Stand Back! The Kids Are Going To Try Science!

Written by Michael, a Clonlara School guest blogger, (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Stand Back, The Kids Are Going To Try Science!

With the growing accessibility and popularity of educational media, young people are beginning to reach out and experiment with the world around them. Parents everywhere have begun scrambling to keep their progeny’s mental fires lit while also keeping them safely away from the stove. Here are some fun, family ways to balance both science and safety with lab coats and glitter glue.

After all; Science lets you Bond! Perhaps this weekend your child emptied an entire tube of toothpaste into your mouthwash in an attempt to create the ultimate dental hygiene product. While this is a breathtaking innovation, it’s not exactly a safe habit you want your child repeating without your supervision. Rather than discouraging this kind of experimentation, get involved.

Be present! As long as you are there to lend a watchful eye and helping hand, there is no reason not to let your blooming young scientist try new things.

Give your child a safe, controlled environment – How about the Kitchen? Recipes are experiments. Delicious, delicious experiments. Teach them the importance of exact measurements, organized records, and heat distribution. This may also be known as making pancakes.

Get messy! Whether it’s carbonated geysers or homemade volcanos, there are plenty of safe, fun, hilarious experiments you can do at home or outside.

Get crafty! The Internet is blooming with fun and decorative do-it-yourself activities for home decor and craft projects. Coincidentally enough, a lot of them easily double as science experiments.

Help your child answer their questions. Don’t worry if you yourself aren’t exactly sure why a reaction occurs, that’s ok.

Learn together! Teach your child that learning is a lifetime experience, that you’re never to old to learn something new, and that there’s always something to take away from any given situation

Encourage their experiments. It might be decades before your child begins asking for  monomer custom synthesis and related laboratory supplies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start outfitting them now. Give them the necessary tools they need to start learning independently and safely.

Set time aside to try science together. Children are endlessly curious, insightful, and wanting and willing to learn. The safety label on most every starter chemistry set you could hand them will read “for use under adult supervision only.” Provide them this time, give them this outlet, and you are providing them a world of opportunities and experiences that they will forever share with you.

Few things in life are as rewarding as being a part of the successful development of the children. After all, we’ve heard time and again that they are the future. Our job – and their job, one day – will be to create a generation that will strive to leave this world a better place than they found it. If you take the time to teach kids about the wonders of science, you’ll be giving them a greater gift than you may realize – the innate hunger for knowledge, the tools to seek understanding, and the ability to follow an idea from conception to completion

About the author: Michael is an educator and writer based in Philadelphia.

 

Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

Written by Gael Luzet, a Clonlara School guest blogger and author of the Collaborative Learning Pocketbook (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Much has been said recently about the power of learning with others, but how can collaborative learning make a significant difference in the classroom?

Collaborative learning is a planned opportunity for two or more people to work together in an educational context. It is not just about putting pupils in groups, it is about facilitating their team work and providing great outcomes. Historically, collaborative learning has always been at the forefront of effective teaching and learning. Plato in Ancient Greece used to give his students philosophical dilemmas to solve through a dialogical process. Students who collaborate effectively have developed important lifelong learning skills such as:

•    The ability to express their thoughts with clarity
•    The ability to listen to and understand others
•    Awareness  and management of their own emotions and feelings

Collaborative learning tasks tend to be open-ended and require high levels of thinking. They demand a wide range of skills that younger learners may not have acquired yet. It is important to assist them in improving their cooperative skillset. Students learn that the answer does not always have to come from the teacher. In fact, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator, a guide on the side who paves the way for learners to acquire knowledge.

Thorough planning is crucial for the teacher-facilitator who ventures into the collaborative learning world. Set the ground rules for group work, which can be discussed with your class in advance (pupils should take it in turn to speak, make eye contact and encourage everyone to participate, be silent during instructions, etc…). It is useful for the teacher to have a zero noise signal. A whistle, a bell or a hand clap could do the trick. Consider the composition of your groups: should pupils sit in friendship, mixed gender or mixed ability groups? How many pupils should there be per group? How about the roles within each team (a leader, a scribe, a researcher, etc…)?

And last but not least, give careful consideration to unwilling learners, the ones who sit with their arms crossed or a giant bubble gum in their mouth when you speak to the class. Regardless of their reluctance to participate, they have to be included in the task. They need to be placed with the right peers and the teacher has to boost their motivation before group work starts. By and large, children crave acceptance from their peers. Reluctance generally comes from a lack of confidence buried behind a confrontational or indifferent front. When handled properly, collaborative learning helps the unwilling learner to become a more active (and happier) classroom participant.

Strategies for collaborative learning range from the simplest technique to the more complex one; from the small scale paired activity to the full blown group project which stretches over several lessons. Here are four simple strategies to facilitate group learning:

1.    To create mixed groups of pupils, give each member in the class a number from one to four. Ask all the ones, the twos, the threes and the fours to sit together. You now have four heterogeneous groups of learners ready to tackle the collaborative task ahead.
2.    To encourage students to talk to each other, sit them opposite each other in a long line and ask the students on one side to move down a seat every 3 to 5 minutes. This speed dating-style activity works well when the task involves peer questioning or data gathering.
3.    Mind maps and graphic organizers are the perfect partners to classroom collaboration. Enthusiastic pupils sitting together around a large mind map are more likely to discuss, negotiate, evaluate and compromise.
4.    Group activities such as the card game ‘Higher or Lower?’ provide a great opportunity to develop ordering and sequencing skills. Create a set of cards with ideas to rank in order of importance, value, chronology, etc… Ask pupils in pairs (or threes) to reveal each card in turn, and place it higher or lower than the other visible cards on the table.

It is generally accepted that once children understand the value of working together in unity, performance, motivation and outcomes improve.  Of course, children should also be given time to think for themselves and work on their own, but collaborative learning adds another string to their skills bow. A string which is invaluable as it gives them the confidence to interact effectively with the world around them.

Author Bio:  Gael Luzet, Advanced Skills Teacher, teacher trainer and author of the Collaborative Learning Pocketbook

Top Ten Tips for Going Back to School

Written by a representative from Tutor House, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

The end of the summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year is an equally stressful and exciting time for many parents and students alike.

London-based private tutoring agency Tutor House has come up with its top ten tips for going back to school, aimed to help students and parents prepare for the new school term.

1.    Morning Organization – Get Back into the Routine

Create a routine for the mornings to ensure that everyone is out of the house at the right time.

Ensure that everything needed for school is prepared the night before the first day back to avoid the unwanted stressful manic rush in the morning.

2.    Prepare the Calendar – Highlight Key Dates

Having a family calendar is a great idea and solution for effectively preparing for key term dates, as the whole house can always be kept up to date with what everyone has planned.

Mark key term dates and the days kids are doing after school activities.

3.    Lunch and Breakfast Supplies

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it’s worth having the fridge and cupboards filled up with a range of healthy breakfast items.

If lunch boxes are required then ensure that you have plenty of lunch box fillers available so in the morning it is quick and easy to rustle something up.

4.    Reading List – Get Ahead of the Class

If the school has issued a reading list for a particular subject before the term starts, get these books as soon as possible.

Summer holiday reading or a 20-minute session before bed is the ideal solution to avoid last minute cramming as students will learn more effectively.

5.    Holiday Work – Slow and Steady

A continuing theme here is to ensure that nothing is left to the last minute. Holiday work is often left to the eleventh hour, causing stress and ineffective learning.

By steadily completing holiday work earlier on in the holidays ensures that students will keep their minds energised, avoiding that horrendous last minute dash to finish off 10 pieces of homework the night before the first day of school.

6.    Labelling – Get the Sewing Kit out, Mum!

Labelling all the uniform and sports kit is a sensible idea as it helps avoid having to keep buying new uniform to replace potential items of lost property throughout the school year.

An arduous task for many, but dedicate an evening or two to spend with the sewing kit – it’ll be worth evading the potentially expensive mid-term uniform replacements!

7.    Regulate Sleeping Habits – No More Late Nights

Traditionally the summer holidays can bring change to a child’s sleeping habits, especially teenagers.

Try to regulate sleeping patterns a week or so before term starts to avoid a shock to the system on the first day back at school.

8.    Brush up in Key Areas – Private Tuition?

Make a flying start to the new term by brushing up in a few key areas. Whether it’s an important exam year or a new start, hiring a private tutor for a few hours before term starts can really make a difference.

9.    RELAX!

Putting all the excitement and stress of starting a new term aside for a second, it’s actually correspondingly important to keep calm and have a positive attitude.

These schooling years are so precious, and won’t last forever so enjoy them as much as benefitting from them.

10. Avoid the Uniform Rush – don’t leave it all last minute

By shopping for school uniform well before the end of summer rush parents can benefit from avoiding manic shopping trips and can often pick up very good deals.

Currently Debenhams are offering 70% off Kids school uniform and other retailers are offering deals such as; 2 for 1 and 3 for 3 on school uniforms.

Author Bio – Tutor House is a private tutoring agency based in Fulham, London and offers private tuition for children aged 11 – 18 years old in Common Entrance, GCSEs and A-Levels. Tutor House also offers special education support, careers advice, gap year advice and University guidance.

For more information on private tutors in London and Fulham contact Tutor House on 020 7381 6253 or visit http://www.tutorhouse.co.uk

Back to School Resources and Activities

Written by Ellen Mady, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***) and has been reposted with permission and can be found on E for Educate.

Many students and teachers I know, including myself, face the first day of school with mixed feelings – partly excited for a new year with new experiences and accomplishments, and partly bummed that summer vacation is over and all the work and exhaustion associated with the school year is back. An exciting and engaging first day can go far in helping students begin the school year on the right foot.

These are some ideas I have used in the past, to help students get to know each other and get excited for the new year on their first day back to school.

1.Goal setting. On the first day of school, give all your students a slip of paper and a few minutes to think of one or two goals they want to accomplish during the coming school year. After students have written their goals down, collect them and either display them on a classroom bulletin board where the students can regularly see them, or store them somewhere easily accessible to the students during the year. At the end of the year, give students time to revisit those goals to see if they have accomplished them.

2.Student survey. I had a lot of fun with this a few years ago with an 8th grade and 11th grade class. Make a survey of random questions – eye color, height, birthday, number of siblings, favorite color, favorite movie/book, etc. Tell students to fill out the survey anonymously, without putting their name anywhere on the sheet of paper. Collect all the surveys shuffle them, and then begin reading the answers written on the first survey. The students need to guess which classmate completed the survey based on the answers given. Once the class has correctly guessed the student that completed the survey, move on the next, and so forth. This helps both old and new students get to know more about each other.

3.Summer Memories. Encourage students to share fun and meaningful experiences from their summer vacation. This helps them bond as a class and enables them to learn from each other’s experiences. You could have students write a brief paper about their summer and share their writing, or have each student give a 1 minute oral presentation.

*When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve also given the students a specific focus, such as sharing summer experiences that taught them about friendship, responsibility, or other values that will be beneficial for the school year as well…

4.Skittle Activity. This is another simple game that helps students share about each other and bond as a class. In advance, the teacher needs to create questions to correspond to the different Skittle colors. Then, in class, pass a bag of Skittles around. When a student receives the bag, he has to pick a Skittle without looking and answer the question that corresponds with the color he picked.  SAMPLE QUESTIONS: Red = What are you most looking forward to this school year? Green = What is one thing you want to contribute to your class community and one thing you want to receive from your community. Yellow = If you could pick one country in the world to visit, where would you go and why? Purple = Tell us about your favorite book. Orange = What is something you want to learn this year?

5.Welcome gift. Make your students feel welcome with a surprise gift on the first day. Something simple waiting on their desks – maybe a pencil with a special eraser, or a cupcake, or a notebook, or a bag with a few pieces of wrapped candy…

Links to other resources and activities:
1.Here is a set of free printables for a “teacher binder”. It includes calendar pages for 2013-2014, as well as other dividers pertinent to organizing a class…
2. Scholastic provides a free printable called “First Day Challenge”. Students need to come up with objects or names that fit different categories given on the sheet and begin with the letters of “First Day”.
3.Click here for more “get to know you” activities, also from Scholastic.
4.Click here for Back to School bulletin board ideas.
5.Free printable back to school cupcake toppers – click here for pink and here for blue.

About the Author:  Ellen Mady is a wife, mother and educator currently living and working in Northern Iraq. Ellen began teaching fulltime in the United States six years ago. Since then, she has taught or participated in school leadership teams in a variety of schools inside and outside the United States. Ellen’s experienced has centered around Middle School and High School education, using the International Baccalaureate Programme. Ellen currently works as Head of Curriculum Development and Authorization at Mar Qardakh School in Iraq.

How Project-Based Learning Will Make Your Kids Successful

Written by Pengfei, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***) and has been reposted with the permission of Launch Education Group.

Alex Banayan, 20 years old and the youngest venture capitalist in the world. Still a college student at USC, Alex spends his days flying to various cities, hanging out with people like Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, networking with young entrepreneurs, and writing his own book. He has turned down an offer from MTV (for his own reality TV show) and another from Interscope Records. Alex is at the pinnacle of success at his age. Yet, an interview with his boss, Stewart Alsop, will make you realize that the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm did not hire him for his grades. They hired him for his creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and social saavy. Above all, they hired him for his confidence.

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Most parents believe that academic achievement is the key to a lucrative future. However, we also know that success means so much more than being calculus geek or being able to write a great paper on James Joyce. After all some of our society’s most beloved visionaries are college dropouts.

Because skills like leadership, confidence, communication skills, and curiosity take a lifetime to develop, it is imperative for children to start at an early age. For example, parents should implement a routine activity that stimulates a child’s creativity and develops their confidence. A great way to do this is a project-based learning model described in Lori Pickert’s book Project-Based Homeschooling.

“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”  -Mark Caine

Although primarily designed for homeschooling parents, the program can be adopted by all families and academic institutions. Project-based learning is a way for kids to choose their own subjects and work on projects that interests them. A time of the day/week is allocated for kids to routinely work on various projects individually or with others. Parents and teachers, for the most part, offer minimal guidance and are only there to encourage and observe. The benefits of this approach are immeasurable.

Take this scenario in the book for example:
“A group of children age three to five are working together to build a large, three-dimensional cardboard whale. Two are crouched on the floor looking at a book, shouting out information and ideas to others, Two are arguing about fin design-they decide they will each make one fin the way they prefer and they’ll use both. Another decides to make krill for the whale to eat, so he sits down and begins cutting paper into tiny pieces… Later she [parent] can use her notes to help the children remember all of their plans. One of the children walks up to her and asks her to write down the colors of paint they will need: he lists them. Another says he wants to measure how big the whale is – he would like it to be life-size. They begin to discuss the best way to measure, and one of the children runs to get a book from the bookshelf-he remembers which book mentioned the exact length of their whale, even though he can’t read yet.”

The activities and learning in this scenario are representatives of the skills the children will develop as they get older. For example, learning how to freely to express their creativity and create a whale according to their own imagination is essential for developing innovative thinking and self-confidence. Learning how to settle arguments (i.e. the aforementioned “fin” example) and working as a group help mold them into team players. Lastly, by starting the project over to build the whale with the correct dimensions, students learn to cope with failure and persevere.

Project-based learning is a workspace that allows children to explore their own talents and ways of thinking. By helping your children develop them at a young age, you are placing them a step ahead of the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Alex Banayan. Who knows, maybe your child will be on the cover of Forbes as the world’s youngest millionaire a decade from now.

About the author:   Pengfei is a student at Cornell University. As one of the Launch interns, he assists the director, Matt Steiner, with online marketing and business development. During his high school and college years, he has held a couple of tutoring jobs, helping elementary to high school students in math. Pengfei also has strong backgrounds in technological design, social media, and information policy.

Inventing Kindergarten – Kickstarter Project

Written by Scott Bultman a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Below may be something of interest to some of our readers, either because of the resource and/or because many of us talked about using kickstarter for a project.  After exploring the quick description below and the link – you might be interested in helping Norman out.

Inventing Kindergarten

Norman Brosterman’s Inventing Kindergarten (Abrams, 1997) tells the story of the first system for educating young children by the inventor of Kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel. The book shows the origins of Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia, and see how this early design education method contributed to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Eames, and the Bauhaus. Brosterman’s popular book has been out-of-print for almost decade (but cited in over 200+ other works) and he’s working to bring it back.  

Visit the kickstarter site specific to Inventing Kindergarten at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1335652536/inventing-kindergarten

About the Author:  Scott Bultman is the owner of Red Hen, LLC and Froebel USA.  He is also the managing partner of Kaleidograph Design, LLC. 

Pat Montgomery’s “Herstory”: Play, The Work of the Child

Written by Pat Montgomery, founder of Clonlara School.  We’ve taken this opportunity to reprint an early Learning Edge column from Volume 3, No. 1, February, 1986.

It is so hard for some—yea most—adults to appreciate the place of play in the development of a child. I had a difficult time with this when I first started Clonlara School nineteen years ago. Oh, it’s true that all of the master teachers attested to the value of play. Montessori, Piaget, Neill and others whose works I had read encourage us to recognize the importance of play. But the temptation to interfere in the child’s play is tremendous. It was for me as though I, the teacher, had to make sure that the child really was learning through these seemingly random activities of hers. It took months for me to restrain my teacher bent toward interrupting or interpreting for the child.

I had lots of help in doing this. A.S. Neill wrote of the teachers he observed who could not let a child enjoy his activities in a sandbox because of the teacher’s need to explain the quality of the sand or the many uses of sand or the best way to construct a castle, and the like.

Parents as teachers will surely experience this urge to “teach.” Many will even feel guilty that they are allowing their home schooler to fritter her time away in play. The fact is that motion is the natural business of the young child. Sitting at a desk or table “working” on math problems or reading is as unnatural to the child as lying in a hospital bed.

Joseph Pearce, author of Magical Child, said this in an interview in “Mothering,” #35, Spring, 1985:

Play is the exercise with the metaphoric, symbolic language structure in the midbrain. The child abstracts images from the adult world that are unavailable to him or her through the high level intellectual brain; then the child projects these metaphoric, symbolic images of the midbrain on handy targets out here in the world. PLAYING IS THE FIRST LEVEL OF GREAT IMAGINITIVE THINKING (emphasis added). This is a learned process. The child can never learn to play without the parent playing with the child. Play…goes dormant unless it is stimulated by the…parent.

As children grow older—to seven or eight years old or so—we fall into the trap of organizing their spare time for them: Little Leagues or dance classes and such. This seems a logical extension of the fear that they cannot be trusted to fill their hours with meaningful pursuits.

Susan Macaulay, author ofFor the Children’s Sake, quotes from educator Charlotte Mason:

There is a danger in these days of much educational effort that children’s play should be crowded out or should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than about work. We do not say a word against the educational value of games (such as football, basketball, etc.) . . . but organized games are not play…. Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.

A Detroit Free Press columnist recently wrote that planned activity clutters our creative time. A child named Darlene had been diagnosed as hyperactive. Her teacher complained; her doctor prescribed Ritalin. A psychologist said she was mildly retarded and had learning disabilities. Finally, a psychiatrist gave his appraisal:

She attended a private school with lots of extra-curricular and enrichment opportunities. Besides that, she had ballet, swimming, art, and piano lessons, with practice time for all. An obligatory trip to the library every Saturday was factored into this child’s “free time”…. This child’s life…had been filled with programmed activities. She was about to explode emotionally.

Play is the work of the child. Maria Montessori said that. Let us provide for our young children an atmosphere in the home school which is conducive to play. While that is happening, you, the teacher, can read what masters have said. I recommend Susan Macaulay’s book, John Holt’s How Children Learn and How Children Fail, and Pearce’s interview in “Mothering” as a start.

Pat Montgomery founded Clonlara in 1967, and was its Executive Director for 38 years. We are pleased and honored that she continues to share her knowledge and wisdom with the Clonlara community in the form of “Herstory,” her regular column for The Learning Edge.