Planting Seeds

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are heading into spring and many of us are looking forward to growing vegetables in our own summer gardens. In my state we have a Cooperative Extension Service that provides lots of information and offers activities about farming in my area. With snow still on the ground, I’m dreaming of planting my garden. Since I’m in the city, I’m planning to start small this year with a few tomato plants in big pots, and some spinach and onions in a small bed. I look forward to my tiny harvest of spaghetti sauce!

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We know that human activity does pollute the environment and that it can cause climate changes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one way of helping to limit climate change. We also now know that driving a car is a major cause of climate change as the car emissions release carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. One way greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced is by growing one’s own food so that driving to market doesn’t happen so often. So, planting seeds is a great start to reducing the pollution of our planet!
Photo from Pixaby

Wishful thinking doesn’t make my garden grow, so first I have to buy some seeds and soil. Since my growing season is so short, I have to start my plants indoors. Many of you using the Oak Meadow science curriculum are planting seeds, recording their growth, and also exploring and reporting on different types of soils. This website from the Smithsonian National Museum of History is awesome: Dig It! The Secrets of Soil. I compost vegetable and fruit matter so I have some good soil to start with. I’ll also purchase some organic soil from a local landscape supplier to mix in. You may have studied the plant kingdom in the Oak Meadow 6th grade science curriculum and learned the difference between gymnosperms and angiosperms. I’ll be planting some angiosperms! My south facing windows will be a perfect place for starting my plants.

This student found a good spot outside to start the seeds!

If you are planting your own garden, and when you have a break from your farming, here’s a fun game to play to maintain a sustainable farm that grows healthy crops and reduces emissions! You might also enjoy reading Thor Hanson’s book The Triumph of Seeds. Visit his website to learn more about this. 
What are you planting? What are some ways that you help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your community?

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.  ~Proverb

Happy March Equinox Everyone!

Humankind’s imagination is as vast as the solar system we live in! Out of our imagination comes tools for working, farming, and building. If we let our imaginations soar we become inventors. In fact, inventive thinking and problem solving is something we do everyday. We see a problem and come up with a solution. In the Oak Meadow 5th grade science curriculum, students study technology and design and work on their own inventions.  It’s so much fun to see what they imagine and bring into the world! They construct things that help with a job around the house, create toys for pets, and design many other practical and useful items. Humankind just seems to long for answers to questions!
Long ago astronomers sought answers to the many questions about the universe. When an answer wasn’t in sight, they imagined and created stories or guidelines for their lives. They imagined stories about the stars they saw in the night sky, imagined the sun went to sleep each night, and imagined the world was flat. In future years we have come to understand more about the universe through observation. In observing the rising and setting of the sun, astronomers imagined a great dome over the Earth’s sky and called it the celestial sphere. They imagined the celestial equator as being in the middle of the north and south poles and right above the Earth’s equator. 
During the March equinox, when we have twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness, “the sun crosses the celestial equator, to enter the sky’s Northern Hemisphere. No matter where you are on Earth (except the North and South Poles), you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator, the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth. And that’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west, for all of us, at the equinox. The equinox sun is on the celestial equator. No matter where you are on Earth, the celestial equator crosses your horizon at due east or due west.”
Photo and quote reprinted from EarthSky, written by Bruce McClure in Tonight
So get outside on March 20th and find due east and due west in your environment! It’s the first day of spring!

Go Ahead and Doodle!

Oak Meadow middle school students submit their lesson work to their teachers with such variety! Some students neatly type most of their assignments, others handwrite each page, while most submit a combination of both. As a teacher with Oak Meadow I love seeing the little extra bits on these pages of lesson work. I’m referring to the egg stain from breakfast, the rips from the new puppy, the notes that the student did the assignment but lost it somewhere, and the special little doodles (designs or scribbles) in the margins! These little extra bits can be clues for me as to how a student may be getting assignments done. I’m especially fond of the doodles.
Recently a doodle caught my eye on a student’s vocabulary page. It interested me, not because of the doodled design, but because I was interested to know what she may have been thinking about when doodling the design. What vocabulary word made her stop and doodle? Did the doodling help her to concentrate? Why did she choose to use this design?
I’m a fan of doodling so doodles on pages fascinate me! Through my research I’ve found that there are different types of doodlers and many are quite famous.  I’ve read that President Obama preferred to doodle faces, while Kennedy doodled words, and J.R.R. Tolkien doodled things from the natural world. Some doodlers just draw designs that are formed randomly as they doodle.
Very little research has been done on why people doodle as they are working or listening. There may be many reasons for doodling as you work, but I think that it helps us to concentrate. If you are looking for ways to concentrate, take a look at these 7.  (Number 7 is doodle!) So, I’m all in favor of doodling if it helps with the concentrating on an assignment! Doodle away and you may find that you can pay attention better to what you are doing.
What types of doodles do you do? Share some with us!
 
 

What font?

I had a student that submitted a research paper about the country of Japan. It was really well written, but I was especially taken by the font she used for typing her final paper. It was different from what she usually used. It made such an impression on me that I had to find out what font it was.
I was reminded of the 2005 commencement speech given by Steve Jobs at Stanford in which he spoke about how he came to learn about calligraphy and, inspired by that course, later developed fonts for the Mac. You can watch the speech here. 
So. I’ve been thinking how important it is to understand that each of the fonts one may use when typing actually COME from somewhere! They have a history! In my search for the history of one font I see all the time, every where I go, I discovered that there was actually a movie made about the font! You can view the trailer for Helvetica the movie here, and you can also purchase it.
How interesting to know that certain fonts are used to impress the reader! So if I use comic sans, I’m pretty much setting a certain mood. In fact, I may investigate further what font this blog is typed in. (It isn’t possible for me to change it to another font.) I think I’ll also find out which fonts the Oak Meadow curriculum uses.
By the way, the font the student used was Philosopher. Next time you type a paper, think about the font you are using and what impression it may leave on the reader!

The Night Sky

This week’s night sky
(Northern Hemisphere)


“You cannot teach anybody anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.” ~~ Galileo ~~ (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642)
I love to go outside on a clear night and observe the stars and planets. Last night the incredibly beautiful full moon was so bright that it was hard to see any constellations! I took a walk in the moonlight and thought about how strong the light from our sun is that our moon can reflect enough light for me to see where I am going at 10:00 at night. Awesome! In the 7th grade science curriculum, Oak Meadow students investigate the moon, its phases, and its gravitational pull on Earth. Students also learn to compare the characteristics of the planets in our solar system. The study of astronomy is so fascinating!
Sky viewing is a great time for gathering friends on an evening and doing some star watching. If you know there will be a clear night for star viewing, it’s a great time to HAVE A STAR PARTY!
Send invitations, make “star” snacks, and put lots of blankets on the ground for friends to sit down on for good viewing. It’s fun to have some binoculars, a telescope, or one of the free astronomy apps available. Make sure you have flashlights for looking at books of constellations!
Some towns have astronomy clubs and the people in the clubs are usually very willing to come join in the fun and help answer star gazing questions. The Astronomical Society of Northern New England can be contacted for Star Parties!
“This Week’s Sky at a Glance” at the Sky and Telescope website is really helpful for learning what is visible in your own evening sky. Check it out for the constellation guide covering the whole evening sky. Observing the night sky is such a fun activity on a sparkling clear night!

Exploring Science through Illustrations

“A natural science illustrator is an artist who works in the service of science, creating images of animals, objects and complex processes that teach, inform, and create understanding of our world.” Guild of Natural Science Illustrators: https://www.gnsi.org/

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From the Oak Meadow Archives

I’ve become fascinated with the illustrations my Oak Meadow students did this year in conjunction with their science lessons. Many were exceptional in the intricate details of the drawings and I could tell that a lot of effort, time, and research was put into them. In the 7th grade Earth Science, a student researched the structure of a leaf, found which part was responsible for transpiration, and drew a diagram of the leaf showing the process. Another student created an illustration of the ecosystem in which she lives that included the various habitats within her ecosystem. In 8th grade Physics I am continually amazed with the details students include in their sketches of wet cell batteries! In the study of color, 8th graders discover the shortest and longest wavelength of the colors of the rainbow and I receive the most beautifully illustrated and colored rainbows! Through artistic exercises students clearly depict scientific concepts in their intricate drawings.

As you explore and observe the natural world around you, take some time to illustrate what you see! It can become a most wonderful pastime, or even a career! The website of The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators explains: “The principle task of the scientific illustrator is to prepare accurate renderings of scientific subjects. These illustrations are designed for reproduction in professional or popular journals in the field of natural sciences, textbooks, as museum exhibits, web sites, and many other applications. Scientific illustrations in both traditional and digital formats provide a visual explanation and aid the viewer by clarifying complex descriptive information. The function of a scientific illustration, therefore, is essentially a practical one: to inform, to explain, and to instruct — in short, to communicate.”

 Below is a wonderful example of a scientific subject illustrated and then put into digital format. ENJOY the Metamorphosis of the Butterfly from http://artorium.com/:

http://www.metamorphosis.urban-parks.org/

Summertime Poetry Challenge!

A Summer Challenge! (For my Northern Hemisphere Friends!)

When I was in kindergarten, my school had one requirement in order to move on to first grade. Each child had to memorize ten nursery rhymes before “graduating” from kindergarten! I recall that this wasn’t such a hard thing for me to do since I delighted in the joy and rhythm of the nursery rhymes. Little did I know that not only was I enjoying the beautiful rhythmical patterns, but I was also building my memorization skills, my vocabulary, and my language comprehension skills at a very young age.
Memorizing a poem can just be so satisfying! The poem’s lines can come to you when you least expect it. Just this spring I saw a group of daffodils and the lines of William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” sprang into my mind:
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”

And truly, when geese fly overhead in the autumn at my house, I quickly say the first lines of Rachel Field’s poem “Something Told The Wild Geese”:
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”
This summer, why not challenge yourself to memorize at least 6 poems? (You might also enjoy memorizing the lyrics to favorite songs!) You can choose some of your own liking, or try the ones listed on the Mensa For Kids website. There are 12 poems listed there and each one has an explanation of the idea of the poem, definition of specific vocabulary words in the poem, and then great ideas to help you memorize the poem more easily.

Summertime and the Listening is Easy!

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SYNC is once again offering free downloadable books for teens!

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+

The 2016 season is May 5th – August 17th 2016.
SYNC 2016 will give away 30 titles – two paired audiobook downloads a week!

Week 1 * Summer 2016

This summer’s theme is: “It’s the Circle of Life!”
The mystery of human evolution is looked at from very different points of view.
Download the free pair from SYNC »here.
This Week’s Audiobooks are:
Vivian Apple at the End of the World By Katie Coyle
Read by Julia Whelan
Published by Dreamscape Media
Great Tennessee Monkey Trial By Peter Goodchild
An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance
Published by L.A. Theatre Works
Remember these titles will be replaced by a new pairing on 5/12/2016. Download the MP3 files, and then you can listen any time you want!
Thank you to Dreamscape Media and L.A. Theatre Works for generously providing this week’s titles.
Downloading Tips:
Get the OverDrive App to access free SYNC audiobooks. The app is available for every major desktop and mobile platform, including Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, Kindle, NOOK, Windows 8 PC and tablet, Blackberry, and Windows Phone.
© 2016 * AudioFile Publications, Inc. * All Rights Reserved
 
 

GO FLY A KITE!

images-1Imagine you’ve gone back in history and it is the year 1899. You are with the Wright brothers at their bicycle shop, the Wright Cycle Company. They’ve been making, repairing, and selling bicycles at their shop since 1892. As they work, you hear them talk freely about their new passion of flying. Orville and Wilbur have been observing birds in flight and they’ve noticed that birds tilt their wings to one side or the other depending on which direction they want to go. So now the brothers are talking and thinking about some experiments they are going to try. That’s when you notice they’re not working on bicycles; they’re building kites! Yep, kites! You try to follow their conversation about how they are building a kite with wings that can be controlled by strings, just as birds control their own wings in flight. Jump ahead 5 years and all their observing, questioning, building and experimenting with kites resulted in the first piloted glider and then the first powered aircraft!
Each year there is a kite festival in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the Wright brothers experimented with their kite flying. It looks like great family fun and The Wright Brothers National Memorial Park grounds there would be wonderful to visit.
APRIL is KITE FLYING MONTH! Make some kites! Try some of these: http://www.bigwindkites.com/20kids/

Enchanted

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It seems as though every library shelf or bookstore shelf I see in the youth section these days is a retelling of a fairy tale. I LOVE THEM!
Maybe you’ve read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, or The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.
I’ve just gotten A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce and I’m looking forward to reading it. In 2009 it won ALA’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award. If you want to try some of these retellings, I’ve come up with a list for you. If you have some to add, please let us know!

Try these: Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, East by Edith Patou, Breath by Donna Jo Napoli, The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley, Straw Into Gold by Gary Schmidt, and the Sisters Grimm series. Fans of Neil Gaiman may enjoy The Sleeper and the Spindle.

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