Khan Academy for Tech Tuesday

Some of you might be rolling your eyes right now.  Like, "Who hasn't heard of Khan Academy?"  But, let's just say this is a friendly reminder that Khan Academy is AWESOME.  Yep, capital letters were completely required there.

Where on earth can you find simple narrated videos that describe basic addition AND go on to have extensive sections in algebra, trigonometry, geometry, statistics, probability, and calculus?  For FREE.  Yep, more capital letters.

AND, if that wasn't enough, how about the science section?  I know you are different from me.  Me, who bluffed my way through chemistry class in high school and could stand to watch all 104 Khan Academy lessons on chemistry (not to mention the whole section on Organic Chem, too).  Are you serious?   And Mom, if you are reading, I was just kidding about the bluffing-my-way-through chemistry-class-thing.

Khan Academy offers free videos in other subjects, too, like humanities and the social sciences.  AND just to add more icing to this fabulous free cupcake of a resource, Khan offers free PRACTICE exercises, too.  FREE.  FABULOUS.  AMAZING. 

Khan Academy, I predict, will change the way the world learns.

Mark my words,

PS - We can all thank kind, generous, brilliant Salman Khan who was innocently tutoring his cousin via a doodle/messenger program and voila, Khan Academy was born.  It doesn't hurt that the Amazing Kahn has several degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.  Kind.  Generous.  Brilliant, indeed.

PSS - For all you data lovers, Khan Academy has cool stat and data reports you can run on a student's progress while they use Khan's resources.  These tools would be great for homeschoolers and parents, too.

PSSS - Check back this week, I've got a nice pairing to Khan coming your way called the Flipped Classroom :)

Upcycled Milk Carton Pouches

I have mixed feelings on this craftucation project.  It sure is cute and colorful and what a clever idea to upcycle a milk carton.  No, it wasn't my idea.  You know me...the creative imitator.  The idea is from here.  I like this tutorial because it comes with a template to cut the milk carton, instructions, and a video.  I'm just unsure if a) a pouch like this is useful, and b) if my milk carton was just too thick for the project - cutting and folding my milk carton was much trickier than the video demonstrated.  Maybe it was just me.

At any rate, you will need to save, clean, and dry your favorite milk cartons in order to prepare for the project.  Then, you will need two monkeys, like Lil O and Cousin A, to assist you.

See what you think of this project and post your comments below.  If you think your pouch turns out well, post a photo on Upcycled Education's Facebook page, ok?  The jury is still out for me.

Good luck,

Montessori Education and School Reform

You know my passions - Lil O and Paul, Colorado, technology, craftucation, and Montessori Education.

I grinned from ear-to-ear the other day in one of my college classes.  One of my undergraduate students raised her hand and asked, "So, how do you become a Montessori teacher?"

It was like music to my ears. 

This recent article on school reform and Montessori Education is fantastic.  If you don't know what Montessori Education is all about, this article will clearly inform you.  If you already are a supporter of Montessori Education, you will be cheering.

Thanks to Ms. J and the lovely author of this article, Laura Flores Shaw, for sharing.


PS - If you want to catch up on all the Montessori-related blog posts, click here:

Wolfram Alpha for Tech Tuesday {Flashback}

My college students are about to start their research projects and I wanted to (re)share Wolfram Alpha with them.

You might remember this free, tech gem from my blog post here.

I still can't get enough of it.

And, do you remember when I told you a gal from Wolfram Alpha contacted me?  She did and she even called me Mayor Jen!  I love a person with a good sense of humor.

Your favorite mayor of Jenville,


PS - Wolfram Alpha just launched a Pro version.  I haven't played with it, yet, but it looks like you can do some really neat things with data, as well as add your own.

Teacher Appreciation

One year at Lil O's former Montessori school, I was the coordinator of school spirit, which really meant making the teachers and staff feel appreciated.  I was soooo happy to have that job.  I loved coming up with "gift packs" for each teacher and staff member with my $20 budget for each (paid by the Parent Association).  I surveyed all the teachers and staff at the beginning of the school year to find out their interests and favorites - favorite colors, Starbucks drink, style of home decor, music, etc.

You can kind of see in the photo above the "gift packs" I would put together.  I needed to blur the image a bunch to keep the names semi-private.  This is the Internet after all, right?

Gift packs for teachers:
  • Box of favorite tea.  I found Trader Joe's and Target had the best prices.
  • Beaded necklace I would create in their favorite color.  I have quite a collection of beads, so I literally didn't need to buy any supplies for this; I already had them!
  • Framed photo of students.  I found great deals on frames at Joanns, Michaels and Home Goods.
  • CD with favorite music and a recording of the children singing Happy Birthday to them,  I used the "Voice Memos" app on my iPhone to record this.
  • Card with messages from all the families* and all the children's signatures.  I think kids' signatures are priceless.
  • Framed Wordle created with words that described the teacher or staff member*.
From what I understand, the teacher appreciation gift packs were a bit hit.  I know the teachers and staff thanked me a lot.

Educators and school staff sometimes are under-recognized for the amazing love and nurturing they provide to students.  Have you shown your appreciation to an educator or ally lately?

Just wondering....


* In order to efficiently gather parents and families' birthday messages and descriptive words for the Wordle, I used the free Survey Monkey and made a survey with two questions:  1)  Describe the teacher in 3-5 words, and 2) What is your birthday message for Mr./Ms. XYZ?  Then, I emailed the survey link to all the parents and families and set a deadline to complete it.  Once completed, I simply copied and pasted their responses into a Word document or the Wordle template.  It was easy peasy that way.

Giving Back for All Ages

  Since I literally have the most creative, brightest, college students in the world, I've asked them to join Upcycled Education and blog with me.  Please welcome, student blogger:  Kim.  You might remember her from her maiden post here.

About Kim:
I am a parent, educator-in-training, COG Kids Contributor, recycler of almost everything, self-proclaimed artist, craver of all things hot, really awful singer, & very loyal friend.  I'd like to add, Kim is an amazing student. A-MA-ZING.

Kim, take it away...

Thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. made me think about this….

As a teacher-in-training, I believe creating a sense of community in the classroom is important.  But, what about getting our students to think about their actual community, and getting them involved in giving back? I believe that giving back to our community through volunteering time, donating goods, and cooperative collaboration creates not only better, stronger communities, but better citizens of our planet. 

Further, I believe that everyone, no matter their age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status, has the capacity to make meaningful contributions to the community.  That being said, here are a few ways to get your students psyched about making their community a better place to live:
  • Keep a shredder in your classroom and shred all of your class’s scrap paper.  Local animal shelters and rescues use shredded paper (no staples please!) for bedding.  Drop off the bags monthly “in honor of” whichever students have a birthday that month.
  • Make stuff, sell it, and use the money for more fun stuff!  For example, I plan on teaching science.  Perhaps, in one of my environmental lessons, I can incorporate rain and the use of rain barrels to conserve and repurpose water.  Then, my students and I can build a handful of rain barrels (maybe with donated or reclaimed supplies) and either donate the rain barrels or sell them.  We can use the money to fund more awesome science lessons and projects. 
  • Create a community garden.   Start the seeds and nurture them in class, then they can be transplanted.  Even if you do not have a plot of land for a garden, container gardening is really convenient.  Encourage any student who wants to take any seedlings home to do so and to document the plant in its new environment.  OR donate the small plants to a local organization or community garden.
  • Keep your students informed of ways that they can volunteer in their community.  For example, I am a contributing member of Chesapeake Outdoor Group for Kids (COG Kids).  In addition to lots of fun events, we also host a few volunteer days throughout the year, such as bagged lunch assemblies for a local shelter, our Earth Day weeding and gardening at a local non-profit, and a beach clean up at a local park. 
  • Check your local and state volunteer networks to find creative ideas.  In Maryland, this is a great one here; most states have something similar.
Kim, thank you for reminding us that people of any age can give back.  Upcyclists, how do you plan to "give back" for 2012?  Leave your ideas and comments below.
As always, Kim, you are talented and bright.  I can't wait for you to have your own classroom of students!

BrainPOP for Tech Tuesday {& Free Trial}

Since I literally have the most creative, brightest, college students in the world, I've asked them to join Upcycled Education and blog with me.  Please welcome, student blogger:  Kim.  You might remember her from her maiden post here.

About Kim:
I am a parent, educator-in-training, COG Kids Contributor, recycler of almost everything, self-proclaimed artist, craver of all things hot, really awful singer, & very loyal friend.  I'd like to add, Kim is an amazing student. A-MA-ZING.
Kim, take it away...

BrainPOP is a subscription-based website that offers animated, curriculum-based content for grades K-12 (and such colorful content, I might add). BrainPOP's content is in a variety of subject areas: science, social studies, English, math, engineering, health, art and music.  Here is an example of its science offerings:

When you click on the BrainPOP Educators link, BrainPOP provides free access to lesson plans, video tutorials, professional development tools, graphic organizers, best practices, games, and so much more!  There are also engaging animated movies on a variety of topics.  Tim and Moby, the silly stars of these animated movies, explain things succinctly and keep their audiences’ attention. 
BrainPOP Educators is free, but the majority of the regular BrainPOP content is subscription-based - meaning you pay a fee ($85/year for at home/family use; $135/classroom use).  Luckily, our friends at BrainPOP provide details on how to apply for grants so that educators can obtain funding for materials or projects.  How helpful, especially if a paid BrainPOP membership is on your classroom wish list! 

The forums and educators blog let you see what other educators are doing with the BrainPOP content and their students.  This is right up my alley:  I am much better at putting my own fresh spin on an idea than I am at coming up with the entire idea from scratch.  BrainPOP is a one-stop-shop for educational resources!  It is definitely worth checking out.
  Here is an example of some of the free content for educators.  Who doesn't love a good graphic organizer?

Kim, thank you for introducing me and the Upcyclists to BrainPOP.  Until Kim mentioned it, I had never heard of it before.  Now, I am entranced.

{Free Trial} - THIS EXPIRED :(
The folks at BrainPOP have kindly given Upcycled Education readers a free 30-day trial (instead of their usually free 5-day one).  Go here and choose "Upcycled Education in the "where did you meet or hear about us" menu to activate yours. 

Paint Swatch Heart Garland

After last month's paint swatch flower garland, I knew I would have to use my (borrowed) heart punch to make a Valentine's Day inspired one.  I even made a mini heart garland for Professor KP as a thank you gift.  Actually, she is a total gift to work with - I heart her.  Pun, completely intended :)

For quickie directions how to make your own garland, click here.

Happy "World Happy Day!"  What will you do to celebrate happiness today? 

Glow Stick Valentines Knock-Off

My creative cousin, Cheryl, turned me on to this idea.  Lil O and I designed the hearts and message in Publisher, printed on cardstock, and then, we took turns cutting out the hearts.  After purchasing two tubes of $1 glow sticks from Michael's craft store and taping one to each heart, we had her Valentines school ready.  Apparently, at Lil O's school, you do not put your name on your Valentines.  Like secret Valentines.

If you want another clever idea, see what friend Susan from Crafterhours (my favorite craft blog) cooked up.  Adorable, no?

And just for the record, I don't even like Valentine's Day anyways.  I use to call it the "Hallmark Holiday."  You would never know it with all these V-Day posts lately on Upcycled Education.  Maybe I am getting soft.

Happy creating,

Follow the Child

When I attended a Montessori 101 Night for parents several years ago, there were a few take-home messages that stuck out and could be applied at home and in any classroom.  Follow the child was one of them and since I love all things Montessori (that are done well), I've embraced it as much as possible every since.  Read below to see what else I learned that evening....

Take-home lessons learned:
  • Follow the child - Let the child take the lead, choose activities, explore, problem-solve and ask for help.  Too often parents and teachers intervene and do this for children.  Let the child choose/do/be and simply follow along as an observer.
  • Since the child will be leading, help limit the environment so it is not overwhelming.  In the 21st century, many environments tend to be busy, rushed and include too much stimulation.  For example, is your child's bedroom under- or overwhelming?  How about your child's classroom?  Aim for simple spaces with readily available materials.  For examples of what simple spaces look like in a classroom, be sure to read this post on Montessori Education, Part I and Part II.  Both posts are filled with helpful photos.
  • To help keep spaces simple, consider rotating toys, books, and activities.  Store items in plastic tubs or cardboard boxes in an attic, closet, or basement.  Some clever parents and teachers rotate items once a season or 4-6 times a year to keep those items interesting and engage children.
Sounds fairly simple, no?

Another day when I am in the Instagram-photo mood, I will take photos of lil O's spaces and show you how Mr. UpCyclist and I help her to simplify & organize them.


World Happy Day - February 11th, 2012

Thank you, Dr. I, for letting me know this Saturday is World Happy Day.  Yay!  There even is a great looking documentary to go along with it.  To find out where a film screening is happening near you, click here

And, not to give too much away, but something really happy and fantastic is happening on World Happy Day for me and my family, too.

More details coming soon.

With happiness,

Video Games for Tech Tuesday

Years ago, I went into a Video Game in Education class at Johns Hopkins University as a disbeliever and left the course as a game advocate and believer.

This short article speaks to the benefits of video games in learning.

See for yourself before you diss on all video games again.


{Free, Printable} Calendar

I always find the best stuff at one of my favorite design blogs, How About Orange.  HAO led me to this adorable {free} owl calendar.  I printed one last year and used it at my desk.  I printed one for this year, too.

So functional and eye-appealing!  And you get to pick which image you want for which month.  For example, I think the image above would be great for February or for when you and your special someone fell in love.  Awww.....

Make your own owl calender here and keep it desk-side.


Squirrels and Learning

My colleague shared this video with me.  Her daughter, E, is studying education at a nearby college and her clever professor, Professor Wilson, shared the video during an education class. I. Love. This. Video.  It is appropriate viewing for teachers, parents and all allies.

For my education students, see if you can make connections to scaffolding, modeling, the importance of clear learning goals and objectives, the significance of caring adults, IFSPs/IEPs, and any other edu-ideas that come to you.  Leave your comments below under the "comment" feature.  Like all YouTube videos, you can make the video larger by clicking on the full screen option located at the bottom, right corner of the video window.

I'm looking forward to your reactions and connections.  Big thanks, to my colleague, E, and Professor Wilson for sharing this video with me and agreeing it would be blog-worthy.

All the best,

Fieldtrip, anyone?

It's been a year since my amazing colleagues and I visited here....

Indeed, the mecca of US education - The United States Department of Education.  I have to admit two things:  1) I had never been there before and 2) I felt pretty nifty to have visited.  Now, I have insider connections there.  You heard me - real connections with real people.  Thus, because my college students and I are studying special education laws & mandates (I promise, it is a touch more interesting than it sounds), I decided to email one of my connections to see if anything new is brewing in the world of education and laws.

Here's the latest and greatest (with my interjections):
  • IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was slated to be reauthorized in 2012.  However, since Congress is busy with other matters and cannot seem to agree upon much and it is an election year, IDEA is on hold right now as far as a reauthorization goes.  My connection's hunch is it will be years before IDEA is updated and reauthorized.  Yes, years.
  • ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), also known since 2001 as the No Child Left Behind Act, is also behind schedule.  It was slated to be reauthorized in 2010 (or 2011).  To date, an ESEA reauthorization is on hold.  Same reasons as IDEA....busy, disagreeable Congress and it is an election year.  Why can't we just get along?
  • Interested in reading the changes proposed for the reauthorization of ESEA?  If so, click here.  Since all federal laws are lengthy, thankfully can you click on the portion  of the law that interests you most.
  • My connection's hunch is that IDEA will have better alignment with ESEA with regard to teacher qualifications, the reduction of paperwork, etc.  I personally like the parts on "early learning" - especially the birth-through-college-to-career-agenda and "innovation" - especially the part related to school choice.  I appreciate forward-thinking topics.
  • If you'd like to learn more about the most current IDEA, click here.
I must run....I'm headed to Washington, DC today for something else special and education-related.

All the best,