RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All Children Learn Differently


At the RAFT Homeschooling Open House held last month, we were pleased to welcome both first time visitors and veteran members of the home school community. As visitors signed in, we chatted and I thanked them for coming out on a rainy evening. Their gracious responses voiced their acknowledgement of RAFT as a hub of the education community:

• ”Thanks to RAFT for having this event!”
• ”Thank you for recognizing us as educators.”
• “We face some of the same challenges as classroom teachers.”
• ”It’s nice to be part of this larger community of educators”

Whether you teach a class of one that may be your own child or a classroom filled with students, what is it about RAFT that appeals to a wide range of educators? I asked a few of our guests this question. The response of one home school educator provides the best clue -- “All children learn differently. There should be room to explore many different teaching models and, if you can, match the model that best meets the need of each child.”

Educators are the experts in knowing what they need to teach and what will work with their students. RAFT’s mission as a non-profit organization is to support educators with the teaching resources that promote creativity and exploration, tools that engage and delight students to develop a life-long love of learning –‘To Transform the learning experience through hands-on education to engage and inspire students”.

Because, we agree! All children do learn their own way and hands-on teaching is an effective way to teach children the way they learn.

- Maria Biggs, RAFT Marketing Manager

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hands-on is the 21st century way!

Many educators have been utilizing all kinds of recycled, upcycled and found materials for decades to explain concepts in classrooms. Today many instructors in schools, learning centers, or parents/ caregivers want to use common, readily found and affordable materials as teaching tools.

Educators now have access to resource centers like Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) that provides a platform for teaching resources and materials that they can use to bring concepts alive for students. Not only classroom students, but Girls and Boys Clubs and Scouts, Campfire Girls, After School programs (ASPs), preschools and daycare all benefit from more hands-on education.

Hands-on method of teaching helps the educator to be flexible, creative, challenging, and collaborative with students – all the necessary skills needed in the 21st century. Many homeschooling and teachers’ resource sites have idea sheets, lesson plans, activity kits and recommended age ranges for hands-on learning. RAFT is one of the organizations that meet this challenge of providing educators with strong hands-on learning concepts and resources in the form of Activity Kits and Idea Sheets keeping in mind the curriculum standards.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

RAFT recharges the teaching spirit in educators from San Ramon Valley Unified School District

Educators, administrators, and science specialists from the Sam Ramon Valley Unified School District recently visited Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) in San Jose, for a professional development experience. They toured the facility, participated in a hands-on activity, and got a chance to shop in the store. They choose from the various Activity Kits on sale and many additional materials that could be used for hands-on teaching in the classroom.

The visitors from the East Bay were also mentored by RAFT’s Education staff in hands-on teaching ideas and RAFT’s many resources. Says Stan Hitomi, Math & Science Coordinator, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, “Thank you so much for the incredible day! Some of our teachers have taught for 30-40 years and said it was the best professional development experience they have ever had.”

Continuing their involvement with RAFT, 20 of the visiting educators became members or renewed their membership. For more information on RAFT’s professional development offerings go to www.raft.net/workshops. If you would like to sign up your organization for a tour and/or professional development opportunity with RAFT please email workshops@raft.net.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why RAFT educators use hands-on teaching methods

Today one of the concerns of educators is that only a few students appear engaged with the task at hand. If students can’t engage with the content to construct meaning for themselves, then they aren’t learning. Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) recognizes this problem and helps educators with hands-on teaching tools to help close the engagement gap.

Jennifer Lazzarini, 2nd Grade Teacher of Hubbard Elementary and RAFT Member says, “RAFT is an organization that reaches out to make a difference in our classrooms. They provide activities that help educators like me bring 21st century skills to future leaders.”

RAFT members and many educators have realized that hands-on teaching means students are actively engaged in a lesson using multiple intelligences and learning styles to access the content. They connect with the lesson at a new level aimed at creating a physical experience that helps them learn by doing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chevron gives away RAFT Freaky Fractals Activity Kits to enthusiastic kids at the Bay Area Science festival

At the Discovery Days of the Bay Area Science festival held over the last couple of weeks, Chevron, demonstrated and gave away hundreds of hands-on RAFT Activity Kits to a wide variety of eager young students. One of the events was at the Cal State East Bay campus in Hayward.

This successful event provided students and teachers with clever hands-on, solid STEM learning, by discovering the fun creative techniques that make learning really meaningful!

Over 1,500 young people visited the Chevron tent where they got to learn about self-similar patterns in nature while making their own amazing fractal patterns with paint and CD cases from the RAFT Freaky Fractals Activity Kit!

The tent was continually packed with enthusiastic kids eager to make these fractal designs and they left with a variety of RAFT Activity Kits that cleverly illustrate STEM concepts from why our eyes see color (Black And White makes Color Activity Kit), how light separates into color spectrums (The Colors of Light), to how sound is made and changes in pitch (Glove-a-Phone Activity Kit, Buzz Off Activity Kit, Tongue Depressor Harmonica Activity Kit) and more!

Young participants placed their colorful painted fractals along a nearby creek bed to dry in the warm sun before taking them home --- creating a truly awesome effect for all to see!

By Jeanne Lazzarini, RAFT Math Education Activity Developer

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hands-on activities lead to comprehension and retention

Great educators, such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Rudolph Steiner, Reggio Emilia, John Holt, and countless other education leaders all agree on one thing: children learn best when they are actively engaged in education, and the best way to engage them is to involve them with hands-on curricula. Especially for lesson plans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), the best way to make any topic come alive and make the learning memorable, is to bring the students right to the table and get their hands actively moving.

Retention is a key element of academic achievement; making lessons memorable is critically necessary. Fun, excitement, appropriate challenges, and solvable problems are all aspects that make the learning of difficult concepts seem easier and their applications more obvious.

Comprehension and retention both flow from hands-on learning activities.