Overlook/Titusville PTA



  • Moving From the Comfort Zone to the Challenge Zone

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 11/1/2020

    By Edutopia

    When we are faced with challenges, our brains are activated to learn new things—so long as a foundation of safety, belonging, and trust is there as well.

    Moving From the Comfort Zone to the Challenge Zone

    Click here to watch the video


    This video is part of the How Learning Happens series, which explores teaching practices grounded in the science of learning and human development. 

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  • Why Ages 2-7 Matter So Much for Brain Development

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 10/1/2020

    An illustration concept of a child internalizing knowledge

    Rich experiences—from play to the arts and relationships—fundamentally shape a young child’s development.

    By Edutopia

    When Albert Einstein was a child, few people—if any—anticipated the remarkable contributions he would make to science. His language development was delayed, worrying his parents to the point of consulting a doctor. His sister once confessed that Einstein “had such difficulty with language that those around him feared he would never learn.” How did this child go from potential developmental delays to becoming, well, Einstein?

    Part of the answer to that question is symbolized in two gifts that Einstein received from each of his parents when he was 5 years old. When Einstein was in bed all day from an illness, his father gave him a compass. For Einstein, it was a mysterious device that sparked his curiosity in science. Soon after, Einstein’s mother, who was a talented pianist, gave Einstein a violin. These two gifts challenged Einstein’s brain in distinctive ways at just the right time.

    Children’s brains develop in spurts called critical periods. The first occurs around age 2, with a second one occurring during adolescence. At the start of these periods, the number of connections (synapses) between brain cells (neurons) doubles. Two-year-olds have twice as many synapses as adults. Because these connections between brain cells are where learning occurs, twice as many synapses enable the brain to learn faster than at any other time of life. Therefore, children’s experiences in this phase have lasting effects on their development.

    This first critical period of brain development begins around age 2 and concludes around age 7. It provides a prime opportunity to lay the foundation for a holistic education for children. Four ways to maximize this critical period include encouraging a love of learning, focusing on breadth instead of depth, paying attention to emotional intelligence, and not treating young children’s education as merely a precursor to “real” learning. 


    Young children need to enjoy the process of learning instead of focusing on performance. Educators and parents can emphasize the joys of trying new activities and learning something novel. We need to help children understand that mistakes are a welcome, normal part of learning.

    This period is also the time to establish a growth mindset—the belief that talents and abilities are developed through effort instead of being innately fixed. Educators should avoid labeling children or making universal statements about their ability. Even compliments such as “You’re so smart” are counterproductive. Instead, emphasize persistence and create safe spaces for learning. Children will learn to love learning if we show enthusiasm over the process rather than fixating on results. 


    One way to avoid focusing on results during this phase of development is to emphasize the breadth of skill development over depth. Exposing children to a wide variety of activities lays a foundation for developing skills in a range of fields. This is the time to engage children in music, reading, sports, math, art, science, and languages.

    In his book Range, David Epstein argues that breadth of experience is often overlooked and underappreciated. Focusing on excellence in a single activity may be appropriate at some point in life. But the people who thrive in our rapidly changing world are those who first learn how to draw from multiple fields and think creatively and abstractly. In other words, our society needs well-rounded individuals.

    Well-roundedness is especially important for children from ages 2 to 7. Their developing brains are ready to soak in a wide range of skill sets. This “sampling period,” as Epstein calls it, is integral. This is the window during which to develop children’s range. There is plenty of time for them to specialize later.


    Yes, we want children to read well and learn the fundamentals of math. But we should not disregard emotional intelligence. The advantages of learning during this first critical period of brain development should extend to interpersonal skills such as kindness, empathy, and teamwork.

    Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson explain the importance of developing children’s empathy in their book The Whole-Brain Child. Empathy begins with acknowledging one’s feelings. Therefore, they suggest helping children in this age group to first label their emotions (“I feel sad”) and then tell the story about what made them feel that way (“I feel sad because I wanted ice cream and you said no”). Once children practice labeling emotions, educators can start asking questions that encourage them to consider others’ feelings.

    One way to encourage care for others is to include children in what adults do for others. Even allowing young children to help with chores can make them more helpful and considerate people.


    Children’s brains can uniquely absorb information during this critical phase. If intelligence is defined as the ability to learn, children between the ages of 2 and 7 may be the most intelligent humans on the planet.

    Research suggests that some skills cannot be learned nearly as well after this first critical period of brain development. For example, research shows that children in this age range are best suited to learn the patterns of language development, enabling them to master a second language to the same level as a native language. However, once children reach age 8, their language learning proficiency decreases, and second languages are not spoken as well as native ones. The same age effect is found when learning musical abilities such as perfect pitch.

    It is noteworthy that Einstein’s parents did not enroll him in physics lessons—the field that would lead him to a Nobel Prize. Instead, Einstein’s father included him in his work as an engineer. His mother signed him up for violin lessons because she wanted him to love and appreciate music. Both activities worked to develop his young mind holistically. It is tempting to think of early childhood education as a precursor to “real” education. But these may be the years that matter most. 



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  • 4 Strategies to Help Students Feel Calm During Distance Learning

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 9/1/2020

    Boy drawing a picture with markers

    Ways to guide elementary students to regulate their emotions and feel connected to their teacher and peers so they’re ready to learn.

    By Edutopia

    As I work with families, educators, and students during this pandemic time, we’re trying to figure out how to do school in a way that feels safe, comprehensive, and doable with limited technology and internet accessibility. The traumatic conditions of isolation, chronic unpredictability, and physical and emotional constraint are affecting all of us at some level. How do children express their feelings of abandonment, loss, grief, and confusion? How do adults express these feelings? Often, our behaviors tell our stories, signaling the pain we can barely speak of or understand.

    The therapist Bonnie Badenoch says that “the shards of these accumulating experiences that linger in our muscles, belly, hearts, brains, and body systems gradually shape our perceptual systems and how the world looks.” We can plan distance learning curricula, create new ways of presenting content, and innovate our assessment protocols for virtual learning, but with so many unknowns in this time, students’ emotional and social well-being must be a priority.

    Below are strategies and mini brain-aligned practices intended for distance learning that prepare the brain and body for a calm regulated state, improved focus, and attention. They are ways to create touchpoints—moments of connection—and to release anxiety and build a strong sense of connection in a class.


    1. Express Yourself: When we can share our sensations, thoughts, and feelings, we feel a sense of relief, safety, and calm, and artistic expression is one of the most powerful ways to regulate our nervous systems during stressful periods of time. The teachers I work with have used these questions before distance learning lessons, sharing them in packets sent home so students can have some time to express how they feel before the academic part of the lesson. These questions are also great discussion starters that families can use to explore children’s emotions. 

    • What are two images or pictures that pop up in your mind when you think of this pandemic? What do these look like, sound like, smell like and feel like? Can you draw them, write about them, or act them out?
    • What are two ways this pandemic has affected you and/or your family? Can you express them through images or words?
    • How does your world feel different now compared to six months ago?
    • We cannot see the virus, but imagine that you can. What does it remind you of, and how does it look? What are its colors, its lines? If this virus could talk, what would it say? What would you say to this virus?
    • If you could help create a better world as we go through this pandemic together, what is one change you would like to help create or see? What would your plan look like?

    2. Dual Drawings: Students working with a peer, the teacher, or a parent can create a shared drawing as each takes a turn and draws a line or shape and then passes the drawing to their partner to add their line or shape to the drawing within a specified amount of time. Each partner can add shapes, lines, and color and can observe how this shared activity produces a collaborative design. When I have done this, we usually create together without talking—when the time is up we discuss our creation.

    This activity can be shared with students through packets sent through the mail over a longer period of time. The teacher can begin the drawings and send them home to students as a weekly or biweekly design unfolds. Once students have the starter drawing, they can also mail it back and forth to each other, rather than sending it to the teacher. The key step of reflecting on and discussing the creations can happen throughout the process by having students write short journal entries about what they added and why.

    3. Dual Story Writing or Journaling: This activity designed for closure is similar to the dual drawings except we create a story together. This story could be created with images or words and could be a 30-minute, one-day or weekly family activity, or a distance learning collaboration. A student and a peer, the teacher or a parent can write a fictional story together, or create a dual journal by writing alternating entries to share experiences from their daily lives.

    4. Brain Scavenger Hunt: This creates movement, shared and expressed feelings, and connection, and it can be a family ritual or a part of distance learning if students have an internet connection and a device. I have played this through Zoom with fifth-grade students, asking them to find objects around their home that answer these five brain-aligned questions in a specified amount of time. We place our responses on a Padlet so everyone can share what they discovered.

    • Can you find something in your home that can change its shape, is malleable, and stretches like our brains when we learn something new? This represents the brain’s amazing neuroplasticity—our experiences structurally and functionally change our brains, and we are always growing and learning, repairing and healing.
    • Can you find something that feels calming and soothing to you? When we calm our nervous systems, we open up the regions of the brain that can self-regulate, think clearly, remember, and pay attention.
    • Can you find and share something in your home that stresses you out? What you can name, you can tame. For this question, students can draw a picture or write out their answer if it’s not practical to bring the actual object to the Zoom call—for example, if the stressor is the student’s sibling.
    • Can you find something in your home that creates a memory for you? What experience does an image, or an object invoke that creates feelings of joy or peacefulness?
    • Can you find and share something in your home that makes you feel smarter and more focused?
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  • Learning at Home

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 3/16/2020 11:00:00 AM

    Help Has Arrived

    Reposted from the Arlington Central School District Community Facebook group. Thank you Joy Novack Rosson & Rick Rosson for sharing this wonderful information!


    Help has arrived....

    Ok, so LOTS of parents are suddenly home with their kiddos...

    We have always home schooled after I was a classroom teacher for more than a decade, so I say WELCOME and let me help you.😉

    A few things to remember, this is a PERFECT time to make memories with your children and learn things beyond "normal" math and reading.

    This is a great time to really help your child dig in and spend hours doing or learning something that they love or are passionate about.

    Don't forget that there are TONS of documentaries on the streaming services that they might enjoy and learn a lot from.

    Here are links that I have gathered to TONS of free fun learning options for all ages from toddlers to AP students to adults. Some are always free and some are only free during this current situation👇

    I am making this post public, so feel free to share it far and wide.😍 If you know of a resource for FREE education (either permanent or only during this time) please share it in the comments.

    The San Diego Zoo has a website just for kids with amazing videos, activities, and games. Enjoy the tour! https://kids.sandiegozoo.org/

    Tour Yellowstone National Park!

    Explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity Rover.

    This Canadian site FarmFood 360 offers 11 Virtual Tours of farms from minks, pigs, and cows, to apples and eggs. https://www.farmfood360.ca/

    Indoor Activities for busy toddlers

    Play games and learn all about animals

    Play with fave show characters and learn too https://pbskids.org/

    Travel to Paris, France to see amazing works of art at The Louvre with this virtual field trip.

    This Virtual Tour of the Great Wall of China is beautiful and makes history come to life.

    Math and Reading games https://www.funbrain.com/

    Phonics skills https://www.starfall.com/h/

    This iconic museum located in the heart of London allows virtual visitors to tour the Great Court and discover the ancient Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies. https://britishmuseum.withgoogle.com/

     Read, play games, and hang out with Dr. Seuss https://www.seussville.com/

    300,000+ FREE printable worksheets from toddlers to teens https://www.123homeschool4me.com/home-school-free-printabl…/

    Geography and animals

    Math practice from counting to algebra and geometry http://www.mathscore.com/

    Fave kids books read by famous people https://www.storylineonline.net/

    Crafts, activities, mazes, dot to dot, etc, https://www.allkidsnetwork.com/

    High school chemistry topics https://www.acs.org/…/hi…/chemmatters/articles-by-topic.html

    Math and reading games https://www.abcya.com/

    Math and language games https://www.arcademics.com/

    Hands on Elem science videos https://www.backpacksciences.com/science-simplified

    Voice based learning... learn through Alexa https://bamboolearning.com/resources

    Fun games, recipes, crafts, activities https://www.highlightskids.com/

    ClickSchooling brings you daily recommendations by email for entertaining websites that help your kids learn. https://clickschooling.com/

    Math as a fun part of your daily family routine http://bedtimemath.org/

    Games to get "into the book" https://reading.ecb.org/

    Online history classes for all ages preteen through adults https://school.bighistoryproject.com/bhplive

    Biology https://www.biologysimulations.com/

     Elem Math through 6th grade https://boddlelearning.com/

    Educational games K-12 https://www.breakoutedu.com/funathome

    Digital archive of history https://www.bunkhistory.org/

    Test Prep for SAT, ACT, etc. https://www.bwseducationconsulting.com/handouts.php

    Geometry https://www.canfigureit.com/

    Resources for Spanish practice https://www.difusion.com/campus/

    Chinese learning activities https://chalkacademy.com/

    Music is for everyone https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/Experiments

    Science, Math, Social Studies https://www.ck12.org/student/

    Grammar practice for middle grades https://www.classroomcereal.com/

    Daily free science or cooking experiment to do at home.http://www.clubscikidzmd.com/blog/

    Chemistry https://www.playmadagames.com/

    Reading passages for grades 3-12, with reading comprehension and discussion questions. https://www.commonlit.org/

    Vocabulary, grammar, listening activities and games in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Korean, and Latin. https://conjuguemos.com/

    35,000 pages of online content on the cultures and countries of the world. https://www.countryreports.org/

    K-5th Science lessons https://mysteryscience.com/

    Tons of free classes from leading universities and companies https://www.coursera.org/

    Free printable K-8 Reading and Math activity packs (available in English and Spanish) https://www.curriculumassociates.com/supporting-students-aw…

    Digital learning content for preschool through high school https://www.curriki.org/

    A wide range of math content from middle school through AP Calculus. https://deltamath.com/overview

    Day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing. https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/…/learnathome.html

    3 Free Weeks of Maker Stations to keep your children creating at home! Each challenge includes simple instructions using materials around the house, QR code video resources, and a student recording sheet. bit.ly/freemakerstations

    Classes for older teens or adults https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/lp/t1/freemo…

    Online homeschool platform & curriculum for Pre-K to 12th grade. All main subjects are covered, plus extra curriculum courses. http://discoveryk12.com/dk12/

    Printable board games, activities and more for phonics and reading all using evidence-based methods. Can be customized to any student's needs including creating flashcards for other subjects. https://dogonalogbooks.com/printables/

    K-8 online math program that looks at how a student is solving problems to adjust accordingly and build a unique learning path for them. https://www.dreambox.com/at-home

    Engaging reading game for grades 2-8 that combines strategy, engagement, and imaginative reading passages to create a fun, curriculum-aligned literacy game. https://www.squigglepark.com/dreamscape/

    Higher level math series... online video series with detailed solutions to more than a thousand publicly-released College Board SAT Math, Subject Test Math Level 1, and Subject Test Math Level 2 problems.https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbQoCpvYRYRkRRvsObOPHaA…

    Foreign languages https://www.duolingo.com/

    Interactive video earth science based curriculum supplement. https://www.everyday-earth.com/

    A safe research site for elementary-level readers. They are offering -- free 24/7 access
    USERNAME: read (case sensitive)
    PASSWORD: read (case sensitive)

    Resources for AP students including live reviews, live trivia, and study guides! https://app.fiveable.me/

    Educational brain breaks to help students review essential literacy and math skills, while getting in some exercise. Find over 900 videos to help your child keep learning at home and burn off some extra energy. Our site is best used for ages 4-8. https://fluencyandfitness.com/register/school-closures/

    Movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts. https://www.gonoodle.com/

    7,000 free videos in 13 subject areas https://hippocampus.org/

    Carmen Sandiego videos, stories, and lessons for all subject areas https://www.carmensandiego.com/resources/

    Math Videos with lessons, real life uses of math, famous actors https://www.hmhco.com/math-at-work

    Entertaining & educational videos for all levels and subjects

    Online education program for toddler through high school... https://www.khanacademy.org/

    Free Printables for PreK-2nd Grade https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/…/Lite…/Price-Range/Free

    Free printables library with activities for children 0-6 https://www.littlesparkcompany.com/printables-library

    Free at-home kids yoga lesson plans https://littletwistersyoga.com/online-store/

    Magic Spell is a carefully crafted spelling adventure. https://brainbox.games/

    Resources for AP students https://marcolearning.com/

    Enter your math problem or search term, press the button, and they show you the step-by-step work and answer instantly. 2nd grade through college. https://www.mathcelebrity.com/online-math-tutor.php

    Elem Math games, logic puzzles and educational resources https://www.mathplayground.com/

    Poetry and music https://www.thewell.world/mindful-mu…/mindful-poetry-moments

    3D printing projects and Coding projects, involving math and other K-12 subjects https://www.instructables.com/…/EdgertonCent…/instructables/

    Introductory and intermediate music theory lessons, exercises, ear trainers, and calculators. https://www.musictheory.net/

    Scads of free resources, games, learning resources, and lesson plans for teaching personal finance https://www.ngpf.org/

    Improve your typing skills while competing in fast-paced races with up to 5 typers from around the world. https://www.nitrotype.com/

    Illustrated recipes designed to help kids age 2-12 cook with their grown-ups. Recipes encourage culinary skills, literacy, math, and science. https://www.nomsterchef.com/nomster-recipe-library

    Online curriculum that builds better writers. https://www.noredink.com/

    80+ do at home science activities https://elementalscience.com/…/n…/80-free-science-activities

    Daily lessons and educational activities that kids can do on their own https://www.superchargedschool.com/

    Adaptive curriculum in Math and ELA for Grades K-8

    Novel Effect makes storytime a little more fun for kids (and grown-ups too!) As you read out loud from print books (or ebooks!) music, sound effects, and character voices play at just the right moment, adjusting and responding to your voice. https://noveleffect.com/

    Quick & easy at home projects curated for kids 2 and up

    Teaches students how to write a paragraph through interactive online tutorial http://www.paragraphpunch.com/

    PreK-12 digital media service with more than 30,000 learning materials https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/

    Curricular content hub specifically designed for K-3 students.

    Science and math labs and simulations https://phet.colorado.edu/

    An online physics problem and video bank designed for conceptual, standard, honors or AP1 physics. https://www.positivephysics.org/home

    Prodigies is a colorful music curriculum for kids 1-12 that will teach your kids how to play their first instrument, how to sing in tune & how to understand the language of music! 21 for free https://prodigiesmusic.com/

    Free videos from around the world from grade 3-12

    QuaverMusic is offering free access to general music activities to all impacted schools, including free student access at-home https://www.quavermusic.com/info/at-home-resources/

    For students to practice and master whatever they are learning. https://quizlet.com/

    ReadWorks is an online resource of reading passages and lesson plans for students of all levels K-12. https://www.readworks.org/

    Critical Thinking resources for K-6 students https://marketplace.mythinkscape.com/store/redtkids

    Music Based Spanish Learning https://rockalingua.com/

    Science simulations, scientist profiles, and other digital resources for middle school science and high school biology

    The Shurley English program for grades K-8 provides a clear, logical, and concrete approach to language arts. https://www.shurley.com/

    Sight reading and sight singing practice exercises. https://www.sightreadingfactory.com/

    Music practice transformed https://www.smartmusic.com/

    Spellingcity is free right now with code VSCFree90

    Kid-friendly workouts — choose from Strength for Kids, Agility for Kids, Flexibility and Balance for Kids, Warm-Up for Kids, Cooldown for Kids, Stand Up and Move for Kids, OR create your own custom kid workout. https://app.sworkit.com/collections/kids-workouts

    A collection of hundreds of free K-12 STEM resources, from standalone models and simulations to short activities and week long sequences of curriculum materials. https://learn.concord.org/

    Course sets (Levels 1–5) that combine and thoroughly cover phonics, reading, writing, spelling, literature, grammar, punctuation, art, and geography—all in one easy-to-use, beautiful course. https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/

    At home OT, PT, and ST resources designed to build skills in children through movement and play. https://www.theottoolbox.com/

    Science projects that can be completed with or without Internet access https://sciencespot.net/Pages/classhome.html

    Keyboarding practice https://www.typingclub.com/ or https://www.typing.com/

    Next Generation Science video game focused on middle school where students directly engage in science phenomena as they solve problems. https://www.tytoonline.com/

    Short videos and readings that answer various burning questions for students. There are vocabulary challenges and comprehension questions. http://wonderopolis.org/

    Math practice https://xtramath.org/#/home/index

    K-5 curriculum that builds deep understanding and a love of learning math for all students https://www.zearn.org/

    A quick start resource to help families pull together a plan for surviving the next 1-2 months at home with their kids, but it can also be a time of slowing down and enjoying kids as they learn.
    Preschool through 8th grade https://abetterwaytohomeschool.com/learning-at-home-everyth…

    450 Ivy League courses that you can take https://www.freecodecamp.org/…/ivy-league-free-online-cou…/…

    Spelling 1-4 grade

    2,500+ online courses from top institutions https://www.edx.org/

    22 languages to learn https://www.memrise.com/

    Learn to code https://www.codecademy.com/

    Miscellaneous games for all subjects k-8 https://www.funbrain.com/

    Phonics and learning to read https://readingeggs.com/

    PreK - 5 games for all subjects https://www.turtlediary.com/

    Online digital coloring pages https://www.thecolor.com/

    Every course you could possibly want to homeschool preschool - 8 https://allinonehomeschool.com/

    Every course you could possibly want to homeschool for high school https://allinonehighschool.com/

    Phonics worksheets for kids https://www.funfonix.com/

    Free stories online ages 3-12 https://www.freechildrenstories.com/

    National Geographic Young Explorers is a magazine designed specifically for kindergarten and first grade students. Children can listen to the magazine being read to them as they follow along with the highlighted text. https://ngexplorer.cengage.com/ngyoungexplorer/index.html

    Learn all about earthquakes https://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/kids/

    Learn all about the periodic table https://www.chemicool.com/

    Farmer's almanac for kids... Date, weather, moon phase, etc. https://www.almanac.com/kids

    Guide to gardening for kids https://web.extension.illinois.edu/firstgarden/

    Website allows students to play basic games to reinforce math skills and compete against the computer or others https://www.mangahigh.com/en-us/

    Space science for kiddos https://www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html

    Math Games, Logic Puzzles and Brain Builders https://www.mathplayground.com/

    Games, quizzes and fact sheets take kids on a journey through time. https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/forkids/

    NGAkids interactives offer an entertaining and informative introduction to art and art history. https://www.nga.gov/education/kids.html

    News and more for kids https://www.youngzine.org/

    Randomly generates 356,300,262,144 story starters

    Immerse yourself in cryptography https://www.cryptoclub.org/

    Math games galore https://gridclub.com/

    Tons of science experiments that you can do at home

    An interactive way to learn history

    Just explore, have fun, and learn some science along the way. https://thehappyscientist.com/

    Interactive games based on the book series

    Work on the 8 parts of speech https://www.grammaropolis.com/

    Learn all about cells https://www.cellsalive.com/

    All sorts of learning here if you dig in https://www.google.com/earth/

    Scratch draws students of all types into coding and lays a foundation for future learning. https://scratch.mit.edu/

    A wonderful, endlessly detailed way to get kids engaged in the world of art. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metkids/

    Tests kids’ geography skills. Using images from Google’s Street View, it plops players down in the middle of the street and asks them to figure out where they are. https://www.geoguessr.com/

    Allows students to type in any city, state, or country to view an archive of historical photographs and other documents. It’s a unique way to help them learn about history.

    Short videos about numbers that help kids explore complex math topics and make math more fun. https://www.numberphile.com/

    A human visualization platform that allows students to explore the human body in really cool ways. https://human.biodigital.com/login?returnUrl=/dashboard

    Helps kids learn to appreciate the arts by providing them with the opportunity to play games, conduct investigations, and explore different forms of art. https://artsology.com/

    Lets kids play instruments online. Instruments include the guitar, piano, pan flute, drums, and bongos. https://www.virtualmusicalinstruments.com/

    Crafts, activities, bulletin board designs, and finger plays for early education teachers and parents to use with kids.

    A large selection of fun songs to help teach preschool and kindergarten students https://www.songsforteaching.com/preschoolkindergarten.htm

    Resource section includes free flashcards, coloring pages, worksheets, and other resources for children, teachers, and parents. https://supersimple.com/

    Life skills curriculum for students in grades K-12. Their resources include strategies for teaching social and emotional skills. https://www.overcomingobstacles.org/

    Coding for ages 4-10 https://www.kodable.com/

    No need to travel to one of the Smithsonian’s zoos or museums — this website brings your child everything from live video of the National Zoo to the Smithsonian Learning Lab right to their screen https://www.si.edu/kids

    Cool Kid Facts gives your child access to educational videos, pictures, quizzes, downloadable worksheets, and infographics. They can use these to learn about geography, history, science, animals, and even the human body.

    This interactive website, hosted by the U.S. Government Publishing Office, allows your child to see the ins and outs of the U.S. government by taking a series of learning adventures with none other than Benjamin Franklin. https://bensguide.gpo.gov/

    This NASA initiative covers a wide range of topics including weather, climate, atmosphere, water, energy, plants, and animals. https://climatekids.nasa.gov/

    Ask Dr. Universe is a science-education project from Washington State University. Kids can send Dr. Universe any question they may have about history, geography, plants, animals, technology, engineering, math, culture, and more.

    Your child can play games, learn fun facts, and find out how to turn coin collecting into a hobby. https://www.usmint.gov/learn/kids

    From rainbows to tornadoes and winter storms to tsunamis, meteorologist Crystal Wicker breaks down the fascinating world of weather. http://www.weatherwizkids.com/

    Kids Think Design explores careers in fashion design, graphic design, interior design, book design, product design, film and theatre, architecture, animation, and environmental design. http://www.kidsthinkdesign.org/

    This educational website hosted by the Smithsonian Museum takes a deep dive into ocean life. https://ocean.si.edu/

    Brainscape offers over a million flashcard decks for every subject, entrance exam, and certification imaginable. https://www.brainscape.com/

    The Theta Music Trainer offers a series of online courses and games for ear training and music theory.

    Banzai exposes students to real-world financial dilemmas to teach them the importance of smart money management. https://www.teachbanzai.com/

    Innerbody explores the 11 bodily systems in depth. With interactive models and detailed explanations, this website will help them learn more about the internal mechanics of the amazing human body.https://www.innerbody.com/htm/body.html

    Alcumus is specifically designed to provide high-performing students with a challenging curriculum appropriate to their abilities https://artofproblemsolving.com/alcumus

    Find and fix learning gaps https://www.mobymax.com/

    Algebra games for kids https://www.dragonboxapp.com/

    Fractions practice http://www.mathchimp.com/freddysfractions.php

    Education for kids all topics https://www.ducksters.com

    Math and logic problems for ages 5 and up to adult

    Science podcasts to listen to with your kids https://medium.com/…/19-great-science-podcasts-you-can-list…

    Alaskan Wildlife cams http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewing.webcams

    Coding with Star Wars https://code.org/starwars

    Tons and tons and tons of games some learning some just fun https://www.crazygames.com/

    Crafts, projects, science, recipes for young children https://www.funology.com/

    Amphibian unit studies https://premeditatedleftovers.com/…/amphibians-unit-study-…/

    Engineering challenges with things you have at home

    Online photograph jigsaw puzzles You can set the pieces from 6-1000+ https://www.jigsawexplorer.com/

    Toddler and preschool age ideas https://preschoolinspirations.com/

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  • New Studies Link the Arts to Crucial Cognitive Skills

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 2/11/2020 4:00:00 PM

    What happens to our brains ‘on art’? New studies—often backed by brain imaging technology—are beginning to dial in on the answers.

    Art education

    Click here to watch a brief video.

    New research reveals that the arts may prime our neural circuitry for a broad range of activities, boosting crucial cognitive and social skills like spoken and written language, focus, self-control, and empathy. In a 2016 study, for example, T. Christina Zhao and Patricia Kuhl demonstrated that babies exposed to simple melodies in a social setting developed a greater sensitivity to the rhythms of spoken language. More surprisingly, they noted, the processing of music was traced not just to the auditory cortex of the infants, but to the prefrontal cortex as well—the seat of higher-order cognitive faculties like attention and self-regulation.

    “We can see that the babies who have been through the music experience have greater abilities to...hold attention when that’s important, and to switch attention when it’s  appropriate to switch,” Kuhl explained in a TED talk. “In other words, music is affecting executive function.” 

    2019 study reached similar conclusions with professional musicians, finding that “executive attention is more efficient in musicians than non-musicians,” and improves as musical training progresses. 

    But those weren’t the only surprises in store for researchers. A major 2019 study tracked over 10,000 students in Texas as they participated in arts programs, concluding that they performed better on state writing tests, were better behaved, had more compassion for fellow students, and were more engaged in school. And a 2018 study showed that drawing had a dramatic effect on memory, outperforming writing, visualizing, and other retention techniques.

    We also referenced other studies, reports, and news stories as we produced this video: A comprehensive 2017 American Institutes for Research study on arts integration; 2016 and 2014 research on executive function; a 2013 study on the value of field trips to museums; a 2019 news story on the recent discovery of ancient cave paintings; along with the following older research: a 2009 report; this 2011 research; this 2008 research; and this 2004 research, among others.

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  • Six Scaffolds That Deepen Independent Learning

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 1/28/2020 12:00:00 PM

    When teaching problem-based lessons, use thinking scaffolds to propel students toward greater expertise and deeper learning.

    Scaffold Image

    When you want to conduct a problem-based unit, or push students to engage with a project or investigate a challenging topic more independently, thinking scaffolds—by way of targeted prompts, supports, and modeling—can be an important tool in your arsenal.

    In a recent, small-scale study, featured in a report by Emily Boudreau on the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Usable Knowledge website, researchers identified a few intriguing scaffolds teachers can use to help students progress toward more sophisticated, deeper-level learning. In the study, which examines a high school STEM curriculum, cognitive scientist Tina Grotzer and a team of researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “noticed that as their problem-based curriculum progressed, students changed the way they approached problems. Rather than waiting for the teacher to give them answers, they made hypotheses based on existing knowledge, discussed their thoughts with their teams, and took risks—all signs of deeper-level learning,” Boudreau writes.

    Researchers concluded that the thinking scaffolds provided by teachers played an important role in encouraging this shift. “We know that experts pay attention to a very different set of patterns than novices often do. Novices get caught up in the surface features and can’t necessarily see the deep principles,” Grotzer told Boudreau. “It’s really important to think what kind of scaffolding helps people take steps towards greater expertise in their thinking and reasoning.”

    Here are the six scaffolds Boudreau identifies:

    1. Encourage students to think about context: Pose questions that push students to think about what they know—and what they don’t yet know. This helps them become more inclined to seek out new connections, patterns, and possibilities. For example, ask: What information did you base your conclusion on? Are you sure—what don’t you know yet about this?

    2. Make questions open-ended: Draw out their thinking by using generic probes, or targeted questions, to help students rethink ideas without correcting them outright. For example, ask: Can you tell me more about that? Can you explain that?

    3. Tap into students’ knowledge base: Encourage students to dig into what they already know from school, their own experience, and what’s happening right now. Notes study author Grotzer: “[This is a] pedagogical move that says all of the information and experience you have is useful and you can bring it to bear.” Ask: what do you already know that could help you here?

    4. Let students own it: Let students know that they should make their own choices. “The role of the teacher is not to make decisions about what to do next or execute,” Boudreau writes about working in this mode of independent inquiry. Teachers can model the way an expert might approach the problem, and ask: What’s next? How are you going to handle this?

    5. Cultivate risk-taking: Encourage a classroom risk-taking culture—where students are willing to try new things—by not immediately shooting down incorrect answers and being patient before you jump in and guide students back to a more productive course. For example, say: that’s an interesting idea, let’s explore it.

    6. Leave time to debrief: To encourage students to see themselves as active learners, rather than mere participants, encourage regular student reflection with questions about performance, results, and students’ thought process. For example, ask: how do you think your team is doing? How are you managing your learning? 

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  • A De-escalation Exercise for Upset Students

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 1/17/2020 7:00:00 PM

    A simple technique that takes just a few minutes can help an agitated student regain the state of mind needed for learning.

    A De-Escalation Exercise for Upset Students

    So often we find students in a stressed or anxious state of mind. The most telltale signs are inappropriate behaviors or outbursts, negative comments, and anxiety-ridden movements such as fidgeting, leg shaking, and fist clenching. These signals should raise immediate concern and indicate to educators that a response may be needed. The goal is to guide the student to a self-regulated mindset, but how does a teacher do that?

    First let’s review what is going on with a student in the middle of an outburst. Cortisol, which is responsible for keeping people alive in the face of danger, is being released. Often referred to as the stress hormone, cortisol plays a crucial role our ability to protect ourselves. When we experience stressful situations, the release of cortisol helps us respond rapidly, but it comes with a cost, as it negatively affects the brain’s ability to function at an optimal level.

    Think of it like this: You’re in the ocean on a surfboard waiting for the perfect wave. A short distance away, you see a shark fin pop out of the water, heading your way. Immediately two chemicals—cortisol and adrenaline—are released and you enter the fight, flight, or freeze response: You can fight the shark, flee by paddling as fast as you can, or freeze and hope the shark loses interest in you. Whatever your response, you find yourself in a moment of stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear due to heightened cortisol levels.

    Now let’s consider how this might look in a learning environment. At the end of a class, two students learn that they have received a poor grade on a science test. This is not a life-or-death situation like the approaching shark, but the physiological response is the same. The students’ cortisol levels are high and they are anxious, a state of mind that doesn’t support clear, conscious thinking. Upon entering their English class, the two students are visibly upset. One heads straight for their seat and begins to cry, while the other throws their book bag on the floor and punches the desk. For the teacher, recognizing these signs before beginning class is important.


    The young brain can be confusing, complex, and often misunderstood, not only from the perspective of adults but more importantly from that of the students themselves. In order for students to understand how their brain functions, it’s important to teach them about a few parts of the brain and their functions. To keep it simple, teach them about the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus.

    The amygdala directs rapid responses when necessary—the fight, flight, or freeze response. When the amygdala detects a threat, it responds faster than the prefrontal cortex, which directs the ability to make decisions and problem-solve, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for remembering details and storing memories. The two areas of the brain most needed for academic work are thus bypassed. As a result, an anxious, stressed, or fearful state of mind can lead to poor decision-making, inability to think with clarity, and impulsive behaviors.

    Learning how to calm ourselves is imperative for our well-being, and the following technique, which is designed to decrease negative impulses and emotions, can be shared with students. The goal is to lead them to more regulated thinking and learning.


    Let’s go back to the two upset students in their English class. They aren’t ready to work, but the teacher can help by taking a few minutes to guide them back to a state of calm.

    This process should take anywhere from four to six minutes and be centered on the student. I’ve provided a sample of what a teacher might say at each stage, but you should modify those statements so they feel natural to you.

    If you have a paraprofessional or in-class support teacher, you can ask a student who seems upset to step out into the hallway or into an area of the classroom set aside for de-escalation. Or you can do this as a whole-class starter activity for anyone who might have something worrisome on their minds. Students can either choose this de-escalation technique—thinking over their answers instead of sharing them out loud—or engage in a warm-up activity connected to the class such as completing a journal entry or worksheet.

    Give the student time to regain their calm: Say, “I notice you’re really upset. Let’s work together on breathing slowly for one minute in order to manage your impulses.”

    Direct the student to be aware of their thoughts and feelings: Say, “What’s going on in your brain and body right now? Tell me how you feel and what you’re thinking, and if you’re ready to focus on moving forward with getting calm.”

    Have the student redirect their thoughts: Say, “Take a minute, close your eyes, breathe slowly, and think about something that makes you happy. I know you told me how much you love your grandma’s fresh-baked cookies. Think about walking into grandma’s house in a calm state of mind as you smell the cookies, taste the cookies, and feel the warmth of them right out of the oven.”

    Give the student positive feedback on becoming calm: Say, “Now open your eyes. How are you feeling? If you need more time to settle down, let me know. You should feel happy and excited about your work in getting to this point.”

    Give the student a little more time to refocus: Say, “Take a minute and do something for you. Go for a walk and get some air, or tell me about your baseball game the other night.”

    Have the student reflect for the future: Say, “The next time you’re feeling this way and I’m not with you, what can you tell yourself in order to take charge of your thinking and behavior, and get yourself to a regulated place?”

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  • What is a blog?

    Posted by Jenny Fox on 1/7/2020 2:00:00 PM




    noun: blog; plural noun: blogs

    a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.


    Is blogging still relevant, and if so, how could it benefit parents and the PTA?

    At the start of the year a lot of people ponder whether a blog should be part of their plans for the new year, and every January there is a spike in Google searches where people are looking up “How to Start a Blog” and “Is a Blog Right for You?” For us, the most important reason to be introducing a blog to our page is that it opens the opportunity for community, friendship and collaborations. The goal is for you to relate to some of what we will be sharing and to realize that your thoughts and opinions matter. 

    Please check back each week for our latest blog post from edutopia! 

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