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!

pxhere.com

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!

Snowflakes!

As I sit here this evening with a winter storm warning in effect for my area of New England, I am once again fascinated by how these tiny snow crystals can impact whole regions of the United States.
Some of you may have read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. That story is about an actual winter storm that raced across the prairie lands of the United States in the winter of 1880-1881. In his book The Children’s Blizzard David Laskin gives an account of the deadly prairie blizzard of 1888 and he also gives an excellent description of the different types of snowflakes there are and what the conditions are that create them. I highly recommend it if you are interested in the science of snow!
The Native American Indians had many ways to predict the weather by observing what was happening in the natural world around them for clues. In the 1880’s the weather news was sent via telegraph across the United States from Army base to Army base. The weather often arrived before the news of its coming. Today we have the National Weather Service and technology to help us predict storms and to warn us of storms.
If you are interested in learning more about snow crystals, go to your library and find the book  Snowflake Bentley. You may also want to visit snowcrystals.com.

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

                                Dust of Snow by Robert Frost

Loving Teen Read Week!

“Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually in October the same week as Columbus Day. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.” http://teenreadweek.ning.com/

It’s Teen Read Week! October 8-14, 2017! Support your local library!

I love this! If you have read any of these books vote for up to three that are your favorites. You have until the 15th of October to vote.

http://www.clipartkid.com/teen-school-cliparts/
http://www.clipartkid.com/teen-school-cliparts/

If you are in the 8th grade with Oak Meadow, you have the opportunity to choose a place to volunteer in your community as a community service project assignment. There are a variety of ways to provide service in a community.
My students have done projects as simple as picking up trash in their neighborhood, walking their neighbor’s dog, or playing cards once a week with a grandparent. Others have reached a bit further into the community by volunteering at a local Red Cross, community kitchen, or recreation center.
If you are wanting to do some community service and are undecided as to what to do, I encourage you to find the nearest public library during Teen Read Week and ask if you can volunteer. If the library doesn’t have positions for students your age, substitute your volunteering assignment with joining the teen club at your library. Most public libraries in the United States have teen clubs. Read for the fun of it!
 

Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is celebrated each autumn in the United States. This year Banned Books Week is September 24-30. There are many events happening during the week at your local library or bookstore. Check it out!
The American Library Association is the main sponsor of the event because it is an event that proclaims intellectual freedom and the right of all to have free and open access to information. It is a time to consider censorship and how it impacts our communities and society.

Banned Book Week promotes our freedom to choose, and the importance of the availability of books on all topics and about all viewpoints for those that want to read them.  ALA: Banned Books
Check out the list. I’ll bet you’ve read some of these books such as The Hunger Games, And Tango Makes Three, or The Golden Compass.

Banned Books Virtual Read-Out!
Readers from across the country and around the world will participate in a “Stand for the Banned Read-Out” during Banned Books Week 2017. 
Visit our “Stand for the Banned Read-Out” playlists to view videos from past participants which include videos from Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher  Stephen Chbosky and Dav Pilkey, as well as actors Jeff Bridges and Whoopi Goldberg!

Do you think that any book should be banned? Have you read a book that is on the list?
 

The Plagiarism Sea!

This blog post is brought to you by Oak Meadow teacher, Michelle Menegaz.

Hello Middle Schoolers!
This is a very important alert about the shark-infested waters of the Plagiarism Sea into which many middle school students dive at one time or another. It always starts out as a search for treasure…the quick path to a wonderfully phrased and well-edited essay or report, but quite soon, the unsuspecting student becomes tangled in strands of broken copyright seaweed and the sharks begin to circle!

As an Oak Meadow teacher, I often notice that some of a student’s writing is almost word for word the same as parts of material in the sources used. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons for including citations for all sources. If no sources are cited, I can not be sure the work is original.) It’s really important that you always write in your own words and not copy sentences or paragraphs from other sources. Copying from other sources is considered cheating and is taken very seriously at Oak Meadow. The first time it happens teachers give a warning, and if it happens again, it will more seriously affect grades.

Please take time to read more in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook, in the section called “Original Work Guidelines.” This can go a long way towards ensuring that you avoid the weeds and sharks on the way to the true treasure…an original, well-crafted piece of writing or research. I can also recommend the Purdue OWL website. It has some very good content that you could use.

Plagiarism is a very tricky thing to define at times, since excessive paraphrasing can also be considered copying of a sort. There are many reasons why students plagiarize their work, and there is definitely a learning curve about plagiarism in all its forms, especially with use of the internet. Using three reliable sources at all times and taking very brief notes from these sources can be enormously helpful. Another possible path to try would be to do the work in your own handwriting, in your own words of course, so there are not cut and paste errors. It is extremely time consuming for an Oak meadow teacher to verify plagiarized work. Once the first warning is given, any further work that is plagiarized will need to receive a failing grade. Let’s avoid this!

In summary, here is what to do:

  • Review the “Original Work Guidelines” in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook.
  • Pay special attention to the bibliography piece called “Citing Your Sources.”
  • Discuss with your parents how to use your own words.

Ready for Learning

Welcoming a new school year is exciting! Here in New England I think I can actually feel the excitement in the cooling air of autumn. Getting ready for a new school year can mean finding the best spot for studying, getting your supplies in order, and setting up your desk space. Setting up your own “work space” allows for you to separate work from play. Look for a quiet, comfortable space with few distractions, and good lighting. Looking ahead in the curriculum to see what supplies you may need is a great way to set yourself up for successful learning. Get out your favorite pencils, pens, crayons, and notebooks!
For those of you in the middle grades (ages 11-14), if you don’t yet have your very own dictionary and thesaurus, now is the time to find them! Both will become your best friends as you go through the year. Printed book versions are great to just have next to you as you read and write. With a book at hand you won’t be distracted by your device (computer, kindle, phone, ipad) and you can mark up the pages any way that you like! You can often find used ones at second hand book stores. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years, look for Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent additions.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus.
Also really useful is a good atlas for discovering new places in the world and helping you illustrate maps. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!
Have a wonderful beginning!

THE AUGUST ECLIPSE!!

Hello! Here in New England we have had a good summer and it isn’t over yet! There are still weeks to go in August of lazy summer days and cool nights. Here at Oak Meadow one event we are all looking forward to is the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017. The following is a quick blast of great information from DeeDee Hughes, our Oak Meadow colleague:
Hi Folks,
We are all a little eclipse-crazy here in Corvallis, Oregon since we are in the “zone of totality” for viewing the total solar eclipse on August 21. I did some research and found this cool interactive map that shows the path of eclipses for years to come. I found a page where you can type in a city name and see what the eclipse will look like from there–I couldn’t resist checking out where friends and family members live. It’s fun to compare different places:  
Brattleboro VT
Santa Cruz CA
Corvallis OR
Seems like everyone in the country will be seeing something cool. Oh, and this article has good info about the solar eclipse glasses and how to tell if you have safe ones. 
I was wondering why the upcoming eclipse is being called “Eclipse of the Century” when they happen all the time, so I dug deeper. A total solar eclipse is different than an annular eclipse, but both have the moon lined up exactly in between Earth and the sun. In an annular eclipse, the moon moves fully in front of the sun but because the moon is further from the Earth at that time, there will be a “ring of fire” seen around the moon, rather than having the moon block the sun entirely the way it does in a total solar eclipse. The difference between an annular and a total solar eclipse is the distance between the moon and Earth. Here’s an article with a cool “ring of fire” photo. 
That’s my two cents on cool eclipse fun! DD
I’ll also add that EARTHSKY has a very good “Eclipse Day” checklist for getting ready for viewing. Be prepared, have fun, and enjoy the “Eclipse of the Century” with family and friends!
 

Finding Nature in the City

If you live in an urban area where nature is elusive, don’t assume that there’s no nature to be found! Go for a walk with your eyes wide open and see how many signs of nature you can “collect” along the way. Take photos or make sketches so that you will have a record and can try to identify plants, insects, and anything else once you are home.

(four kids on scooters in city)
Photo Credit: Julie Tower-Pierce
(Oak Meadow)

First off, cultivate a healthy relationship with the sun. If there are few trees to offer a shade canopy, a hat is a good idea. If you are surrounded by pavement and cement, the sun’s rays can reflect uncomfortably up as you walk. If you start feeling uncomfortable in the glare or the heat, stop in shady spots along the way. If there is no shade, use an umbrella to carry some shade around with you.
Can you find bits of moss or stray plants growing in a sidewalk crack? Look up at the sides of buildings and out along fences, retaining walls, train tracks, etc.. What types of plants seem to like to grow in different places?
Did you know that weeds can have flowers, pods, or seeds? Review the life cycle of a plant and see if you can find plants at various stages of the life cycle.
(small girl holding up two green leaves)
Photo Credit: Van Kleeck Family
(Oak Meadow)

Look up! The sky and the clouds are part of nature. There are often birds in urban areas. What might attract birds to your city? Where do you think they nest? Can you spot any nests?
When it rains, what happens to the water? Go outside and trace its path from the roof to the storm drain. Where does it go from there?
Is there a river in your city? Are there any signs of nature in or around the river? Some urban rivers are polluted, but some have been cleaned up by thoughtful, committed citizens. How healthy is your city’s river, if you have one?
One of the most impressive things about finding nature in urban settings is the number of plants that seem to be growing against all odds. What is the most unlikely place that you’ve found a plant surviving or even thriving?
(adult handing monarch butterfly to child)
Photo Credit: Cindy Wallach
(Oak Meadow)

See if you discover any rooftop or community gardens. What do you see growing there? Many city dwellers use containers to plant vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even tall trees. What can you find growing in containers in your city?
Is there a park, picnic area, or playground nearby with natural features? Can you tell which plants were placed there by humans and which ones moved in on their own? What are the clues that inform your answer?
How far would you need to travel to visit a nature preserve, public garden, or national park? What would you find there that you can or cannot find at home?
(child doing bark rubbing on tree with beeswax crayon)
Photo Credit: Lynn Nash
(Oak Meadow)

In what ways do humans intentionally help to encourage nature to grow and thrive in urban areas? And how do we unintentionally support certain kinds of plants or animals? What things could you and your family do to invite nature into your home life?
While walking, did you encounter any plants or animals that you had never seen before? Look them up and get to know them! They are your neighbors, too. Next time you go outside and see them, you can identify them by name.
Find out whether there are any groups or initiatives promoting nature in your city. You might be able to meet some people who are also interested in exploring nature in an urban setting.
Nature exists all around us, sometimes against the odds or in surprising places. Even if you have no backyard and your neighborhood is more gray than green, chances are good that you can find a bit of nature to enjoy. Try it and let us know what you find!

10 Reminders for the End of the Homeschool Year

  1. Take it slow. Resist the urge to speed things up, even if others around you seem to be doubletiming things trying get to summer faster. Even homeschoolers can get a little end-of-the-school-year-itis. Build in some cool, fun activities to balance things out and allow the summer season to unfold when it is ready.
  2. Photo Credit: Ledahl Family
    (Oak Meadow)

    Be flexible. If your homeschooling workload is holding up the start of summer fun for your family, maybe it’s time to revisit your plan and adjust things a bit so that summer doesn’t have to wait until everything is done. You might stretch lessons out over more days to make more time for play, or see if any nonessentials can be cut. The flexibility of home learning can’t be beat!
  3. Reflect on what went well this past year and what you’d like to do differently going forward. How did each person in your family grow this year? What sorts of things were accomplished? What is each person most proud of? What felt like it could have gone better? Take notes so you can remember and incorporate that feedback when planning for next year.
  4. Tidy up your homeschool supplies. Leave them neat and organized so you won’t have to go looking for them in the fall. Retire any supplies that have reached the end of their useful life, and make a list of what needs to be replenished. But don’t pack everything away completely — you never know when your child might suddenly have a creative need for something in that stash!
    Photo Credit: Bessent Family
    (Oak Meadow)
  5. Stay on top of requirements. If your state or district requires an end-of-year assessment, test, or portfolio, plan ahead so you will meet the deadline. Don’t leave it to the last minute. If things are jumbled and hard to sort through, now is a great time to make a plan for staying organized next year.
  6. Consider making a portfolio with a few representative pieces and/or photos of each student’s work even if your state or district doesn’t require it. Store portfolios together in a waterproof container so you can enjoy looking back on them in future years.
  7. Dream big! What would you and your family most like to explore together in the coming years? Brainstorm all of the things that come to mind. You may not be able to do all of them, but it’s fun to think about possibilities.
  8. Do you still need to submit next year’s enrollment forms to your state, district, charter, or distance learning school? Do you know the deadlines and requirements? Do it now, or at least get forms and information in order so you won’t have to hunt for it when the time comes.
    Photo Credit: Kara Maynard
    (Oak Meadow)
  9. Write your future self a letter. When autumn comes, you might find that your school-year memories have been overwritten with thoughts of summer fun. Have everyone person in the family write or dictate a friendly letter to themselves to open at the start of the next school year. Say something in your letter about what you want most to remember about the past year, along with your dreams for the coming year. You might forget the details over the summer, but those letters will remind you!
  10. Celebrate! A year of homeschooling is a milestone worth celebrating. Here are 10 Ideas for Making the End of the Year Special and some more ideas from Oak Meadow teachers about Celebrating the School Year.

 

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