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Heating Marshmallows: A Science Experiment

3marshmallowsby Diane Burdick, Ed.S.

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When you hear the word “marshmallow,” what comes to mind? Maybe you think of s’mores, or maybe of the party game where you cram your mouth with marshmallows while saying “chubby bunny.” But, if you’re science-minded, you may have different ideas altogether. Here’s just such an idea:  a fun experiment with marshmallows that illustrates Charles’s Law.

This “law of volumes” explains that the amount of space something takes up increases as the temperature increases. And, as it turns out, a heated marshmallow is just the ticket for illustrating this principle to children. 

Things you’ll need:

• 4 large or jumbo marshmallows

• Microwave-safe plate

• Paper towels

• Microwave


1. Place a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate, and place one marshmallow on the paper towel.marshmallow microwave

2. Heat the marshmallow on high power for 10 seconds. Notice the shape and size of the marshmallow, and record any changes from its original shape. Students can use illustrations, adjectives and sentences in their notes. Allow the marshmallow to cool and note its shape.

3. Heat a second marshmallow on a paper towel in the microwave; heat on high for 30 seconds. Notice the shape and size of the marshmallow, and record any changes from its original shape.

4. Heat the third marshmallow on a paper towel in the microwave; heat on high for 50 seconds. Notice the shape and size of the marshmallow, and record any changes from its original shape.

Thinking Questions:

• Which marshmallow expanded the most?

• Which marshmallow shrunk fastest?

• Did the marshmallows ever return to their original shape or size?

What’s Happening:

Visualize the outside parts of the marshmallow as a flexible container of air. When the air inside this container gets hot, the marshmallow will expand, and therefore, the container will also grow and take up more space. As the temperature drops, the volume of the gas decreases, and the size of the marshmallow decreases as well.

Inspiration Source:

Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow? by Sudipta Bardhan-Qualen


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When Your Child Starts to Fall Behind {a guideline for parents}

happy boy doing homeworkby Ria Clarke 

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As much as we, as parents, like to believe that we are on top of things, there are times when we let things slide. After all, life is stressful and filled with distractions and constant interruptions. Falling behind happens to the best of us.

But what happens when you begin to notice your student making low grades, or you get a note from the teacher that there’s an issue? What’s a parent to do? Here are some practical steps to get your child back on track.

1. Identify the problem if possible. Make a mental checklist and ask yourself important questions: Have you created a dedicated learning space at home that is free from noise and distraction? Is your child getting enough sleep? Is your child over-scheduled? Have they had a recent eye or hearing test? Are they too engrossed in gadgets or television? Rule out overlooked easy-to-resolve issues, first. 

2. Communicate with the teacher. Don’t wait for the problem to mushroom. My son’s second grade teacher has after-school tutoring for children that are falling behind. During these sessions, she gives them the personalized attention that may be impossible during the regular class period. Regular communication with your child’s teacher will help nip problems in the bud before they get out of control.

Asian Mom Daughter3. Make the necessary adjustments. If you have identified that your child is over-scheduled or is not getting enough sleep, take the necessary steps to ensure that your child cuts back on extra-curricular activities or nighttime television so that he or she is well rested. Make sure your child has all the supplies and essentials handy in their homework center and make sure that distractions are kept to a minimum. And, keep yourself in the loop on their progress by checking over your child’s homework so you catch any errors or missed problems before assignments are handed in and graded.

4. Review the material. Not all teachers offer after-school tutoring, but you can help your child by spending the time to go over concepts at home. Visit your local teacher store and purchase homework helpers and various learning aids to reinforce what your child has been doing at school. Make the review sessions short but meaningful so your child doesn’t get resentful or frustrated.

5. Consider professional help. Ask your child’s teacher for references, or check your local library or go online to search for homework help or private tutors. Investigate established places like LearningRx, Omega Learning Centers, Appleton Learning, Huntington Learning Center, or Kumon for extra help.

SonKissingMom High ResIt is also important to recognize that each child is different and learns differently. Work with your child’s teacher to help your child unlock the potential that may be locked inside. It may be frustrating at first but stick with it. Remember that practice makes perfect.

Ria Clarke is the proud parent of a second grader and a toddler. She’s also a SAHM and freelance writer of various lifestyle and educational issues. When she’s not actively involved in projects and homework or chasing down a toddler, she can be found in the kitchen baking or curled up with a good book.

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How Technology is Changing our Classrooms

by Steven Madison

“The times they are a-changing.” The famous Bob Dylan song lyrics are just as true today as they were when he first sang them in February 1964. The times are always changing, and with the rate technology moves in today’s world, they are changing fast. Ten years ago a cell phone was still a luxury item. Today they are ubiquitous. Twenty years ago we were still listening to cassette tapes. Today, all of our music is digitalized, and nobody needs to go further than their computer screen to buy the newest (or the oldest) music on the market. The times, they are certainly a-changing.

One place where technology has quickly transformed the environment around it is the classroom. While computers were once a novelty, perhaps a 45-minute per week diversion, they are now found in classrooms across the country and put to use by students regularly and naturally. Not all schools have been fortunate enough to have the funding necessary to take advantage of all the available educational technology, but still, the technology even in those classrooms is usually significantly more advanced than most adults would remember from their childhoods.

Bringing technology into the classroom setting has a number of benefits for students and teachers alike. Instead of simply absorbing the information that is taught to them, technology often makes students take on more engaged roles, actively communicating, generating, manipulating, and studying the information instead of just passively listening. This can make a teacher’s job easier. Instead of being the constant focus of attention, she can become more of a facilitator, providing goals, guidelines and resources while the students actively participate.

Just like sports and art can provide outlets for students who are not as academically inclined, technology can provide new ways for students to express themselves outside of the traditional subjects of math, science, social studies, and language. Music programs, video editing, and photograph manipulation are often performed surprisingly well by young kids with innate senses of how the technology works. Some of these students, for example, wouldn’t be able to write an essay about the meaning of family, but using technology, they can make musical tracks, videos, or photographic collages that express those same emotions.

Of course, in today’s economic environment, American students can use every advantage they can get, and refining proper technical skills is the perfect place to start. One of the few industries that is constantly growing is information technology. The earlier children are introduced to these skills, the more comfortable they will be with them, and the more likely to master them later in life.

With all of these benefits that can be derived from having up-to-date technology in the classroom, many teachers are looking to upgrade the technology they have. In a recent survey by software developer Wondershare, 82% of teachers said they wanted a tablet device in their classroom, 73% said they wanted new teaching software, 72% said they would like laptops and 70% asked for interactive whiteboards. 98% of teachers said in the survey that technology assists them in engaging their students.

However, as any consumer knows, technology costs money. Nobody is handing out free tablets or laptops, not even to schools. Is your school district receiving enough funding to take advantage of all that technology has to offer? Talk to your elected officials and research candidates’ records in supporting funding for schools. Technology can do wonders for the education of students all over the country, but before the students can use it, the districts need to buy it. Ask your kids’ teachers how technology is being utilized in their classrooms, and consider donating your own technology or money to the cause.

About the Author: Steven Madison writes for educational websites, such as Anatomy Now. In his past, he has been a tutor, teacher, as well as a member of a school board.

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Celebrating Snow! {5 winter crafts}

by Diane Burdick, Ed.S.

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Thanks to the fun ideas in this article, your kids are sure to never look at snow the same way. Here are some great ways to enjoy real snow outside, as well as ideas to create “snow” inside, if your area doesn’t get the white fluffy stuff regularly enough to satisfy your little ones.

Colorful Ice Balls

frozen balloonsPlace two to three drops of food color inside an empty water balloon. Then, fill the balloon with water from the tap, and tie it off. Next, place the water balloons either in the freezer or outside on the lawn if the temp is below freezing.

Once frozen solid, pop or tear off the balloons to reveal the colorful frozen “ice rocks” within! Use the orbs to make patterns or fun shapes on the lawn. Think simple shapes, such as a heart, Christmas tree, rainbow or a sun.

A little tip, though: avoid throwing the frozen “water” balloons! They’re even heavier and more dangerous than a packed snowball. {Thanks, Hurrayic, for the inspiration!}

Water Color Snow Painting

Snow PaintWhat’s the winter equivalent of sidewalk chalk? Making water colors in the snow, of course! Fill empty condiment bottles with water and several drops of food coloring, shake it up, then let your kids squeeze the colors out on the fresh snow.

Children can practice their cursive writing in the snow, or create simple pictures like rainbows.

{Thanks, Really Quite Lucky, for this snowy idea!}

“Snowy” Glitter Play Dough

Glitter DoughHomemade sparkly play dough snowballs allow your child the fun of making a snowman (on a smaller scale) and staying warm at the same time!

Make your basic homemade play dough recipe (sans food coloring). Then, add a small container of white or silver glitter once the mixture has slightly cooled. Voila! Sparkly, beautiful, snow-like play dough!

{This idea came from The Marathon Mom}

Fluffy Snow Explosion! 

ivory soapKids love this one! You can make your own fluffy looking snow substance with a new bar of Ivory soap.

Cut the soap into large chunks, set on a microwave-safe plate, and cook it for about one minute.Watch as the air bubbles inside the soap expand as they are heated up, and create a fun fluffy snow-like substance. It’s great fun in the bathtub!!

Here’s a how-to video for this idea.

Happy Snow Days!

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Silly National Holidays {and how to use them in the classroom}

chocolate covered bacon!

Anyone want to celebrate Chocolate Covered Anything Day?

by Diane Burdick, Ed.S

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Thanksgiving and Christmas may be over, but that’s just fine by me because I recently discovered a new favorite holiday. And although I’ve been celebrating the spirit of this day for many (many) years, I didn’t know there was an “official” holiday for it until recently. It can be summed up in one glorious word: CHOCOLATE.

That’s right, December 16 is “National Chocolate Covered Anything Day.” So of course I celebrated it with gusto this past month. And it got me thinking: what other lesser-known holidays are out there languishing without celebration?

A little digging led me to discover the answer: quite a few! Many of these holidays are silly, most are funny, and almost all are downright perfect for a teachable moment. Here are a few lesson ideas, based on January’s wacky holidays:

January 10: “Peculiar People Day”

Look up the word “peculiar” in the dictionary. Have students copy the definition and then write their own definition in their own words below it. Younger students can then draw a peculiar person, and older students can create a description of a peculiar person.

Since peculiar people aren’t boring in the least, be sure to brainstorm a list of colorful synonyms and adjectives to describe peculiar people. For example, you could ask children to consider what would make a basketball player peculiar from his teammates (height, or lack thereof), or what might make a ballerina peculiar (clumsiness, huge feet, a mohawk, etc.). They can write a “peculiar person paragraph” and illustrate it. Or, better yet: have them trade paragraphs with a classmate and illustrate each other’s based on the descriptions! 

January 15: “Hat Day”

Provide magazines and have students search for hat pictures, cut them out, and make a “wacky hat” collage. Older students could research styles and fashions of different eras and see what types of hats were popular in each era. What was the purpose of each type of hat? For example, why are cowboy hats so different from baseball caps? Why did women used to wear hats to church? Why are Kentucky Derby attendees famous for wearing hats? Or add in a little math: What’s the average hat size in your classroom?

January 23: “National Handwriting Day”Girl writing with colored pencil

Practice using your best handwriting to write thank-you notes to people in the school. Brainstorm a list of seldom-thanked staff members (media specialist, janitor, cafeteria workers, front desk receptionist, etc.) who might appreciate a well-penned note.

January 25: “Opposite Day” 

Have fun with this one! Students can practice talking in opposites, or you can give instructions in opposites (“Stand up,” “Put your books away,” “Don’t write this down”). Give a sticker or small prize to the student who most successfully figures out and follows the correct instructions all day.

Here are some other wacky January holidays to get your creative juices flowing!

January 1: First Foot Day and Z Day

January 2: Run Up the Flagpole and See if Anybody Salutes It Day

January 3: Festival of Sleep Day

January 4: Trivia Day

January 5: Bird Day

January 6: Bean Day

January 7: Old Rock Day

January 8: National JoyGerm Day and Man Watcher’s Day

January 9: Play God Day

January 10: Peculiar People Day

January 11: National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day

January 12: Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day (couldn’t find a good explanation of this one…but it sounds fascinating)

January 13: Make Your Dream Come True Day (love this!)

January 14: National Dress Up Your Pet Day

January 15: Hat Day

January 16: Hot and Spicy Food International Day

January 17: Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral Day

January 18: Winnie the Pooh Day

January 19: National Popcorn Day

January 20: National Buttercrunch Day

January 21: National Hugging Day (awww)

January 22: National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day (bizarre-o!) and National Blonde Brownie Day

January 23: National Handwriting Day, National Pie Day, and Measure Your Feet Day

January 24: Eskimo Pie Patent Day

January 25: Opposite Day

January 26: Australia Day

January 27: Punch the Clock Day

January 28: Rattle Snake Round-Up Day

January 29: National Cornchip Day

January 30: Escape Day

January 31: National Popcorn Day (just in case you missed it on the 19th! :)

Whichever holiday you choose to celebrate and integrate into the classroom, we’ll be excited to hear about it! Leave a comment about what you’ve already celebrated, or the holiday you plan on bringing into your classroom in the new year.

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Top Three Family Games

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Oh the weather outside is frightful….so a cozy family game night sounds delightful!

Here’s a formula for a night of family bonding (and brain exercise…shhh!):

1. Don your snuggliest pjs. 

2. Get cozy! Light a fire or pile blankets on the floor…whatever seems most inviting to your crew. 

3. Pop some popcorn. Try this top-rated recipe for homemade caramel corn!

4. Bust out one of these top family games: perfect for a night at home by the fire or to wrap up under the tree!

Electronic Hot Potato

Toss the tater back and forth, up high, down low, around and around. Don’t get caught holding the spud when the music stops. If you’re caught, you have to collect a potato chip card. Once you have 3 chips, you’re out of the game. Includes Electronic Hot Potato, 13 Potato Chip cards, 2 “AA” batteries and instructions. For 2-6 players. $15.99. Buy here.

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

Your forest friends are hungry and they need your help! Spin the spinner, squeeze the matching colored acorn with your Squirrel Squeezers, and squish it into your stump. Be the first to fill all the knots in your stump with delicious acorns and you win! You could also spin “pick an acorn,” “steal an acorn,” or “lose an acorn,” so be strategic, little squirrel! 2-4 players. Ages 3 and up. $21.99. Buy here.

Morphology Junior

Morphology Junior is a creative, challenging and fun board game where players use their imagination and know-how to create words out of pieces like wooden sticks, glass beads, colored cubes, wooden people and string, for their teammates to guess. Grades 2-8. $29.99. Buy here.

For more top family game ideas, click here. 

Happy playing!

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Identifying Bullying: National Bullying Prevention Month

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by Diane E. Burdick, Ed.S.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. First, let’s just lay it out: bullying and relational aggression (either through passive measures or overt intimidation) is not normal and is not okay. No matter the circumstances, meanness and bullying are never warranted.

Words hurt, too.

It’s also important to note that bullying isn’t just physical– especially in our world of text and social-media bullying. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is simply dead wrong. When a peer treats another child cruelly, it can have long-lasting impacts. Bruises can heal, but the emotional scars of bullying can last a lifetime.

And, bullying is unfortunately very common. A NCES study from the U.S. Department of Education reported that more than 31% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 were bullied at school.

But, most parents and teachers aren’t even aware of when it happens. Why? Unless your child confesses to being bullied (which is rare), the signs can be difficult to see. So, just what should parents and teachers look for?

Top signs that something’s wrong at school:

• Social anxiety

• Peer rejection

• Lowering grades

• Loneliness or depression

• Absenteeism

• Complaints of poor health

• Decreased use of electronic media

What should you do next? 

Inform: Once bullying has been identified, teachers and parents should report it to the proper authorities; this includes school administration and other teachers, coaches, or bus drivers who supervise both the bully and the victim during the day.

Document: If possible, parents should document when and where the bullying reportedly occurred. Include dates, times and locations of the incidents, as well as names of witnesses. In cases of bullying over the Internet, print transcripts of e-mails or chat sessions that can serve as proof of the incidents.

Address: Then, address the issue with both children. There is a lot of shame involved in being bullied, so reinforce to the victim that they did nothing to cause or deserve the treatment. This is a hard truth to believe, so keep reinforcing it. As for the bully, ensure that consequences are carried out by the administration, parents, or–hopefully–both. If everyone commits to working together, the cycle of abuse can be stopped.

For tips to share with kids who are being bullied on how to stand up for themselves, see this article from


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Comment Winner!

We have a lucky comment winner who just won a $20 gift card to The School Box simply for commenting on one of the posts on A Learning Experience. Congrats, Sahara!

Original Comment: 

On post: “Best Teacher Organization Ideas, Part I”

Author: Sahara Jordan- Georgia


Wow! What a great idea! Now I can really organize that drawer full of supplies on my desk “that I thought was organized ” lol. I’m going shopping for a toolbox… thanks for the wonderful idea Elizabeth! I can’t wait for the other posts. :)


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Fostering Text-to-Life Connections through Common Summertime Activities – Part I

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Making connections between a text and a reader’s life is an important part of reading comprehension. The more a young reader is encouraged to relate a book to their own experiences, the better they’ll be able to access prior knowledge, make predictions, infer cause and effect relationships, and synthesize meaning. And, the more readers practice making connections, the more natural this critical reading skill will become.

So, why not use summer to practice making authentic text-to-life connections? It’s easy. Just pick a book and read it before, during, or after an activity with a similar theme. Before you begin reading and during reading, ask prompting questions like:

  • “Have you ever done this?”
  • “What was your favorite part about _____(fill in experience)___?”
  • “How do you feel when you’re ___(with Grandma, at the beach, camping, etc.)___?”
  • “How do you think the character is feeling now? How would you feel in this situation?”
  • “What did we do next when we were ____(experience)__? What do you think the character is going to do next?”

To get you started, here’s a list of books that foster connections with typical family summertime activities, like picnics and beach trips.

Summertime Activity:

Visiting grandparents! 

The books that connect to the activity:

Just Grandma and Me (Little Critter series), by Mercer Mayer.

Little Critter and his grandma spend an adventurous day at the beach together! Grandma, Grandpa and Me is another good Little Critter connection opportunity; in this book, Little Critter spends a day on his grandparents’ farm.

The Baranstein Bears and the Week at Grandma’s by Jan and Stan Baranstein. 

Brother and Sister worry about spending a week at Gran and Gramp’s house. By the end of the visit they’ve learned a lot from their lively grandparents–and the older bears have discovered how wonderful it is to be grandparents.

Grandpa Green, by Lane Smith

Grandpa Green was a farmboy and a kid with chickenpox and a soldier and, most of all, an artist. In this captivating new picture book, readers follow Grandpa Green’s great-grandson into a garden he created, a fantastic world where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten. 2012 Caldecott Honor winner.

Summertime Activity:

Going to the beach!

The books that connect to the activity:

Harry by the Sea, by Gene Zion.

Harry, our favorite dirty dog, takes a trip to the beach with his family. But, in true Harry fashion, he has a run-in with a large clump of seaweed that renders him unrecognizable by his family. Funny antics abound!

Curious George Goes to the Beach, by H. A. Rey

One hot summer day, George and the man with the yellow hat go to the beach. What fun George has at the beach! What fun he has feeding the seagulls! It’s fun, that is, until George must find a clever way to save the day.

Dolphins at Daybreak (Magic Treehouse Series), by Mary Pope Osborne. 

It’s sink or swim for Jack and Annie when the Magic Tree House whisks them off to the middle of the ocean. Luckily, they find a mini-submarine on a coral reef. Unluckily, they are about to meet a giant octopus and one very hungry shark. Will the dolphins save the day? Or are Jack and Annie doomed to be dinner?


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Testing made {much} better, Part II

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This is part two in a two-part series by Diane Burdick, M. Ed. For part one, click here. 

Ahhh, spring: swaying daffodils, refreshingly warm days, welcomed longer afternoons…and tests, tests, tests. Although standardized tests are extremely important, they shouldn’t strike fear or dread into the hearts of your students. Instead of hitting the all-panic button come testtime, help your student feel confident and prepared with these helpful hints.

Consider the Senses

Come test day, make sure your classroom is as sensory-friendly as possible.

Temperature: Adjust the temp so it’s not too warm or cold, and encourage students to bring a removable sweater or sweatshirt to regulate their own temp, as well.

Sound: If you have any overhead lights that buzz, try to get them fixed before testing (buzzing lights can particularly be distracting for students with learning and processing weaknesses). Refrain from playing any music during testing, even classical. While it may be great to play quiet melodies beforehand or during stretching breaks, any music at all may be very distracting to students…even if it’s calming (and even if research says it makes them smarter).

Sight: Between tests, encourage students to look up and look around, to give their bleary eyes a break from small type.

Stretching: Get up, stretch legs, reach for the ceiling…any small physical movements will help loosen the limbs and energize the brain between test sections. Another good activity: Have students stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Using their right hand, have them make large, figure-eight swoops in the air in front of them, straightening their arm out completely. Crossing the midline (middle of their bodies) with their arm in a coordinated motion causes the brain hemispheres to fire simultaneously– another good brain exercise. Then, switch arms.

Tips for Parents: Ensure your student has a distraction-free study area where he can dedicate himself to studying for the tests. Look for a study zone that has good lighting and is neither too light nor too dark. Monitor the temperature of the location too, wear appropriate clothing or adjust the temperature so that the student is neither too hot nor too cold. Select a comfortable spot with supplies on-hand, but be sure to take frequent breaks to give your student’s mind a rest. Let him stand up every once in a while and stretch to keep his body and mind attentive.

Fuel Up

Don’t let a growing tummy become a distraction on the big day of the test. Help students start their day out right with some healthy food, and perhaps provide a nut-free high-protein or complex carb snack during a testing break.

Tips for Parents: 

• Serve up scrambled eggs. They’re full choline and vitamin B, and have a boost of protein too.

• Feed ‘em fruit. Look for something high in fiber, such as apples to help sweeten the meal without adding artificial sugar.

• Mega multigrains. Instead of sweetened cereal, serve up high-fiber to you’re your kid’s brain working and tummy full. Look for cereals with whole grains, such as muesli-type or flakes without the artificial sweeteners. Top it with milk and some blue berries for extra boost of flavor antioxidants.

Then, grab some oj (high in folic acid and vitamin C) and toast to a happy, healthy test week!

For more testing resources, click here. 


Kanar, C. (2011). The confident student. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

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