She Can Fly. Oh, Yes. She Can.

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Art Class

We were learning about Monet and Van Gogh, two of the world’s greatest artists, and my 7-year-old daughter asked:

Are there any artists who are women? Ok, I’m on it.

So I introduced her to George O’Keefe.

Then she asked, Are there any great artists who are women, who are alive?  Woah.

So I introduced her to Faith Ringgold.

She was transfixed. She loved Faith’s art. Faith Ringgold, she declared, was her very favorite artist. We didn’t know then, that in just a couple of months she would meet her idol in person.  [Read more...]

Every Day is Earth Day

Earth Day doesn’t have to be just one day every April. It can be any day of the year. Here are some activities you can do anytime, anywhere to take care of the earth and show your gratitude for  all of nature’s beauty.

Find out where the garbage goes.

field trip county landfill

Take a trip to your local  landfill or waste disposal facility. We learned a lot about what happens to all of the things we throw away and recycle, it was free, and we got to ride on a cool bus (big points with us homeschoolers). There’s a lot of science learning to be found at the garbage dump:  gas, garbage juice, decomposition and much more.

Have a trash clean-up day. Pick a favorite spot close to home: a park, a wooded area, a sports field, and fill up a garbage bag or two or three.

garbage clean upYou can read more about our recent trash clean up over at Kiwi Crate, including how we made our own books afterwards about how we helped the earth.
How I Helped the Earth Today
Take a Gratitude Walk to appreciate what the Earth offers to us every single day.

Gratitude Walk for the Earth
Hop on over to Kiwi Crate and read more about our Gratitude Walk, including the posters we made afterwards.
I Am Grateful for the Earth

Earth Day is any day. It’s every day. How will you take care of your part of the planet today?

For more ideas about learning outdoors, hands-on science, crafts, homeschooling and much more, follow Creekside Learning on Pinterest.
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Anime Momotaro: A Japanese Folktale, at Imagination Stage

Anime Momotaro at Imagination Stage

Tia Shearer as Nakamon, Rafael Untalan as Daimon, Jacob Yeh as Momotaro, Phillip Reid as Monmon. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

A baby inside a peach.  ”Invisible” ninjas that manipulate the props. Sound effects galore. An action packed adventure and a humorous adaptation of a ancient Japanese folktale paired with the modern culture of Japanese animation. That is what Anime Momotaro is all about and more.

In the folktale, a childless couple finds a peach floating down the river. As they are about to eat it, a baby emerges. They are thrilled to raise the child they always wanted. They name him Momotaro (momo means peach in Japanese and taro is a popular boy’s name). Momotaro grows up strong and brave and decides to take on the Ogres that have been stealing things and harassing the people of his village. He sets out with a sword from his father and a bag of millet cakes from his mother. Along his journey, he shares the cakes and befriends a dog, a monkey and a pheasant. Together, the four friends travel to the Ogres’ island.

Momotaro and his mother on stage

Tia Shearer and Jacob Yeh. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

Being a folktale, there are many versions of Momotaro, but in most, the Ogres are defeated in a violent battle at the end. In the stage production, the story was deliberately changed to emphasize the bullying aspect of the Ogres and the ending provides an alternative solution to dealing with bullies:   Friendship and cooperation triumph.

Alvin Chan and Eric Johnson adapted the folktale for the stage, first at Honolulu Theatre for Youth and now at Imagination Stage, known for its’  award-winning productions and arts education programs, located in Bethesda, Maryland.

Chan and Johnson took the modern elements of anime, such as color, sound effects, action, and movement and brought them to the stage. It is difficult to describe how very well the actors portray the cartoon elements on stage. You will just have to see for yourselves.

You don’t have to be a fan of anime to appreciate Anime Momotaro. My collective anime experiences are few, but I enjoyed this production immensely.  Like everything else I’ve seen at Imagination Stage, it was impeccably well done and highly entertaining.  Everything from the cast, to the creative team, the set and the lighting brought together a professional and polished production.

And, of course, bringing literature together with a stage production provides many learning opportunities for kids, both before and after viewing.

To learn more about Japan…

To learn more about the character traits of Anime Momotaro…

  • Read  the story of Momotaro  prior to the show. We talked about the messages in the story and Momotaro’s strong character traits: honoring his parents, helping his community, sharing with his friends and working together to help solve a problem.

  • Investigate bullying and identify your heroes with the study guide from the creators of Anime Momotaro.
Anime Momotaro (Peach Boy) at Imagination Stage

Tia Shearer, Jacob Yeh and Phillip Reid. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

Anime Momotaro runs at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland from January 30 through March 10, 2013. Best for ages 5 to 10. Tickets are $12 to $25 and may be purchased on line at www.imaginationstage.org. Group rates and sensory friendly performances are available.

03 Ogres AnimeMomotaro IStage

Phillip Reid and Tia Shearer. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

 Imagination Stage provided me with tickets to the show.  All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links for books from Amazon. For my full disclosure policy, click here

Big Apple Circus is in Town!

Trapeze artists flying high above our heads, horses and dogs entertaining us with their tricks, an amazing contortionist that confounded our brains (How does she do that?), two ridiculously silly and entertaining clowns that took audience participation to a new level, and a ringmaster that tied it all together.

These are just some of the things that delighted my family and I last night at the Big Apple Circus.  We have been to Big Apple before and we were thrilled to go again, and here is why.  Big Apple is not a 3 ring circus. Aren’t 3 rings better?  Well, I’ve been to the 3 ring circus. I’ve sat high in the Big Top with my kids and looked way down at the performers.   Elephants and tigers are indeed amazing.

The Quinterion Troupe, from Hungary. Photo credit: Big Apple Circus.

But Big Apple is different. It bills itself as a “classic circus”.  Indeed it’s theme this year, Legendarium, showcases the beginnings of the circus, many years ago.  Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane informs us that the ring is just this size because it’s at this size that horses can run and he tells us about Jules Leotard, the trapeze artist of the mid-1800′s who wanted to fly, and who, you guessed it, was the inventor of the leotard.

Kane introduces each act and we are captivated over and over. Our full attention can be paid to the artists in front of us, as we sit so close, we are a part of it.  At the farthest, patrons in the back row are no more than 50 feet away from the ring.  There are no bad seats here. At the closest, front row seated audience members could literally reach out and touch the horses. (Note: Do not actually touch the horses. The Big Apple folks are very nice but I am sure they would not like it if you did this. Not to mention what the horses themselves may think.)

Big Apple Ringmaster, John Kennedy Kane

The performers created an atmosphere that is all-encompassing.  As I looked around, I noticed that even the younger set of preschool and toddler aged kids were captivated for the entire performance.  The grown-ups were thrilled and entertained, too. This is not something you dread, yet purchase tickets to anyway because you know your kids will think you’re awesome, even though you just know your ears will bleed if you hear the Funky Annoying Band one more time. Nope. This is truly  a show for everyone.

I really felt like I was experiencing the circus as folks must have done in another era, sitting under the tent with people from your community, this would be the talk of the town for days to come.

But Big Apple is modern, too.  Zhang Fan, a group of Chinese acrobatic daredevils, amazes us on a fleet of trick bikes, then dance to hip-hop hits that has the audience doing their own dance moves in their seats and singing along.  And, as Kane reminds us, “You can like us on Facebook.”

Jenny Vidbel communicates with her trained horses during their performance.

This morning, my 6 year old daughter woke up at 4:00 a.m. for water, clearly the circus still on her mind. “What was your favorite part, Mommy? “Mine was the horses. And the ponies. And the dogs. And the clowns, they were so silly. Can we go back again tomorrow?”

Legendarium runs from September 20 to October 8, 2012 at Dulles Town Center in Loudoun County, Virginia.  Tickets start at $25.  For more information or to purchase tickets, go to Big Apple’s website. Big Apple is a non-profit performing arts group and has numerous outreach programs for the communities they serve. Their next shows will be in New York.

Dalian Acrobatic Troupe perform on their trick bicycles. Photo credit: Big Apple Circus.

I received tickets for my family from Big Apple Circus in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed here are my own. For more information about my disclosure policy, click here.

To see more reviews of fun places to go and things to do in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, visit my reviews page.

Zhang Fan of China balances on a ladder on the swaying slack wire. That’s not a tight rope. It’s a moving, swinging piece of wire. Wait ’til you see what he does with a unicycle. Photo credit: Big Apple Circus.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge. All photos are my own, unless otherwise noted.

Lego BrickFair Is Worth the Wait

We had a great time at the Lego BrickFair today in Virginia. There was some chatter on Twitter about the long lines to get in, which I hope will translate into a larger venue next year for this spectacular show.  If you go tomorrow, or in the coming years, get there on the early or late side if you want to avoid the lines, but do go.  It was well worth it.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Here are some of our favorites.

The interactive building area was a big hit with kids. And some grown-ups, too. They could build and race their wheeled creations on the tracks or use the many tables provided to make things with what appeared to be thousands of bricks.

BrickFair runs through Sunday, August 5th, 2012, at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. It is a yearly event in this area. Go to www.BrickFair.com for more information.

I received four free tickets from BrickFair but was not required to write about it.  All opinions expressed here are my own.