Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tutorial: Circular Perpetual Calendar

For kids of a certain age, the new year is the perfect time to begin a study of the calendar. My goals for this study are for both girls to memorize the sequence of months and a canonical poem relevant to each season (we've already got "Stopping by Woods" in our back pockets, so there's plenty of time to search for a springly-type poem). Will might not be interested in much more beyond that, although I have a list of books on calendar history and calendar cultural studies to sneakily sneak into her library book stash, but for my Syd, who's really enjoying her art right now and who could always use more practice with number sequencing, I have in mind a year-long project, really, having to do with creating a twelve-month calendar, working on one month, well...a month!

For starters, however, I wanted each girl to discover for herself the pattern of the months and the seasons, so together we made each of them her own circular perpetual calendar.

To make the calendar, you need a large piece of paper, the larger the better. We used some professional-quality artist's paper leftover from Matt's days as an undergrad majoring in art, but white posterboard, or a large piece of newsprint, would also be perferct.

Mark the centerpoint of your paper (it's fine to eyeball it), and draw a circle around that centerpoint. You want the circle to be large enough to give the seasons their due, so...a diameter of at least six inches or so? Use a plate as a template, perhaps, but one of the round ones, not the pointy-hat Halloween one that, yes, is STILL in circulation in our house.

Dividing the paper into twelve equal slices around a single radius can be tricky, so I created a template in InDesign, saved it as a pdf, and uploaded it to Scribd for you:
Circle With 12 Dividers

How fun is that? Scribd is basically my new best friend.

Download, print, and cut out this template, and match the centerpoint to the centerpoint of the circle you've already drawn on your paper. Now, here's the tricky part--using a ruler or yardstick to extend the lines of the template, draw these twelve divisions only from the perimeter of the circle you've drawn all the way to the edge of the paper. Do NOT draw these twelve divisions inside that central circle, or you'll mess up your seasons.

Draw these lines in black Sharpie, because you want them to be very visible, and make that very top vertical line extra dark--that's the yearly division between December and January.

Inside the circle, you now want to make four divisions, so that you can line up the four seasons with the months. The next tricky part comes from the fact that the seasons don't line up vertically and horizontally--winter includes December through February, you see, so the inner quadrants will look off-kilter. When you've figured out where your quadrants go, again use your rule to extend the relevant line from the perimeter of the central circle right through the middle of the paper and back again to the perimeter.

Only after I had completely finished these two outlines did I invite the girls to make their calendar. Using the black Sharpie, each girl first wrote the names of the seasons in the proper order in the proper space--

--and then added the months in THEIR proper places:

If you use watercolor paper or some other kinds of professional artist's paper (NOT posterboard), I personally think that these calendars would look simply glorious painted using wet-on-wet watercolor (if you check out my tutorial, please note that I've come to prefer wetting huge pieces of watercolor paper section by section with a sponge, as opposed to the dunking that we give small pieces). Neither of the girls were really feeling the watercolor groove, however, but neither was interested in coloring in those large spaces with pointy crayons or marker tips, either, and so I had another reason to be thankful that I went ahead one day and bought a set of Stockmar block beeswax crayons, even though I have big girls, not toddlers:

The result of the each girl's hard work is a calendar so special that it gets to live on permanent display, one in their shared bedroom, and one on the wall in our study/studio:

Will developed the neat little trick of color-coding her months, so that she could remember what fun holiday each held, such as this red and green December that reminds her of Christmas:

I have to say, however, that barely into January, this is already the season that I, personally, am most looking forward to:

And we haven't even had any truly gigantic snowfalls yet!


Stephanie said...

Mmm, this is a good idea. Maddie's been asking about dates and seasons... this would be something helpful for her to see it all at once, as opposed to turning pages.
Thanks for the idea!

julie said...

Oooh, maybe Madd will fulfill my wet-on-wet watercolor dream.

Did you see, Stephanie, that I'm using your suggestion to hot glue clothespins to our plaster and steel lath walls? It works great!

PuppyLovePrincess said...

what a great idea!

amy (mamascout said...

I love this! It inspired to do our own project (with a few changes). I would love to post our version on my blog and link back to you as the inspiration. Is that ok with you? I would not use your words or images - just the idea and then show what we did with it.

julie said...

Oh, sure! I'd love to see what you've done!