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Big Learning News 11-01-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:35 November 1, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: What does your UNICEF donation buy?
Activity: NEW! The Big Learning Craft Stick Idea Palace
Book revew: Super Snacks
Education news: What it takes to be great
Web Site : Archaeology for kids

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Math Moment

What does your UNICEF donation buy?

Many families make a donation to UNICEF at this time of year (that's the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund). Some do it through trick-or-treat collections, but there are many other ways to donate too, including by purchasing UNICEF greeting cards (some designed by kids).

Kids love knowing that they'll be helping other kids. What does UNICEF do? According to its website:

" UNICEF helps save, protect and improve the lives of children in 156 countries and territories through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation."

So, the math. Use the UNICEF publication, "What Your Donation Can Buy ," to show your child what a big difference even a small donation can make. For example, just seven cents buys a box of crayons for a child to use at school. Let your child parcel out the coins in their donation box in different ways, and pretend to "buy" a child whatever benefits they can afford. Seven cents here, seven cents there - pretty soon you've helped a whole classroom of kids. And your younger child will be learning about money. Your older child can practice dividing and multiplying (do I have enough for 20 boxes of crayons?), making change, and problem solving (how can I buy the most different things? How many lives could my donation save?).

I like this math moment, because it's yet another example of how math can make an activity more meaningful, rather than math being imposed as a hollow, distracting, "grown-up" driven add-on. In this case, using math can help your kids better appreciate the power of their donation.

More Fun Math for Kids

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The Big Learning Craft Stick Idea Palace


It's finally here! Now your kids can make real wood toys and gifts - and while they're at it, learn math, science, woodcraft, and lots more!

Because here at Big Learning Central, we've discovered CRAFT STICKS!

Good, cheap woodworking fun.

I bought a box of 300 of the large craft sticks for less than $3.00 - hard to beat that price, for woodworking materials.

And kids, who have the patience to build giant things out of teeny little Legos, can make almost anything out of a big pile of craft sticks. Things that last, and things they can actually play with, made from real wood.

A little technique for the Popsicle problem

The problem with most craft stick projects is they end up looking like, well, like you made them out of Popsicle sticks.

But I have attacked this problem and I have some great solutions for you. Through tricks of disguise and clever cutting, your kids can make their creations look pretty nice.

The Big Learning Craft Stick Site

So with your kids, check out the Big Learning Craft Stick Idea Palace! You'll find instructions for toys and gifts your family can make together - a snapping alligator, a posable wooden buddy, and lots more. We also teach you techniques that make any project come together better, like cutting craft sticks , making large panels, and even making spring-loaded joints that snap open or shut.

So go get a big box of craft sticks (buy them online to help support our site!) and get your family going!

Also try these articles for more woodcraft ideas

Creating a children's wood shop

Big Learning in woodworking

Buy Craft Sticks Online

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Book Review

Super Snacks: Seasonal Sugarless Snacks by Jean Warren, Illustrated by Glen Mulvey (Totline Books, 1992).

Adult or any age with adult help.

Frustrated with our family's culinary rut, I went to the library and came home with a haul of children's cookbooks. I told my kids to pick out something new and make it for us.

My older son (age 11) skipped all the colorful kids' books in favor of this low-budget gem. I think it's actually written for day care providers, who have many of the same culinary requirements as juvenile chefs do. The recipes are simple, fast, and use ingredients kids recognize and like. Many recipes don't even require any actual cooking (with heat) or cutting with sharp knives, so younger kids can do them on their own.

My son started with a peach yogurt smoothy, which we all liked (except, in defiance of the sugar-free title, we added a little honey to the recipe from the book. Hey, that's Big Learning, right? Learning to make changes in a recipe to achieve desired results). Then he made cheese popcorn.

I think this is a great sourcebook for getting kids started cooking on their own, and you can't beat the price. It's out of print, but available online for a couple dollars.

Buying information

Cookbooks for kids - more Big Learning picks



Looking for books about Thanksgiving for your child? Try this list.

Thanksgiving Books for Kids

Education News for Adults

What it Takes to be Great


Ha! If people say your child just doesn't have what it takes, mush this article in their faces. No, just kidding, but read it and remember.

The article describes a long history of research about early talent and later success. Guess what - they conclude it's all about hard work. If talent is anything, it's willingness to put in the hard work to get really good at something.

It turns out it takes at least 10 years to get really good, and even if the first stages come easily, pretty much everyone has to put in hours of learning, consistently, over a period of many years, to reach world-class mastery. That goes for chess, sports, music, and any other accomplishment you care to examine.

Why am I jumping up and down over this? Because the talent-based theory of accomplishment is the most hopeless, sad, and unproductive outlook imaginable. If it turns out that nature is everything, and nurture is nothing, well, I guess we have no choice but to live out our dreary little lives being just exactly as we were yesterday. But, ooh la la, if hard work MATTERS, then every day we might do something we thought we never could. That's a reason to get up in the morning, and that's an outlook to teach your kids.

I know hard work isn't all that matters. It's the real world, and money, connections, and dumb luck have a lot to do with who is successful. But even if hard work isn't always sufficient, it's nice to know it's necessary.

Recent Education News Commentaries

Raise children with a wild streak
Must we teach to the test?
Homework again
More about talent: Nature or Nurture IQ debate

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Web Site

Archaeology Site:

The Mysteries of Çatalhöyük


Let your kids dig around in this really well-done archeology site. It lets kids explore a real dig in Turkey - a 9,000 year old neolithic village. There are interactive activies - I liked the neolithic kitchen, where you get to move ingredients around to cook a neolithic dinner.

There are tons of videos - if it's not too creepy for your child, try the time-lapse video of the excavation of an infant burial site. In real time, it happened over two days, and you see it all in about a minute. It gives you an idea of how slow and careful archaeolgy work has to be.

There's a game called "Excavation," where you get to drop "holes" on a photograph, revealing a small part of the image with each hole. You try to guess what the photograph shows, much as an archaeologist tries to figure out a village layout, one hole at a time.

More archaeology activities

Saqqara Pyramids
Inca Investigation

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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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