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Big Learning News 4-19-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:13 April 19, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: One red paper clip
Activity: Train your goldfish
Book Review: Last Child in the Woods
Education Resource for Adults: How things are made
News to Share: Record-breaking capital
Kids' publishing opportunity


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Math Moment

One red paper clip


If your kids have been in school for any length of time, they have encountered this problem:

What if someone offered you a penny for your first day on the job, and then offered to double your wages each day for a month?

This is a lesson in exponential growth, and most children are delighted to imagine themselves with $5,368,709.12.

But at Big Learning we love real-life math, so check out this true story: One enterprising person, Kyle McDonald, started with one red paper clip and is trying to trade his way to home ownership. He doesn't double his value on each trade, but does increase the value considerably. In his first trade, he traded his paperclip for the a pen shaped like a fish. At present, he's managed to trade his way up to a year's rent on a house in Phoenix.

Read the above news article with your kids. You might have fun estimating the value of things to dig more math out of the experience.

Look at Kyle's site on your own http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/ before offering it to your kids. Most of it is fine, but now that he's received so much publicity people are starting to offer some risque things in trade. Some of the stories of his trades are good though, so you might want to select some entries to share with the kids. The home page is G-rated so far, and has photos of every item in the series of trades.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Train your goldfish (or just read about it)


This web site started out as a kid's science project. He was able to train his goldfish to push a little soccer ball into a little soccer goal. Fun to read about and possibly fun to do, and a good way to learn about the psychology of conditioning - the way all show animals are trained.

The "how it works" page is interesting:


In one article I read, an expert sniffs that this might be stressful for the fish if done incorrectly (but the article didn't specify what that would be - I presume none of you will beat the fish).

The site has a little video of the fish pushing the soccer ball.

Comment on this article


Book Review

Last child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (Algonquin Books, 2006)


Does your child have nature-deficit disorder? Do you?

I'll admit, the title made me hold out for the paperback before reading this gem ("oh dear," I thought, "not another disorder.").

The author, Richard Louv, totally charmed me with his thoughtful, accessible, and well-researched presentation. He offers considerable evidence that a lot of our societal and personal sicknesses relate to our increasing distance from the natural world. This separation has many causes, including fear and the hectic pace of modern life. Louv makes a compelling case that our very salvation depends on finding ways to reconnect with nature, and that you don't have to be a tree-hugging hippie to support the regreening our cities, schools, and homes.

As a parent, I found the arguments related to fear especially interesting. Many parents say they can't let their kids play in the woods the way they did, because of the fear of stranger abduction. Yet as Louv points out, the crimes that worry parents are exceedingly rare. Crime rates in national parks are infinitesimal compared to crime rates in cities. Louv hypothesizes that we are actually making our children less safe by depriving them of the "trust-your-gut" instinct that nature play helps to develop. Kids who play in nature a lot also develop a confident bearing that makes them less likely to become victims.

Other parents are more worried about their children getting injured by nature itself. Although injuries do happen in the woods, they also happen on the soccer field. Yet nature play offers unparalleled opportunities to develop coordination and know-how that help kids prevent injuries. Louv says, tell 'em to take a friend and a cell phone and enjoy themselves.

There's lots more to love about this book - practical advice for parents, educators, and urban planners.

Buying Information

More Nature Resources for Kids and Families

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Education Resource for Adults

How things are made


"Mommy, how do they make Scotch tape?" I don't know about you, but I get questions like that all the time. This site explains the manufacturing process of common items in considerable (and often quite technical) detail. It also provides historical background about the reasons various products were developed. For instance, Scotch tape was developed by the 3M company to solve a problem early automakers had painting cars.

Comment on this article here.


News to Share with Kids

The World's Record-breaking Capital


"The strongest hair! The youngest sumo wrestler! The longest pencil! In Malaysia, making your mark - any mark - is a matter of national pride."

In the late 80's, then-Prime Minister Mahathir bin began using the slogan Mohamad Malaysia boleh! (Malaysia can do it!). He wanted to put Malaysia on the map with spectacular achievements. The public took on the challenge and the results are documented in the Malaysian Book of Records, published every two years. This article includes some fun examples of record-breaking, such as a 150-meter long pizza...

If you'd like to show your kids where Malaysia is, look here:


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Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul III


Gina Romanello, who's shepherding the Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul III project, asked me to pass along the information that your young writer can still submit a story for possible publication in the book.

She says to keep in mind that the audience is kids 6-10 years old. She says many of the Kid's Soul stories are written by kids. You can write her for more info at mail@lifewriters.com .

Story Specifications
  1. All submissions are preferred e-mailed in Word format, otherwise, type-written on plain 8.5 x 11 inch paper. Email stories to mail@lifewriters.com . Snail mail stories to Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul 3, ATTN: Gina Romanello, PO Box 10879 , Costa Mesa , CA 92627 .
  2. Stories should be non-fiction, 500-1000 words in length. Authors of chosen stories are paid $200. Authors retain the copyright of their material.
  3. Please note that if you have a favorite short story, poem or cartoon that has been previously published, feel free to submit any of the above for consideration. Please provide information regarding the original author and the publication in which it appeared.
  4. Stories due by May 12, 2006. (...but I noticed the web site now says June 15).

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