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Big Learning News 2-10-04

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 2:6 February 17, 2004

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Table of Contents

More about Art Museums
Book Review: You Can Draw Anything
Web site: Windows to the Universe

More about Art Museums

Last week BLN regaled you with tales of our first successful trip to the art museum, and we asked you to tell us your strategies for successful trips.  Jennifer Knudsen writes,

"Most art museums, at least around here, have Family Activity days. SFMOMA has it once a month. Also, sometimes there are interactive exhibits that are fun for kids.
My other tip: It has been liberating for me to just roam through the museum at my child's pace, letting her take the lead. I got to take in a lot fast, which is not my usual mode, and got to find out what her interests and tastes were, depending on where she stopped."

Thanks Jennifer!

Remember, you can always respond to BLN by replying to your newsletter or emailing us at editor@biglearning.org

Book Review
You Can Draw Anything by Kim Gamble (Allen & Unwin, 1994).
48 pages, $6.95 USD

Kim Gamble, a children's book illustrator from Australia, has written a book you'll want to borrow from your kids when they're not looking. It's a how-to-draw book that goes beyond the step-by-step approach. Gamble explains what you're doing and why, so that you can apply each technique to new drawings.

You can Draw Anything covers basic line drawings, perspective, and shading. Gamble suggests learning to see objects as composed of basic shapes. That's not a new idea, but he presents it simply, accessibly, and with a nice comic touch that keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.

The pages about drawing human figures are packed with useful gems about proportion. You wonder, did your school art teacher just forget to mention that eyes are usually one eye-width apart, heads are oval when viewed straight-on but circular in profile, and legs are half the height of the body?

This is one of the few children's drawing books I've come across that assumes the reader may be smart enough to draw something not in the book, and I appreciated that, at least most of the time. Occasionally I felt Gamble was giving me too much credit - effusing that I can draw if I just learn to SEE the basic shapes. Sometimes I wanted a little more help SEEING, but perhaps it really does just take practice.

One more thing - the corners of the pages have little drawings that turn out to be flip book animations - a cute touch that has little to do with the content but charming nonetheless.

Web Site
Windows to the Universe

Windows to the Universe is a comprehensive yet comprehensible space site. It's a one-stop shop for space-related research and fun to browse. Refreshingly, it serves up the information straight, without the rah-rah space-is-so-great propaganda you find on some space sites.

There are several pages about each planet, covering the planet's composition, atmosphere, moons and rings, and more. All the vital statistics are there - the planet's diameter, mass, distance from the sun, and temperature. You'll even find galleries of planet photos and recent planet-related news stories.

Windows has information about major star constellations, including the myth behind the constellation's name. You'll also find all your favorite astronomical bodies, such as black holes, quasars, and galaxies.

Many of the pages are available in your choice of level - beginning, intermediate, or advanced. As you'd expect, each level gets more technical, but never so technical as to overwhelm a good reader.

The site navigation could be better - sometimes there are three ways to get to the next page, other times you can't get there at all from where you are. Windows has the feel of one of those old houses where each owner built another addition. But like a charming old house, it's easy to accept the site, quirks and all, because it's thoughtfully done.


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Big Learning News 2004 Karen Cole
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