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Big Learning News 3-28-07

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 5:8 March 28, 2007

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Getting enough sleep?
Activity: Start some seeds
Activity: "Nutrition Label Face-off" Game
Book review: Asian Kites
Education News: Merit pay for teachers
Web site: Kids Regen

Editor's Notes
We're back after a short hiatus - hope you enjoy our crop of springtime Big Learning fun.


Math Moment

Getting enough sleep?


Getting enough sleep? Not you, silly. Your kids. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids ages 5-12 need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep each night. Help your kids practice working with time by asking them how much sleep they usually get.

For little kids, get an analog clock. Have them put their finger on their regular bedtime, and count around the clock to their wake-up time. Older kids can use their addition and subtraction skills, perhaps broken up into three questions:

1. How many hours from bedtime until midnight?
2. How many hours from midnight until wake-up time?
3. How many hours of sleep altogether?

And, if your kids are still learning to read an analog clock, play our "Weird Clock Face Challenge" with them.

More Fun Math for Kids



Start some seeds


YAY it's spring. Despite my love of gardening, I just can't get started until that first warm day. But now it's time to plant some seeds.

If you'd like to help your kids learn about the earliest stages of plant growth, sprout a few seeds in a rolled-up, moistened paper towel. Keep it in a plastic bag in a warm place and check it after a few days.

What I didn't know, but just learned is that you can plant these sprouted seeds. Put them in fine vermiculite or some other "soil-less medium" and finish the early growth. I got this idea, and lots of other good ones, here:


Another thing I like to do is plant some seeds at the edge of a clear plastic cup. Read more about that here: http://www.biglearning.org/news050309.htm#activity

You can find lots more gardening ideas in our "Gardening for Kids" Treasure Trove:




Game: Nutrition Label Face-off

The scene: A food court or low-budget restaurant.

Players: Two kids who have purchased similar foods that have a nutrition label on the package - say, Doritos vs. Potato Chips, or a Snapple vs. Chocolate Milk.

The Game: See whose food is junkier or more nutritious. The players start reading down their nutrition label. For example:

"Mine has 200 calories per serving."
"Well, mine only has 120 - oops, wait there are 2 servings in the bottle. 240 for the whole bottle"

My kids like to play this game, which they made up themselves. And it always inspires questions: "Mom, is sodium good for you or bad?" I think our kids have actually learned quite a bit about nutrition by playing it. Though I can't say it's necessarily motivated them to stop choosing the junk food.

More nutrition articles

Fast food nutrition http://www.biglearning.org/article-fast-food-nutrition-math.htm
Nutrition information on the web http://www.biglearning.org/article-nutrition-information-web-sites.htm
Measure your veggies http://www.biglearning.org/news060726.htm#mathmoment


Book Review

Asian Kites by Wayne Hosking (Tuttle Publishing, 2005)

Ages 10 and up, younger with help

I've been looking around for a truly simple introduction to kite making. Asian kites does the job. Materials are simple, there's no sewing required, and the kites are cool - not just your plain diamond kites but birds and other animal-inspired shapes.

Read the rest of the review and get buying information on biglearning.org.



Education News

Using test scores to evaluate teachers


I feel your pain, I really do. All of you who have ever had to deal with a bad teacher. We did, one year. My son developed nervous tics from the explosive yelling, the violent dumping of messy desks, the favoritism, the lying, and the abject intellectual poverty of the environment. That teacher retired early, thank goodness.

So it sounds so simple, in the same way all those "tough-minded" educational reforms do. We should pay the good teachers better, and get rid of the bad ones.

But that requires a fair way to decide who is bad and who is good. Hmmm, lessee....Test scores! Of course. That's what the USA Today article is about. The best teachers are the ones whose kids get the best test scores. Or, the best teachers are the ones whose test scores rise the most.

There are so many problems with that idea, but here's the one that we can all agree on - by any measure, test-driven high-stakes reforms don't work. The problem is, most people aren't teaching or learning poorly out of laziness. As in any profession, there are a few. But most teachers who teach poorly do it for a host of other reasons - poor training, outlandishly bad working conditions, outdated or broken tools, isolation - to name just a few. And many extraordinary teachers are teaching well in spite of all that - but you'd never know it from the test scores their students produce.

Please show me a profession where beating people over the head with threats of dire penalties for someone else's work, while taking away their autonomy, has led to sustained performance improvements. No, it doesn't matter - I still wouldn't wish it on our teachers. Even the bad ones.

Recent Education News Columns

Extending the school day
Education News: Accountability movement encroaches on preschool and college
5 Myths about U.S. Education
Holding back kindergartners


Web Site

Rodale's Kids Regen


Ages 6 and up (with help)

The Rodale Institute is a longtime supporter of what they call "regenerative" practices:

"The Rodale Institute works with people worldwide to achieve a regenerative food system that renews environmental and human health working with the philosophy that "Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People."

Their kids site is a cheery, energetic expression of their philosophy. The site is packed with kid-written contributions. Kids are invited to write about ways they or their schools are helping to regenerate the Earth. So if your kids are involved in Earth-friendly projects, encourage them to submit them to Kids Regen.

The site also has tons of activities, recipes, and a Q&A area where kids post questions and other kids offer answers and advice.

Something about the site's organization makes a lot of the content hard to find - I recommend clicking on the "Search" tab at the top to get access to more of the site's content.




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Big Learning News (c) 2007 Karen Cole

All Rights Reserved.

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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