Saturday, January 9, 2010

Comical Science or Science Via the Comic Book

This is a comic book of sorts about the life of bees. Quoted from a reviewer on Amazon: "Jay Hosler's Clan Apis is a rather brilliantly executed graphic novel format presentation of life in the beehive. Accurate, informative, totally engaging, the biology and life cycle of the bee is laid out with an anthropomorphic storytelling that is as fun as it is educational. Clan Apis is highly recommended reading for all ages -- especially for those who thought the life and world of the bee might just have some relevance for we mere humans living in our post-industrial, information age."

Super-smart Julian Calendar thinks starting junior high at a new school will mean he can shed his nerdy image–but then he meets Ben and Greta, two secret scientists like himself! The three form a secret club, complete with a high-tech lair. There, they can work to their hearts content on projects like the Stink-O-Meter, the Kablovsky Copter, and the Nightsneak Goggles. All that tinkering comes in handy when the trio discovers an evil scientist's dastardly plan to rob a museum. Can three inventors, armed with their wacky creations, hope to defeat this criminal mastermind?

Found this one at the library and still need to go get the parts for the pvc marshmallow shooter that Max wants to build. Really fun book with several projects, all in cartoon format.

Two-Fisted Science, a Xeric Award-winning and Eisner nominated original trade paperback, features true stories from the history of science. Some are serious, some are humorous, and most are a bit of both. Scientists highlighted include physicists Richard Feynman, Galileo, Niels Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg, but you'll find a cosmologist and some mathematicians inside as well. **Be warned that there is a page which contains a cartoon figure of a woman wearing next to nothing - in the story about Wolfgang Pauli** Happened to catch this in a review and checked on it - yep, there she was. This might be a big deal in your family - if so, you may opt to skip this one or figure out a way to put clothes on her with a sharpie!

Haven't held this one in my hands yet, but the premise of the story already has me laughing. This one's about Darwin in cartoon form trying to convince two follicle mites LIVING IN HIS LEFT EYEBROW (Mara and Willy) that evolution is indeed real. It sounds so off-the-wall! Again, this one may not resonate with your belief system, so take it our leave it.

Larry Gonick is a character! I've already mentioned one or two of his other cartoon guides in a previous post, The Cartoon History of the Universe and believe it or not, The Cartoon Guide to Sex which many parents have trusted to help explain those types of things to children when those children are deemed old enough. It's apparently a very thorough and scientific piece of writing that does not belittle the subject matter. Mr. Gonick is a fairly prolific and FUN comic book writer. His science is sound. These bear perusing first, though, before jumping in for an hour reading session with your kiddos before bed - there is some adult humor sprinkled in every now and then, stuff you may want to edit. He has several other comic books such as The Cartoon Guide to Genetics, The Cartoon Guide to Physics, The Cartoon Guide to the Environment, several about history and another about statistics.

Cartoon science looks to be refreshing. Calvin and Hobbs is a big hit around these parts, so I'm willing to wager Max might take a liking to a few of these. We'll see!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mitochondria Have Opinions, Too! Science With Personality.

I brake for clever. Three cheers for clever! Always. Simon Basher got together with Dan Green and sprinkled the atomic and cellular world with some anthropomorphism; they've turned out some charming books packed with personality! Einstein in non-intimidating fashion is a good thing; these books would be swell supplements or introductions to materials about physics, chemistry, biology, geology and all of the other ologies! Nice gentle introductions to what is often assumed to be tough material. Targeted to older elementary and middle school kids; could be used as review for high schoolers, too. Japanese-inspired art makes the characters appealing and very likeable! Besides, we should probably develop affection for mitochondria since they do a lot for us, huh?

This may have been the first one in the series. The 64 elements highlighted apparently have cheeky personalities!

Each book is around 130 pages. Fun little tomes!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cobblestone Publishing

Cobblestone Publishing is responsible for many unique publications, definitely not run-of-the-mill - one of which is a gem in children's literature. CRICKET magazine has been around for over thirty years mainly because it's held fast to publishing quality stories that are not your general fare. You won't find Captain Underpants or Junie B. Jones in these pages! Nothing wrong with those books really, but I just see them everywhere and have begun to think that people are losing their imaginations. Sometimes it's necessary to look beyond the mainstream and dig a little deeper to get to the good stuff.

All of the following magazines can be found HERE

Cricket Magazine
My only complaint is that the magazine is a little pricey at $34.00 for nine issues throughout a year. And since it's only published nine times in a twelve month period, you have to wait awhile between issues. Oftentimes with stories that carry over from issue to issue you have to go back and remind yourself about what happened in the previous issue before continuing on. This mag is targeted to the 9 to 14-year-old audience and does so brilliantly with tremendous variety in the styles of writing. Each issue is approximately 50 pages long and you won't run into a single ad! Gotta' love that tactic, especially in times like these when we are bombarded with noise everywhere. I suppose you could argue that blogging is a form of noise, too, huh? I'll try to pipe down. Sorry.

It's not solid cover-to-cover story writing, but is broken up with puzzles, short comics, recipes, activities, too. We've been enjoying the offerings so far and usually save these stories for some bedtime reading. I'm hooked right now on a story about the terrible atrocities suffered by the Chickasaw people and would like to get my hands on the first issue in which the story began.

CRICKET is just one of the great magazines Cobblestone Publishing produces. If you want to focus on science, history and art, MUSE would be a nice choice:

COBBLESTONE Magazine focuses on American History:

DIG Magazine celebrates the discoveries in archaeology:

CALLIOPE Magazine concentrates on world history:

ODYSSEY highlights the world of science:

And last but not least, FACES helps kids to learn about different cultures:

Now, these are the magazines specially created for the 9 to 14-year-old set. There are many others tailored to younger and older children. Plus their website has a carefully chosen selection of books and games to look over, too.

You can even change your subscription to any one of their other magazines at no cost, too. That's a nice option! We just might have to pick our way over some cobblestones, muse over the selections, ponder the odyssey of options, dig our way into some knowledge and see whose faces we meet! Maybe we'll get to meet Calliope. Maybe I'll get my money's worth by switching subscriptions each month!

Knowledge Cards

A trip to the museum today led us into the gift shop, which led me on a seek-and-find mission which led me to borrow a pen and scribble notes all over our museum receipt about what we were finding. There are such terrific offerings available to help kids learn out there! I really get excited about stuff like this!

Today's post will feature Knowledge Cards, many of which are sponsored by Sierra Club and produced by Pomegranate. Whether or not you subscribe to Sierra Club's beliefs and practices, there is merit in these little decks of cards. Here's an example - click on each deck for more information:

What Do You Know about Oceans? Knowledge Cards Deck
Forty eight cards. "No sooner have we solved one of the great mysteries posed by Earth’s oceans than another flummoxes us. We have come to understand the actions of tides, the sources of tsunamis, and—thanks to Ben Franklin—the trajectory of the Gulf Stream, but we still have much to learn about vent creatures, the Bermuda Triangle, and how global warming is changing salinity, currents, and animals’ migratory patterns. This well-researched deck of 48 cards will set you on the cutting edge of oceanographic knowledge, equipping you to quiz friends and yourself on everything from icebergs to sunken treasure." Each deck appears to be priced at $9.95.

Some might consider this format of knowledge gathering as bits of trivia, not much more. I disagree. snippets of information can and do often lead to fascinating tangents for children, some of which can potentially develop into life-long interests. This is more than stuffing facts into your head and besides, it's nice sometimes to ingest things in little pieces and see what becomes of the information.

Note that these cards are produced in the USA, on recycled stock, and that part of the proceeds is donated to helping preserve habitats (for the cards that are sponsored by Sierra Club.)

Knowledge cards range in subject from environmental issues to US presidents to the human body, to weather, to space travel, chemistry, geology, Ancient Egypts............on and on. Here are a few other examples from this line by Pomegranate:

There are many, many more to pick from. Might be fun to pull these out on a long trip or at the family dinner table for starters. Or incorporate them into a unit study and see where they take you, kind of like going somewhere without a map.

Good old Amazon to the rescue - happy to report that many of these card packs are available used at greatly reduced prices!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fun with Shaving Cream

Language arts around here occasionally consists of spelling, vocabulary words and grammar. All in English for the time being. Here are a couple of fun things we've tried recently to spice up the time spent on language components:

* spread a thin layer of shaving cream on your kitchen table - shoot for a long rectangular shape. Give your kiddo a spelling word and let him or her write it out in the shaving cream. Max thought we were going to do the boring old white board again; the look on his face was worth the mess we made. Don't worry - it cleans up easily and doesn't leave a residue - just a pleasant shaving cream smell!

* ask your child to close his/her eyes, open the dictionary and point to a word. If it's a reasonable word, use it as a mystery spelling or vocabulary word for the week and add it to the list of words you might already be working on. We hit "inhibit" the other day. Or, see if your child can stump Mom or Dad with a word he/she finds in the dictionary. Mom or Dad has to spell it and define it. Put your child in charge! Of course there's always a small chance that you'll run into an inappropriate word.....hmm. No time like the present to go through the dictionary with some whiteout!

* dictation is not, I repeat not, the most exciting endeavor. When we've used it I've tried hard to make it more enticing, so have used quotes from Max's current all-time favorite mischief-maker, Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Or I'll take his spelling words and come up with goofy sentences that incorporate several of the words. He wrote out a sentence about fascinating thumb wrestling once. This only lasts for a short while in our house because Max doesn't like to write. Have I mentioned that???

I've already highlighted Daily Grams as a grammar resource a few times. It's not particularly silly or outlandish, but what I do like about it is that you can dish it out in very small doses. One page a day will get you through the school year. You can purchase the teacher's resource, but I just use the Internet to look up things as needed. It's subtly repetitive so over time the concepts really sink in. It's been a nice refresher course for my older brain, too.

Daily Grams will definitely be on the docket for next year's curriculum, too.

I believe the best option available to you for good sound development of the language arts is to read aloud to your child. Even if he or she is fifteen! Read all kinds of things. Blogs, novels, short stories, poetry, recipes that sound nummy, articles from Time magazine, directions to games.......whatever! Just read. Read until you are blue in the face. Watch your child/ren gradually gravitate closer to you in body and in spirit. The cadence, pronunciations, rhythms and intonations you impart will have a marked impact on their vocabulary and comprehension of how our words are woven together into vessels of communication. Push the envelope - read above them, below them. Set your sights high and start heading to the library. You'll be amazed with how much paper surface area you can cover together and you'll experience a wonderful sense of accomplishment together as you check books off of your list. The mind's eye is a magical place to visit - go there frequently with your child.

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