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Big Learning News 2-2-05

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 3:4 February 2, 2005

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Table of Contents

Math Moment
Chemistry for Fish
Book Review :Backyard Bird Watching for Kids
Web Site: Artzone graphics fun


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Math Moment

Boy, y'all showed a lot of interest in my new Fun Math for Kids (www.biglearning.org/big-learning-math-activities.htm) page last week. So I'm starting a new occasional feature - math moment. Each math moment is a short little mathematical something-or-other that you can enjoy with your kids, while taking the opportunity to very casually talk about the important embedded math concepts.

So here's the first one, sent to me by a fellow MomWriter, that would be good for kids 7 and up. It's a graph of the U.S.A., coded by what each county calls the fizzy drink that comes in two-liter bottles - pop, soda, or coke. It's a chance to talk about percentages and interpret an interesting graph. You can find it at:

http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.html

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Activity

Chemistry for Fish

Many families have fish as their first pets - fish stay neatly in the aquarium, cause no allergies, and don't bite or shed. If your kids have fish, chances are they've had one sicken or die - part of life but not a pleasant experience.

Learning about water chemistry can help your kids create a healthier aquarium environment, while teaching important chemistry concepts. With inexpensive test kits and chemicals, kids can measure and control the water's pH level, buffering capacity, salinity, and other water characteristics.

Here are some articles and resources on the subject. They're written for adults but older kids will be able to understand them. Younger kids will enjoy helping with the testing and keeping records.

http://www.aquaserve.com/WetNet/ - helps you monitor and track your tank chemistry, and includes information about optimal values.

http://www.fishforever.co.uk/waterchemistry.html - small print but clear, concise information.

Here's another badly-coded site without direct links to its resources, but worth the trouble:

http://fins.actwin.com/aquariafaq.html - beginner's guide to aquarium chemistry. Click on "Your First Aquarium" and then scroll down to "Practical Freshwater Chemistry."

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Book Review

Backyard Bird Watching for Kids by George H. Harrison (Willow Creek Press, 1997)

Ages 7-10

There's some good information in this book for kids who are just beginning to learn about birds. I like the design and colorful pictures, which together make backyard bird watching seem interesting and exciting (which it is).

I was less thrilled with the organization and writing - some of the material in the first few chapters makes birding sound more difficult than it is. Kids might get the impression that they must change their whole backyard habitat just to attract a few birds. The book is short on instructions for really easy bird feeders - the kind you make out of recycled plastic bottles - except for one photo of a milk-jug feeder.

There are some really clever ideas though, like "Mr. Feeder," a dummy you can build to make birds comfortable enough to fly to your lap to feed. I also liked their descriptions of common feeder birds, which include information on attracting each species. There's a nice chart showing which bird seed attracts which species. All in all, this book fills a gap in bird-related offerings for kids.

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Web Site

"Artzone" from the National Gallery of Art

http://www.nga.gov/kids/zone/zone.htm

Ages 11 and up, or 6 and up with lots of help at first.

Newsletter a little late this week? That's because your faithful editor spent too much time playing in Artzone, a page of fun, clever, and surprisingly modern-looking interactive art environments from the National Gallery (not usually noted for its hipness).

For example, there's the collage maker, which lets you put pictures on a virtual collage, change their size, position, orientation, and transparency. The results look great and may inspire your kids to try the real thing offline.

Another fun one is the 3-D twirler. You change the profile and other characteristics of a 3-D object, and then you can use the controls to make it turn in any direction so you can see the effects of your changes.

To make the most of Artzone, you really have to read the instructions - don't let the tiny tiny print dissuade you. As you roll your mouse over the controls, text elsewhere on the screen tells you what the control does - but you often have to look around to find that text. That's why I've set the age levels so high, but once you figure out how to work things, younger kids can enjoy Artzone too.

All the environments use "Shockwave" software, which you can download for free if you don't already have it - the Artzone page has links for downloading.

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Big Learning News 2005 Karen Cole
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