, after all, born after the year 2000), we all began brainstorming how to make this instrument even cooler.

And Jim, being a power tool enthusiast, starting planning how Emerald could do the bulk of this project herself (with guidance, of course) as safely as possible. To that end, he set up the following drill press jig:

He then taught our lovely daughter (actually both of them) the must-know safety rules when using any power tool:

  • Always, always, always wear safety glasses.
  • Never, ever touch the drill bit while it’s still spinning.
  • Always unplug a power tool when it’s not being used.
  • Etc.

My job was to take pictures Emerald could include in the accompanying report and journal she had to write.

But the drill press was WAY too cool for any of us to let Emerald and Daddy have all the fun, so of course Sapphire and I had to take a turn (or two in her case). I only got one turn because I was the one who cracked the disk around the holes so much that it was the only unusable disk of the bunch! Mama needs to stick to her knitting needles and leave the drilling to the professionals (in this case a 10-year-old and an assisted 5-year-old)! 🙂

After the drilling was all done, it was time to cut the dowels for the handles. I cringed just thinking of Emerald using a chop saw, although I trust Jim implicitly and I know with all certainty that he would not take any chances with her safety. Still, I couldn’t get that “Walk the Line” scene out of my head.

Emerald was completely willing to give it a try (as I kept my mouth shut), that is until Jim gave his final warning: “You are perfectly safe as long as you keep away from the saw blade.” When she asked what could happen, he answered honestly, “The saw could cut your arm off.” That did it. Emerald is a dedicated student and this was her project, but there is no way that she is going to risk life and limb (literally!) for any project. She decided that she could still contribute to the cutting of the handles, as the dowel holder (at the long end). This suited Mama much better, too.

Once the handles were cut and the tools were cleaned off and put away, it was time to assemble the instrument by screwing the wooden handles onto two end disks and threading pink twine through the holes in the disks, separating each disk by three washers. This was another place that Mama, Daddy, and Sapphire could help a little. It was fun putting the washers on, although Emerald asked us to let her do most of them. It was important to her that she do her own project. Did I mention she is dedicated? Plus she was having fun, too! 🙂

A few knots and a little tennis tape later and [drum roll please]:

I know this really cool project will stick with all of us for a long time. It was such a fun, family adventure, with lots of laughter and photo ops! Woo Hoo!

Have you (or your children) done any fun school projects that you still remember fondly — or maybe even still have around?

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Comments on: "Making Music With a Techno-Dinosaur" (1)

  1. That is an amazing project! Great job, E! Art is pretty big at my kids’ school so sometimes I feel like every other week I have a new “family project” to work on. I guess our favorites are the two projects that won our daughter her city awards! Although, it means the city still has her art hanging somewhere…

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