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RAFT wins first place in Bright Green Tree Contest!

RAFT has a lot to be jolly about this holiday season! RAFT has won 1st place in San Jose Christmas in the Park's "Bright Green Tree Contest".

This year RAFT was officially handpicked to participate in San Jose Christmas in the Park’s first ever “Bright Green Tree” contest to showcase eco-friendly Christmas trees and tree decorations in a highlighted section of the event!

The non-profit ‘Our City Forest’ provided potted, instead of cut, trees for the contest and will replant them throughout the community after the event.

The RAFT tree was decorated with clever. one of a kind, hand-made ornaments including test-tube “icicles” filled with thinly sliced strips of shiny mylar calendars, mini RAFT game boards, CD “snowflakes”, mylar spirals, sparkling “different color hand circles”, red spool cornucopias, cork reindeer, and more!

As the “Bright Green Tree Contest” contest winner, RAFT will receive a $350 grand prize donated by Garden City Sanitation, one of San José’s garbage a…

Middle-schoolers wowed everyone at the RAFT Citizen-School after-school program showcase

"Chromatography"
"Liquefaction"
"Regurgitation"

These are just a few of the amazing words that thirty middle school students used with casual precision during their presentations at the RAFT Citizen Schools WOW event, held at RAFT Redwood City . For the students, the WOW event marked the completion of a 10-week after-school program. For Citizen Schools and RAFT, it marked the beginning of a promising new collaboration to expand the use of ‘hands-on’ activities in after-school programs.

Students at Kennedy Middle School completed 16 ‘hands-on’ activities in the course of their "Crime Scene Investigation" program. The instructor skillfully wove together RAFT activities on fingerprinting, DNA, color analysis, and more. During the WOW event, students presented a fictitious crime, and challenged the audience to use RAFT activities to discover the criminal. For example, ink from a pen used to write a threatening note could be traced back to the writ…

EVENTS EXCERPTS

Big Idea Fest, 2011 - Day 4

The Wednesday presentation was a huge success for my Big Ideas Fest Action Collab design team. Our project was chosen as one of three that will receive funding from the Gates Foundation for Beta testing! Gates has provided ISKME with $50,000 to take the three most promising ‘big ideas’ from the Big Ideas Fest to the next stage of development. An additional $50K will come from matching grants secured by ISKME in the coming months. The total fund of $100K will be used to pay for non-labor costs, such as travel, design assistance, software, materials, etc. Everyone from my Collab, plus any other conference participants who are interested, are invited to participate in the follow-on.

The team came up with an amazing way to assess student performance in 21st-century skill areas such as teamwork, creative problem solving, etc. These so-called ‘soft skills’ are not currently assessed using conventional bubble tests. Our assessment tool is very simple, very hand…

EVENTS EXCERPTS

Big Ideas Fest, 2011 – Day 3

Yea! The Action Collab design team I am leading has completed its project at the Big Ideas Fest. Today, we pitched our 21st-century skills assessment concept to the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and a professor from the University of Ottawa. The team got excellent feedback and one suggestion to make the idea even bigger. Together, the team created a second prototype (again using RAFT materials) which incorporated the expansion idea. Tomorrow, the team will present their final concept to all 200 conference participants.

Other foundations represented at the Big Ideas Fest include Gates, Hewlett, Qatar, National Endowment for the Arts, CK-12, Sherwood, and Carnegie.

Today's Rapid Fire speakers presented cutting-edge programs:
> Common Craft (a 2-person company that makes short videos explaining social media tools, like "Wikis Made Simple")
> Valencia 626 (a very popular free tutoring provider that publishes its students' works)> …

EVENT EXCERPTS

Big Ideas Fest, 2011 – Day 2

The first full day of the Big Ideas Fest in Half Moon Bay included a "Rapid Fire" presentation by Barbara Chow (Education Program Director at Hewlett Foundation). Barbara talked about the importance of Federal policy and new school models.

William Ayres (noted educational activist) talked how the national "disrespect" for teachers is damaging the profession. His simple belief is "Good working conditions are good teaching conditions, and good teaching conditions are good learning conditions." He is concerned that some for-profit providers turn education into a product assembly line filling "inert heads with disconnected facts."
Enrique Legaspi, a young teacher, showed how he is enabling students to "curate" their own content on the web. He feels that "editors learn - so we should let students edit their own materials rather than doing it for them."

The need for "real time assessment" …

EVENT EXCERPTS

Big Ideas Fest, 2011 – Day 1

Sunday got off to an amazing start here at the Big Ideas Fest. My first conversation was with none other than Dr. Martha Kanter, the US Under Secretary of Education. Dr. Kanter is a visionary educational leader, and (thanks to many years spent in Silicon Valley) she is very familiar with RAFT. Later, she delivered her public address to all 200 conference participants. It was easy to see that the decline of education in America is as concerning to her as it is to us. Among the statistics she shared:
> 25% of US students never finish high school. The drop-out rate in some areas is as high as 50%.
> The economic impact of the high drop-out rate is equivalent to a "permanent recession."
> The US is #16 in the world in terms of college graduation rates. Just one generation ago, we were #1.
> Millions of jobs available in the US today are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants.

On a positive note, Dr. Kanter described many …

How Hands-On Teaching Helps the Learning Challenged Child

My daughter Aruna is all of 3 and half years old and she knows the sheet on our bed is made of millions of threads intricately woven together because she goes around pointing and peering through her huge magnifying glass at everything around her.

Aruna was diagnosed with Autism when she was 18 months. From almost no eye contact, speech or any other kind of non-verbal communication to a child who asks a million questions a day about everything around her and even the space above us... yes she has to know the phases of the moon and constellations too… well, she has come along a good measure!

Her way of learning however, is different. It is a bit repetitive. So if someone introduces a simple question like "what is this?" she takes the baton and goes around exploring and applying the same question to everything. While the curiosity is well taken care of, the challenge for us has been to introduce new questions and give her hand-on tools to discover the answers.

Children who strug…

All Children Learn Differently

At the RAFT Homeschooling Open House held last month, we were pleased to welcome both first time visitors and veteran members of the home school community. As visitors signed in, we chatted and I thanked them for coming out on a rainy evening. Their gracious responses voiced their acknowledgement of RAFT as a hub of the education community:

• ”Thanks to RAFT for having this event!”
• ”Thank you for recognizing us as educators.”
• “We face some of the same challenges as classroom teachers.”
• ”It’s nice to be part of this larger community of educators”

Whether you teach a class of one that may be your own child or a classroom filled with students, what is it about RAFT that appeals to a wide range of educators? I asked a few of our guests this question. The response of one home school educator provides the best clue -- “All children learn differently. There should be room to explore many different teaching models and, if you can, match the model that best meets the need of each child.”

Edu…

Hands-on is the 21st century way!

Many educators have been utilizing all kinds of recycled, upcycled and found materials for decades to explain concepts in classrooms. Today many instructors in schools, learning centers, or parents/ caregivers want to use common, readily found and affordable materials as teaching tools.

Educators now have access to resource centers like Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) that provides a platform for teaching resources and materials that they can use to bring concepts alive for students. Not only classroom students, but Girls and Boys Clubs and Scouts, Campfire Girls, After School programs (ASPs), preschools and daycare all benefit from more hands-on education.

Hands-on method of teaching helps the educator to be flexible, creative, challenging, and collaborative with students – all the necessary skills needed in the 21st century. Many homeschooling and teachers’ resource sites have idea sheets, lesson plans, activity kits and recommended age ranges for hands-on learning. RAFT is one …

RAFT recharges the teaching spirit in educators from San Ramon Valley Unified School District

Educators, administrators, and science specialists from the Sam Ramon Valley Unified School District recently visited Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) in San Jose, for a professional development experience. They toured the facility, participated in a hands-on activity, and got a chance to shop in the store. They choose from the various Activity Kits on sale and many additional materials that could be used for hands-on teaching in the classroom.

The visitors from the East Bay were also mentored by RAFT’s Education staff in hands-on teaching ideas and RAFT’s many resources. Says Stan Hitomi, Math & Science Coordinator, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, “Thank you so much for the incredible day! Some of our teachers have taught for 30-40 years and said it was the best professional development experience they have ever had.”

Continuing their involvement with RAFT, 20 of the visiting educators became members or renewed their membership. For more information on RAFT’s profe…

Why RAFT educators use hands-on teaching methods

Today one of the concerns of educators is that only a few students appear engaged with the task at hand. If students can’t engage with the content to construct meaning for themselves, then they aren’t learning. Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) recognizes this problem and helps educators with hands-on teaching tools to help close the engagement gap.

Jennifer Lazzarini, 2nd Grade Teacher of Hubbard Elementary and RAFT Member says, “RAFT is an organization that reaches out to make a difference in our classrooms. They provide activities that help educators like me bring 21st century skills to future leaders.”

RAFT members and many educators have realized that hands-on teaching means students are actively engaged in a lesson using multiple intelligences and learning styles to access the content. They connect with the lesson at a new level aimed at creating a physical experience that helps them learn by doing.

Chevron gives away RAFT Freaky Fractals Activity Kits to enthusiastic kids at the Bay Area Science festival

At the Discovery Days of the Bay Area Science festival held over the last couple of weeks, Chevron, demonstrated and gave away hundreds of hands-on RAFT Activity Kits to a wide variety of eager young students. One of the events was at the Cal State East Bay campus in Hayward.

This successful event provided students and teachers with clever hands-on, solid STEM learning, by discovering the fun creative techniques that make learning really meaningful!

Over 1,500 young people visited the Chevron tent where they got to learn about self-similar patterns in nature while making their own amazing fractal patterns with paint and CD cases from the RAFT Freaky Fractals Activity Kit!

The tent was continually packed with enthusiastic kids eager to make these fractal designs and they left with a variety of RAFT Activity Kits that cleverly illustrate STEM concepts from why our eyes see color (Black And White makes Color Activity Kit), how light separates into color spectrums (The Colors of Light), to h…

Hands-on activities lead to comprehension and retention

Great educators, such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Rudolph Steiner, Reggio Emilia, John Holt, and countless other education leaders all agree on one thing: children learn best when they are actively engaged in education, and the best way to engage them is to involve them with hands-on curricula. Especially for lesson plans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), the best way to make any topic come alive and make the learning memorable, is to bring the students right to the table and get their hands actively moving.

Retention is a key element of academic achievement; making lessons memorable is critically necessary. Fun, excitement, appropriate challenges, and solvable problems are all aspects that make the learning of difficult concepts seem easier and their applications more obvious.

Comprehension and retention both flow from hands-on learning activities.