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Big Learning News 3-9-04

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 2:9 March 9, 2004

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Table of Contents

Activity: Sew a Kite
Book Review: Write Like an Egyptian
Web Site: Roadside America
Web Site: New on BigLearning.org


Fight Hunger
You Click. Corporate Sponsors Pay. The Hungry Eat.
http://www.thehungersite.com .


Sew a Kite

Are you ready for National Kite Month? This year it goes from March 27 through May 2, 2004. There are many easy-to-make kite designs available on the Internet, but most produce flimsy paper kites that I just know will clutter our shelves and slowly wilt into trash. So this year we might try to sew a real, rip-stop nylon kite - there's a simple plan at http://www.sewing.org/enthusiast/html/ek_kite.html .  Although my sewing skills begin and end with hemming, this plan seems very straightforward.

OK, I'm just a pushover when it comes to a really rich Big Learning activity like this one. It's a sewing project even a boy who thinks sewing is for girls could get behind. You make your own pattern, based on the diagram provided. There's plenty of measurement practice. Once you make one kite, you could easily modify the design to make a better kite. All this before you even fly the thing.

You can learn about kite events in your area by checking out the National Kite Month web site, http://www.nationalkitemonth.org .

Book Review

Write Like an Egyptian by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Scholastic, 2003).

This great little hands-on book teaches kids to write in hieroglyphics, the phonetic alphabet of the ancient Egyptians. As you'd expect from a book authored by an art museum, the book is visually delicious and inviting. It's a little light on hard information, though it does a nice job of explaining the Egyptian writing system. It teaches kids to write English words using the Egyptian alphabet, for fun or as a secret code. After explaining how the system works, it encourages kids to practice through a series of puzzles: crosswords, matching games, and other fun things. The authors (whoever they are - they aren't listed anywhere in the book) work little bits of Egyptian history into these puzzles - in one you have to decipher the hieroglyphs to find out what each pictured Egyptian god does.

The book includes a plastic sheet of stencils for drawing the hieroglyphic symbols, although it's much easier just to draw the symbols freehand if you're going to do any kind of extensive writing. Half of the book is "stationery," tear-out sheets printed to look like papyrus paper, with the hieroglyphic alphabet on the back (to help the recipient decode the letter). There are Egypt-themed stickers to seal the stationery.

Learning about writing systems helps kids understand their own, much as learning a different language's grammar helps kids understand the grammar of their own language. The book makes a nice gift for kids interested in codes, languages, writing, or drawing.

Web Site
Roadside America

Learning often begins with an encounter with something peculiar. If your vacation plans for the summer call for travel around the United States, you'll want to consult Roadside America - a veritable cornucopia of the peculiar.

This site catalogs oddball roadside attractions throughout the U.S. It's a fun browse even if you're not going anywhere, and for BLN's non-American readers, provides a sense of the American spirit not always conveyed by our more official attractions - a charming, if-we-build-it-they-will-come optimism, the idea that someone will be interested in, and even pay to see, almost anything. You wouldn't want to miss the World's Largest Ball of Twine, now, would you?

You can browse by state or by categories such as "Mystery Spots," "Dinosaurs," and "Celebrities." Although many of the attractions will interest younger children and tickle their funny bones, you should pre-browse and bookmark your favorite pages if you don't want to have to explain what the Museum of Prostitution is, or a few of the other attractions that concern touchy or adult subjects.

Web Site
New on BigLearning.org


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Big Learning News © 2004 Karen Cole
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