Child-Led Solar System Exploration

I’ve been greatly influenced by both Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies in which we are encouraged to “follow the child” and explore using “the hundred languages of children“. This is where this next exploration came from: V’s interest in working on a project and exploring it through different materials.

A few weeks ago V was telling me about a project some of her classmates had been working on at school. She decided that she wanted to work on it at home. She needed: black paper, pencil crayons, and play doh. The project subject: The Solar System.

Child-Led Solar System project,

Her first task was to draw the planets. Referring to a Magic School Bus Space poster that we had, Violet started by drawing the sun, followed by colouring each planet in relation to it’s proximity from the sun all while carefully selecting colours that reflect the planet’s characteristics.

I’m not going to say she was all that careful about her drawing! At times I wanted to say “Slow down!” or “Colour more carefully” but I resisted critiquing and instead quickly became envious of her free flowing approach to drawing. I might have reminded her to make it a sphere or circle here or there… I couldn’t resist!

Child-Led Solar System project,

As we went along we discussed some key characteristics of each planet:

Mercury: Lots of craters, Very hot and no water.

Venus: Clouds of deadly yellow poison called sulfuric acid. Covered with rocks.

Earth: Only planet in our solar system with oxygen and liquid water. Rocky planet.

Mars: The iron in soil makes the planet red. All water is frozen in polar ice caps.

Jupiter: Largest planet and has 16 moons. Made up mostly of gas.

Saturn: Surrounded by rings of ice, rock, and dust. Made up of gas.

Uranus: The gas methane makes the planet look blue-green. Travels around the sun on its side.

Neptune: Cold, dark, and blue. Strong wind.

V went on to sculpt some of the planets as well as the sun and the moon. I went off to do something else and came back to Saturn…

Child-Led Solar System project,

.. and Earth.. V: “The green is the grass and blue is the water.”

Child-Led Solar System project, https://keepingcreativityalive.comI’m not sure she ever completed every planet but she felt satisfied with her solar system exploration.

A few days later, V came home with her school solar system project! Goes to show that just because they’ve done it once doesn’t mean they can’t practice it again.. especially when the interest is there!

Child-Led Solar System project,

A Glimpse into the Future of Education: The Khan Academy

A Glimpse into the Future of Education: The Khan Academy,

While watching the CBC News tonight I saw this feature on Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

We are hearing a lot about how the education system needs to go through some major changes to keep up with technology and the way that children are taking in information. Khan Academy is all about that.

CBC News was so excited about this story that they posted additional footage of their interview with Khan where he explains how this project started as video tutorials for his cousins. On his family’s suggestion he posted these videos to YouTube where he soon found random people thanking him for helping their children learn concepts in math that they were struggling with.

What’s quite fascinating about this story is that the Khan Academy is actually a rather simple idea when you break it down. Sal (as student refer to him) provides a series of online tutorials on various subject matter that is explained in a very easy to understand way.

Khan took this further and created a full application for classroom use where teachers can gather data surrounding each student’s progress including content they are mastering and/or content they are stuck on. This tool empowers teachers to know exactly which kids need assistance and which peers can help struggling students to master the concepts as they have.

As Khan says, he is flipping the classroom model. Students can first study the topic at hand through the videos, then once in the classroom can apply the learning while the teacher is present to guide students and help when needed.

“A free world class education for anyone, anywhere.”

In 2011, Salman Khan talked at TedGlobal: “Let’s use video to reinvent education”.

Khan’s big vision is “a global one world classroom”.

As Bill Gates puts it: “This is a glimpse into the future of education.”

It’s Music Monday!

This is where you can watch the simultaneous space to earth concert for Music Monday.

So excited. What a great way to draw attention and excitement toward something so important: the importance of music in our schools and in our communities.


A Celebration of Music from Earth to Space and Back!

Have you seen this music video?  I didn’t quite understand at first that this was truly a live performance from space even though they show the guitar pick floating from weightlessness!

This video published earlier this year features the first space-to-earth musical collaboration with Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station, singing along with The Barenaked Ladies and the Wexford Gleeks, Canadian Nation Showchoir champions.

The song, “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) was commissioned by and The Coalition for Music Education with the Canadian Space Agency to celebrate music education in schools across Canada.

Seriously, Chris Hadfield is so awesome! A true Canadian hero in my mind. The educational short videos he’s been sharing have been phenomenal in teaching kids, and adults alike, what it’s like to be an astronaut on the International Space Station. According to Wikipedia, “Hadfield was described as “perhaps the most social media savvy astronaut ever to leave the Earth” by Forbes after building a considerable audience on social media, including over 700,000 Twitter followers as of April 2013.

Monday May 6th will be the last live event Hadfield will perform from the International Space Station before he completes his mission and returns to earth. You can watch the live webcast by linking from the homepage starting at 11:55 EDT.

I’m personally so excited for this event because my sister in law will be signing along with students in her class from E.C. Drury School for the Deaf! I’m so excited for her and her students to participate in this once in a lifetime experience.

This is a true collaboration of artists, musicians, scientists, students and teachers celebrating the power of music and importance of music education. I’m inspired just thinking about it.


A Purposeful Online Game Experience – Quandary

With all of the discussion around how much screen time children should or shouldn’t be getting and with it being Screen Free Week, I was intrigued when I came across this online game with the goal of engaging students in practicing decision making with the focus on ethical issues and solving moral dilemmas.

The question Quandary in the Classroom raises for me is: In what ways can technology in the form of games challenge students to practice critical thinking, decision making and collaboration?

“The aim of the game Quandary is to solve moral dilemmas on behalf of and for the good of the colony Braxos and you are the captain of the colony who is in charge of making those decisions.”

Children are given facts and problems then empowered to make decisions.  One little guy in the video says “I come from a big family so I never get to make decisions..” It was cute, yet sad and probably true for a lot of children in all sorts of families big and small.

Another little guy in the video says “The game had a pretty good UI…” !  He knows what a UI is?!  Impressive!  (User Interface for anyone reading and wondering…)

His comment reminds us that children are living in a world much different than the world we grew up in, particularly if you were born before 1990… Which makes me think that technology based games that engage kids and teens to think independently and practice decision making based on ethical principles is nothing short of really awesome.

What’s more is that it’s a free online game! Check it out. What do you think?

This game reminds me of ‘The Adventures of Meep on Earth’ game that my team and I created back in 2000 to help children manage emotions and feelings of anger. As our alien, Meep, experienced new encounters on his journey on earth for the first time, he would model ways to self regulate his emotions.  Children learned the technique of Stop – take a deep breath, Think and Talk – express how you feel. That was back in the days of cd-roms! I bet that UI kid doesn’t know what a cd-rom is!