A Coke And Mentos Explosion – A Lesson In Chemical Reactions a cool article by Mari Nosal!!!

Mari Nosal Science for kids
Mari Nosal

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/a-coke-and-mentos-explosion-a-lesson-in-chemical-reactions/

I have actually done this experiment with my kids, they really loved it and I can totally relate. I wish I would have had someone like Mari Nosal for a teacher when I was young.

Today I set out to conduct a science experiment. My goal was to introduce my young charges to the world of chemical reactions. I attempted to present an explanation in a format that five to 12 year olds would comprehend. I prayed I would not lose control of the children. My other fear was not executing the experiment properly and making myself appear incompetent in front of the children. The experiment consists of dropping a tube of mentos candy into a two liter bottle of diet coke. If all goes well, a six or eight foot eruption laden with mentos, coke, and aspartame would be strewn about the school playground.

I attempted this experiment in June of 2008. The resulting eruption was weak. The geyser grew to a mere two feet. The children were thrilled with the end result. They were ignorant to the fact that the geyser should have been much bigger. I however, knew that I had failed. I strive for perfection in all my actions. The children were happy, but I knew I could have done better. I went home and researched my original experiment and found out I lacked a simple component. A plastic tube that slips into the neck of the soda bottle, a tooth pick is inserted into small holes on the bottom of the tube. The tube is filled with mentos. The toothpick stays in place to keep the candy from falling into the soda bottle. When the experiment is performed the tooth is removed. This allows the candy to drop into the soda bottle as I jump back.

In my original attempt, I merely opened up the roll of mentos and attempted to drop them into the soda manually. The chemical eruption takes effect as soon as several pieces of candy mingle with the soda. The ensuing eruption does not allow enough time to manually drop in the whole tube. Thus, I WAS forced to step back without dropping the whole roll in. I have learned from earlier errors as an educator. My style veers less towards being impromptu in executing lessons. I now strategize plane, and research my projects. This lesson was the product of a detailed plan. I purchased tubes on the internet, bought the appropriate soda. It had to contain caffeine to explode.

Now, on with a description of the afternoon, I went to work early. I set my tools on the table. When the children came in I wanted to be organized and ready to perform the project. I painstakingly opened up several rolls of mentos. I inserted skewers into the mentos tubes. My rationale was that they could be pulled out at a slower pace than a toothpick due to their length. I than proceeded to pick up my younger charges from the kindergarten. Seven five-year olds were lined up and taken outside to wait for the older children to arrive on the school bus. The older children arrived. Everyone was excited about our afternoon’s activity choice. As I took a head count my excitement waned. I mentally hoped that my experiment would be executed as planned and keep the children engaged.

The children were instructed to go to circle time, but leave their coats on. Hence, we could accomplish the task of getting outdoors for the experiment in a quick manner. As we sat on the floor in a circle I briefed the children on expectations they would need to adhere to during the experiment. I answered questions about why they would sit in a horse shoe outdoors a safe distance from the soda bottles. I explained that I wanted no one to get soda in their eyes during the explosion, nor have to walk around all day in clothes laden in soda.

The children were informed that if they could not maintain control of their bodies that they would be showing me that they were too irresponsible to be included in today’s activity. Repercussions were expressed. Children not capable of maintaining body control would be escorted indoors during the experiment. I told them that this was not a punishment but necessary so I could leave them under the supervision of another teacher during the experiment. I do not seek to embarrass the children. I knew they were all looking forward to this activity and did not wish to be ostracized from the project. My prediction proved correct. Everyone maintained an attentive form and no one was excluded.

Upon finalizing my expectations, and what the experiment would consist of we ventured out to the playground. The children took their places without prompting. I set out the tools for the experiment and began the presentation. I used a form of scaffolding that I devised for projects like this. Some of the children are extremely young so I described the chemical reaction as having a similarity to friends. Children choose friends that have similar interests. I set out a tray of water and added vinegar. I explained that since the water did not have chemicals the vinegar got along with it. I showed them the mixture and we talked about how no reaction took place.

I set that tray aside and poured vinegar and baking soda into a pan. The ensuing bubbling concoction received loud oohs and aahs. I explained that both vinegar and baking soda contained very different chemicals. I asked the children to visualize this as two children who don’t agree with each other. Now, the fun began. The soda was positioned with tubes in place. As I pulled out the skewers I had the children count loudly to the number three. The skewer was pulled out and I jumped back. An eight foot soda laden geyser was produced. The children yelled “again, again”. I had planned ahead, produced two more bottles of soda and repeated the experiment.

The highlight of the experiment was the finale. I produced disposable cups and gave each child a cup of mentos laden soda. This memory will be imprinted in their minds for years to come. The smiles produced outweighed the effort to execute the project. That meant a lot to me as well. Another day has passed. Hopefully, I have instilled a new-found sense of curiosity about our world in the children. If I can send them on their way after having successfully gotten them to step outside the box I will have accomplished my goal as an educator.

Always remember, if learning is fun, children will love learning.:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

Fun Curriculum Activities to Enhance Literacy By Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal

I like relating fun to autism education and like this article by Mari Nosal Quite a bit.

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/fun-curriculum-ideas-to-enhance-literacy/

1) Alphabet Soup: This creation that is disguised as a craft project enhances literacy skills and is just plain fun. Children can cut colorful construction paper into small squares. Provide the children with alphabet cereal letters. The children glue the alphabet cereal letters on the small squares of paper. Provide each child with a disposable bowl, (Never use glass bowls to prevent injury!)

Whoolah – Alphabet soup!!!!!!!!!!

2) Homemade colored glue: Provide each child with a small disposable bowl, glue, a spoon, and several drops of food coloring. For younger children, you may ask them which colors they choose and squeeze the drops in their bowl. But do let even the littlest kids stir the gluey mixture independently. They gain pride from this. (I am a strong proponent of letting the kids do projects as independently as possible) The messier the better!! Mess means fun.

Stir the white glue and food coloring together. You can be inventive by adding glitter, etc. Provide alphabet stencils and encourage the children to trace names, stop signs, etc. Fill in the letters with the colored glue creation. Decorate with yarn, macaroni, the kids are only limited by their imagination. Let the crafting begin!!!!!!!

3) Treasure map: Have children cut the edges of a piece of paper. Soak in black tea for a couple of hours. Remove from tea solution and let the paper dry overnight. When completely dry, the children can draw a treasure map on their pirate map. The may hide items for other children to find and switch maps for lost Bounty. (provide stickers, erasers, etc. for the children to hide according to where X marks the spot on their map: As fun as this seems, it enhances spatial relations, sequencing, and processing skills. The children are hard at play but hard at work as they must process the maps to hide and find their coveted bounty.

4) Shaving cream spelling bags: Assist the children in inserting a minute amount of shaving cream in a ziplock baggie Make sure to fill the bag with shaving cream no more than a third. Put several drops of food coloring in the baggie. ALWAYS MAKE THE FOOD COLORING CHOICES THE CHILDS. This provides them with positive self-esteem and gives them a sense of ownership when they are consulted on their project. After all, it is THEIR project not ours. We merely coach and assist.

Seal the baggie and place a second baggie over the first sealed one. Then seal the bags edges with duct tape. This reinforces the bag and guards against leaks and tears.

Place bags on a table and encourage children to trace their name, letters, words, etc. with their finger on the outside of the bag. If the bag was not overfilled children will be able to see their letters on the bag.

Have fun and more tomorrow :-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

The importance of Vocabulary Development in Acquiring Fluency in Children by Mari Nosal

Vocabulary by Mari Nosal
Vocabulary by Mari Nosal

A link to the article–>http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/importance-of-vocabulary-development-in-aquiring-fluency-in-children/

Why is vocabulary development important to acquiring fluency in reading? Vocabulary comprehension is a crucial component in acquiring reading comprehension skills. Successful vocabulary development ensures that students will develop metacognitive skills which will assist children in comprehending advanced texts requirements when they leave the learning to read phase, and are expected to read to learn. Comprehension is not the sole factor in word recognition and memorization of definitions; it is merely a main component of vocabulary development. For children who have not acquired proper knowledge of the meaning of words, reading comprehension will prove difficult if not impossible.

Children who are poor readers may lack the proper vocabulary to comprehend what is read and will find reading difficult .Struggling students will attempt to practice avoidance techniques such as procrastination, or misplacing a text, rather than read a book overloaded with a vocabulary that is foreign to them. Without exposure to new words students do not acquire the skills needed to achieve fluency. As time progresses and children receive increasingly demanding work, students continue to fall behind academically. A result of not achieving fluency is the “Matthew Effects”. Bio social economic disparities within a child’s environment result in the “rich get richer and the poor get poorer” consequence. Excelling readers become avid readers and poor readers become poorer readers. Poor readers will read only when necessary thus learning fewer words

Vocabulary can be divided into three parts. Auditory vocabulary is composed of the words that are heard. Verbal vocabulary is composed of words that are used in speech. Reading vocabulary is composed of words that are seen in print and can be decoded. Acquiring a fluent reading vocabulary requires more than looking up the definition of words in a dictionary. A proper form of instruction is required for children to develop word knowledge in-depth. Students need to be empowered with skills to Develop strategies that will increase the growth of word knowledge.

For word knowledge growth to occur four obstacles to vocabulary development must be addressed. If obstacles are not recognized, a successful reading experience cannot occur.

1) The size of a task, the number of words that students need to learn is large.

2) The difference between spoken and written English levels. The vocabulary of written English such as what students experience when reading a text differs from conversational English. Children who have do not have exposure to literate English in their environment may come from English and non-English speaking households.

3) Limitations of sources of information about words. Children may have limited resources of reading materials in their environment. Thus, severely limited their experiences with words.

4) The complexity of word knowledge. Children must comprehend more than dictionary definitions. Memorizing a definition does not ensure the word could be used in reading or writing. Different words pose varied demands on students.

The size of the task

Students learn words at a rapid rate, estimates range in the thousands. Without instructional intervention, the vocabulary gap between fluent and non fluent readers gets larger. Students add 2000 to 3000 words a year to their vocabulary. This breaks down to roughly six new words a day. One can surmise how the gap between fluent and non fluent readers widens every year. Knowing the meaning of words can result in children comprehending new ideas and concepts faster than their peers with more mediocre vocabularies.

Differences in word knowledge begin at an early age. Children are exposed to varied ranges of words in their homes and communities. Socioeconomic classes can hinder or encourage exposure to words. Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will not have an opportunity to be exposed to experiences that well off children are. Children from households where parents are employed in professional positions are exposed to 50 percent more words than children from working class families. Finding ways to balance this vocabulary inequity reinforces the importance of creating opportunities for lower-income children to receive exposure to activities that enhance vocabulary and language development. If schools develop programs that rectify a child’s experiences growing up in a home that does not promote language and vocabulary development fluent readers will emerge due to positive school experiences.

Differences between spoken and written English

Spoken language is less descriptive than written language. Speakers use many communicative tools to convey a message. Gestures, vocal intonations, and body language are not available to writers. Friends depend on shared knowledge during conversations. Certain descriptors are left out because it is assumed that a friend already knows what the person is speaking about. Friends may use words like “you know who” during a conversation. Reciprocal feedback occurs during verbal communication so any misconceptions could be validated verbally. Writing relies on more precise methods as the only mode of communicating a thought is the written word.

Differences between the spoken and written word poses a problem for English as a second language students. Students may learn to speak English within two years and appear conversationally fluent but their vocabulary deficits may be hidden. Students who cannot claim English as their native language learn conversational English before they become proficient in written English. Educators must take these factors into account within their classroom or a child could be diagnosed as learning disabled when the English language learner is merely having difficulty comprehending a book.

The Literate English vocabulary can pose difficulties for children who come from an English-speaking household as well. Certain words such as restore may be read in a book but the child is not acquainted with the word through life experience. Childrenwho live in a low-income environment will most likely not know what renovate means, by comparison children from an affluent environment would most likely comprehend the definition of renovate in print due to exposure.

Sources for Learning Independently

Dictionaries are common in many classrooms. Dictionary instruction focuses on having children look up words they do not know and learn definitions. Children have problems have difficulty looking up words in the dictionary if they do not know how to spell the word and often misinterpret the definitions. Dictionaries often have multiple definitions and children struggle to choose the proper meaning. Children may attempt to use word parts to comprehend new words. However, many words in the English language have multiple meanings such as steak/stake, rain/reign, plain/ plane. This can be confusing to a child

Students will likely acquire vocabulary knowledge as they pick up meanings of words from context as they read books. Context has beneficial long-term effects. Words will be encountered repeatedly by gradual accumulation of information related to the words that are read. Repeated encounters with words reinforce the odds that vocabulary growth occurs. One encounter with a word does not allow automatically to occur. When one knows a word the definition is usually comprehended. Knowing a word and acquiring the capability to use it speech, writing, or comprehension are extremely different. Children may be familiar with the word at or so and still have difficulty with defining the word. Definitions talk about a meaning but do not constitute word meanings.

Definitions identify, and then describe differences within a word category. Meanings of words are not fully comprehended in descriptions of relations to other words. Students must experience a word in context and learn how its definition relates to other words that are used in its place. Comprehending the meaning of words as they are used in different contexts such as Joe gave the waitress a five dollar tip, the doctor gave my son medicine, or the actors gave a wonderful performance. Each act in the example differs from the others. Children cannot learn this from a dictionary definition. Children need to see words used in multiple contexts to comprehend how the words meaning changes. Each example had a receiver and giver but the meaning was different in each example.

Vocabulary knowledge is complex because all words are not similar. Vocabulary has function words and content words and these are not the same. Function words are syntax words that describe the function of a sentence. If function words are nonexistent, a sentence becomes unintelligible. Function words are learned relatively easily with merely 100 function words accounting for relatively 50 percent of words conveyed in English language. A content word is large, accounting for nouns, verbs, and adjectives which convey information in print. Content words veer towards abstract or concrete and are descriptive, such as things, sounds, and colors. Abstract words are difficult to learn as they have to be taught through example. Concrete words can have connections to an object.

Content words can teach a new concept, a new way of organizing ideas, and experiences. An example is photosynthesis which needs to be learned in the context of another scientific idea. Concepts are learned through repetition and experience and are vital to vocabulary development. What qualifies as reading for vocabulary growth? Reading material should be to students at a variety of levels. Reading for enjoyment can increase fluency skills as the child is most likely reading text that they are familiar with. Challenging text should be available to give children the opportunity to acquire new skills.

The text must not be so challenging however that the child will get frustrated and avoid reading the book. Reading strategies may be developed by assisting the child in developing strategies that assist them in reading challenging books without becoming frustrated. Students who learn comprehension strategies tend to find reading more palatable. How to increase motivation levels is of the utmost importance in the road to fluent reading. Classroom climate is an important factor in encouraging reading. Classroom environments that promote reciprocity, a variety of reading materials, ample pockets of time to read, and social interactions with peers and the teacher during reading time increase students motivation to read. An important motivation booster is modeling.

Teachers would be well advised to mention to students that they like to read specific books. Teachers present a great example of how enjoyable reading can be by making a point to read in front of the students. Exposure to books in the classroom will have a positive effect on English language learners and English-speaking students who have developed fluency in conversing but do not have much exposure to text outside of the school environment. Successful classrooms can create an atmosphere that takes advantage of verbally fluent students by increasing the level of spoken language in the class. Incorporate words that are present in print to increase literacy.

A great way to induce exposure to literate vocabulary is to read story books to the children and allow time for discussion of the content. Reading aloud is conducive to acquiring the meaning of new words. Audio books that children can access independently expose them to new language experiences as well. Although no text is present during storytelling activities the children still receive exposure to new language and experiences. Stories can be adapted into fantasy play for younger children to reinforce a story that was recently heard.

For successful introduction of a new challenging vocabulary, a teacher must make it an enjoyable experience for the children. Students need to comprehend the differences in written and spoken words in order to become literate. Children can reinforce new vocabulary words learned from reading by copying sentences from their reading materials into a journal. Encourage the children to write descriptions, plays on words, that the children found interesting. Allow children to share their journal with the class so they can learn from one another. If a child is to shy, allow them to post interesting information from the book on a wall.

Playing oral and written word games can enhance vocabulary comprehension. Puns and limericks can be used in both younger and older grade school class rooms. Jokes, riddles, crossword puzzles, and anagrams can be used in older grade school classes where the child’s cognitive level is more developed. When students realize that playing with words can be enjoyable it creates an interest in knowing more about them, and can become a catapult for independent word learning.

When a child is taught in an unthreatening atmosphere they thrive and perceive learning as an enjoyable activity. Teachers who instill positive self efficacy in their students create life long learners. Children, who have been taught to believe that they are capable of achieving their goals, possess an innate sense of curiosity which propels them to develop a thirst to learn more. Children who are struggling readers and are in a negative classroom climate will perceive learning as something they are incapable of and eventually give up. May all educators strive to create a culturally sensitive classroom climate, and may there be “No Child Left Behind”.

The History And Application Of The Orton Gillingham Approach by Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal

Here is another article by Mari Nosal a leading special needs and autism expert–>http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/the-history-and-application-of-the-orton-gillingham-approach/

I had not heard about this language program, it seems to be something that may be of benefit to some of the people on the spectrum. Our mission once funded is to help autism via hands on training with technology like tablets, music and the arts which relates in a way to a kinesthetic approach to helping people with autism.

Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton, a neuropsychiatrist who specialized in language related deficits, used multisensory techniques in the 1920’s at his mobile mental health clinic in Iowa. Dr. Orton Gillingham uses the multisensory approach to reading. Dr. Orton felt that kinesthetic – tactile reinforcement of visual and auditory letters could correct young children’s predisposition to reversing letters. Dr. Orton taught children adaptation skills, such as making a vertical line and then making the circle for the letter b. Dr. Orton taught the reverse method for the letter d. Anna Gillingham, a teacher and psychologist who studied under Dr. Orton, based her alphabetic method on Dr. Orton’s theories. The multisensory techniques were combined with teaching English structure. This included the sounds (phonemes), meaning units (morphemes) like prefixes, suffixes, roots, and spelling rules. The name Orton and Gillingham was a result of structured, multisensory, sequential techniques devised from the combination of their theories.

The multisensory approach combines visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, modes of learning in learning to read. When connections are made through several pathways, more of what the child learns is retained. Orton Gillingham teaches children to link sounds with a written word. Children connect the sound and letter with how they form the letter. A child will be introduced to a letter. The child will trace, copy, and write the letter while repeating the sound the letter makes. The teacher may utter the sound while the child writes the letter. Children learn to read and spell phrases using this learning program. Sight words, tracing, and phonics are combined so the child acquires more avenues for learning.

There are 42 basic sounds and letters that are taught one at a time. Word decoding on a daily basis equips a child with the skill set to decode any word rather than sight-reading. Sight reading is a laborious process that requires a child to memorize a massive amount of words. Memorization is the main component during sight-reading as no decoding process is present. The multisensory approach used in the Orton Gillingham approach is a key ingredient to the program’s success. Many programs teach children in a cookie cutter design. Modern classrooms contain many different types of learners. They may be auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, or visual. Inclusion has created differentiated classrooms where innovative forms of reaching students without dumbing down work are necessitated.

Recent research suggests that students who have difficulty learning a second language have weaknesses in their oral native language. Thus affecting their performance within an English language environment, these weaknesses affect the comprehension of phonetic, syntax, and semantics. Dyslexic and other learning disabled students may be affected by the same weaknesses. Orton Gillingham is a great alternative to English immersion programs that are prevalent within the learning community at the present time. If a child cannot decode letters they will inevitably have difficulty reading, whether they are learning disabled, learning English as a second language, or is in early grade school and presently learning reading skills. In closing, the writer hopes they have addressed the basic concepts that validate the positive self efficacy that Orton Gillingham can promote within the classroom. As learned in class, children learn through skills they have already been introduced to. The long-term goal of a student is to assist them from the learning to read stage to the reading to learn stage. Metacognition must occur for a child to reach the reading to learn stage. The learner must gain an awareness of background knowledge, skills, and deficiencies and be cognizant of how these affect their learning. Students who acquire the skill to relate information in texts to previous knowledge are more successful readers than those who don’t.

Metacognition is developed through becoming proficient in reading. Children must become competent in comprehending the structure of words, eventually comprehending the meaning behind the word itself. The Orton Gillingham reading program takes the child beyond memorization and teaches comprehension and strategizing tools that will continue to lead a child, no matter what their learning style may be on the path to reading success.

A Meaningful Lesson From A Bar Of Soap In An After – School Program by talented Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal

Here is another fine article from Mari Nosal with regards to after school activities–>

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/a-meaningful-lesson-from-a-bar-of-soap-in-an-after-school-program/

Today I planned to execute a creative learning lesson for my school age program. (Fun after school time) Lessons must be learned. Lessons must be executed in a fun way. My students spend all day in school sitting at a desk learning academics. My role is to present a constructive learning format. One stipulation is that a high fun factor is present. This task can be formidable to say the least. How can a lesson in science be hidden in play? How can theories of magnetism or math be taught in a form that gifts the children with new information, but does not threaten student burnout? This is a challenge I am worthy of accepting.

I presented a lesson on soap sculptures. The children believed they were experiencing a mere arts and craft project. The hidden content was learned. The craft was fun but structured. Harmless melted soap chips turned into a math lesson, science lesson, and exuded a large curiosity factor. With out curiosity the children would rebel my efforts to implement this lesson. Solid soap chips of varied colors were melted together into a soppy mix. Before hand, the weight of the soap slivers was examined. My young charges placed a small mountain of soap on a scale. The weight was recorded. The soap was prepared for liquefying in the microwave.

Before transforming the soap into a liquid form we examined the solid consistency. I placed the slivers in the microwave. When the soap was removed, we compared the liquid form to it’s solid past. We talked about temperature changes. We poured the soapy liquid into measuring cups. A lesson in weighing liquid versus solid masses was learned. What had weighed 5 ounces in solid form had been transformed into liquid measurement. The children were in awe of the fact that microwaves could alter the composition of the mass.

We than proceeded to pour the liquid soap into molds intended for use in our play dough projects. The amount of ounces needed for various molds was measured and noted. The soap was set aside and transformed into a solid mass. Upon observing our finished project, we weighed our creations. Children estimated beforehand what the weights would be upon the soaps return to a solid form. They were shocked that the creations weights were now varied. I explained that we had used various size molds to complete this project. This obviously affected the weight. A lesson was learned. The children left my classroom with a prize (their soap), and a new idea to ponder. Objects in our world can be manipulated and structurally changed. Much like the children’s young sponge like minds.

One child looked concerned and lost in thought. I asked what the problem might be. My five-year old charge asked if he could turn into something else like the soap did. I responded by stating that his body was not capable of melting like soap. He is made of skin and bones, which hold him together. (Simplified for the child’s purpose). I told him that the only change his body would ever make is to get larger, stronger, and smarter. An Aha moment has occurred. Perhaps one lesson will overlap into another based on these questions. Perhaps I shall have a lesson on the human body. Stay tuned for updates.

Mari N.

A Story Of teaching And learning About Empathy In An After-School Program-Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal

Here is a fine article from Mari Nosal that really made me think–>

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/a-story-of-teaching-and-learning-about-empathy-in-an-after-school-program/

I was perusing an old reflective journal from grad school. It is a heartwarming story about teaching and learning about empathy. This is a long forgotten story but one worth sharing. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed participating in this activity in my After school program.

1rst. excerpt ; A long-term project has been the topic of discussion for the last month. My fondest hope is to build character and empathy in the children through a donation drive for the homeless shelter. Children learn compassion for fellow human beings through example. Compassion is a positive character trait that becomes an innate quality. It is carried into adult hood. As children grow and seek employment, the ability to be a team player will be non negotiable. No question, literacy is important. It is a major component of positive assimilation into adult society. The concept of team work and empathy our valuable components as well.

Empathy towards co – workers can avail adults the chance of a successful career. These traits are developed in early childhood. My long-term project has a major focus. It will emphasize what power children have when working as part of a team. Children often feel powerless. They often believe they are not capable of achieving anything of worth to adults. Hopefully, by the end of April these children will be equipped with self empowerment skills that will take them far in life. We are designing a giving tree. It sits on the wall by the art center. The children can pick a blank leaf. They may take the leaf home write the item down that they wish to donate to the families at the homeless shelter. When the item of choice is returned to the school, the leaf is placed back on the tree. A box sits by the door waiting to be filled with donations. The parents were asked to let the children pick the item of choice.

Parents may feel that a child’s donation is not the same item they would have chosen. By not coercing the child by choosing the item, parents are instilling choice making skills in the kids. The children are sorting, and packing the items every Friday. I will deliver the items to the shelter. We will add cheery notes and pictures from the school age class to our donation box. The shelter has agreed to let their children respond back to the school age class. These will be memorable pen pals. Lessons will be learned, and a widened understanding of our world will develop.

2nd excerpt: I held a circle today to gain an understanding of how much my young charges comprehend about charitable projects. We have gone over basic concepts such as the definition of a donation, and what kinds of notes we will write to the children. I first asked the children what the definition of a donation is. A child promptly raised her hand. Her definition was quite interesting. The child said a “donation is when we give away things that we don’t like”. This is a direct example of how children access and scrutinize the adults in their life.

This child was mimicking others in her social circle. I responded by explaining that sometimes we donate things that others need. I added that this is a hard thing to do. We may choose a toy for our project. The child may decide that they would like to keep the toy. However, sometimes we need to realize that we have many nice things at home. The one toy we donate may be the only toy this child will own. Some may see this concept as above a child’s cognitive level. If adults take the time to model and explain, children surprise us with their level of compassion. Sometimes they are more empathetic than adults.

The next topic covered was the content of the pen pal letters. I asked the group what we should write in the letters. One child suggested that we write, “I am sorry you do not have a house”. I gently told the group that it was a wonderful sentiment but perhaps we could tell the children at the shelter about our hobbies, names, favorite foods, etc. In actuality, the child’s statement had shown a simple level of comprehension in regards to why families live at the shelter. I believe the children will be shocked when the kids at the shelter write back with similar likes and dislikes. Perhaps the children will find a kindred spirit in the shelter kids. Utopian in thought, no doubt, but doable!

3rd excerpt: I entered class today and assessed the leaves on our giving tree. I have been working long and hard on this project. A mere six leaves contained names of children who had donated to the homeless shelter project thus far. I have broached the components of our project for months. I have written, printed, and dispensed fliers to notify parents of our project. I pondered the idea of passing this project off as a bad idea. Perhaps the utopian lens I view this project through is clouded. I assumed that parents would embrace this project with positive support. After all, it is a unique chance for their children to learn empathy.

Approximately one hour after I pondered canceling the shelter project two families entered with donations. The donations were notable. Diapers, an inflatable infant pool, sandals, shorts, rain boots, and bathing suits, the items were of notable value, and seasonally appropriate for the warm months ahead. I addressed the director about canceling my project. She responded with positive support. The general consensus was that the project was beneficial to my students and the shelter. I was looking at the quantity of donations, and names on the donation leaves. The director reminded me that this project was beneficial in more ways than met the eye. The director reminded me of the many facets to this project. I am teaching the children to step out of the box. They are being challenged to help those in need. The children are learning that our needs are not the only ones to be met in society. One needs to learn to put others before themselves. They will hopefully learn to step outside the insulated bubble some of them live in.

I realize this is a concept that cannot be fully comprehended at the tender age of five, six, seven, and eight years of age. In reality, some of their parents live in a secluded bubble. There is much power to the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree. Hopefully, I can instill the building blocks for empathetic, action oriented behavior. In years to come, when the children’s brains have developed to a mature cognitive level the memories of this project will guide their maturing brains. Perhaps, a connection will be made. Time and maturity will tell.

The children are learning letter writing skills. They write notes to the children at the shelter which are to be delivered with the donations. I have received approval from the director for the shelter children to write back as long as last names are not used to protect identities. My hope is for the children in my program to make the connection through writing letters that the children at the shelter are composed of flesh, bones, and emotion. Will this connection cause a larger interest in donating to our cause? My fondest wish is to be able to respond with an adamant yes. I will deliver the first shipment to the shelter during the upcoming weekend.

I will persevere, be creative, and not give up on my utopian dream. To assist in the assimilation of future empathetic, open-minded leaders into society! I will take advantage of the plasticity of their young minds and hopefully alter their schemas. If I don’t make an effort, I am not doing my job as an educator.

4th. excerpt: A young girl entered my classroom with some wonderful donations this morning. I was excited to see that she was finally getting excited and wanted to participate. This five-year old child seemed to display great difficulty in grasping the reasoning behind this project. She is extremely bright. She is a came from a wealthy family. Every whim, wish, and desire is granted. She has not been exposed to the atrocities of homelessness at any level. A couple of months ago I had posed a question to the class. I asked if they knew what a donation was. This child raised her hand. She said that donations are things we give away that we don’t like.

I gently explained that donations are given to help people who do not have any money. We try to give away things we no longer have use for. However we always give away things that we would like if we didn’t already own so many nice things. I believed that this child was indifferent to our project. Today would prove me wrong. I would be reminded that assumptions have no place in my class room. As the little girl stood by the donation box, I eyed her hand. It was squeezed into a fist. Something hung out of the end of her tight little fist.

Upon further observation I noticed it was money. I asked the child what was in her hand. She stated that she wished to drop a one dollar bill in the shelter box. I asked her if it was her money, or her parents. She proudly told me that the dollar was from her piggy bank. She had been saving for a new toy. She recalled my comment about poor children that have no toys whatsoever. The little girl dropped the dollar in the shelter box. She said that she wanted a poor child to buy a personal toy with the dollar she gave them. This was one of those days when a catch phrase is appropriate, and validated. That phrase is “and a little child shall lead us”!

Mari N.

“And A Child Shall Lead” by Mari Nosal from Enabled Kids Canada

“And A Child Shall Lead”
“And A Child Shall Lead”

A fine article by Mari Nosal from Enable Kids Canada, link–>link

I was perusing my supervision journals from graduate school. My classes were inclusive and consisted of children with emotional disorders, learning disabilities, mood disorders, intellectually advanced children, and neurotypical children. The children ranged in age from five to twelve. In layman’s terms, these children were from every background and developmental level that one could imagine.

In hindsight, I realize that my practicum journals emphasized an important lesson. No matter what background or circumstance these children come from, it does not matter. When they are observed without adding labels, they are all children. I felt that some entries in my journal could reinforce the fact that every child has a talent if we look hard enough. I hope to share some select entries in the future. My intent is to remind family, educators, and the public at large that labels have no place in a classroom or society We can learn as much from children as they learn from adults.

This morning was rather amusing. Some children started an art project. They wished to make kites that we could fly outside while waiting for the arrival of the older children’s school bus. It was early, and only some children were present. A fly buzzed around the art table. The children expressed irritation at the fact that the fly would not extricate itself from the premises. I informed the children that flies were living creatures and had families just like us. I told the children that flies have a right to live. An interesting shift in our art project developed. The children started making a creation from scraps that were lying about. The kite idea was quickly forgotten. In its place was the early construction of a home for the fly family to live in.

I marveled at their creativity and yes, personal reflection of these children. They had considered my explanation of a fly being a living insect within our world. They reconsidered their initial observation that the fly was a mere nuisance. A solution was than decided upon. The fly family needed a home. The children who were the chief builders of the fly haven were five and six years old. Every item found in our scrap box was assessed for use as building material. It is amazing to watch a child find a use for an item an adult would deem as trash to be disposed of.

Three pieces of construction paper served as the floor. Toilet paper found by one child during a trip to the bathroom was set down in multiple layers. This would serve as a bed. Several more layers were cut to an appropriate size, stapled together and attached to the bed to serve as pillows. Construction paper was cut and rolled into a small cone. Upon taping it to the paper floor, a doily was eyed. After scrutinizing the value of this item, it was set on top of the cone to create a table. One child decided that their home would not be complete without a basketball hoop. A small paper rectangle was attached to the front of the house. The center of a paper doily was cut out to create a paper hoop. It was attached to the rectangle stem. Viola–a basketball hoop was created.

I sat and wondered at the creativity and teamwork involved in this piece of architecture. The children had spent well over an hour creating it. I decided I had been the observer long enough. I believe a child’s imagination must be encouraged. Nurturing a child’s imagination develops future adults who are capable of trouble shooting and resolving the world’s issues. If we control every minute of a child’s day, the end result is an adult who was never trained to think independently. I added food for thought. I inquired as to what the fly family would have to eat. The children pondered this for a moment. One child looked up and asked, “Well, what do flies eat anyway?”

My response was answered with a serious tone. I wished to show the children respect for their hard work by taking their questions seriously. My suggestion was to set out a bowl of sugar. The children were informed that baking soda would be used in lieu of sugar. It was all I could find in my arts and crafts stock. I reminded the children that we could pretend it was sugar as the coloring was the same. This prompted the construction of a paper bowl to hold the powdery contents. I suggested a sign be displayed with the children’s motto: “Flies have a right to live.” This was unanimously agreed upon. I wrote the words and the children decorated the sign. The masterpiece sits on the windowsill of my classroom.

I was reminded today how small statements adults make are noted by children. They are much more reflective than we give them credit for. When retrieving some children from the kindergarten class at the end of the day, word had evidently traveled. Children who had not been in my morning program were looking at the ceiling. The quickly said, “Miss Mari, a sad thing happened today”. Thinking a child had been injured I quickly asked to know the news. Several children had an expression on their face that was similar to an adult who had just heard of a death in the family.

My curiosity was soon satisfied. One child pointed to a fly on the ceiling. He was calling the fly Alvin. My guess is the choice of names came from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Evidently, there had been two flies earlier in the day. I was informed that Alvin’s brother Theodore had died. I told them I was sorry to hear of Theodore’s demise. What had started off as a simple imaginary house had turned into a school wide concern for living beings! These children taught me a lesson about life and children. As educators we must never assume that little bodies have little hearts. Today, I was reminded of just how empathetic and reflective my little guys can be.

Asperger’s Syndrome – A Parent’s Journey With Her Son, From Childhood To Young Adulthood by Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal my new mentor of sorts, allowed me to most graciously post this article which talks about graduation and her autistic son, since my twin autistic sons are now almost 16 this may be reflected in my life soon as well. This article was posted with her permission.

Asperger’s Syndrome – A Parent’s Journey With Her Son, From Childhood To Young Adulthood by Mari Nosal

The original article–>link

Graduation season is upon us. Many parents, special needs teens and young adults will feel stress and anxiety as they transition into the next step to independence. Whether this involves entering the adult world of employment, going off to college, or starting to live independently, this is a scary time for all families–but even more so for families that have children with special needs.

I have written a story below which includes the challenges that my family has endured from my son’s childhood to young adulthood. I have included comments regarding my fears while attempting to jettison him out into college life and onto the road to independence. Living with a child that has Asperger’s or any diagnosis is not easy. My goal in writing our story is to let parents know that they are not alone. Our family has, and is, walking that path that many others struggle with today. I am here to tell you that the challenges are worth it. It is not all darkness and gloom. Your children will make it with a little help from their family, friends, teachers, and the community. If you are a reader who has a child graduating from high school or college, allow me to extend my congratulations to you.

A Letter To My Young Adult Son

My son, you are now an adult. 23 years ago, you entered this world one month early. You made your entrance into this world with a loud wail that no one could ignore. You were an awesome baby, sleeping through the night at the ripe old age of seven weeks old. Your first year was fraught with constant infections. Fortunately these would respond to antibiotics. Although you were ill a lot, you managed to have a constant smile upon your face. You sang your way through ear infections, strep, and other maladies baby babble style.

You were extremely alert. People would remark on the fact that your expressions did not resemble that of an infant. It was noted by many that you seemed to have an elder’s wisdom in your eyes.

I recall your first word. You were standing in your crib at the age of 10 months smiling, with your arms in the air saying “uppy,uppy”. We were so excited to hear the clarity in your first word. Many other words would soon follow. By the age of 2 years, you would talk in full grammatically correct sentences.

You shocked us after toilet training experiences with your brother who is 22 months your senior. We thought he would go to college in diapers. You on the other hand went in the bathroom at age two of your own accord, pulled the tape off your disposable diaper and used the toilet independently.By the age of three, you were reading letters of cereal boxes. At age four you were reading and sounding out words. Your favorite game at age four was checkers! Embarrassing as it was, you could actually beat me at that game. Your father and I thought you were a prodigy! We would soon realize that although you were bright, issues were present that would need to be addressed. You would get frustrated when other four year olds did not understand the concept of checkers.

Upon picking you up at the age of four from preschool, I was met by your teacher. Apparently, you had problems cutting with scissors. The teacher remarked how impressed she was with your inventive persistence. Rather than ask for help, she found you with a piece of construction paper hanging half-way off the table, weighed down with a pencil sharpener. You figured out that weighing down the paper would free up your hands so you could manipulate the scissors with two hands instead of one. The teacher recommended testing by a local occupational therapist. I sat in the hall and could hear your comments in the testing room. The therapist had you stack blocks. You not only stacked twelve blocks in a row, but color coded those using only green blocks. The therapist asked you if you would like to move on to another test. You response to the therapist at the ripe old age of four, “oh no, I want to stack the blocks again instead.” I doubled over in laughter out in the hall. I admired your strong will. I did not know at the time that the strong will you possessed would get you through some challenging times.The occupational therapist diagnosed you as having a weak grip, low upper body strength, and fine motor skill delays. She recommended activities for us to do at home to help you hone your skills. We played scatch ball since pulling the ball off of the Velcro paddle increased your grip. We pulled out the old shape sorter that you outgrew at an early age. The intent was to improve your hand-eye coordination. I blew bubbles and you popped them as another hand-eye coordination activity. I was told to practice the rule that if you could not manage a task on your own, to stand back and let you struggle a bit. It pained me to hear your pleas of help when you wanted to climb the jungle gym, or use your arms to hoist your body up on a low tree branch. I wanted to swoop you up and accomplish the task for you. I knew you would not master the skill if I did so however. Stand back I did, and with practice you persevered and experienced success. With each attempt you got stronger and more adept. We attempted to perceive you and your brother as separate individuals with separate talents and characteristics. Your brother played soccer, which you had no interest in. Group competitive sports were difficult for you.

That was when we decided to let you join a bowling league. The league turned out to be a great choice, for it challenged your motor skill issues. Bowling was a great first sport at age eight, because it matched your personality perfectly. You were within a team but actually only competed against yourself. You amazed us with your fortitude and growth during your six year bowling league stint. The little boy, who couldn’t candlepin bowling at age eight with one hand, became the preteen who was bowling triple 115 scores! You struggled until third grade to coordinate the pincer grip and tie your shoes. We bought you Velcro sneakers until you were ready. You know what? You learned how to tie! Merely on your own schedule, not ours. At this point in life, you were diagnosed with A.D.D. Your father and I attempted to cheer both you and your brother on equally in all your endeavors. That was difficult. Learning disabilities can prove challenging and necessitate investing more energy into the child with challenges than the sibling who does not have any. There was so much guilt. When we were cheering you on and helping you with your challenges we worried that we were ignoring your brother. When we supported your brother, and cheered him on, we felt as though we might be ignoring you. It is a tough balancing act supporting both children and making sure their needs are both being met. Your brother reminded me of this while driving in the car alone. He said, “Mom, do you realize that you and dad talk about my brother alot? Can we talk about something else for a change? My response to your brother was, “I am so sorry. Sometimes mom and dad worry about your brother’s future. We know that you will be OK. But that is no excuse; we love you both and are proud of the talents and wonderful character that you both possess. Son, do me a favor please. If I start babbling about your brother, will you please remind me so I stop?” Your brother was satisfied with this answer and I kept my promise.

This reminded me of the delicate tightrope of uncertainty and guilt that parents with both learning disabled and non-learning disabled children grapple with everyday. Middle school would prove to open up a Pandora’s box of new challenges. In elementary school, your strong memory and verbal skills had proved sufficient for the rote learning that took place. The demands of algebra and higher math would prove difficult for you. I attempted to convince educators that you were skipping steps in math calculations due to processing issues. They felt that you merely had A.D.D. and were lazy.We must be forgiving as not much was known about Asperger’s syndrome at this point and your expressive verbal skills hid your deficits with receptive language from most individuals.Never look back; only forward. I would advocate for you on this issue until it was finally recognized in high school. Bullying issues increased in middle school as the peer pressure increased. You were considered “quirky,” yet “sweet, and shy.” As difficult as it was, I heeded the therapist’s advice. I was to be a coach and observer when it came to bullying. If the kids were not drawing blood and the issues were not incessant I was to stand in the background and use my judgment on this issue. I wanted to protect you always. Unfortunately, as the therapist pointed out, I must guide you in how to deal with people on your own as you entered your teen years. I shed some tears for you but you did learn to to self advocate. You continued playing drums in the band as you entered your high school years. This proved to be a positive choice. You see, the band created a group for you to belong to. You were bullied for the last time in ninth grade. Another freshman was challenging you and a senior from the band stepped in and stuck up for you. The bully, who was a freshman like you, took off. Band was included in your I.E.P. as important. Band was where you had a chance to socialize with others.

When I finally got new testing done for you at the high school, they were so helpful and it was refreshing to have a group of educators finally listen. You would now be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, as well as A.D.D. You stuck with the high school band through your high school career, and we were so proud of your musical progression. We bragged about both you and your brother to anyone that would listen. Upon graduation we decided to have you go to a two year college and live at home. We felt that transitioning into adulthood and independence was best done in baby steps. By not pushing you, we felt as though it would give you a chance to work towards success instead of failure, thus giving you the incentive to keep growing. You graduated from community college with much improved grades. You than entered a local four year college as a junior. The first semester was spent living at home and driving with your new driver’s license. You attempted the drivers exam three times but never gave up and finally did it! Second semester we decided to have you live in the dorm. It was hard to let you out from under our watchful eye but we knew we had to continue helping you achieve your goals on the road to independence. It was too easy at home for you to isolate yourself from people. You were only 45 minutes away and close enough for us to visit. At first you were allowed to come home every weekend. Gradually we spaced out home visits to once a month. We would come and take you out to dinner once a week but then take you back to your dorm. We also purchased a web cam and set up times to chat with you from your dorm room so you were not too homesick.

Not too long ago, you acquired your bachelor’s degree. You are now back home, holding a full time job after a couple of failed attempts at employment in the past. Son, as you start working with your job counselor to get more training so you will not be underemployed, and as you use the college degree that you worked so hard to earn, I leave you with one comment. You have surpassed all of society’s expectations for you. You have met and conquered many challenges. I know that you will continue to do so, and will succeed in all your future endeavors as you have in the past. Please know that your mom and dad love you very much. We are so proud of you and wouldn’t have wanted you to be any different than you are. You inspire us, teach us, humble us, and make us proud. Go forth into the world, my son, and fly like an eagle. Look out world, here comes my youngest son!