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Big Learning News 9-6-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:29 September 6, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: 100-Year old Mechanic
Activity: Fun with Flatware

Book Review: Children's Miscellany
Education news: Letting Children Roam
Web Site : All about Pests
Contest: Design an educational game!

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Math Moment

100-year old Mechanic

Ages 8-12


According to this article, Britain's oldest worker recently celebrated his 100th birthday. The man, "Buster" Martin, works as a mechanic. He tried to retire in 1997, but found life too dull to bear. So he went back to work.

Show the article to your kids - it doesn't bother to tell you what year Martin was born, so help the figure it out. Write down 2006. Show them how to subtract 100 years to get 1906. If it helps them, they can think of these numbers in terms of "hundreds." 2000 is the same as 20 hundreds. 20 hundreds minus 1 hundred equals 19 hundreds.

Young kids can have a field day adding and subtracting 100 years from any date. Ask them what year they will turn 100? How about Mom or Dad? If a tree was 500 years old today, what year did it start growing?

To keep the place value lessons going, show them how to add 10 years to any date. Make a list of years one below the other like this:


Have your child note the pattern in the tens place - the digits go 0, 1, 2, 3. Ask them what year comes next.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Art for Kids

We've updated our art resources on BigLearning.org. Check out our expanded pages, with quick projects, art book reviews, free drawing lessons, and art history and art appreciation for kids.

Treasure troves: Art for Kids



Fun with Mirrors


Does your child like to look at his face upside-down in the bowl of a spoon? This page has several ways your child can play with flatware and learn about the properties of mirrors. For example, it suggests bringing the spoon closer and closer until the image is no longer upside down, but magnified.

If your child is curious about how mirrors reflect light, here's a fun activity called "Spot Yer Mate" that helps explain it, using yarn to represent light rays.


There are more mirror activities on this page:


Here are more activities and resources for a young physicist:

Double ball bounce activity
Free physics videos online
Sodaplay physics construction web site

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Book Review

Children's Miscellany: Useless Information that's Essential to Know by Matthew Morgan and Samantha Barnes (Chronicle Books, 2004)

Ages 7-11

What kid would want to go through childhood without knowing the history of underpants? Or that a salt-grain-sized drop of the venom of the Australian Brown Snake can kill a person? Children's Miscellany is an off-beat book of lists, tricks, and kid know-how - for example, ten ways to be annoying (as if any kid really needs that list!) There are optical illusions, magic tricks, and life-saving tips like what to do if attacked by an alligator. Lots of fun.

More Information

More tricks and trivia books

Tips and Tricks for Junior Detectives
Kids Shenanigans
Fandex series

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Education News for Adults

Letting Kids Roam


Can we let our children play outside unsupervised? Some parents interviewed in this Washington Post article say no, the world is just too dangerous now:

"Cesar Llerena, watching from a bench as his children played at Alcova Heights Park, said he does not think it is responsible to let children walk to school, even if it is only three blocks away. 'Someone might drive up" and kidnap them, he said. "It hasn't happened here, but it has happened.' "

Other parents think the benefits outweigh the risks:

"Katzenberger pointed at where the grass dipped into a creek, sheltered by trees -- a favorite playing area of his son Clyde, 10, who has named it the Mysterious Beyond.
Other parents have warned him against letting his children play there. 'I know that people are really afraid of their kids getting snatched,' he said. 'But the probability of a child getting snatched is so low that I think you're doing your child a disservice by letting them stay inside and not grow, not be creative, not be exposed to the Mysterious Beyond.'
Lusby agreed. 'If we're always there, surrounding them, they will never see past us," she said.'

The article includes a handy statistic to support the second point of view. Do you know how many stranger abductions there were last year in the whole U.S.? 115. I'm pretty sure any other childhood danger you can think of has a greater likelihood of happening than a stranger abduction. (Now let's pause briefly while I worry about all those more-likely dangers.)

In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv poignantly admits that despite his passion for nature, he still has the same parental fears as the rest of us do. Still, he says,

"I know it's time to put fear in its place: to acknowledge that 98 percent of what can go wrong never does. The 2 percent factor is no small thing...Nature, however, is part of the solution...Natural play strengthens children's self-confidence and arouses their senses...A case can be made that we endanger our children by separating them too much from nature, and that the reverse is also true -- that we make them safer, now and in the future, by exposing them to nature."

He offers five suggestions for keeping kids safe without raising them in a plastic bubble:

- Spend time with your children and educate them about safety -- as in awareness and good sense, not constant fear.
- Let your kids get to know other good adults
- Build strong neighborhood bonds so the task of keeping an eye on kids is shared and non-invasive.
- Require kids out of earshot to take a buddy or play in a group
- Use technology, like a cell phone or walkie talkie, to stay in contact.

Read a Review of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

Recent Education News Commentaries

Everything is starting earlier
Should you pay kids for good grades?
The Nature-or-Nurture IQ debate

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Web Site: All about pests


We had an ant invasion in our house recently, which may be why I found these games especially interesting.They teach kids about termites, ants, roaches, and other household pests. The overriding message is that from the pest's point of view, houses can be excellent habitats. To control the pests, a good strategy is to make the house less appealing as a habitat. Good science learning there. And from a parent's point of view, the games are good because they encourage kids to clean up spills and crumbs.

More Bugs for Kids

Product review: Bug Vaccuum
Site Review: Bug Mugs
Activities: Beyond the Bug Jar

Comment on this article



Educational Game Contest deadline SEPTEMBER 15th, 2006


Contest for kids 18 and under.

GameMaker software for kids 10 and up, with help for younger kids.

Education World is still taking entries in its educational design contest for kids. Kids use free software called GameMaker to create an original, working computer game - no programming language required. I downloaded the software and started to work through the tutorial. I'll have a more complete review soon, but I wanted to let you all know about it because the deadline is next week.

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Big Learning News (c) 2006 Karen Cole

Content meant for adults and provided for informational purposes only - readers are responsible for previewing all materials and activities for suitability and safety before sharing them with children.
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