Engaging with the written word

Have you thought about how you engage with the written word?  Sometimes, it is words combined with pictures on a screen – Instagram, memes, blogs, etc.  Sometimes, it is a personal experience with paper and pen.  Sometimes, it is a tactile experience with a magazine, book or newspaper.  The written word can appear in a glance, or can be deeply pondered.  But, it has become apparent that how we engage with the written word is very different that it used to be.  And, may be highly dependent on how the information is presented.

Blog post graphic book

During the past week, I have encountered numerous stories discussing how reading has changed.  How we as learners, educators, and consumers of the written word interact with the messages and ideas being conveyed.  Our society has changed.  We read mostly in snippets, brief interactions.  And, this is driven by our devices: computers, smart phones, tablets, billboards, ads, etc.  We may or may not actively engage with a more complex reading format: a longer article, or a book.

This change in reading behavior presents a significant challenge to educators, how do we get students engaged with the text to think more deeply about an idea?  How do we get individuals to really comprehend the information being presented? How do we encourage an imagination?  There is obviously no clear answer.

Add to this the fear of the summer time reading slump, i.e. not reading over the summer; and we have to consider how individuals engage with reading.  For parents, there are some resources that are available.  Local summer reading programs at the public library.  Many school systems send home summer reading lists.  And, then there are organizations like Reading is Fundamental or Unite for Literacy. So, access to reading is available.  The trick is to engage in the activity.

Reading is a skill that needs practice.  We also need to engage in different types of reading, because our comprehension skills are different based upon method of interaction with the words.  It is time to encourage some quite time with a physical book in addition to reading an e-book.  We also need to engage in the act of writing, note taking, and pondering.  Perhaps if we do that more ideas and solutions may appear.

Happy New Year – Return to Normal?

Frosty Field

All of us have this definition of normal.  With the holidays completed, there is this sense that we are going to return to normal.  But, what is that?  Really, what we are saying is that we are returning to that ordinary state of routine.  For families with children, this means that we are returning to a school routine.

January is also a time when we reassess our school year goals and set some new goals as well.  So, what are your goals for the remainder of winter and into spring?  Have you though about adding some science activities?  January is actually a great time to look at your science curriculum.

The homeschooling catalogs will be coming out soon.  So, it is a great time to start thinking.  But, there are other resources that come out during January.  Here are some good ones to start your creative juices flowing:

Astronomy

Sky and Telescope has come out with their 2015 Observing Calendars and Information.  There are other sites as well – the Sea and Sky has their Celestial Events Calendar  out as well as Stargazing Tonight.

Science Fairs

It is time to think about those science fair projects (if you haven’t already started).  The International Science and Engineering Fair is in May – and students are required to participate in qualifying fairs.  You can find information about affiliated science fairs here. Many local fairs are in February – so if  you haven’t found your dates – it is time to look.

Global Science Events

Every year there are a number of scientific and medical meetings held around the world.  And while, they may not be directed toward you and your family personally, many of these meetings have auxiliary events.  For example, the American Chemical Society which will be meeting in Denver in March and in Boston in August usually supports a science activity for families and school children as part of their meeting.  Thus, looking to see if one of these events is coming to your area may inspire an activity or a lesson plan.  You can find one listing of Science Events here.

Weather and Climate

In addition to astronomy, there is also sky watching as related to weather, clouds, climate, etc.  Winter is a great time to look for the Aurora Borealis – you can find the forecast for viewing here. Of course there are a number of sites that follow weather – there is the NOAA.gov and Weather.com.  These should provide you with lots of activities.

Check out the Calendar

Earth Science Week  – has extended their celebration to the entire year.  National Engineering Week is February 22-28, 2015 and information can be found here.  Earth Day is April 22 and many professional societies have activities planned.  Pi Day is March 14 and this year is special because of the year.  (You might also search STEM activities – UCF is holding a STEM Day on Jan. 30, 2015, and STEM Saturdays are being held at Northern Illinois University. There are a host of other Colleges and Universities that are doing STEM outreach – so checking your local community college, or other higher learning institution may also provide you with inspiration.)

Finally, watch the museum and library calendars you never know what might turn up there.

Drought

Drought.  What immediately comes to mind?  If you live west of the Mississippi River in the United States, water or lack there of is usually the first image that occurs.  This morning’s news indicated that while California is getting some much needed rain, an estimated 6 to 7 inches over the next few days, they need over 47 inches to make up for the extended drought that is currently taking place in that region.

States like Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado are very familiar with drought.  And even though this past year has helped – there are still areas behind in precipitation.  The Oklahoma and Texas still have a number of counties that are listed as being in a severe drought.  Still, it is not the worst it has ever been that distinction, for North America,  is still held by 1934.  (See a Science News Article) {The current United States Drought Map can be found here and current world conditions can be found here.}  Water is a very precious commodity that many take for granted, yet wars have been fought over it.  Boundaries are defined by it.  And, movies plots are based on it – Interstellar, 2014; Leap of Faith, 1992, and The Man who Fell to Earth, 1976.

Because of this natural link to water, which is required for our very survival.  The word drought is a very powerful thing.  There can be droughts of kindness, droughts of thought, and a drought of feeling.  In today’s society, as evidenced by just turning on the television and watching the news; there is a drought of understanding and connection to ones own neighbor, and potentially even to ones self.  We have lost our sense of connection both to others and to our natural world.

It is time to reconnect.  To make the links between where the water from the tap or the milk in the refrigerator comes from.  It is not just a pipe or the local grocery store.  For water there is a grand cycle – rain to ground to ponds, creeks rivers, underground reservoirs, and oceans, then evaporation back to clouds and back to rain.  Yet, for its presence; too much can be a hazard, in the form of snow or excess rain, and too little have a huge impact.  Almost 800 million people (water.org) do not have access to clean water.

During this season, let us begin to reconnect.  Make links.  Show connections between individuals. Show the things that we have in common, rather than our differences.  Look at cycles.  Look for chances to renew bonds.  Look for the good and fulfilling – rather than the barrenness that drought in all its forms brings.