I've been tuning in to America's Imagination Summit, and the most important call to action (in my humble opinion) is to support kids in FAILING! Seems counterintuitive, I know. But failure is key to success. We learn from our failures.
If we teach kids to do everything right the first time, they lose out on the valuable lessons that come from doing things wrong. In order to fully understand what works, we often need to explore what doesn't work and why. By creating safe spaces for trial and error, we can support children in exploring their creativity and reaching their maximum potential. Learning is a process, and failure is an integral part of that process.
I'm sure you know people with extreme talent that don't do anything with it for fear of judgement or criticism. A fear of failure inhibits creativity and imagination--2 vital components for personal success and positive change in the world. Let's work to combat that fear in today's children. By creating judgement-free zones where failure does not have any severe or life-threatening implications, we can give kids the gifts of exploration and discovery-- the roots of REAL education that will benefit them (and the society around them) in the long run.
Project-based learning, particularly projects involving design and innovation, are excellent examples of safe spaces to fail. Have kids come up with a problem and work towards a solution of that problem. Encourage imagination and teach them to accept and learn from failures as they inevitably occur. For some good examples of project-based learning, check out Edutopia. And if you're interested in design and innovation, check out what kids are coming up with in the Young Makers groups around the bay area.
Twitter. Do you use it? Do your kids/students use it? As media and technology evolve at an exponential pace, how do we keep up? And how do we figure out meaningful ways to incorporate technology into the lives of children?
You may have seen the recent article on Twitter in the classroom at CNN.com. Brave teachers around the globe are using social media as an educational tool. They're using Twitter as a forum for students to respond to questions in class. Of course, many people are resistant to new technology, and the use of Twitter in the classroom has been met with some controversy. Critics worry that it will breed a socially inept generation lacking in verbal communication skills. I agree that kids should not solely communicate via tweets. That would be weird. They would be missing out on important opportunities to practice verbal communication and social skills. That said, the moderate use of twitter in conjunction with traditional classroom discussion introduces an awesome new group learning dynamic.
Think back on your own experience at school. When your teachers would ask questions, did the whole class raise their hands to respond? If your experience was like mine, it was usually the same 4 or 5 kids monopolizing the conversation (Ok...I admit...I was one of those kids...). But what about the kids who aren't talking? What about their ideas? By using Twitter, even the shy or less interested kids are encouraged (or required) to share their thoughts. Not only does this benefit the quiet kids by getting them to engage in the topic, it also benefits the talkative kids who might otherwise not have had the chance to learn from their quieter peers.
Twitter is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a host of social media tools that, if used right, could really enrich the classroom learning experience. Check out this list in Knewton's EdTech Blog for some ideas.
In her book Mind in the Making, Ellen Gallinsky outlines "seven essential life skills that every child needs." She takes evidence-based research from uber-intelligent academic-types and organizes their findings in an easy-to-read book with practical suggestions for parents and teachers. If you want to learn about child development without having to learn a second language, this is your book. The life skills she discusses are:
Her website is full of additional info on child development --it's a nice supplement to the book. I recommend Mind in the Making to anyone, with or without kids. If you're anything like me, you'll realize that you yourself could work on some of these skills! Focus and self-control...eek! :)
Here are a few of the illustrations for the book I'm working on. It's an inspirational tale of a boring, ugly, ordinary fish who finds out he's not so ordinary after all. Based on a socio-emotional curriculum for early childhood. Coming soon!
...to Motion Math. If you have an iphone or an ipad you know how addictive mobile games can be. Angry Birds, anyone? Why not use the allure of mobile games to help kids with math? Kids like to play games. They're going to play games. Period. Let's give them games that help them in school and make learning fun. If your kids/students are struggling with fractions, instead of piling on extra worksheets (read: super boring, lead to burn-out), let them spend some time playing Motion Math.
Here's how it works: "Motion Math helps learners perceive and estimate many important representations — numerator over denominator (1/2), percents (50%), decimals (.5), and even pie charts! By connecting each type with its distance on the number line, learners can develop a fast, accurate perception of fractions." --quote from the company's website
The game was developed by people with good intentions and is based on solid research. Check it out.
I'm with this guy. Mostly. Check out Cameron Herold's lecture on raising entrepreneurs. He has some good ideas to keep kids creative and give them the tools for success. Maybe some of the qualities in your children/students that you're trying to squash are actually their greatest assets. Let's look for the signs of entrepreneurship and nurture the interests and skills of children. Who knows what they might accomplish with a little support!
I have been a busy bee lately, I apologize for the lack of posts! This one will make up for lost time. I hope. I was reminded of something invaluable during the San Francisco International Film Festival, and it was all thanks to one little 5 minute puppet show called Jillian Dillon. In the charming short film by Yvette Edery, a hippoplatypus named Jillian Dillon saves the day, "transforming her 'flaws' into the powers that resolve conflict and drama in her town, proving that a Hippoplatypus is indeed, a good thing to be." --IMDB
As parents and educators, there are a zillion things to think about...we want to make sure kids are learning their math skills, their handwriting is legible, their reading comprehension is up to par, they're eating right, taking their multivitamins, getting exercise, having fun, treating others with respect, and so on and so forth. But there is one thing that trumps all...we need to make sure kids love themselves. They need to treat themselves with respect and be confident in who they are. You can send your kids to the best school in town and sign them up for every extracurricular activity out there, but if they aren't confident in themselves, they will have a hard time translating all of the skills they've learned into success.
We don't want a bunch of arrogant monsters running around, but we do want strong, assertive children with plenty of self-respect. There are tons of children's books and programs for building self-love in kids. They can be valuable resources. You can start with these books, recommended by Geek Dad. It is also essential to be a model self-confidence for your children. Show them what it means to love yourself, respect yourself, and be confident in who you are. They will learn from example.
I'm working at the San Francisco International Film Festival's "Schools at the Festival" program this year. We're gearing up for our first screening on Friday. It's a great program -- a wonderful opportunity for bay area teachers to take learning to a new level. Here's how it works: teachers are invited to bring their students to view entertaining and thought-provoking films at the festival. All of the youth screenings take place during school hours, and cost is only $1 per ticket for public schools, and $2.50 per person for all other schools.
Students learn about the subject matter presented in the films (which can almost always be tied to their existing schoolwork in some way), as well as the medium of film. They're encouraged to think about films critically and consider things like the filmmaker's perspective, the target audience, the way music, lighting and composition work together to elicit feelings, how editing plays a part in the message that's delivered, and more. TEACHERS, if it doesn't work out to bring your students this year, contact the Film Society for future events. Incorporating film in your classroom is a fun way to break from routine and spice up your curriculum.
Next time your kids ask to watch their favorite cartoon have them create their own animation instead! All you need is a pencil and some post-it notes. Check out the step-by-step instructions at the Smithsonian Educator Resource Center.
It's been heating up in SF, and on a nice sunny day there's nothing more magical than bubbles in the park!! Check out this page for lots of different homemade bubble solutions. Whip up a batch and head outside. Pipecleaners make excellent bubble blowers and you can bend them into cool shapes (this is especially fun for preschoolers learning their shapes).
Not everyone has the time and money to take kids to museums or enroll them in extracurricular enrichment classes. Luckily there are ways to enhance learning outside the classroom that don't cost extra and won't take any time out of your regular routine. If you take a moment to think about it, you turn almost every outing into an educational experience. A prime example of this is a trip to the grocery store. The grocery store is a rich learning environment, full of stuff to sort, match, count, add, subtract, etc. It's a language rich environment with plenty of opportunities to identify letters, sound out words, and practice reading. It also hosts goods and products that can spark conversations about culture, geography, nutrition, agriculture, consumerism, marketing, and more...
One way to turn the average shopping trip into a fun learning experience is to play I Spy:
For younger kids this can be as simple as asking them to identify basic shapes, colors, letters and numbers in whatever aisle you are in. For example, you could say, "I spy something that is red." Your child will look for something red such as an apple or spaghetti sauce. Or, "I spy the letter 'A'." Your child will look at packaging and price tags in search of the letter 'A.' Older kids can look for goods that contain certain ingredients or are popular in certain cultures or geographical locations. For example, "I spy a food that is popular in Mexico." Your child will look for foods that are popular in Mexico such as tortillas or jalapenos. To incorporate lessons on nutrition, you may have your children look for foods that are protein rich or foods that are high in carbs, etc.
The produce aisle is a great place to talk about seasons, and locally grown food versus imported food. Ask your kids to determine which produce is in season in your area by looking at where the produce is from.
In the cereal aisle you might ask your kids to pick out their favorite cereal box and ask them why they chose it. What do they like about it? Is it the colors on the box? The cartoon character that endorses the brand? This is a good way to provoke thinking about marketing and raise savvy consumers.
For a finance lesson, you can give your kids a budget and ask them to find as many items on your list as possible without going over budget. This will encourage price comparisons and addition/subtraction skills. And the checkout line is a good place for money counting if you are paying with cash.
These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling. I'm sure once you start to think about it you'll come up with even more ways to turn your ordinary grocery trip into a learning adventure. Happy shopping!
Earth Day is still a month away, but let's start the party early. Let's teach kids about the environment NOW! There are a bunch of great resources for teaching kids how to play their part in taking care of our planet. My recommendation is The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by the Earth Works Group. It's an excellent book for parents and teachers to use to help kids understand what is going on with the earth and why it needs our help. The book lists tons of practical ways kids can chip in to make a positive impact on the environment in their daily lives. The Earthworks Group also has a great website with environmental facts, weekly challenges, and activities.
"Yes we can!" ...Sorry I couldn't resist the Bob the Builder quote ;)
Did you know there are free "How-to" workshops for kids ages 5-12 at allHome Depot locations the first Saturday of each month? Woodcrafting is a fun way to encourage problem solving and the development of fine motor skills. Upon completing a project at the workshop, your kids will walk away with a new toy and a sense of accomplishment...can't you already hear them shouting, "Look what I made!"?
Keep this book in your glove compartment. Play Around the Bay covers every play space in the San Francisco Bay area...playgrounds, zoos, children's museums, etc. It's written by moms who've personally tested each place out so you'll know what you're getting into before you arrive. The writers have summarized the play spaces and included a quick reference for all the logistical things caregivers want to know: Is there parking? Bathrooms? A fenced in play area? Room for strollers? Cost? Hours?
If a real live book with paper pages feels a little old fashioned for you, try Kaboom's online Playspace Finder. It's less thorough than the book, but a great way to locate playgrounds on the go without leaving the comfort of your smartphone.
Kaboom's Playspace Finder and Play Around the Bay also work well as a team...check out the playgrounds listed on the Kaboom's map to see what is near you, then look up the local spots in Play Around the Bay for playground summaries.
Now GO PLAY! According to the 10-day forecast, this could be the last nice day we see for a while. Get outside and soak it up!
My heart goes out to Japan and to everyone affected by the devastating quake. When such a far-reaching tragedy occurs, kids are going to hear about it, and they're bound to have questions. Here are some good articles on talking to your kids about the earthquake in Japan:
This morning I had the pleasure of dogsitting the cutest little, sweetest little puppy in all of SF! It was a beautiful day, so we took a long walk down by Crissy Field. Tillie wanted to play with everyone she saw. She stopped to mingle with other dogs, chased after joggers, and came to a screeching halt every time we walked past a parent pushing a stroller. She especially likes kids and desperately wanted to play with every kid we came across. Some of the children she met seemed comfortable with dogs, and others were a bit more reserved. It got me thinking...have you talked to your children about how to interact with dogs?
Tillie is a very sweet and mild-mannered puppy and I had a close eye on her... but not all dogs are so gentle. It's important to teach kids what is safe and appropriate when interacting with other people's pets. Here is some basic advice to offer your children:
If a strange dog is off leash and running towards you, don't run away. The dog will think you are playing and continue to chase after you. Instead, stand very still and quiet and let the dog sniff you. The dog will likely get bored and leave you alone.
If you'd like to pet somebody else's dog, first ask the owner if it's okay.
If the owner says it's ok to pet the dog, let the dog sniff you before you pet.
Remember to pet gently. Never poke or pull or tease a dog.
Do not try to pet a dog while she's eating or sleeping.