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Big Learning News 6-21-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:20 June 21, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Measuring horses
Activity: Recognize and avoid poison ivy, oak, sumac
Book Review: Raising Raisins
Happy Summer Solstice
Education News for Adults: NCLB news
Web sites: Bigfoot Monster Truck

Check out this week's sponsor!

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Math Moment

Measuring Horses



How tall is that horse? In the U.S. and a few other places, that question is answered in "hands." One hand = four inches. The "hands" unit is supposed to represent roughly the width of an adult hand (have your child measure yours!).

The first link above explains exactly how horses are measured. Since their head can go up and down, they're measured from the ground to the top of their shoulders - called the "withers." The second link has a diagram that shows where the withers are.

For some division practice, measure your kids in "hands." Measure their height in inches, then divide by four:

(height in inches) divided by (4 inches per hand) = (height in hands).

Let them think through this formula using simple numbers. Ask, "What if you were eight inches tall? How many hands would that be?" Let them count it out on a ruler if they're not sure.

According to the article in the first link, horse measurers use a bubble level to reach from the horse's withers to a the corresponding place on a measuring stick. This is a bit of practical geometry you might want to try while measuring your child's height. Kids love anything that involves a tool.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Learn to recognize poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac


These sites just might help your kids avoid a nasty rash this summer. The quiz lets kids look at plant photos and decide if they think it's poison ivy or not. Click to see if they are right, and what the tip-off is for that photo. The second link has lots of good info to keep in mind.

The last site has pictures of all three poison plants.

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Book Review

How Do You Raise a Raisin by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Illustrated by Craig Brown.

Ages 6 - 9

This book tells your kids everything they always wanted to know about raisins. Then it answers all the questions those answers raise. Along the way, it illustrates how much goes into the foods we take for granted.

I like the way the book is laid out. There are catchy questions about raisins, written in humorous verse that younger children will love. Then, the answers are written in straightforward prose, from which you could easily pick out the answers in a word or two if you're reading to a younger child.

The book goes on longer than my interest in raisins, with a seemingly-tacked-on appendix about raisin history. The reasons for this become clear when you note the sponsorship of the California Raisin Advisory Board and several other raisin-promoting organizations, acknowledged on the last page. But no matter - it's still worth reading, and promoting raisins doesn't seem like such a bad thing to me.

Buying Information

More Books for Kids

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Happy Summer Solstice, Northern Hemisphere!

I blew it today, giving erroneous information about the summer solstice to a carload of kids on their way to camp. But I've got it now - thanks to the Polar Days and Nights animations I recommended to you a few weeks ago. If you want to clear up your own understanding of this day, here's the article:


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Education News for Adults

No Child Left Behind a flop


A new study from Harvard reports that the controversial No Child Left Behind Law has not achieved its goals of raising math or reading achievement. Furthermore, every state will be labeled "Failing" under the law if current trends continue, because the law requires 100% of students to show proficiency by 2014, and no one is even close to a sufficient rate of progress to meet that target.

So we have a law that's incredibly expensive and time-consuming, puts damaging pressure on everyone from adults to young children, and is ineffective at improving achievement. If this sounds silly to you (and you live in the U.S.), send the report to your state and federal legislators.

Here's the press release, which has a link to the full report:


Comment on this article here.


Web Site

Bigfoot Monster Truck


I always say, there's better science inspiration in a good monster truck rally than in a bad science museum. If your child loves these destructive, noisy beasts, you might as well draw some math and science learning out of them. Start at this page about the granddaddy of monster trucks, Bigfoot. The above link is the site's Frequently-asked Questions (FAQ) page. So many Big Learning directions you could go from here. Truckloads of vocabulary (what's torque?), plus information about speed, tire size, and types of fuel, distances the truck can jump, and racing history.

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