The Story About Ping
We fell in love with China this week as we read The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack. It was my husband’s favorite story as a child (somehow I missed out), so Ian was very eager to read it. Although we did enjoy a few duck/water-related activities, my main objective this week was to give Ian a taste of China and Chinese culture.
For geography we took our “story disk” from the Five in a Row manual (Vol. 1) and placed it along the Yangtze River in China. We also watched part of a fascinating documentary series called Wild China (available streaming on Netflix). I wasn’t sure Ian would be at all interested, so I played it on my laptop during lunchtime. My goal was just to watch the portion on the cormorants (fishing birds), but he actually enjoyed the half hour before we got there (especially the part on bats). So after naptime I played the rest of the the first episode and we enjoyed learning about the “dragons” and giant salamanders, and lots more.
Watching a show like Wild China gave us a good opportunity to discuss the meaning of “fiction” as well. Ian kept asking when we were going to see Ping or if each man was Ping’s master, so I explained that these were all real people, whereas the characters in the story are made up and wouldn’t be there. For a fiction experience, we watched the Reading Rainbow episode “Runaway Duck.” (“Ping” is one of the book recommendations at the end.) Since Mulan played on Disney Channel this week, hijacked Grandma and Grandpa’s DVR once again and recorded it for us to watch as a family Friday night, just for a little extra taste of China.
I’m not usually big on “go-alongs” (related books), but I thought I’d put a few into our school basket just for a little broader picture of China. We already owned Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel and The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy, so I included those. I also added Daisy Comes Home by Jan Brett. I love her detailed illustrations (especially the Chinese clothing), and this story is actually similar to “Ping” (the book jacket mentions it as an influence) so it fit easily into our week. (Visit Jan Brett’s website for more “behind the scenes” information on the book.)
Our math lesson was pretty simple. To help us count all the ducks in Ping’s family, I printed out a “worksheet” from HomeSchool Share, but instead of coloring all the ducks (which I was afraid would get old fast), we used our “rainbow stones.” (We used one color for his father, one for his mother, one for his sisters, one for his brothers, etc., so it was a great visual. Look at all those yellow cousins!) Elijah loved this activity and got lots of counting practice playing with the stones as we cleaned up.
For science we visited a local park to observe the ducks. Unfortunately, so many people disregard the many signs asking them NOT to feed the ducks that the birds have all become quite aggressive, expecting to receive food anytime anyone approaches, especially if they turn out to have anything edible with them. We had taken a lunch and I thought we’d just sit by the lake and enjoy watching the ducks. Think again! First they swarmed around us in such an alarming way, even I felt a little uneasy. Could I get three small children away from them if they got too bold? But after shooing them enough with my feet, they eventually left us alone. Until one decided he didn’t care. He ran up to Elijah and snatched the last bite of chicken nugget right out of his little hand. At first Eli was too surprised to react, but then all the other ducks realized he was an easy target. Of course I happened to be nursing Arianna, so I didn’t exactly have two hands to rescue him (at least without exposing myself to everyone else at the park!) I managed to stand him up on the bench, but even then a duck took a nip at his shoe. By this point he was terrified, so I helped him up to the table out of their reach as an elderly Chinese man came over and helped drive the rest of the birds away. After seeing them go after his brother, Ian was pretty nervous too, and both boys ended up finishing lunch on top of the picnic table. So much for our nice peaceful lunch by the lake! Elijah was so upset he wouldn’t get out of the stroller the rest of the time we were at the park, even when the ducks were far away. Ian, however, did fine as long as they stayed away and started throwing things into the lake (leaves, sticks, stones, etc.) to see what would float.
Little did he know that I had already planned to have a little buoyancy experiement that afternoon. I gathered various items from around the house and we predicted whether they would sink or float. Then we tested each one and sorted them into two groups. Afterward, I asked Ian why he thought they did what they did. We talked about how the ping pong ball floated because it was full of air, just like the barrel on the little boy’s back in the story. Ian took the screw from our “sink” pile and said, “This can be the little boy.” I caught on to what he was thinking and we used a rubber band to strap the ping pong ball to the screw. I asked Ian to predict whether it would sink or float now, and he said with certainty it would float. Of course, he was thrilled to be right. He loved this whole experiment, and as I cleaned up he asked, “Can we do this again next week?”
We finished off our week by taking the train into Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. What an adventure! Lots of crowds, but so much fun! We watched lion dancers, admired dragons, and had a blast throwing down the little “party snaps” vendors were selling on the street. Ian loved seeing things we’d talked about all week, and he was very excited at the thought of visiting “China.” (I couldn’t quite convince him there was a difference, though after seeing all the gorgeous scenery in Wild China, I hope we both get a chance to see the real thing someday!) Gung Hay Fat Choy!