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Big Learning News 5-18-04

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 2:20 May 25, 2004

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Table of Contents

Report from Cicada Central
Book Reviews: Emeline at the Circus; How to Make an Apple Pie
Web Sites: Nutrition Information

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Report from Cicada Central

We're a few weeks past the emergence of the Brood-X Cicadas, a once-in-17-year event. I'll admit I anticipated their arrival with some trepidation, hearing estimates of 1.5 million bugs per acre and noise from their singing as loud as an airport.

I'm happy to report that the actual event has been just tremendous. The cicadas are a most accessible and accommodating species for close-up entomology. They're huge and slow-moving - kids can easily catch a flying cicada. We've seen them molting and mating - right there in plain site. We've seen birds catch them in midair. We've looked at them under microscopes and held them up to our ears to hear their singing close-up. The bugs are docile and never swarm or bite. The kids collect the discarded exoskeletons by the bucketful, catch cicadas and throw them high into the air to watch them fly away, and fight over them as "pets," as if there weren't a hundred others within easy reach. Honestly, I don't know what we're going to talk about when they all die off.

If you don't happen to be within the purview of Brood X, you can enjoy them from afar - there are great pictures from the Baltimore Sun here.

Don't miss the time-lapse video of the molting cicada.

Book Reviews
Emeline at the Circus by Marjorie Priceman (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1999).
How to make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1994).
Ages 4 - 8.

If I were a children's book author, I'd want to write like Marjorie Priceman. These books have great information in them, couched in a story and illustrations so whimsical that they never lose their lighthearted touch. Beyond the humor, the writing is lovely and Priceman never avoids a great word just because a child might not know it.

In Emeline at the Circus , Emeline and her class are at the circus with their teacher, Ms. Splinter. Ms. Splinter considers the circus educational, and relates interesting facts about each animal and attraction that passes. Meanwhile, her student, Emeline, has been snatched into the performance by an elephant. Ms. Splinter is so busy relating facts that she never notices. So, on each page, your kids will delight in finding Emeline in the jam-packed circus scenes as the oblivious Ms. Splinter primly spouts interesting facts about elephants and tigers. Very funny.

How to Make an Apple Pie begins by observing that making an apple pie is easy unless the market is closed. In that case, you must travel the world (mapped on the front and back inside covers) looking for each ingredient - semolina wheat from Italy, cinnamon from Sri Lanka. The illustrations keep the humor going with crazy modes of transportation and odd methods for procuring each ingredient.


Buying Information for Emeline at the Circus

Buying information for How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

Web Sites

Nutritional Information

My younger son has developed a sudden interest in the nutritional content of foods. "Mommy, how much Vitamin C is in my apple?" he asked me yesterday. So we've been spending quite a bit of time at nutrition-related web sites. Unfortunately, the ones with enough detail to answer my son's questions aren't the friendliest ones on the Internet. My kingdom for a query interface. That is, I searched in vain for a page where I could select the food and the vitamin I was interested in, formatted just like my son's question, "What percent of the RDA for (choose nutrient) is in (choose food). Sounds like a great web site opportunity for some enterprising developer out there!

But the information is there if you're willing to read through some dense tables. There are really two questions: (1) how much of a given nutrient is in a certain food, and (2) how much of a given nutrient do I need every day. For Question 1, you can search for the food you're interested in on this page:


The second question, regarding recommended daily intake, is addressed on this page:

The Dietary Intake Reference table links give you detailed requirements based on gender and age. They include minimum and maximum amounts recommended for good health, as well as the recommended daily allowances.

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