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Wide Open School

What is it:

Wide Open School is a free, ad-free, very comprehensive set of lesson plans for all ages, gathered from 75 different educational websites such as Khan Academy, TedED, YouTube, Google Arts & Culture and many others.

The lesson plans change every day, including weekends, and are available up to two weeks in advance, and up to a month afterward.

Here is one day’s resources for grades K-2 for Friday, September 18, 2020:

1) Activity: Number Jump
Get your wiggles out and jump from number to number as you count from one to 10.
Source: Fun-a-Day

2) Video: Cultures Around the World
Discover different cultural traditions from around the world and the things we all have in common, too.
Source: Candy Seed

3) Audio: The Imagine Neighborhood
From the Committee for Children, this show encourages kids to use their imaginations to talk about the big feelings we all have.
Source: Committee for Children

4) Screen Break: Make a Mexican Cuff Bracelet
Make a repujado bracelet with some simple materials. Make some for family members, too.
Source: Spanglish Baby

5) Video: School Garden Tour
Check out this narrated photo tour of the Wilshire Crest Elementary School garden, chock-full of all kinds of different plants.
Source: Garden School Foundation

6) Lesson: Hour of Code
Try these engaging, one-hour introductory computer science tutorials, appropriate for all ages. There are hundreds of activities and tutorials in over 45 languages.
Source: code.org

7) Video: The Seven Continents
Sing this catchy song to learn about the continents. Then look at a map or globe and see if you can name them all.
Source: FuntasticTV.com

And there are additonal activities such as exercise recommendations, links to live cooking classes and musical events, and information on issues such as digital citizenship and emotional well-being.

Who is it for:

This website could be for teachers looking for free resources for teaching in the classroom or remotely, for parents who want to give their children additional activities beyond school, for self-directed kids looking for something fun and interesting, and is perhaps best suited for homeschooling families who need to set their kids up with a broad curriculum.

What Kids Like:

The resources are mostly self-directed things such as a video on a particular topic (e.g. grammar) and a set of questions that prompt the child to think about the content of the video. And so the kid can skip ahead if bored or take as much time as needed.

Many of the resources are fun, such as online math games or videos with songs. These are not as fun as playing Mario Bros., for example, but certainly more fun than listening to a teacher lecture and having to wait for other kids.

What Parents Like:

The curricula are very complete. If I wanted to do a week of summer school, or wanted my kids to only do screen time with educational projects, I could just go to this site and have everything I need.

What the Critics Think:

I’ve not seen any reviews of this site other than on its own partner sites. Most of the sites that might have a review are among the list of 75 groups that partner with Wide Open School, which is itself a good endorsement.

Concerns/Flaws:

I don’t have any concerns about the quality of Wide Open School, and haven’t found any flaws. It’s very well thought out. My only warning to a potential user of this site is that it still needs a teacher or parent to guide the child during activities and to transition from one activity to the next. You can’t just sit your kid in front of the screen and come back in 2 hours assuming they got a full dose of learnin’.

Who Made it:

Wide Open School is a project of Common Sense Media which offers high-quality reviews of movies, books, and games for children.

The site was designed and built by Amplify, a Brooklyn-based educational technology company that creates K–8 core and supplemental curriculum, assessment, and intervention programs used on all 50 states.

History:

As stated on Wide Open School’s About page:

Wide Open School began as a way to meet the change in learning needs of students, teachers, and families due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our work represents the collective action of more than 75 content partners and supporters.

The pandemic has highlighted the invaluable role that teachers play in students’ lives. It has also made the connection between schools and families more essential than ever. We’ve continued to improve the site so parents, caregivers, and teachers can find the advice and support they seek about distance and hybrid learning and so students in preschool through grade 12 can easily find engaging learning activities.

All of the resources on Wide Open School have been curated by the editors at Common Sense in what will be a challenging school year, to say the least. Every day students can access free, high-quality activities across subjects, all in one place, in an easy-to-use experience designed and built by Amplify.

Protecting kids’ privacy while they learn and explore online is core to our mission. We have screened sites to only include those that meet or exceed our basic requirements for security and privacy. It is up to individual discretion to review the privacy policies and information-collection practices of any external websites and apps before using them with children.

Where Can I Get it:

Wide Open School is free, ad-free, and available to anyone at https://wideopenschool.org/

Categories
Parenting Resource

Children’s Museum Networks

There are four networks of children’s museums in the U.S.:

  • ACM – Association of Children’s Museums
  • ASTC – Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • NARM – North American Reciprocal Museum
  • and ROAM – Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums
  • (If there’s another that I missed, please let me know at matt@matchstick.com).

    Belonging to a network means you can go for free or reduced entry to any other museum in the network. We’ve saved many hundreds of dollars by joining. Typically, the cost of joining one of the networks is $20 or so in addition to the cost of an annual membership at one of the museums in the network.

    We frequently go to children’s museums when the weather is wet or cold, and it can be a great way to have a playdate without having to mess up the house. And then when taking road trips to the grandparents, we will look for a museum on the way that is in one of the networks, and we go for free.

    ACM is the Association of Children’s Museums and has 341 member museums. You can use their online tool to find a museum or look at their PDF, current as of February 2017

    ASTC (pronounced “Aztec”) is the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The ASTC Passport Program is similar to the ACM one, though the focus is on children’s science museums. Their list of 364 participating museums is in a PDF, current as of 2017

    The NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum) Association is another network, much larger than the other 2, with 896 participating museums. NARM includes many historical sites and other kinds of places beyond the STEM-focus of ASTC. Use the NARM interactive map to find museums near you, or look at their PDF, current as of 2017.

    ROAM (Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums) is the newest museum network and has about 330 participating museums, listed on their website. Most of the museums in the ROAM network are fine arts museums, but the list is eclectic and also includes arboretums as well as history and cultural centers.

    Many museums belong to more than one network, so by joining a museum you may gain access to over a thousand other museums around the country.

    Look at these four networks for a children’s museum near you and see if there are other museums in the same network you are likely to visit, e.g. near a relative’s home. You may be surprised at how many children’s museums are out there. Many have limited marketing budgets and don’t advertise much.

    Many public libraries now offer museum passes available to be checked out. You often have to reserve them in advance. If there is a museum you have been considering taking the kids to, but have been reluctant because of the price, ask at your local library for a pass.

    Categories
    Parenting Resource

    Parenting Rules

    A growing list of wisdom I’ve gained over the years.

    No grudges/punishments after midnight. This applies to spouses as well. Everyone (including you) gets a clean slate in the morning. Everyone deserves a fresh start and second chance. And just as importantly, it’s stressful and exhausting to try and remember every bad behavior that needs correcting.

    If I am grouchy and see my kid do something bad, I may make a rule (“no TV for the rest of the day!”). If/when they do it again, my instinct is to then extend that rule (“no TV for a week!”) but this is too hard to enforce and then what the kid ends up learning is that I don’t follow through on my threats. There are no good easy ways to maintain discipline, but if I am inclined to start doling out punishments that will last for more than a day, better to just change the environment, physically move them and me somewhere else.

    • Related to the above, give feedback immediately. A popular concept these days is ‘gamification’ and the essence of that is immediate feedback, both positive and negative. If a child (or employee, or spouse, or friend for that matter) does something that you want to reinforce, don’t make a mental note to give them ice cream later – give them a hug and praise them right then and there. Similarly, if you see behavior that you want to correct, again, don’t delay your reaction. If your reaction is not immediate, the child will not associate your reaction with their action and your reaction will seem irrational.

    Sugar is ok as long as you have a plan for where the kids will be when they are burning it off, running around and screaming, and where they will be when they crash, grumpy and unmotivated. A sweet treat about an hour before leaving a playground is great because the kids will run around and start to get tired around when it’s time to leave anyway.

    … more to come