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Big Learning News 2-9-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:5 February 9, 2006

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Table of Contents

Our Sponsor
Math Moment:100th day fun
Activity: Rubber band illusions
Book Review: Woodshop for kids
Education News: "The Trouble with Boys"
Web Site: Horse Fun

Thanks to this week's sponsor!

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Math Moment

Math Ideas for 100th-day of school celebrations

Our school always has a 100th-day-of-school celebration, where students are supposed to bring in 100 of something. My math-crazy son wanted to do something math-oriented, and settled on the first 100 digits of pi.

You can see the first n digits of pi, or learn more about the number pi, on this site:


Another idea we had was the first 100 prime numbers, which you can find here:


Here are more 100th-day ideas:


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More Fun Math for Kids



Rubber Band Illusions

Here's a trick almost any kid can learn. A rubber band magically leaps from two fingers to the other two fingers of the same hand. Amaze your kids and then teach them to amaze their friends. This site tells how to do it:


A little more complicated but still cool is this one. You take an index card, fold it, draw a fish on one side and a fishbowl on the other. This site tells you how to use rubber bands to spin the card rapidly, making it appear that the fish is inside the fishbowl.


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Book Review

Woodshop for Kids by Jack McKee, illustrated by Rusty Keeler (Hands On Books, 2005)


Sometimes you open a book and say, "This is it! This is the book I've been looking for!" That's what happened to me when I opened Woodshop for Kids. I'm pretty much a rank beginner with woodworking, and I'm still a little scared of power tools. But woodworking is a true Big Learning experience - full of math, science, art, history, and more - and therefore irresistible.

So this book tells you exactly what hand tools to get and how to use them. If you have stood at the hardware store wondering if you wanted a coping saw or a keyhole saw, this is the book for you.

It also explains wood selection (and where to get it cheap or free) and basic building techniques. It explains how to set up clamps, what a jig is and how to make one. It explains how to teach proper tool use to kids, and how to keep kids safe without doing every thing for them. I love his sample speech for kids about using a low-temperature hot glue gun. "Hot glue is HOT and if you get it on your finger it will burn you...If you accidentally get glue on your finger wipe it off quickly and you will not get burned. If you do get burned it does hurt but not for long and you'll probably survive."

The book also has 52 projects that run from very easy (a two-piece spinning top) to moderately complicated (a tool caddy). I think the projects would all be fun to make. Where the book falls down is in the photos. The black-and-white photos of rough-looking kid-made projects are never going to make your child jump up and down and say, "Please can we make that one?" But, I bet if you set them up and started making them, your kids would jump right in.

I also love McKee's Big Learning attitude. He encourages a lot of creativity with the projects rather than defining everything step-by-step. The projects also offer kids opportunities to craft a project until it works - how to add weights to a top until it spins evenly, for example.

Buying Information

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More Kids' Woodworking Resources


Education News for Adults

"The Trouble with Boys"


Everyone's talking about this article, it seems. It says that boys are falling behind girls in school, and it's because they have to sit still too much and besides, their brains develop differently.

I don't really like the article's take, that a narrow, test-driven definition of academic success harms primarily boys, and that boys need to be taught differently, even if it means segregating kids by gender (that separate-but-equal thing - where have I heard that before?). One-size-fits-all education and narrowly-defined assessment systems harm everyone, and I don't think you can predict a student's needs based on any one characteristic, including gender.

The article has seemed to touch a nerve though. If you'd like to comment, click the link below.

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Web Site


Here's a fun site for younger kids (up to age 8 or so) who like horses. It has quizzes, facts, puzzles, and a club you can join. Some of the links are broken but still worth a visit.

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