Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Top 5 Winners of SpiderSmart's Summer Writing Contest

We had a LOT of fantastic submissions this year!  GREAT WRITING, KIDS!

We will share our Top 5 in the other categories next week, but for now here are glimpses of the judges' comments for our winners in the following five genres:

1. Descriptive Essay Winner:  "In the Deep Ocean" by Kaylyn Li from SpiderSmart of Sugarland

Kaylyn's was the strongest of the stack because of all that had to be imagined. It was chock full of description and further beautified with details and specifics. Additionally, every line was descriptive and evocative so the reading was very pleasurable. There were many original moments of true sensory reflection that made it our winner.

2. Fan Fiction Winner: "Crossing Field" by Jung-Won Hwang from SpiderSmart of Rockville

With fan fiction pieces, there has to be a strong rhythm and gathering momentum to get the reader from chapter to chapter with a strong sense of anticipation.  We really like what she accomplishes in that regard.  Jung-Won's masterful piece kept our interest building and building, never lapsing into slower parts. The suspense was memorable!  Additionally, we love fan fiction pieces the most when the kids put themselves in the story within whatever fan-world elements they've chosen.  I think we have the best choice with "Crossing Field."

3. Persuasive Essay Winner: "The Slaughter of Wolves" by Esther Zhang from SpiderSmart of Cupertino

We really like how Esther summarizes and synthesizes all the research in this piece; it seems the perfect fusion of research and original, persuasive thought. She is compelling in her urging, as well as in her outlining of the issue at hand. While the other essays accomplished this in moments, her piece had an evenhanded way of presenting the research plus the personal persuasive elements. The surveying of her fellow classmates, in particular, made the piece very entertaining!

4. Short Story Winner:  "Four-Leaf Clover" by Valerie Huang from SpiderSmart of Sugarland

Valerie's narrative drive and instincts are incredibly strong, and her voice is super confident for her age.  The chapter titles made us laugh, and she just has a tone and fun style that totally stood out for us. Her unique, non-device-like details were particularly interesting. Her piece is funny without being randomly goofy, which was probably our favorite part!

5. Personal Narrative Winner:  "Personal Fishing Experience" by Alice Zhong from SpiderSmart of Sugarland

This piece has a lot of poise and memorable qualities.  Not only is it well-written, but it is fine-tuned.  We love the lingering feel, sound, and sentiment behind every inclusion of onomatopoeia!  There were many lines that resonated with us, and we loved its plaintive feel.  There was a sense of observation and original discovery that made Alice's piece our winning selection.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons to Solve a Rubik's Cube

1. Solving a Rubik's cube exercises mental reflexes. 

Working on solving a Rubik's cube is great cognitive training! There are no tricks or cheat codes- all you have is the cube in front of you – so you cannot be lazy when trying to solve the puzzle. There are multiple ways to solve the cube; you will never arrive at the solution the same way. Having to try multiple methods to find a solution keeps your mind active and sharp. The mental acuity gained through working on a Rubik's cube will transfer over to your schoolwork and tasks in the workplace.

2. Solving a Rubik's cube helps you develop a wider perception to the process of problem-solving.

Learn to think outside the cube by practicing your Rubik's strategies in all areas. Learning to shift gears, gain a new perspective, and attack a problem are all skills that help unravel different types challenges. Carry these traits over to your career to be a one-of-a-kind problem-solver!  

3. Solving a Rubik's cube develops hand-eye coordination. 

Strong hand-eye coordination is a valuable skill that translates to several areas of life, such as sports, cooking, and many career fields. The more you practice solving the cube, the better your hand-eye coordination will be! You can also time how long it takes you to solve the cube. Continuously working hard to beat your best puzzle-solving time is a challenge that will enhance your hand-eye coordination in no time!

4. Solving a Rubik's cube improves short-term memory.

A healthy short-term memory is vital for success in school, personal pursuits, and socially. Research shows that this “working memory” helps develop thinking, planning, imagination and play, and basic literacy skills.

5. Solving a Rubik's cube increases spatial intelligence. 

Spatial intelligence is the ability to imagine real world spaces in your mind. The Rubik's cube is a mechanical three-dimensional puzzle that helps you work on your spatial intelligence, because it not only helps you visualize things in your head, but it also improves certain abstract abilities. Some of these abilities include recognizing images and relating them to other objects in your surroundings, and the ability to analyze situations from every angle, which leads to quicker problem-solving.

Don't miss the Rubik's Cube Workshop at SpiderSmart of Ashburn this Saturday from 4:30 - 6:30! Kids will work with expert cubers to gain speed, skills, and learn new techniques!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Top 5 Most Creative School Lunches

 Nothing perks your kids up more than a fun midday meal at school. Check out these creative ways to spice up lunchtime!

1. Put everything in a jar.
Use your leftovers to layer up visual excitement in a mason jar!

2. Make it a muffin.

Mac and cheese muffins sound great hot or cold!

3. Skewer some quick kabobs.

Put your sandwich on a stick, or check out some of these dippable delights!

4. It's a wrap!

Make it gluten free with a corn tortilla!

5. Break out your bento box.

Add variety with perfect portions of provisions!

Any of these simple and quick recipes will provide a pick-me-up that helps your child remain focused for the rest of the school day. Try adding a note to let them know you're thinking of them and you hope they always try their best. Together, you can make it another great school year!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Top 5 Ways Parents Can Support STEM Learning

Projects involving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) encourage skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking in children. These tools are necessary in our world of ever-changing technology, and they prepare students for higher education and careers. Here are the top 5 ways that parents can encourage STEM learning at home!

1. Encourage questioning

Is your child always asking “why”’ and “how”? That’s a STEM mindset—and it can be the beginning of a drive to solve important challenges like protecting our environment, curing diseases, or engineering new clean energy technology. Even if the questions seem relentless at times, embrace this curiosity. Take the time to explain the things that you understand, and when your child poses a question that you don’t have an answer to, look up the answer together (and model good research practices in the process). Who knows—it may spur some new interests for you too!

2. Give educational programming a try

TV and movie time doesn’t have to be mindless—there is plenty of entertaining programming out there that is strongly related to STEM fields and educational in the process. So, the next time you and your child are browsing Netflix together, give the “documentaries” section a look. Long-running programs like the History Channel’s Modern Marvels, PBS’ NOVA, and the Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth are tried-and-true favorites with hundreds of episodes covering a variety of topics, such as civil engineering, space exploration, and evolution. If those shows are a little too much to hold your child’s interest, there are also plenty of kids’ and primetime television shows that have more of a STEM theme than you may expect. Sid the Science Kid is a great option to spur a science interest in early learners, while shows like CSI or Numb3rs, both of which focus on real-world applications of forensic science and math to solve crimes, can spark an interest for older students.

3. Visit a science museum

What better place to allow your child to get up close and hands on with science than a science museum? And they’re not difficult to find. There are over 150 science centers around the U.S., and about one third of those even have areas designed specifically for children six years old and under. These museums typically include a variety of exhibits that explain complex and fascinating science and technology concepts in creative and accessible ways—giving visitors the chance to run their own experiments, play with gadgets, or check out live and video-based presentations. So, plan a weekend outing to your local science museum, or check out this list of the 10 Best Science Centers, and think about working a visit into your next family vacation itinerary. Most of these institutions have great websites with additional resources, activities, and ideas to inspire STEM interest as well.

4. Seek out STEM extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities, even for young students, don’t have to be limited to sports or performing arts—there are plenty of STEM-based options too. There are numerous science fairs and engineering design competitions that self-directed students can seek out. For students wanting more guidance or a social aspect, math and science competitions are hosted across the country by various organizations (like Science Olympiad). Think of these competitions as a team geography bee for math and science, complete with practices to prepare. The FIRST Robotics and Junior FIRST Lego® League programs have also grown very popular in recent years. These competitions challenge teams of students to solve real-world science and technology problems by building robots with the mentorship of an industry professional. It’s projected that over 400,000 students in grades K–12 will participate in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) programs during the 2015–2016 school year.

5. Make career connections

One of the most important actions in fostering an interest in STEM is showing children where it can lead them. So, make an effort to expose them to different options for a career in STEM. If you’re in a STEM field yourself, bring your child to work with you one day. Have friends or family members in a STEM field? Ask them to talk to your child about what their jobs are like, or even set up a job shadow if your child has a strong interest. There are also programs available in many school districts to match students with mentors or internships in various job fields, including STEM ones. If you’re unsure of where to start looking, Pathways to Science maintains lists of STEM internship programs for K–8 and high school students.

 If you're ready to step it up with STEM, then register for the DNA Extraction Lab at SpiderSmart of Kensington on September 10! Details and tickets are here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/spidersmarts-dna-extraction-lab-tickets-27397548806

Thank you to gettingsmart.com for contributing this week's top 5!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Top 5 Ways to get Back Into a School Routine

Many counties have less than one week before schools open for the 2016-2017 academic year! Are you ready to get into a school routine? Here are our Top 5 suggestions for getting back on track:

1. Plan ahead

Work out what’s scheduled for your child and make a family plan. Consider creating a calendar or weekly schedule that helps to remind everyone about what’s going on that week and what your child needs to take to school each day, e.g. library books that are coming due and school sport days.

2. A good day starts with a good night’s sleep

It’s not uncommon for parents to allow their children to stay up later during the summer holidays. To ensure that your child gets up in time for school, it is important to re-adjust your child’s sleeping patterns prior to the school term starting. Start by adjusting your child’s sleep pattern in small half hour blocks. For example, if your child is going to bed an hour later than they need too, then 10 days out from school start adjusting their bed time back by half an hour every couple of days, so that they’re back into the school sleep routine prior to school starting.

3. Morning routines are vital

Establishing consistent and persistent morning routines not only provides the opportunity for your child to develop self-care and independent living skills (e.g., dressing themselves) but also makes the morning run smoother. Consistent morning routines create predictable expectations for your child, which provides the opportunity for them to develop their independence skills and in turn their confidence.

4. After School routines are also important

Additionally, it is important to create an after school routine that suits your family’s needs and situation. As always, consistency is key to any effective routine. So find out what suits you and your family and stick with it. For example, is it better for your family that you have a family meal together after homework is completed? Does your child need some “down time” before bath/shower?

5. Visuals are everyone’s best friend

Creating visual routines can help to reduce stress and assist in creating smooth morning and afternoon schedules allowing people to remain calmer and households to run smoothly. Using a visual routine will allow you to refer your child back to the visual schedule to check for themselves what comes next in the morning or afternoon schedule and carry out that activity. Again this is a great skill to build their independence and self-confidence. You can find great images online, then just print and paste them into a picture schedule.

Thank you to Emma Ballantyne, Senior Behaviour Therapist and Early Intervention Consultant, for contributing this week's Top 5!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons to Finish Your Summer Reading List at SpiderSmart

Summer is the best time for kids to catch up on reading. While everyone reads at a different pace, most counties require students to complete a minimum number of books over the summer months. For both enthusiastic and reluctant readers, this can be difficult to accomplish due to busy schedules and the chore of completing a preselected list.

Here are the top 5 reasons to complete your summer reading list at SpiderSmart:

1. Participate in a structured program.

Bring your summer assignments into SpiderSmart, and teachers will collaborate with students to check every book off your list. Learning to set specific goals, as well as lay out the steps needed to attain them, is a critical skill that all students must learn. SpiderSmart encourages students to apply this skill to their summer reading lists by helping them budget their time carefully to read one book every week. Students will feel so proud and accomplished that they were able to complete their reading list with ease!

2. Practice essential skills.

Students don't just read books at SpiderSmart- they interact with them! The ability to read, analyze, and respond is essential and timeless. SpiderSmart's Reading & Writing Program is structured so that students read one book every week, and then we take summer reading to the next level by complete a writing assignment that complements the book. A combination of close reading and critical thinking exercises will build skills of expression that carry over into every subject!

3. Review with an instructor.

Dive deeper into your summer reading by adding vocabulary, comprehension, and writing exercises to your books and completing them with a teacher! Every lesson at SpiderSmart includes one-on-one time with with a talented educator who will review your child's work thoroughly and holistically. This allows for personalized, workshop-style classes that cover everything from comprehension to grammar. One hour a week of individualized review with an instructor can make all the difference!

4. Learn to love reading.

SpiderSmart's dynamic assignments get kids interacting with media on a whole new level. Exploring text in new ways will cultivate an appreciation for literature like never before. Relating to characters and situations through imaginative essay writing creates a closeness to the story that your child will yearn for. Your kids will be begging you for another trip to the library!

5. Return to a learning routine. 

It can feel like a cold splash of water when students return to school after the long, relaxing days of summer. Ease back into an academic routine by participating in SpiderSmart programs once a week. Light homework, hourly classes, and focused lessons are a great way to warm up for school and ensure that your kids are in the fast lane this year!

To find out more about SpiderSmart locations and programs, visit our website at www.SpiderSmart.com

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Top 5 Submissions from SpiderSmart's 2015 Writing Contest

Did you know that SpiderSmart Learning Centers holds a worldwide writing contest for its students every year? Take a look at the categories and rules for this year, and enter your work!

You can also take a look at our Top 5 Submissions from SpiderSmart's 2015 Writing Contest!

1. Adelina Lee (Fiction

2. Yuquing Liu (Essay)

3. Jessya Fan (Poetry)

4. Rachel Kim (Fiction)

5. Jaden Wang (Poetry)

We can't wait to read all of the amazing entries this year!