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Big Learning News 3-30-05

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 3:10 March 30, 2005

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Table of Contents

Math Moment: Obesity Statistics
Activity: Name that Tune
Book Review: Gooney Bird Greene
Activity: Two-ball bounce

Math Moment

Obesity Statistics


Kids are probably hearing a lot about diet and exercise lately - with childhood obesity rates rising the issue is often in the news. Here's an interesting article comparing obesity rates in the US to other countries. It's a great opportunity to talk about percentages - What does it mean for obesity rates to rise 8%? Is 67%, the rate for US men, a high percentage? (Yes - it's about 2/3).



Double Ball Bounce Physics Demonstration


Cool at any age

For this you just need two balls - one larger, one smaller. You set the smaller on top of the larger and drop the pair. The larger ball hits the floor, bounces, and pops the smaller ball high into the air. The activity page explains the physics and has a diagram showing the two balls.


Book Review

Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry (Yearling, 2004)

Ages 7-11

This is a very funny book with great stories, clever twists, and, believe it or not, embedded instruction about how to create a good story. Gooney Bird Greene is a new girl in Mrs. Pidgeon's second grade class. Her outlandish dress is the first clue that she's not going to be your conventional student, but soon the class discovers that Gooney Bird can tell a great story. The class becomes entranced by the stories she tells, which have intriguing titles like such as "How Gooney Bird Came from China on a Flying Carpet." Gooney Bird says all her stories are "Absolutely True" and at first no one believes her, but as double meanings in the titles are revealed it turns out the stories are in fact believable.

As Gooney Bird tells her stories, the teacher or Gooney Bird slip in asides about making a good story, such as having a beginning, middle and end, or using words like "suddenly" to keep things interesting.

My kids made me read this to them in a single sitting - they couldn't bear to stop.

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Name that Tune with Musipedia


Have you ever had a melody running around your head - and you just can't remember what it is? Now there's a simple on-line tool that can help you identify a melody. Playing with it can help your kids develop their sense of how a melody moves - they can type in melodies they know and see if the site can identify them. You don't have to have any knowledge of how to read and write music to use the tool.

To describe a melody, you sing the melody note by note. In the box labeled "Musical Contour (Parson's Code) you type "u" every time the pitch goes up, "d" every time it goes down, and "r" if the same pitch is repeated. I tried this for "Happy Birthday" and the site identified it correctly on the first try.

Kids can also work on their singing accuracy by singing their melodies directly into the computer microphone - the computer will generate the code for them.

Here's the pattern for Happy Birthday:


(* means "the first note").

I found that this exercise is much easier if you actually sing the song out loud (rather than just thinking it.) Your throat muscles tell you whether the note is going up or down.


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Big Learning News 2005 Karen Cole
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