This week's main project has been inspired by a much smaller one - making fly agaric toadstools out of LEGO. What I loved most about this little project was Jenson's attention to detail. Whereas I simply built a white 2x2 trunk and stuck a red lid on top, he noticed the white gills that sat underneath the red lid. You can see the difference between my effort and his.
It all began on Monday morning when Jenson pulled out our fungi book, purchased off the back of our trip to Devon a few weeks ago. While walking back from the beach one day we had stumbled across lots of different species of fungi. Since then his fascination with these brilliant organisms has accelerated.
It is also very topical given that his maths sessions with his tutor at the moment concentrates on measuring and getting him familiar with a ruler and cm's. We learned that the cap width of a fly agaric toadstool is normally between 8-20cm. After making it a little too small on the first attempt, Jenson added an extra line of dots all the way around.
His interest in fly agaric branched off massively and he has spent the majority of this week building an enourmous LEGO city scape as a result.
What I have particularly loved is how he has brought in elements of other things he has been learning about, in particular from Blue Planet.
It is such an insightful documentary that we are all so enjoying watching. Apart from LEGO films, it is the only thing Jenson will tolerate. I normally watch the next episode with Jenson and Wren on a Monday, with them eating their dinner off their laps. It's really nice but it was one particular episode, (coral reefs) that struck a real chord with Jenson.
The crew were filming in the tropics off the coast of Australia in the Great Barrier Reef. A species of fish known as the coral grouper live there. Although the grouper is too big to squeeze into the crevices, there is another predator, (and rival) that is just as intelligent - an octopus. They seek the same prey and together, make a formidable team.
Although the octopus can reach into the narrow cracks, prey often still escapes. By working together they increase their chances of a catch. The grouper turns pale to attract the octopus's attention and then performs a head stand to signal to the octopus and indicate where the prey is hiding. The octopus reaches in to the crevice. So frightened are the fish they swim off and straight into the grouper's jaws. Sometimes the octopus gets the reward and sometimes the grouper does. Two different species have discovered that team work can bring success. David Attenborough tells us that team work is the foundation for life on the reef but I couldn't help think it's actually the foundation for life. Period.
And so this is what Jenson brought to his LEGO cityscape. Below is a photograph of an octopus and a fish, (a grouper) that Jenson constructed entirely on his own. I love how he takes what he learns and applies it to something else. LEGO is his way of making sense of the world around him. He'll see something on the TV, remember it, then bring it into his world and give it real meaning. He thinks, creates and understands. It's a great process.
Watching him build this wonderful cityscape inspired me to pull out one of our recent book purchases from the Red Cross Book Shop on the Bath Road. What he was creating reminded me of a page I had seen in it. The page was about pollution and how mankind is responsible for 99% of the world's problems.
The picture below is a snap shot. It documents the life cycle of a river that begins as very pure water in the mountains and then gradually becomes more and more polluted as it comes into contact with humans.
The first point it picks up on is how farmers spray their crops with chemical fertilisers which are then washed into rivers and streams by rain. This upsets the chemical balance of the water resulting in plants growing too fast and blocking out the light. Jenson demonstrates this below with a crop of juicy carrots!
We then moved on to the subject of ponds, which are often used as a rubbish dump. We talked about how people throw in anything thinking the water will hide it. The results though look terrible and destroy the life of the pond.
Jenson demonstrated his understanding of this by building a clean pond out of LEGO and then filled it with lots of old rubbish.
You can see the difference and how horrible it would be for life in the pond.
As a result, the animals that lived in the pond became homeless and so Jenson had to think about a way he could help them. He came up with an animal bridge. As the river flows closer to the town the area becomes more built up and the risk to the animals increases. He thought a bridge would save them.
He then built a new, clean pond in a different location and created a tunnel that the animals could use to take them safely to their new habitat without getting run over.
Next Jenson created a building site and made diggers and dumpers, thus further indicating the effect man has on the environment.
As the river flows further through the town or city it might come into contact with factories, power stations and sewage works. I explained all this to Jenson who took what I said on board. He added brown patches to the river to highlight how dirty it was getting and added black patches towards the end to show the real extent of the problem of pollution and how dirty our seas are becoming. It is so apt given the current Blue Planet series.