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Education ’ Category
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Chances are if you’ve been keeping up with the news about the tornado damage following yesterday’s twister that caused widespread devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, your kids are probably asking questions about tornadoes. It’s a great time to seize upon the teachable moment for a science lesson about tornadoes and to talk about ways your family might be able to help those affected.
What is a tornado? The definition of what a tornado is should depend on the age of your child. According to Weather WizKids, a tornado is a “violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.” Younger children need simple explanations with concrete examples so illustrate this by rotating a household funnel. National Geographic Kids has an easy to understand video for kids called Forces of Nature: Tornadoes 101. Older children will want more in-depth information and may have questions about tornado-related vocabulary that can be answered through the glossary of tornado terms on EnchantedLearning.com.
Are there different types of tornadoes? Yes, there various kinds and shapes of tornadoes. Tornadoes can also appear to be different colors! The different or kinds of tornadoes and their cousins are described on The Weather Channel Kids! and pictures of some types of tornadoes can be found on ThinkQuest.org.
How does it form? Tornadoes form in complex weather conditions, usually when two large air masses of varying temperatures collide. RiaNovosti has a great graphic showing tornado formation but younger ages will probably understand the animation of formation and destruction of a tornado on ThinkQuest.org.
What’s more dangerous? A hurricane or a tornado? According to Scholastic.com, hurricanes take days to develop whereas tornadoes tend to develop quickly but it’s hard to determine which is more dangerous.
Will a tornado hit where we live? It depends. According to National Earth Science Teachers Association’s Windows to the Universe site, 75% of tornadoes happen in the United States. Most of these occur in the Great Plains, a place that weather watchers call “Tornado Alley.” Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana comprise Tornado Alley and while tornadoes are common in these states, it does not mean that they can’t occur in other states.
Are we safe? It’s always a good idea to make sure everyone in your family knows your emergency plan for any disaster that could strike. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov page on tornadoes has information about how to prepare before a tornado, what to do if your area is under a tornado warning, and what to do after. Ready.gov’s Family Emergency Plan is a free, printable PDF that can be filled out so family member’s names, healthcare information, etc. is in one place and easiy accessible.
How can we help? Not only is a great time to teach your kids about tornadoes and review your family emergency plan, but it’s an excellent time to reinforce charitable acts by figuring out how you can help. Type A Parents’ How to Help the Oklahoma Tornado Victims by Kelby Carr shares ways families can offer assistance. Talk as a family and choose a method that works well for you or come up with a strategy to raise money for those affected.
Tornado about to make damage via Shutterstock
Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
With the online world changing at such a rapid pace, one of the challenges that parents face is keeping up with the digital age that their kids are growing up in. Amy Lupold Bair is former English teacher turned blogger and social media marketer as well as a mother of two elementary aged children whose familiarity of the online space and experience in raising her own digital kids led her to write Raising Digital Families.
In the book, Bair writes,“The technology that your children and their friends use daily may be unfamiliar to you. Even if you dive right into technology as quickly as your children do, you may not be aware of how your children experience the same platforms and devices. You also may not be familiar with the challenges and dangers associated with these technologies— dangers that are often unique to them.”
Available online or found in the technology section of your local bookstore, Raising Digital Families is a handy reference guide for parents who are weighing the pros and cons of bringing various devices into their homes, allowing kids to play online games, allowing the use of social media as their teen turns 13, and how to ensure they remain safe. Raising Digital Families is a must-have parenting book for families with kids of all ages especially due to development of more educational apps and games for toddlers.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Bair and our conversation covered how to being conversations with kids about digital topics, the way she manages screen time in her home, personal concerns about her kids being online, and what’s next for her.
Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): Sometimes parents shy away from talking about difficult topics and things they feel they don’t know much about. Your book is a great resource and starting point for parents to educate themselves but in your opinion, what’s the best way to start discussions about topics like screen time, cyberbullying, and online safety?
Amy Lupold Bair (ALB): I think that if parents start by asking their kids to share what they know about each of the digital topics covered in the book, they’ll be surprised at how willing most kids are to take the lead in getting the entire family on the same page. Topics like cyberbullying and online safety are the native language of the current generation of kids, all of them digital natives. They’ve heard about them in school and in the media. It is only fitting that they should also discuss these topics at home and be provided with parameters and support by their parents.
TSP: You’re raising digital kids. How do you balance screen time and other activities in your own house?
ALB: We set strict screen time limits from birth, so my kids have fortunately grown up expecting rules use of digital devices. There are some devices that are only able to be used on the weekend, which helps carve out time during the week for after school activities, homework, and outside play. For example, we have a policy in our home called Wii Wiikends, so the kids know that they can only play Wii games from Friday night through Sunday. We also try to suggest and encourage specific physical and outdoor activities at the same time that we ask for devices to be turned off and put away. Sometimes replacing one activity with another is easier than just asking kids to stop what they are doing.
TSP: As a parent, what is your biggest concern about your kids being online?
ALB: I know that many parents are concerned about issues such as cyberbullying, online predators, and identity theft, but my biggest concern online is loss of innocence. We’ve worked hard to protect our children from inappropriate content in television and movies, but the Internet provides kids with access to thousands of unsavory sites with just one misplaced click. Thankfully there are enough safe search tools and rules within our family to protect our kids from everything from unfortunate Google Image search results to inappropriate suggested video links at the end of YouTube content.
TSP: In your opinion, what are the top three things that all parents should know about raising digital families?
This is a tough one!
- I think parents should know that anything sent digitally, whether through text or posted online, can NOT be taken back. Apps like Snapchat promise a share and delete, but it only takes a moment for someone to capture a screenshot of the image on their phone’s screen.
- I think parents should also know that their children are likely being exposed to more technology than they realize. There’s a section in Raising Digital Families For Dummies that talks about hidden screen time including computer use in the classroom, handing your child your phone in the doctor’s waiting room, playing video games at a friend’s house and more. When parents sit down to create rules and set parameters, they need to look honestly at their children’s typical day.
- Finally, I think parents need to know that even if they feel like they can’t stay on top of everything, they should still dive in and start somewhere. They may be surprised at how manageable a digital family can be!
TSP: You’re an English teacher turned, blogger and social media marketer, and now a published author. What’s next for you?
ALB: Right now the focus in on spreading the word to parents of digital natives that tools are available to them, including those listed in Raising Digital Families For Dummies. The next project is heading up the latest revision of Blogging For Dummies later this year!
Teenager and woman listening to music with smartphone via Shutterstock
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
As parents, there are topics that we need to address with our kids that are scary—scary for us to think about, scary to have conversations about, and scary for them as it means potential loss of innocence and childhood. Usually involving personal safety, discussions about these topics begin with our young children as we teach them to look both ways when crossing the street and about stranger safety then progressing to more age appropriate topics involving friendships, online safety, and cyberbullying.
But what about underage drinking? It’s certainly another safety topic that needs to address but if you think that your kids are too young, think again.
According to The Century Council, statistics show that nearly 10 million youths ranging in age from 12-20 report they have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Charged with providing information and developing programs that delay consumption of alcohol, prevent underage drinking, and reduce the access to alcohol by minors, The Century Council believes in parents being proactive by starting “the conversation at an early age and continue talking as they grow up.”
How do you be proactive and provide the tools your kids need to make good decisions? Parents weigh in.
Talk about it in an age appropriate way by framing the conversation about a healthy lifestyle.
Being proactive begins at a young age as we talk to kids about living a healthy lifestyle. Even though Grace Duffy from Formerly Gracie admits that her kids are so little that the “topic of underage drinking is still abstract” she frames it in a way that they understand. Not only does she limit their juice intake but has talks about what a grown up drink is versus a kid drink and incorporates nutrition and body chemistry.
Seize teachable moments
We know kids are observant and even when they appear to not be paying attention, they are. The Century Council’s Ask, Listen, Learn Brochure for Parents encourages taking advantage of daily opportunities. Perhaps there will be an article in the newspaper or a comment made about a friend that can serve as a springboard to conversation. Abby Hoffman is a mom of a third grader and high schooler and shared the following advice, “Most importantly, talk with your teen. Be involved in their life to a certain extent.”
Demonstrate your support
Talk the talk and then walk the walk. As parents, our kids need to know they can rely on us without getting in trouble or being judged harshly, especially when it comes to dangerous situations. Forbes contributor, Jim Henry, recalled a time when he was stranded after a rock concert in a bad part of Boston after midnight. He had to call his father to make a two hour round trip to bring him home but remembered his dad “never said one word of complaint and I was so grateful.” Author and blogger, Jennifer Wagner of Connect with Your Teens, echoed Henry by saying “the worst thing is for them to be scared to call when they are in a dangerous situation.”
Mom of 4 and Musings from Me founder, Jill Berry, encourages her kids to call her whenever they’re in a situation where alcohol is being served to minors because she “doesn’t want them at a gathering at someone’s home where alcohol is being served” even if the host parents are “supervising.”
But how do you give your child an out what could be a very uncomfortable situation? Father of three, Gabe Gonzales, remembered attending a talk by the Washington, D.C. based Parent Encouragement Program where he learned the importance of having a pre-arranged code word or phrase to use when they’re in an environment they don’t like. Gonzales described the benefit saying, “they can call you in front of their friends without losing face in front of them. So, for example, they could say to you- the parent- over the phone “I’ll finish that laundry tomorrow,” which would lead you to “demanding” that they come home right now” and provides a way for them to be picked up without embarrassment.
If necessary, provide concrete examples.
While shock and awe tactics may not be the best way to start a conversation about underage drinking, showing real life consequences to teens who may be tempted to imbibe are certainly memorable. Three parents reminisced about experiences that exposed them to horrors of underage drinking that they remember to this day:
“Every child should have a mother like mine. One that will take you to the morgue and show you what happens when you drink and drive and how it applies to real life.” ~ Lisa Frame, A Daily Pinch
“In high school we had helicopter pilots come in to talk to use prior to Prom Week and every accident they showed us was underage drinking by high school students. Some of the parents complained that the images were too graphic but they certainly had their place in getting the message across.” ~Rebecca Cervoni, Washington, D.C. parent of 2
“When I covered courts in Nashville, Tennessee, a surprising number of parents took their teenagers to Night Court on Friday nights to see what happens when you get arrested for DUI.” ~ Jim Henry, New York City based freelance writer
Teenagers enjoying drinks together via Shutterstock
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
While we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, there’s never a bad time to start teaching kids about the environment. Young conservations can learn to care for the planet through interactive apps, educational programming on television and DVDs, and age appropriate websites. This guide featuring age appropriate suggestions for toddlers through teens is designed to provide engaging activities for everyon as they learn more about taking care of our planet.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Curious George Swings into Spring— From spring fever to spring cleaning, from a canoe ride to a hot air balloon journey, George and his friends get viewers ready to explore the outdoors this Earth Day in a one hour special airing on PBS stations on Monday, April 22. Curious George lovers who want to learn on the go will be interested in knowing that a new online game focusing on natural science concepts such as plant growth and butterfly metamorphosis will launch later this month.
- The Lorax— This interactive storybook app for iOS devices aims to create confident young readers thanks to three different ways that kids can interact with the well known Dr. Seuss classic. Children can choose to have the app auto play the story of The Lorax, have it read to them, or read it themselves as they work to build their reading skills. Words can be highlighted as they are read to help build sight word recognition in young children and kids can interact with the text and pictures with a tap.
- Sid the Science Kid— Through games, video, and printables, toddlers and preschoolers are exposed to a single scientific concept in a fun way. One of the themes is backyard science that encourages curious children to explore the homes of animals such as ants, birds, and squirrels that live outside their door since they serve as the building blocks for entomology, geology, and botany. PBS aligns available web content in order to allow them to learn more in parallel with available television programming.
Early Elementary Ages
- He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands —This DVD begins with a rendition of the American spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” and features a guide for parents and kids with tips on how to be green. Positive messages about diversity and beauty of the world are conveyed through stories like Jane Yolen’s “Owl Moon” that is about a magical, night-time walk through the snowy woods in search of the Great Horned Owl, “Come On, Rain!” an ode to a good, soaking, and the appreciative Thanksgiving address, “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message.” With environmental issues top of mind, this DVD is perfect for a new generation of eco-conscious kids ages 5 and up.
- Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures: Lions — This story app lets young ones Explore, Create, and Play their way through incredible animal adventures as kids join Ricky Raccoon and his friend, Lars the Lion, on a trip to the African grasslands. Kids discover how lions spend their days, raise their young, and much more through interactive photo stories, engaging games and creative play activities centered around a specific animal.
- Wild Kratts— Brothers Chris and Martin Kratt combine science education with adventure as they teach kids about amazing wild animals through their adventures that feature live action and animation. Early elementary ages are exposed to scientific concepts that are relevant to the animals explored in the 30 minute episode.
- Ranger Rick’s Treehouse — This virtual tree house is packed with clickable animal stories, comic adventures, multi-level games, videos, nature activities and wildlife mysteries around every corner. Children have the incentive to learn by earning badges when the show what they’ve learned!
- National Wildlife Foundation Activity Finder— If you’re tired of hearing the words “I’m bored” from your tween, put them in charge of their learning by having them research nearby activities that will be fun for the family. From geocaching, hikes, and so much more, the Activity Finder suggests a plethora of activities that help families connect with nature.
- DisneyNature Chimpanzee— Families will enjoy sitting down to meet Oscar, a three year old chimpanzee who is orphaned and raised by another chimp through a visually stunning nature documentary filmed in Africa. Children get an inside look at the life of chimpanzees, relationship between those within the community, and their struggle for survival.
Boy embracing globe of world via Shutterstock
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Can you imagine life without a computer or an internet connection? In an age where cell phones, tablets, and eReaders are common in houses across the country and kids go home to conduct research for homework online using personal computers, it’s hard to imagine that there are households that don’t have home computers with access to the internet but they exist. The inequality of access to digital technology is often referred to as the “digital divide” but Estella Pyfrom travels Florida’s Gold Coast in her Brilliant Bus, bringing technology to those in need.
Pyfrom is a 76 year old retired educator who, after an illustrious career teaching and serving as a counselor, invested her pension in a bus outfitted with 17 computer workstations. She and her team of volunteers visit underserved neighborhoods that don’t have access to technology in the Palm Beach County area, making stops at day care centers, community events, and community centers in places such as The Glades and Vero Beach.
“When we go into a neighborhood, we listen and try to structure our activities based on the needs,” Pyfrom stated during a recent phone interview.
Families with children as young as 3 years old get access to pre-kindergarten curriculum that helps prepare kids for school by teaching reading readiness skills and includes diagnostics. High school students have the opportunity to use online curriculum to prepare for Florida’s state standardized tests, college standardized tests, and the GED. All curriculum taught on the Brilliant Bus is correlated to national Common Core standards, Florida state standards, and district standards.
Pyfrom believes that aligning the curriculum on the Brilliant Bus with what is taught in schools helps further a child’s learning. “When we’re in communication with kids, they understand. When we’re talking to teachers, we’re talking the same language.”
In order to know what each child and family within the community needs, Pyfrom says she asks. “As we’re talking to kids and adults, we find out on the very first visit how many have internet and don’t.”
In addition to providing online curriculum to meet the needs of the populations that the Brilliant Bus serves, Pyfrom also ensures that she spreads the word about Comcast Internet Essentials, a program that provides qualifying applicants with access to the internet and a laptop for $9.95/month. According to Pyfrom, this helps “bridge the gap between those who have computers and those who don’t.” It also provides families with “constant access to the online curriculum 24/7.”
Since Estella’s Brilliant Bus began serving communities in 2011, she estimates that she has spent $900,000. Funds for a majority of the bus’ expenses have come from Pyfrom’s personal retirement and community partners such as Boca Raton based Office Depot who provided $20,000 worth of computers, tablets, digital cameras, webcams, Microsoft Office software, office supplies, and financial support. However, when this school year ends, Pyfrom is concerned about additional support for new computers to replace outdated ones and office supplies.
More information about Estella’s Brilliant Bus can be found through her website and donations for her nonprofit can be accepted through Office Depot’s REAL Change by selecting Estella via Pahokee Middle-Senior High.
Image courtesy of EstellasBrilliantBus.org