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Big Learning News 2-10-04

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 2:5 February 10, 2004

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Table of Contents

Taking Kids to the Art Museum
Book Review: Human Body
Web Site: Balloon Animals

Taking Kids to the Art Museum

I wasn't sure I'd ever get to say this: the kids and I spent a wonderful day at the art museum. Previously, we had made a few less-successful forays, in which the kids liked some of the paintings or photographs (or at least tried to, to humor me), but didn't want to stay long. This time we stayed all day and the kids thought it was the best museum trip in a long time.
What was different this time? Hard to say for sure, but I have some theories:

1. Sketchbooks: Thanks to a tip from my sister, I bought each of us a sketch book just before we went. I let them choose their own off the shelf, and made a big deal about getting their museum notebooks. At the museum, we sat on the comfy couches they provided and drew our favorite paintings and sculptures. It helped the kids look in detail and gave them something to do. At the end of the day they had created a great souvenir to show their friends.

2. Timing: My older son had been reading about the lives of famous painters, so he was excited about going to see their work. He was able to ask the curators where to find particular artists, and they were able to tell him more about artists he had questions about.

3. A great museum: We're lucky enough to live a short hop from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It's a beautiful space, not crowded, and has paintings by all the great masters. The kids were so impressed.

Talk back: What are your tips for helping kid get more out of museum trips? Reply to your newsletter, or e-mail me ( editor@biglearning.org ) and I'll pass them on.

Book Review
Human Body by Caroline Bingham (DK Eye Wonder, 2003)

Did you know there really are such things as "heart strings?" Or that you produce about a liter of mucus every day? Or that there are 250 million red blood cells in a drop of blood? Human Body is full of fun little facts like this.

Human Body really excels, though, in its use of images. Each page spread is packed with them, making intelligent use of various types. There are photos, including some via microscope or fiber-optic cameras, plus x-ray images, diagrams, drawings, and more. The pages are beautifully organized to communicate both a big picture and related details. For example, the page "Pump that Blood" has a cut-away drawing of the heart, an x-ray that shows the heart's location in the chest, microscopic drawings of red and white blood cells, a photo of a closed heart valve, and a photo showing a vial of separated plasma, white cells, and red cells. Together, the images tell what the heart and blood really look like, what their parts are, where they are, and what they do. The text that explains each image is short and punchy enough for younger kids, but informative enough to capture the attention of older kids.

This isn't a comprehensive book on the body, but it's a great teaser. One caveat: the first thing the book covers is "Babies and Belly Buttons," which includes fertilization of the egg and fetal development (though not in much detail). If your child is young and you're not comfortable fielding questions on those topics, you can easily flip past that page.

Web Site
Magical Balloon-Dude Dale's free balloon animal instructions

C'mon, haven't you always wanted to make balloon animals? This site includes free instructions for twisting those long balloons into over 15 shapes, including favorites like dogs and airplanes. You can enhance your animals by drawing faces and other details, using the "drawing tips" page for inspiration. The site also includes an incredible gallery of Magic Balloon Dude Dale's own creations. The easiest way to see these is to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Web Links."

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