Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Flower Arranging with Kids

Fair warning: I had three wisdom teeth extracted yesterday afternoon, and I'm primarily attempting to get on with business as usual in order to distract myself from the fact that the oral surgeon didn't send me home with adequate pain relief, even though he admitted that a couple of impactions would certainly put me in more than the typical amount of pain. To be fair, the procedure itself couldn't have gone better, as far as I'm concerned--I got an IV put in, blinked, and found myself back in the passenger seat of my car, Matt driving me home--so I guess you can't win them all?

Anyway, if you see that I've said something absolutely crazy during this post, just remember that one of the listed side effects of my crappy pain meds is *maybe* an altered mental state. Just be glad that you weren't with me yesterday afternoon at Kroger's and K-mart trying to get my prescriptions filled--Matt had the children howling with laughter last night as he told them how I wandered off (I do remember for some reason needing to go buy cheese...) and had to be paged, got frightened by a unicorn pinata and insisted on walking backwards so it couldn't sneak up on me, tried to sit down on the floor in the middle of an aisle, became tearful when I couldn't feel the lower part of my face and made Matt take a photo of me to prove that it was still there (in this photo, I am inexplicably giving a thumbs-up), picked out only the soup that had pictures of Super Mario Bros. on the front of the cans (???), wouldn't stop touching Matt's chin because I found it so wonderful that he had one, couldn't understand how the door to the dairy refrigerator worked, kept commenting that total strangers were glaring at me, and many other madcap adventures, none of which I really remember, but all of which make it clear that it sucked to be Matt that afternoon.

However, hours BEFORE this big adventure, my mother-in-law, Jane, and I hosted a meeting of my Girl Scout troop so that Jane could teach the kids about flower arranging--this is an activity for the Junior Flowers badge, although with some creativity, you can make this work for other badges if you have a mixed-level troop, as I do.

The girls each arrived at the meeting with their cookie box notebook and decoupaged pencil (these two items have vastly improved the quality our activities, since the kids can take notes or sketch during presentations or lectures--it really helps them stay engaged!); a quart-sized Mason jar or spaghetti jar (be prepared to supply these to some kids who don't bring the correct kind, because it's kind of hard to describe exactly what you want in an email); and garden clippers (I was actually surprised that each kid had one of these to bring; I had set out some extra big scissors and kitchen scissors, just in case). I have plenty of glue sticks, markers, regular scissors, and, sigh, paper plates for the kids to use during meetings, but if you don't, the kids can bring those, as well.

Our troop has previously taken a field trip to the IU Greenhouse to study flower botany, so to review that lesson, one of the girls brought a poster that she'd made for our recent Science Fair and gave her presentation on that topic again for us. I also brought out my Brock Magiscope and big set of AmScope prepared slides, reviewed proper microscope usage ("What's the most important rule, Kids?" "Don't crunch Ms. Julie's slides!!!" they all shout in unison!), and set that out on the coffee table for the kids to look at independently later.

An aside: I'd put away the slide of the human spermatazoa before the kids arrived, just because I didn't want to talk about biological reproduction that day, so of course the first slide that the first kid picked up later was of a rabbit testis. "What's a rabbit testis?" the kid asked, logically.

"It's one of the organs in a rabbit," I replied brightly. "Ooh, can you see the cells? What shape are they? Are they all the same color? Blah, blah, blah, distraction, distraction, distraction."

On to the flower arranging! Thank goodness for Jane, because all the flower arranging concepts that she taught the kids were also news to me. It's a shame that there aren't any flower arranging manuals written to children, because as you're going to see, this is actually a really accessible project for a kid. Jane, though, had studied up and read some books and taken some classes over the years, and so was able to distill the information for the kids in a way that they seemed to easily grasp.

For flower arranging, you need to understand color theory. Jane talked about color wheels with the kids, and complementary and analogous colors and when and why you'd choose each, and each kid created her own color wheel using paint samples and a paper plate.

You also need to understand the visuals of how a flower arrangement should be shaped. Jane talked about the principles of height--an arrangement should be no more than 1.5 times the height of the vase--spike, fill, and spill--an arrangement should have a tall piece, some low pieces that can spill over the edge of the vase, and pieces that fill in the spaces between--and overall shape--triangular is the easiest to begin with.

And then, of course, there's tool usage. You use the clippers to change the height of a flower, and strip leaves from the bottom of the stems so that they don't touch the water. You strengthen a flower stem by wrapping it in floral wire, then use floral tape to cover the wire.

With their brains filled with all this new knowledge, the kids were off and away! Jane and the kids and I had gone to the grocery store the day before to buy flowers for the arrangements (it's your Girl Scout cookie purchases that pay for the supplies for these educational, enriching activities for the girls, so THANK YOU!!!), and then later that day Willow took me and Jane on a hike to help us find dogwood, redbud, ferns, and what I think was golden aster. During the meeting, as well, the girls were free to take their clippers out and also choose lilacs from my tall lilac bush. With the addition of these free wildflowers, the cost breakdown for all the flowers was about $4.50 per kid; for this amount, each kid could make two different flower arrangements, if she chose, and each kid also took home an extra tulip in case she wanted to dissect it. I think that this same amount of flowers would have supported a group of up to ten kids, although they would likely only be able to each make a single arrangement then.

The kids LOVED flower arranging! They all clearly had a vision of what they wanted, they clipped and arranged, cut lilacs, chose tulips, asked people's opinions and offered their own, chatted happily, complimented each other's work--it was wonderful to watch. They all worked very thoughtfully, and at the end you could really see that they'd utilized the techniques they had been shown.

I was too busy for it to even occur to me to take photographs, but here are some photos of our own arrangements that I took this morning:
Here are Jane's model arrangements. She did these while talking the kids through her process, so that they could see how the techniques work in action.
This is Willow's arrangement. She's always been a minimalist, and I love that you can see it shining through here, as well. Her dogwood flowers in the center are drooping, because she neglected to make sure that the stem was in the water. Watch out for that!
This is Syd's arrangement. She took a lot of care with her color scheme, because she wanted it to go with the vase that she'd decoupaged with tissue paper. I'd heard online that putting Saran Wrap around a decoupaged vase adds texture and is lovely, but now that I've done it on Syd's vase, I find that I do not care for it at all. 
For those who want to continue exploring flowers this week, or who want to integrate the activity into a unit study, I created a list of additional Flowers activities to explore, sized so that the girls could paste them right into their cookie box notebooks. Here are the activities:

  1.  Do you own a flower press? If not, they’re easy to make! They also make good gifts. Here's a tutorial for making your own flower press
  2. Use your skills to make your own flower arrangements for a family dinner, a gift, or just as something pretty!
  3. Did you know that you can make flower prints onto paper or fabric using a HAMMER?!? Here's how to do flower pounding
  4. Research and identify each flower in your arrangement. What is its Latin name? Where does it like to grow?
  5.  Learn to identify other spring bulbs and flowers. Here are flash cards to download and print.
  6.  Learn the parts of a plant cell. Here’s a plant cell model that you can print and color.
  7. Incorporate your flower arrangement into a still life and draw or paint it. This may count as an activity for another badge—look and see!
  8. Choose one of the flowers from your arrangement to dissect, so that you can identify all of its parts. Here's a demonstration of how to do this.

Because of the color theory lesson that I didn't anticipate, I also researched this morning some additional color wheel activities, some of which I'll be doing with the kids in the next couple of weeks:

  1. Make a color wheel cookie cake! The kids loved their edible plant and animal cell cookie cakes so much that I know they'd also love to make an edible color wheel. I'm thinking it would be a cookie cake base with fruit and cream cheese frosting to make the color wheel. This could also be a good rough draft for the fruit pizza that I want to make for Syd's birthday party.
  2. Color Theory Worksheet. The ABCs of Art printable study has a page with all of the main principles of color theory on it, in black and white for you to color in. I'm definitely going to have the kids make this to use as a reference for future art activities.
  3. 3D Color Wheel Mobile. I doubt that Will is going to be interested in doing this project, but I KNOW that Syd will! This project is as much about following specific directions as it is about painting, but when you're done, you'll have a spherical color wheel that works when viewed from any direction, and that can be hung from the ceiling as a mobile.
  4. Color Wheel Quilt Block. This is a project for me. I really want to make this!
  5. Comparison Boxes and Scales. Using these boxes, you can usefully compare the effects of different colors together, and can play with adding black or white to colors to change the tone.
  6. Outdoor Color Wheel. I wouldn't make this as a clock, but I think that if I cut a circle from a pallet, the kids could paint and seal a really cool color wheel to display on the side of the chicken coop, perhaps.
  7. Spinning Color Wheel. Alternate colors on the spinner, then see what they look like when you spin them!
  8. Mandala Color Wheel. Both kids really like making mandalas, so this might be something fun to try with them.
  9. Interactive Color Wheel. This would be great as part of a science notebook or journal.
  10. Kite Paper or Cellophane Color Wheel. We could make these in a cardboard frame, as I did with my color viewers--which the kids still play with!
The kids already want to make more flower arrangements; I'm excited for more of our wildflowers and garden flowers to bloom, because I really love the idea of having some beautiful flower arrangements that are made only of our own beautiful flowers.

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