September 3

The Importance of Blocks

I am resharing this post about block play (from several years ago) with a few updates:

My undergraduate degree is in early childhood education (birth through seven years old) and I taught kindergarten for twelve years and second grade for eight. I experienced firsthand the value and benefits of block play. Blocks provide an opportunity to explore math concepts including shapes, measurement, mass, symmetry, patterns, and fractions! Eye hand coordination and small muscle movements are refined. Children develop awareness of space, balance, and cause and effect. As children plan and make representations of their ideas, creativity and problem solving skills blossom. They intuitively apply the Engineer Design Process. Children also learn to effectively communicate their ideas and to work collaboratively with their peers.

As you look at the pictures of the block structures below, look for examples of balance, patterns, and symmetry. Block building is considered a STEAM activity and schools with Makerspaces and STEM labs always include various types of blocks. You are never too old to build with blocks! My second grade classes always found blocks a favorite activity. For more fun, add plastic animals, cars, and people, as well as natural objects.

Click here to read an article about block play from NAEYC. Block play is important work!

The developmental stages of block building:

 




Unit blocks are divided into fractional parts.

This preschool had a “Block Party”. It would be a fun birthday theme too!

September 2

Quality STEM Program

Among educators, there is still confusion and debate about how to recognize and implement excellent STEM programs. I believe this is an accurate description of its components:

The goal of a quality STEM program is to produce scientifically and technologically literate citizens who can solve complex, multi-disciplinary problems through analytical and innovative thinking in real-world applications needed for college and career success. (National Research Council 2012) These goals are often met through Project-Based Learning.

August 31

Whimsical Garden Pieces

It’s fun to add a little whimsy to your garden! As I did in my science classroom, I look for ways to add surprises in unexpected places. Still searching for a turtle, a sundial, and rain gauge. The hummingbirds have brought me such joy this summer, I might just add one of those too! The poem below was in my grandparents’ garden.

August 27

Another Parenting Tip-Inquiry Based Learning

Why are there two rainbows? Why is one lighter than the other? How far apart are they?
Why is it darker above the rainbow? Why does red and yellow seem wider than the other colors in the spectrum?

My brother recently traveled to the South Pacific and captured this photo. I know that asking meaningful questions leads to learning, so my goal is to stop and ponder at natural phenomena because I desire to be a lifelong learner. Questions breed more questions which drives thinking.

When your child asks a question, he/she is taking an active role in his/her own education and developing critical thinking and communication skills. As they seek and process information, new schema are formed which are frameworks or concepts that help us to organize and interpret information. Inquiry-based learning is compelling and empowers the learner!

Sadly, research shows that children ask less questions as they grow older. Albert Einstein believed that asking thoughtful questions was critical to learning. “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Never lose a holy curiosity.” Both the Engineer Design Process and the Scientific Method begin with, Make an Observation/Ask a Question.

So when your child comes home from school, ask him/her what questions they asked in school today and what they are still wondering. Model asking questions as you take a walk together. Encourage family members to write their questions on Post-it notes and then place them on the back of a door to create a “wonder wall”.

Asking questions as you read is also a powerful comprehension strategy because the reader actively engages with the text. What was the character’s motivation? Would you have responded in the same way? How would changing the setting (where and when a story occurs) impact the story? Would you have ended the story in the same manner? Which character would you want as a friend? Why? You can ask your child these questions even if you haven’t read the book yourself.

Click here to read Reading Recovery’s blog post about asking questions to increase comprehension.

Genius is seeing what everyone else sees and thinking what no-one else has thought.
Albert Szent-Gyorgy

August 19

A Butterfly’s Proboscis

I caught more pollinators busy at work! (See previous post for information about pollinators.) Do you know how butterflies drink the sweet nectar in a flower? They have a proboscis. To explain how the tube-like proboscis works with my student scientists, I use a party blower. When not in use, the proboscis is rolled up out of the way.

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August 18

Let’s Study Pollinators!

Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, are essential for life on earth. I captured these pollinators at work in my garden. Do you see the pollen on the bee’s legs? Watch the new video below for more information.


Participate in the Georgia Great Pollinator Census with your family. Click here for information.

It wouldn’t be summer without hummingbirds! Two hummingbirds frequent the flowers on my deck daily. I’ve tried to take photos, but they move quickly! I learned so much about these amazing birds from the video below.

Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. Click here to learn more about the Center for Biologically Inspired Design at Georgia Tech. How are we learning from hummingbirds?

Did you know that hummingbirds in North America migrate to Mexico and Central America? They will begin their journey south around the end of August.

August 10

Skinks

If you live in Atlanta, you have seen a five-lined skink. They are easily identified by their blue tails. Juvenile skinks have especially bright blue tails and one visited me today. These lizards are harmless. They are often found near deciduous forests and prefer moist areas. Skinks are excellent climbers and move quickly to escape danger. Like other lizards, their tail can break off if seized by a predator, but will regenerate in time. Skinks are most active on warm sunny days and prey on insects. They are often mistaken for snakes because of their short legs.

See the source image

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August 10

New Frogs

For years I posted photos of my White’s tree frogs on my blog. I left my frogs in the care of the new lab teacher, but I have discovered tree frogs that live around my deck at home. These common gray amphibians are found in a variety of woodland habitats. They generally spend the day hiding in secluded areas and emerge at night to feed on insects and small invertebrates. Be cautious handling these frogs because they secrete a toxic substance that can irritate your skin.

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August 8

What Do You Think?

I sure am missing my young scientists! I thought of them as I worked in my garden and found this leaf. I wondered why this large deciduous leaf had already changed color in early August. I noticed it was folded and when I opened it, I discovered that the part under the fold was still green. Why do you think it remained green? Why do leaves change color? What will happen if I leave the leaf open?