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Take Your Learning Outdoors--Forest Kindergartens

Many parents are beginning to realize that the structured academics of traditional classrooms are not as beneficial to their children’s’ education as other styles of learning. Rather a strong connection with the natural world can enhance and improve our learning in the classroom.

Hence, the invention of Forest schools has given children the opportunity for just that—kids learn in classrooms, but also have a great exposure to exploration and freedom by having recess session in forests and other natural areas. Children play outside, rain or shine, with little supervision. The idea is that the children are allowed to connect with the natural world because their brains will automatically use their literary and math skills in the way that they interact with the real world as well. The teachers are allowed to bring their students to meadows, creeks, mountains, forests, and shorelines.

 

This may sound like a new concept for American schools, and it is. But it has been around for years in other countries such as Germany, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. Teaching and lessons are done by personal experience with the environment; for example, teacher Nihal Öz of the Waldkindergarten in Germany tells a story of a little boy who wanted to know what would happen if he stood in the fire. He ran up to the teacher and said “Look, my feet did not burn!” From this, the teachers use this moment as a lesson by gathering all the kids around the fire, and teaching them about how fire works. Thorston Reinecke, another teacher, commented on the lesser amount of supervision that the children receive, but how it is beneficial to them: “maybe I don’t have that much control and I can’t always see them, but I know where they are. Not being there all the time allows them to assess risks better.”

When the world is your classroom, there is no end to the amount of learning that you can have just from personal experience and from picking up on the way that the world around you works. A stronger sense of the world can make a child more confident in itself and prepare them to use that confidence in the classroom later on.

Now, Waldkindergartens, or Forest schools, are popping up all over the United States. The first Forest School opened up in Portland, Oregon in 2007. There are several new Forest schools sprouting up in California as well, and there are enough schools involved that they are able to have formal meetings of all the supervisors of the Forest schools.

There is a growing amount of technology in our lives, but there will always be a vast amount of nature and earth to explore as well. Respecting both spheres of the world we live in are the first beginning steps to knowing more and learning more about our world, and creating stronger students in the classroom.

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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How to Study for Math

Math has a language of its own, with its numbers, complex variables and symbols, charts, graphs, and all sorts of increasing and decreasing curves. Having some handy step-by-step tips can lead you to more success with learning math! Use these study and test taking tips to lead to greater mathematic success!

  1. Read math problems completely before answering the question. If you read a question too quickly, you may miss important information or hints that can help you understand the question better.
  2. Draw diagrams when necessary. Most students believe they have great visual skills, but keeping your math straight can be tough! Having a diagram visually in front of you can take out some confusion and point out answers more clearly.
  3. Make sure you are working in the same measurements. This can be especially true of problems involving distance, chemistry, or baking. Your answer may be correct, but just not in the right measurement, and that’s a sad way to lose points!
  4. Do not be thrown off by questions that are a multi-step process. There may be additional work that must be done before arriving at your complete answer.
  5. Know the functions and abilities of your calculator. Most math courses nowadays are pretty good at teaching students how to complete work by hand, and with a calculator. This can help you find answers quicker, or help you fix your calculator if you are not seeing the results you were expecting.
  6. Understand the concepts and processes of math, rather than memorizing symbols and formulas. The complaints of not understanding math start with the student; if the student wants to truly be successful, they should take it into their hands to understand why the process makes sense.
  7. Begin each class by reviewing notes. This will jog your memory and help you jump into your classwork immediately, giving you a better math exercise.
  8. Finally, do you math homework immediately after math class or your new lesson. This is when the math material is the most fresh and understandable to your mind, and the repetitive practice of what you have just learned will drill the concepts into your memory.

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Preparing your Preschooler

As parents, we are given so many tools and resources to get your child on the right educational track from preschool and onward. This can include books, educational movies, singing songs, playing with puzzles, and the list goes on. But one huge part of education that can sometimes be looked over is developing the skills for your child to learn how to work and interact with the world. There are some key ways that, as parents, we can help our kids learn to become independent thinkers and problem solvers by giving them small doses of independence from the start!

Here are some top 5 ways that you can begin implementing great life skills for your preschooler: 

  1. Assign Responsibility: Give your kids a few chores or invite them to help you out around the house. This can be a small task like setting the table for dinner, feeding pets, or putting away toys and laundry. This shows your child that these things don’t get done by themselves!
  2. Do not help your child by doing things that he/she can complete herself: As much as you are teaching your child to learn how to complete tasks and work independently, allow them to try out their new responsibilities! This can be hard to remember when your child is learning so fast, but eventually they will catch up and follow your lead.
  3. Do not redo the work that your child has done: It may be driving you crazy that the shirt your child folded is really just a twisted ball, but do not fix that shirt! Your child will never come to notice the results of his/her work if they are not seeing the results of what they did.
  4. Know when to stop: Your children will come to enjoy learning; children naturally love to learn. If your child loses interest in the book you are reading, do not continue to read through the book or force your child to finish something. This can discourage them from having a positive learning experience.
  5. Talk to your child as an equal: Ask your child about their day, what they enjoyed, and any new things they have learned. Be enthusiastic and genuine about your interest. Speaking to your child as an equal shows your child that you respect them and care for them, and can also enhance their speaking skills from early on.

 

-- Jessalyn Kieta

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Be Mindful About Education and Work

At the DREAM Charter School in New York, students have been partaking in belly breathing, meditating, and other calming exercises to develop mindfulness. This seems difficult to understand: though meditating has been proven to be helpful and calming, how does it relate to getting a better education? Shouldn’t these students be focusing on math, reading, and writing? Wrong. These students are working on increasing their mindfulness, or their focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the creative world around them.

Students are still learning their basic subjects, but taking time out for meditation is built into their schedules for the day. Since most schools, at any level, are considered to be a stressful environment, the meditation times give children the chance to calm themselves and clear their minds so that they can better focus on their studies for the day.

This method is also beginning to be applied to work settings as well, especially for big companies like Google, Safeway, General Mills, and Aetna. The reason that mindfulness workshops are becoming so popular is because high stress levels cost American companies around $200 billion to $300 billion a year, simply from less motivation to be productive when one is stressed. Having mindfulness sessions decreases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and only after 3 consistent days of meditating, you can change your psychological stress. Mindfulness also boosts creativity and focus, which is great for work settings.

The CEO of Aetna commented on the great effects that mindfulness training was having on his employees. They reported having better sleep, less stress, and more productivity in their week. They gained about 62 minutes of extra productivity per week, and Aetna has made $3,000 more per year from the employees.

Though mindfulness gives students or workers a window into their thoughts and stressors, it is producing lasting effects in the way that people are retaining information, applying themselves, focusing, and being more creative and innovative in their workplace. Taking time throughout our days to self-reflect and relax for 20 minutes may have seemed like slacking off, but now, those breaks might become more encouraged because of mindfulness.

 

Based on "How Mindfulness Has Changed the Way Americans Learn and Work."

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Learning is a Choice, Not a Part of Growing Up

There are laws in place that require children under 18 to attend school, but going to school every day for years and years is not the same as learning. There is a difference between learning and education, and learning has been a choice that has been given to adolescents for decades.

Parents send their children off to school in hopes that they will learn more science, math, English, and history to apply to the world around them and their future education. However, it is only the child’s choice to listen and retain the information that is being taught. The truth is that education should be something enjoyable for the children because that is what will motivate them to continue to learn more and more. If you look at your own interests and hobbies, no one tells people to keep up with these interests; they simply do it on their own because they want to! Education is slowly backing away from having this kind of mentality, and we need to reintroduce a passion for knowing and learning more. A great way of turning education around is to make schooling become more of an interest rather than a chore; there are many learning requirements and expectations for learning in schools that makes it difficult for children to enjoy it!

Parents, teachers, and adults cannot continue to thrust information from a subject that a child does not want to learn. Hopefully, more interactive hands-on teaching and activities can spark adolescents’ interests in schooling for the future. Creativity in teaching through theater performance, art, ceramics, and music are also great subjects in school that need more attention and get the brain working.

 

It was best said by John Holt: “Learners make learning.” No parent or teacher can force someone to remember something that bores them or is not something they need to know to be successful. We all have made mistakes and learn from them, whether we receive a great education or not. In the end, learning is a choice we make based on our interests.

 

--Jessalyn Kieta

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