EarthPoem Archives
Artist/Naturalists
Site Map
Teacher Resources
Teacher Resources
Learn Ecology
Kids' Earth Art
Members' Writing
John Caddy
Homepage
Contact MorningEarth
 

Learning Activity

Circles, Circles Everywhere

 

art form drawing, painting, writing
multi-disciplines science, art, language arts
grade levels 2-8
you will need journals, drawing materials
time two hour-long periods plus homework

Overview


When we look at the Earth and the ways that living things interact and depend on each other—we discover one basic shape, the Circle, that is repeated over and over. The Circle helps us understand the ways Life works, and the ways our human lives work.

This activity explores the Circles in all our lives, and asks students to discover and collect some of the Circles and Spirals that spin around us and inside us every day.

This activity also introduces the concept of Natural Cycles. Learners will gain experience in observation skills, and will validate their prior experience by realizing how much they already know.

The Activity


Black Elk was a Native American holy man of the Oglala Band of the Lakota Tribe (the tribe mis-called Sioux). He had many long conversations with his friend John Niehardt in the 1930s, which Niehardt made into a book called “Black Elk Speaks.”

Read the words of Black Elk out loud to the class.

From Black Elk Speaks

You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. …Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.

The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.

The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.

The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.

Our teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nations hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.…”

Discuss what Black Elk said:

Emphasize and repeat Black Elk’s words “Everything tries to be round.”

Elicit and name some things which seem to be trying to be round even if they are not entirely round (not circles or spheres) as we usually see them. Think of curving things.

Try This:

Have everyone Look Surprised, then look at each other.
Ask, "Do eyebrows try to be round?"

Next, Have everyone smile, then look at each other.
Ask, Now what’s trying to be round?


Examples of things trying to be round

Smiles/ bellies / ears / rainbows /raindrops / tears /eyebrows…and so forth.

Discuss


What did Black Elk mean by “The wind, in its greatest power, whirls?”

• tornadoes
• hurricanes

Speculate a little: Does hair try to be round? (Think of cylinders and tubes in cross-section.)

• does pasta?
• Ask the class to look for circles that are parts of their bodies.
• eyeball, iris, pupil, belly button, nostrils, fingerprints, and so forth.


Discuss:

We found some Circles in our bodies. Now find some Cycles in our bodies.
(A Cycle is a circle that exists in both time and space—we can measure it with a clock as well as with a ruler. )

• Breathing and blood cycles, sleep and waking cycles.

Why do we call it the circulatory system?


Discuss enormous circles (and spheres, and cycles that exist in the universe.

• Stars (including the Sun), planets, moons, and their orbits.
• Link to Circles Earthdance Activity


Discuss

• Large Cycles include the tides, which are caused by the moon’s pull as it orbits Earth. The moon’s gravitation pulls a huge “hill” of ocean water up toward itself, and the “hill” travels all around Earth every month, causing the tides on all the land of Earth, and regulating the fertility of many kinds of animals, including humans.


Discuss

• The Season Cycle on Earth is the result of Earth’s yearlong circling of the Sun.


Brainstorm and list in small groups all the circles inside the room and outside the window. Share/compare results.

Brainstorm & list all the circles you can find from the world of Sports. Music? Toys?

Making the Art


• Make a drawing of at least one circle you find in the classroom. An eye?

• After school, Notice and Note all the circles and spirals and cycles you can find and observe that are part of Nature. List them. Draw at least one of these.

• Try drawing a Moon Cycle, or a Life Cycle: For a butterfly’s Life, for example. make a small drawing for each life stage: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult. Place the drawings in a circle design. Draw arrows to show sequence

.
• Find one natural object that tells you a story about the season cycle. For example, an old bird nest, or a dried seedhead from last year's weed.

• Write a detailed description of it OR
• write the story it tells you OR
• make a careful drawing of it.

• Name one circle or cycle you live inside of—a circle that has you inside it. Are you at the center of the circle? Can you name more circles you’re in?? Try writing a poem about how it feels to be inside of circles or cycles.

Take the Activity further

With younger grades, to explore circles and art more, teach and sing circle songs and circle dances.

Have students create skits about the cycle of seasons.

Collect examples of found circles in Nature for the classroom—make a collection kids can draw and write and paint from. Find all the circle-shapes you can in dried weeds. Use magnification.

Also look for action circles: you throw a stick, the dog brings it back. A circle.

Have students find more.

Source Sheets for Circles, Circles Everywhere

Circle and Circa

The word “circle” comes from the Latin word circa that means “day”. A day is 24 hours long. Twenty-four hours is the time it takes Earth to spin around once as it floats through space slowly turning on its axis like an enormous top. So a day (one day–night cycle), or circa, really is an actual circle.

 

from BLACK ELK SPEAKS:


“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. …Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.

The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.

The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.

The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.

Our teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nations hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.…”

CIRCLE AND CYCLE

A circle on a paper or chalkboard or this computer screen is a circle that exists in flat, 2D (two dimensional) space—we can measure it with a stiff flat ruler.

A sphere is a circle that exists in 3D space—an object—such as a planet or a soap bubble or a balloon. We can measure it with a flexible ruler (unless it's a soap bubble).

A Cycle is a circle that exists in both time and space—we can measure it with a clock as well as with a ruler.

The 24-hour Day Cycle is also called the Diurnal Cycle.

 

SPIRALS

A spiral is another kind of circle–shape that is also extremely common throughout the Universe. Tornadoes are spirals, whirlpools are spirals, even the Milky Way Galaxy that we live in is a pinwheel shape. Pine needles are arranged in spirals on the stem--so are the scales on their pine cones. The petals of most flowers are arranged in spirals. The DNA in every cell of your body is arranged in spirals--that is billions of spirals.

Another name for a spiral is vortex. Another is helix.

 


 

 

 

Circles, Circles Student Source Sheet Two

 

Notice and record as many things as you can that are “trying to be round.”
Collect examples of circles, balls, spirals, and cycles, and curves.

Look for things that curl and things that coil.

• Look for examples indoors, and outdoors.
• Look at sky, water, ground, trees.
• Look at sports.
• Look at skin and nails.
• Use a magnifier if you can.
• Look under things. Look inside things.

Name your discoveries if you can, draw them and describe them if you don’t know the name.


You can make a list of names, or set of descriptions, or a group of drawings, or assemblage art w/ natural materials. See Collaborations with Nature.