Geology Resources As Promised

Photobucket Photo by jhritz

After the previous post’s focus on Earth Science, I proudly present a compilation of geology sites you should refer to if you’re looking to further explore this intriguing subject with your kids…

Kids.gov | Geology

Preschool Science | Book List for Earth Science

Geological Society of America | K-12 Teacher Resources

Project Niu | Nature Imparts Understanding

Ask an Earth-Scientist

Rock Identification | Self-Paced Tutorial

Earth Science Week | October 11-17, 2009!!

Kid Info | List of Geology Sites

This Dynamic Planet | Geologic Investigations Map

Start Your Own Kids Geology Club

Geology & Education | Classroom Archive

The Science of an Earthquake | USGS Kids

For Kids Only | NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise     

Geology Rocks

kids and rocks
Photo by Rick

Green living has come to the forefront of the world’s focus. What better way to introduce good environmental habits to my kids than starting with the dirt and the rocks and the true, beautiful grit the world is made of? Preschoolers most certainly understand rocks before recycling, dirt before biodegradable.

I have dreamt up a starter kit of activities for those of you finding this approach appealing.

Geology Activity Ideas

• If your yard is equipped with a sandbox, sneak some interesting earth-related toys into the depths, and give your kid a shovel & a collander.  If you don’t have a sandbox, improvise- maybe a cardboard box full of oatmeal?  I would have a hard time finding much more than playground pebbles to bury as artifacts in my neighborhood, so I would keep it light & fun with fake dinosaurs, play jewelry, bones from our Operation game… or anything that will grab my kids’ attention & keep them interested.  Once the paleontologists have finished finding their materials, explain to them the realism of the occupation.  Let them know that the ground itself is a timeline of all the life that ever tread upon it.  It may be difficult in many cases with young children, but try & convey the essence of history… and how much time the earth has encapsulated just by existing.  Paraphrased, perhaps.<

• The Green Link:  As soon as your child understands the idea of the earth as a box of treasures from our past, then you can let them know that not everything is good for the earth.  Recycling can ensue naturally from there, having already established a foundation for the concept that you can refer back to.   

• If you want to go a little further, re-do the paleontology activity in the sandbox, but bury things that are good or normal for the earth and also items that are damaging.  Once the objects have been uncovered, you can categorize together, with you supplying the reasoning for each if necessary.  

• I love volcano-making fun.   Geology rocks for sure.  No matter your child’s age, this easy easy activity is great for explaining volcanoes, and the levels of the earth from the crust to the core.  Some kids will be ready to dive into plate tectonics, so act as their springboard and use their learning style as a guide for how to approach illustrating the point.  My learning style includes a little of everything, so I pretty much use whatever I have on-hand to make it work.  I’d LOVE a cross-sectional model of Earth, but it’s low on the list so I draw these concepts with crayon to the best of my ability for now, and I learn more in the process.

• I think it’d be fun to simulate an earthquake, too.  I’ll take the box springs out from under our mattress, then rumble the bed from below with the kids on sitting on the mattress above.  This activity is definitely a stretch, but I just want to introduce the concept of an earthquake while associating it with volcanoes and the way they both originate below the earth’s surface.  Quaking a trampoline from underneath would do the exact same thing.

sedimentary rock

• If you happen to have play dough in different, distinct colors that aren’t muddled & indistinguishable… I don’t… make pancakes out of the different colors and stack them, alternating colors.  You don’t have to mix the colors, just stack them.  Get a butter knife & cut out a section of the stack to illustrate sedimentary rock.  Again, the earth’s age plays so many different roles in the version on Earth that we know.  Showing your kids that even rock has age may make an impression, but if it doesn’t you’ve still taught them about a really cool part of Earth.  I love driving through canyons & passing the “Watch for Falling Rock” signs.  It makes me feel like Earth is alive even in its supposedly lifeless rock formations.

• While you have the dough out make 4 pancakes (not necessarily round) about 1/4″ high out of one color (they will mix).  It doesn’t matter if they’re the same size. You take two, and have your child take two.  With one in each hand, spread your arms out, then slowly smash (gently) the two masses you’re holding together. You’ve just simulated mountain formation with your child. If you’re already introduced them to plate tectonics, you can continue the discussion and explain that the same force that causes volcanoes and earthquakes made the mountains.  

• Make a pile of sugar about 2″ high in a medium mixing bowl, and have a cup of water nearby.  Tilt the bowl toward you so that the sugar shifts closer to the side of the bowl rather than the middle.  OVER THE SINK, slowly pour water from the far side of the bowl through the middle of the sugar mound.  When the water has erroded a valley through the sugar, you have successfully simulated valley formation.  

• I hope my little ideas inspire some action in this sector of your teaching.  I am working on a list of geological resources, but there are so many that I feel I’d be a slacker if I didn’t continue my search & make the list more complete before sharing.

When do you feel the most connected to the world around you?  Can you tell when your kids are connected?

SimpleKids Showcase #1

Welcome to the first installment of the SimpleKids Showcase!

Mariah from Playful Learning.com has contributed the following two projects.

The first:  The Colors Of Us is a brilliantly creative self-portrait craft for your children to explore.  The pictures below follow the event from beginning to end, and the directions for creating your own can be found at PlayfulLearning.com

Colors of Us PlayfulLearning

The Second: Map of My Heart is just as great, and your children will explore what is most important to them while simultaneously practicing writing skill.  Directions for making your own are also found at PlayfulLearning.com.

I’s like to thank Mariah for her contributions, and I recommend this fantastic site for anyone looking to find her offerings of learning experiences that promote positive family interactions.

Map Of My Heart

Our next submission is from Brittany, whose child has crafted one of the sweetest projects I’ve ever seen.  This I Love You Mommy Mailbox is a place for her child to leave love notes at a whim.  What a way to continue the fun and love of an already precious craft-making session.  I might make one for MY mom; I bet she’s love it the same way I would treasure one from my kids.

I Love You Mommy Mailbox

Keep the submissions coming; I can’t wait for your kids to enter this spotlight!

Assessment of Your Child’s Learning Style

Student Thinking
Photo by foundphotoslj

When you are speaking to more than one child, chances are, each child will be learning from you in a different way. We can easily tell the differences in what children learn, but when we investigate the how factor, it may simplify the process when getting your message across.

There are three Learning Styles that constitute the how factor, and they are easy to apply to your children when the time is taken to simply observe their play.

Visual learners are basically stimulated by seeing information. From projectors and chalkboards to their own art and handwriting, children who benefit the most from visual teaching have typically excelled at exercises involving puzzles, construction, invention, sketching, visual metaphors, and design.

Auditory learners thrive by hearing information. A lot of times, the written words needs to be spoken for these learners to fully understand the intended message. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” undeniably applies to aural learning; these children will do best reading aloud or using audio books, as the inflections of a reader’s voice will help decode the purpose of punctuation and phrasing on the page.

Tactile or kinesthetic learners need the hands-on approach. In any way possible, these learners need to move or act to associate knowledge literally to “what you do with it”. Children with this learning style benefit from dancing and exercise while reciting information. Maybe make up an ABC dance or hop-scotch method. That way, the child has interacted with the material and will have been more impacted by it.

Applying the Methods

Take the opportunity to step back and watch when your child is playing with all of those toys you know make your child’s brain tick. Use these Learning Styles as a general measure when you look at the facial expressions and body language during stimulating activities. If it’s difficult to tell, try teaching one simple lesson to your child for every learning style.

Take notes; I think it will help with the process when you begin to compare and contrast the different stories and styles while revisiting your child’s subsequent paraphrasing.

Take the following game plan of sorts as a starting point for familiarizing yourself with your child’s learning style.

Day 1: Tell your child a story with a moral and wait several hours after you’re done to casually mention the story. Optimally, try to find an audio tape or CD to accompany the story so the story becomes a distinct aural experience. When you ask about the moral and see what has been retained, this will be the assessing the effectiveness of the auditory learning style.

Day 2: Use a different story with a different moral, but use a felt board or coloring pages to illustrate the story. In order to gauge your child’s kinetic/tactile learning, they must be actively involved in the story. There are many ways to do this if you can find a way to incorporate interactive tools like play dough or construction paper.

Later, initiate the subtle questioning again- if you have to, use an inflection in your voice that suggests you don’t know the answer and need their help remembering.

Day 3: Again, choose another story unique to the learning style you’re trying to explore. This time, use a chalkboard or poster board to have your child learn visually. Your child will not be active during this assessment; we’re trying to determine what’s held in their mind’s eye when trying to go back and retrieve the information later.

When teaching, draw vivid diagrams and illustrate direction with arrows. (I am no artist so I use stick people, but it does the job, I hope) Try to associate certain colors with words with consistency, and take note of what the words were. When you ask them about the story, refer back to the words & see if they have made a lasting impression.

I found another educational inspiration that I’d like to share, if you don’t already know his work. Dr. Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I love his book, Frames of Mind. In this book, Dr. Gardner explores the idea of Multiple Intelligence, a theory comprised of seven different ways a person can demonstrate their intellectual ability.

With each of these assessment techniques, you have the ability to thoroughly analyze what your child has learned and how. This approach includes the three learning styles above, naming them Visual/Spatial Intelligence, Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence and Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence. Aside from these familiar concepts, other facets of Multiple Intelligence Theory include:<

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence describes students who have a great ability conceptualizing in numerical terms. These children would typically be the ones acting upon curiosity and performing, or creating, experiments.

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence is pretty easy to recognize. Students favoring this learning style are able to produce, appreciate and describe patterns of sound around them. Natural sounds are somewhat more obvious to these children.

Interpersonal Intelligence befalls on those who naturally empathize with others before offering opinions or advice. “Reading” people and having an uncanny sense of how another is feeling are traits of this Intelligence type. Interpersonal learners are the natural counselors in our world… and also the politicians and lawyers.

Intrapersonal Intelligence suits those who have an uncanny sense of self. They turn inward for their approach to learning before they begin to take in the information. Learning this way focuses on one’s own strengths and weaknesses in a constant effort to improve their internal state of mind.

Hopefully digesting these methods of assessment will allow a better sense of what is being learned by your little ones and how. It is highly unlikely that your child uses purely one method, but being aware of the characteristics of all of them may make finding the one they favor easier.

Are there any of these learning styles that you hadn’t considered? Do you think they’ll be helpful for you and your family?

Teaching Your Kids – Without Them Knowing They’re Learning

 

I have two kids that learn in entirely different ways. My son is our first-born and he lives to learn the ins and outs of anything that strikes him as interesting. His curiosity drives his intelligence. A running joke in my family involves him, at the age of 3, telling my uncle, “YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN THESE THINGS TO ME!”

Then, there’s my daughter. She’s just as smart, but she’s all about theatrics. We’ll sit down to learning time, and she acts like all of the information is bouncing off of her and nothing is learned. Then we’ll overhear her and her brother talking in the other room; she reveals that she knows far more than what she lets on… usually more than I was trying to teach her in the first place. When you try to teach her in the traditional sense, I guess it’s not dramatic enough. She’s something else.

This post is for everyone, especially those in my position with a kiddo that requires an alternative course of action. “Strategery” if you will. I want to have our learning time, but not with her getting her “I dunno” act together beforehand. I’ve found multiple ways to do this.

Regular Activities with Learning Potential

• Cooking: Your kids can greatly benefit from helping you in the kitchen. Almost every measurement involves a fraction and a parts-of-the-whole mentality. If they’re not ready for fractions, it’s still an opportunity for them to enhance their familiarity in general and grasp the idea that numbers come together in many different ways.

The ingredients in your kitchen alone broaden the educational possibilities You can go into the nationality of the different foods you eat on a regular basis. Bring out a cookbook to show them what foods look like if you don’t have them on-hand. If you don’t already, designate separate fruit and vegetable drawers, and ask your child to help you unpack groceries to introduce or practice categorizing.

Things have changed so much since I was little, but I’ve always thought it would be fun to have a daily sheet – or optimally a dry-erase version – of the food pyramid and have the kids check off what we’ve had after every meal or snack. I’ve never done this, but I think it’d be great for categorization and health consciousness from an early age.

With great care, have ice and water and boiling water close by, and tell your kids that it’s all made from the same thing if they don’t already know.

Sensory Education: Have taste tests. Blindfold your kids and have several samples for them to taste. See if they can tell. Then, switch them up or replace them completely and have them smell or feel samples to see if they can identify the food or drink. My brother and I used to do this, and it was one of the greatest things I remember doing at home when I was little… free, innocent fun.

If you brave the grocery store with your kids, ask them if they’ll fetch things close to your basket while you decide on another nearby item. They’ll have to combine several descriptors to find the right product, and if nothing else, they’ll find it by deductive reasoning… even if it’s you telling them it’s not right until they find it.

• Laundry: I guess categorization is the key element here. Have your kiddos separate dirty laundry into light and dark, or have them separate clean laundry into each family member’s own pile. If you think of any more, tell me. I need as much help as I can get in keeping up with our laundry.

• Let your kids feed or help feed the animal(s), and put it on their chore chart. Responsibility is a huge lesson for every child to learn. We’re planning on getting our son a fish. We will explain to him that the fish will live if he feeds him regularly, but we’re not going to help him. This may sound harsh, but if the fish dies, hopefully it’ll be a lesson learned.

Games and Activities That Teach

I love playing games with the kids. I think they all have some level of education, but there are a few that really stand out.

• Mouse Trap: I love this game. Our daughter got it for her birthday recently, and I was thrilled. This game actually has a lot of educational components. First, you have to assemble the whole contraption by following written and illustrated directions. If you haven’t played the game in twenty years, it even takes an adult a few moments to wrap their minds around the whole thing. The most useful components, to me, are both the lesson of cause and effect, and the introduction of chain reactions. Cause and effect is everywhere, but maybe when you are trying to describe it later when teaching in written form, you can refer back to Mouse Trap. That may be a stretch, but I can see myself using it!

• Battleship: Our son recently started playing this game and it’s great for a youngster. Without them knowing it, the point of this whole article, they are learning how to read a grid. You need that skill your whole life, and in many cases it serves as the foundation of an entire discipline of math. The fact that this game so effortlessly makes the skill accessible to very young children is incredible to me.

• Perfection: This game pushes your kids to recognize shape and spatial orientation. Once they can get all of the shapes into the correct places, then they begin to push themselves to improve their time. Their reaction time. When you see or hear your child saying that they’ve improved their time and are getting faster, it’s easy to assume the basic shape recognition aspect of the game has been mastered.

• For reading children, I think Scattegories is perfection for words: If your child can read and write, it’s never too soon to introduce this game. It’s highly probable that early readers and writers will benefit more from the game without the timer involved. Almost identically to Perfection, Scattegories offers evidence of vocabulary growth and advancements in writing skill when the timer becomes more fun than frustrating to your child.

• Any sport: Let them pick, or if they are indecisive, you pick. Whichever, they need the hand-eye coordination. The forethought that comes with athletic experience is irreplaceable; when you’re able to predict what another player or person will do and it becomes instinctive, a very valuable skill has been acquired. Whether you want to or not, think of how your kids will eventually assume the position behind the wheel of a car… having them conditioned to “keep their heads on a swivel” will come in pretty handy. I know that babies can’t really benefit from a tennis racket right now, but rolling a ball to a toddler or even pre-toddler will benefit their growth tremendously.

• Felt boards, Easels, Chalkboards, Dry-Erase Boards: All of these outlets give an open door to whatever the child’s imagination can muster. When you make or buy a felt board, gather a wide variety of colors in sheets of felt (I think they’re about $0.10 each) and ask your children what they’d like. Go ahead and make numbers and letters and the shapes associated with what you know they’re “into” and let them be the sounding board for subsequent shapes and themes.

My daughter and I just went to the craft store and stocked up on beads. She has made necklaces and bracelets before and loved it. I figure her enthusiasm for the activity serves as a great opportunity to introduce patterns into the (under the radar) curriculum. I mention this to be used as a template. Take into account their favorite activities that wouldn’t normally be seen as educational, then find a way to make them so.

My son is in Kindergarten at a public school and I follow his daily work closely. None of what he brings home is beyond what his little sister is capable of, and it encourages me to push her without her feeling the pressure.

The common factor in all of these activities: you know they’re learning, but they only know that they’re either being involved with your usual activities OR having fun like they do best. There’s no asking, “What is…?” There’s no pushing your child for an answer if they’re not inclined to offer one on their own. My daughter has gotten better about offering answers, but only after I stopped quizzing her for them.

All children are different, but I hope this gives you a little help, an encouraging voice, or just a different perspective.

Do you find these helpful? Can you see these ideas helping in your kids’ learning or retention style?