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Big Learning News 3-30-04

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 2:12 March 30, 2004


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Table of Contents
First Book Lets You Share the Big Learning
Book Review: While You're Waiting for the Food to Come
Web Site: Lissa Explains It All: HTML Help and Tutorials for Kids


First Book Lets You Share the Big Learning
http://www.firstbook.org

Those of us with abundant home libraries sometimes take for granted the easy access we have to our books. First Book is a wonderful organization that makes it possible for children in low-income families to own books they otherwise couldn't afford.

First Book works through a network of volunteer Advisory Boards to provide local community programs with brand-new books that children can take home and keep.  They have distributed over 20 million new books in the past three years alone.

With First Book Advisory Board grants, local community programs purchase books of their choice directly from publishers. Children in the programs use the books and then take them home, building their own home libraries over time. First Book has negotiated discounts with publishing partners, effectively doubling the purchasing power of every dollar donated.

First Book has the highest possible rating (four stars) from Charity Navigator, an organization that rates philanthropic organizations for sound fiscal management. First Book was also named one of ten "Gold Star" charities in Forbes' annual survey of 200 nonprofits.

If the simple idea of helping children own books appeals to you, there are many ways to get involved. You can make a donation to the national organization, or become involved at the local level by joining or starting a First Book local advisory board. To find out more or make a donation, visit the First Book web site at http://www.firstbook.org .


Book Review
While You're Waiting for Food to Come: Experiments and tricks that can be done at a restaurant, the dining room table, or wherever food is served by Eric Muller, Illustrated by Eldon Doty (Orchard Books, 1999). Ages 10 and up.

Maybe I'm just a little stodgy. I'm always a little suspicious of the Gee-Wiz method of teaching science, where a surprising trick is performed, and then the performer says something like, "this works because the negatively charged particles have created a force sufficient to counter the earth's gravitational pull." You can just see the kids thinking, "Sure, if you say so. Now stop talking and let's see that explosion again."

But I still like this book of table-top science demonstrations. The tone is charmingly show-offy ("Amaze Your Friends!"). The science explanations are, for the most part, clear and kid-friendly. And you can't argue with the simplicity of the materials - mostly straws, paper, soda cans, salt shakers, and other common restaurant table objects.

Get this book for your kids, but leave it where their favorite uncle will find it - he won't be able to resist the chance to restock his bag of tricks.



Web Site
Lissa Explains It All: HTML Help and Tutorials for Kids
http://www.lissaexplains.com/index.shtml

Everyone who's anyone has their own web site now, or so your child tells you. Do you have to get them started with expensive software and web hosting services? No you do not. You can send them to Lissa Explains it All, even if you know nothing about computers yourself. Lissa will tell them where to get free web hosting and how to set up a web page using free editors that come with every computer. Her tutorials explain basic HTML, CSS, Javascript, and other useful tools. There's a moderated forum where kids can get their questions answered and their bugs fixed.

Lissa started this site at the age of 11 as a way to help herself remember what she was learning about web page programming. Now, at age 17, the site is going strong with millions of page views each day. Your child may be inspired by her story (scroll down to the "About Lissa" link at the very bottom of the page), if not by the idea of HTML coding. Kids will also enjoy her entertaining writing style and down-to-earth voice, as well as the copious demos that illustrate how to do things like rollovers, trailing cursors, and other bits of web fluff.



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