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Big Learning News 5-17-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:16 May 17, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: 100-meter sprinter ties record
Activity: Make Cheese
Game: Lemonade Stand
Education News for Adults: Project-based or fact-based learning?
Web sites: Polar days and nights

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Math Moment

Decimals and Rounding in the News


If your kids have trouble believing that rounding decimals is important in real life, tell them to ask Justin Gatlin, a sprinter who thought he'd just set a new 100-meter world record. But it turned out that his time, 9.766 seconds, had to be rounded to the nearest hundredth of a second.

That made his official time 9.77 seconds, which ties the previous record even though he was technically 4/1000 seconds faster.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Make Cheese


Big Learning from making things - it's so empowering. You and your kids learn that ordinary people can make all sorts of things that seem to require a manufacturer or professional.

That doesn't mean you have to do these things yourself, but you can. And if you don't, you're still a more savvy consumer for having armed yourselves with an understanding of how things are made.

So it is with cheese. Although serious cheese making requires an investment in time and materials, you can make cottage cheese from ingredients already in your kitchen - milk, vinegar, and salt. The above site explains it all and has recipes, equipment for advanced cheese making, and lots of advice.

This page from the Farmer's Almanac has a similar cottage cheese recipe, but offers the option of substituting lemon juice for vinegar.


Like cooking with your kids? Here are some great kids' cookbooks:


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Education News for Adults

Blending educational approaches - can it be done?


As your tireless advocate for learning from the real world, I often get lumped in with people who really don't care about facts at all. But I do care about kids learning facts. I just think facts without context aren't very empowering - if I teach you the name of a screwdriver but I don't teach you about screws, you won't be any more empowered to build things.

This Washington Post article talks about the need to have both facts and real-world projects in a good education. It's fine as far as it goes. But everyone seems to assume that you're doing one thing or the other - teaching some facts or doing meaningful projects. It seems obvious to me that projects become more meaningful with some meaty facts thrown in, and facts become more meaningful when motivated by questions that arise from projects. I don't think it would be all that hard to come up with a school experience that does that. Kids might not be exposed to quite as many facts as some would like, but they would remember and be able to use the facts they learned.

Comment on this article here.


Game and Activity

Run a Lemonade Stand


"Lemonade Stand" was one of the first business simulation games ever developed for personal computers, and your kids can still enjoy and learn from it. Kids start with $20.00. They use it to buy lemons, sugar, ice, and cups. They can decide how much to buy based on the weather and adjust their recipe to save money or make a better-quality product. Then they can watch the customers roll by and find out how much money they made or lost.

When your kids are ready to start their own stand outdoors, this article has tips to help them be successful:


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Web Site

Polar days and nights


This is a quick animation to help kids understand why days are so long in summer near the Earth's poles, and why the sun doesn't rise at all in winter.

After the animation begins, click through the first bit of text. Then you'll be able to roll your mouse over each of the months of the year and see the Earth's position during that month, and where on the Earth the sun shines. Your child will be able to see the polar region lit by the sun when the Earth is in some parts of its orbit. The same region will be in darkness during other parts of the orbit.

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