NASA IT Summit and some freebies

NASA IT Summit

My husband was asked to be a photographer for the NASA IT Summit held in San Francisco and I got to come along. I met some interesting people involved in some education projects and got permission to post a free curriculum on my website. Stay tuned and I’ll have more details about that soon!

During the summit, NASA had a special education day where students attended a special 3 hour session. Students got to meet the astronaut Leland Melvin, watch a live microgravity experiment via teleconferencing, listen to motivational speaker Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour and participate in a variety of activities and exhibits. Registration for the event was free and a similar event may be included in the 2012 summit. As soon as the info for the 2012 summit is released, I’ll post it here so that anyone close enough to attend (it may be held in a different part of the country next time) can get the registration link.

Kids interacting with a person attending the conference via a robot:


Lori Beth Bradner from Central Florida’s Aerospace Academy shares some teaching strategies:


Kids, educators and parents watching one of the presentations:


Playing with a flight simulator:

girls and flight simulator

I also was able to meet some of the people and see some amazing projects from the company Autodesk. They offer many of their products for FREE to educators and students as well as free training complete with videos, instructor materials and even, in some cases, student workbooks. Some of the programs you can access are:

Check it out if you have a creative student who would like to enter the design, animation or engineering fields!

Hitting a Wall with Fractions

Currently in math, Otter’s been using Life of Fred Fractions exclusively. He was using a combo of Teaching Textbooks 6, Life of Fred and Singapore, but after hitting a wall, we pared it down to the one program. While Life of Fred has been going pretty great, I saw that Otter needed more practice with fractions. They were just too abstract for him once we started hitting uncommon denominators. I went online to try and find a solution and found a terrific website:

Visual Fractions

Visual Fractions is exactly what he needed to work with. After just 15 minutes, his understanding of fractions soared. Everything is explained step-by-step and illustrated. There are also tons of free, interactive exercises for practice. You can choose circles or bars to represent the fractions (Otter likes circles) and anytime you get stuck, you can click the explain button.

I think I’ll have him play on the Visual Fractions website for about a week and then get back to Life of Fred.

It’s O.K. to Play with Your Food

It’s O.K. to play with your food…

I found these plates online today and think they are SO CUTE! Otter saw them and really wants one. I want one, LOL! I think they would be really fun for lunchtime. You can get them here from Amazon: Fred and Friends Food Face. This is the kind of thing you use and then save for the grandkids someday.

That reminds me of some cups my Oma saved from when I was a kid. She had a Pooh Bear cup for me and 3 plastic colored cups with handles (maybe old Tupperware??) that all 3 grandkids used. They are still up in her cupboard and my kids have used them as well. I have no doubt they’ll be used for my grandkids someday too, which is kind of neat.

Food face

food face plate

food face

Hand Gestures Help You Learn

I don’t have any new posts of Otter’s schoolwork because the kids are sick. We are taking most of this week off with me just doing a little bit of reading out loud. I’ve been informed recently though that I have at least ONE regular reader of this blog now and so here I am to post something for Ashley lest she stops coming by for a visit (and the rest of ya too)! wink.

I recently read an interesting article in Scientific American about how using gestures can help you learn. There is a specific paragraph on the first page that talks about how students who were coached to make a gesture while solving a math problem actually learned how to solve it better.

Well, I was up for a scientific (sorta) challenge. I decided to use Otter as my guinea pig and see if this might possibly be true. O. K. so I didn’t do a very scientific experiment, but I did try the whole concept on the fly and guess what…it really did work.

Otter was having a very difficult time remembering what the prime meridian is. So what I did was create some gestures to go with the definition:

The prime meridian divides (hand chopping motion) the earth (hands into a ball shape) into 2 (hold up two fingers) halves called hemispheres. We then recited which hemispheres it divides the earth into.

I asked him this week what the definition was and he could recall it perfectly.

Try it and see if it works for you!

In other nerdy news, I somehow stumbled onto this cool site:

I LOVE the nerdy baby items! Check out this set of ABC’s! Gosh, it makes me want to have a baby just so I can go and buy the prime number counting chart! O. K., I’m exaggerating…but still! What a great idea. I love the whimsical art and the nerd aspect. Because HEY, it’s cool to be a nerd. Oh, wait, nerds don’t care about being cool. Well anyway, don’t the cute little books and posters fit the homeschooling mind set nicely?

Summer Projects

For those of you learning or teaching art, check out these wonderful poster style tutorials! Makes sure to preview the guides on drawing people, there may be some images inappropriate for some students. Cedarseed’s free tutorials and guides cover a variety of subjects: emotions and facial expressions, basic animal anatomy, drawing the horse, a 3 part drawing birds series, drawing cats, Asian dragons tutorial, arabesque, color theory in a nutshell and more.

If you have a kid interested in computers s/he may enjoy Scratch:

“Scratch is a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web.

Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design.”

You can download it for free. I’m going to let Otter use give it a try during our short “summer vacation”.

Here is another fun summer thing kids (or grown-ups) may enjoy: Fontstruct. Using simple tools in the free online editor, you can make your own font. How cool is that?