Fun Scientific and Beneficial Experiences Provided by Nature for Kids

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Last Saturday, my family and I were scheduled to take a day trip to a farm but the forecast called for rain. I decided an alternative trip would be a nature walk near our home. My son was so excited because he could wear his rain boots and splash in puddles! He experienced this and so much more!

While we were walking, I thought about the benefits of being in nature. Here is what I found…

Hands-on Science Lesson

One day, we watched the cartoon, Sid the Science Kid, and learned about the four life cycle stages of a frog. The first stage is the tiny frog eggs laid by a female frog. Then the eggs turn into tadpoles. The tadpoles start to develop front and back legs which is the froglet stage. The last stage is the adult frog, which is when the tail leaves and he is ready to live on land.

During our nature walks, we experienced two stages of this life cycle. We saw masses of tadpoles swimming in a pond.  My husband was able to catch tadpoles with a net and we observed them. My son was brave enough to touch the tadpoles and comment on their slimy skin.

About two weeks later, the tadpoles turned into hopping little frogs. We caught about 8 frogs to examine them for a brief moment before we let them go. It was an amazing sight.

Physical Activity

On our way to the nature trail, we saw squirrels and birds. As soon as my son saw them, he chased the animals and burned off tons of energy. Once we saw puddles, I switched his shoes from sneakers to rain boots and he jumped in the middle of them. His hands sloshed in the water as he examined the colors and depth. On the trail we detected rocks embedded in the ground and we dug them out. My son threw the rocks in the water and watched the circular ripples form. The walk itself was a great physical exercise for the body.

Social

We saw other families with children walking their dogs and runners. We greeted each other and sometimes had mini conversations. My son ran behind some of the runners and wanted us to join him. There were two older boys, riding their bikes, who saw us looking down and wanted to know what we were searching for. We told them we were catching frogs and saw turtles in the pond. They joined us by catching little frogs which allowed us more observational opportunities.

Use of tools

Whenever we go on a nature walk, I take scientific tools to provide a better experience. My son or I will carry kid size binoculars around our necks to observe squirrels and birds in trees. We also use it to watch turtles on branches in the pond. I keep a magnifying glass in my bag to closely view bugs, frogs, rocks, plants, flowers, pinecones, and leaves. As mentioned before, my husband will catch bugs and frogs in a net and put them in a jar for my son to examine. The most important tool, in my opinion, are hands. My son used his hands to touch and feel the treasures he found in nature. He was able to communicate whether the item was smooth, bumpy, slimy, rough, etc.

Cost

Taking a walk outside your home and being exposed to nature is free. Most parks with nature trails are complimentary also.  Take advantage of the natural lessons that God has provided. You can’t beat a day full of adventure at no cost!

I knew our trip was successful when my son said “That was a fun day!”

Happy Exploring!

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One Way I Sparked my Son’s Interest in Geography

what on your plate

We live in a very diverse area near people from various countries. I love talking to our neighbors about their culture, food, language, and upbringing. My son loves to eat and always wants to know how food will benefit him. For example, he knows that chicken and eggs will help him build muscle. When I saw the book, What’s On Your Plate? Exploring the World of Food by Whitney Stewart, I thought he would be interested in reading it.

This book highlights countries such as Mexico, Ethiopia, China, and Greece, and gives the reader information on their locations, foods frequently eaten, and recipes. The enticing food pictures in this book will make you hungry.

My son connected with this book instantly. First, he learned that he eats similar foods to people all over the world. Moroccans eat grapes and oranges which are two of his favorite foods. He eats rice, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese like the Italians.

As we were reading the book, we had the globe beside us. We stopped on each page, identified the country, its food, and located it on the globe. I saw my son perk up because he saw these countries were located far away in various continents, yet one similarity was food.

Read this book with your child and learn about food all over the world!

Other ways to make connections with this book…

  • Make the recipes in the book
  • Eat Ethnic foods – Go to an Indian, Ethiopian, or Mexican Restaurant
  • Talk to people from other countries and compare what you have learned in this book.

 

Happy Exploring!

Fun Activities that Teach Kids about Indoor Air Pollution

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Indoor air pollution can cause sneezing, scratchy throats, headaches, and watery eyes. One solution to this problem is plants, which decreases indoor air pollution within a room. Certain plants make the air healthier to breathe.

I was watching the cartoon, Cyberchase- Indoor Air Pollution Episode, with my son and learned these facts. This cartoon episode features Norm, the Gnome, explaining how new paint and furniture can cause air pollution. View Norm’s explanation in this video. 

We also learned more plants are needed for a larger room. Larger rooms carry more air pollution; therefore, more plants are needed to purify the air. How do you determine the number of plants needed for a room? The cartoon characters counted tiles in a room to answer this question.  Watch this video to see how it’s done. (select How Many Plants Per Room?)

How could you determine the number of plants needed if you don’t have tiles in a room? The answer is estimation. Watch how the characters estimate a room size, using previous knowledge. (select Estimating Room Size).

You can apply this within your classroom or at home.

How we applied this lesson in our home…

  1. Compiled a list of air purifying plants.
    • It is best to compare various lists.
  2. Research how to care for the plants you choose
    • Read books
    • Watch YouTube videos
    • Ask the plant experts at the store where you made your purchase
  3. Used estimation to determine the number of plants needed.
  4. Purchased the plants and materials to care for them.
  5. Care for the plants.

My family and I enjoy caring for the plants and the benefits of air purification. I have experienced a difference of air quality in our home. Try it out!

Happy Indoor Gardening!

Bringing Fun to Language Arts for Kids!

Dictionary book

My son and I recently read the book, The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra. This is a fun, interactive, and flashy book about parts of speech, literacy, and language arts.

This book addresses topics such as actions verbs, homophones, palindromes, onomatopoeias, contractions, etc.

The Action verb page has various words like somersault, jump, glide and ricochet. Each word is written and drawn to portray their action. For example, the word Ricochet appears to be a character that is rebounding off the edge of the page. The word Jump is a character leaping in the air.

This book has influenced some of the games my son and I play around the house. Below are a few….

Action Verb – Ricochet

Bounce a soft ball off the wall and try to catch it.

 

Onomatopoeia – Bang

Tap a box with your hands and create various rhythms.

 

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious(Yes, this 34-letter word is in the book)

Listen to the song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious by Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews

 

Antonyms – Big and Little

Draw a picture of a big and small animal

 

Try reading this book with your students or children and create activities that bring language arts to life!

Have fun learning!

 

Fun Educational Activities Inspired by The Black Panther Movie

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The movie, Black Panther, was inspirational and insightful. There were so many themes addressed in the movie ranging from race, identity, and dignity to technological advancement, service, and cooperation.

Although my son is too young to see the movie, I was inspired to share the experience with him. Therefore, we did the following interactive activities below…

Literacy

We checked out two Black Panther books from our local library. The books introduced the characters and their roles. It also addressed themes such as good vs bad, courage, hard work, intelligence, instinct, loyalty, etc. One of the books identified vocabulary words and asked the reader to find them within the story. My son became excited when he saw the words in the story!

Application through Playful Literacy

Once my son and I became familiar with the characters, I purchased the action figures. We identified the characters and created stories while playing. In our story, Nakia (Black Panther’s friend), Shuri (Black Panther’s sister), and Okoye (head of armed forces) were kidnapped by Erik Killmonger (villain).  T’Challa (Black Panther) rescues them and saves the day. Killmonger was put in “time out” for kidnapping T’Challa’s friends and family.

Setting and Geography

Black Panther takes place in Wakanda which is a fictitious country in Africa. We looked on a globe and found Africa. My son loves animals so we identified some that live in Africa such as zebras, elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, and tigers. We also talked about African resources like diamonds, sugar, salt, gold, and cobalt. We were able to find diamonds, sugar, salt and gold around the house and by viewing images on the Internet. I SHOWED MY SON A SMART PHONE AND TOLD HIM MOST CONTAIN COBALT, WHICH IS PRODUCED IN CONGO. We ended this lesson by finding Congo on the globe.

Action verbs

We incorporated action verbs within our play. During our story, my son made the action figures flip, jump, run, spin, sleep, and fly in the air. As my son played, I identified the action verb in which he made the characters move. For example, if Okoye and T’Challa hit the pillow and bounced off, I shouted “Whoa look at them ricochet off the pillow!”

Science

In Black Panther books and movie, Shuri is a technological genius of Wakanda. She invented beads that could stop a truck full of kidnappers. She also invented Black Panther’s suit which absorbs attacks during  fights. The gadgets Shuri creates have super abilities to protect Wakanda.

During play, my son and I pretended balls and blocks were gadgets. They were used to save Black Panther’s friends and family from Erik Kilmonger. We also talked about gadgets around the home that keeps us safe such as the security camera, motion sensing lights, and alarm system.

My son enjoyed the activities and continues to find new ways to create more stories with his action figures!

Tell us in the comments how a Superhero has inspired activities in your household and classroom.

Happy Learning!

 

 

 

Insightful Black History Lesson While Walking with your Kids – Part 3

black family walking

The contributions of black people are everywhere. Please view this interview of Dr. Ben Carson explaining how to give your kids a Black History lesson just by walking down the street.  This video was recorded while Dr. Carson was the Director of Pediatric Surgery at John Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Take this idea further and incorporate other cultural histories on walks with your family, classmates, peers, and co-workers.

Have Fun Learning!

Interactive Physical Activity that will Amuse and Educate your Family

family fun

Physical activity can be a fun learning experience, especially when everyone in the family is trying something new. Children will most likely model what their parents do. If children see parents being physical, then they will most likely follow this lifestyle in the future.

 Parents that are active can teach their children so many life skills.  Parents can also learn from doing physical activities with their children.

Let’s say a family decides to do a new activity together such as rock climbing.

Rock climbing requires decision-making skills because you have to decide the path that reaches the top.

It incorporates problem solving skills where you may decide to take a different path because your first course of action failed. Furthermore, family members are cheering and encouraging each other to climb higher.

This is teamwork!

If you don’t want to leave home, try the activity below. Enjoy learning and being physical with your family!

  1. Tell your family you will have a game night of Charades!
  2. You can play the game two ways…
  3. Divide the family into two teams.
  4. Have one person on the team guess and the other person act out or use pantomime to represent the word.
  5. If the team guesses the word, then they will get a point.
  6. Or you can have one family member at a time act and the other family members guess the word.
  7. The family member that guesses the word will get a point.
  8. Choose categories that will be really physical and incorporate learning…
    • Strange Animals such as a Featherless Chicken
    • Unusual Sports such as Chess Boxing
  9. Since these categories will be unfamiliar, have a list of the names near the game (optional).
  10. Record the points and have fun!

 

Artistic Interactive Activity that can Boost your Family’s Memory

family tree

Interactive memorization techniques can be practiced at home. There is certain information immediate family members should know about one another in case someone is sick or lost. This information can include family medical history and social security numbers. This is where interactive memorization methods can be applied.

Let’s use family medical history as an example. Medical history includes knowing your family members’ cause and age of death, health problems, allergies, birth defects etc.   Knowing your family’s medical history can be a lot to remember because you need to know your grandparents’ histories on both your mother’s and father’s sides.

One way to remember this is by talking with one another and drawing a group Family Medical History Tree.  You remember items better when you draw them rather than write.  You use the left side of your brain when you draw pictures and the right side when you write. So, let’s incorporate both in this activity!

  1. Ensure you have family medical histories of grandparents, mother, father, and children.
  2. Set up a family meeting.
  3. Tell your family you all will create a Family Medical History Tree.
  4. Get a big piece of paper such as flip chart paper or craft paper.
  5. As a family, draw the tree with relatives’ names and pictures if possible.
  6. Under each relative’s name write the following…
    • Member’s cause of death (if applicable)
    • Member’s age of death (if applicable)
    • Diagnoses or health problems
    • Allergies
    • Birth defects
  7. If you have a young child, he/she can decorate the tree.
  8. Put the tree in a safe place.
  9. Have family members look at the tree repeatedly so it can be ingrained in their minds (repetition)
    • Review it during family meetings.
    • Ensure each family member knows where this tree is located so they can review it when they like.

Interactive Activity that requires Family Brain Power and Critical Thinking!

family spending time

 

The application of critical thinking skills at home is different than in the classroom. Children will be analyzing issues with people who they are related to and live with, their family. In this environment, children may have more time to evaluate with their family.

Also, the family members’ reactions will be different than peers in the classroom. Family may be more critical or supportive of what a child is thinking. The child’s parents and older siblings, may be apt to tell their child all the answers instead of letting them figure it out. To prevent this, we will use a different version of the critical thinking question in the previous post: Time has just been taken away from the world for a day. How will your family function?

Most people use time as an indicator to achieve something such as: eating, working, playing, and sleeping.

Many parents and older siblings will be in unfamiliar territory if you take time away. Doing an activity around this question will most likely have the whole family stumped. Below is how you put the whole family’s critical thinking skills to practice with this question.

  1. Plan to have a day or half a day where you operate with no time.
  2. The best time to do this is on the weekend or a day when no one needs to work or go to school.
  3. Put everyone’s cell phone and watches into a safe place the night before.
  4. Cover all clocks in the home the night before.
  5. Put away computers and anything that keeps time.
  6. Remind your family of the question/problem: Time has just been taken away from the world for a day. How will your family function?
  7. The day before, the family should come together and predict how they will function (critical thinking).
  8. Record each family member’s response.
  9. The next day, as soon as you wake up, start to function without time.
  10. After the activity, debrief how your day went… (critical thinking)
    • How did you know when to eat?
    • Did you communicate more without your cell phones?
    • Who was the most comfortable with this activity?
    • Who was the most uncomfortable with this activity?
    • What family member predicted what would happen?
    • Would you do this again?
  11. PLEASE NOTE: Adjust this activity if there is a situation where you need time. For example, if someone needs to take their medicine every 4 hours. This is not worth the risk.

A Flavorful Interactive Activity that uses Hands-On Learning at Home

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Today, let’s discuss hands-on learning within the family. Experiencing something new with the family can create and strengthen bonds. If you do an activity that no one in the family is familiar with, then most likely you will see each members’ strengths and weaknesses exposed. This can be beneficial because where one member is weak, another family member can assist.

This creates a dynamic where the family is relying on each other to complete the task. For instance, a family of four has decided to go camping for the first time. Mom may be good with organization so she is in charge of the meals and ensuring everyone has appropriate clothing. Brother loves being outdoors and observing animals. He is in charge of animal safety and exploring nature. Sister is into event planning so she is in charge of games and nighttime activities. Dad is a great builder and is in charge of tent care and picking the camping site.

In this activity, the family is relying on each other’s skills to have a positive camping experience. Below is another way to incorporate hands-on learning within the family.

Cooking in unfamiliar territory

  1. Plan for the family to cook a meal that no member has eaten before.
  2. You can find a recipe from another country or ethnicity.
  3. You can have half of the family make the entrée and the other half make the appetizer or dessert.
  4. This activity incorporates so much learning such as: following recipe directions, math skills with measuring ingredients, food science, various cooking temperatures needed for certain food, patience, teamwork, communication skills and diversity.
  5. Enjoy your meal!