Big Learning News 2-2-06
|Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:4 February 2, 2006
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Table of Contents
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Accuracy of Groundhog Day Predictions
Here in the U.S., February 2 is Groundhog Day. On that day, groundhog "Punxsutawney Phil" emerges to greet the day. If he sees his shadow, that means six more weeks of winter. If not, spring is just around the corner.
This article is a thoughtful and entertaining exploration of the question, "How accurate is Punxsutawney Phil?" Share it with your kids to help them develop their abilities to think mathematically about real-world questions. For example, mathematically, how would we define a correct prediction? Are Phil's predictions better than you would get just flipping a coin every year?
Finally, if it seems to you that Phil always seems to see his shadow, you're right - see this page:
It shows he sees his shadow much more often than not.
Photograph your pets
Photography gets kids thinking about important art concepts like composition and artistic message before they have the dexterity to use them in drawing or sculpture. This article provides tips for photographing pets. The tips range from technical - how do you get your pet to hold still? - to artistic - how can your photo reveal your pet's unique personality?
Bumparena by Cranium
Ages 6 and up
A fun game that teaches physics? In this game, you can actually watch your kids developing important intuitions about balls, ramps, and bumpers.
The game board is a wide ramp, with a row of starting blocks that hold balls at the top and bays for balls to roll into at the bottom. Kids take turns adding plastic bumpers to the ramp, with the goal of getting released balls to roll into their bay. Whoever gets six balls first wins.
The game is fun! Players draw cards at each turn. Some cards allow you to add a bumper to the board, some allow you to add balls to your choice of the starting blocks at the top, and some allow you to change the direction of a bumper already on the board. Draw a "release card" and you get to throw the switch and release all the balls that have accumulated at the top and see whose bays they roll into.
My kids, when they're adding bumpers, try to predict the path balls will take with the new bumper in place. I can see them tracing with their fingers, testing out different scenarios. Sometimes, because the balls are bouncy, things don't go as they predicted but the surprises make the game fun too. The game says it's for ages seven and up, but I think even younger kids would enjoy it too.
Winter Olympics Torch Relay
If your kids are excited about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, help them brush up on Italian geography by following the path of the olympic torch as it makes its way around Italy.
Here's an article about the torch relay:
This site has a nice interactive map:
Artist Paul Cezanne
The Smithsonian's National Gallery just opened a new show, Cezanne in Provence, with 117 works by Cezanne. This site is a great way to learn about the artist and his works. It showcases 12 "motifs" - locations that inspired the art. The motif pages include information about the place and Cezanne's relationship with it, photographs of the place, and several examples of works Cezanne painted there. Kids, who will find the text too dense and technical, will love looking at the art works. They can explore the works by zooming in on particular parts. They can zoom in close enough to see individual brush strokes.
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