Years ago, I read a bit of advice in The Whole Earth Catalog, which said a great way to get up to speed on a subject you are interested in is to read a children's book about it. It's excellent advice, and I've made use of it many times over the years.
The best children's books are the ones that were published before 1970. After that, the illustrations started to get crappy, and the writing took a nosedive, too. There are exceptions, but I find it to be the rule.
Here's a winner from 1964: Why Satellites Stay in Orbit, by Sune Engelbrekston and illustrated by Lee Ames. It's a very short book that does a terrific job of explaining precisely one thing: why satellites stay in orbit. This is the kind of book an eight-year-old can read and appreciate.
Joanna Charlton shared this video of her daughter crying over closed restaurants and delivery food. This 4-year-old girl speaks for all of us. Read the rest
My buddy Ken Goldberg, a UC Berkeley professor of robotics, his 10-year-old daughter Blooma, and science communicator Ashley Chase wrote a delightful children's book called How to Train Your Robot! Illustrated by Dave Clegg, the story, about a fourth grade robotics club, is a fun and understandable introduction to how deep learning can help robots gain new skills in the messy, unstructured human world.
Thanks to support from the National Science Foundation and UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, How to Train Your Robot is available as a free PDF online and student groups can request free hardcopies!
In this cute Physics Girl video, Diane shows you 20 simple, fun, and educational kitchen experiments you can do with your kids.
To make the video more exciting, Diane turns her demo into a race against the clock, trying to conduct all of the experiments within five minutes. You and your kids can take your time.
BTW: Did you now that our very own Mark Fraunfelder wrote and illustrated a book of these sorts of kitchen counter science experiments, called Mad Professor? You might want that right about now.
At least some things in the world are still adorable. From RTÉ:
The Kelly's have four boys who are just one day shy of their fifth birthday.
Now they have been gifted an early birthday present of quad lambs.
Quadruplet brothers in Co Offaly have met recent arrivals on their family farm - a set of lamb quads pic.twitter.com/6kLQG0rNJL
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 27, 2020
Honestly the whole video is worth it just for the lambs running off at the end.
Quads on the double for Offaly farming family [Teresa Mannion / RTÉ]
More than 40 years ago, Eric McMillan, a renowned designer of children's play areas, and his team created the ball pit, those troughs of brightly-colored plastic balls that children swim around in. (Ball pits also may be a giant petri dish of pathogens but, hell, the kids love 'em.) Apparently, McMillan--who went on to be known as the "father of soft play" for his numerous playful innovations like the "punch bag forest"--found his inspiration for the ball pit in his kitchen. From the BBC:
McMillan and his team came up with the idea for the ball pit in San Diego more than 40 years ago, when inspiration struck after looking at a container of pickled onions in the kitchen. “There was a jar of onions, and we were sort of saying: ‘wow, how about if you could crawl through those? And then – ding – we decided we’d try it,” he says.
The first ball pit, filled with 40,000 balls, opened soon after their epiphany. “People just went crazy about it. Thank God for those onions.”
More in this BBC podcast: "Pickled onions inspired me to design the ball pit"
On Thursday, the Oxbow Prairie Horizons School in Saskatchewan, Canada staged their annual student Christmas concert. The show, "Santa Goes Green," pissed off parents in the town where oil is one of the major industries. Here's a description from the Santa Goes Green sheet music:
Melting ice caps, global warming, surfing reindeer! The North Pole is going green this year and everyone is excited – everyone, that is, except Santa who likes things just the way they are. Solar panels, LED light bulbs, new power sources? It all sounds a bit inconvenient to him. Mrs. Claus, the elves, toys and reindeer have their hands full!
(Mike Gunderman, whose daughter was in the show,) said the concerns raised were not directed at the children. He said they did a great job singing and performing, but he felt it was "the wrong message to send at the wrong time of the season.
"Especially when our industry is suffering right now," he said. "It's a tough time for everybody."
Audrey Trombley, chair of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division where Oxbow Prairie is located, apologized to anyone who was offended by the concert, saying there was never any intention to make the show political.
"There was no political agenda," said Audrey Trombley, chair of the division's Board of Trustees. "The teacher chose the song because of the rhythm and the beat, and thought the kids would like it."
Last month, Propublica published a characteristically blockbuster piece on the use of "quiet rooms" in Illinois schools, especially in special ed programs: these are a euphemism for solitary confinement, and their use is so cruel and grotesque that Propublica's reporting prompted state level action to ban quiet rooms in schools and reform the policy on their use. Read the rest
Set and setting, people. Read the rest
Anthony Gulino writes, "Los Anarchists Junior Derby is a nonprofit that takes a DIY approach to teaching roller derby to kids. It runs programs for all levels from the youngest, newest skaters to the highest level of competitive junior derby at its dedicated facility, Anarchy Hall, in Sun Valley, CA. Los Anarchists' travel team is the current Junior Roller Derby Association World Champions in the Female division and have been invited to The Big O in Oregon, as well as tournaments in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Tampa this season." Read the rest
20 years ago, Illinois was rocked by a scandal after the widespread practice of locking schoolchildren, especially those with disabilities or special needs, in small, confining boxes was revealed. The teachers who imprisoned these children argued that they did so out of the interests of safety -- that of the imprisoned students, of the other students, and of school staff. Read the rest