Big Learning News 9-8-04
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Does your PTA or workplace web site have a "links" page featuring parenting or educational sites? If so, make sure they know about Big Learning.
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Just dash off a quick e-mail to your webmaster, tell him or her how much you like Big Learning. Your webmaster can find any necessary technical information at http://www.biglearning.org/linktous.htm .
Do your kids know how many people live in your home town or city? That's just the beginning of the great demographic information that's available on the Internet. Looking at demographic information (statistics about populations) is a great way to talk about the mathematics of large numbers, percentages, ratios, and decimals with your kids. Interesting social issues come up too. This week I'll talk about United States demographics, and cover international data in a separate article later.
Track the U.S. population. Check out the U.S. "Population Clock" which estimates the population at the current time. It also tells you the estimated rate of births, deaths, and immigrants. Click "refresh" to see the numbers change.
Check out information for your city : CityData.com has pretty detailed information about U.S. towns and cities.
(One caveat: This site has statistics on different types of violent crime for some cities, so take care if you think your children would be upset or frightened by this information. You have to scroll down pretty far to see the crime data.)
Numbers kids might enjoy include:
- the total population (good practice reading large numbers)
- size in square miles (chance to explain that a square mile is a square area one mile long and one mile wide, talk about other square area measurements like square feet). Compare your town's size to a nearby place your children know is much bigger or smaller than your town.
- click on "residents, houses, and apartment details" and you'll see a graph of population by age. Your kids can see how many kids their age live in the whole town. Talk about what else the graph shows - does your town have a lot of senior citizens? This is good practice reading and interpreting graphs.
A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech, illustrated by Harry Bliss (Joanna Cotler Books, 2001)
Mr. Keene is the principal of a "fine, fine school." The teachers are great, the kids are great. Everything's so great that Mr. Keene decides to have school on Saturdays, then on Sundays, then on holidays, then all summer. He's so proud of all the learning that's happening.
Finally a little girl explains to Mr. Keene that, although it's a fine fine school, her brother isn't learning how to skip, because she hasn't been home to teach him. And she hasn't learned to sit in her climbing tree for a whole hour, because she never has time to climb trees. Mr. Keene sees the error of his ways and returns the school to a normal schedule.
There's so much great humor and lovely writing in this book. As Tillie, the little girl, goes off to school on Christmas Day, the TV in the background says, "The Best Cartoons in the World Start in 5 minutes!!"
The book is a great vehicle for teaching and talking about different kinds of learning. When your child is done with it, send it to your favorite school board member.
Ages 9 and up.
If your kids are starting to take an interest in the American presidential election, take the opportunity to expose them to a little election history through this online exhibit.
The Living Room Candidate allows you to view campaign TV ads from 1956-2004. You compare John F. Kennedy's engaging persona to Richard Nixon's stilted delivery, and see how ads have changed in content and sophistication over time.
There's text that goes with each election that explains a little about the times and issues during that period.
The Star Teacher Schools Let Get Away: An award-winning teacher describes the test-score-inspired working conditions that finally convinced her to give up teaching.
Smarts no longer good enough for Singapore Students: Test-happy Singapore is starting to look to - guess who - the US for advice on how to teach more deeply and creatively.
These and more at http://www.biglearning.org.
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