New from NSTA for Middle School Teachers: A Guide to Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science

July 13, 2015 by  
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ARLINGTON, Va.—July 13, 2015—Teachers who want to bring the benefits of argument-driven inquiry to their middle school life science classes can find the instructional materials they need in Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–8. The new NSTA Press book provides 20 field-tested labs to help students learn how to read, write, speak, and use math in the context of science.


The labs cover topics in four broad areas of life science: molecules and organisms, ecosystems, biological evolution, and heredity. The investigations are more authentic than traditional lab activities because students both learn important content and participate in scientific practices. Students design their own method, develop models, collect and analyze data, and critique information.

This new book follows the same formula as the high school versions of Argument-Driven Inquiry for chemistry and biology. Each lab includes reproducible student pages, teacher notes, and checkout questions. The labs can be used to introduce a topic or conclude a unit by letting students apply what they’ve learned. Like the previous books in the series, the authors of Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science are veteran teachers. They connect investigations to today’s science standards and provide the instructional materials teachers need in a single resource that combines literacy, math, and science.

Browse sample pages of this title for free at the NSTA Science Store website.

For additional information or to purchase Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–8, visit the NSTA Science Store. To order by phone, call 800-277-5300 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET weekdays. The 386-page book is priced at $44.95 and discount-priced for NSTA members at $35.96. (Stock # PB349X3; ISBN # 978-1-938946-24-0)

About NSTA

The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA’s current membership includes approximately 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.

NSTA Press produces 25 to 30 new books and e-books each year. Focused on the preK–college market and specifically aimed at teachers of science, NSTA Press titles offer a unique blend of accurate scientific content and sound teaching strategies. Follow NSTA Press on Facebook for the latest information and new book releases.

World’s Largest Lego© Brick Model Ship Comes to the Queen Mary

June 20, 2015 by  
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LONG BEACH, CA (June 18, 2015) — When Britain’s most famous ocean liner was still a dream, the Cunard Lines recruited the John Brown shipyard in Scotland to build what would become the world’s most famous ocean liner. When Britain’s certified LEGO builders, Bright Bricks Inc. decided to commemorate the ship in LEGO Bricks – they never dreamed the huge model would someday come to Long Beach and be displayed on the actual Queen Mary. “The agreement to display our model on the ship is the perfect end to a wonderful LEGO adventure,” said Bright Bricks co-founder, Ed Diment.


The LEGO company certifies only a few official model makers; Bright Bricks is located in England and is a well-established creative resource. “Companies from around the world hire us to interpret their products or brand using LEGO bricks. But, in this case, we decided to build the Queen Mary for our own satisfaction. It required four professional builders and over 250,000 individual LEGO bricks. It took almost four months to complete the project,” Diment added.

To better connect children and others with the historical persona of the Queen Mary, the decision was made to display the model in an exclusive space – The Shipyard – and to surround it with Bright Brick building stations where children and LEGO-enthusiasts can make their own version of the ship or anything else that comes to mind. The model room will feature 4 building tables and will be supervised by Queen Mary staff.

Over the past two years the Queen Mary has attracted close to 4 million visitors. With the world’s largest LEGO brick ship model’s arrival a new visitor category will become part of the Queen Mary’s ongoing success by adding a family and child-friendly element to an already robust historical narrative. Adults and children are likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer size and accuracy of the brick model.

The Bright Bricks ( model of the Queen Mary begins its exhibition July 4, 2015. The Shipyard features historical photography of children at play while sailing as passengers; archival photos of the Queen Mary’s construction, antique tools and other items that capture the idea of building the world’s greatest passenger ship complete the decor.

“I can’t wait to see the look on the faces of the children who come to the exhibit and are confronted by this magnificent LEGO brick model. And for those tall enough; some children might notice a tiny top-hatted mini-figure of Sir Winston walking the upper deck,” said Queen Mary General Manager John Jenkins.

Length: 25’ 11”
Weight: 604 lbs.
Width: 3’ 1”
Height: 4’ 7”
LEGO Parts Used: Approximately 250,000
Number of Builder Hours: 600

About Bright Bricks
Bright Bricks is a professional LEGO building company based in Hampshire in the UK. It is home to Duncan Titmarsh, the UK’s only LEGO Certified Professional, and one of only 16 in the World, and his business partner Ed Diment who built the LEGO Queen Mary Model. Bright Bricks builds large commission models for clients all over the World as well as making custom LEGO sets, attending corporate events, making gifts and running children’s parties with LEGO bricks. Basically if it involves LEGO we do it!

About the Queen Mary
Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary ( features a rich maritime history, authentic Art Deco decor, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline. At the time of her maiden voyage in May of 1936, she was considered the grandest ocean liner ever built. The Queen Mary features award-winning restaurants, historical attractions, numerous special event salons and 346 staterooms.

Media Contact:
Johanna Felix
Freeman McCue Public Relations for The Queen Mary | 860-655-4221

Find the Queen Mary here:

National Geographic’s Newsmaker Challenge – Step Up to the Plate to Fight Food Waste

June 4, 2015 by  
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On May 12th, National Geographic launched its first annual Almanac Newsmakers Challenge in conjunction with the release of their 2016 edition of the New York Times bestselling National Geographic Kids Almanac (($14.99; ISBN: 978-1426319228; Ages 8-12). The first challenge is inspired by National Geographic Emerging Explorer and food waste warrior Tristram Stuart, author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (W.W. Norton & Co., 2009). Step Up to the Plate to Fight Food Waste asks kids to take the pledge to “waste less food” and draws attention to the vast amount of food wasted worldwide.

Stuart estimates that each year, the United States alone wastes about 40 million tons of food – enough to feed the 1 billion malnourished people on the planet. The Newsmaker Challenge website provides kids with food waste facts and tips to motivate them to make a difference at the grass-roots, consumer level. Step Up to the Plate ideas include paying attention to how much food gets thrown away at your next meal and then planning carefully to avoid wasting any food for a day or even a whole week, having a potluck party where everyone brings something creative and delicious made out of leftovers, or asking your school cafeteria to step up to host a “Waste Less Food” week.

Kids will be able to read about how their actions made a difference in next year’s 2017 Almanac, from the ages of the participants who stepped up, to the number of family members who multiplied their efforts, to the amount of food saved as a result. They can also look for a new Newsmaker Challenge every year to encourage them to continue being a positive force in the world around them.

Visit to take the pledge and download all the tools necessary to step up to the plate in this year’s 2016 Almanac Newsmaker Challenge!


tristram-stuart-web_79458_200x150About Tristram Stuart

Stuart became interested in the subject of food waste when he was a student and living on a small farm in England. He observed what was going on in his neighborhood and came up with some great ideas on how he could feed his farm animals and waste less food. The more he learned, the more he wanted to do more to feed not just his animals, but people around the world. He is an author of the award-winning book, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, the founder of a global charity (, and winner of the international environmental award, The Sophie Prize 2011, for his fight against food waste.

Read to a Child Spark Something Meaningful Campaign!

May 20, 2015 by  
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BOSTON, May 1st – 31st, 2015 – National nonprofit literacy and mentoring organization Read to a Child will host its second annual digital fundraising campaign called Spark Something Meaningful in the month of May.

Astoundingly, 80% of 4th graders from low-income families are not proficient in reading.

Read to a Child

To combat this literacy crisis, the American Academy of Pediatrics official policy recommends doctors “prescribe” reading to children as a critical component of how parents can support children’s healthy development. In line with this recommendation, Read to a Child enlists volunteer reading mentors to read with at-risk children and give young students the time, confidence and tools to reverse the cycle of illiteracy. By raising $100,000 in one month, Read to a Child can provide 6,000 additional reading sessions to at-risk children in the 2015-16 school year.

Spark Something Meaningful aims to create an inspirational awareness movement across social media platforms. Supporters and fundraisers will help spread the message ‘Help Kids in Need Love to Read’ by sharing a personal story about ‘who sparked their love of reading’ in a social media post. The post, along with a favorite ‘book selfie’ image, is then passed along to networks of friends and family, challenging them to do the same.

By sharing people’s personal stories about the importance and joys of reading, the campaign hopes to engage and inspire online supporters and influencers to help promote the cause and fundraise $100,000 in one month.

“Together we can build a movement of people working towards the vision that one day, every child will have a caring adult reading regularly to him or her. You can give at-risk children a better chance to succeed by participating in this campaign” says Read to a Child CEO, Olivia Mathews.

“We are proud to be a sponsor of the Read to a Child digital campaign and it is exciting to come together with other agencies and partners in a collaborative effort – all in support of creating a social media literacy movement,” says Tracy Pearce, Global CSR Engagement Manger at Dentsu Aegis Network.

All proceeds from the campaign will go to Read to a Child to fund their lunchtime reading program, which pairs more than 1,100 elementary school children with volunteer mentors from businesses who spend a lunch hour each week reading with their student partners.


Leading sponsors of the campaign are Pitney Bowes and Arclight Capital. Other top sponsors include Baron Funds, the Tarini Family, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, along with Dentsu Aegis Network, Posterscope, Clear Channel and OUTFRONT Media, generously donating marketing and media services for the campaign.

• For more information about the ‘Spark Something Meaningful’ campaign and how to participate or donate, please visit

When: May 1 – 31, 2015

About Read to a Child

Read to a Child,, is a national literacy and mentoring nonprofit organization that inspires caring adults to read aloud to children and to help create better opportunities for the future. Research proves that the simple act of reading aloud to a child regularly significantly impacts his or her literacy skills and, thus, his or her likelihood for success.

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Qread – New App Introduces Young Children to Words

May 19, 2015 by  
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Recently, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife invested $33 million into AltSchool, a charter school in San Francisco that creates personalized learning programs for students made available through cutting edge classroom technology.

Mark Zuckerberg

Qread, a child learning app launched in April, assists children with word recognition and reading comprehension using words, pictures and animation and incorporating the latest techniques in academic education. Four levels of complexity enable students to advance as they master skills. Children who use Qread for two minutes each day show marked improvement in word recognition and development.


The goal of endeavors such as Qread and AltSchool is that ultimately, charter schools or even regular public schools could outsource many basic functions to software platforms, allowing educators to focus on serving students. “Our dream is to unlock the intelligence, passion, and awareness of children around the world,” says Qread and Appi Dabbi founder Precila Birungi-Kristiansen.

Qread—short for quick read—is the first app in the Appi Dabbi series, and it lays the foundation for learning in their programs. Instead of the ABC method which only triggers the left half of the child’s brain, the Qread app allows the child to use both halves of its brain and increases the level of complexity as the child masters each lesson in the program.

The app can be used by parents, nurseries, day-cares, preschools, and elementary schools. Qread also assists the language and reading skills of children and adults who suffer from dyslexia.

The Qread app is now available for $4.99 on iTunes App Store and Google Play. For more information on the Qread app, visit

Messages from the Playground

May 8, 2015 by  
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Healing homophobia before it begins and preventing bullying before it starts


“Uncle Chris, is she your girlfriend?” Suddenly I was a teen again. I felt like I did before I was out of the closet and someone would bring up the word “gay.” I could feel the hair on my neck rise, the color burn into my cheeks and the knot in my stomach. How is it that I, who have been out of the closet for 10 years, who’s life is dedicated to LGBT advocacy work, an individual who mentors gay youth and prides himself on visibility, who was in fact visiting Arizona to give a workshop at the EQAZ’s Equality and Justice Conference, have a six year old nephew who doesn’t know his uncle is gay?

I have five nieces and nephews and I absolutely love them all. I sometimes go through kid withdrawals and often joke that I need a “kid fix.” I recently got a “kid fix” in January. I didn’t make it home for the holidays, so while in Arizona my mom had everyone over that I would normally see during Christmas. I even had a childhood friend over, my best friend growing up, Alyssa. Alyssa was pregnant with her second child, which seems to reflect the current trend back home because I feel like everyone I know is having kids. She’s also apparently my nephew’s gay uncle’s girlfriend.

Kids really do say the darndest things because what occurred to me later that night after everyone left was what wasn’t being communicated. Something felt uncomfortably wrong. If my sister’s six year old son was in the dark, did that mean my brother’s kids were as well? What about my cousin’s kids or my friend’s kids? I decided to investigate to find out more.

I began asking around to see why Aaron didn’t know or if he did, why did he ask if Alyssa was my girlfriend. The common theme in all the answers I got had to do with a feeling of discomfort around addressing the conversation. The parents I spoke with didn’t feel like their child was old enough to have the conversation or that they would understand.

This confused me because I remember being a kid and I remember knowing that I was gay even as a young child. In fact, I was the same age as my nephew Aaron when I knew I was gay. Studies show that by age 2 or 3, children start to develop a sense of being male or female, otherwise known as gender identity. By age 3-5, most kids have developed a strong sense of being a boy or a girl and begin to purposefully explore their bodies. Not to say they know what sex is or what being gay or straight is, but they have a sense of their sexuality. As one report I read says, “This is the age (3-5) that children will learn important sexual attitudes from their parents.” Around ages 6-10, kids are especially interested in things like, pregnancy and gender roles and ask questions like, “where do babies come from?” or “is that your girlfriend?” This is also the age where their friends, family, and outside world begin to influence sexual attitudes, these can be seen as what I call the “messages from the playground.”

Messages from the playground are the subconscious beliefs we ALL pick up from our childhood about what it means to be a boy, a girl, to be gay or straight, to be black, to be white, etc. We allhave them. They formulate our belief system and it’s our belief systems that control the way we operate our lives.

My cousin, who just celebrated her son’s second birthday, is a proud mom. She and 20 of her high school friends have monthly playdates where they all get together, hang out, and watch their kids play. She recently posted a picture on Facebook of all the moms with their kids and I got to thinking, those moms absolutely love their children. Each one of those women was beam-ing with joy at being a mom. I would venture to say that each one of those moms would do anything for their kid and only wants the absolute best for them and their life. I also thought, statistically speaking, at least one or two of those kids are gay. Studies show that anywhere from 2-10% of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This does not take into account people who aren’t out of the closet or don’t identify as being gay. There’s also the “1 in 10” theory that some still refer to, the idea that 1 in 10 people identify as having same sex attraction.

I got to thinking how many of those moms have considered the possibility that their child is gay. I’m not saying those moms are homophobic, what I am addressing, though, is the fact we do live in a heteronormative society. You are assumed straight upon birth, which creates the closet experience.

The dictionary’s definition of a term called benign neglect is “an attitude or policy of ignoring an often delicate or undesirable situation that one is held to be responsible for dealing with.” Benign neglect was a policy proposed in 1969 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, President Nixon’s Urban Affairs Advisor. During which, Moynihan sent the President a memo many view as controversial, suggesting, “The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of ‘benign neglect.’”

I went to a lecture last summer where they suggested that benign neglect and racism in the US is directly correlated to such recent events as the death of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Just because something is benign doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. Not communicating something communicates something.

My sister not having a conversation with her kids about her gay brother communicates something. I say that from a loving place for my sister and for the other mothers I’ve talked to. I never recall anyone in my family ever saying, “Chris, being gay is wrong and you will go to hell.” But it’s something that I picked up from my surroundings, what wasn’t being communicated, the benign neglect, which formulated MY messages from the playground – the subconscious beliefs I had about what it meant to be gay; the internalized homophobia I developed in my childhood.

Internalized homophobia is something that all gay people have to some degree. “To grow up in a society that is overwhelmingly and stiflingly homophobic and to somehow escape unscathed would be miraculous,” says famous drag queen, Panti Bliss, who recently gave a TED talk that’s now gone viral. It’s important to acknowledge because it sheds light on something within the gay community that has to do with shame. If any of us, gay or straight, has any guilt or shame whatsoever, we will subconsciously seek punishment. That could look like many things, but includes and is not limited to, self-deprecating behavior, unhappiness, depression, unhealthy relationships, etc.

Dr. Brene Brown, a shame and vulnerability research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, shows that kids start shutting parts of themselves down around middle school. She refers to 4th and 5th grade as the “creativity slump” because kids begin to compare themselves to each other. Her studies show that shame-prone children are more likely to commit suicide, drop out of school, engage in high risk sexual behavior, and experience increased drug use.

I remember walking home from school in 6th or 7th grade. I was by myself and hadn’t even left the school yard, when I suddenly felt someone walk up behind me and whisper in my ear, “faggot.” I literally froze. I was petrified. The first thing I thought was, “oh my god, people know.” The secret I had worked tirelessly day in and day out at hiding was suddenly acknowledged. If he knew, then others must know as well. I remember feeling so much shame I didn’t even turn around. I just kept walking, pretending I didn’t hear what he said.

Shame is something that all humans experience to some degree. For the gay community, the closet is the place most of us spend the majority of our developmental years in and is a hotbed for shame. Benign neglect is something that perpetuates being in the closet. Not communicating something communicates something. Research shows that shame and addiction are so closely related they don’t know where one starts and the other begins. Shame is also highly correlated with addiction and suicide. The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization I volunteer in, shows that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely, and questioning youth are three times more likely, to attempt suicide in comparison to their straight peers. And nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.

I began to think about the young kids who know they’re gay but don’t know what to call it or how to address it, how they have feelings of being different and that something is wrong with them. For a child who feels guilty or as though something is wrong with them, they often isolate and withdraw. It made me think about an episode on Oprah I watched many years ago where she interviewed four convicted child sex offenders. She wanted to understand why pedophiles do what they do and to her discovery, they intentionally and methodically seek out vulnerable children. The children who are away from the group, detached, quiet, otherwise withdrawn.

By talking about shame, we are exposing it and nipping it in the bud. Having uncomfortable conversations with children at a young age doesn’t put them at risk, instead, it does the opposite. It keeps them from risk. Dr. Brown says, “if you put shame in a petri dish, it only needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put shame in a petri dish and douce it with empathy it can’t survive. Shame can’t survive being spoken.”

My sister may or may not have a gay child. My cousin or her friends may or may not have gay children. But they might. To apply benign neglect and hope to have the conversation when their child comes out communicates something. It communicates that they’re uncomfortable with the conversation, which implies that it’s different, further perpetuating guilt, shame, and the closet experience.

Finally, why “messages from the playground?” The way I see it, we all played on the same playground. No matter where you’re from or how old you are, there are certain societal messages that we collectively agree with and using something lighthearted while discussing shame is very important if you want to have a conversation that lasts longer than two minutes. In my experi-ence, we hear the words homophobia or internalized homophobia, and we either shut down, change the subject, or deny that we have it.

I’ve since talked to my sister, my brother, and other members of my family about being open with their kids. My five nieces and nephews are now very aware that Alyssa is not my girlfriend. I’ve also been talking to everyone I know about Messages from the Playground. My goal is to create a more open dialogue within the gay community around internalized homophobia and to raise awareness with parents about the possibility they may or may not have a gay child. At the very least, their children will jump rope or play tag with one on the playground. My ultimate goal is to heal homophobia before it begins and prevent bullying before it starts. Because as I recently read, “If we want to end internalized homophobia, we need to first end homophobia. It’s as simple as that.”

My invitation to you is to consider the messages from the playground you have about what it means to be a woman or a man. What about having a gay child? What about race? What about being gay? What about being straight? Think about what beliefs you have and how they impact your life, either positively or negatively. Our beliefs tell our story. By confronting your messages from the playground, you’re bringing them to the light. Once you bring something to the light, it can’t hurt you anymore.

And if the thought has ever crossed your mind of whether or not your child is gay, don’t not talk about it. Not communicating something communicates something. We’re in a time where the argument is no longer around whether or not homosexuality is a choice, the argument is around the choice whether or not to unconditionally support the child you love. As a parent, you have the potential to change the trajectory of your child’s life by being patient, supportive, and vulnerable. There are many resources, professional groups and individuals that are out there. Ask for guidance, follow your heart, and continue being the parent you’re capable of being.

As Bob Proctor says, “Kids are making up their mind, we’ve got to change ours. It’s a lot easier to make up your mind than it is to change it.”

Chris Chris Tompkins is a life coach, advocate, student of life and teacher of all things he learns. His purpose is to reconnect folks with their spirituality or help them to find it for the first time. A lot of his work focuses on the gay and lesbian community, as so many have a negative association with religion and/or spirituality because of the messages they heard growing up. He likes to go in, uncover belief systems, and work with folks on developing awareness to live healthier and happier lives.

Can Parents Use Video Games As Lessons In Life?

May 7, 2015 by  
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Engineer, Parent & Former School Teacher Crafts Novel Method For Teachable Moments

In the history of child development, the widespread participation in the use of video games is not only a relatively new phenomenon, but a widespread one, too.

Ninety-seven percent of children and adolescents in the United States play at least one hour per day, according to the American Psychological Association.

Naturally, many parents and educators worry that this game time is subtracting from healthy skills children should be developing, such as reading.

“As children grow into teenagers and then young adults, finding your favorite novel as a young person, for example, can have immeasurable benefits by answering questions like: Who am I? What do I value? How do I move forward in life?” says Mark Cheverton (, a former public school teacher of 15 years, an engineer with GE and a father who was inspired to write novels for his son and other children to help teach life lessons.

“Of course, books – whether print or digital versions – are the best sources for in-depth knowledge about anything, from gardening to history to science and more. Establishing reading as a habit is necessary for the well-being of the world.”

Invasion of the Overworld

Cheverton offers tips for parents who want to encourage healthy habits to their children, including reading and more.

• Find books that reflect video game themes. “Invasion of the Overworld: Book One in the Gameknight999 Series: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure,” a book by Cheverton, is an effective example. What better way to get a kid to read a book than to offer one that’s about the video games they are obsessed with? In this case, it’s about the popular game Minecraft.

• Parent participation can create additional teachable moments for issues like bullying. “I’ve come to love playing Minecraft with my son, who spent months building things on his server: castles, bridges, underwater cities, factories, everything and anything his imagination could conceive,” Cheverton says. “Video games can have its benefits, too, creating opportunities to communicate with your child on those teachable moments we may dread, like when my son was bullied, but other habits ought to balance a child’s life as well.”

• Computer gaming can have positive benefits with family relationships. It turns out that there has been plenty of research out there on the benefits of parents playing computer games with their kids – not by computer game makers, but by respected universities. Researchers from Arizona State University suggest that “Parents miss a huge opportunity when they walk away from playing video games with their kids.” From Brigham Young University, researchers studied 287 families and looked at how they play video games together. The BYU team found that girls from ages 11 to 16, who played video games with a parent, reported better behavior, more feelings of family closeness and less aggression than girls who played alone or with friends. In addition, there is a great TED talk that discusses game playing and the positive effectives – both for family closeness and health.

• Games like Minecraft may offer an interest in engineering, city planning, etc. Many children who take to games that entail building cities may naturally take an interest later in life in the details of building things in the real world. Of course, children who love video games may want to know how the games themselves work or are of a high quality, which can lead to further interest in technology. Whether it’s a future career in video games, computer programming, engineering or a very long list of high-paying jobs, gaming can lead to good things.

Mark Cheverton
Mark Cheverton ( majored in physics and math as an undergraduate in college and went on to teach in public schools for 15 years. While teaching he earned a master’s degree in physics. He later went on to work for GE’s Global Research Center, where he researched laser welding , 3D printing, machine vision, process monitoring and machine control. He began writing his Minecraft series to help explain difficult lessons to his son, now 11. Those lessons include taking risks, a willingness to try something difficult and how to be brave. The books also address the sensitive topic of bullying.

Summer Learning Loss and How to Prevent It

May 6, 2015 by  
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Children Playing

Research shows that students experience about 2.5 months of learning loss when they don’t engage in educational activities over the long summer break.

This means much of what they learned this school year will evaporate during the summer.

However, summer learning loss is preventable. Summer Bridge Activities® – a workbook series – is designed to reinforce grade-level skills and preview upcoming grade skills in only 15 minutes a day.

Students will stay mentally sharp and be prepared for the upcoming year while still having time for summer fun. That is why Summer Bridge Activities remains the #1 choice for parents with school-age children.

Get Summer Bridge Workbooks here now:

Summer Bridge Activities

Summer Bridge Activities – Preschool to Kindergarten

Summer Bridge Activities K - 1st

Summer Bridge Activities – Kindergarten to 1st Grade


Summer Bridge Activities – 1st Grade to 2nd Grade


Summer Bridge Activities – 2nd to 3rd Grade


Summer Bridge Activities – 3rd to 4th Grade

Summer Bridge 4th to 5th grade

Summer Bridge Activities – 4th to 5th Grade

Summer Bridge Activities 5th to 6th grade

Summer Bridge Activities – 5th to 6th Grade

Summer Bridge Activities 6th to 7th grade

Summer Bridge Activities – 6th to 7th Grade

Summer Bridge Activities - 7th to 8th grade

Summer Bridge Activities – 7th to 8th Grade

Ten Most Memorable Moms in New Fiction

May 5, 2015 by  
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Although these are not children’s books, what better time of year than Mother’s Day to showcase some of the most memorable fictional mothers in some of the best new novels? From loving, supportive mothers to complex, trailblazing mothers to selfish, vindictive mothers, this list has it all!

1) The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White (Lake Union, July 2015)

Perfect Son

Ella Fitzwilliam, the mom in THE PERFECT SON, quit a successful career in jewelry design to be full-time parent, mental health coach, and advocate for her son, Harry, who has a soup of issues that include Tourette syndrome. She has devoted 17 years of her life to his therapy, to educating teachers, to being Harry’s emotional rock and giving him the confidence he needs to be Harry. Thanks to her, Harry is comfortable in his own skin, even when people stare. After Ella has a major heart attack in the opening chapter, her love for Harry tethers her to life. But as she recovers, she discovers the hardest parenting lesson of all: to let go.

2) Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb (Plume, January 2015)

Rodin's Lover

In RODIN’S LOVER, Camille’s mother, Louise Claudel, is spiteful, jealous, and disapproving of Camille’s pursuit to become a female sculptor in the 1880s. She also shows signs of mental illness. Because of this relationship, Camille struggles with all of her female relationships the rest of her life, and ultimately, to prove to her mother that she’s truly talented.

3) Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen (Astor + Blue Editions, April 2015)

Imaginary Things

In IMAGINARY THINGS, young single mother Anna Jennings has a unique power that most parents only dream of—the ability to see her four-year-old son’s imagination come to life. But when David’s imaginary friends turn dark and threatening, Anna must learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, what his friends truly represent, and how best to protect him.

4) The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks, January 2015)

The Magician's Lie

In THE MAGICIAN’S LIE, Arden’s mother is remarkable both for what she does and what she doesn’t do. As a young woman, she bears a child out of wedlock and runs away with her music teacher, never fearing the consequences. But later in life, her nerve fails her—just when her daughter needs her most.

5) Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer (Putnam, 2014)

Five Days Left

In FIVE DAYS LEFT, Mara Nichols is, in some ways, a typical mother: she loves her daughter fiercely, thinks about her constantly and goes to great lengths to balance her high-stress legal career with her daughter’s needs. But there are two ways in which Mara isn’t typical at all. First, she adopted her daughter from India, making good on a lifelong promise to rescue a baby from the same orphanage where Mara herself lived decades ago. And second, when Mara is diagnosed with a fatal, incurable illness that will render her unable to walk, talk or even feed herself, she has to make the kind of parenting choice none of us wants to consider—would my child be better off if I were no longer alive?

6) House Broken by Sonja Yoerg (Penguin/NAL, January 2015)


In HOUSE BROKEN, Helen Riley has a habit of leaving her grown children to cope with her vodka-fueled disasters. She has her reasons, but they’re buried deep, and stem from secrets too painful to remember and, perhaps, too terrible to forgive.

7) You Were Meant for Me by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Penguin/NAL, 2014)

You Were Meant for Me

In YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, having a baby is the furthest thing from Miranda Berenzweig’s mind. She’s newly single after a bad break up, and focused on her promotion at work, her friends and getting her life back on track. Then one frigid March night she finds a newborn infant in a NYC subway and even after taking the baby to the police, can’t get the baby out of her mind. At the suggestion of the family court judge assigned to the case, Miranda begins adoption proceedings. But her plans—as well as her hopes and dreams—are derailed when the baby’s biological father surfaces, wanting to claim his child. The way she handles this unforeseen turn of events is what makes Miranda a truly memorable mother.

8) The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft (Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2015)

The Far End of Happy

In THE FAR END OF HAPPY, Ronnie has hung in there as long as she can during her husband’s decline into depression, spending issues, and alcoholism and he will not accept her attempts to get him professional help. She is not a leaver, but can’t bear for her sons to witness the further deterioration of the marriage. She determines to divorce—and on the day he has promised to move out, he instead arms himself, holes up inside a building on the property, and stands off against police. When late in the day the police ask Ronnie if she’ll appeal to him one last time over the bullhorn, she must decide: with the stakes so high, will she try one last time to save her husband’s life? Or will her need to protect her sons and her own growing sense of self win out?

9) Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (Washington Square Press, 2014)

Your Perfect LIfe

In YOUR PERFECT LIFE, long-time friends, Rachel and Casey wake up the morning after their twenty year high school reunion to discover they’ve switched bodies. Casey is single with no children before becoming an instant mom to Rachel’s two teenagers and baby. Despite her lack of experience as a parent, and her often comedic missteps with the baby in particular (think: diaper blow outs and sudden sleep deprivation) Casey’s fresh perspective on her new role helps her connect with each of the children in a very different way than Rachel. And when the oldest, Audrey, is almost date raped at her prom, it is Casey’s strength that she draws from an experience in her own past that ultimately pulls Audrey through. Although it is hard for Rachel to watch her best friend take care of Audrey when she so desperately wants to, she realizes that Casey can help her daughter in a way she can’t. And Casey discovers she might have what it takes to be a mom to her own children someday.

10) The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman (Bantam, 2013)

The Life List

Elizabeth Bohlinger, the mother in THE LIFE LIST, is actually deceased. But she still has a big presence in her daughter’s life—some may say too big! With heartfelt letters, Elizabeth guides her daughter, Brett, on a journey to complete the life list of wishes Brett made when she was just a teen. Like many mothers, Elizabeth has an uncanny ability to see into her daughter’s heart, exposing buried desires Brett has long forgotten.

Andrea LochenAndrea Lochen is a University of Michigan MFA graduate. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Berkley, 2013), won a Hopwood Award for the Novel prior to its publication. She has served as fiction editor of The Madison Review and taught writing at the University of Michigan. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, where she was recently awarded UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her second novel, Imaginary Things (Astor + Blue Editions, 2015) is recently released and has garnered wonderful praise. With features on Barnes &, Huffington Post, and Brit + Co., her work is being introduced to thousands of new readers. Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel. For more information visit

Book Links for Imaginary Things:

Toy Boats to Make with Your Preschoolers

May 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Blog

Here is a fun activity for you to do with your preschoolers. Make three boat crafts and do some science experiments with them.


Here are the instructions for making three types of boats.


Milk Carton Boat

You will need:

• Milk carton
• Scissors
• Soap bar box
• Paint and paintbrush
• String
• Glue
• Straw
• Sharp pencil

Cut the milk carton in half lengthwise. You can use your fingers to make the square end of the box more pointy. Paint the soap bar box and let dry. Use the sharp pencil to make a hole in the middle of the soap bar box. Now glue the soap bar box in the middle of the milk carton, with the hole facing up.

Make a sail from a square piece of paper. It should be about half the length of the straw. Use a pencil to make a hole at the top and the bottom of the sail. Put the straw through the holes. Put the straw through the hole in the soap box. Wrap the piece of string around the top of the straw and tape the ends to the ends of the boat.

345 - Meat Trays

Foam Sailboat

You will need:

• Styrofoam lid or container (not one that has held raw meat)
• Paint and paintbrush
• Construction paper
• Sharp pencil
• Tape
• Scissors
• Straw

Cut a triangle out of the construction paper. This will be the boat’s sail. Use the pencil to make a couple of holes along one side of it. Put the straw through the holes in the paper and decorate your sail. Paint the inside of the Styrofoam tray. This will be the boat. Tape the sail onto the boat.


Plastic Sailboat

You will need:

• Plastic soda bottle or water bottle
• Scissors
• Paint and paintbrush
• Straws
• Glue
• Construction paper

Cut the bottle in half lengthwise. Cut one straw so it is a few inches taller than the depth of the boat. Glue it down so it stands up in the center of the boat. Glue another straw perpendicular to the first one, about three inches down from the top.

Cut a paper sail to fit the mast you have just made. Glue the sail onto the mast. Decorate the inside of your boat.

Now that you have three boats, it’s time to experiment with them. Here are some activities you can try:

• Which boat floats best? Fill a basin or sink with water and set sail. See boat which stays upright the longest.

• When left in the water, which boat lasts the longest?

• Which boat goes the fastest? Blow on the sails and see which boat is the speediest.

• Which boat sinks first? Try adding pennies to each of your boats and see which can hold the most.

Making boats is a fun way to spend a day with your child. Experimenting with the boats gets your child asking questions about his world and thinking about things in a whole new way.

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