Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Feature: Neptune and its Moons

Caroline recently brought home an assignment to create a model of one of the planets, due the Monday after Spring Break. She got to choose her own planet, and she picked Neptune. It wasn't an uneducated decision; our kids are pretty into space, and we've read several books and watched a lot of Science Channel shows about the universe.

I was just glad we weren't going to have to paint the Great Red Spot or figure out how to do Saturn's rings.

When I read the assignment, for whatever reason, I inferred that each child in the class would create a model that would then be incorporated into a larger class project. Translation: paint a styrofoam ball blue, and you're good.

And you now have an idea of why I never won any awards for science fair.

Thankfully, Daddy had a better idea of what was required, so last Saturday we trooped off to Hobby Lobby to get supplies for the model. We returned home with styrofoam balls; three colors of acrylic paint; a wire wreath frame for rings (did you know Neptune has rings??); dowel rods; a wooden base for the stand; a mini-tripanel for the background; star stickers; planet cut outs; and a tiny model of Voyager 2, all in the name of accuracy.
The thing is, I'm a firm believer that kids need to do their own projects. This one was going to be a little bit beyond Caroline in some ways (i.e., I don't think having her drill a hole in the wooden base was a good idea), but in everything possible, the work was on her.

Something that I've come to appreciate is a true skill, and one not yet developed in 3rd graders, is the ability to backwards plan. Caroline knew the model was due Monday, but being able to consider all of the steps required to complete it; assess how much time each step would take; and then create the timeline for completion probably would've taken as much time as the project itself. Easy answer: get started on Sunday.

Lots of painting... and using the iPad to figure out what the 14 moons look like
First, painting the planet - Neptune is basically just blue. An Ice Giant, Caroline told me, way out there in the outer part of the solar system where everything is frozen. Turns out Neptune has clouds and its own spot, too, but not as colorfully dramatic as Jupiter's. It took a few coats of blue before Caroline could get to the clouds and the spot, but she did all of it herself.

Then there were the moons - fourteen of them. Who knew? And this is where I was blown away - she did every single one of them herself, using the iPad to find images on NASA's website, mixing colors and using the scissors to make craters. She worked so hard to get them as true to life as possible, without any help at all from me or Justin. So proud of that kid!
After a few days of painting, waiting for moons to dry, putting another coat of blue on Neptune, then finally getting the clouds and the spot on there, the model was ready for assembly. Daddy did help with this part, but my big kid did almost everything herself.

I am so impressed with how it came out - considering my expectation was a styrofoam ball painted blue, this project  is definitely an A+ in my book!

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