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.

 

Alternatives to Traditional Classroom Learning

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

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photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lylesmu102/5904887081/

Although still swimming against the mainstream, alternative schooling has been present in America since colonial times. Education varied depending on wealth and location and could have been conducted at home by private tutors or in groups under religious guidance, for example. In fact, there seems to have been many more accepted options back then, which have been filtered and ‘refined’ into the main educational systems that the majority follow today.

These systems can be pretty restrictive, though, considering how unique each child on the planet is. And the systems don’t really seem to have developed or adapted much in line with the changing world. Coercive schooling can be difficult for children. Natural instincts to explore, question and play are muffled in favor of strict curriculums enforced through the logic of reward and punishment. By nature, children are designed to control their own learning. You can see this working up until the schooling age. At this point, though, learning becomes a chore.

Alternative learning is about creating the worlds required for children to continue to flourish — environments that encourage curiosity, exploration and diversity. Suppressing these vital instincts can be crushing and promote feelings of anxiety and helplessness that may become lodged in the mind. These feelings continue throughout the schooling system and a legacy of fear and inadequacy often rules. You don’t have to look far to see this at work. Placing a child within a school that will nurture their spirit as well as their academic spark seems to be the obvious choice when it comes to education.

Imagine a school where children could continue to learn in ways that make them feel happy and calm, where parents can contribute to their child’s particular learning scheme so that the right approach is taken for the individual and where children have choices. There are a variety of alternative learning options available and it’s worth exploring all avenues if you have an interest. Benefits of alternative schooling include the following.

Tailored Programs

Teachers, specialists and parents work together to design a plan of education that suits the needs of the child. This always involves looking at a wide range of learning approaches and materials. Although it takes time, the plan will evolve with the student and the results are extraordinary.

Holistic Approach

Most schools focus purely on the academic at the cost of individuality and creativity. Alternative methods look at what’s beneficial for the child’s happiness and health because these things have a direct effect upon development and achievement.

Empowerment

Students can take charge and have a say in their education. There’s not a blanket curriculum, so there is flexibility in how students choose to study. No matter how old a child is, feeling independent at the same time as knowing you are safe is an important but sadly overlooked necessity.

Equality

No matter where you come from or what decision has led you to alternative education, these schools have an inclusive, nurturing philosophy that embraces all types of learners.

Sally is a serial networker and writes for Richmond University. She enjoys traveling around the country, advising students on how to make the most out of their studies, encouraging people to explore all of the options available to them.

5 Things Which Can Be Learned From Leonardo Da Vinci?

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

Leonardo da Vinci is known as the greatest ‘can do everything’ person of all time; the only thing that he didn’t accomplish was winning an Olympic gold medal—and that’s because the dark ages nearly wiped the competition out. Although his likeness won’t be displayed in the halls of Athens, he is still the iconic ironman. He invented a prototype for the car and helicopter; he was a sculptor, musician, painter, poet, writer, scientist, engineer, mathematician, geologist, botanist, biologist, cartographer, and author. How did he do all of this? Nobody really knows, but we do know some of the things that can be learned from his do-it-all style.

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IT’S OKAY TO BE CRAZY

If you lived during the fourteen hundreds, you wouldn’t believe that people could fly, or that a man can survive underwater indefinitely—at least not without magic—but da Vinci did, and many of his inventions made things like this possible. If you have an idea, stick to it, study what you need to get it done, and go do it, no matter how many naysayers tell you that it’s impossible. Somebody has to invent travel that’s faster than the speed of light! Why not you?

OUR LIMITS ARE IN OUR MINDS

In da Vinci’s mind, there’s no limit on the number of things that are possible, and there’s no limit on the number of things that one person can do. Being a scientist, engineer, entrepreneur, and writer in your lifetime is possible. Da Vinci had the tough job—he did it without a prototype—we have it easier because we have seen it done before.

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

“It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” This was one of da Vinci’s many spot on revelations. Although the phrase “hard work pays off” has become a cliché, the importance of its meaning cannot be overstated.

YOUR WORK IS NEVER DONE

Da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” For da Vinci, everything was art; for us, this means that any endeavor that we pursue is our “art,” and that we should strive to constantly seek to improve upon our works. Progress cannot be made if we don’t fight for it.

YOU HAVE TO LIVE TO BE ALIVE

“Life well spent is long.” This is another brief quote by da Vinci that speaks volumes. Many of us are so caught up in trying to survive that we forget to enjoy our lives and do what is most rewarding. If more of us pursued our dreams instead of stewing in mediocrity, humanity would be a much happier race.

If more of us implemented even one of da Vinci’s standards to live by, we would see a surge of progress greater than any mankind has ever seen.

Author Bio:  Sally is a serial networker and is interested in studying the ways in which people learn. She enjoys traveling around the country visiting places such as Richmond University, advising students on making the most out of their university experience, and providing top techniques for studying.  

The Anatomy of a Special Needs Child

This infographic was supplied by Wendy Turner, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

When you hear about a child with special needs, you might not really understand what that means. However, for parents who face this challenge in their lives, members of the medical community, and educators, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the issues many children face on a daily basis. Special needs refers to a gamut of issues that include physical, developmental, behavioral/emotional, and sensory impaired problems. Children may deal with major health issues such as severe allergies, diabetes, heart defects, or juvenile diabetes. Hyperactivity, autism, and dyslexia can create many obstacles in a young person’s life. Blindness and deafness pose challenges of their own. A child may be dealing with one area of need or a combination. No matter what type of special needs a child endures, it is important to recognize the problem and get help.

Parents Need to Begin with Answers Many parents may see that there is a problem, that something isn’t happening as planned for their child, such as developmental milestones or behaviors that are exhibited at home. They not even be aware of any issues until children go to school and problems arise due to learning disabilities or difficulties in a group setting. A proper diagnosis is key in assisting children with special needs. Whether the family physician begins the chain of action or it begins with the Committee for Special Education at the public school, parents need to get to the bottom of any special needs for their child. From that point, schools must make accommodations and modifications for a classified child.

Understanding the Rights of a Child with Special Needs Federal legislation is in place to protect the rights of any children that have been classified with special needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act all entitle children with special needs to an educational plan that will suit their situation. Parents can request that their child be placed in a classroom that is designed for children with similar needs or ask that their child be in the regular classroom to promote their child’s well-being.

Source: Masters in Special Education

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Forget Marble Notebooks: High Tech Is Coming To A K-12 Classroom Near You

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

All across the country, K-12 students are settling into the school year, which more than ever probably includes the sort of technology you’d expect to see in a corporate office or college classroom. From video and web conferencing to handheld devices for all students to online testing, the days of number two pencils and teachers writing notes on the blackboard could soon be a thing of the past.

Take a look at some technologies coming to (or already at!) a K-12 classroom near you…

Incorporating Technology Into Every Lesson

Remember when the big excitement at school was getting to watch a video, or if you’re really old, those slideshows that had accompanying records that beeped to prompt you to the next slide? We’ve come a long way when one considers that 52 percent of teachers say they use interactive whiteboards in their classes, and 40 percent have a class wiki or website, according to the Pew Report “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.”

Even when it comes to test preparation for the SAT, the days of flipping flashcards are over. One company, Benchprep, for example, uses an interactive gaming approach to appeal to high schoolers who are prepping for the college admissions exam.

Testing Online

Unless you’re living under a rock or in one of only 5 states that hasn’t adopted the Commor Core, you’re probably aware that by spring 2015, states must administer a mandatory online assessment to test student proficiency in math and English. Online testing means more students sitting at computers during the school day. As such, public schools are beefing up their IT offerings. In fact, says a CDW-G survey, 83 percent of public school district IT professionals surveyed cited Common Core as one of their top three IT priorities.

Paper and Pencil Is So Retro

Just as many have gotten used to using e-readers instead of hard copy books, the same may happen with school textbooks. In fact, 37 percent of teachers in a “Styles of Learning” survey by Enterasys Secure Networks said they planned to transition to digital textbooks within the next one to five years. At home, students are already getting used to making the switch to digital, as 31% of middle school students say they use tablets to complete homework assignments, according to a Verizon Foundation study.

The World Is Their Classroom

Thanks to video and web conferencing, some lucky students are able to watch presentations, experiments, and other learning events in real time from anywhere in the world. Think of it as the modern day field trip. For instance, some zoos, museums, ­libraries and other organizations have distance learning ­programs specifically designed for schools.

This technology is especially helpful for rural areas that are too far from cultural centers for students to frequent. One such school district in Oklahoma has been using mobile video conferencing with great success, according to an article in EdTech Magazine.

It’s just a matter of bringing video conferencing equipment into schools as companies like InterCall do to facilitate educator’s needs.

Online Courses

Beyond technology in the classroom, many K-12 students are taking courses right from their own homes via online learning. For example, Iowa Learning Online is currently serving 800 students, and has plans to expand and grow the program. Teachers broadcast to students via webcams or use technologies like Skype or Adobe Connect.

Technology in learning has come a long way in a short time, and will likely continue improving as it becomes more accessible and user friendly. Just imagine what the classroom will look like five years from now!

About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, CreditCards.com, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

Special Ed Goes High Tech

This infographic was supplied by Wendy Turner, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Students with special needs face challenges that may not be apparent to the rest of the world. They work hard to improve certain skills so that they can act as members of society, and it is important to give them the tools that they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the federal government only provides a total of 15 percent of the cost associated with caring for a child with special needs. Parents are left trying to cover the expensive costs of tutoring services or technology programs that can assist in the educational development of a special needs child.  Students can have a wide range of special needs for which they require supportive educational services and technology programs. Some students suffer from speech impediments, while other students may suffer from emotional disorders. Some students may have hearing or visual impairment. A student may be mentally retarded or have learning disabilities that make it difficult for him or her to adapt to a school environment. Those who have had a traumatic brain injury may also be considered special needs children.  It is important for school communities to embrace those who have disabilities. Students should feel like they are members of the community and should feel accepted. They should feel a sense of joy in attending school and not view their specific classes as punishments for a disability. Students who have disabilities have certain rights that are codified into law, and it is vital that school systems recognize these rights. Even if a school budget must expand to meet the costs of schooling special needs children, this should not be a major concern of school boards. School boards should be ready and willing to meet the expenses that are associated with educating a child who has special needs.  Students who have special needs should also have access to the latest technology in the classroom. They should have access to laptops and net-books that can enhance their educational experience. Digital textbooks can also make learning more enjoyable and fun for those who have disabilities. School districts should seriously consider making these investments in technology to meet the needs of disabled children.  Source: http://www.special-education-degree.net/technology

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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