Big Learning News 7-26-06
|Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:24 July 26, 2006
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Measure your veggies
According to this article, the "five-servings-a-day" guideline for fruits and vegetables is out. The problem was, no one could remember what amount constitutes a serving. So instead, the U.S. Government site at mypyramid.gov will tell you how many cups of fruits and vegetables you need to get enough daily nutrition.
Let your kids fill in their age and gender in the box at the upper right part of the mypyramid site. The site will tell them how much of each food group they should eat each day. Then let them measure the amount of vegetables and fruits they actually eat.
Measurement is a a major topic throughout most math curriculums, so it's good for kids to get real-world practice measuring with standard cups and fractions of cups. Older kids can practice adding fractions as they add up their servings through the day - say, half a cup at lunch and a quarter-cup at dinner.
Or in my kids' case, a tablespoon at lunch and three tablespoons at dinner. They have a ways to go yet.
You can always read others' comments by clicking the comment links at the end of each article. Or see them all here:
(click on the word "comments" at the end of each post).
And please contribute your thoughts too - it's really fun for us to read them and respond.
Make Ice Cream
Only a few more days left in July, which happens to be National Ice Cream Month.
But you still have time to make your own ice cream with this simple recipe - no fancy equipment or cooking required. The article also includes links for learning about ice cream science.
Whirligigs and tops
July 24th was Pioneer Day, a Mormon holiday that commemorates Brigham Young's arrival, with a group of persecuted church members, in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. In researching that, we came across instructions for making old-fashioned whirligig toys pioneer kids might have had.
Less old-fashioned but also fun is this: a spinning top made from an old CD.
I think the fun boost in these comes from decorating the disks with colorful patterns. It's always surprising what happens to patterns when they spin rapidly. Also try decorating with metallic stick-on paper, available at craft stores.
Books for Summer Fun
Got a case of the summer doldrums? Check out these great activity books.
Tricky Pix: Do It Yourself Trick Photography With Camera (Trick Photography) Buying Information
"Nature or Nurture" Intelligence Debate
"After The Bell Curve"
What makes a person smart? Is intelligence something you are just born with, or does your life experience change your intelligence? This is the nature-nurture debate about intelligence.
This article in the New York Times magazine proposes a compromise. The author, David L. Kirp, writes,
"If heredity defines the limits of intelligence, the research shows, experience largely determines whether those limits will be reached. And if this is so, the prospects for remedying social inequalities may be better than we thought."
Then, the article retells some fascinating research about twins and adopted children reared in wealth or poverty. Kids who were reared in poverty tended to do worse on IQ tests than one would expect from their genetic background, and kids who were raised in wealth tended to do better. So economic environment matters a lot. In fact, one group of kids jumped 20 points after moving to wealthier settings.
In one way, I think this is important research - showing that bad circumstances can make people look less smart than they could in better circumstances, and that in better circumstances they can look smart again. It may seem obvious, but believe me it's not obvious to everyone.
But in another way, IQ research is such a big "so what." I don't care what measure you use of potential - IQ score or a teacher's assessment. Low assessments of potential will never completely predict what's possible with support, motivation, and hard work. High assessments will never completely predict who will live up to those expectations. Why are we so interested in a theoretical ceiling that cannot, in the end, predict what an individual will or won't achieve?
The famous psychologist Benjamin Bloom said,
"After forty years of intensive research, on school learning in the United States as well as abroad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if they are provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning"
And psychologist Carol Dweck comments on Bloom, "He's not counting the 2 to 3 percent of children who have severe impairments, and he's not counting the top 1 to 2 percent of children at the other extreme. He is counting everyone else."
Americans like to believe that intelligence means effortless achievement, and Dweck thinks that belief is toxic for kids. It belies the hard work and dedication that are behind almost any success you care to examine. It also sends kids the message that if they don't achieve on the first try, they ought to give up, because if they had true ability they wouldn't need to work.
In fact, instead of reading up on IQ, check out Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Great stories and a really fun read.
Make Movies with the Zimmer Twins
Here's a fun site where creative kids can make their own animated movies. With the three characters provided, a library of actions, and a library of facial expressions, and the ability to write text in comic balloons, kids can create an endless variety of stories. They can submit their movies to be viewed by others, and the editors pick the most clever as "must see" movies each day.
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