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!


Otter recently finished his First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 4 workbook and…they don’t make any more levels for it yet. GASP. That means I had to find something else to use. I thought I was going to use Shurley English, as we’ve done in the past. But, ugh…we’re both tired of Shurley English. It works great, but I think we both want something a bit different. I finally made my choices. We are now using:

  • KISS Grammar – I love KISS Grammar. You learn to analyze sentences using classic literature. Here’s a great review that goes over the basics. Otter likes it too (we’re working through the 1st workbook). The lessons are short, enjoyable and FREE. Don’t be scared off by the website. There is a LOT of info there, but you can pretty much pick up and go if you download one of the workbooks.
  • Intermediate Language Lessons – This book was published in 1914 and was designed for 4th through 6th graders. I downloaded a free PDF from Google and am printing off the lessons as we go through them. It has picture studies, narration, poetry, dictation, outlining, composition, memorization, grammar and more presented in a gentle, engaging format. I am VERY pleased with it.

I feels great to find things that work for us that don’t cost anything! Oh! Oh! I also found this today (for FREEEEEE):

A Child’s History of Art by V.M. Hillyer

I’m looking forward to doing some art studies using it. Happy downloading!

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.

Want to make your own copywork and handwriting pages?

Do want to make your own copywork and handwriting pages? Check out these links:

  • ZB Fonts Online Wow! You can easily make some beautiful Zaner-Bloser templates to instantly print out for FREE. Just choose your parameters (grade level, cursive or manuscript), type in the text and press print.
  • My personal fave: StartWrite You have to purchase it, but StartWrite has lots of different handwriting fonts as well as flexibility and the ability to add art to your pages. Great if you are using HWOT!
  • Download a free cursive font or a manuscript font with lines at Donna Young’s site.
  • Educational Fontware Inc. – A little expensive, but you can use the fonts in various applications (unlike StartWrite).
  • – You can make worksheets to trace or copy. Only two fonts are available.

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

Free Library Resources

I’ve recently been exploring the resources available to us from one of the public libraries we use. I’m mentioning it here, because if I hadn’t been bored and explored the library’s website one day, I would have never known about the treasure trove of online resources that are made available to patrons.

Our library has a section on its website called “Electronic Library 24/7”. From this area we can access things like:

  • Downloadable audio books (to use on your Ipod or computer), video and e-books (including workbooks with printable pages!)
  • Scholastic Book Flicks
  • Tumble Books
  • Learning Express Library (online practice tests)
  • Safari eBooks
  • Streaming music
  • Online homework help with a writing lab and foreign language lab
  • Online librarian assistance 24/7 for research assistance, etc.

It’s just really amazing to see all of the things available. You might want to check out your local library and see if there are some similar offerings.

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?

Online Activities for Reluctant Writers

Otter doesn’t like to write. It’s a challenge for me to find writing assignments that will actually engage him! Recently he’s been really interested in comics, especially Garfield (which totally takes me back to 6th grade!). So… one of the recent things I’ve come up with to get him writing is creating comics! He thinks it’s just a lot of fun. I know he’s practicing important skills. wink

Here are a couple online activities I found to help his comic writing process along and add a bit of interactive pizzazz!

Make Your Own Captain Underpant’s Comic
If you don’t mind the potty humor, your boys will probably especially love this one. Your budding comic writer is provided with sayings to choose from as well as a variety of characters to populate the pages. After making a couple of comics online, maybe your kiddo will be inspired to draw out some of his/her own. You can only view your comic online.
This is a terrific site where you can create custom comics panels with a variety of character choices, thought and talk bubbles, colors and the ability to write your own text! There is also a page of some great printables that are sure to help spark some creativity. You can email or print out your creations.

Read, Write Think Comic Creator
You can choose your background, props and different characters. After you finish your masterpiece you can print it out to share!

Garfield’s Comic Creator
Build your own Garfield comic strip with characters, props, background and typeable text. You can view your comic online or print it out. You can imagine how THRILLED Otter was when I showed him this one.

Professor Garfield Comic Lab
Not only is there a comic creator with lots of Garfield goodies, there are also some how-to videos and some lesson pdf’s to give you writing ideas.

Charlotte’s Web Comic
You decide what happens to Wilbur and his friends with customizable panels, objects, talk bubbles and settings. The comic creator uses real photos for a nice looking comic. You can print out your comic when you’re done.

There are also some sites online that have more professional layout tools, but they require registration and feature user created comics which could contain adult content. If you think one of those sites may be appropriate, you can check out sites like Pixton and Comiqs.

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?