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Big Learning News 4-5-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:12 April 5, 2006

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Table of Contents

Math Moment: Symmetry
Activity: Science in a cup
Book Review: Birdhouses
Education Resource for Adults: Math Blog
News to Share: Learning while asleep?
Web Site: Bug mugs

Looking for books? Check out our book reviews and easy buying links !


Want to Learn Something New? Check our daily Hit-of-Learning!


Math Moment

Perfectly Symmetrical


Here's a fun little mind-stretching game. "Perfectly Symmetrical" gives you some dots scattered around one quadrant of a four-quadrant graph, and asks to to reflect the dots into the other four quadrants, racing against the clock. It's an exercise that builds a more sophisticated idea of symmetry than "The same on both sides," adding in the idea of reflecting around multiple lines of symmetry and that patterns of dots can be symmetrical, not just shapes.

More Fun Math for Kids

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A cup of science

My son came home from the school science fair and replicated this quick little experiment he saw there.

Fill a pot with water.

Take a drinking glass and stuff a paper napkin in the bottom so that it stays put.

Turn the glass upside down and quickly immerse it in the pot of water. Then pull it out - the napkin is dry! A miracle, you say? Not at all - the cup isn't really empty, it's filled with air. The air keeps the water out of the cup and the napkin stays dry. This is one of many science experiments that help demonstrate that air isn't empty space.

You could do the experiment with a plastic cup, and then punch a hole in the bottom of the cup and repeat the experiment. Now the air can get out of the cup (you can see it come out in bubbles), and the napkin gets wet.

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Book Review

Birdhouses by Renee Schwartz (Kids Can Press, 2005).

Ages 9-12

If your kids would like to make a birdhouse or two for your yard, this book is terrific for beginners and sure to appeal to kids. I love that it's not plan after plan of wood cut out of a plywood sheet. Instead, the book makes creative use of cheap materials like an old boot or plastic pipes. There are plans for some wood houses too, also with kid-appeal. Take a look at the cover by clicking on the "Buying Information" link below, and you'll see what I mean.

The book doesn't have much general information about birds, but if you are the dive-right-in type, this book will get you started on a summer of bird watching fun.

Buying Information

More Bird Watching Resources for Kids and Families

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Education Resource for Adults

Math Blog


I came across this when I discovered the symmetry game above. It could be called "inside the mind of a math teacher." Colleen, the writer, poses interesting math problems she has done with her students and talks through what her students did with the problem and what that showed about their level of understanding. The articles are sure to interest elementary math teachers, but also parents who want to help their kids thinking mathematically and go beyond mechanics.

The blog is only about two months old but I hope she keeps it up.

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News to Share with Kids

Learning while asleep?


Here's a fascinating and kid-friendly article describing how the brain keeps processing new information long after we've gone on to other things, and even while we're asleep. The article includes brain images highlighted to show regions of the brain active in processing a new concept.

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Web Site

Bug Mugs


With spring coming to Washington DC, we at Big Learning appear to be stuck on the topic of bugs, which we have here in over-abundance. Bug Mugs has "rap sheets" on twelve common insects and a magnified picture of each. On the same site, you can "zoom in" on microscope photos of three insects and inspect various body parts close up:


You can see more cool photos of insects, bacteria, and more under a microscope here:


If you'd like to have a great low-cost microscope for your kids, read about it on BigLearning.org

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