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Showing posts from March, 2012

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…