Learning With Classroom Pets

All pets bring us closer to the natural world, but specialty pets, such as fish, small pets and reptiles, provide a unique way to inspire kids to learn about the world around them. As teachers and families gear up for the start of a new school year, pets can help teach kids responsibility and how to keep a routine. They can sharpen kids’ math and science skills through activities such as measuring food and water, keeping track of days of the week on a calendar and studying information about their care needs.

Learning in the classroom and beyond
Specialty pets can help make learning fun and help students learn more than just traditional academics. By working with their peers at school (or siblings at home), students learn teamwork and responsibility.

These pets also provide hands-on learning and teach lessons that will serve students their whole lives. According to Joel Sartore, National Geographic photographer and specialty pet owner, specialty pets offer many life skills and learning opportunities, such as:

• Teaching kids responsibility and the importance of routines. Pets need regular food, water and cleaning of their habitats, and these tasks make learning valuable skills fun.
• Helping kids learn to care for something beyond themselves. Kids often see pets as friends and want to protect them. Adults can explain that too much noise scares a pet, and the child will understand the need for good behavior.
• Providing a better understanding of the natural world. Learning about a country or climate becomes more meaningful when a child can interact directly with an animal that has roots there.
• Allowing kids to relate to their peers. Bonding with a pet can give kids common ground with each other and help build friendships.

Create a healthy habitat
If you are considering bringing a specialty pet into your classroom or home, you will need to provide an appropriate habitat. High-quality pet products that mimic animals’ natural environments are the best option to support pet health. Such environments can also spark the curiosity of children into the world of specialty pets with products that represent their habitats in realistic and authentic ways. The pet experts at National Geographic and PetSmart offer the following recommendations to get you started.

For aquatics pets:
The Aqua Oasis Aquarium is a complete starter kit, including an internal power filter with filtration media and a submersible heater. Available in various sizes, it features a curved, seamless bow-front, allowing for uninterrupted views with easy access for feeding. Low-profile hoods and integrated LED lighting add elegance, while the addition of coordinated 3-D backgrounds and decor allow pet parents to create a natural environment.

For reptile pets:
The Reptile Sanctuary ensures your pet will stay securely inside while allowing pet parents to feed, play with and interact through various points around the tank. Depending on the pet’s natural environment, the National Geographic line has tanks designed as desert or tropical climates and coordinated 3-D backgrounds and decor can be added to enhance these natural themes.

For small pets:
The Exploration Loft is available in two sizes and offers a 360-degree view into multi-level play areas and your pets’ daily lives and interesting instinctual behavior. A skylight provides easy access and fresh airflow, plus cleaning is simple with a removable top.

For additional information on the care of specialty pets, including proper habitats, feeding and more, visit http://www.petsmart.com/natgeo. Teachers can apply for a grant to receive a pet in their classroom at http://www.petsmart.com/teachers.

*This content provided from Family Features

Young Writers Workshop

One of the outstanding events of the summer of 2013 was the Young Writers Workshop I taught, sponsored by the Branson Arts Council.  What an amazing group of talented authors!

Ages 9 and up participated in two sessions for a week-long focus on short forms of writing.  We wrote poems, flash fiction, six-word-memoirs, character sketches, and some pretty crazy journal entries!  The week ended with an author fair, featuring a dozen authors from the Missouri and Arkansas areas, and the students’ work was published in an anthology book for them to keep!

We’re looking forward to doing it again soon, and hope to expand the literary arts in the Ozarks – for young people and the young at heart!

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Spanish for You! Review

Buenos Dias, y bienvenido a la pagina para critica de Spanish For You!  I recently received a sample for review, and thought I would share my opiniones con usted!
With the Spanish for You! program, elementary and middle grade students can learn the beautiful Spanish language by themes.  No boring verb tense drills, here – just lots of relevant words to a main topic (you know, kind of like real life…)
I received the ESTACIONES (Seasons) book.  There are also currently theme books for VIAJES (Travels) and FIESTAS (Celebrations), with more to come.  The books start at $9.99, with an expected learning time of 4-6 weeks.  Class packs are also available, as well as teacher guides, for an additional cost.
The ESTACIONES book starts with some basics… the alphabet, common words, phrases, and commands, and then moves into the units.  Each one established around a topic.  There is “Calendar and Weather”, each of the four seasons, and school terms.  You can see a complete table of contents and some sample pages HERE.
Learning a foreign language is like studying a musical instrument.  It’s best to take it in small bites.  That’s why Spanish for You! recommends studying just 10-30 minutes a day.  In a school schedule, this is more likely to be 3-4 times per week.
When I first received the book, I thought it was kind of on the slim side, but the interior is packed with great information!  It’s easy to see how just one unit can take more than a month to complete!  There are lots of practices, paired with pictures.  (And if the pictures seem reminiscent of child drawings, that’s because they are!  The author’s daughter illustrates her books!)
Each lesson introduces vocabulary words with their accompanying pictures, before moving on to simple sentences.  The audio files are a big help for those without Spanish training or experience, or for letting the student listen to on their own.  I was also thrilled that I could use the same program for both children, eliminating re-teaching and repetition.
Perhaps my favorite (and most fun!) were the Games and Activities listed.  These simple games made learning the vocabulary words easier and more memorable, while letting the kid think they were having “fun time” without the books!  Language-learning versions of “Memory”, “Bingo”, dice games, and “Simon Dice” (Simon Says) had everyone smiling in no time.

Just a few of the highlights of Spanish For You!:

  • Self-study, family, or class use
  • Affordable – $9.99 for electronic download, $12.99 for print book
  • Flexible – Go at your own pace.
  • Easy to use – Just follow the lesson guide & go!
  • Time Saving– Use one package with students of multiple grades at the same time.
  • Fun – Uses simple games and activities to engage students.
  • Your Choice: soft cover book or e-book (currently only our trial pkgs.)
  • Lesson Guide: 24-30 week lesson guide for the grades you need (24 weeks for G5-6 & 7-8, 30 weeks for G3-4) (PDF download)

    • *Teacher lesson plans are NOT included. These need to be purchased separately.
  • Worksheets – self-checking worksheets (PDF download)
  • Audio files of entire book (includes bonus audio of native speaker of entire book) (MP3 download)
  • Flashcard/activity pictures (PDF download)

You can read more experiences right HERE,at SchoolhouseReviewCrew.com, and in the words of Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton, “Don’t just take my word for it!”  Read these other great reviews by parent educators like me!