Saturday, February 17, 2007


Here is a picture of Julius' art inspired by Andy Goldsworthy. It does however serve a utilitarian purpose in that it houses snowballs. Did I mention he is a nine-year-old boy?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sticks and Stones

We were at a friend's on Sunday night. She had wanted to show the DVD Rivers and Tides to Julius to show him what he could do with all the sticks he goes hunting for. As it turned out we all really enjoyed the DVD. Environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy from Scotland uses sticks, stones, leaves, water, ice, flower petals and other natural things to make beautiful transient art. It was really inspiring and amazing.

I found this lesson plan from Australia if you'd like to take your children on an environmental art excursion.

I'm really interested in what people think. I thought it was just amazing and so accessible. Have you heard of him before? Do a google search for Andy Goldsworthy in videos or images to see more.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Get 'em before they are gone!

I've been reading Here in the Bonny Glen, the blog of Melissa Wiley, author of the Little House in the Highland books and homeschooling mom. This week she's posted about the fact that her own books are going to be reissued in an abridged form and the full-length books will probably go out of print. Because of this decision by the publisher she has decided to not write any more books in this series. There are several available at Book Closeouts for only $3.49 each.

I ordered mine this week. Then a few days later, she posted about the possibility that the Betsy-Tacy books may also go out of print. What a shame that would be! My daughter loved these books and most of them we checked out of the library. I guess if I want to be sure she has some to pass on to her daughter, I may have to buy them as well. The library copies were pretty worn softcovers, they won't be making it through many more seasons. Of course, we can write the publisher and try to keep them in print as well. The first one is also at Book Closeouts.

If you order from Book Closeouts using these links, I get a percentage of the sale to spend in their store (which is how I ordered the Highland books - thanks to whoever ordered in January!). I'd really appreciate it!


Year of Egypt Calendar

There are so many free library lectures and other events (some free, some not) going on surrounding the "Year of Egypt" in Philadelphia. If you are local, or coming to Philly to see the Tut, click on the graphic to go the University of Pennsylvania Museum's calendar of events for the Year of Egypt. It'll be hanging out in the sidebar on this blog and the Fieldlearning website.

This weekend is a big event at the Penn Museum - Celebrating African Cultures Day! Check out the schedule here. They also have some neat workshops coming up - in March there is a Shadow Puppet workshop for $10 (which also includes museum admission) - the cost is half that if you are a member.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

King Tut Franklin Institute Review

Today we went to see Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of The Pharaohs at the Franklin Institute. We were part of a large homeschool group and our entrance time was 1 pm. Although our group arrived 3 hours earlier the kids seemed to last pretty well. My friend and I took the kids to the easier exhibits and didn't worry if most of what they were doing was playing. We also saw a show for about 45 minutes so that we could all have some time off of our feet. If you are scheduling a group with younger children, I would advise an earlier entrance time to Tut or skipping the rest of the Franklin Institute and arriving just before your Tut time. You really will want them to have the mental and emotional energy to take in the Tut exhibit.

The first 20 minutes of our time in the exhibit area were spent waiting in line. (We spent about 1.5 hours in the exhibit proper.) Having purchased a few audio tours (prices are $6 for children and $7 for adult - same recordings on either player, so if you have a couple of kids with you, just get the kids tour), we used this time to pass around the players so that everyone could listen to the introduction. We got two audio tours for the four of us. This ratio worked out fairly well for us, although I didn't get to hear all the recordings as the youngest seemed to ask me questions whenever I turned the player on!

However large your group may be they stagger the entrance about every 5 - 7 minutes with about 40-50 people in a group. You enter a dark room with video screens over the doorway into the next. Here is where you hear the no photos, no video, no food, no drink reminder and then watch a 90 second intro video. The video is your first taste of the drama production that you are about to experience. At the end of the video the lights come up on the first object in the exhibit a statue of a Pharaoh about 30 feet ahead. If you go to this page and mouse over the exhibit rooms, you will get a good feel for how things are laid out.

The first room is large and was full of people. If you are patient and hang back you will get to see everything up close. The model ship caught my son's interest, my older daughter enjoyed the chest that was owned by Tut's great-grandparents. These first two rooms show you some objects from daily life and objects from tombs of predecessors to Tutankhamun. There is a transition space as you enter a dark room where you learn about their burial rituals and afterlife beliefs. Again, objects are from Tutankhamun's predecessors. In the center of the room is a large gilded coffin. The detail in the ornamentation and hieroglyphs are amazing. Most of the objects in this exhibit are able to be viewed from all sides which I really appreciated. It also gives a sense of space, so that things don't feel crowded. Two of the audio tour objects in this room are a funeral mask (the famous one of Tut's isn't part of the exhibit) and a princess' chair.

From this room, we entered a bright room with large pillars. At the end of the room was the sole artifact, a bust of Amenhotep IV. The 17 year reign of Amenhotep IV, who they believe is Tutankhamun's father, brought about a change in the structure of religion of Egypt. He changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Ahkenaten, reflecting the worship of Aten. Although the Amarna exhibit at Penn focuses on this reign, there is a strong dose of it here as well. From these two atmospheric rooms with only a few objects we move into a walkway. At the end is a picture of the entrance to the tomb and a short sentence about it, we turn the corner and head up a slight ramp with questions overhead, "Who will be the next king?", "Will chaos ensue?", "Will it be his wife, Nefertiti?", "One of his six daughters?". The drama builds, we reach the top of the ramp and turn right and see one object, a dramatically lit, life-sized statue of the boy-king Tutankhamun. From this point on all the objects are from Tut's tomb. Chairs, jewelry, model ships, figures, chests, his diadem, his flail and crook, a gold dagger and many other objects. The layout of the objects and the numbers of the objects in the rooms allowed for a rather close examination of them. Again, because they were able to be viewed from all sides many people could see the object at once. The dramatic storytelling and atmosphere of the exhibit enhanced the experience in my point of view. I didn't feel it was overdone and my 11 year old really liked that aspect. Oh, one more thing, in case you don't know already, the sarcophagus and funeral mask are not with this exhibit. The last gallery contains gold items that were wrapped in the linens of Tut's mummy.

When I asked all five of the kids who were in my van on the way home "Thumbs up or down?" Four replied as enthusiastically as they could after a long day, "Up!" My friend and I agreed. It was worth the money (at the group rate of $15). The exhibit was well done in every aspect, there was plenty of information, and the crowds were paced nicely. I recommend the audio tour for people who haven't studied King Tut and his predecessors and for teens/kids. The audio tour (it is narrated by Omar Sharif) made this exhibit interesting for my six year old - the one contrary thumbs down. I do think she enjoyed it, although she won't admit it. I saw many other similarly aged children enjoying the exhibit and the audio tour. Another friend with pre-school aged children reported back that her kids did well in the exhibit (they stayed in the exhibit proper for about an hour). She mentioned that some Inspector Gadget videos on Egypt had been helpful in preparing them for the exhibit. Her family also had time to see the planetarium show, Stars of the Pharaohs, and she recommends it.

One final note, unless you have a lot of extra money to spend avoid the gift shop. There were a few books that would be interesting for adults or children, but the overpriced Tut bobble-head, Tut tissue box (the tissues come out of his mouth) and Tut chocolate tin, although amusing, were certainly not worth the prices they were asking, if they were worth anything.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 01, 2007

King Tut Lecture

Last week a friend and I brought three 11 year olds to an outreach lecture at the West Chester Public Library. The topic was the upcoming King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute and the on-going exhibit, Amarna, at the University of Penn Museum. The speaker was Nicholas Piccaro, a PhD candidate in Egyptology.

These outreach lectures are always free and sponsored by the PA council for arts and humanities or something like that. The lecture was in a small room and it was full, but still only about 20 people. The three kids we brought were the only attendees under 30 years of age.

Mr. Piccaro was an interesting and engaging speaker. He had a nice powerpoint that served its purpose in keeping our attention with clear visuals. He also really knew his stuff! And, again, my theory that finding small-time experts and talking with them is very fruitful educationally was proven. He gave us a review of Tut's place in history, the importance of the Egyptian gods in the life of the Pharaoh and common people. He spoke quite a bit about King Akenaten, presumed to be Tut's father, who totally changed the religious system from polytheistic to monotheistic. In addition he touched on archeology and how King Tut's tomb was discovered.

We also got a few insights into the current Tut exhibit (Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs). The exhibit has already been to Europe and the purpose of sending these objects all over the world is to raise money to build a new museum to house the collection of objects from Tut and other Pharaohs. It will be built close to the Valley of the Kings, previously the objects were in Cairo. Although the adverts for the exhibit show what appears to be the well-recognized Tut mask, it is not. It is from an very small object, a box, that has a replica of the mask in miniature on top of it. So, don't expect the mask, that's still in Cairo! Mr. Piccaro did say that there are many more objects in this exhibit than that of the 1970's. While the 70's exhibit focused solely on Tut, this exhibit seeks to put Tut in context with other Kings around that time. There are objects from these other Kings that although not as plentiful as what was found in Tut's tomb, indicate that Tut was not unusual in terms of his burial goods.

After the lecture was over I asked Mr. Piccaro about a strategy for taking kids to the exhibit. My oldest is 11 and the youngest 6 with another in the middle, what should I make sure they see, what concepts should they grasp? We had already been to the Amarna exhibit (which he recommended going to first, btw), so they got a fair dose of Tut's context there. I loved his response. One, it takes the pressure off of the event. Two, it indicates that wonder and excitement can be more worthwhile than content! He said, "Let them lead, keep an eye on them, because it will be full, but see what they are drawn to and follow their lead." He said he wasn't sure if there would be an audio tour for kids, but if so, that it probably wouldn't have many objects on it, still that could be a good idea. When pressed he did mention two very large objects that the kids should see, but then he noted, they are so big, you can't miss them. (Frankly, I can't remember what they were.) At the end, he reiterated, let them go to what they are drawn to.

If you are anywhere near the Philadelphia area, this is your last chance to see the Tut exhibit in America. And, once it is gone, you'll probably have to fly to Egypt to see it again in your lifetime. Yes, the tickets are expensive, I balked at the price too, but it is cheaper than a flight to Cairo!

We are scheduled to go to see the Tut exhibit next Tuesday. I'll be taking the advice of the soon to be PhD in Egyptology - let them lead, let them go to what they are drawn to. I also will post a review of the exhibit and our experience with it.

This just in from Julius - Radio Times on WHYY right now is airing an interview with the national curator of the exhibition. Here's the link to their archives, look for Radio Times, February 1st, 2007.

Labels: , , ,