Thursday, February 25, 2010

Idle Parent

I haven't posted about Tom Hodgkinson from the The Idler for a while but here's the link to his latest column for The Daily Telegraph UK.

As always, brilliant stuff.

"I would like to see a world where the government’s pedestrian and unromantic vision of a nation of “hard-working families” is replaced by a country filled with “good living families”, families whose members are enjoying themselves rather than over-working and over-spending as they chase the ever-elusive satisfaction promised by the commercial world."

Read the column and the photo of D.H. Lawrence will make sense.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Playable communities:priorities for a new decade

Play England are having their national conference: Playable communities:priorities for a new decade, next month at the British Museum in London. If I lived in the UK I'd be there in a heartbeat.


The day will include high profile speakers on key themes for the future of all aspects of playable communities, including sustainability and partnership working, schools, and aspects of play provision including adventure and nature play."

This is where I need my tardis.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What idiot decided to do away with music in schools?

Because according to a new study, music training may also improve language-processing abilities (along with improving pitch perception, visual and motor skills)-" a finding that lends support to the effectiveness of teaching letters and words to kids through songs, as TV programs like Sesame Street have done for years," to quote the article.

Above is one of my favorites......

Hurrah for 16 year olds

This particular 16 year old, Pritesh Raichura from North London, wrote an excellent column over at the Times, on the state of education in the UK. Here's the link.

As well as writing about how to get kids involved in politics, he also going into depth about teaching in general;

"A teacher’s role is not giving out information so that the pupils can pass exams. A teacher’s role is to encourage independent thinking, to inspire and make the student wonder about their subject. Teachers should recognise, that different pupils learn in different ways and that if they are made to think for themselves, then not only will they get more enjoyment from lessons and school, but a genuine thirst for knowledge and a spark of curiosity will be generated."

Wonderful stuff.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Map reading and mud

Here's another article about children not getting out in nature enough. The Telegraph UK mentions a study done by the good people at The Hertfordshire University showing that children were open to the idea of rambling but it was their mothers that were not confident in the great outdoors.......

Well, as a mother, I will take note and make sure I don't "mollycoddle" my kids.... I promise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poorer children a year behind at start of school

The Sutton Trust in the UK have found, after extensive research, that "children growing up today in the poorest fifth of families are already nearly a year behind those children from middle income families in vocabulary tests by the time they are five...."

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "It is a tragic indictment on modern society that our children's future life prospects depend so much on their family background, not their individual talents. These findings are at once both shocking and encouraging - revealing the stark educational disadvantage experienced by children from poorer homes before they have even stepped into the school classroom, but also the potential for good parenting to overcome some of the negative impacts that poverty can have on children's early development."

The article is here, follow the link. Also, the full report is here.

Robert Kennedy

I watched this speech by David Cameron on TED and was struck by the final quote he read out, from a Robert Kennedy speech, here it is......

"... the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

And that was said in 1968. Amazing. The full speech is here.

(oh, and the TED talk above was interesting too.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

A sign of the times

Headline: Outlook grim for cash-strapped schools..... article from The Boston Globe.

"More districts are expected to look like Vallejo City Unified School District, which has laid off most of its middle school guidance counselors and no longer offers music or art in elementary school. Last year it laid off 60 of its 860 teachers and raised K-3 class sizes from 20 to 28 students, and officials are considering more layoffs and even bigger class sizes this year, said Christal Watts, who heads the teachers union."

Very sad indeed.

(Photo and graph courtesy of here.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Playground equipment

Imagination Playground, designed by an architect called David Rockwell, is interesting. As equipment goes this is great, hands on, creative and made for unstructured play.

Why there isn't a tree in sight or any form of nature around the concept spaces is beyond me...... but maybe that's the difference between architects and landscape architects.......

Jamie Oliver

Here's one of the first speeches I've watched from TED2010. Jamie Oliver was awarded the TED prize this year and his wish was;

"I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

50 Dangerous Things

You should let your children do.... great book title. My boys would love it.

Oooh I'm excited

TED2010......... apparently it is happening now in Long Beach and Palm Springs and one of the talkers is.................. drum roll please.............. Sir Ken Robinson. Well, I'm excited.

Rickets? Today?

According to an article in the Guardian newspaper, there has been a sharp rise in rickets in the UK, due in part to not enough sun exposure because of kids spending too much time on the computer and when they are in the sun parents are using too much sunscreen.

Any parent in LA will not be able to comprehend not using sun screen but when you have 360 days a year of sun, rickets is not an issue.....

Still, back to that old chestnut of computers/video games discouraging kids from getting outside and playing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A letter to the First Lady

The Children and Nature Network have written a letter to Michelle Obama, asking that she include an outdoor component to her childhood obesity initiative. Here.

Nicely done.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

40 Wild Birds play a Gibson Les Paul guitar

Never thought I'd have that as a heading but as music is play, birds are nature and kids will love it, it's definitely on topic.

Follow this link to see a video of this great installation by artist Celeste Boursier-Mougenot.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tests, tests and more tests....

What is with education today? It all seems to be geared around getting kids to pass tests and this new Race to the Top initiative by the Obama Administration seems no different, and please, correct me if I'm wrong.

But when I saw the four key areas for reform, I just thought, well, here we go again. No reform, just the same old, same old.....

"Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms around four specific areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools."

KIds love Hamsters

Not sure if they really will appreciate the full meaning of this but it is very funny (and scary).... It's from here.

This is good

The U.S Surgeon General's office has stated "Today’s epidemic of overweight and obesity threatens the historic progress we have made in increasing American’s quality and years of healthy life." The article is here.

That's all well and good but what effect will it have on our society? If the U.S. Surgeon General advocates something, does it happen? I don't know enough about American politics to really understand the implications of this statement but I live in hope.......

(I know, the photo's a cheap shot, but somehow I just have this image in my head of all the people employed at the U.S. Surgeon General's office sitting around in scrubs all day....)

Slightly off topic

But entertaining all the same. Here's an article on the Times website by one of their columnists. The line about describing overpackaging of toys cracked me up;

"This is why so many parents can be found on Christmas Day weeping openly and making obscene gestures at new toys with their clawed, bleeding hands."

We've all been there.....

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Playing to learn

My son's Kindergarten teacher sent this article home today. "Playing to Learn" on the New York Times website.

I particularly liked how in the ideal theoretical classroom:

"During the school day, there should be extended time for play. Research has shown unequivocally that children learn best when they are interested in the material or activity they are learning. Play — from building contraptions to enacting stories to inventing games — can allow children to satisfy their curiosity about the things that interest them in their own way. It can also help them acquire higher-order thinking skills, like generating testable hypotheses, imagining situations from someone else’s perspective and thinking of alternate solutions."