What Are the Elements of a Great Educational Moment?

 What does Allan and Elise’s experience tell us about the essential elements of an educational moment?

Shucking Corn with Elise

By Allan Stern

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Get Him Tested? No. Design a Research Project

Half way into her first year in high school Clair came to her mother and said, “I think I need a tutor in math.”

Her mother was delighted and a little surprised at the request: delighted because Clair asked for help, and surprised because she didn’t know her daughter cared that much about her academic success. She immediately set to the task and in short order found a math tutor with an excellent reputation.

Several months later the tutor told Clair’s mother (Jill) that he thought Clair should get tested to see if “there were some organic reason” she was having such a hard time Continue reading

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Kids get Smarter Faster when they Make a Difference

Learning Mathematics in Real Life

How to behave in public is something the students at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland, California, practice daily on their two-block walk to the park for lunch, recess and physical education. Continue reading

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Building Strong Brains: The Real Reason Schools Need Environmental Education

One day second grader Miranda said: “I was in the garden looking at the tomatoes with Patrice and Josh, and we saw a wasp tackling a fly.  Then it tore the fly’s head off and flew away with the body.  An ant found the head and started eating it and the fly’s eyes separated from its head.”

The teacher asked, “What did you think about when you were watching this happen?”

She replied, “I thought, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wouldn’t want to be that fly.”

Later that same afternoon Sasha and Kate joined in the insect hunt and Kate said, “The garden seems to be so calm when you first look at it but when you look closer it’s very alive.”

On another day first graders found the front half of a dead snake and immediately started generating hypotheses as to what happened: Continue reading

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Should Parents Give Their Children Books For Christmas, or?

 Love

When I was nine and my father asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said, “Something I can build and then when it’s built I can play with it.”

Fifty years later, when my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said, “Fifty pieces of rebar two feet long.” Continue reading

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Taking Stock

“How Do You Use Blocks? An Excellent Interview Question” was the 100th post on “The Genius in Children.” Looking back on the postings of 2011 I am reminded of many great discussions that some of the posts triggered, and I am enormously grateful to all of you who participated. To celebrate, I am stepping back to ask you about your favorites and ask if any of these discussions need to be continued or if there are topics you would like to see pursued in the new year.

Here are a half-dozen of the most active from 2011, but please feel free to find your favorites. I would love to get your thoughts.

Why Mathematics is a Foreign Language in America and What to Do about It.

JUNE 21, 2011

Nine Lies about Academic Achievement that Parents and Teachers often Seem to Believe—but Don’t Really.

JUNE 15, 2011

How Parents and Teachers Can Get Bad Results with “High Expectations” for Children?

MAY 11, 2011

Parents as Teachers in the Academic Achievement Race

APRIL 13, 2011

Parenting toward Happiness

MARCH 2, 2011

“Superior Parenting?” That’s Crazy Talk. Children Need Only 3 Things.

JANUARY 19, 2011

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The Natural Resilience of Children

Dominique, age 8, sat in front of a computer screen doing addition problems—level one on Khan Academy.

When 9 + 3 = ? appeared on the screen, “That’s easy,” she said, and started hunting for 1 on the keyboard. She was new to the computer, and it was slower than she was. Nonetheless her approach was determined and persistent. She found the 1, hit it with her forefinger, found 2 next to it, hit that, moved the curser to the green “Check answer” button and clicked. For her efforts she got a smiley face. A bright bar of royal blue appeared in the success bar just above the answer box, and Dominique smiled. Continue reading

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Daphne Goes to School

It was a hot day on the upper west side of Manhattan. I had just dropped my freshman stepdaughter off in her dorm room at Columbia University and was experiencing a rare and marvelous moment of directionlessness. Daphne, age five, stood at Broadway and 114th at a table with her father and held a sign saying “Lemonade 50 cents.”

I said, “Wonderful. Lemonade. Perfect thing on this hot day. How much does it cost?”
“Fifty cents,” Daphne replied with a smile.
“Fifty cents. That’s cheep. Can I have a glass?”
“Certainly,” said Daphne.
I gave her a five-dollar bill, and she reached into the zippered purse around her neck, giving me back two quarters.
“But I gave you a five,” I said. Continue reading

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