Big Learning News 8-31-04
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Gear up for the Harvest Moon
"Harvest Moon" isn't just a picturesque idiom, it's an astronomical term. The harvest moon, which this year rises on September 28th, is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox (September 23 this year).
Because of some astronomical effects I don't fully understand myself (everyone on the Internet explains it exactly the same way, so I guess I'm out of luck!), the moon rises about the same time every night for several nights in a row around the full moon. Farmers used to take advantage of the extra moonlight to get the harvest in, hence the name. Here's one explanation of the phenomenon (but it's about the 2003 harvest moon so ignore the dates).
If your kids are interested in astronomy, they'll enjoy verifying the phenomenon. You can track sunset and moonrise times as the harvest moon gets closer. You'll find that the moonrise times get closer together. For many kids, the fact that the moon rises at different times (and sometimes during the day!) is a revelation in itself.
On the other hand, if direct observation proves too onerous, you can check out the sun and moon page on the Farmers Almanac site. Type in your zip code and today's date, and leave the "sun" and "moon" checkboxes checked, and click "search." That will give you today's rise and set times for the sun and moon. Then use the "next day" link to click through the month, noting the differences between each day's moon rise times. Note that the harvest moon effect is less pronounced as you get closer to the equator.
Farmer's Almanac Rise and Set Page: http://www.almanac.com/rise/
Radio Rescue by Lynn Barasch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Here's a question that captures the imagination of almost any child: how can a kid, stuck in the mundane world of home and school, be part of a real adventure? Radio Rescue tells the true story of the author's father, who in 1923, at the age of ten, became a wireless (ham) radio operator - the youngest ever licensed at that time.
The story tells how hard he worked to learn Morse code well enough to pass the licensing exam, and how he set up his "shack." As the story unfolds, he chats with operators around the world, communicates in Morse code via flashlight with navy ships anchored in the Hudson river, and helps to rescue a family stranded by a flood.
The book does a great job of giving kids a sense of what communication was like in the 1920s. The illustrations are cartoon but include a picture of the boy's radio license, a page of morse code abbreviations, and of course the complete Morse code.
Don't Buy It!
Don't let your kids be fooled by common marketing tricks - give them a shot of immunity with Don't Buy It! (There, doesn't that sound like a sales pitch!)
Through fun and hip-looking interactive activities and quizzes, kids will learn all about ways companies mislead them into buying products they may not really want. One exercise shows them a real GI-Joe toy package and asks them to figure out what's really inside the box (all the accessories shown are actually sold separately). In another activity they get to design a cereal box, and as they go, the site explains how marketers use color, image, and word choices to do different kinds of selling. If you've got a daughter worried about looking like the models in magazines, show her the magazine cover-girl activity, which explains all the tricks magazines use to make models look more perfect than they are.
No Child Left Behind? Bring Back the Joy
Maybe like a lot of parents and teachers, you've noticed that the No Child Left Behind act makes it harder to do any Big Learning at school. The narrowed curriculum, the exalting of test scores above real learning, the unfair labeling of schools and students, the time and expense of test prep - there's something for nearly everyone to dislike.
Maybe you're so mad you've decided to stage a protest. Only...you need one more thing - a protest song.
Well, go ahead and schedule that rally because Cap Lee and Whole Child Education Reformers have released a whole CD of NCLB protests songs. You can all tap along with "Test the Kids," "For Whom the Bell Curves," or any of the other 13 songs. They're all folk-style and some use well-known melodies (can you guess the melody for "These Schools are Your Schools"?).
Proceeds benefit World of Opportunity, a a social justice and civil rights educational and job readiness program in Birmingham, Alabama.
For ordering information, or to schedule a Dangerous Folk performance at your rally, contact http://www.wholechildreform.com.
Private Schools Put Limits on AP Coursework: As public schools ramp up their Advanced Placement programs, private schools are questioning the costs and benefits of the program.
These and more at http://www.biglearning.org.
BANJO MAN FRANK CASSEL
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Big Learning News © 2004 Karen Cole
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