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Big Learning News 12-16-03

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 1:9 December 16, 2003

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Table of Contents

Activity: Fly the Wright Brothers' Airplane
Book Review: Glow-in-the-Dark Constellations
Web Sites: December holidays


Fly the Wright Brothers' Airplane

     In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight (December 17th), I've been perusing Wright Brothers web sites. I found a simulation that lets you fly the first airplane yourself. I recommend trying the quarter-speed version first, but I guess here's one place you really can throw caution to the winds.
http://firstflight.open.ac.uk/takeoff01.html .

     Although there are no movies of that first flight, there are movies of other early flights. They're thrilling to watch. See them at:

Here's some instructive Wright Brothers lore:

* The brothers succeeded due to careful science (rather than dumb luck or hayseed know-how). They analyzed all the work that had already been done, and they tested components independently before trying to build and test the whole airplane in flight. They weren't lucky; they were thorough. I liked the story of the Wright Brother's work at:
http://invention.psychology.msstate.edu/Tale_of_Airplane/taleplane.html (note that there are several pages in the story.)

* Orville and Wilbur came from a big-learning family. Their parents encouraged them to learn and experiment and provided plenty of resources. They even let them take time off from school now and then to pursue their own interests. Read more about their family life at http://www.first-to-fly.com/History/Wright%20Story/childhood.htm .

Book Review

Glow-In-The-Dark Constellations: A Field Guide for Young Stargazers by C.E. Thompson (Grosset & Dunlop, 1999).

     With the approaching winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) bringing early sunsets, it's easy to stargaze before bedtime. Glow-In-The-Dark Constellations is an engaging introduction to finding star constellations. The star diagrams in the back of the book glow in the dark if exposed to light beforehand.

Each page has three features:

The Story: Retells the myth behind the constellation
The Constellation: Discusses the stars that make up the constellation and provides tips for remembering the constellation's shape
How to Find It: Provides tips for finding the constellation in the sky.

     The star diagrams are accurate for latitudes that encompass the continental U.S. If you happen to live there or at the same latitudes, this book is a nice introduction to stargazing.

Web sites
December Holidays

     Are your kids asking about holidays your family doesn't celebrate? If you have trouble remembering the purpose and rituals behind all the December holidays, check out these web sites.

Chanukah: http://www.aish.com/holidays/Chanukah/
Chanukah: http://www.beingjewish.com/yomtov/chanukah/
Christmas traditions: http://www.connerprairie.org/historyonline/xmas.html
Christmas around the world: http://christmas.com/worldview/
Kwanzaa http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/
Kwanzaa http://www.melanet.com/kwanzaa/
Winter solstice: http://www.religioustolerance.org/winter_solstice.htm
Winter solstice: http://www.tryskelion.com/yule7.htm

Here are dates for this year's holidays:
Chanukah: December 19 (8 days)
Christmas: December 25
Kwanzaa: December 26 (7 days)
Winter Solstice: December 22

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