Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Top 5 Ways To Keep Learning Over Winter Break

Winter break is fast approaching, and while it is a time to relax and celebrate, that doesn't mean that you have to stop learning. In fact, keeping your brain stimulated over the break will make the transition back to school in the new year much easier, and help you avoid the dreaded “brain fog” instigated by turkey, mashed potatoes, and not exercising your brain muscles! There are a myriad of activities to choose from in the winter season; we've narrowed the list down to the top five that are both educational and fun!

  1. Give back.
    Unfortunately, winter can be a very difficult time for those who are less fortunate. There are so many opportunities to get involved in your community to not only give back, but learn as well. Giving back develops character traits like humility, patience, kindness, and many others, which are important attributes to have as a contributing citizen of our world! Also, several career paths stem from of a desire to promote the general welfare of humankind, such as community development, nonprofit work, and grants management. Look into what is available in your community to get you started. Volunteering at soup kitchens, helping with the Toys for Tots program, cleaning up a local park, and overseeing a food drive for a local organization are just a few of the options you can choose from. You will find that you will bring joy to many in your area through your service, but more surprisingly, you most likely will find your own heart filled with joy as you turn someone's holiday around with a hot meal or a toy. 
  2. Check out local history.
    Make a fun outing out of learning local history; there are a plethora of options! Take a walking tour of the historic sites in your city- make it a game by seeing how many stops you can hit on your tour. Go on a road trip to nearby towns and discover the historical gems that await you there. You could make your road trip a “stop-and-see” trip, where you find landmarks at various places along the roadside. Visit museums and take in all the knowledge and facts they have to offer. Go to a gallery and expand your breadth by viewing a mix of modern, contemporary, and classical art. Many institutions offer guided tours to give you that extra insight and history behind the exhibitions These activities will broaden your intellectual base and also give you some physical fitness education! 
  3. Keep practicing skill sets.
    Winter break is the perfect time to review material you are learning in school to make sure it is ingrained in your mind and that you are sharp when you return to your classroom. It is also the ideal time to get ahead by practicing new concepts; without the pressure of deadlines and test dates, your mind will be able to fully relax and absorb the new information. Try fun educational games as you practice, like crossword puzzles, fraction simplification with a deck of cards, and alphabet hunts. Check out this website to get more ideas: http://www.education.com/activity/offline-games/ To get practice with a trained educator in a fun environment, get in touch with your local SpiderSmart center to find out their holiday hours and book some time in for learning enrichment, tutoring, or test prep! 
  4. Sign up for a class.
    The possibilities are endless when it comes to extra-curricular classes outside of a school setting. Is there something you've always wanted to try your hand at? Winter break is the perfect time to check it out! Why not put your name down for a cooking class? Broaden your artistic horizons by getting behind a pottery wheel and making someone special a beautiful handmade gift, just in time for the holidays. Stay in shape by taking an exercise or dance class! Classes help you build community with people that you have common interests with and widen your circle of friends. They also keep your mind active and exercise parts of your brain that you don't usually “work out”. Taking a class in a creative field will also aid you in core subjects, as you can apply skills like problem-solving, perseverance, and making connections that you learn in your supplementary classes to your main areas of study. 
  5. Write in a journal.
    Build your writing skills and practice varying techniques by writing about your winter activities daily in a journal. Reflection is a key tool in expanding your mental capacity through spelling, communication, and creativity. Summarizing is a vital component of communication; you will have to learn how to confine your day's pursuits to a few paragraphs, so learning how to organize your thoughts and your writing will be key. Journaling is also an outlet, where the vital art of self-expression can be honed and fine-tuned. Expressing yourself is a great release to get out the bottled up frustrations, discouragements, and even joys on paper. Many times, things that seem insurmountable become much more achievable when written out- solutions can be found in the midst of laying pen to paper. Also, instead of viewing our experiences as isolated and unrelated, reflecting over a period of time, like winter break, will show you that most of your experiences are interconnected, and help you learn from your life events.

Source: Check out this article for more winter educational activities: http://mamiverse.com/winter-educational-activities-for-kids-71088/

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons To Incorporate Multisensory Learning in the Classroom

At the most basic level, we process information through all of our five senses: sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell. Not only that, but we all have differing learning styles that rely heavily on one or a few of these senses to help us distill information. So why do so many classrooms only involve the “lecture” style of teaching, where an instructor stands at the front of the class, relaying information to rows of students sitting in desks silently? It's no wonder that students are struggling to formulate accurate answers, sentences, and essays, and find themselves totally unprepared for higher education. Thankfully, there is a different approach that looks at learning from a holistic sensory approach: multisensory education. There are a myriad of reasons why multisensory learning is a valuable way to learn; here, we have narrowed it down to the top 5:

  1. Multisensory learning creates multiple ways to make connections and learn concepts.
    If you wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument or a sport, you couldn't just master it by listening to or watching someone playing it. You have to practice. Learning concepts by multisensory instruction uses the same principle. For instance, to assist with spelling, teachers can write out blanks for each letter of a word to help students visualize how many letters are in that word. This technique also slows down the thinking process so that students really focus on learning how to spell the word correctly, encourages learners to utilize spelling concepts such as blend placement, and praises students when they identify correct letters within a word, instead of just telling them they have wrongly spelled the word. Multisensory learning can be used to help in all subject areas. The Wilson Reading System helps struggling readers by using“sound-tapping”, where students tap out each sound of a word with their fingers and thumbs to help them break the words down. Manipulatives such as interlocking cubes and shape blocks aid in learning math, as these tools give learners a visual representation of the problem being solved. Multisensory learning works because it tackles learning concepts from every angle. 
  2. Multisensory learning is a diverse method of instruction, which will reach a wide range of learners.
    Each student has their own unique learning style, which incorporates their sensory strengths. By blending all five senses, multisensory instruction allows students to tap into these areas of sensory strength in order to learn. This will aid in increasing retention of information and overall understanding of material. For example, if a student is an auditory learner, and they are allowed to read problems out loud, their success rate will increase. Another example is using dioramas to teach history. This method will appeal most to tactile and visual learners. These learners will digest much more information by creating a diorama of the Revolutionary War instead of just reading about it in a textbook. In many cases, they can even come to love the subject matter! This diverse teaching method creates true, deeply rooted learning, not just superficial “test passing” memorization of facts and figures. Constructing a strong foundation of the subject matter through multisensory teaching will build a bridge to further learning in college and into students' career fields.

  3. Multisensory learning is interesting, and therefore creates motivation to learn.
    Which sounds more engaging: reading a subtraction problem where 5 apples are subtracted from 7 apples, or taking actual apples, and having students separate them out in order to create the problem themselves, as well as try other variations of math problems with the fruit? It is obvious that the second choice would appeal to the majority of learners, and they could have a tasty snack after the lesson is finished! Interest in the subject matter encourages students to pay attention, focus, and invest in their learning. This will inevitably bring up test scores and grade point averages...but more importantly, it will mean that pupils are becoming passionate about learning. Students who once thought certain subjects were “boring” or “useless”, once participating in multisensory learning, will come to enjoy the material and remember key concepts that will be useful in the future. In many cases, students who thought they were not good at a certain subject were pleasantly surprised to find that they were, in fact, great at the subject once a teacher implemented multisensory techniques to teach the material. If every instructor shifted their teaching style to add in multisensory elements, how many students' career paths would be altered forever toward something they discovered a passion for- that beforehand, they thought they could never excel in? It's exciting to think about! 
  4. Multisensory learning is a key element in helping students with “attention” and “behavioral” issues.
    For students with learning differences such as ADHD, it’s difficult to only listen or to only read. In many articles (like this one), doctors explain that children who have learning difficulties thrive with multisensory learning because they need more than one pathway in the brain activated in order to understand the material at hand. For example, reading along as a passage is read to them can help students comprehend the material better, not only because they aren’t struggling with pace, pronunciation, and punctuation, but also because their auditory and visual senses are engaging with the material at the same time. For many children, it’s also a matter of getting enough excess energy out to focus. At SpiderSmart, we often let the students stand up at their desks, rather than sit, because the freedom to move actually helps them become less distracted. But multisensory learning is not just for special cases- it’s good for ALL children to be intrigued and excited by work that engages them in more than one way. 
  5. Multisensory learning helps students develop verbal and non-verbal problem-solving skills.
    Teaching students to untangle problems in a variety of ways ensures that there will be something of value in their mental toolbox no matter what. Multisensory learning develops these critical thinking skills by encouraging students to build relationships between new information and things they already know. Encouraging students to ask questions about a new concept and explore it, rather than just asking whether they know it or not, allows students to develop a pathway to understanding. When presented with a problem, which they will be time-and-time again in this every-changing world, students need to understand that asking questions might lead them to information that they already have, and unlock part of the problem at hand!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Top 5 Reasons to Study Civics in U.S. Classrooms

In light of the recent election, many people are asking some very important questions about the U.S. government. Some of these include: what exactly is a democracy, and how is it different from other forms of government? What is the process for electing officials to various positions in the U.S. government? What rights does the U.S. Constitution give to U.S. citizens? As these questions abound amongst the voting population, as well as future voters, we can look to the subject of civics to give us the answers. Civics is the study of civic (i.e. of a city, citizens, or citizenship) affairs and the duties and rights of citizenship. In many educational systems, civics has been cut out of the curriculum, leaving these crucial questions abandoned. There are numerous reasons to study civics, but here we give you the top 5 reasons why this subject should be essential in U.S. classrooms across the nation. 

  1. It's important to know what your rights are as a U.S. citizen.
    Many students grow up never fully understanding what the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence really are, let alone what's contained in these all-important documents. While a brief outline of the formation of these writings may be covered in a U.S. History class, most of us only know about them on a surface level. Not only does an in-depth study of these papers that form our nation's beliefs instill gratitude at the freedom that our forefathers fought for, but it also can be extremely useful to know what rights you have as a citizen, such as freedom of speech, which will then impact the role you play in the nation. 

  2. Civics education assists you in determining what your duties are as a U.S. citizen.
    Everyone knows that being a citizen allows you certain inalienable rights, but did you know that as a citizen of the United States, you have specific responsibilities as well? Every citizen must pay taxes to keep up our roads, schools, and other public institutions. We must also obey the laws of our federal and local governments. If called upon, we must also serve as a juror to our peers on trial. The country is counting on you to participate in certain activities that keep the country moving, and it is important to know when and how you may be called upon to do so.

  3. Studying Civics helps you become an informed voter or future voter.
    Voting is one of the basic rights afforded to citizens of the United States. It is a liberty that many countries do not have, so you should take advantage of exercising this right. It is important to make decisions on what policies you agree or disagree with, and decide what stance you take on issues, so that when you head to the polls, you will be able to make educated choices on your ballot. Civics will outline different current issues that are the backbone of candidates' platforms, which in turn gives you a broad spectrum of how electing officials impacts the country, as well as show you how your vote matters. If you are not old enough to vote, it's never too early to start shaping your understanding of politics and making determinations on where you stand on crucial topics, so that you will be a well-informed voter when your turn comes!

  4. Decisions made by the government impact almost every area of life.
    Many economic, ecological, and social policies are created by the government. Once you understand which branches of government make decisions on these issues, and how they make decisions, you will then understand how to make your voice heard and shape the policy of the country to reflect your needs and the needs of those around you. If you see a problem in your community that you would like to help solve, it will be helpful to know which channels to go through in order to get effective results. 

  5. Grow the country by thinking freely!
    Knowing what the policies your governmental officials make actually mean, what the function of the branches of government is, and what the laws they implement mean for you is of the utmost importance. If you are fully aware of the effects the government has on your personal life, as well as the nation at large, you will know whether something is true or false when presented at a school debate, shown on political ads, and when reviewing platforms of candidates running for public office. You can also use the knowledge you gain to educate others on the important issues facing our country today. Teaching others what you know will start a chain reaction that can make a big difference in our nation!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

If you plan to go to college and/or enter the workplace in your future, it is important that you begin to develop a well-rounded skill set and the qualities that go along with that. Here are the Top 5 Ways to Be a Well-Rounded Student:

  1. Volunteer.  
    Volunteering has a myriad of benefits. You are not only helping someone who might be in need or requires assistance in order to carry out daily tasks, but you also grow as a person through volunteering. Volunteering helps you develop responsibility and maturity because you are looking after an individual, a group of people, or an animal, which requires attention to detail, time management skills, and sacrificing your own desires to ensure they are looked after well. Their livelihood is in your hands. Also, volunteering creates a better world, not only for the present, but also for the future. Your service in the community today will make a better tomorrow for generations to come. If you want to volunteer, but have no idea where to begin, start by thinking: Where can I make a difference? What do I see that I want to change to better my community? Then find a place in your community that offers volunteering in that area. There are so many opportunities to get involved, from helping out at the Special Olympics, to cleaning up a park with a local environmental organization, to walking dogs at a shelter near you!

  1. Hone your skills. 
    Your future career path will hopefully follow your passion. It's never too early to get extra practice and challenge yourself in the areas you potentially see yourself pursuing in the future. Colleges and employers look for someone who has gone the extra mile to master their craft. Don't just practice singing in your bedroom; take some vocal lessons and sign up for choir in school to integrate singing into your life in a serious way. Don't feel satisfied doing well on your math tests? Why not sign up for Math Olympiad? If you want to participate in this extra-curricular activity that strengthens problem-solving skills (a crucial skill in life) and stretches your creative muscles, but your school does not offer Math Olympiad, or their team is full, we have some good news. Select SpiderSmart centers are now Math Olympiad institution teams! Sign up today at: https://moemsatspidersmartofashburn.eventbrite.com

  1. Try something new.  
     If you come across an internship or a volunteer position in a field that's always interested you but which you've never worked in before, it's your chance to try it and see if it sparks your interest. Also, doing things that are difficult help strengthen your problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, and adaptability.

  1. Reflect on your experience.   
    Reflection is a tool that you will use the rest of your school and university career, as well as your adult life. It helps you acquire mental focus and discipline. It also encourages you to see what you do well, and highlights areas of improvement for the future.

  1. Be selective.  
    Remember that colleges are looking for well-rounded, but focused individuals. If your extracurriculars are all over the map, it doesn't always come across as well-rounded, but instead scattered. Keeping your interests and your extracurriculars aligned to fields you are thinking about utilizing in the future will make you more attractive to college admissions committees, as well as prospective employers. Ask yourself these questions before getting involved in something: Why should I invest my time in doing this? Is this an exploratory step that will contribute toward my future and my community at large, or is it just something else to add to my already busy schedule?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

For many school districts, the first grading period is about to end and those report cards will be out before you know it! Even if you're achieving your goals, check out the Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Next Report Card!
  1. Take notes in class.
    Writing out information is a great way to absorb the information your teacher presents in class, as well as a key concentration technique that will ensure you are listening actively to the teacher. Also, you will remember what you wrote down much more than just listening to someone explaining information or relaying facts. As you take notes, be creative! Use highlighters to highlight key words, such as vocabulary. Make bullet points of core facts or statistics. Create mnemonic devices to help you retain certain methods. Notes are also a great study guide for quizzes and exams! 

  2. Participate in hands-on, interactive activities related to the subject matter.
    Studies show that concepts are grasped more easily by taking part in activities that correlate with what you are learning. Kinesthetic learning increases engagement in the subject matter, which then increases retention of the knowledge and skills associated with the lesson being taught. For example, instead of only reading about Chemistry theories in a textbook, attending a workshop where you work on completing an experiment and then explore the results of the experimentation will help you deeply ingrain the material in your brain. This will then lead to a higher proficiency in the practiced subject. Experience creates mastery! 

  3. Form good habits. Get enough sleep, eat a proper diet, etc.
    If you're not feeling your best, then it will be difficult to perform your best. Give your mind and body the tools they need to succeed in a focused environment by putting practices in place that help you perform better. Change up your routine by packing new brain foods as your snacks, or keep a packet of sticky notes with you to write out check lists as you think about your goals for the day. Little habits become routine and can make all the difference!

  4. Work on your homework a little each night.
    You won't become a top piano player if you only practice once a week. It takes consistency and thoroughness to build skills to a master level. Similarly, you won't be able to master school material confidently if you only sit down and study it once. Breaking work into small, digestible chunks makes it easier for you to focus and go more in depth with the material. Before you start an assignment, try to mentally plan out the stages you'll need to go through to complete it. Then take it one step at a time!

  5. Don't wait to get help.
    There are plenty of enthusiastic educators out there at places like SpiderSmart Learning Centers, and they're standing by to help you succeed. Don't wait until your child needs an IEP or child study at school. Get help and start building basic skills at the first sign of academic distress so that things don't spiral out of control. Many students take enrichment and tutoring classes as a precautionary measure, to ensure that they won't struggle in school! Even one hour a week can make all the difference!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Top 5 National Math Competitions for Students

Math competitions are a great way to foster an enthusiasm for critical thinking as well as begin building an academic resume that looks great for colleges! Some of the contests even offer cash prizes and scholarships to the winners. Check out these links to the top 5 math competitions and find out if a school or institution near you can help you register!

1. Math Olympiads

2. Math League

3. The M3 Challenge

4. Continental Mathematics League

5. American Mathematics Competitions

Some SpiderSmart Learning Centers are registered to host these exams, so connect with your local center today to get started!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons to Homeschool Your Child

 Have you considered alternatives to public and private school systems? Homeschooling is a growing trend that may benefit your children more than traditional education because every family's needs are different. Here are the top 5 reasons to homeschool:

1. Develop students' passions.
Your child might engage more with assignments if they can be modified to reflect special interests. Follow a science-centered curriculum if that's what she is most interested in. Let your artist draw some of his history assignments instead of writing. Homeschooling allows for more flexibility when it comes to achieving your learning goals.

2. Explore the world.
A sterile classroom with strict rules is not an ideal learning environment for all students. "Do school" in the backyard or in the woods. Visit museums or national parks. Learning can take place anywhere!

3. Set the pace.
Some students get bored in traditional schools, and yet others can't keep up at times. Maybe you have a student that does both! With homeschooling, you have total control over the flow of the curricula. Go as slowly or as quickly as your student needs to.

4. Cut the fluff.
Every day in a traditional classroom includes activities that some children need, but they may be redundant for others. You can spend extra time on building basic skills if that is what your student needs, or move them ahead to the next topic if they are already showing proficiency.

5. Build family ties.
Your family will all be under one roof for a limited time. Before kids leave to pursue higher education, jobs, or other endeavors, you may want to maximize the amount of quality time spent with your children. Homeschooling can be a wonderful way to strengthen family bonds for a lifetime.

For more information, check out www.homeschool.com!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Top 5 Ways to Improve on Your Next SAT

Did you take the October SAT, but you feel like you didn't do your best? Most students take the test two or three times, so learn how to reflect on your scores and make the most of your next round! Here are the top 5 ways to improve on your next SAT:

1. Change your attitude.
One of the biggest hindrances to scoring high on the SAT is the attitude with which many students approach the test. Often, after receiving a score they hadn't quite expected, they become irrevocably discouraged, and begin to negatively self-talk. “I'm not good at Algebra, and I hate math.” SAT questions are completely unlike most of the questions you can find on a normal school test, and is designed to be that way. Since the SAT measures lateral thinking, rather than progressive thinking, it can often stump even the most diligent of students in the beginning!

2. Analyze your results.
Once you have mentally re-focused yourself and you're ready to be objective about your scores, log into www.CollegeBoard.com and look over the detailed scoring guide. You'll get information about what types of questions you're missing. Look for trends in your performance. Did you get a high percentage of questions correct at the beginning of each section and then start missing some towards the middle and end? You may need to build stamina and start taking timed practice sections. Figure out what areas you need to target in order to increase your next score.

3. Create a focused study plan.
Plenty of SAT preparation material is available in stores and online. make sure you choose material that right for you. If you need to practice with timed tests, then the Kaplan or Barron's books, which contain only practice material and no focused sections, might be for you. If you know there are certain content areas that need polishing, then McGraw-Hill or IvyPrep might be for you. There are different types of resources out there that can give you the practice you need.

4. Maintain the finesse.
If you're not seeing a general trend in your weak areas that allows you to created a precise list of topics to study, then perhaps you're missing questions because you aren't applying your test-taking skills thoroughly. Active reading, annotation, process of elimination, and other skills must be systematically applied to each and every question on the test. It's easy to use your test-taking skills on the first 10 or 15 questions. However, as time goes on, you may start to stray a bit from your regimen. Make sure you're working out every single problem with the same attention to detail that you give to the very first question.

5. Understand how the test is scored.
Unlike the way most school tests are scored, wrong answers on the SAT do not lead to point deductions. This means that there is no benefit to leaving questions blank. However, there IS a benefit to skipping the hardest questions and coming back to them later. Even though there are no deductions for wrong answers, you can only accumulate points with RIGHT answers, so if you find you are taking too long to answer a question, SKIP IT! Come back to it later, or guess if you have minimal time remaining. Also, colleges look at your super score. So, only your highest-rated sections, no matter what test date they're from, will be shown to the schools.

There's plenty of time to make a change before the next test. Follow these steps to maximize your study time.
Keep your chins up and keep studying for that November test date! Good luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons Why Learning Science is Important

Learning Science in your school years is a crucial part of your development. Each of the various branches of Science gives you unique and essential tools that will help you succeed in school, your career, and life. Not only that, but learning the foundational principles of Science will make you more aware of the world around you and expand your horizons as a global citizen. Here are the top five reasons to start your Science learning journey today!

  1. Develops problem-solving skills.
    Science helps you grow in logical thinking as you implement the Scientific Method, practice experimentation, and learn scientific concepts. This in turn helps increase your ability to solve problems. Communications, medicine, transportation, and a whole host of other fields are mainly present in our world because innovative individuals have used their scientific knowledge to create real-life applications. 

  2. Reinforces other subjects.
    Science is also cross-disciplinary. The fundamentals you learn in Science can be applied to tackling the learning of other subjects. For example, almost every Physics problem involves Math, so when you work on your Physics homework, you're flexing both your Science and Math mental muscles! 

  3. Creates awareness about technology.
    Many inventions were created as as an answer to a scientific question. Advances in medicine and infrastructure, for example, are being constantly updated to solve problems more efficiently. The use of technology, such as telescopes and microscopes, for scientific investigations introduces kids to the idea that tools can help identify problems and fix the world around us. Also, having a basic understanding of how these tools work might help them invent something of their own!

  4. Teaches how to conserve natural resources.
    Wildlife and environmental studies introduce students to the dangers that our world faces and shows them that it's up to us to change things for the better. Learning about how the Earth's different systems interact can inspire children to waste less, recycle, and protect plants and animals. By highlighting the importance of conservation and showing students how to implement conservation techniques, we are teaching the next generation to take care of our planet and encouraging them to create a better and more sustainable future for themselves and others.

  5. Instills survival skills.
    There are many choices that we all make each day. Have you every stopped to think that the majority of the decisions you make rely on using a knowledge of Science? For example, the study of weather, Meteorology, makes you aware of various weather conditions, and helps you distinguish between normal and dangerous weather. Recognizing a natural disaster early on and taking appropriate precautionary actions could very well save your life! Botany, the study of plants, is another important example. Readily identifying poisonous plants while trying to rustle up some grub on a camping trip could mean the difference between a fun vacation and a trip to the Emergency Room!

Come explore the wonders of science at our Chemistry workshop on Saturday, October 8th at SpiderSmart of Ashburn! 

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!