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Integrated Learning – an Education Elixir?

A few days ago I was talking to a friend about issues that he felt needed to be addressed in order to “fix education”, as he put it.  His background is in electronics and he knows little about the daily activities of most teachers so his perspective on teaching is somewhat limited. But even so, he did raise an interesting point when he mentioned that “teachers should spend less time compartmentalizing everything and more time tying the disciplines together, making them more real for students.”  My friend was talking about providing an integrated learning approach to education.  As he said this I began to think about my own teaching and the number of examples I provided my students to show relatedness between the content areas, which admittedly could have been higher.
Most elementary teachers have ample opportunities to show an integrated view of learning to their students.  This becomes more difficult at the highly-compartmentalized secondary education level. Not only is this because o…

Using Math to Boost Your Wow Factor for the London Olympics

Since I’m an enthusiastic swimmer, and since the summer London Olympic Games are rapidly approaching, I got to wondering which woman holds the fastest Olympic record in the 100 meter freestyle stroke.

I discovered the current Olympic record in the women's 100 meter freestyle swimming event is held by Britta Steffen of Germany with a time of 53.12 seconds. The record was set at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

But really, how fast is that? To help me figure this out, all it took was knowing some simple mathematics!! It helps to keep in mind the following:
• 1 meter = .001 kilometer = 0.000621 miles = 0 miles and 1.09 yards
• 1 hour = 3600 seconds

Now we’re all set to go:
• The swimming pool is 50m long, 25m wide and 3m deep.
• It takes 1 complete lap to swim 100 meters.
• 100 meters = 0.10 kilometers = 0.062 miles.
• Speed = distance divided by time in hours; so time in hours = 53.12 seconds ÷ 3600 seconds = 0.014755 hours.

So, Steffen’s speed = 0.062 miles ÷ 0.014755 hours…

Do your bit for the environment with recycled art!

“Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.” – One can learn so much about the environment while doing creative art projects from repurposed materials and offerings from Mother Nature! Fabric swatches, newspapers, plastics and other materials can be saved from the dump yard and converted into innovative gifts like fabric swatch notepads and origami picture frames.

Celebrating the National Environment week, Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT) Redwood City is conducting a ‘Great Ideas for Creating Re-purposed Gifts’ workshop this weekend. Instructors Monica Lee and Dorothy Yuki, share their passion of using recycled and repurposed materials to create art from colored paper, plaster, tile, shells, beads, wood and many others!

Monica who teaches craft workshops all over the Bay Area reflects, “On a practical level the materials we use are usually low cost or free to everyone. It opens the students’ mind to seeing everyday objects turned into art or usable item of value other than their original in…

Inspiring critical thinking and creativity in the next generation of architects!

What do you get when you put a variety of leftover tiles in front of preschoolers?
A feast for curious minds and creative hands!

One Sunday morning, in my art school, the Dune School in Newark, CA, the project theme was “Tiles”. As always, instead of telling them what to paint or construct, this was an open-ended art activity with no preset instructions or rules. I do this to encourage creativity and critical thinking in my students.

I kept a tray of tiles of all colors, shapes and sizes along with bottle caps, yarn, buttons, cupcake paper holders and other RAFT materials in front of 4 and 5 year olds. I said “Today, you get to be an Architect.” Immediately, one child asked “Who is an Architect?” I replied “An architect is one who makes things like houses and buildings and today, you get to be one!”

With the “oohs” and the “aahs” of growing excitement, I left the children to build their own dream houses! Collaboration is one of the key elements in my classes as the kids feed off fro…

RAFT inspires Stanford student to design hands on Activity Kit for children with special needs

When I first walked into my 'Perspectives in Assistive Technology' class at Stanford, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know much about assistive technology, except for what I’ve learned growing up with my younger autistic brother, and I didn’t have much experience designing in the field. However, what I did know was my goal for the class: to design a device that would allow children with autism, like my brother, to communicate.

Through the RAFT project - to design an affordable, hands-on educational activity kit for children with disabilities - I was able to pursue that goal, while simultaneously gaining experience as a designer. At the end of the eight weeks, I came up with the ‘Spin a story’ Activity Kit, using RAFT materials, that provides several simple ways for students to express themselves. A mixture of three activities – sequencing, storyboarding and sorting – the kit encourages students to initiate their own thoughts with a variety of textual and visual prompts.…

Science fairs: Nurturing the 21st century thinker

A bespectacled 6th grader enthusiastically explains ‘efficiency of 3D space tessellations’ with myriad equations and handmade tessellation patterns to address the needs of the packaging, storing, shipping and construction industry.

Another middle school student, was inspired by his little brother’s telescope and built a simple vacuum chamber using a PVC pipe with a microphone and a speaker on both ends to find out how sound travels on Mars! This 8th grader from Granada Islamic School used an oscilloscope his mother found at an auction to measure the sounds. “I poke around and find junk to build my projects. It’s fun.”

Science projects today have become fun for many students as they use more hands on activities to experiment and understand concepts. These two middle school students were among 996 participants at the recent Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Championship, where RAFT was one of the special judges.

Moenes Iskarous, President, SCVSEFA (Santa Clara Valley Sci…

Hands on solutions for children with special needs

In today’s highly competitive world the top priority of every school district is to make education accessible to everyone, irrespective of their financial or cultural background.  For the recently hired Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, Xavier De La Torre, one of the main jobs is ‘to provide leadership for improving education, especially for poor and Latino children…’ Hands-on education has long been recognized as a superior medium for improving education as it engages students in learning.

Homeschoolers, students in classrooms and after school programs, as well as children with special needs benefit from hands on education. Says Gayle Mayekawa, a RAFT member & an early education specialist, “According to the brain research and studies, hands on activities are appealing and effective learning tools.”

Gayle is one of the instructors at the upcoming Early Education Special Needs Strategies workshop held at RAFT Redwood City. The focus of the workshop is to help educator…

Jewish religious artifacts get an inventive, artistic twist with RAFT materials

Deborah Jacobstein, one of RAFT’s longstanding members, has found beautiful, artistic and highly innovative ways to repurpose RAFT materials like cork and matt boards, double sided sticky papers, die cuts, pill bottles, bottle top lids and many more into Judaica – artifacts connected to decorative Jewish ritual objects.

Cork boards give life to sandy floors in a miniature sukkah (a temporary hut created during the festival of Sukkot) while bottle top lids become the feet for many things. Ordinary white pill bottles transform into colorful, scented Havdallah spice bottles--these spice bottles are used at the end of the Sabbath to remind Jews of its sweetness. The list goes on!

This art educator teaches students from preschool to eighth grade at Temple Emanu-El’s Religious School art program. Temple Emanu-El, one of the oldest Reform Jewish congregations on the West Coast, recently showcased the Religious School students’ artwork in celebration of its 150th anniversary.

With 219 art proj…

Weave storytelling and hands on activities to interest your students in science concepts

‘Nothing was going right for Alice today. Her socks didn’t match in the morning, she left her homework at home and was admonished by her 6th grade teacher…and now Alice ended up leaving her glasses at school! How could she see? Her mom has left her a note on the refrigerator, but Alice couldn’t read without her glasses.

Alice tries to call her mom on the cell phone to take her back to school but her mom wasn’t picking up her phone! Then her friend Felicia walks in asking Alice to explain some class notes. Alice was a whiz at explaining and wanted to help her friend but she didn’t have her glasses. Alice then had an idea…she put a plain plastic sheet on the notes and put some drops of water on the sheet and magically the words were legible!’


With this story you can strike a chord with your students and explain the concept of magnification - as light goes through a drop of water, it bends and magnifies the words underneath – the water here plays the role of a magnifying glass.

Laurie P…

It’s time for the lazy, long days of summer… Create your own sundial with RAFT’s hands on activities.

“Time and Tide waits for no man.” This famous saying comes to mind when it’s time again to set our clocks forward on March 11th 2012, and lose one hour of sleep!

Why is there Daylight Savings Time (DST)?  Basically it is because many people want to gain additional daylight during the early summer evenings.  So, clocks are advanced forward by one hour in the spring, and in the fall, are again set back one hour (the phrases “spring forward” and “fall back” help you remember this).

As we get ready to work on the hour hand on our clocks, Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT) takes a look at many, fun hands on educational activities based on RAFT Idea Sheets that you can use to innovatively teach your students the concept of time.

With the RAFT ‘Time for Shadows’ Idea Sheet activity you can quickly assemble an equatorial sundial that you can easily adjust for daylight savings time. With just drinking straws, protractor, compass and a CD, your third and fourth graders can create a sundial an…

RAFT SAN JOSE CELEBRATES PI (π) DAY – 3.14, WITH A BOATLOAD OF FREE ACTIVITIES!

Come meet RAFT’s Math Activity Developer, Jeanne Lazzarini, at RAFT San Jose who has a treasure chest of Pi-Day activities to share!  Not only will she be dressed as a Pirate (because Pi rates!), she’ll also offer you delicious pie to eat while showing you great Pi-Day Math activities to make and take, to use in your classroom to celebrate Pi day! The Pi-Day activities include RAFT Math Idea Sheet activities like Finding Pi, Wearable Pi and Pi Day Pin.

Irrational number Pi, also written as π, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, and is celebrated all over the world on March 14th because π is a number that begins as 3.14!  With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated trillions of digits past the decimal point! Pi is an irrational and transcendental number, and its digits continue infinitely without any repeating patterns of digits!  Pi has been used in many applications for over 4000 years!

π rate activity days at RAFT!
Join us at RAFT, San Jose in celeb…

The Shortino Family Foundation helps RAFT & YSI reach professional development on hands-on teaching techniques to educators in the ARUSD

Resource Area For Teaching recently held a professional development workshop on hands-on teaching techniques for elementary and middle school educators across the Ocala Cluster in the Alum Rock Unified School District (ARUSD). The workshop is part of the ongoing science program conducted by RAFT in collaboration with the Youth Science Institute (YSI) and ARUSD.

RAFT and YSI have partnered together to support the teachers from the District’s Ocala Cluster of Caselle, Ryan and Rogers Elementary Schools and Ocala Middle School, with the tools and techniques required to spark imaginations and fuel minds. “It's great to be part of this partnership that's bringing RAFT Activity Kits and YSI programs into Ocala Cluster classrooms with lessons that complement each other,” says Ken Sakoi, Education Director at YSI.

These professional development tools and hands on techniques which include a package of classroom materials for each educator, teacher training and, student programs linking …

Generous donor supports RAFT’s mission – to inspire the joy and discovery of learning through hands-on activities

Flextronics Foundation recently donated $10,000 dollars in support of the core component of RAFT’s Education program – creatively repurposing materials donated by local businesses into pre-packaged Activity Kits that facilitate hands-on learning of Math and Science.

RAFT’s mission is to transform teaching by creating engaging hands-on educational activities that inspire the joy and discovery of learning. RAFT works with more than 10,000 educators in the classroom, home-school settings and, after-school and community based programs. RAFT's products (Idea Sheets and Activity Kits), professional development services including mentoring and educational workshops, and low-cost teaching supplies enrich and improve the education of over 825,000 young people each year.

RAFT Activity Kits are based on over 650 curriculum-aligned RAFT Idea Sheets that cover a range of grade levels and subjects. The Flextronics Foundation has awarded a total of $25,000 in grants to RAFT since 2008.

Mary Simo…

RAFT member’s innovative repurposing creates a fun filled take home activity

Here is a creative idea from Arlene Brown, a science teacher at St. Mary's School in Los Gatos:

"Each year I teach my first-graders about weather, and this year I decided to have them build their own rain gauges. I came to RAFT in search of rain gauges, and what I found were giant syringes (with no needles) that turned out to be perfect for this project!  At 17 cents apiece, I was able to have all 36 students create rain gauges for less than 7 dollars.

In class, the students took one look at my sample and knew exactly what to do.  They were very excited about this project! They put a pointed stick in the small end of the syringe to plug the hole and keep the gauge vertical. Now all we needed was rain... thankfully, Mother Nature cooperated by providing a rare rainstorm at just the right time! That night, parents had a great time helping their children set up their rain gauges.  The students could not wait to go out in the morning to see how much water they collected! They eag…

Go green this Valentine's Day!

Great hands-on teaching activities for Valentine's Day!
Do your students want to give something special to their parents on this Valentine’s Day? Send home a sweet surprise with RAFT’s ‘Bouquet of Flowers’, a hands-on activity where your students can design and make their own flower bouquets with just cardstock, flower images and scissors! These flowers are sure to last forever!

Or you can help your pupils create unique DIY valentine hearts with RAFT’s ‘Foil Art’. With just foil and adhesive cardstock their foil art creation can melt their parents’ heart!

Valentine’s Day can also be a great day to teach Science by focusing on flowers, one of the most gifted V Day present! With The RAFT’s ‘Preserving the Petals’ hands-on activity , elementary and middle school students can learn about plant structures and functions. This activity creatively repurposes materials like pipette holders and paper towels! With RAFT Idea Sheets and materials, you can go green this Valentine's Day!

For…

Plastic to art that’s fantastic!

With Valentine’s Day round the corner, one of RAFT’s upcoming weekend workshops – ‘Shrink Art Fun’ shows you how to recycle plastic into awesome shrink art! This year learn how to make some meaningful gifts using donated plastic material, available at RAFT in the form of trays and take-out containers, thus preventing them from ending up in a landfill. 

Shrink plastics encourage creativity, and can be used to supplement a variety of classroom activities.  Students can create models, manipulatives, and displays. They can make maps, pins, book report characters, and even cards! 

But there is also a science behind this hands on art form! Says Instructor Georgina Patterson, who has been in the education field for 40 years, “The science behind the shrinkage process is a chemistry lesson in itself, and the excitement young children get when they watch the plastic change size in the oven is worth the effort!”

The base material consists of thin, flexible polystyrene plastic (#6) sheets.  Pri…

Have your own classroom science fair today with RAFT hands on Activity Kits!

Can’t make it to the White House Science Fair today? Here are some great hands on ideas for your own local Science Fair!

Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT) has over 600 Idea Sheets with more than 400 focused on Sciences – Life Science, Earth/Space Science and Physical Science. These idea sheets can lead to a myriad of possibilities! Here are a few RAFT hands on Science activity ideas that you can even conduct as a classroom science project!

Colors of Light
White light is actually a combination of different colors. This easily built spectroscope allows students to separate the incoming light into its component colors, forming a light spectrum (rainbow). Besides creating interesting color patterns it can be used to identify different sources of light.Grade Range: K - 12 Download Idea Sheet Buy Activity KitHovercraft
Create a simple hovercraft that will gracefully glide along on a thin cushion of air.Grade Range: 4 - 12  Download Idea Sheet Buy Activity KitFloating Garden of Magnets (physic…

Experience the union between Math & Art in a RAFT workshop!

While Geometry often describes and measures shapes like a cone, sphere or triangle, does it define the shape of a cloud, a mountain, a coastline, or a tree?

It does! Most patterns in nature, called “fractals” describe curves, surfaces and objects that have some very peculiar properties so irregular and fragmented, that it takes more than spheres, cones, circles, triangles, smooth or straight lines to describe them!

These fractals might resemble arteries, coral, a heart, a brain, tree branches and other such ‘designs’ that have symmetry, ‘self-similarity’ and are scale-free!

 Look around you – Fractals are everywhere!  Have fun with us and discover everyday Fractals at the upcoming RAFT workshop ‘Fractals and Beyond’ on Feb 9th, at RAFT San Jose. This workshop will demonstrate how fractals can be related to Sierpinski's gasket, to patterns, to equations, to graphing, and to even a broccoli! 

Break off a branch of the whole broccoli and what do you see?  The smaller branch lo…

Brighten your students’ learning with RAFT’s electrical workshop!

Want to teach your students about basic electric circuits using hands on methods? Then the “Battery Science -  Light and Power Up the Learning!”RAFT workshop is just the thing for you! The hands on workshop at San Jose RAFT is held tomorrow (February 4th) from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

The workshop incorporates newly developed and simplified electrical activities including the redesigned breadboard circuit Activity Kit! Kids will love to tap into these activities to make things light up, move, and buzz and the learning will build as they make the ‘connections’!

The workshop supply bag will include sets of motors, buzzers, bulbs, batteries, wire, and more RAFT Materials so that you can duplicate the activities with your students. The materials can enhance 4th grade lessons on electricity, or be used for enrichment, after school, or summer programs.

The workshop is conducted by Michael Pollock who has taught hands on science to elementary students for 25 years. He currently works at RAFT

RAFT invites Kids Kit Testers for fun learning using RAFT hands on Activity Kits

One of the most important steps in our hands on Activity Kit development process is user testing. We want to test RAFT Activity Kits to ensure we are delivering the best quality product, with easy to understand instructions, and exceptional educational content. We recently invited RAFTmembers to bring their children, the end users of RAFT products, to be our RAFT Kids Kit Testers for the night.

The children were very excited to see the place “where mom gets all her good junk”. We tested Foil Art, Kumihimo, and a brand new Retractor Car. In reaction to completing the retractor car made out of common materials, one child exclaimed, “It REALLY worked!” I received valuable feedback and will take it back to the product development team. It is amazing what you can learn when you see the product with its end user.

RAFT prides itself in creating hands on Activity Kits that are made out of common materials so one can actually build these kits on their own! RAFT provides, Idea Sheets, material…

Explore the phases of the moon with RAFT hands on Activities!

I am an elementary school teacher at Orchard School.  Before the winter holidays I spent three days teaching my class about moon activities that I had learned at a RAFT workshop last summer entitled 'Crafty Moon Activities'.

 The lessons I used to introduce the moon to my second and third graders were:  Modeling the Moon’s Rotation, Moon: Nearside-Far side, and Nine and a Half to the Moon.  In these lessons, based on RAFT Idea Sheets, the children learned using movement and hands on materials where and how the moon moves, what it looks like on both sides of the moon, and physically how far the moon is from the earth.  

We then talked about the fact that the moon doesn’t change shape, but that the reflection of the sunlight on the moon creates the images that we see at night. To illustrate this point, I used the RAFT Idea SheetHolding the Moon in Your Hand.  Using a light source and simple RAFT materials like Styrofoam balls with coffee stir sticks to hold them up, we actually…

Educators honored for exceptional inquiry based teaching projects

Resource Area For teaching (RAFT) recently honored two Bay Area educators with the Hands On Recognition Awards for their emphasis on hands on teaching methods. Ann Shioji, a high school teacher and Anna Pollack, an elementary school teacher were selected in recognition of their exceptional collaborative and inquiry-based teaching projects and activities in the classroom.

Shioji’s award winning concept explores how sound travels through different media using a simple watch and various materials like air, water and sand. Says Shioji, “Students place a watch on the table and put bags, each filled with a different material, on top of it. They then listen for any difference in the sound and describe what they hear. It reinforces the concept that sound waves need a medium to travel through.”

Shioji, who teaches Integrated Science at the Yerba Buena High School, was introduced to RAFT by another teacher when she came to the Bay Area. “I taught in Los Angeles for three years. We didn’t have a…

RAFT members learn about Chinese culture the hands-on way!

RAFT celebrated the Chinese New Year last weekend with over 250 members participating in this fun event. Lucia Quaife, long time RAFT Member has been the backbone of this event, bringing it to life for the past six years.

The Year of the Dragon festivities started with master calligrapher Richard Zhao who created beautiful dragon zodiac symbols and other good luck signs traditional in Chinese culture.

Keeping with the theme, another RAFT member, Tsen-wu Pang created a magnificent Dragon costume that is still on display in the RAFT San Jose Member Center. She also demonstrated how to make dragon masks using foam, fabric, corrugated paper and many other RAFT materials.

Quaife, an educator at the Creative Learning Foundation, a non-profit providing practical Mandarin teaching to non-Chinese-heritage children in the Bay Area, along with her staff, taught members how to make their own healthy and delicious spring rolls. This light refreshment can easily be duplicated in a classroom without…

Martin Luther King Jr. Day –United Way volunteers honor this day of service at RAFT

On a day when schools were closed to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly 100 adult and youth volunteers joined United Way Silicon Valley and Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT) to make the holiday a “day on” instead of a “day off” by working to improve local education and lending their support to local educators.

As part of this nationally recognized King Day of Service, local volunteers assembled hands-on RAFT Activity Kits including ‘Water Beads’, ‘Place your number value’! and ‘Catch a falling ring’ and other materials that teachers can use in the classroom to create valuable learning opportunities.

“We are partnering with RAFT today because education is a fundamental building block to a successful life,” said Carole Leigh Hutton, president and CEO of United Way Silicon Valley. “Helping teachers enrich the classroom experience supports United Way’s goals of growing
self-sufficient and financially stable families and reducing the ethnic-racial achievement gap in our schools.”

On th…

RAFT ranked #1 on two TOP TEN lists on Charity Navigator!

RAFT started the New Year with a high note earning a large number of new reviews and the most page views on Charity Navigator, America's largest independent charity evaluator.

RAFT currently enjoys the numero uno position in the Top 10 Non-University Education Charities list with the highest number of page views. RAFT received 1461 hits, around 400 more than DonorsChoose and Scholarship America, who got 1059 and 1030 hits respectively.

Charity Navigator in partnership with GreatNonprofits ran an Education Write a Review Campaign to encourage people to share their stories about Education charities. In this recent poll, RAFT took top spot with a total of 37 new reviews.

The other non-profit educational organizations in this top 10 included Lee Pesky Learning Center, Citizen Schools, Little Kids Rock and DonorsChoose. These 10 highly-rated charities received the most number of new reviews in September 2011. You can also add your review on Charity Navigator.

Charity Navigator provides f…