RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

RAFT invites Kids Kit Testers for fun learning using RAFT hands on Activity Kits


One of the most important steps in our hands on Activity Kit development process is user testing. We want to test RAFT Activity Kits to ensure we are delivering the best quality product, with easy to understand instructions, and exceptional educational content. We recently invited RAFT members to bring their children, the end users of RAFT products, to be our RAFT Kids Kit Testers for the night.

The children were very excited to see the place “where mom gets all her good junk”. We tested Foil Art, Kumihimo, and a brand new Retractor Car. In reaction to completing the retractor car made out of common materials, one child exclaimed, “It REALLY worked!” I received valuable feedback and will take it back to the product development team. It is amazing what you can learn when you see the product with its end user.

RAFT prides itself in creating hands on Activity Kits that are made out of common materials so one can actually build these kits on their own! RAFT provides, Idea Sheets, materials and manipulatives that can be used to create these activities.

You can also use pre-assembled RAFT Activity Kits and save the time to track down all these materials! Be on the lookout for our new and revised Activity Kits. Meanwhile, please check out the Activity Kits we have available in store and online.

Bay Area residents interested in having your children be part of RAFT Kids Kit Testers, please email me at selina[at]raft.net. 

- Selina Cardoza, Product and Program Manager at RAFT

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Explore the phases of the moon with RAFT hands on Activities!

I am an elementary school teacher at Orchard School.  Before the winter holidays I spent three days teaching my class about moon activities that I had learned at a RAFT workshop last summer entitled 'Crafty Moon Activities'.

 The lessons I used to introduce the moon to my second and third graders were:  Modeling the Moon’s Rotation, Moon: Nearside-Far side, and Nine and a Half to the Moon.  In these lessons, based on RAFT Idea Sheets, the children learned using movement and hands on materials where and how the moon moves, what it looks like on both sides of the moon, and physically how far the moon is from the earth.  

We then talked about the fact that the moon doesn’t change shape, but that the reflection of the sunlight on the moon creates the images that we see at night. To illustrate this point, I used the RAFT Idea Sheet Holding the Moon in Your Hand.  Using a light source and simple RAFT materials like Styrofoam balls with coffee stir sticks to hold them up, we actually demonstrated this concept!

Lastly we acted out the different phases of the moon with pictures pasted on plastic cup filters and then each table made their own moon mobiles with materials from RAFT. All of these lessons I shared with my students were taught at the Crafty Moon Activity Workshop last year where we were also given most of the supplies for these activities! 

My students loved the crafty moon activities as they were fun, exciting and educational.  As they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating! I really think that these were a great set of activities as I heard many comments from my students like – “It felt awesome learning about the moon.  The most interesting part of the moon was its one whole moon, but it just changes!”  “The coolest thing was when we turned off the lights and held the soccer ball on the straw.  It was way cool!”   “I believe that the most fun and exciting thing about the moon is its history.  The many craters and holes on the moon’s surface are really interesting!”

If you have students wanting to explore the moon like mine, you should check out the Next Crafty Moons Workshop that will be coming up soon!

Kathleen Gould, Elementary School Teacher, Orchard School, San Jose. Kathleen is also a RAFT Member and a RAFT Fellow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Educators honored for exceptional inquiry based teaching projects

Resource Area For teaching (RAFT) recently honored two Bay Area educators with the Hands On Recognition Awards for their emphasis on hands on teaching methods. Ann Shioji, a high school teacher and Anna Pollack, an elementary school teacher were selected in recognition of their exceptional collaborative and inquiry-based teaching projects and activities in the classroom.

Shioji’s award winning concept explores how sound travels through different media using a simple watch and various materials like air, water and sand. Says Shioji, “Students place a watch on the table and put bags, each filled with a different material, on top of it. They then listen for any difference in the sound and describe what they hear. It reinforces the concept that sound waves need a medium to travel through.”

Shioji, who teaches Integrated Science at the Yerba Buena High School, was introduced to RAFT by another teacher when she came to the Bay Area. “I taught in Los Angeles for three years. We didn’t have anything like RAFT there. Now people say my classroom is like RAFT because I buy a lot of manipulatives there! Thanks to RAFT our school has won a science fair award twice since we have participated. RAFT is affordable and makes science accessible to everyone!”

Anna Pollack, also a RAFT enthusiast, was a practicing pediatrician before choosing to become an elementary school teacher. Her students adore the science background she brings to the classroom. They get to work with microscopes, do real lab work, and test products all in 4th grade! “Children like learning about how living things work. I like working with young kids because of their curiosity and open mind!”

Pollack’s award winning idea nurtured the investigative and scientific observation skills in her students. In this activity, her students at Franklin Elementary School in Burlingame, learnt basic chemistry by differentiating four powders (sugar, salt, cornstarch, and baking soda) using simple RAFT materials like test tubes, droppers, toothpicks and, liquids like water, vinegar and tincture of iodine to arrive at qualitative results.

As Hands-On Recognition Award winners, Ann Shioji and Anna Pollack will receive two years of free RAFT membership and $100 worth of RAFT Gift Cards. The RAFT Hands On Recognition awards were introduced in 2010. RAFT members are invited every quarter to submit a learning project or activity. For more information about the Hands-On award program, go to http://www.raft.net/hands-on-award.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

RAFT members learn about Chinese culture the hands-on way!


RAFT celebrated the Chinese New Year last weekend with over 250 members participating in this fun event. Lucia Quaife, long time RAFT Member has been the backbone of this event, bringing it to life for the past six years.
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The Year of the Dragon festivities started with master calligrapher Richard Zhao who created beautiful dragon zodiac symbols and other good luck signs traditional in Chinese culture.

Keeping with the theme, another RAFT member, Tsen-wu Pang created a magnificent Dragon costume that is still on display in the RAFT San Jose Member Center. She also demonstrated how to make dragon masks using foam, fabric, corrugated paper and many other RAFT materials.

Quaife, an educator at the Creative Learning Foundation, a non-profit providing practical Mandarin teaching to non-Chinese-heritage children in the Bay Area, along with her staff, taught members how to make their own healthy and delicious spring rolls. This light refreshment can easily be duplicated in a classroom without the worry of cooking in class!

A RAFT enthusiast, Quaife also demonstrated various innovative, simple, hands-on paper crafts including an almost real version of the firecracker using red paper, lanterns and dragons using corks, tubes, cylindrical foam, gold foil, chenille stems, pony beads and cupcake paper holders.

The day culminated with the amazing sounds of the Chinese zither (Guzheng) played by 3 local high schools students. At this event, RAFT members got to dabble in calligraphy, paper crafts, cooking spring rolls, eating Chinese fare and they even got to take home some of the hands-on activities they worked on!

There will be an encore event at RAFT Redwood City this Saturday, January 21st. For more information go to http://www.raft.net/news/newsletter/

Shirley Young
RAFT Member Services Manager

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Day –United Way volunteers honor this day of service at RAFT


On a day when schools were closed to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly 100 adult and youth volunteers joined United Way Silicon Valley and Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT) to make the holiday a “day on” instead of a “day off” by working to improve local education and lending their support to local educators.

As part of this nationally recognized King Day of Service, local volunteers assembled hands-on RAFT Activity Kits including ‘Water Beads’, ‘Place your number value’! and ‘Catch a falling ring’ and other materials that teachers can use in the classroom to create valuable learning opportunities.

“We are partnering with RAFT today because education is a fundamental building block to a successful life,” said Carole Leigh Hutton, president and CEO of United Way Silicon Valley. “Helping teachers enrich the classroom experience supports United Way’s goals of growing
self-sufficient and financially stable families and reducing the ethnic-racial achievement gap in our schools.”

On this Day of Service, RAFT also honored two Bay Area educators with the Hands-On Recognition Awards. Ann Shioji a high school integrated Science teacher and Anna Pollock, a physician who changed careers to become an elementary teacher, were recognized for their creative and outstanding work using hands-on activities to engage their students. As Hands-On Recognition Award winners, each will receive two years of free RAFT membership and $100 worth of RAFT Gift Cards.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

RAFT ranked #1 on two TOP TEN lists on Charity Navigator!

RAFT started the New Year with a high note earning a large number of new reviews and the most page views on Charity Navigator, America's largest independent charity evaluator.

RAFT currently enjoys the numero uno position in the Top 10 Non-University Education Charities list with the highest number of page views. RAFT received 1461 hits, around 400 more than DonorsChoose and Scholarship America, who got 1059 and 1030 hits respectively.

Charity Navigator in partnership with GreatNonprofits ran an Education Write a Review Campaign to encourage people to share their stories about Education charities. In this recent poll, RAFT took top spot with a total of 37 new reviews.

The other non-profit educational organizations in this top 10 included Lee Pesky Learning Center, Citizen Schools, Little Kids Rock and DonorsChoose. These 10 highly-rated charities received the most number of new reviews in September 2011. You can also add your review on Charity Navigator.

Charity Navigator provides free financial evaluations of America's charities. The organization is the individual donor's first source for unbiased news and information on philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, wise giving, donating money and charitable donations. Founded in 2001, Charity Navigator has become the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities.