Vacation Vibes!

With most schools out, and many states opened up after a year of pandemic lockdown, I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures on social media of people enjoying vacations, especially outdoors. We were fortunate enough to visit Colorado in early May and spent some time in The Garden of the Gods and Rocky Mountain National Park. After that break, I wrote about our fabulous visit to part makerspace/part game store, PlayForge, in Littleton, Colorado. While we were there, we purchased a couple of things, and one of them was National Parks Scrabble. My daughter and I are Scrabble fiends, and we were curious to see how this could converge with our adoration of National Parks. I did not expect how much we would enjoy the game! It includes cards that name different national parks (many that I had never heard of!) and a little bit about each one. The fun part is that you can use the cards to do previously prohibited actions in Scrabble, such as spell a word backwards or make any tile on your rack into a blank. It really makes the game far less predictable, and way more fun. If you are anywhere near Littleton, Colorado, head over to PlayForge and get this game. (Also, check out their Maker Camps!) If you are not near PlayForge, find an independent store near you to see if they carry it. As a last resort, you can get it online, but do your best to support an indie store if you can.

Think you know something about the United States National Parks? Try this quiz to see how much you really know!

While we’re talking about vacations, remember the Virtual Vacation website I mentioned back in March? I focused on the City Guesser game (btw, Esther Park has a free template you can use for this game — go to this link and look for the “Travel Around the World” template), but there are several other virtual vacation activities on there, including VidEarth, where you can click on a blue dot anywhere in the world and watch a video that was uploaded, and my personal favorite, Virtual Window, where you can get a “window” view of places.

For some ways to enjoy the great outdoors while learning, scroll down a bit on this page for the 4-Week Summer Camp Guide from Nature Lab. It includes hands-on activities for families. While you’re outside, encourage children to take amazing nature photos with these tips from National Geographic. Or, adapt some of these ideas from their Planet Possible Challenge.

No matter what you decide to do during vacation, don’t forget this wonderful message from Kid President way back in 2015!

Rocky Mountain National Park, May, 2021

Smithsonian Summer Road Trip

The Smithsonian and USA Today have joined forces to produce a free, 40-page packet of activities, “Summer Road Trip.”  To read more about what is included, and to download the free PDF, visit this article by Darren Milligan for the Smithsonian Learning Lab. The Learning Lab is one of my favorite places to find quality educational materials, including lesson plans, videos, and professional development.  Click here to see some other posts that I’ve done on this blog about specific Smithsonian Learning Lab resources.

Map with Toy Car
Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

Tooth Traditions Around the World

Silvia Tolisano of the Langwitches Blog shared in this post how a teacher from Argentina is trying to help her first graders learn about the “tooth” traditions of other countries.  Students are invited to add to this Flipgrid their own stories about what happens when they hit that favorite milestone of losing a tooth. Similar to the other lessons that I’ve shared that help students to learn about commonalities and differences throughout the world, this is a wonderful idea for crowd-sourcing knowledge from our young people about a topic that means quite a bit to them!  Unfortunately, there is a disadvantage for those of us who are mono-lingual, as several of the videos that have already been shared may be in a language you do not know.  (I tried using Google Translate on my phone with some interesting results…)   Maybe including some hand-drawn pics like the one below might help.

I enjoyed hearing Maggie H.’s comparison of England and India (I think my students will be horrified to hear that some children plant their teeth!).  Considering the wide variety in monetary value that teeth seem to bring just within my tiny class, it might also be fun to research the currency exchanges mentioned and do some math along with your geography lesson.

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image from Cathy Meier on Flickr

You Just Won a Trip to Turkey!

I finally got around to trying this Mother’s Day idea this year – with a bit of green screen magic mixed in.  My GT first graders have been researching different countries, so they each made a Mother’s Day video for their moms incorporating some of their research.  After talking about perspective, and what they thought their moms would like to see in each country, they selected some highlights from their library books.  Then they made short videos “congratulating” their moms on winning trips to their respective countries.  We used some Creative Commons images and videos from Pixabay and Discovery Ed to create their final “Winning” montages.  You can click on the link below to see an example.  (Note: The video quality is a bit off because the young lady was wearing a bluish-green shirt that day – a little difficult to balance with our green screen program without making her a talking head!)

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Click here to see Olivia’s great video!

This is How We Do It

My gifted and talented first graders study geography and choose different countries to research.  @storymamas recently tweeted about a book called, This is How We Do It, by Matt Lamothe, and I thought it would be a good resource to use with this class.  Children like to see the differences and similarities of places around the world.  A few years ago, I sent out a Twitter plea for people from other countries to add pictures of their playgrounds to this slide show, and my students enjoy comparing the sites to our own and finding the locations on a map.

Lamothe went much further than collecting images on a slideshow for his book.  You can read about his writing process for This is How We Do It here.  He created all of the illustrations in his book based on photographs shared with him by families in seven different countries.  My students were fascinated with everything from how the featured children got to school to how they slept.  They were surprised by uncanny resemblances to our own culture (they have a Smarboard in their classroom, too!) as well as unimaginable contrasts (an entire family sleeping in one bed!)

You can download a free activity kit to accompany the book here.

Weekly Map

Leslie Fisher (@LeslieFisher) tweeted out this link to Weekly Map yesterday.  The concept is similar to the “What’s Going on in this Graph?” feature that appears in the New York Times the second Tuesday of every month – except, of course, that this a weekly challenge.  Each Monday brings a new map, and a hint is given each weekday including Friday.  A link is also provided on Friday to the answer.

So far, the site has archived 65 Weekly Maps, and they are labeled with difficulty ratings.  This is a great way for students to practice deductive reasoning and geography skills, as well as vocabulary. (I had no idea what a choropleth map was until I looked at this site.) The “Lessons” part of the site is under construction, so maybe if we give them lots of love that will happen faster!

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image of choropleth map from Wikipedia