Creativity Means Planning Ahead

Sand Castle

A few weeks ago our family packed up the car and headed to Maine to celebrate the 4th of July. The weather, though a bit on the warm side, was perfect for the beach. The kids and I strolled to the beach with my sister, my brother, my uncle, and a bunch of friends. We had about a dozen kids in tow. Soon enough everyone was settled in and the kids set out to build sand structures. As I watched the kids playing, it reminded me how important planning ahead can be to creativity and innovation.

Both of my boys were by the water creating moats. Each child had built a circular defense system to protect against the incoming tide. My oldest son was having a blast. As the tide came in, he yelled over to a bunch of the kids and enlisted their help against the rushing water. One of the kids brought a shovel and started expanding the height of the wall, while another kid laid in front of the sand structure to divert the water away. The shouting, laughing, giggling and barking of orders caught the attention of passersby. People began commenting on how much fun the kids were having.

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The Benefits of Integrating Art into the Classroom

ArtDid you know that today is National Arts Advocacy Day? Well, I didn’t either until I read The Link Between Art and Education. Not to worry, if you are not able to join the live event on Capitol Hill, you can participate virtually.

In some ways, celebrating the arts with a nationally recognized day is a step forward. Yet, the fact that art (particularly in elementary and secondary education) requires a special day reflects a step backward.
While some look at art as one more thing to fit into the school day, art teachers know that learning to apply human creativity and imagination can actually help kids become better students and better problem solvers.

In a study of 25,000 middle and high school students, those with an art education performed better on standardized tests. In fact, the more art classes a student took, the higher their SAT scores. Other benefits of an art education include improved reading and language skills, improved mathematics skills, improved thinking skills, improved social skills, and a greater motivation to learn – all leading to positive school enrollment.

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Can Mandarin Save a Failing Georgia School?

This says something.In a recent segment of the CBS Evening News, reporter, Mark Strassman shared how a failing Macon, Georgia school district is mandating Mandarin language lessons in order to stave off a staggering fifty percent failure to graduate rate. Within three years, all 25,000 students in Bibb County will be learning Mandarin. In fact, third graders at Sonny Carter Elementary School have already begun.

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Exploring New York City with Curious Kids

New York City A trip to New York City is a wonderful way to beat the summer doldrums. After asking my 8-year old and 6-year old where they’d like to spend a few days, we landed on New York (sorry kids, maybe next year we’ll visit Dublin or Rome. LOL!). They had both been to New York a few years back and fell in love with the city. This time though, we were going with 3 others. In our group we had 4 children and 3 adults. The question soon became, “What do you want to do?”

After a ton of research and planning, we ended up with a great mix of fun and educational experiences to fill the kids’ curious minds and to ignite their creativity. Here are some of the highlights.

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Gamification and Serious Games

English: A newly unboxed Gold Classic Controll...

A few weeks back  I attended the Useful Social Media conference in New York. It was refreshing to meet people face-to-face, to learn about the new and inventive ways companies are using social media, and to commiserate over the many challenges and roadblocks that still exist when it comes to corporate social media. In many ways social has seen a great evolution, but in other ways social is in its infancy. When it comes to gamification, 2012 shined a spotlight on gaming and game mechanics – the strenghts, the opportunities, and the room for growth.

In a pre-conference workshop, gamification platform provider, Bunchball summarized the game mechanics that motivate and engage. They talked about the importance of progress (levels in games, miles and points, progress bars), status (standings in leaderboards, likes and followers, communities, groups and teams), and rewards (access to exclusives and perks, early boarding/upgrades, recognition). More importantly, the key takeaway was that gamification works best when tied to a business case.

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The Benefits of an Arts Education

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Gessica Silverman,  participated in the  Somerville Open Studios. I’ve known Gess for what seems like ages, although in reality it has only been 6 years. I still fondly recall the day she put her wish out there for the world to hear and told me she wanted to “make art.” The bravery it took to say her wish aloud and the work it took to bring it to life was inspiring. It has been many years since we colluded on ways to make art a reality. Now, Gess is doing what she loves best and sharing her talents with the world.

When we learned of Gess’ art show, my husband and I thought it would make a great family event. We packed the kids in the car and headed for Somerville. At the studio, Gess walked us through her pieces and explained how they were made, what they were made from, the concept behind the pieces, the parts of the art making process that gave her energy, and the parts of the process that proved to be challenging. Gess did a great job breaking the conversation down into kid friendly bits. However, while polite, the kids looked like they had some bottled up energy.

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Is Gaming the Future of Education?

Controlador de Video-Games

I started reading Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken and can’t wait to learn more about how gaming is being used for social good. Though I am only on Chapter 1 (yes, I could use more free time. LOL!), I recognize many of the “gamer” traits in my two boys. At just 8 and 5-years old, both kids enjoy playing video games. In fact, my 5-year old has been waking up extra early every day in order to get time alone with the Wii before his brother wakes up. At first, I was disappointed that my younger son felt pressured to exchange sleep for improving his game play. After all, I’d hate to think the Wii was so competitive and/or addicting that my Kindergartener would go to such great lengths to play. However, after chatting with him about why he woke up early, I was surprised (and happy) to learn my 5-year old’s efforts to get better at the Wii were not necessarily aimed at beating his older brother, but for self-improvement and the joy that comes with unlocking new achievements.

And, in case you think play is easy, it really isn’t. Playing games is hard work. McGonigal describes the video game experience as, “…always playing on the very edge of your skill level, always on the brink of falling off. When you do fall off, you feel the urge to climb back on. That’s because there’s virtually nothing as engaging as this state of working at the very limits of your ability – or what both game designers and psychologies call ‘flow.'”

BTW, “flow” is another way of describing the state of extreme happiness. To learn more, take a look at the field of positive psychology.

A Creative Way to Teach Multiplication

In an earlier post, I mentioned how my oldest son asked to learn multiplication. To encourage his love of math, I bought a multiplication workbook and left it, along with a pencil, in the living room. What I’ve found is when my son comes into this frequently used room, he grabs the pencil and starts working on multiplication. In thinking about other ways to nurture multiplication, we started playing “Multiplcation War.”

What is Multiplication War? Well, it’s like the card game War, but rather than using regular playing cards, we use multiplication flash cards. Here are instructions:

  1. Grab a set of multiplication flash cards, or make your own by writing down the 12 Times Table. To create your own cards write down one multiplication problem per index card. Start with 1×1 and go all the way to 12 x 12. Note, don’t write down the answers on the index cards. Once you’ve written down all the multiplication problems, you should have 144 index cards.
  2. Deal out all the cards. Players do not look at the cards. Keep them face down. The goal of the game is to win all the cards.
  3. Players turn over their top card. Each player computes their multiplication problem. The one with the higher total wins the cards. Keep playing.
  4. If players turned up cards are equal, there is a War. Saying, “W-A-R spells WAR” each player places 5 cards face down onto their original card. Each player turns up their last card. The player with the higher total wins the cards.
  5. The game ends when one player wins all the cards, or after a designated number of rounds. When you end the game depends on how much time you have. If you play until one person wins all the cards, it can take a long time. Hint: playing until one person has all the cards is a great way to pass a rainy day.

We’ve been playing Multiplication War for the past week. What I love about the game is that it helps my oldest son reinforce his knowledge of multiplication. And, though I thought Multiplication War would be too difficult for my Kindergartener, he’s addicted to the game. It turns out, my younger son is able to look at the numbers on the cards and conceptually figure out which multiplication problem results in the highest total. He told me, “9×3 is more than 8×1 because 9 and 3 are bigger than 8 and 1.”

Even though my youngest son isn’t able to guess every multiplication problem correctly, he’s learning the basic skills that will help him get ready to multiply. To help younger children play Multiplication War, you can provide them with a 12 Times Table answer key. See the example below or use this link for a printable version. Additionally, earning a masters of arts in teaching will teach you new and exciting methods to make learning fun for students of all ages.

Multiplication

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A fun, creative, and inexpensive way to encourage multiplication!

What To Do with a Kid Who Loves Math?

math outside

So, asking what to do with a kid who loves math may sound like a silly question. But for a parent (namely me) who naturally gravitates to language arts rather than numbers, having a child who loves math is quite foreign. It’s like having a kid who loves vegetables. Though I’m prone to memorization when it comes to math, my oldest son was born with an ability to understand mathematical concepts and theories. He’ll turn anything into a math assignment. This even includes writing a book report. Talk about creativity. LOL!

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Is the Gamification of Education a Good Thing?

Kids' Computer

Image by macattck via Flickr

When my oldest son was in kindergarten, homework consisted of math worksheets and a reading log. Fast forward two years, and my youngest son is in kindergarten. While both boys were in the same school for kindergarten, things have changed. My youngest son is now assigned e-homework. His teacher assigns modules from EducationCity.com each week. I’ve heard mixed reactions from parents. While I love the idea of completing math, language, and science assignments online, some parents are concerned that kids are playing “games” rather than learning.

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