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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

New BLN Feature - Talk back!
Math Moment: Accuracy of Groundhog day predictions
Activity: Photograph your pets
Toy Review: Bumparena
News to Share:Winter Olympic Torch Relay
Web Site: Artist Paul Cezanne

NEW FEATURE! Talk Back to Big Learning News

We want to know what you think about the articles and resources in Big Learning News. Or maybe you have a related resource you'd like to share.

So, starting this week, just click the "comment" links at the end of each article to make a comment (for example, "please write more articles like this one!", or "you got the age level wrong!"), suggest a related web site or book, or ask a question. Or visit our comments blog to see what other readers are saying.

Of course, you can always send feedback to me directly - just e-mail editor@biglearning.org

Math Moment

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.

Comment on this article



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?

Comment on this article


Toy Review

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.

Buying Information

Comment on this article


News to Share

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:



Comment on this article

Web Site

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.

Comment on this article


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