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Big Learning News 3-15-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:10 March 15, 2006

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Table of Contents

Math Moment: Great Circle Mapper
Activity: Enjoy some poetry
Book Review: Castle Diary
Education News: Rescue Recess!

Web Site: Obscure Holidays

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Math Moment

Great Circle Mapper


Great Circle Mapper (GCM) is a great site to share if your family will be traveling by air. Enter the two airport codes, and GCM will tell you the distance between them. It will also draw you a nice map. Adults can learn a thing or two about how flights are planned by clicking on the various hyper-links - I learned that for twin-engine planes always have to be within 60 minutes of an airport in case an engine fails.

As far as the math goes, your kid will improve their number sense about distances - what kinds of places are around 500 miles away? 1000 miles? Also, the idea of great-circle distances is important in geometry. We tend to think about geometry in terms of figures on a flat plane: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, lines can be parallel, two lines can meet at only one point. But on the surface of a sphere (like the Earth), all the rules change. See this link for a summary and then show your kids on a globe.


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More Fun Math for Kids



Enjoy some poetry


On this site, you and the kids can listen to some great children's poetry read by the poet. The recordings also contain an introduction in which the poet explains the poem.

Beware of some browser issues though. I couldn't get the recordings to play in Firefox, but the site seemed to detect this and showed the text of both the poet's introduction and the poem (but no warning about not being able to play the poem - I had to guess that for myself). With Internet Explorer, the poems played beautifully, but I didn't see the text, and I guess I wanted both.

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Book Review

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page by Richard Platt, Illustrated by Chris Riddell (Candlewick, 2003)

Ages 7-12

For any knight-and-sword-fascinated kids, this book offers a great kid's-eye view of life castle life. Castle Diary is written from the point of view of Tobias, an eleven-year-old boy learning the duties of a page at Strandborough Castle in the year 1285. There's a wonderful mix of surprising details from everyday life and adventure. Tobias goes on a hunt and helps at a knight's tournament, but also plays with other boys and gets sick from a feast.

Tobias writes with a middle-ages vocabulary and sentence structure, which might make the book challenging for younger kids, even as a read-aloud. But those younger kids will learn lots of vocabulary if you stop to talk about what's happening as you read.

The illustrations are packed with both humor and detail. Kids can get a sense of the story just by looking at them and reading the captions.


Support Big Learning! Buy this book - or any other book - by clicking on this link

Know of other good books about knights? Comment on this article


Education News for Adults

Rescuing Recess


Can ya' believe it? Forty percent of elementary schools have either curtailed recess or canceled it outright to make more time for academics. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot - research shows that, like adults, kids do better with a break. Not to mention the health, emotional, and social benefits of unstructured physical activity outdoors.

The PTA and the Cartoon Network have launched a new initiative to put recess back in the school day. Check out the two sites above to find out how you can help advocate for this important initiative.

Anyone interested in preventing the high-pressure craziness being inflicted on kids in the name of achievement should also check out this book:

What Happened to Recess, and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? by Susan Ohanian ( McGraw-Hill, 2002)

Has your school canceled recess? What do you think of the practice? Comment on this article here.


Web Site

Obscure Holidays


You don't want to miss International Tuba Day again this year, do you? You and your kids will enjoy this list of odd holidays, many instigated by commercial interests.

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