In Which We Learn about the Cambrian Explosion

We have a gorgeous book to nominate for textbook status: “Spineless” by Susan Middleton.  Along with her jaw-dropping photographs, this book absolutely burgeons with interesting information.  Last night, after learning about the phylum Porifera, I was starting to close the book when my son’s hand came slapping down onto the page, meaning quite vehemently, THIS IS AWESOME, KEEP READING!

spineless    crab

This book has introduced us to our favorite crab: the green-eyed red-spotted guard crab. Not only is this crab THE CUTEST THING EVER, but it is one of only two species that protect coral reefs from the destructive HORRIBLE crown-of-thorns starfish. And we are learning about THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION (a short period of time, some 540 million years ago, when animal life diversity jumped from simple, single celled beings and humble sponges toward today’s insanely vast animal assortment). And if that wasn’t enough, we are becoming familiar with new vocab words, “phyla” and “phylum”. GREAT BOOK!

better stamp book     washington stamp

We go postal:  did my son understand how a valentine card from his Aunt Michelle made its way from California to Texas?  We talked about the basic postal system and about stamps.  We considered the neat concept of the “forever” stamp.  We paged through his grandfather’s stamp collection (put together in the 1930’s).  We saw stamps from the 1800’s and we thought about what somebody could have been writing in a letter then…regarding the current president? Farm crops? Holiday felicitations?  We paused to look closely at stamps from countries that have different names now.  What a splendid learning tool.

From our religions of the world unit: last night we looked at beautiful Islamic mosaics – a triumph of geometric shapes, and compared this artwork with intricate stained glass windows from an Anglican cathedral.  Both stunning.

Last night’s music theme: a soundtrack for the Cambrian Explosion!

  • For the single celled amoeba – “Simple Gifts”, the 19th century Shaker hymn, written by Joseph Brackett.  We listened to a very spare and simple rendition by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss.  Elegant.
  • For the green-eyed red-spotted guard crab, we chose Frank Sinatra’s first big hit, “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”  by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke (1940).
  • To honor the Cambrian Explosion, the finale to “1812 Overture”, by Tchaikovsky:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH


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