Friday, January 29, 2010

Sciency things

I've been collecting links for a post on science resources that I haven't had time to write. But we've been stumbling on some great websites lately. Here are a few to get you started. What are your favorite science sites for kids?

General Science

Watch They Might Be Giants science videos. We like "Meet the Elements" the best.


The Scale of the Universe. Use the slider to compare the sizes of things from quantum foam to the universe itself. (Courtesy of Green-eyed Siren)


A spectacular Rube Goldberg device with everyday objects. (via Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas)

A stylish simple machines game from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Into the Abyss

I got a call back from the headmistress of one of the school’s I’d contacted. It would take a miracle for this school to work out, but if I could design my own school, it would be pretty close to this one.

The school is K-8, with one class per grade, each of which Is 16-18 kids. They have Spanish twice a week starting in kindergarten and then every day in middle school. They have music twice a week and one long art class per week. This is all fairly standard for private schools.

The school sits on 50 acres of forested land, with ponds and streams and they take full advantage of it. Kids spend hours a day outdoors, not just for gym and recess but for classes. The school emphasizes environmental studies and science classes often take them to explore the land around the school. The various subjects are integrated into general units. When they are studying the Civil War in history, they will be reading novels about the Civil War in English. There is also a character-building curriculum. While that name gives me pause and suggests several big brother-like ideas. But what it means is that they talk about philosophy and ethics and ask a lot of why questions. In that Civil War unit, for example, they also talk about whether there is ever a good reason to have a war, why wars happen, what are some alternatives.

Although this school is not for gifted children per se, the headmistress spent most of her career as a gifted teacher, first as a homeschooler of her own large family, then as a professional. We talked about the pros and cons of homeschooling for a while as well. A number of her articles appear on Hoagie’s. And interestingly, she used to be the gifted teacher at AJ’s current school. We talked about that too.

Mr. Spy and I are making plans to go visit the school, although I really think the chances of AJ being able to attend it are nearly zero. But I'm curious too about how such a school works. I'm excited by the idea of a place that uses its own environment as a catalyst for learning.

If you could design your own school, what would it be like?