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Big Learning News 11-04-03

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 1:3 November 4, 2003

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Table of Contents

Tools for Learning: QX3 Microscope
Book review: Kids Make Music: Clapping and Tapping from Bach to Rock
Web sites: Preserving leaves

Tools for Learning: Digital Blue QX3 Microscope

About $50.00. See http://playdigitalblue.com/products/qx3/info/ or search the Internet for "qx3."

     Are your kids ready to see the world in detail? The QX3 microscope makes a great addition to your Windows-based computer. It's terrific for family explorations, because you don't look through an eyepiece. Instead, images are projected onto your computer screen for all to see. You can save the images and even create artwork with them using the software that comes with the microscope. If you don't like the QX3 software (but your kids will), you can also run the microscope directly from other programs - I run it through Adobe Photoshop Elements.
     The QX3 has three magnification levels: 10x, 60x, and 200x. At 10x, objects are still recognizable and you can still see all of a small object such as a bug. At 60x, fine details, like the color dots in a newspaper photo, become visible. At 200x, you can see even more fine details, but the images get hard to focus. 200x doesn' t seem to be enough magnification to see truly microscopic objects, at least not very well, and for that we're considering a more powerful microscope.
     Even if I get a traditional microscope, I won't throw out the QX3. Besides the interface with the computer, the QX3 has other advantages over a traditional microscope. Technically the QX3 is a digital camera, rather than a true microscope. You can capture video in addition to still images - we made great videos of tiny monster-like creatures swimming around in pond water. Also, you can remove the QX3 from the stand and use it to look at your own tongue - pretty tough to do with a traditional microscope.
     The QX3 comes with some pre-made slides and some minimal equipment - cool little transparent containers with lids for samples and some other stuff we haven't found a use for. We did buy some traditional glass slides. That's because when we view an object in the little cont ainer at high magnification, the varying height of the object is enough to require refocusing every time you move to a different part of the object. Slides make objects nice and flat.
     The biggest problem we have with the QX3 has nothing to do with the QX3 itself - the problem is that half the time we don't know what we're looking at. Is that circle we see a cell or an air bubble? It helps to look at microscopy images on the Internet, and there are several nice microscopy books for kids - stay tuned to Big Learning News for more later.
     If you'd like to see the kind of images you get with the QX3, check out these image galleries:


Everything you ever wanted to know about the QX3 can be found here:

Book Review
Kids Make Music: Clapping & Tapping from Bach to Rock! By Avery Hart and Paul Mantell. A Williamson Kids Can!® Book published by Williamson Publishing, Charlotte , Vermont (1993).

     If you want your kids to be musical, experts usually recommend that you create a musical environment for them - play recorded music, have instruments around for them to play, take them to concerts, and set an example by playing instruments yourself. When, with all that, my kids weren't showing much interest, I started looking for resources for parents on making a musical home. Guess what - I didn't find much of interest. There was the book about how to explain quarter notes and other notation to your children, and the book about how to help your kids get the most out of their music lessons. For kids, there were books about musical crafts - like how to make a plate with pretty pictures of instruments on it. I couldn't see how any of this would bring out their innate musicality.
     Kids Make Music is different. Written for kids who may not have started formal music study yet, the authors never let go of their message: "everyone's a music maker!" They bring this message across with the substance typical of books in the Kids Can! series.
     The first third of Kids Make Music gets kids using their own bodies to make music - with voice, clapping, and stomping - even while brushing their teeth. The fun, body-based activities bring out what the authors call the "magic three" parts of music - melody, beat, and feeling. Activities include making up a melody for your name, making up a rap, and repeatedly singing a song, with different feeling each time. How would "I've Been Working on the Railroad" sound if you sang it anxiously, threateningly, or ecstatically? Since most activities require nothing more than hands and voice, they make great car activities.
    In the second third of the book, kids explore sound and sound production, using home-made instruments and found objects like a blade of grass. The book go es beyond telling kids how to make the instruments; it suggests interesting things to play on them. For example, after explaining how to fill crystal glasses to eight different levels to produce the eight notes a major scale, the authors have written out songs for kids to play on the glasses and even harmony parts they can add by striking two glasses at once.
     The last part of the book is about experiencing music out in the world. It explains the idea of musical genre and introduces classical, country, rock, and other styles with activities to get kids interacting with the music. For example, when introducing classical music the book explains the basic motions of conducting and suggests that kids play conductor while listening. The book closes with ideas for home-made performance events. The "encore" section contains ideas for getting started with "real" instruments like piano and guitar. It even covers how to make three-chord music, an amazingly u seful idea rarely covered in material for beginners. The book even shows kids how to tune a guitar (with open tuning) so that three-chord music is easy to produce.

Web Sites: Preserving Leaves
     Two weeks ago, Big Learning News included a web site for identifying autumn leaves. If you're interested in preserving the leaves you find either as a collection or for crafts, check out these articles:




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