29 March, 2010

Our (Trashy) Town

Last weekend my family participated in a beach clean-up. Basically, we collected garbage on the shores of Biscayne Bay for three hours. When we were all finished a naturalist picked through our trash and explained to us the perils of cast-off items to sea-life. She also encouraged us to re-purpose items before we tossed them into the trash. 
Well,this got me thinking. As much as we try to be "green" by bringing our own shopping bags to the store, packing school lunches into reusable containers, and using stainless steel water bottles our family of 5 still accumulates a fair amount of household trash. First, what could we make with all of this stuff? And more importantly, how can I keep my 3 kiddos busy during their week of spring break?
We decided to create a mountain-side town using only the items that we had lying around the house and packaging material that we would otherwise recycle or throw into the trash bin. (The only thing that I ended up purchasing was another roll of duct tape (what can't duct tape do?) and some poster paints. So, the sum total of this project ended up $4. See photos below:
The beginning stages...boxes and more boxes.
Mountainside town complete with lake, park, jogging trails, a cathedral, market, city hall, homes, art museum, a ferry, and a funicular to take the town's residents up to the hiking trails.
Park complete with pond, swings, slide, and swimming pool.

24 March, 2010

"Cat"chy Tune

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes is a new release and a great addition to your preschooler's bookshelf. Author/Musician Eric Litwin and Artist James Dean collaborated on this vibrant picture book. The story is actually a song (My family was really lucky to hear Author Eric play his guitar and read the book aloud this past weekend) and I have not gotten this tune out of my head since. As Pete the Cat walks along, many colorful things happen to his clean, white shoes. This book is beautifully illustrated and imparts a good lesson about how to handle those unexpected pot-holes we encounter throughout a day.

17 March, 2010



Children learn about the world by investigating it...
Maybe we adults should try that too.

15 March, 2010

Cheers for Spheres!

Geometry is a fun and practical branch of mathematics that can be taught early on. Plane (flat, or two-dimensional) shapes are easily identified, but explaining the concept of three-dimensional shapes to young children, however; can be a challenge. In order to do it, you must first present the concept of volume. 

Generally speaking, volume is "the amount of 'space' a solid object occupies (Wolfram Mathworld.com, 2010). An easy way to say this is that dimensional shapes have volume, or space inside of them. A sphere is a good place to start.

A sphere is a round shape with space in the middle. More specifically, it is a shape in which all points are the same distance (radius) from the center point (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2010). Click here for a more detailed mathematical explanation of a sphere. A fun way to learn about shapes is to make them.  
So, Try this:

  • 1 balloon
  • 5-10 sheets of construction paper (or newspaper), cut into 2 inch strips
  • Glue- I used Mod Podge as it works better for this project than tacky glue
  • Scissors
  1. Blow up the balloon and tie it off. Try to make it as round as possible.
  2. Using a sponge, cover the balloon in glue. Warning: This is a sloppy, gloppy project!
  3. Adhere the strips of paper to the balloon. Cover the entire surface of the balloon, except for a 5 cm. hole at the bottom where the tie is.
  4. Using, the sponge again, cover the entire surface of the balloon in glue. Try to pat down any strips of paper.
  5. Let it dry overnight. (Put it in an egg container or a basket so that it won't stick to something while it is drying)
  6. Using a scissor, pop the balloon. The balloon will be stuck to the strips of paper, so you will have to peel it off the inside. (This is what the little hole in the bottom is for)
  7. Now you have a sphere with a peek hole.
  8. So, peek inside. See all of that space inside of the round shape? That is volume, and the shape itself? That is a sphere!
Sphere project idea thanks to:  http://unplugyourkids.com/

12 March, 2010

Outlandish Adventures

I am a huge Dorothy Sayers (The Lost Tools of Learning) fan as well as a proponent of classical education. Especially during the grammar stage, in which language acquisition is front and center in a child's education and in which "the mind must be first supplied with facts and image" (Wise-Bauer, What is Classical Education?), reading good-quality literature to children plays an integral role. Therefore, I am always looking for a really great child-adaption of classic literature in order to introduce some of the "classics" to the little ones.  
 Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell, is one of the best adaptations I have come across. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is a Western classic and its protagonist's fantastic voyages can be very appealing to children. Even more so, this retelling of the novel includes colorful page by page illustrations which bring the story to life for youngsters (and mom or dad). This book is picture-perfect for a bedtime story! 
Now, here's the fun part.You can extend the outlandish adventures of this book by asking your child to illustrate his/her own voyage to an unusual land. Use prompts such as:
  1. What would the land be called? 
  2. How would this land differ from the world we live in? 
  3. What unique customs would the people of this land have? 
  4. How would you adapt to this land? 
Encourage your child's imagination to run away to a far-away place!

08 March, 2010


The Red Bull Art of Can Exhibition 2010 was on South Beach this weekend. The family was curious to see what kind of art could be made from aluminum cans, so we checked it out. Here are some of the creations that really had some pop. (Pun intended)


05 March, 2010

Seeing Doubles

In honor of World Math Day, which was celebrated this week on Wednesday, this week's literacy activity highlights a wonderful children's book that integrates mathematics into its storyline. Demi's One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale is based upon an Indian folktale and is chock-full of mesmerizing illustrations. What I really like about this book is that the protagonist is a girl, and it helps to engage those females in mathematics!
In the story, Rani doubles one grain of rice, doubled each day for thirty days. You can try it too!
  1. Read the book to your child.
  2. On a clean surface such as a table, begin by placing one grain of rice in front of your child.
  3. Double the grain of rice, by adding 1 more. (1+1=2)
  4. Double the 2 grains of rice, by adding 2 more. (2+2=4)
  5. Double the 4 grains of rice, by adding 4 more. (4+4=8)
  6. If you are doing this activity with an older child (7-10), you can integrate the concept of multiplication by doubling the 8 grains of rice by multiplying 8x2=16. You can also keep doubling by adding the same number such as 8+8-16, 16+16=32, 32+32=64, etc. 
  7. Keep going as long as you want to, but when you stop remind your child that even though you have stopped doubling, the numbers keep going on and on! Mathematically speaking this is referred to as infinity

01 March, 2010


Yesterday, my family spent the day at our local wine and food festival. We sampled all kinds of food (bean sprouts, anyone?), and sat in the audience while television chefs taught us how to prepare nutritious and delicious meals...One chef named Rocco even made brownies out of black beans! 
The event we attended was a family event, so there were many demonstrations and exhibits that taught children (and their parents) the importance of good nutrition. One of my favorites was a woman dressed up like a cow who taught my kids about the merits of calcium and dairy products. 
It was fun to spend an entire day celebrating the growing, cooking and eating of food. My kids even planted their very own window sill herb garden. According to the International Slow Food Movement, in order for a person to establish a healthy relationship with food, one must first, "rediscover the joys of eating and understand the importance of caring where their food comes from, who makes it and how it’s made."  

Contrary to the adverts, it is not an item in a greasy bag that I grab from a window, my foot on the gas pedal.