Wednesday, November 25, 2015

UNESCO art competition..Parents can enter

Calling all artists!

UNESCO Bangkok is reaching out to your networks to promote our Happy Schools! Art Contest. 

We want artists, illustrators, cartoonists, graphic designers and photographers - students, amateurs and professionals - in the Asia Pacific region to show us:

What does a Happy School look like to you?

Winners will win a trip to Bangkok and invitation to attend a UNESCO launch celebrating the Happy Schools art contest winners - in addition to other cool digital prizes!

As part of UNESCO Bangkok’s Happy Schools Project, this art contest seeks to capture actions, moments and ideas that are promoting happiness in schools. 

All residents of the Asia-Pacific region are invited to submit images of any kind (photos, drawings, cartoons, paintings, graphics, and posters) along with a caption/description that captures the concept of Happy Schools. We are accepting entries from all ages in all types of media (entries only accepted in .jpg and .png format) by 10 January 2016. 

We encourage all interested students and artists to enter. Please pass this along to any students and artists who might be interested.

Learn more about the Happy Schools! Art Contest here:

To enter, 
fill out the form here.
upload your entry image(s) here.

For any enquiries about the contest, please contact us 
using this form.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

When terror strikes, here’s what you should tell children


“Listen carefully to the children,” said Judith A. Myers-Walls, an expert in the impact of political violence on children. “They will tell you what they need.” (iStock)
By Lyndsey Layton November 16  
Judith A. Myers-Walls, a professor emerita at Purdue University, has studied the impact of political violence on children and offers these tips for both parents and educators in how to handle the Paris attacks:
● Assume that elementary school children have heard something about the attacks. If they haven’t mentioned it on their own, a parent or a teacher might bring it up. First, find out what they know. For the youngest kids, maybe ask them to draw pictures of what they think happened, or have them make up a story or a play. If they seem less aware or less interested, you might not want to go into depth.
The key, Myers-Walls says, is not to ignore what happened but not to focus heavily on it. Maintaining routine is an important way to reassure young children. Events are happening in the world, but they’re still going to go to school, they’re still having lunch, they’re still playing with their toys. Reassure them that they are safe, that the event did not happen near them, it involved a relatively small number of people and there are many adults who are keeping them safe.
If you are living in a community with a large population of French people or those from the Middle East, the topic is going to be more central. For everyone else, treat it the way you treat other current events. Say something about it, but do not going into great depth.
Myers-Walls cautions against what she calls the “cycle of silence,” a phenomenon that researchers have found when adults avoid discussing traumatic events with children because they are uncomfortable, and children conclude that it’s not okay to bring it up.
“Pretty soon you’ve got this cycle of silence with both sides not talking about it and you lose the opportunity to work through it together,” she said. “You may think the kids haven’t noticed, but maybe they did. It’s important to at least open the door.”
● It’s important to help children separate the actions of some violent people from the rest of that community, she said. With the Paris attacks, there’s going to be a public backlash, against Syrians, against people from the Middle East, against Muslims, Myers-Walls said.
“This is a great opportunity for schools and parents to say ‘let’s learn something about Syria, Lebanon, France,’” Myers-Walls said, noting that children might not only be afraid to learn about a terrorist attack, they might be sad or angry.
“It’s important to give them a sense of control by helping them find something they can do, like helping people who are injured who are close to them,” she said. “Sending letters or cards to children in the hospital – even if it is unconnected to this event – will allow them to help people who are hurting.”
● Middle school students and high school students will want to know the causes of the attack, Myers-Walls said. “They want to know causality and they want to know who to blame,” she said, adding that educators and parents should focus on the larger context, teaching about Islam and Middle East history.
But be sure to include stories of successful peacemaking efforts, too, such as that of Malala, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban who became an education activist and the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. And tap into the natural idealism of children at age 11 and 12 by encouraging action of some kind, Myers-Walls said. “They could decide as a school to do a recycling project – it doesn’t have any direct connection to the event but it’s a way of taking action and doing something,” she said.
● High school students can explore in depth the nature of prejudice, political violence and political conflict, she said.
“This is an interesting time for high schoolers,” Myers-Walls said. “We’ve been at war for more than a decade, most of their lives. The Paris attacks are closely related to many of the deployments we’ve experienced. High school students can talk about what the U.S. response should be, what the country is doing diplomatically, what kind of action can they take to support what they think is important. It’s very important, especially for teachers, to recognize there will be a variety of opinions. Some students may relate to the military, some people are pacifists, some may want to ignore this.”

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Losing our grip: More students entering school without fine motor skills

motor skills
As art teacher Alisa Leidich sends four vertical lines marching across an oversize drawing pad in paradelike formation, 20 kindergartners put their hands to paper and try their best to mimic her.
It’s not as easy as it might seem.
Local teachers and occupational therapists say an increasing number of children are showing up for kindergarten without the fine motor skills needed to grip a marker, hold their paper still while coloring or cut and glue shapes.
“We’re basically reteaching a lot of things,” says Denver Elementary School’s Denise Young, a teacher for 23 years. “It’s hard to get a lesson accomplished.”
In a typical year, Young and colleague Trisha Pohronezny estimate just two of 20 students arrive with enough hand strength and coordination to use scissors. Only about half can hold a pencil correctly, versus the fisted approach they should have grown out of by age 3.
Near-constant corrections take valuable time from quick-paced academic programs, while individual sessions to build or strengthen skills require students to miss class and cost districts big money.
Denver Elementary Principal Angela Marley says occupational referrals to address such deficits doubled over a three- to four-year period. Districtwide, Cocalico saw its elementary school therapy spending jump from $85,440 in 2011-12 to $208,104 last school year.
“We’ve been questioning, ‘Why is this happening more and more?’’’ says Linda Cunningham, an occupational therapist with Lancaster-Lebanon IU13 who spends four days a week at Denver Elementary.
“It’s just our busy world. There’s real pressure to get your kid involved (in organized activities) earlier and earlier, so there’s less time to play in the backyard. … Kids need to manipulate their environments to understand spatial concepts. They usually learn not by being told, but by doing.”
Cocalico officials this year instituted an art program that aims to improve coordination and concentration. In years past, kindergartners had only sporadic exposure to art. Now they get one 25-minute session each week, working on pre-writing concepts and skills like cutting, coloring and spatial orientation.
Surrounded by Monet prints, the Mona Lisa and bottles of bold tempera paint, Pohronezny’s students meet Mr. Line in mid-October.
Leidich has students hop out of their chairs and imitate the line: They stand tall for vertical, pretend to sleep on the floor for horizontal, and skip for a broken line. The idea is to connect the writing skills to physical activity.
Getting students in the earliest grades to move while focusing on a task helps with sensory integration. It can also help build muscle. In some cases, Cunningham says, young students are unable to stay seated for sustained periods because they don’t have adequate trunk strength.
During the animated lesson, Leidich, Pohronezny and an aide work the room, looking for errors in posture, grip and arm support.
Once they’ve made shapes with Mr. Line, they’re invited to do “World’s Best Coloring,” a verbal cue to focus on the image and use slow, controlled movements to stay within the lines.
Students get gentle reminders to keep their “helper hands” on the paper, and when Leidich spots Laiklyn Lloyd closing her fingers around her marker, she takes her hand and shows her how to “pinch the tip and flip it.”
Concerns about physical readiness for school are growing locally and nationally.
Warwick School District has also seen an increase in occupational therapy needs, according to Melanie Calender, director of elementary education and student services.
Calender says the years between birth and 3 are “instrumental in core muscle development” and recommends parents incorporate a mix of gross and fine motor skills into at-home play.
While Warwick kindergarten teachers continue to focus on fine and gross motor skills through center-based and instructional activities, parents shouldn’t stop providing hands-on opportunities once their kids are school-age.
“They can continue to use the activities they’ve worked on in the preschool years, mindful to keep a balance with screen time,” says Calender.
In Ephrata Area School District, all early childhood programs include fine motor skill development, according to spokeswoman Sarah McBee. That includes Plant the Seed of Learning, a program that started in partnership with Ephrata Community Hospital in 2002 and now serves eight districts. During sessions, children and their parents work on early literacy and science skills while manipulating play dough or catching bubbles.
The New York Times reported in February that public schools in New York City saw a 30 percent increase in the number of students referred to occupational therapy, with the number jumping 20 percent in three years in Chicago and 30 percent over five years in Los Angeles.
While some of those increases are due in part to an increased diagnoses of sensory or autism spectrum disorders, Marley says the additional need at her school is related to children without cognitive impairment.
What’s changed?
Cunningham says many therapists believe the Back to Sleep campaign, which promotes placing infants on their backs to sleep, has delayed muscle development. The problem becomes more pronounced when parents skip wakeful tummy time because their kids don’t like it: toddlers might not be able to hold their bodies upright as well as their peers did years ago.
They might not be as adept at spreading their hands and using their arms to push themselves up, a fundamental base for good seated posture and proper shoulder support when writing. Their eyes also may wander, making focusing on detailed tasks difficult.
Today’s children also spend less time outside, where they might have more opportunities to explore how their bodies move through space, learn to balance and figure how to handle toys and tools in relation to one another.
Some parents, says Cunningham, are afraid to let their children engage in physical play or cut with scissors. Others have traded in the messiness of hands-on play dough for a sterile “educational” tablet.
“Rather than sit and color the way they used to do, our kids are part of the burst of technology,” says Cunningham. “It’s amazing to see a kid who can swipe an iPad, but you put a pair of scissors in their hand and they don’t know what to do.”


Some skills critical for kindergarten readiness are simple to build at home. Try incorporating these activities into the daily routine:
• Work on tummy time. This should start in infancy, but older kids can be encouraged to read or work on puzzles while lying on the floor, says occupational therapist Linda Cunningham. Many children like the novelty of it.
• Raid the pantry. Kitchen experiments like flour-based dough or homemade putty strengthen muscles in the hands and fingers, says Cunningham. Make a batch, then let your child work with it at the counter while you make dinner.
String it together. Kindergarten teacher Denise Young suggests making bracelets by threading open-ended pasta, cereal loops or beads onto pipe cleaners.
• Play dress up. Kindergarten teacher Trisha Pohronezny recommends practicing putting on coats and gloves, zipping up, snapping, buttoning and tying shoes. All can help with dexterity.
• Play with scissors (with supervision). An array of safety scissors are available for preschoolers, including some designed without metal edges that can cut only paper. Others offer an extra piece that makes squeezing the handles together a cinch, Cunningham says.
• Color in the lines. Encourage creativity, but throw in projects that require slow, controlled movements. Squeeze glitter glue over a line, fill in shapes with paint or use small, circular strokes to color an image.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The New Guide to Managing Media for Tweens and Teens

Today's kids are immersed in media. More than ever before, tweens and teens are watching, reading, listening, creating, and communicating throughout their entire day. It's become harder to distinguish between screen time and just … time. The newly released Common Sense Census found that American teens average about nine hours of media per day and tweens about six per day. This doesn't include time spent doing homework on a computer or tablet or reading books for school.
Beyond the amount of time kids are spending with media, the Common Sense Census identified several patterns, from what boys and girls do differently to their favorite media activities. If you're wondering how this all affects your kid -- well, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. But what's clear is that parents, teachers, and supportive adults can help support kids in using media and tech in healthy, productive, and responsible ways. Here are tips for parents:
Parents should feel empowered to set limits on screens of all sizes. Devices are a huge part of screen time, and kids need support in establishing balance and setting limits. Depending on your family, these rules can be as simple as "no phones at the dinner table" or "no texting after 9 p.m.
Encourage your kids to be creative, responsible consumers, not just passive users. Media can be incredibly productive, educational, and empowering. Helping younger kids find great content and get access to quality books, complex movies, challenging games, and safe apps and websites fosters a positive relationship with media. 
Help kids understand the effects of multitasking. Our research shows tweens and teens think multitasking has no impact on the quality of their homework. As parents, we know that helping kids stay focused will only strengthen interpersonal skills and school performance. Encourage them to manage one task at a time, shutting down social media while working online for homework or engaging in conversation. 
Talk the talk, walk the walk. Lead by example by putting your own devices away during family time. Parent role-modeling shows kids the behavior and values you want in your home. Kids will be more open and willing participants when the house rules apply to you, too.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Minecraft used to teach children molecular chemistry

Dear all,

At last night's commonsense connecting families evening I told a short story about my son connecting with unknown players on minecraft. At the time I was worried and a little angry that he had invited a guest, albeit virtually into our house without asking. We discussed it at the dinner table and eventually he recognized that he shouldn't have done this without first talking to his parents . The conversation was very useful because it made me go and research more about players playing with our players. My son, on his own initiative,  spends time watching you tube videos about minecraft to improve his skills and understanding. For him playing with a more experienced person was very exciting because he was learning from being connected and collaborating, consequently improving his own skills and knowledge of minecraft in what for him is a real world. When I watch him playing I realize that so many of the 21st century skills that will be required for our children in their lives are embedded into these games. Hence, when I read articles like this one I am not surprised by the potential that gaming has for teaching students complex information. For them learning through the game makes the learning authentic because engaging through the game with new challenges is part of their world. Hence, the potential for games as learning tools is really just beginning to be explored and could easily transform student learning environments in the very near future.

Have a good weekend,

Children playing MinecraftImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionMillions of children worldwide play Minecraft
Virtual world-building game Minecraft, played by tens of millions of children worldwide, could be used in schools to teach pupils chemistry.
A group of Hull University students created an educational version of the game that allows players to explore specially created molecular structures and understand chemistry.
The aim is to engage young scientists in a fun and interactive way.
Minecraft players use building blocks to create structure and landscapes.
They are also encouraged to collect treasure and many other items.

'Fiendishly difficult'

The students developed the project with the help of the university's Minecraft expert, Joel Mills, and senior lecturer in biological chemistry, Dr Mark Lorch.
Dr Lorch said: "Minecraft is a fabulous tool for exploring structures of buildings, landscapes and even anatomy.
"So why not molecules? We showed it to a class of children the other day and there were lots of wows and gasps.
"This just really grabs their attention. It is a really novel way of engaging them and delivering information to them."
As well as structures and molecules to explore, the students have created a host of other surprises for children to roam around and find.
Dr Lorch said: "You can just explore and read the info about the molecules. But there are also a whole load of treasure chests dotted around filled with goodies, puzzles and quiz books.
"Some are easy to find, others are fiendishly difficult. If you locate them all then you'll probably have learned a fair bit of chemistry on the way."


Dr Lorch, who also has a role to engage young people in science, added: "If I've given them this information in a Minecraft world and shown them how to access it, then they are much more likely to go and find out about it than if I have given it in a PowerPoint presentation."
The Hull team is currently trialling the game, called MolCraft, in a number of secondary schools in London as part of various university outreach projects.
But it can also be used in primary schools to teach basic science such as how atoms form together to make molecules.
It is also available on Minecraft's educational library with versions for both pupils and teachers.
This is not the first time Minecraft has been used to engage children with scientific topics.
A world has been developed to teach quantum physics and many schools in Northern Ireland are using an adapted version to inspire creative writing and engage young people in city planning.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Commonsense Media's latest research about tweens, teens and screen use

Dear all,

Here is some research data from commonsense media about how 8-18 year old's are using their tech devices. Although this data comes solely from the United States it is good for all of us to keep abreast of what the general usage statistics are saying for tech. Again there are several useful links embedded in this article that you might want to explore that refer to appropriate amount of screen time etc. Getting the balance right is one of the great challenges for parents in 2015 because we didn't go through this experience ourselves we are not so sure of what is right or wrong when dealing with our children and technology. 


By taking a "census" of kids' media use, Common Sense's new study quantifies screen use, identifies unique types of users, and uncovers patterns that could spark improvements in content, access, and learning.

For today's tweens and teens, technology is part of the fabric of everyday life. They're watching TV on lots of devices and using smartphones and tablets to maximum advantage -- texting, researching, sharing, connecting -- and generally causing lots of hand-wringing among parents who don't know how much is too much. As parents, we want to find ways to use media to support healthy development, learning, and community-building. But we can't begin to make sense of what these technological changes mean for kids until we understand what's being used and for how long and how kids feel about technology and media.
That's why we're pleased to release a new report, the Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Tweens, which paints a more complete picture of how tweens and teens are using media. Some stats aren't surprising: On average, tweens (age 8 to 12) and teens (age 13 to 18) use many different devices and consume tremendous amounts of media. Other findings push us to rethink our assumptions about kids' lives. For example, tweens and teens use a lot of social media, but not many actually enjoy it.
Here are more findings:
  • It's not your imagination -- media use is off the charts. Teens use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day, and tweens use an average of six hours, not including time spent using media for school or homework. Of that, tweens average more than four and a half hours of screen media use a day and teens more than six and a half hours.
  • There is a wide diversity in screen media use. On any given day, 34 percent of tweens and 23 percent of teens spend two hours or less with screen media, while 11 percent of tweens and 26 percent of teens spend more than eight hours. 
  • Low-income kids lack access. Kids growing up in lower-income homes are far less likely to have access to computers, tablets, and smartphones than their wealthier peers, but when they do have access, they're more likely to spend more time on their devices.
  • Boys' and girls' media preferences are very different. Teen boys average 56 minutes a day playing video games, compared to girls' seven minutes; and teen girls spend 40 minutes more a day than boys on social media (1:32 vs. 52 minutes).
  • Social media use is big -- but maybe not super fun. Social media is an integral part of most teens' lives (45 percent use it "every day"), but only 36 percent say they enjoy using social media "a lot," compared with 73 percent who enjoy listening to music and 45 percent who enjoy watching TV "a lot."
  • Everyone can be a maker, but not many are. The vast majority of kids' engagement with media consists of consuming media, with only a small portion devoted to creating content.
The census also identifies distinct types of media users with different patterns of use. They include Heavy Viewers, Light Users, Social Networkers, Video Gamers, Mobile Gamers, Gamers/Computer Users, and Readers. The recognition of these new user profiles can help parents understand that there's no such thing as an "average media user" and that kids' media use may actually be a reflection of deeper needs (for example, to connect with others or learn a new skill).
With the release of the census, Common Sense looks forward to advancing the national conversation about the role of media in young people's lives and helping parents, educators, and policy makers understand how media can be used to support children's healthy development.