Thursday, October 29, 2009

Letter to Future Representative Written with Port Leyden's Fifth Graders

Recently I've been teaching a video conferencing series, "A Kid's Guide to US Government" (Parts 1, 2, and 3) to fifth graders in Port Leyden, NY. I actually taught Port Leyden's fifth graders last year, and it was a fun experience to be reunited with the new fifth graders! Every year, New York fifth graders take a state social studies test, which I found upon reading to be not only informational and interesting but also much higher in its level and caliber than its counterpart, the WASL, in Washington State. Ah well--we can hope for a better new standardized test; they are replacing the WASL.

As part of my presentations, I taught about citizenship and ways for citizens to influence government, such as writing a letter to their representative. Port Leyden currently has a vacant representative seat but there will soon be an election for that area. This is the letter we wrote for the "future representative."


Dear _________,

Imagine this: you’re walking in the lovely, bucolic foothills of the Adirondack Mountains when you feel something hot and burning hit your shoe. You yelp and jump up—only to see that the culprit is a smoldering cigarette butt. Would you like this? We are writing today about an issue that we find very important—the amount of non-smoking areas in Port Leyden.

Think if the cigarette had gone any further. We’ve seen in history that carelessly discarded cigarettes can start wildfires, like the Great Yellowstone fire and others. Do you want this to happen in your state?

What’s more, cigarettes left on sidewalks and in nature areas are an eyesore. Littering takes away from the beauty of nature around you.

What’s more, seeing smokers can negatively influence teenagers to take up the unhealthy habit and start smoking. We’ve seen similar effects in movies and TV long ago; back then, the people took action. Why not now?

Most importantly, secondhand smoke can be very damaging to children’s lungs and has been linked to an increased chance for lung cancer. Help the population of Port Leyden stay healthy—and smoke-free. Create more non-smoking areas.


Port Leyden Fifth Grade Class

Monday, October 26, 2009

Descriptive Passages Written with Fourth Graders Through Video Conferencing

Bob was a tiny, brown, furry gopher with proportionally huge claws (his mother always complained about his inability to trim his claws) and a selfish attitude toward his toys, which were made out of fine wood chips and premium dirt. He liked his toys because they felt hard and rough, with lots of bumps he could file his claws on.

It was a gloomy, wet and soggy Tuesday when Bob scurried out of his burrow into an open
field. He could hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. It was muggy and some of the other burrows smelled moldy. Bob felt sleepy; rain had always had a soporific effect on him. "I think I shall take a little nap," he sighed, and dove into his burrow--just in the nick of time, as
a giant lightning bolt struck from above.


The tree house we recently built is
baby blue. It was as huge as a mansion,
with dark and gloomy shadows playing off
on the rust on the walls. Of course, this was
our Halloween theme; usually, the tree house
is bright and cheery, with lots of windows open
to let in the sunlight and the noise of
birds chirping, squirrels chattering, owls
"ooing" and the wind whistling. 

The tree house used to smell like dead
mice but, with some air freshener and
a thorough volunteer mice removal and
relocation program, it smells fresh again.
There's a mini-fridge with Jolly Ranchers,
Snickers, Kit-Kats, soda, orange juice, and
root beer. However, there is another
mini-fridge right next to this that contains
all sorts of health foods. The mini-fridge
with candy contains double locks and a timing
program that carefully monitors all input
and output from the fridge. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On the Redesign of CNN

CNN has recently redesigned its homepage. Now, instead of seeing the CNN logo in the left-hand corner of your screen, you're visually assaulted by a mammoth red banner with a bold CNN logo in the center. It's impossible not to see it, which is probably CNN's purpose, but it also makes everything else look small in comparison.

Another thing, besides the smallness, that I noticed on the new homepage is the divisiveness--or should I say the division-ness? It seems like there are more separators--bars or lines--that divide modules on the screen. Whether the point was to make things more clear, or to emphasize differences between modules, I'm not sure.

Finally, as has happened with CNN design changes in the past, not all parts of the website have been completely changed. If you check out some other sections, you'll still see the familiar logo in the corner, not the giant red banner, and you will see the same navigation bar. However, video has been integrated more thoroughly with articles, and the player, in my opinion, is sleeker and less clunky.

What do you think? Check out the CNN website. And here's my "Question of the Week (or whatever Period of Time That Suits me Therof)": Has a website you go to frequently changed its design, and if so, how? Do you like the change? Why or why not? Write your answer in the comments section if you dare. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Story Written with Video Conferencing Third Graders

Character List:
Bob the Brontosaurus—main character
Charlie the Triceratops—enemy
Supermonkey!  (Bob)
Billy the Cat (Charlie)
Setting: Ashland Elementary
Conflict: Bob has the brightest colors; Charlie is arguing.
     It was a hot day at Ashland Elementary on Wednesday. Bob the brontosaurus was finishing up a lunch of leaves and salad with a tiny dollop of dressing (he couldn’t eat too much or else his cholesterol would rise) when Charlie the triceratops swaggered into the room.
     “Hey, what kind of lunch is Bob having?” he demanded. “Haha. You can’t even finish off a whole bowl of dressing like I can.”  
     “You shouldn’t eat a whole bowl of dressing, Charlie, that’s gross,” Bob said.
     “Oh, come on. You’re the gross one. You’re always eating salad without much dressing, and wearing dull colors—hey, wait a second.” Charlie inspected Bob with wide, surprised eyes.
     “What! You’re wearing bright colors!”
     “Brighter colors than you, that’s for sure,” Bob’s best friend, Supermonkey, chimed in. “Brighter head, too.”
     “Quiet, Supermonkey,” Charlie’s friend, Billy the Cat, hissed, his fur standing on end. Supermonkey and Billy had a rivalry of their own.
     “This can’t be happening!” Charlie said, stomping his huge, tree-trunk like legs. “I am the paragon of fashion for all! You can’t outshine me! Desist, at once!”
     “Resist, at once,” Supermonkey said to Bob.
     “Stop the smart mouth,” Charlie said, lunging toward Supermonkey. But Supermonkey was too fast for Charlie. He leapt up into the air, and using his rope-like tail, he coiled himself around the spinning fan on the ceiling. At just the right moment, when Charlie was about to grab Bob, he let go of the fan with a great “Hi-yaaaa!” (in monkey terms) and landed right in Charlie’s face (if you could call it a face). By the time they were done, Bob had managed to escape. Of course, everyone had forgotten about Billy the Cat.
     Billy snuck off into the distance and prepared himself for a vicious fight. Dashing at great speed, he launched himself at Supermonkey, his claws extended—and that was when the principal came in.  

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Short Passage Written with Kentucky Video Conferencing Students

It was an exceptionally warm day in the city of Anthalantern, Ipsnot. Inside the Anthalantern Elementary School, a big argument was going on--about uniforms.

"We should definitely wear uniforms!" Sandy said vehemently. "It makes everybody look neater and cleaner, and it makes our school look better!"

"Actually, a uniform could get worn out pretty fast," her sister, Addie, retorted.

"Come on, I thought you were on my side," Sandy said, sounding discouraged.

"Was on your side. Past tense," Addie said flatly. "How do you like our new campaign banner?" she smirked, holding up a giant banner that was five feet long. In fact, she nearly fell over--it was so heavy, being covered with gold leaf, copper wire, and stainless steel lettering. It said, "No Uniforms--Keep Freedom of Dress!"

"Uh-oh," said Sandy.

Monday, October 05, 2009

What Ever Happened to the Walkie-Talkie?

I know that this question is decidedly random, but I came across the question when I was reminiscing to my family vacation and playing with my cousin, whose family is lucky enough to own a pair of walkie-talkies. Once my sister and I possessed the delightful transmission devices, but battery ran out, and my mother--who is a famous miser when it comes to batteries--declined to replace them. Since then, one pair has gotten lost and I'm sure another's buttons have been broken off.

Putting the personal issue of the decline of our own walkie-talkies aside, I was curious as to what ever happened to walkie-talkies in general. I hardly ever see them in public--I see people on cell-phones instead. While this is understandable--after all, walkie-talkies can only go a certain distance, can have battery issues, shaky transmission, and you have to press off to let the other person talk. But there's something wonderfuly Park Ranger-esque about the walkie-talkie, and (just like park rangers), I hope that they will still be around when my descendants walk the earth.

Over and out.