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Big Learning News 7-12-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:22 July 12, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Oldest World Cup Players
Activity: Bigger Bubble Gum Bubbles
Book Review: My Side of the Mountain
Current Events for Kids: New spelling?
Web sites: Wilderness Survival

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Math Moment

Oldest World Cup Players


Born in April, 1966, Ali Boumnijel of Tunisia is the oldest player in the 2006 World Cup competition. Your kids can see the top-ten list of oldest players by visiting the above link and scrolling down.

So, how old is Boumnijel? This is a great question for developing mental math strategies.

My husband always does this kind of problem by going to the nearest round number and adjusting both numbers by the difference:

(2006 - 1966) is the same as (2000-1960), which is obviously 40.

Other people might solve this by counting up by tens from 1966 - 1976, 1986, 1996, 2006: That's 40.

These make good car problems - ask everyone in the car to think about the problem and then explain to the others how he or she solved it. On a good car ride, everyone might learn new strategies.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Bubble-gum bubble-blowing contest


This page has tips for blowing bigger bubbles. Fun, yes - but educational? You bet.

I like this page because I think it develops scientific ways of thinking, applied to a fun activity. For example, it explains that the ingredients that make bubble gum softer and less sticky also keep it from sticking to itself, thereby making the bubbles break at a smaller size. That kind of explanation can help kids develop the intuition that a substances' composition influences its behavior.

Another tip points out that the outside temperature can influence the size of the bubbles. Here you're developing the idea that temperature can change the behavior of a substance, and that cold tends to make things brittle while hot tends to make them thin and gooey - something they've no doubt noted with ice pops but may not have generalized to other substances like gum.

More Hands-on Science Learning! Inventing for Kids, Engineering for Kids

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Book Review

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (Puffin, 2001). Originally published in 1959.

Ages 10 and up. Ages 8 and up as a read-aloud

Reading aloud a book you loved as a child - it's one of those peak parenting experiences. This story of Sam Gribley, alone in the woods, living off the land and befriending animals, captured my imagination as a child, and now I'm reading it to my 8-year-old son.

And ooh-la-la, this book is chock full of Big Learning. For example, Sam describes one of his early quests for food:

"I leapt up the bank, slipped, and my face went down in a patch of dogtooth violets.

You would know them anywhere after a few looks at them at the Botanical Gardens and in colored flower books. They are little yellow lilies on long slender stems with oval leaves dappled with gray. But that's not all. They have wonderfully tasty bulbs. I was filling my pockets before I got up from my fall. 'I'll have a salad type lunch' I said..."

Look at all the lessons in this one paragraph:

- Even falling down can be lucky, if you remember to look around.
- It's good to have some knowledge of plants (which you can get from gardens or books) before running off to live in the woods.
- The edible part of a plant might not be visible
- Sam, at least, thinks wild food can taste yummy.

That's Big Learning - kids absorbing all kinds of lore and wisdom just by immersing themselves in an exciting story.

Buying Information

More Books for Kids

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Current Events to share with Kids

Just When You Thought You Knew Your Spelling Words...


American Literacy Council has proposed that we change the spelling of English words to be more "logical." Here's a sample:

"Eether wae, th consept has yet to capcher th publix imajinaeshun."

In the new system, each of the 42 sounds in the English language would be spelled in one way. Now, we have 400 spellings for the 42 sounds. For example, the "sh" sound appears in "fish" and "motion."

But an education professor argues in the article that people use those oddly-spelled roots and prefixes to help them figure out what a word means.

In any case, chances are slim that the simplified spelling system will catch on. The article notes that Americans hate to change their entrenched systems - see how well the metric system has taken hold here, for a cautionary example.


Comment on this article here.


Web Sites

Wilderness Survival



If you're planning to spend time in the wilderness with your kids, make sure they know to Hug a Tree if they get lost. The Hug-a-Tree program teaches kids six things they should do when lost in the wilderness, including hug a tree (pick a tree and stay near it, instead of running around in a panic).

The first link explains the system.

The second link is a Hug-a-Tree coloring book.

Big Learning Books for Kids

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