Category Archives: Books

Book Review – Edible Inventions

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A picture of the book, Edible Inventions.

Edible Inventions is written by Kathy Ceceri (a former homeschool mom)! Pictured next to the book are C’s homemade “Juicy Gelatin Dots.”

Ages: Teachers, Parents, Teens, Kids (with help)
Ceceri, Kathy. Make: Edible Inventions : Cooking Hacks and Yummy Recipes You Can Build, Mix, Bake, and Grow. Maker Media, 2016.

Edible Inventions = Kitchen Science

Ceceri’s latest contribution to the maker movement is a strange cross between cookbook and science textbook.  It’s a useful resource for teachers, parents and curious kids.

That being said, the title put me off – just a little. I wouldn’t have willingly picked up a book on edible inventions. It sounded too much like a cookbook. At our house, we have some food intolerance issues, and an aversion to sugar overload, so we do a lot of cooking. The last thing I want is more time in the kitchen (or a book that doesn’t respect those choices). In fact, some of the projects she showcases are ones we’ve done in the past. For example, we’ve made our own edible inventions (homemade marshmallows ) and have been composting (and gardening) for years.

Unlike her other books, I was familiar with most of the information presented because I’ve been cooking from scratch for decades (as opposed to creating with robotic legos). Just ask my family about my early failures – they are legend!  Obviously, I wasn’t expecting “a cookbook” to knock my socks off. However, like most of her books, Ceceri caught my eye in the very first chapter. I skimmed the table of contents until I saw this project: “Make a Hydraulic LEGO 3D Food Printer.”  It was at that moment I realized book covers (and titles) can be deceiving. This is a science textbook disguised as a cookbook.

Lego 3D Food Printer

In fact, once my oldest son playfully wrestled the book away from me, the first page he found described the pancake bot. This real-life invention is the inspiration for the food printer project. I love the idea that we can replicate one without using (or damaging) our EV3 brick. As a teacher, I want a real-life connection between the “craft project” and the information I’m presenting. Thankfully, Ceceri understands this concept completely. Learning can be fun, but there needs to be a bridge between the real world and the scaled down project.

In our “learning at home” life, the kids pick and choose their science interests. For many years, my oldest son has been enamored with computers, so he has stuck with Lego robotics, Scratch programming and First Lego League. I have not formally taught them chemistry (nor do I intend to do so), but a fellow homeschool parent did teach a basic chemistry class through our homeschool co-op. Some of the projects in this book (i.e. baked foam meringue cookies and juicy gelatin dots) would have been great compliments to that class – especially when talking about liquids, gases and chemical reactions.

Science Cookbook

Although the Lego project caught my eye, it was my youngest son who requested that we make something together. Both boys enjoy cooking, but my youngest seems to enjoy it more. He picked out the gelatin dots project, and after a slight delay (we had to chill the oil overnight), we were off.

picture of Great Lakes gelatin container, Grapeseed oil and POM juice, required ingredients for a project from the book, Edible Inventions.

Everything was easy to find at the store or in our pantry.

This project was surprisingly easy to make. My youngest son recently turned eight, but he made (most of) the gelatin dots on his own. Once his older brother saw what was happening, he swept in and asked for a chance to create. There was enough gelatin to share, so everyone had a chance to make (and eat) some jello-like dots.

A picture of a boy using a medicine dropper to create gelatin fruit dots from the book, Edible Inventions.

C is concentrating on creating perfect-size dots. Ceceri recommends a picnic-style ketchup or mustard dispenser, but we had an old, unused medicine dropper that worked just fine.

If you are so inclined, Ceceri provides an additional chemistry project to accompany these gelatin dots. With grape juice dots and lemonade, you could take this project further and introduce acids and bases. I think it would have been neat to include some additional “academic” connections here, perhaps some PH paper? Since this was for my eight-year-old, we ignored all formal learning and went with hands-on experimenting.

Conclusion

All of Ceceri’s books are well-researched and provide project details, background information and real-life connections. They are fabulous additions to any resource library and they offer a great way to get more hands-on, educational projects into your home or classroom.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. If you’d like to see my other (non-compensated) reviews of Make titles, check out Making Makers, Making Simple Robots, and Tinkering.

Book Review :: Making Makers

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

picture of cover of making makers

Published by Make and written by AnnMarie Thomas, Making Makers is a good read.

Making Makers

Audience: Parents and Teacher
Thomas, AnnMarie. Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation. Foreward by Dale Dougherty. Maker Media: Sebastopol, CA, 2014

AnnMarie Thomas is an engineering professor (and parent) whose research focuses on technological literacy in K-12 environments. She is a leader in promoting play and learning, especially with regards to hands-on science materials for young children. Her five-minute TED talk on squishy circuits is fabulous, and I’m including it here:

Making Makers – the book

‘Make’ publishes some great books, and Thomas’ Making Makers is no exception. Many are written in narrative form and provide tons of examples and anecdotal stories. It would be nice if the grainy black and white pictures were better, but I think that keeps the price down.  I would much rather read about the inspirational projects featured in each book.

A picture of a grainy black and white picture from the book, Making Makers

While interviewing a number of professional “makers,” Thomas discovered a few traits that many makers seem to have. They don’t have every trait, but they might have a few, or they might have many. It seems to depend on what type of medium they are working with (robots, electronics, fabrics). Obviously, since she is an engineer, there is a heavy emphasis on electronic and engineering projects, but she is quick to note that sewing is definitely part of the maker movement. Who knew that all of those years ago when I taught myself how to sew, I really wanted to be a maker?

This book is sprinkled with interviews and stories about “makers” around the country. Most of them are well-respected in their fields and it’s fascinating to find out how they “fell” into their professions. Some had a love for it as children, while others were just creative, make-do kind of people and could switch mediums as they discovered a new interest.

picture of the table of contents from book, making makers

Becoming an Engineer

As a parent, I was interested in finding out how I could assist the “making” process that is already going on in my home. In her book, I found a lot of similarities between the skills I learned during my Montessori training, and those that I picked up from reading current educational research. Some of the best practices seem centered on encouraging your children’s “tinkering” interests, facilitating their learning (or finding someone who can) and making a point to continue learning yourself – all while trying to maintain a growth mindset.

Traditionally, many of our strong engineering students came from farming backgrounds. They would arrive at the university with hands-on experience maintaining and building equipment….while the mechanical savvy that many “farm kids” possess is often discussed, I see that as just one attribute shared among this group. Farm families depend on all members to do their part in getting the work done, and thus most farm kids grow up with a strong sense of responsibility.                       AnnMarie Thomas, Raising Makers.

My oldest son has been saying, since before the age of six, that he wants to be a robot engineer. Will he become one as adult? Who knows? My husband and I don’t care either way, but I do want to prepare him for the eventuality. As the grandson of two mechanically-inclined grandfathers, if there is an engineering gene – he has it. One grandfather was a “farm kid” who has a degree in engineering and the other can build anything out of wood. But, our sons aren’t being raised on a farm, and while we do have some  backyard chickens, I don’t think they count toward “farm life.”

So how is a Montessori tech librarian supposed to change her behavior to accommodate all of these future engineers?  Thankfully, it seems that all of the sewing and reading that we do also contributes to an engineering mindset.

Significance of Being a Reader

There was one point Thomas made that has stayed with me. She mentioned that most of these makers were avid readers as children. They weren’t all “good” students in school. Some struggled, some didn’t do the work, and some did well, but still had to work for their knowledge. However, they all knew how to find out more information – through books.

Although the web has made it “easier” to find certain things, the fact remains that books are still a great resource to begin your research. Certainly, I’m not discounting the wonderful information online, but I have found that we still need a good combination of both tools. Books and web research, combined with a good mentor, seems to be the path to successful learning. Of course, the interest has to be there first.

picture of green LED

You can’t see the 2 AA batteries that are powering the green LED, but the multimeter is measuring their voltage.

 

Montessori Sensorial – Sense of Smell

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

This picture shows the front cover of the book, The Nose Knows.

A short book with a simple story that focuses on the power of smell.

Oh, how I have sadly neglected my ongoing series of reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle. I would like to make excuses, but the truth is that I spend most of my days creating, crafting and devising lesson plans that have little or nothing to do with a primary Montessori education.

My boys are ten and almost seven-years-old. We still read to them…though not every night. They are both solid readers. They love books and learning and they both have large vocabularies. I directly attribute their knowledge to the vocabulary-building, reality-based books that we read to them when they were young.

These days our library bags are often filled with chapter books and large piles of non-fiction materials. I don’t check out as many picture books as I used to, but I will continue to write and speak about my experiences as a Montessori-certified teacher. I have learned so much from her teaching and writings, not to mention my direct experiences of using her methods and well-designed materials. While I agree that no one method of education can meet the needs of every child, the Montessori way of ‘teaching’ is the perfect response to the current practice of drills, tests, and arbitrary grading policies that our schools use to ‘teach’ students. (Hint: Montessori doesn’t grade students).

Is it obvious that I am a Montessori advocate?

I believe in the power of a true Montessori education and will continue to spread the word about the Montessori philosophy. I still have a lot of Montessori-inspired projects that I would like to carry out, but in the meantime, I will continue to focus on technology, art and handwork. Montessori inspires me every day and I hope that you enjoy the reality-based picture books featured here.

This week, I am showcasing books that deal with our olfactory sense. In other words, our sense of smell. I have previously discussed many of the different Sensorial topics (colors I, colors II, systems, shapes & solids, visual training, and auditory). Dr. Montessori found that children’s senses were especially sensitive during the years between three and six. The following books contain stories (and rich vocabulary) that are based in reality. No talking animals and no imaginary characters. Under the age of six, children are deciphering the world around them and need help in determining what is real and what is fantasy.

Montessori Sensorial – Sense of Smell

Ages 2 – 6
Sias, Ryan. Sniff! Sniff! Abrams Appleseed: New York, 2015.

With very few words, this book manages to convey a dog’s strong sense of smell. A cartoon-like brown dog wakes up and the words “sniff, sniff” appear over his head. Suddenly, pictures of bacon, pancakes and oranges appear as thought bubbles. He runs downstairs to discover the human’s breakfast table, and proceeds to jump all over it and devour the food. Despite the dog’s bad manners, this cute book continues to feature his keen sense of smell as it takes him (and his owner) on many adventures throughout the day.

This is a picture of a dog running down the stairs as he has thought bubbles of bacon, oranges and pancakes.

Written by Ryan Sias

Ages 4 and up
Weiss, Ellen. The Nose Knows. Illustrated by Margeaux Lucas. The Kane Press: New York, 2002.

Peter is the oldest child in his family of five. His parents, brother and sister are sick with colds (and stuffy noses) so Peter becomes the family’s ‘nose.’ He helps around the house by getting rid of the stinky items, such as the old orange juice, decaying flowers and some rotting broccoli that his younger brother shoved in the back of his closet. Peter also saves the family by smelling ‘rotten eggs’ in the kitchen. The pilot light on their gas stove had gone out and the parents didn’t know. Throughout the book there are side notes about how our nose (and sense of smell) functions. Eventually, Peter gets the family’s cold, but everyone takes care of him.

This is a picture of a boy taking away a glass of orange juice from his younger sister. The orange juice has gone bad.

The Nose Knows by Ellen Weiss.

Ages 4 and up
Lin, Grace. The Ugly Vegetables. Charlesbridge Publishing: Watertown, MA, 1999.

Young Grace and her mother are preparing their garden for planting. As they turn over the soil, she notices that all of the other neighbors are planting gardens too – except that their gardens will be full of flowers while Grace’s will grow Chinese vegetables. Grace wants to grow flowers too, until one day she detects a delicious smell coming from her house! Her mother is making a delicious soup with all of the vegetables from their garden. There’s a knock on the door and all of her neighbors have brought flowers to share – in hopes of tasting the good-smelling soup. Grace’s mother passes out the soup and gives the recipe to her friends. The following year, all of the neighbors are growing some Chinese vegetables, and Grace gets to grow a few flowers as well.

This is a picture of the front cover of the book, The Ugly Vegetables, written by Grace Lin. It has a picture of a Chinese mom and girl digging a garden.

Written and illustrated by Grace Lin.

Although I didn’t have a chance to review them, these two books seem like they might work for a Montessori lifestyle: Mo Smells the Holidays (about a dog’s powerful nose), and perhaps, Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch.

And, of course, these books would be especially memorable if paired with a group cooking activity. Grace’s soup, anyone?

 

Book Review – Mindstorms

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A picture of the book, Mindstorms, by Seymour Papert

As relevant today as it was 35 years ago…

Target Audience: Adults (especially teachers, parents)
Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. 2nd ed. Perseus Books: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993.

Mindstorms

It’s taken me awhile to write this review, partly because I have so much to say and yet, I’m not sure how to organize everything I’ve read. Quite frankly, I really need to read the book again, but I had to return it since I borrowed it via interlibrary loan. It was as if I found myself at an amusement park, but only had an hour left before it closed. What would I do and what was the most important thing that I wanted to see? Sometimes, you just need to sit and think about it. That being said, I am going to attempt to provide an overview, but wanted to throw it out there that I could have used a little more time to digest the information.

A picture of the Table of Contents from the book, Mindstorms, by Seymour Papert

I do think I understood the overall point of his book, namely that students should be learning with more real-life experiences, thus constructing their own knowledge, and computers can be used to help them reflect their learning. However, he seems to differ in his educational thinking from the Montessori method because he acknowledges that interest plays a big role in how well a student learns. For example, in a primary Montessori classroom, students are encouraged to explore their own interests, but there is a limited prepared environment from which they can explore. Papert seems to advocate for an open-ended, real-life curriculum where a student can explore their own interests in daily life, but still be guided by a facilitator.  I thought it sounded a lot like project-based learning with a little bit of homeschooling thrown in.

But ‘teaching without curriculum’ does not mean spontaneous, free-form classrooms or simply ‘leaving the child alone.’ It means supporting children as they build their own intellectual structures with materials drawn from the surrounding culture.
– p. 32

Throughout the book, he uses his own interests – gears and mathematics – to make the case for creative computer use in schools and learning. In chapter one, he discusses the culture of computers and the hopes (and fears) teachers and educators have for their use in school. He mentions that there is indeed a potential for students to only consume computer programs, to use them to idly fill up their time, but that others will use them to make further explorations. It might allow children to tackle complex subjects at an earlier age because physical barriers, such as handwriting and spelling, will be eliminated by the use of computers.

Though the book was originally published in 1980, this second edition was published in 1993. So, how can a book on ‘computers in schools’ still be relevant more than 20 years later?

A picture of the opening screen of a Scratch project.

A mini-project on the country of Greece. Programmed completely by R, age 9.5.

Sadly, it’s incredibly relevant because computers are still primarily being used to transmit information. It’s top-down learning where a teacher dictates what a student will learn rather than using the computer to help a child to express the concepts that they learned and make their own changes. Papert advocates for using computers to help students see what they are learning, for them to construct their own knowledge based on the programs they are running. While the topic they tested included geometry concepts, he acknowledges that computers could and should be used in other ways.

A picture from the book, Mindstorms. It shows simple line drawings that could be made withthe robot turtle.

A sampling of projects that students could make, and while doing so would learn key math concepts.

He and his colleagues created the LOGO computer language and used it to teach geometry. Since Papert’s background, training and interests are in mathematics, he uses math as a backdrop to explain his theories and his desire to see our thinking made visible. This is especially relevant to me as I am always on the look out for more reality-based ways of using math with my own children. I will admit that he sometimes lost me during his mathspeak (it has been 25 years since I took geometry), but it really isn’t about learning geometry, it’s about learning how to make learning visible so that the students can recognize their mistakes, fix their “bugs” and learn how to learn. He was definitely an advocate of a growth mindset before it became a ubiquitous term.

Our children grow up in a culture permeated with the idea that there are ‘smart people’ and ‘dumb people’…as a result, children perceive failure as relegating them either to the group of ‘dumb people’ or, more often, to a group of people ‘dumb at x.
– p.43

Teaching fifth graders how to program with the simplified text-based language of LOGO was not meant to teach them to be programmers, but rather to help them express their ideas of geometry. Papert wasn’t talking about specific programs (or apps), rather he was discussing learning in general, thinking about thinking, and using computers to express that learning. In fact, he meant for the LOGO turtle to show them where they made mistakes so that they could learn to fix them – in context. No teacher required, thus making the learning more valuable and sticky.

A sample project of how a student fixed their own "bug," by noticing that the line drawing was not going out (to form a triangular roof), but was going in instead.

A sample project of how a student fixed their own “bug,” by noticing that the line drawing was not going out (to form a triangular roof), but was going in instead.

This book has made it very clear that the creators of the icon-based programming language, Scratch, were following in his work and wanted to honor his vision of constructionist learning.  Having read some of their papers on Scratch and taken the course on Tinkering from the Exploratorium Museum, I was able to understand much more about how and why these tools were developed.

A picture of 3 AAA batteries, alligator clips and a tiny lightbulb.

I made these circuit blocks while taking the Tinkering with STEM course. A great way to help students learn about direct current.

As might be expected from a book on education from a computer scientist, his theories and main ideas are sometimes muddled and he seems to jump from one abstract topic to the next. His work with LOGO was partially based on his work with Jean Piaget in the 1960s and partially from his own work at MIT where he worked on artificial intelligence. His theories are sometimes unclear, I think, because he doesn’t want to have a prescribed curriculum. Also, there’s the question of cognitive, age-based abilities. Was he advocating for preschoolers to use a computer to reflect their learning? I don’t know.

That being said, I really enjoyed being challenged by this book. It made me rethink some of my own teachings and I am now ready to tackle the Making Thinking Visible book that has been sitting on my shelf since last fall.

A picture of the book, Making Thinking Visible.

From the Harvard-based project that tried to help students see (and change) their own learning.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review :: E-Textiles

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A picture of the cover of the book e-textiles

Love the cover!

E-textiles

Ages: Teens and Adults
Toth-Chernin, Jan. E-Textiles. Cherry Lake Publishing. Ann Arbor, MI, 2014.

This book is part of the 21st Century Skills Innovation Library series. I have reviewed a couple of their other books (HTML and Game Design) and find them to be inconsistent with regards to content. Sometimes they are spot on, and sometimes the topic is too complex to be adequately covered in 30 pages.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am thrilled that someone is publishing kid-friendly books on these new technological advances, but I don’t think all of these books are as useful as they market themselves to be. This one, in particular, was very scattered and not quite appropriate for their intended audience – middle school age and younger. It’s a thin book and was found in the Juvenile section of my public library – not the teen section and not the adult section.

A picture of the T.O.C. for the book e-textiles

The book includes five chapters covering the basics of e-textiles, sewing with conductive thread, beginning projects, microcontrollers and electroluminescent wire. While there are a few projects given,  none of these projects include pictures – either of the finished product or any step-by-step pictures of the process.

A picture of pages from the book e-textiles

Sewing stitches are really difficult to understand without pictures…especially for kids.

That being said, I was pretty disappointed with this book. I’ve made some e-textiles and I found the descriptions to be too advanced and choppy at best. The author assumes a working background knowledge of e-textiles that is inappropriate for a beginning book. It was as if the author had to cover a variety of topics, but was not given effective page space to do so.

For a 32-page book, it tries to cover too much information and ends up not covering anything in-depth enough to make any sense to the reader. This topic can be quite complicated – especially when they are talking about the use of Arduino microcontrollers, such as the Flora and Lilypad. Both of those microcontrollers were mentioned in the book and require a working knowledge of the Arduino programming language. If the purpose of the book was to introduce the idea of e-textiles – then yes, they are right on the mark. If that’s the case, why would the book include DIY e-textile projects?

A picture of a page from the book e-textiles

My suggestion would be to save your money and check out the project pages provided by the Exploratorium on sewn circuits. Or, for really advanced users, subscribe to AdaFruit’s web vlog on e-textiles.

A picture of a handmade bracelet made from felt with light up LEDs, embroidered to look like an alien spaceship. e-textiles

My homemade, hand embroidered, hard-wired e-textile.

Book Review :: Build Your Own Web Site

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews; to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A picture of the book, Build Your Own Web site

Ages 10 and up
Martin, Chris. Build Your Own Web Site (Quick Expert’s Guide). The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.:  New York, 2014.

Overview

This age appropriate guide will help young students learn more about the world wide web and the process of making a web site. The book starts out with a brief history of HTML and the significance of some of its properties, such as using tags to display content. The full-color pages will appeal to today’s students and the side bits provide relevant information.

Unfortunately, the book is also disorganized and poorly designed. There are WAY too many callouts. These can give extra information, but can also become a distraction when writing web pages. In-text definitions are a fabulous way to use callouts. Regrettably, the publishers have used callouts to occasionally provide step-by-step information. Consistency is not always easy to discern and that may make it difficult for students to follow along as they build their own web sites.

A picture of the table of contents for the book, Build Your Own Web SiteBuilding a Web Site

After some background information regarding HTML building, the author suggests that we start making our own web page. He begins by providing the tags needed. Unfortunately, any mention of where to type up this information is nowhere near this page. It may have been mentioned at the beginning of the book, but we have forgotten it as we began coding. This chapter needs to start out with a brief description on how to use a text editor – for Windows and Macs. I also didn’t see any mention of saving your document with an HTML extension.

IMG_2068Layout and Instructions

Thankfully, there is a brief sample of the actual code for a simple site. Unfortunately, that is followed by an explanation of ‘nesting,’ but there are no accompanying screenshots. The paragraph refers to the above listing of HTML, but inexperienced students might have a hard time visualizing why nesting is important with such a short bit of code.

Although there are a lot of images and color pictures, I wish there were more useful screenshots. The pictures from this book were taken from Shutterstock, and although they are catchy – actual HTML screenshots would have been much more useful.

IMG_2070

After typing our code for a simple document and adding links, the author shows us how to add an image to our page. The author does suggest it’s not okay to swipe images from the web, but he follows that sentence with a brief description of “fair use.” The line regarding fair use is valid, but it may be too complex for students to truly grasp. I would have liked for this topic to receive greater coverage.

There are also not enough step-by-step instructions; too many tidbits are scattered throughout various chapters. For example, knowing how to refresh your page is really important when building web pages. Unfortunately, this tidbit is not mentioned until page 24 – well after someone has theoretically been writing (and saving) HTML pages.

I really like the look and feel of this book, but found it too hard to follow. The author is obviously knowledgeable and included relevant information. Sadly, it’s scattered throughout the book.

IMG_2069Publishing Web Sites

This book does have one advantage over Innovation Library’s Web Design with HTML5. This book mentions how to publish your pages to the world wide web. Since most of these sites require parental permission for under age 13, students can learn more about online safety from a trusted adult. As a parent, I would have liked to see an actual warning about online safety. Instead, the author provides a list of organizations in the appendix.

A picture of the glossary for the book, Build Your Own Web SiteFinal Verdict

In conclusion, I think this might be a valuable asset to a teacher using HTML in the classroom, especially if combined with another book on the mechanics of how to type up an HTML document. The book provides a lot of opportunities to find out small pieces of information about HTML. Unfortunately, I would not recommend this book for a student to use on their own. The information is too random, not well-organized and lacks the appropriate warnings about publishing information online.  I find the organizational structure to be haphazard, which makes it a poor learning tool for self-teaching.

Books Books Books

Our regular installment of ‘The Brick Chronicles‘ has been interrupted this week by too many books. Books books and more books! Quite frankly, we always have a lot of books around the house – ours and a large quantity from our local library system.

However, this past week the grandparents came into town and the legos were cleaned up. As if to say, of course our house is always this neat and tidy! Regardless, the boys have been enjoying their clean space and seem hesitant to mess it up (which I’m sure will not last much longer). That means our piles of books have been beckoning, practically begging us to get through them so we can get a new stack.

Books Books Books from the Library — Liz’s Collection

Picture of a stack of craft and sewing booksMy husband and I had a rare afternoon – by ourselves – and we happened to be near our large, downtown library. It was like being in a bookstore, except I got to take all of the books home! I have to return them, but I’m happy to have them for a short while.

Books Books Books on Lego Mindstorms EV3

Picture of two lego mindstorms ev3 booksWe own these two books, plus the EV3 Guide I printed out. I’ve been using these for the last few months in preparation for a “Bring Your Own Mindstorms” Clinic I plan to offer this summer. My oldest son is my tester and we’ve finally reached the stage where we are using these books mostly for reference. It also means I’m teaching him how to use a book index – without having to create an entire lesson on it.

Books Books Books on Acrylic Painting for Beginners

A picture of books on acrylic paintingI’m still mentally and physically prototyping for an upcoming summer camp I will be co-leading. We’ll be focusing on making our own props for a stop-motion animation movie and my painting skills need a little work. The whole idea of using complimentary colors for shading is complex…but fascinating. It’s work I really enjoy.

Books Books Books from the Library — 10-year-old’s shelf

Picture of books on a shelfHe’s taking a brief hiatus from too many “fluffy” books, but it hasn’t seemed to hamper his library checkouts. That boy has a lot of interests and the non-fiction section of the library can be a pretty cool place.

Books Books Books from the Library — 6-year-old’s Shelf

Picture of books and DVDs on a shelfOkay, so that book on growing fruit trees is mine, as is the one from Rick Riordan, but the rest are his. Oddly enough, I see none of his Magic Treehouse books and only a few of Nate the Great. Most likely, the rest are in a pile on his bed. Bedtime reading is very popular.

Books Books Books on the Montessori Method

Picture of a stack of three montessori booksWith my background in Montessori education, I love to pull out my well-read books on her method. Even though I don’t currently teach in a Montessori school, I use her philosophy daily – with my own children, with the kids in my summer camp and with any lessons that I create. Can the kids do it themselves or teach each other? How can I be a good facilitator? I’ve been missing my Montessori roots lately, and I’m ready to get back to my Sensorial book review series. I’ve been brushing up on my content and reaffirming my belief that the Montessori Method is amazing. Hopefully, you also have a nice stack of books to get through. Happy reading!

Book Review :: How Does Cloud Computing Work?

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Picture of the book, How Does Cloud Computing Work

A kids’ book on cloud computing, written by Leon Gray.

Ages 10 and up
Gray, Leon. How Does Cloud Computing Work? Gareth Stevens Publishing: New York, 2014.

For a book that tries to explain a very abstract concept, Gray does a great job of breaking down the various parts that make up ‘cloud computing.’ Although the book is short, he provides enough background information for students to understand how computers, the Internet and mobile storage are all connected. With chapters on the cloud and its various parts, students (and adults) will finish this book will a clearer understanding of where our data resides and why we can access it through our connected devices.

Picture of TOC for How Does Cloud Computing Work

Juvenile non-fiction book by Leon Gray explaining cloud computing.

How Does Cloud Computing Work?

Gray briefly discusses the sharing of information and how it has evolved from floppy disks to cables to wireless transmissions. This helps students to place the cloud computing concept into a historical context. I think it might be similar to my initial understanding of the evolution of television – from black and white to color. As in, wow, really? Television was really only in black and white? How could you tell what anyone was wearing or what color their hair was? Was there even a point to watching TV back then? At least, I imagine that’s how my children think about it when I tell them that the Internet (as they know it) wasn’t even around until I was in high school. But, alas, I digress…

Gray also introduces and defines the terms LAN, MAN and WAN. If you have a Minecraft player among you, they should be able to tell you what LAN (Local Area Network) stands for, but may stumble when asked about MAN or WAN. Since I don’t live knee-deep in computer science, I had a hard time coming up with the correct terms.  For the record, the Internet is a good example of a WAN (Wide Area Network).

This book is colorful and will appeal to today’s visually-oriented youth. Although some of the pictures are seemingly irrelevant, there are a few that are note-worthy, especially the picture of Tim Berners-Lee, the “father” of the modern-day Internet.

This is a great book to get your students excited about the different aspects of computer science. Cloud computing can be overwhelming, but this book does a good job of succinctly explaining a very abstract concept. Since the author uses the proper terminology, students can further their learning and seek out more information on a particular topic.

Pciture from How Does Cloud Computing Work by Leon Gray

 

Book Review :: Sylvia’s Super Awesome Project Book Vol. 2

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Sylvia's Super Awesome Arduino book

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Arduino book

Book Review :: A Force for Good

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Force_4_good_bookI know this book doesn’t seem to fit the mold of ‘science education’ or a ‘Montessori lifestyle,’ but stick with me – I promise I’ll make it work.

Toward the end of Dr. Montessori’s life, she began to talk more and more about educating children in an effort to achieve peace. She felt that through education, man could become fulfilled and then we could work toward a peaceful world. If you think about the context in which she lived – WWI and WWII – you can only imagine how strongly she must have wanted to find a solution to conflict.

It is this desire for peace – through education – that ties the above-mentioned book to a Montessori lifestyle. Part story and part biography, Goleman’s book walks us through the many facets of the current Dalai Lama’s way of thinking. Obviously he values compassion, understanding and forgiveness, but his comments eerily echo those of Dr. Montessori with regards to education. He feels that through compassion education we can open up communication and potentially avoid conflicts. World peace may truly be achieved if we can properly educate our children.

Of course, we need to begin with ourselves and be sure that we can identify our own emotions. As a Buddist monk, I imagine he’s had more practice than most of us, but this book shows how keenly interested he is in the science of being self-aware.

With an upbeat approach, Goleman recounts the numerous ways that the current Dalai Lama has made positive changes in our world. He also describes the ways in which the Dalai Lama delves deeply into scientific research, all to prove the value of his own mindful education. The result is a book full of hope – and a little despair – but with a positive vision for our future. It’s also a call to action and I am thankful for the reminder that I am part of a much bigger world.