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Big Learning News 4-11-07
|Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 5:10 April 11, 2007
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Make a kite any size you want
The page offers quick and easy instructions for making a diamond-shaped kite.
The diagram shows a 100cm x 100cm square, and all the measurements are given relative to that. So the height and width of the kite are 100 cm (1 meter), the side corners are 15 cm from the top (or 85 cm from the bottom).
So, you could make this kite with the measurements exactly as given, using a meter stick to make the measurements.
Or, for older kids, make the kite some other size - whatever you want. See, because the measurements are based on a 100cm square, you can also take them as percentages. The height and width are whatever number you choose. No matter what size you make the kite, take 15% of the height and that tells you how far down to cut the side corner.
For example, say you make your kite 18 inches tall. It would also be 18 inches wide.
Now take 15% of that: .15 x 18 = 2.7 inches. That's not so far from 2.75, or 2 3/4 inches. (hard to believe that .05 inches is worth worrying about). So the side corners would be 2 3/4 inches down from the top of the kite.
Make Origami Cranes
My younger son and I decided to learn to make origami cranes (sometimes called "peace cranes"). We scoured the Internet, struggling through diagrams and videos where the instructor's hand hid the crane at crucial steps, and finally found this video. It shows all the steps clearly, AND it shows an easier procedure than the others, even though the end result is the same. And, it gives you cute little names for various stages, making it easier to remember the whole procedure. First the square, then the canoe, then the fox ears, and finally the crane.
We practiced and practiced until we'd really learned the procedure - here is our flock of misshapen cranes and some we made after we'd gotten the hang of it (http://www.biglearning.org/article-origami-cranes.htm).
If you'd like to learn more about the art of Origami, this page is good.
More 3-D art projects for kids
The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn
So, maybe it's like this. You hated homework as a kid. You hate making your kids do their homework. They hate doing it. When they don't have homework, you're as happy as they are, maybe happier, because for one blessed evening you don't have to argue about it and watch them stretch a 15-minute assignment into a 45-minute tear-studded marathon.
But. You don't protest, because you've been told that homework is important, that it reinforces what your kids learn at school, teaches good study habits (whatever THAT means), and makes your kids more independent as learners. Plus, if kids don't start doing homework in elementary school (kindergarten!), they'll be overwhelmed in high school when things really get tough.
What if you found out that not one of these assumptions is supported by research? That in fact, where there is research regarding these points, they often show that homework is at best useless and at worst detrimental?
....Read the rest of the review and get information about the book at http://www.biglearning.org/book-review-homework-myth.htm.
Big Learning is, of course, wildly in favor of the idea of parents being "involved" in their children's education.
It's not as if parents , the first-best-teachers, could somehow avoid being involved. Children learn from their parents every day, even when no particular effort is made by either party. And of course most parents do make the effort to teach their kids things they know and care about.
But leave it to school and government bureaucracies to take this most beautiful, natural, and exciting aspect of parenting, perhaps the core of parenting itself, and turn it into another dreary obligation that few parents will ever get right. "Parental involvement" has become a code phrase for things like enforcing the homework policy, showing up at conferences, and joining the PTA.
I'm not against most of these things. But few would claim that these behaviors alone help kids learn. I think the evidence is more correlational - the kind of parent who joins the PTA is also more likely to be educated, have books in the home, go to museums, etc. And THESE things do help kids do better in school.
I wish parent involvement efforts were aimed at making it easier for parents and kids to spend time together learning things - reading books of their choice, using the Internet together, making things, going on trips, exploring mutually interesting hobbies.
Governments have other creative ideas though. According to this article,
Great, maybe if we jail the parents and give them a criminal record, their kids will do better in school.Even articles with a more reasoned tone have a way of making parent involvement sound onerous. This article suggests (quote):
Yup, advocacy training. That's going to pack 'em in.
I'm not saying there shouldn't be advocacy training, though I sure wish we didn't need it. I'm just saying our view of parent involvement is way too narrow and way too focused on the mechanics of schooling - rather than on promoting real learning.
Keep all this in mind next time you're at a PTA meeting and the topic of parent involvement comes up. Maybe you can suggest the PTA sponsor some activities that will enrich family life AND intellectual life for the school community. That's a movement worth starting. Maybe we just did.
Recent Education News Columns
A walk in the woods
Ages 9 and up, younger with help
This site takes kids on a walk in the woods, via an interactive photographic slide show that introduces all kinds of organisms and animals kids might see in the woods. Kids can learn about fungi, conks, moss, insects, and an assortment of small animals. It's simple but well done.
If the slide show gets tedious, as it did for me after awhile, click the "Nature Notes" - this page lets you choose which organism to learn about and it goes a lot faster from page to page.
Kids can also post notes about walks they took in their local woods and read what other kids have submitted.
More nature activities
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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.