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Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Home-School Museum in a Box

A curiosity cabinet is a piece of furniture with compartments in which to keep curiosities- bones, leaves, pinned insects, fossils, stones, artifacts, shells, oddities- the categories for collections are wide and generous.  It was popular with amateur natural history buffs in the Victorian era (and on either side of it).  It could have looked like a series of library card catalog cabinets, or those old postal dividers for mail or coffee tables with shallow compartments topped with glass.

  You can use the same idea for both stimulating and directing curiosity in your own students, but you don't have to be so elaborate. The main thing you need is something with compartments.  Covers or drawers are nice for keeping dust out.  It could fill a room or be as small as a container on a shelf.

This PR Article explains

: "This article talks about having: "the glass-fronted museum case, or cases, as occasion may require. In this should be gathered all the curios obtainable; labelled and classified by or with the children so that they may know what each thing is, and where it is kept. These should then be introduced into the lessons as frequently and under as many new aspects as possible. Each time a specimen is brought forth, the child will remember a whole chain of facts, and will, with pleasure, add another link to those he has already made. It must be borne in mind that the museum is the child's; therefore, he must consider it his duty to be always increasing it. In his rambles and walks there are many things he may collect, and he will soon feel dissatisfied if he goes out without bring home something new, whether it be a fresh specimen for the flint or granite collection, a flower for the botany collection, a new snail shell, water creature or water plant. There are things innumerable the child can find, of which he may learn the wonders. Thus, gradually, the schoolroom will become the best loved room in the house, because its beauty is of his own creating, a monument wrought by much patience, care and love.

Even his toys can be made instruments of education; during the nursery period, a child needs very few toys, but as he grows older and can appreciate beautiful things, so should they be given to his care. For instance, in the tall museum case he can have a menagerie of all the model animals he has had given him; and week by week, when the geography lesson comes round, think what delight there will be in making the desert of Africa on the sand tray, the boys' camels walking slowly across with the girl's dolls upon their backs, and a little linen round a few sticks for their camp; some of the doll's house pots and pans lying around to add to the completeness of the scene. The effect is one of breathless wonder, and childlike admiration frequently finds expression in the clapping of hands and walking round the model with exclamations of joy and satisfaction.""
In my house in the Philippines I have several little plastic desk-top office supply keepers/dividers, and inside I have a variety of seashells picked up at the beach. The picture to the left isn't clear enough to show you how lovely my seashells are, but it does give you an idea of the storage containers. The sharpie is provided for scale.

  Sometimes I take these shells out of the drawers and put them in a pencil box or small plastic food keeper, and a couple children who come to visit sort the shells and arrange them again for me.  There is a great deal of wonder and interest and beauty just in looking at the collections.  There is even more food for thought and value to the mind in arranging them, categorizing them properly, and in writing down a record of their own finds and as much information as possible about them.

I saw an idea of something like this for sale for a couple hundred dollars for the box alone (which was very pretty) and then you buy various curiosities to put in the drawers and keep a magnifying glass nearby, and leave some drawers empty for the kids to fill with their own discovered treasures.

The World Discovery Box includes specimens- you can get a small one (7 drawers) for 151 dollars; a large one (14 drawers, plus 50 specimens) for 247 dollars. I was thinking this would be a fun project to create over a year.  You could this with or for grandchildren, your kids at home, visiting church or neighbourhood children- give them the box and a magnifying glass at the beginning of the project, and every month send something new for it.  You could save money this way, or you could not save a dime, depending on how you fill it. The fun would be making it individual, and the monthly new thing.

 I bought a box something like the expensive curiosity box on sale at a thrift shop a while ago, it's still at home in the U.S, and this is what I intended to use it for.  My box was designed to hold photos.  I've seen similar items billed as desk top organizers, trinket boxes, curio boxes, apothecary boxes, and so on.  They come in various sizes and some of the drawers are pretty small, so you'll want to keep the dimensions in mind when collecting items to put in the drawers.

 So you could start with a container: Small wooden organizer, five drawers, 15.00, for small items. A four cube storage/organizer with fabric bins, each bin around 5X5 inches Wooden apothecary desktop cabinet with drawers for forty dollars This pretty little turquoise wooden box with four drawers is only around 25 dollars, each drawer is just 3.5 by 3.5 inches (five inches deep) Or, if you want to be able to see all the contents at once, use a wooden tea box. This one has 10 compartments and a clear lid.  It's only 17 dollars, so I'd have wood glue, clamps, and so forth ready at hand to put it back together when you open it the first time. Three drawer wood caddy with chalkboard front, around 13.00,  for very small items:the whole thing is 11 3/8 Inch (L) x 3 7/8 Inch (H) x 3 7/8 Inch (W) 5 drawers, very tiny, wood, you can get it finished or unfinished to design yourself.  15.00 Similar, finished, very understated. I like it. Rustic brown desktop organizer: Overall - 14.25 W X 8.25 H X 5.5 D; Small Top Drawers (each) - 4.25 W X 4 H X 5.25 D; Large Bottom Drawer - 13.25 W X 2.75 H X 5.25 D., 36 dollars Another small wooden cabinet of drawers, requires assembly, around 17 dollars.
  • This chipboard unit measures 11 by 11 by 3-5/8-inch with nine 3-3/8 by 3-9/16 by 3-1/2-inch drawers and nine pewter finished hardware
If I had as much money as I could spend, or maybe a little more, I'd look at this one for 80 dollars. I Love the colorful ceramic drawers.

   Or just go with plastic.   4 dollars.

 Now you need some things to put in it.  If you have children at home, let them do the collecting and organizing, although you might occasionally make an interesting contribution or suggestion.  It could be a general assignment at the start of a new study in science.

If you are collecting for yourself to share with grandchildren or visitors to your home, you decided what to collect.  In addition to interesting local stones, shells, fossils, seeds, pods, bones, etc that you might find (check out your car bumper and windshield for moths and butterflies), these things look interesting and fun to me (prices and availability will change):
  Tiny seahorse with a seashell or two encased in teardrop shaped lucite for $9.00 It's attached to a leather cord as it's meant to be a necklace.  I'd remove the cord and save it for some other craft.  It will fit in the smallest of the drawers above: Teardrop Size Approx 1.3" x 1.0" x .5"

Shark tooth in lucite keychain, 5.00
  Life cycle of a frog! Real specimen in lucite, egg to tadpole to pollywog to frog. Only 4.25 inches long.  Very pricey, however- 25 dollars
  Four insects in four separate blocks of resin, making them easy to examine.  12 or 13 dollars for the set, and you get four, so you could add one to a drawer every month.

  Ten insects (that's what it says, includes scorpion) for nearly 30 dollars.

  A dozen very thin geode or agate slices for 12 dollars (extremely fragile)

  Snowflake Obsidian polished gemstone, about an inch, around 5.00 with shipping. You can get others as well, desert jasper, rose quartz and so on.

  Little set of about a dozen pieces of different natural gemstones with information about each one, nearly 7.00

  Rhinoceros beetle in resin, around 5.00

  Orange tip butterfly, preserved in resin (the body is, I think, a sticker)- meant for a necklace. I'd just put the butterfly part in the drawer and use the chain for something else if the chain can be removed intact. $4.00

  Various butterfly in resin paperweights, 15.00

  For 30 dollars, a bag ofRock, Mineral & Fossil Collection Activity Kit with Educational ID Sheet plus Ammonite, Shark’s Tooth in Matrix, Fossilized Poo, 2 Geodes & Arrowheads,(Over 125 pcs and NO GRAVEL) Dancing Bear Brand

50 tiny fossil gastropods, 23 dollars

  3 inch chambered nautilus shell, split in half to view chambers. 20 dollars

  Polished sand-dollar fossil- 10-17 dollars

. Fish fossil Trilobyte fossil, 10 dollars

  Miniature shark jaw and teeth with identifier/story card, about five dollars (very small)

  Alligator head (real) 5-6 inches long, ten dollars.

  Real bobcat claw, around 7 dollars including shipping

  Badger claw, same as above...

These are affiliate links, and they are largely shared to give you some ideas of the variety of things you might look for and where.  For instance, if you just look for a seahorse, that will be pretty pricey, but the one in the tacky keychain is affordable.  These are best used as little extras, or for a private subscription treasure box with monthly additions from Grandma (you see where my heart is!).  For best educational value, the children should collect their own.

The main thing is collecting, having some idea of a theme for the collection, and for the children doing the collecting, some identifying labels are also a lovely way to communicate what they have learned.  If you have a home museum on a topic the children have worked on, you could also invite some friends and relations over for a museum tour, with the children acting as docents.

For Sale:

   $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3)

  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!

 New! $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal, Buy Now!  and Feed Your Mind!

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