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Big Learning News 6-28-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:21 June 28, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Hit that Fastball!
Activity: Create your own fireworks show - online
Book Review: First Aid for Kids
Education News for Adults: Importance of Play
Web sites: More summer reading

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Math Moment

Hit that Fastball! Time, distance, and decimals.


Think you could play major league baseball? Do you have the reaction time to hit a 90 mile-an-hour fastball? At that speed, the ball crosses home plate less than a half-second after the pitcher throws it.*

Go to the baseball page and click on the "Fastball Reaction Time" link. When the "Swing Batter" words appear, you click the mouse as fast as you can. The program tells you how fast your reaction time was, to 4 decimal places (ten-thousanths of a second). If you click fast enough, you get a "hit." This is a good chance to help your kids read decimal numbers and develop their real-world sense of time. Most kids think a second is a short instant of time, but in contexts like baseball it's actually a long time. Also, you can develop their sense of distance by measuring out 60 feet outside. (If you live in a metric country, that's 18.28 meters.)

Also, don't miss the "Biological Baseball" page that has more fascinating information about hitting and timing.

*PARENTS - FYI (but maybe too complicated for kids), here is the whole calculation to figure out that half-second time to cross the plate.

1. Convert 90 miles per hour to feet per second, since we're going to time how long the ball takes to cover 60 feet at that speed.

(90 miles per hour) * (5,280 feet per mile) = 475,200 feet per hour
(475,200 feet per hour) / (3,600 seconds per hour) = 132 feet per second

So the ball thrown 90 mph travels 132 feet per second.

2. Figure out how many seconds it takes that ball to travel 60 feet. Or stated another way, 60 feet at 132 feet per second equals how many seconds?

60 feet / 132 feet per second = 0.46 seconds (rounding to the nearest 100th of a second)

Or about a half of a second.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Design a Fireworks Show


Your child can use this fun tool to design a fireworks show, and in the process learn the names of five types of fireworks (roman candles, rings, wagon wheels, chrysanthemums, and glitter palm).

I couldn't find any instructions, but as a public service I've written some:

1. Click on "Launch Site" and then "Create Your Own Fireworks" in the upper right part of the window.

2. Find the timeline at the bottom of the window. Click on one of the gray boxes.

3. Design the fireworks for the time period you just selected on the timeline. Drag fireworks to the part of the sky where you want them to explode. Change the color, fade time, and size by moving the drop-down sliders.

4. When you are ready to see your show, click the "Ignite Fireworks" words located at the end of the timeline.

The "How does it Work" links at the lower left explain how real fireworks work. The articles are really interesting but definitely written for adults - you'd have to translate the explanations to easier language for most kids.

More Art for Kids

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Book Review

First Aid for Kids

Kids to the Rescue by Maribeth and Darwin Boelts (Parenting Press, 2003).

Ages 6-9 (with adult reading to younger kids)

This book helps young school-age kids think through first-aid situations. It recognizes that for most injuries, kids really do need adult help. But there are things they should know to avoid making the injury worse (don't rub an injured eye) or getting injured themselves when helping another child (don't touch anyone who's getting an electrical shock). It's a great tool for talking through potentially dangerous situations with kids, because each type of injury starts with a little scenario: "It's moving day and everyone is busy..." begins one. The back cover has a handy index so kids can find the page they need in a hurry.

The Kid's Guide to First Aid: All About Bruises, Burns, Stings, Sprains, and Other Ouches by Karen Buhler Gale, R.N. (Williamson Kids Can!, 2002).

Ages 9 and up

The chirpy, can-do optimism of Williamson Kids Can! books is present here, but a little misplaced. When it comes to injury, sometimes kids can't. But as a grownup, I love this book. It never occured to me that I could make my own butterfly bandage out of first-aid tape. Or a disinfectant spray out of tea tree oil. Older school-age kids and baby-sitting-age kids can get lots of good ideas from this book. There are also "prevention" tips any kid can benefit from.

But a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. For any serious injury, the best first-aid for kids can be summed up in a word and a number: "Help!" and "911."


For Buying Information, click on the book titles.

More Books for Kids

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Education News for Adults

What do you think about Summer Vacation?





The Washington Post page has two articles - one on summer math and the other on year-round schooling. The year-round schooling one is provocative:

"The ideal of a slower-paced summer filled with extracurricular learning is appealing. But such learning requires a parent at home or a smorgasbord of day care and summer camps--and the good ones are not cheap. Summer vacation looks more and more like a playground for the well-to-do and a wasteland for those lower down the economic scale. "

The second link is a study indicating that more-of-the-same summer school might not be the answer, though. It examines achievement differences between rich and poor kids, and finds that they actually accelerate in the summer. And summer school, as it's currently conceived, historically (and surprisingly) widens the gap between rich and poor.

But I, who love summer vacation and am in a position to make it beneficial for my kids, still want schools that shrink achievement gaps and promote equality.

The third link is a site that advocates for continuing the practice of extended summer vacation. The fourth link is an organization advocating year-round schooling. Explore them and use the "comments" link below to voice your opinion: should we shorten summer vacation?

Comment on this article here.


Web Site

More Summer Reading


Here's another summer reading list, this one from the Children's Book Council (a non-profit association of publishers). It has lots of newer titles thrown in.

Big Learning Books for Kids

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