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Big Learning News 5-9-07

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 5:12 May 9, 2007

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Table of Contents

Editor's Notes
Math Moment: Jumping 100 inches
Activity: Make a gift for Mothers' Day
Activity: Wheel assembly
Book Review : 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents
Web site: http://www.scrapblog.com/

Editor's Notes

We've got news! Big Learning is now a nonprofit corporation, Big Learning, Inc. Our mission is to provide hands-on, real-world learning opportunities for children and families. As a nonprofit corporation, we're hoping to offer our programs to lots more kids and families, and develop an even bigger variety of workshops, projects, kits, and other resources. Watch this space for exciting announcements over the next few months.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be moving our official web address to www.biglearning.org (instead of .com), though the .com address will still work for a long time to come. That's because a .org address tells everyone we're a nonprofit. Our e-mail addresses will all change to BigLearning.org also.

Today: If you are a subscriber to Big Learning News, please add the address editor@biglearning.org and name "Big Learning" to your address book. That way your SPAM filter won't grab Big Learning News after we switch addresses.

Do you live in the D.C. Metro Area? Join me at a Big Learning Family Fun Workshop! Upcoming workshops include Making Toys, Gardening Together, and Making Kites.

Go to http://www.biglearning.org/workshops for schedule and online registration.

-Karen Cole

Math Moment

How High Can YOU Jump?

http://www.adn.com/sports/story/8838854p-8739503c.html (New York Times 4-24-07)

How high can your child jump? The above news story is about the "one foot high kick" event in the Native Youth Olympics, where athletes try to kick a ball hanging high in the air. The winner kicked a ball hanging 108 inches off the ground. For older kids, ask them to tell you what 108 inches is in feet and inches (9 feet exactly). Good practice dividing by 12. Then get out the tape measure (outside, unless you have 9-foot ceilings) and let your kids be amazed by the idea of jumping that high. You'll be helping them build up a store of reference images to use when they need to estimate height.

More Fun Math for Kids


Activity: Make a gift for Mothers' Day

Many thanks to my friend San Francisco Mom of One for reprinting the original Mothers Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe, written in 1870. It's good to be reminded that Mothers' day is more than a blatant consumer holiday - in fact it was conceived as a holiday to promote peace. Hard to argue with that.

But...we do give gifts and I really can't argue with showing appreciation to mothers, being one myself. If you know a child who just might want to make a gift for his or her mother, we have a couple ideas on BigLearning.org:

Make pretty pottery bowls at home

Make a candy dish

Make paper gift boxes

And, if your child would like a simple gift that echoes the peace theme of Mothers' Day, we can offer instruction on making origami peace cranes.


Make a Nanorover, or learn about wheel assemblies


At Big Learning Central, we like making everything as much from scratch as possible - we think you learn more that way and it's certainly cheaper in terms of parts. Making wheel assemblies from scratch can be tricky though. There are six basic parts.

Hubcap: Keeps the wheel from popping off the end of the axle
Wheel - and this might have a tire on it or some other kind of tread.
Spacers: These keep the wheel from rubbing against other parts of the assembly.
Axle: The straight stick that goes through the center of the wheel.
Bearing: A tube the axle spins inside.
Struts: Sometimes the bearing is connected to the car (or whatever you're making) by elongated plates or tubes called struts. Sometimes the bearing is connected directly to the bottom of the vehicle and no struts are used.

The "spaceplace" link above gives instructions for making a balloon-powered "Nanorover," a model of a small asteroid-exploration vehicle built by NASA.

Even if your child isn't particularly interested in the Nanorover project, the instructions have a great diagram of a wheel assembly. Scroll down to step 15 to see it, and bookmark the page for the next time you and your child want to build any kind of vehicle from scratch.

Related articles

Balloon Car project

Book: Amazing DaVinci Inventions

Toys to Make: Pinwheels


Book Review

38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents by Dette Hunter and Deirdre Betteridge (Annick Press, 2002).

Ages 5-8

38 Ways is a storybook and project book in one. Sarah's grandparents will be babysitting for the weekend while her parents are away. The parents tell Sarah and her two siblings not to let the grandparents get bored. The story tells how the children kept their grandparents busy.

Follow this link for more information and a complete review: http://www.biglearning.org/book-review-38-ways.htm


Catch Up on our Recent Education Commentaries

Brute Force Narrowing of the Achievement Gap
Dark Side of Parent Involvement Initiatives
Quick fixes in education
Using test scores to evaluate teachers


Web Site


Ages 6 and up with help

Here's scrapbooking for everyone, without the mess or expense. You upload photos from your computer and then add colorful backgrounds, crop the photos using a choice of shapes, add "stickers" and other fun stuff. Then you can publish your scrapbook to be viewed either by the general public or by invitation only.

This would be a very easy way for a kid to write a story book using family photos. Or, your child could make family vacation scrap books, or publish a birthday party scrapbook and send the viewing information to all the attendees.

Making the scrap books is easy and fun - I spent waaaay too much time doing mine today. You can find a link to it here:




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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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