Counting & Arranging, with 5 year-olds

Flower person
Jeffrey’s Flower Person. Jeffrey is five years old.

I’m writing about two separate projects here that seems to have nothing to do with each other, but there was something about doing them, one right after the other, that worked so well that this is how I am going to be writing about them.

The first project is a structured bookish making project that references counting and the composition of numbers.

The second project is one I’ve written about before,, is recomposing natural materials to make images that look like people.

The first project is not a creative activity for the kids, rather it’s more about discovery, trying to get them used to the idea that the number 10 can be seen as a composition of smaller numbers. The second project, using flower petals, leaves and other natural materials, has loads of room for improvising. There was something about following the structured project with the unstructured project that really worked for these kids.

items for bead counting project
The pieces for the Composing 10 project. Needs 10 pony beads, yarn to string them on,a hole puncher and PDFs, which are posted below

The counting project is simple to assemble, Everything is printed on a heavy copy paper. The piece with the words on it is folded into a simple pocket. I did the folds for the pocket (which is just folding up an edge on the line, and then folding in half to so it becomes a folder), punched two holes near the top, and tied a piece of yarn to one of the holes.

Here are the pdfs if you want to make this with a group of your own:

five plus five

four plus six

seven plus three

eight plus two

NIne plus one

bead counting pocket

and here’s a pdf of all of the above in a single document, which will be trickier, but possible, to use if you want to use a variety of colors Bead counting all pages together

Here what it looks like assembled.



So, ten beads. Cards go in pockets, Kids separate the beads according to the card below it, then…

…they remove the card and compare the beads on the card to their own beads.  This card then gets put in the side pocket and the next card shows…

…and the activity is repeated.

I was floored by how much the kids liked doing every bit of this activity. They took it so seriously, counting the beads and checking, and doing it for all the cards. It was lovely.

No question, kids love using beads.

This took only about 25 minutes. For about the next forty minutes we made flower people.

Cora at work

Not going to say too much about these, other than OMG. Loved how these turned out.

I photograph these, then remove the backgrounds.

Lily’s flower person

Just today I finished taking away the backgrounds. Am making prints to give to the kids.


I just love this project. Kids worked very seriously on their creations.

I had plenty of materials to work with because I had put out a request on Facebook for people in my community to drop off flowers to our classroom in the morning. Tons of stuff showed up: it was awesome. 

So much variety!

Looking forward to doing this again next summer.

addendum Sept 16, 2018

Here’s a video showing how to make the beads book.


Summer Storm


Salem Flowers

A locust tree next to our house was hit by lightning. The tree did not fall, so the curling path of the lightning all the way down the tree trunk can be seen from the ground.

No other damages, other than we have lost internet. It will be more than a week before someone will be by to do repairs. It will, therefore, be awhile before my next post. When I can be back on my own computer at home, I will write more about the lovely image above.

See you later!


Sorting out the Golden Ratio

Golden Ratio
Golden Ratio

I’ve been reading this book, The Golden Section. 

The Golden Section by Garth E Runion
The Golden Section by Garth E Runion

Maybe this is a lie, as, after three days I’m still only on page two.

My  notebook is full of cross-outs. Each time I think I finally understand what’s going on I write bigger.  The pages of my notebook looks like a map to insanity. Maybe  a bit of insanity is what it takes, so I can finally disconnect from what’s already in my head.

Page 2
Page 2

I have to let go of preconceptions before I can finally see, sitting so smugly, so adorable but nearly invisible, right in front of me, the detail I’ve overlooked. (Got to be good lookin’ ‘cuz he’s so hard to see….)

This is a scaling issue. As  someone who is interested in paper-folding and book making I am always scaling things. Thought I completely understood scaling. Scaling helps me do things I want to do nearly every day. But there is the wall (or ceiling?) I keep bumping up against. Am trying to work it out, from many fronts. Last few days, trying to understand the golden ratio, is one of the many ways that I am trying to deepen my understanding of scale. Also, there’s something about pentagons that I just don’t get. I don’t know what it is about pentagons that is eluding me, but I know golden ratio and regular pentagons are two peas in a pod (sorry, not a good metaphor. I think I’m hungry).

Yeah, I get it but it doesn’t stick https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_spiral

We’ve all seen the golden ratio spiral, embedded in a rectangle which contains successively smaller squares created in the leftover part of the rectangle once the biggest square is made. My mind doesn’t think in spirals, though, so I can’t extrapolate that image into something that I can get cozy with.

This does not work for me either. It makes me think too much.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golden_ratio_line.svg

I love number lines, but I’ve had a heck of a time seeing the golden ratio on a number line. Over and over I have read description of a line divided to show the golden ratio, and, although I understand what it’s saying, the words never make the image snap into focus. What I want is an aha! moment, an image I can conjure up effortlessly and know what I am seeing.

Finally opened my favorite graphic program. Started making circles. Took a few minutes but, oh, yeah, AHA!. Maybe I am the only person that this makes sense to but that’s okay. At least it makes sense to me.


Golden Ratio Circles
Golden Ratio Circles

This is a two-step visual. It doesn’t prove anything. It’s just a way for me to visualize what’s going on.

The circles above are enlarged by the same proportion over and over again. They aren’t increasing by twice their size, which would be 200%. They are increasing by 161.8%. And using this specific percentage, makes something happen that seems unlikely….

Golden Ration Circles
Golden Ration Circles

What happens is that the two smaller circles fit exactly into the next larger circle.

Now this is an image I can conjure up and understand.

And play with. Hmm.

Needs color.

Golden Ration Circles colored
Golden Ration Circles colored

Needs to show all the circles fitting into other circles

More golden ratio circle
More golden ratio circle

Needs to see what other arrangements work.

Even more circles
Even more circles

Needs color.

But, even more pressing,  I need to get to sleep. So no more color tonight.

Tomorrow I will be ready for page 3.




“…so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.”

Getting to work

Am in the midst of a string of some challenging projects. Can’t seem to get one all the way done before I need to start on the next, so there’s been on overlapping that is uncomfortable. Just keeping my head above water here. Today I absolutely needed to get started on prepping for a residency that starts in a few days. I decided to start by spending most of the day clearing my desk. Although I wrote recently wrote about this need to clear space,  I was happy to read this bit last night from Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art

It’s great when I read how someone else expresses what I’ve been thinking about.

I am an naturally organized person, but not a naturally neat person. It’s always a struggle to keep my space clear. But that’s a good thing, because it means I am constantly doing what I love, which is work.

Here’s a snippet from a different book that I recently finished, A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, expressing the thoughts of the a person who is uncovering a painting that had been whitewashed over.

This has nothing to do with anything else: it’s such a lovely snippet I wanted to share it.

Now to bed so I can get started again early tomorrow.