Teaching Kids About Droughts

Should we talk of droughts with kids?

Is it too harsh to speak of such things with kids?

Will kids even understand?

state-CA

Infographic credit: https://www.drought.gov/drought/states/california

In the infographic given about the drought situation in California, the lighter colors are the mildest form of drought and the darkest is the most severe.

In urban living, kids in general are not in sync with nature’s cycles, but in rural areas kids understand better, because the result of drought is more easily visible. Business and income gets affected. However well schools ‘teach’ the water cycle, households must discuss water and its source at home, for it’s a part of climate change and our survival.

Reasons why things like water cycles need to be internalized by kids:

  1. They have to manage these things in the future.
  2. Kids need to understand frugal and smart use of water.
  3. They need to understand the long term benefits of conservation and recycling.
  4. It’s a key part of the natural ecosystem that we inhabit.
  5. As aquifers run dry, land sinks, and this creates other far reaching problems.

As we go deeper into this century, scientists are talking of how water is going to be one of the most precious resources that everyone will fight over. Unfortunately, this will not be the first time in history. Its ironic that we fight over something that is free and plentiful – it’s in shortage because of our living in super dense cities, distribution, misuse and a lack of concern.

 

 

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3 ways to teach STEM without teaching it

Should we teach STEM?

Are some aspects more about exploration, rather than teaching?

Do we facilitate kids enough to explore the world they live in?

Can we dumb down kids by ‘overteaching’ them?

Is there even a word like ‘overteaching’?

512px-Man_teaching_training_kids_about_nature

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain]

STEM was introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Originally SMET, it was rearranged to read STEM. Over time it became popular throughout the world. In the last few years when the importance of Art was emphasized, STEM morphed to STEAM in some part of the education world.

Some history

There rose across the country a belief that Americans were falling behind in education which would eventually lead to a fall in societal prosperity. Under-performance among students became the talk of Congress. The intersecting space between education, workforce, and prosperity in society needed innovation to unlock potential.

After much debate, STEM became a standard and the govt. decided to fund STEM focused initiatives to give education a much needed shot in the arm. Shareholders like teachers, parents, educators, policy makers etc. put on their thinking caps. Curriculum was designed and a framework was put in place.

Importance of STEM

STEM got its important place under the Sun. Definitions and modalities were debated upon, but the importance of STEM education was equally emphasized by all. So weren’t we teaching kids about science and technology through the last few decades?

We were – but the quality that had made us a great nation was no longer there. The education system needed an infusion of fresh ideas. We had to learn from other best practices. We had to make our curriculum more interesting and appealing with more activities.

Any psychology textbook about kids always emphasizes holding a child’s attention. With the proliferation of digital devices, this is one of the hardest things to do. Teachers have had to innovate and actually include a digital device in education to hold their attention. That in itself has been both a blessing and a disguise. Although it can distract, it also give teachers a medium to create immersive study material, supplemented by videos, audio clips and interactive material.

3 ways to teach without teaching

Get the kids into a habit of exploration. Get them interested in the world around. Help them see the many processes which go into keeping the world the way we know it. AskNatureNuggets are one of the best was to get younger kids to be more observant about the ecosystem we live in. Point out the innumerable ways we are all enmeshed – plants, animals, microscopic bugs, insects, rain, fires etc. This takes a child’s mind down the path of  how nature solves problems, and this then becomes the foundation for problem solving ability through their lives. Learning about STEM subjects is all about problem solving in the real world. 

Play is a wonderful way for kids to learn. It’s not happening just around toys or learning material. Kids learn through just living their everyday lives; with dishes, things they eat, their clothes, during physical play, carrying stuff, or just any other plain vanilla everyday activity. They explore with all their senses. It’s not uncommon to see young babies pop things into their mouths. There are also those kids who love to smell things before they decide if they want to eat it or not. Kids put out their hands to touch everything. If a kid’s climbing a tree, it learns to judge branches as it goes along; can this hold my weight or can it not? As these things are learnt, adults sometimes do not even realize that the learning is happening. We frequently miss noticing all this.

Questioning is a great tool for kids to gather information. Frequently parents and caretakers get annoyed with a child’s non-stop questions and tend to shush them. Don’t. This is how kids fill the gaps in their knowledge. E.g: They know a car takes them places, but with their questions they try to figure out how. They might not have the right questions, but they ask to fill small gaps. As they grow older, they ask deeper questions to understand better.

To wind up

Before you teach STEM, encourage your kids to explore, play and question. This in itself helps them learn the basics of science, technology, engineering and math. Observe how they learn; in fact you might not even be able to join the dots!

These are tiny ripples in their long life of learning. It’s easier to ‘teach’ the STEM subjects on a firm foundation of knowledge acquired on their own.

3 Magazines for STEM Enthusiasts

Ever since I wrote 3 great STEM Blogs you should read, I’ve been mulling over writing a series of posts suggesting choices that STEM enthusiasts would enjoy. All in ‘threes’. Why threes you might wonder? Not sure. Perhaps it’s because I don’t intend to create long lists. I would like site visitors to read through, enjoy the choices, and wonder what might come next.

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“IMG_1255” by — Slavin is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Since the birth of Gutenberg’s press, in the late 1400s the printed word has reigned supreme. Millions of books have been published. The publishing industry exploded, along with the paper and ink business. As schooling got formalized, there was a captive education market which had to be fed textbooks year on year, right from the age of six until say the teens, and occasionally beyond.

One of the most interesting formats generated has been the magazine – a great way to disseminate information readers might be interested in. Thousands of magazines have flourished and the topics they cover go from agriculture to miniature donkey talk(yep, it existed!) Fixed number of pages, issues which came out at fixed time intervals, contests, images, etc. People all over the world loved magazines. Some magazines like Reader’s Digest, National Geographic and Life were collected by people, with a huge market for reselling.

Magazines were how regular readers got to hear about people, things, DIYs, art, science etc. all things which were not considered ‘news’ and therefore did not warrant an everyday update. Journals are used by academics to keep updated, and magazines are for lay readers. Here are three magazines for STEM enthusiasts:

  1. Scientific American
  2. Discover Magazine
  3. Wired

All three have had print versions, which might have morphed to a bigger web presence today as the number of online readers have increased.

Go on, click on the links and enjoy the magazines.

 

 

Homework Help for Math

Here’s a funny thing – a lot of kids enjoy math in the younger years of school. They enjoy the oral additions, coloring in of fractions, counting in 2s, math songs, games, and a bunch of other math activities. In class they compete to finish stuff. Class participation is great. All this changes as they go to higher classes.

"math games" by jimmiehomeschoolmom is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“math games” by jimmiehomeschoolmom is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

A dulling of interest

The interest drops as kids are less enthusiastic about math class. Is it because math gets boring? Do teachers get boring? Is the curriculum too hard? What is it? It’s probably a bunch of things:

  1. Perhaps the math gets harder to relate to, unless teachers make the effort to make it relatable.
  2. Kids develop other interests and math has to remain interesting to be exciting.
  3. Teachers must use current scenarios in their examples. The same set of examples does not excite the entire class.

Is math needed?

Yes, math is needed. For everyday living. Kids need to negotiate through a world which uses math for money, measures, everyday trade in goods, cooking, travel etc. There are artists who work on art based on math. Frequently problem solving requires math or at least an understanding of math. The way our world is structured, math is intertwined with almost everything around us.

The older child and math

Many schools and parents have increased math games for kids hoping to sustain their interest in math. More than anything a good teacher can sustain interest. Humor works wonderfully. Frequently teachers use math jokes to introduce a lighter moment in class. They can spot a drop in interest in kids, find out the reason and fix it. Frequently its the difficulty at a certain stage that pushes a child to loose interest. A smart teacher can spot that and offer help. In high school kids can use some extra homework help once in a while.

Dedicated teachers guide students interested in math to participate in math olympiads. Training can be vigorous and exhausting both for the student and the teacher. In fact math based movies about this subject are quite popular.

To conclude, a good teacher can make or break the interest levels in math, in a classroom full of children.

 

 

How the Gospel of Luke came to be — Why Evolution Is True

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While this video by NonStampCollector—a videomaker previously unknown to me—may strike you as a visual comic, it really is a serious attempt to show and explain the differences between two of the canonical gospels: Mark (the first to be written) and Luke (an altered copy of the stories in Mark). Based on sources like Bart […]

via How the Gospel of Luke came to be — Why Evolution Is True

Must read more things like this 2k19!

Global Energy Balances … Except When It Doesn’t — Watts Up With That?

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Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach. I came across an interesting 2014 paper called “The energy balance over land and oceans: an assessment based on direct observations and CMIP5 climate models“. In it, they make a number of comparisons between observational data and 43 climate models regarding the large-scale energy flows of the planet. Here’s a typical…

via Global Energy Balances … Except When It Doesn’t — Watts Up With That?