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Learning Labs

Learning Labs

Date of the Event: May 28, 2020 | Ann Caspari (NASM), Dr. Seth Shaffer, and Mariela Puentes
Show Notes:

This webinar featured Ann Caspari from the National Air and Space Museum who brought to life the museum’s Flights of Fancy and demonstrated how their Learning Labs can be recreated at home. The webinar continued with the Question Corner with child psychologist Dr. Seth Shaffer and education expert Mariela Puentes.

Jen: [00:00:00] Great. I think we’re ready to get started. Okay. If you’re ready to start recording.

All right. I think we are live. Yes. It looks like it.

Yes. Fantastic. All right, good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to this week’s installation of The Family Room. My name is Jen. I am the Director of Programs at Turning the Page, Chicago and joined here by our collaborators at MAEC for this collaborative, Family Room webinar series. And ver...

Jen: [00:00:00] Great. I think we’re ready to get started. Okay. If you’re ready to start recording.

All right. I think we are live. Yes. It looks like it.

Yes. Fantastic. All right, good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to this week’s installation of The Family Room. My name is Jen. I am the Director of Programs at Turning the Page, Chicago and joined here by our collaborators at MAEC for this collaborative, Family Room webinar series. And very excited to be joined today by Ann Caspari from the National Air and Space Museum from the Smithsonian.

Welcome and welcome everybody who is in the room. So we’re so glad to have you all here. It’s going to be a great event today with lots of fantastic resources for the families at home during this unprecedented time. And I’m really excited about today’s topic because, air and space is such an interesting, timely thing.

Obviously air travel drastically impacted by COVID-19 and space travel, kind of carrying on. Space explorations on Mars are still going on. We actually just missed, yesterday Space-X was supposed to launch to the international space station and had to be delayed, but that’s happening on Saturday.

So there’s a lot going on. So as you are joining into our room, please feel free to share in the chat box, either in zoom or on the Facebook live stream, what’s your favorite planet or what’s your child’s favorite planet? And because I am speaking right now, I’m going to say that there are nine options.

I’m aware that it’s controversial, but I say Pluto counts. If you want to throw a Pluto in there, please feel free. So throw that into the chat box. and Mariela, maybe we can kick off with you. What’s your favorite planet?

Mariela: [00:02:24] Sure. so the moment you asked this question, I immediately went back to this little rhyme that I used to sing when I was little and it was in Spanish and it definitely still included Pluto.

And that was my favorite planet because it’s a fun word to say in Spanish, it’s called Plutón. So that is my favorite planet. So wonderful.

Jen: [00:02:45] We have one vote Pluto from Camille. Thank you. I appreciate that. I just like to root for the underdog as well, so thanks Mariela. So keep them coming as you’re coming in.

We’re excited to talk about flight and space and air today. As well as, as always, children’s mental health and education issues that are top of mind as we are all continuing this remote learning journey. So, also wanting to draw everybody’s attention, if this is your first time tuning in, make sure that you do check out our past Family Room webinar recordings.

The URL is at the bottom, So you can see there, the recordings of all the previous ones we’ve been hosting. Leave that up for one quick second.

And some topics that we have covered already are Parenting Resilience with Dr. Seth Shaffer, who is here today and every week, Building Peace in the Family, conflict resolution and, other tools with Little Friends for Peace and Exploring Your Genes with Carla Easter from NIH, she’s actually back next week, to revisit this topic.

So lots of great resources running the gamut of different topics that are really useful for parents and caretakers of children. Families, people going through all kinds of experiences right now, as we move through this global pandemic together and do our best to keep learning alive.

So The Family Room agenda for today, we’ll begin with this welcome. And then we will go into our top of mind section where we just spend a few minutes on what’s sort of happening right now? What are we, what are people thinking about? Worried about? Wanting to hear a little bit of, advice or wisdom on, so today it’s young children and social connections and I’m sure is resonating for a lot of people right now with kids feeling a little stir crazy.

We’ll, then move into our feature presentation, Flights of Fancy with Ann Caspari from Air and Space. And then we’ll move into the question corner again with child psychologist, doctor Seth Shaffer, and education specialist, Mariela Puentes from MAEC. And then we will wrap up, let you know what’s coming up next and move on.

So as always, you guys know the drill, mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. Use the Q and A feature to ask questions, or you can put them in the chat box. We’ll be monitoring both. If you’re watching on Facebook live welcome. Please use the comments chats in there as well, and you can choose to frame your own, here on zoom, or on video, whichever way works best for you. I’m going to pass it over to Mariela to introduce MAEC for us.

Mariela: [00:05:21] Sure. Thank you, Jen. And thank you again, everyone for joining us today in The Family Room. We were happy to continue being a part of this collaborative effort between MAEC and Turning the Page.

And part of this, like Jen mentioned, is to provide support to families as things on the ground are changing. So a little bit about M A E C or MAEC, we’re an educational nonprofit in Bethesda, Maryland founded in 1991. Dedicated to increasing access to a high quality education for culturally, linguistically and economically diverse learners.

Our vision is a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. And MAEC’s mission is to promote excellence and equity in education to achieve social justice. This is a great quote from MAEC’s president, Susan Shaffer. “Family engagement needs to be more than a series of random acts. It requires a systemic integrated and comprehensive approach to working with families and support a children’s learning.”

So who we are, CAFE, the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement center is a project of MAEC. We apply an equity lens to family engagement by building relationships along with schools, parents, and community organizations. We improve the development and academic achievement of all students.

We serve as a statewide family engagement center for Maryland and Pennsylvania and are funded through a federal Department of Education grant for statewide family engagement centers.

Jen: [00:06:54] Fantastic. Thanks Mariela. And Turning the Page, I’ll just say quickly about us. We link public schools, families, and our communities, so that together we can ensure students receive valuable educational resources and a high quality public education. And we do that specifically through engaging parents and guardians, and connecting them with their schools and with rich resources.

So right now, as with so many groups, we are engaging digitally hosting events like this one and working with parents one-on-one. To keep that learning happening, as well as it can be done at home. And you can check us out on our website as well. Of course.

So we are going to move to the top of mind section, and the question is about young children and social connections.

And so the question that we got, from a guest in a previous webinar was, other than zoom and FaceTime, what are some ways to keep kids, young kids, connected to their friends while school is out. So for this to Mariela and Dr. Shaffer.

What are your thoughts about ways that little kids who can’t necessarily, you know, can’t be going to school, can’t have play dates in the same way as, what are ways to increase those social connections? And of course the mental health benefits that come with them>

Dr. Shaffer: [00:08:13] Well, one of the things is, I looked up a statistic, a recent one that, most people in the U.S. have access to a smartphone. The majority of us do have that. And even if your child is pretty young or on the younger side I think, you know, something like FaceTime or zoom, it’s still pretty good. Even if it doesn’t feel to you, like it’s an actual virtual play-date. It’s still something good where each kid can see each other.

You obviously should be there holding the phone or facilitating, try not to have any expectations for that. You know, like, just let the kids be silly or whatever they do. It doesn’t have to be a specific length of time. I think it’s just good to kind of still keep that going. There are other things we can kind of get old school, you know, and a kid can draw a picture and then you, as the caregiver can kind that can be a teaching opportunity, teach a kid about what a letter is or picture and that we can mail it to them.

How you write the address, put the stamp on it, you know, et cetera. So you can go old school in that way. Also, you know, obviously doing this safely and just for like more public health guidelines, I would suggest that you, there’s actually a great link that Megan is going to post in the chat, on the website, which, goes state by state as far as local guidelines for public health.

It’s a fantastic little resource. So check that out. But if it’s safe and you’re comfortable, take your kid on a walk and do like all in quotes, walk by, you know, where you go, if there’s a neighbor nearby that you can walk to or an open space that’s safe, they can quickly, while, social distancing do a wave or a hi. It’s unrealistic that a three year old will be able to socially distance on his or her own. So you need to be facilitating that and be kind of hands on both literally and figuratively.

Another fun thing might be scheduled like some kind of, you know, movie night. Right where like you hop on zoom or FaceTime and then you all start a movie at each apartment or something at the same time. That might be fun.

Let’s see some kind of, you can urge family members and friends to send messages or short video clips to your child and you can play it for them or show up for them. And so those are just some of the things off the top of my head, Mariela. Did you have any other ideas for that? It’s a good question.

Mariela: [00:10:23] Yes. I have one other suggestion. I think one thing that you can do either for yourself as the adult, or for the child too, is to look through old memories with that child. Especially if they’re not in your household, send it to them, send a short message. Some way of still maintaining that connection and those experiences that you share together.

I think will help, young children feel connected to that special family member as well.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:10:50] Good one.

Jen: [00:10:51] Yeah. I’m actually just got a comment from a participant who said that they did a Google Duo nature walk today. So you have the data on your phone and it’s going to stay on video while you’re out in the woods. You can be outside together while separate.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:11:04] So just one quick comment about that comment. Thank you for commenting in the chat room, by the way. There are other ones that are, you know, we hear about FaceTime and zoom, but there’s Facebook messenger. A lot of people are using that. Obviously, you know, the caregiver should be the one kind of holding the control, or the dials. House party, which has an app that’s free. That might be geared more toward like older kids. Another question initially was about younger ones. You have WhatsApp, related to Google duo is Google Hangouts as well. Thanks for the chat. Thanks for the comment.

Jen: [00:11:34] Absolutely. All right, thanks so much guys for that. I know that’s a really important question that people are struggling with.

And as you look forward, into the summer, as we talked about last week, just wanting to get creative and give kids things to look forward to. And may feel like they’re still connecting with their peers, especially since now that this school year is ending those connections would be going away anyways.

So, thank you guys for those creative ideas. And if anybody has more, in the crowd, please do chat them in. Share the wisdom everybody thinks needs lots of good ideas these days. So it is now my pleasure to introduce our featured guest today Ann Caspari from the National Air and Space Museum.

Hi Ann, is a early childhood education specialist who works to develop the museum’s learning experiences for young children and their families.

You can see on the screen what it looks like in normal times. She also leads the professional development course in inquiry science for early childhood teachers in DC public schools. Which is super cool. Ann holds a master’s degree in museum education from the George Washington University and has more than 20 years of experience working in museums with school and family audiences.

And as a manager of museum programs for Smithsonian’s early enrichment center, she gave professional development seminars on museums and young children. Other museum work has included the National Building Museum and the Calvert Marine Museum. So Ann it is such a pleasure to have you here today. We know that the museum doors are closed and only a few people are actually inside them behind the scenes, keeping things working, but we are still feel that you are here in this room with us to bring the museum into everyone’s living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, wherever we find them today.

And we’re excited for you to share the offerings that you have been creating digitally for families to enjoy, which are multimedia and interdisciplinary and really fantastic. So I’m going to turn it over to you and thank you so much and welcome.

Ann: [00:13:30] Thank you so much for having me here today. I’ve been working at the National Air and Space Museum for about 10 years now and have really been missing doing the in person programming that we do, where we do our story times at a couple of times a week.

And we connect with the objects in the museum, read stories, which is what you can see me, it’s a couple of years ago, so you can see my hair has gotten a little bit grayer, but, we read stories that relate to the objects in the museum.

And then we do some craft time, that relate to it. So all of our story times that we have are more than just reading a book. And, when we started to think about how we were going to engage with families digitally, we wanted to think about doing that same kind of thing where we were not just, reading a book. And actually it was challenging because we are not able to read books because of copyright restrictions.

So we were thinking about taking all of the parts of the story time, except the book, and doing that in our digital presentations. So what we decided to create our, these flights of fancy story times. and that’s the name of our story time in person as well.

And we put them up in YouTube, but there’s a YouTube playlist on our, On our Air and Space, Museum’s YouTube channel. So it’s a playlist within that channel. And we are putting now up a new story every week, on Tuesdays. So we currently have three stories and, then next week we’ll have our fourth story. So we have one about what if the earth decided to stop spinning? Our second story is about Bessie Coleman, which is what you can see in the picture here.

And then, this week’s story is about, three friends, three high-flying friends. And they’re, it’s about three women pilots, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Dayton. So each of these we include historical pictures, photographs and images from our collection at the museum. And then we do the context in a very family friendly or child friendly way.

And it also includes these illustrations that are done by, I’m really, we’re blessed that our, my fellow museum educator at the museum, Diane Kidd is an award winning children’s illustrator. So they include these, illustrations that she’s created and they’re very, I think they’re lovely.

I wanted to mention that next week, our story time is going to be Pluto Secrets. So for those of you who said that Pluto was your favorite planet, we have a book that the National Air and Space museum actually wrote and published. And that will be our, probably our only published book that will be on there. Pluto’s Secret and it’s about Pluto. And, so look forward to that.

So our, but our stories, we include, in addition to these just like telling the stories in a narrative way, we include different kinds of storytelling techniques. Like looking closely at images, posing like a character that you see, in the image, that you see on the screen, or maybe some movement activities.

And, we thought that it would be fun to see, just to give it a little flavor of what one of the videos looks like. I’m going to show that to you today, just to give you an idea. So this one is the Storytime that’s about Bessie Coleman. So you could see me in my little spot here and we can go ahead and play that.

Jen: [00:17:13] Thank you. And I’ll just point out, I forgot to mention that if any questions that you have for Ann, please send them in the chat box in the Q and A while she’s presenting.

Video: [00:17:39] At that time airplanes were new and flying them was the greatest adventure Bessie could imagine. To learn to fly an airplane you need to go to a special flying school. Bessie had a hard time finding a school where she could learn to fly at that time. Most flying schools in the United States would not accept women or people of color. That made it…

Jen: [00:18:02] I’ll pause there.

I apologize. I think it might’ve been muted for the first part Ann I’m sorry,

Ann: [00:18:08] That’s okay. I encourage you, this is a great place to stop, although I don’t know if I can make that face. [laughs]

But we, it’s really, I hope that you will all go check out these stories on YouTube. So it’s really just me, telling the stories and using my kind of methods. And then at the end of the story, so that gives you an idea with the historical pictures.

Then also, Diane’s great illustrations. Then we have a little craft time and in the craft time, we have something very simple that you can make at home using things that you probably already have at home. So you’re not going to have to go running out to the store to try to get special materials.

It’s always things like paper towel tubes, and paper, and, you know, markers and crayons that you probably already have. That’s something that you can do to engage together, to just kind of extend the ideas of the story and play with them together. So we’ll can take a look at what craft time looks like on the show.

Video: [00:19:12] Craft time. Today, we’re going to make biplanes. I have this biplane that I made out of the paper towel tube. Or if you have a toilet paper tube, you can make a smaller biplane like this one. We’re going to use the paper towel tube today and the first thing that you need to do is gather your materials.

You’ll need a paper towel tube, about three pieces of paper, like this. You’ll need scissors and you need some tape. And you might want to have some different materials to decorate it, like crayons or markers.

Ann: [00:19:52] So you can see, that’s just really very simple materials. The thing about the opportunity to do crafts together is that it’s relaxing, it’s fun. And you can make it your own. And then the child can then take that craft and like this biplane, zoom it around and play like they’re the character in the story. And then you can sort of start to see how much they have thought about or learned from this story.

This, we share with you a video that was, a friend of the family, and, they just sent this along to me to show what, how they were reacting to the story.

And, so you can see also how the family has modified the craft a tiny bit. And added a propeller onto the plane, which obviously in the story, we showed the picture of model of the plane and it has a propeller. So they were very clever in adding their own propeller.

So take a look at this.

Video: [00:20:53]


And who flew this airplane? What’s her name?



Ann: [00:21:14] Great. So, our friend Steve’s have, you can see how joyful she is. She’s having a great time. I think that it’s important to remember, you know, to not, to be too stressed about the learning. That it should be very joyful. She is really enjoying it and the, you know, the caregiver is, oh, you know, wants to make sure she’s, you know, helping her to remember the name of Bessie Coleman. Whether she remembers her name or not, it would be great if she did, but mostly we can see that she’s really, really connected with the story and really thought that it was, you know, something that she wanted to play out.

So each of those kinds of opportunities for learning, gives you a different connection into the story. And she’s, this girl is five, so she has one connection. An older child might have a different connection with the story. But, this is the opportunity then with the craft time, create something that you can play out the story.

And then you can get a picture in your mind and see a little bit more about what about the story did the child connect to through their play. And we really think that play is an important part of learning for children that are this age that are five, three, four, five, six, and on.

So, that’s I think really what I wanted to talk about with this story. In addition, we have these learning labs on Smithsonian’s, have a resource called Smithsonian Learning Lab. And it’s a platform where you can, gather different collections of resources, from the Smithsonian or outside of the Smithsonian and put them together around the theme.

So, here in our learning lab, I’ve created learning labs along with each story that have images from the story, those, some of the drawings that Diane made also the historic images. So if you want it to freeze them and kind of take a look at them a little bit closer, also some other materials, like goggles, from a flyer, or an aviator.

And then, I also included some. some connections to resources outside, such as articles about ball play or balancing activities or different things that you can do that relate to sort of like how you can use the craft or what are some movement activities that might enhance the story and the play aspect of learning through the story.

So hopefully these resources will be something that families will really enjoy using now in this time and then after as well as you go along.

Jen: [00:23:49] Well thank you so much, Ann. Those are such fantastic resources and I, as I mentioned, I love that they are so interdisciplinary. And so multimodal, I know we’ve talked a lot about, needing the resource on the screen, meeting the content and the expertise that’s going to have to come from screens a lot of the time. But then taking that learning and applying it into some real in-person, kinesthetic, family-focused, fun, playful activities. Because we just, kids have to be kids, right.

We can’t be all staring at our screens like zombies all day. So, I think this is a fantastic slew of resources and I know there’s more coming out every week. So we’re really grateful for that. And thank you for sharing, sort of giving us a insight into what they can explore there.

Ann: [00:24:29] Yeah, these YouTube videos are they’re short, but they’re probably like each about seven minutes long.

So we didn’t want to show a whole one here during this time, but definitely they are available to everybody and you can go on and do them as many times as you want.

Jen: [00:24:47] Awesome. So we have a couple of questions coming in from our live listeners, which we love. Please send them in, keep them coming. We’re updating them as you send them.

And, we want to engage with everybody who’s at home. Ann is here for a moment from this fantastic museum. So shower her with questions. The first one that I’d love to, through to you Ann, is what about kids who might not have much of an interest in space yet? Do you have any recommendations for stories or activities or ways to sort of spark that curiosity about flight? About outer space? About the world beyond this planet?

Ann: [00:25:24] Yeah. the stories that, I mean, I think that you, you know, you’ve got to start wherever your interest is.

With our stories that we created, we actually did a few stories along with them, the Bessie Coleman we didn’t do this, but with the Earth’s Spin one and the Three Friends one, we have stories about some children, that are afterwards, so they’re like characters that we’ve kind of created. And that might be a way in, so it’s like, this story is, you know, might be this piece of, it might be what you’re more interested in. Or, you know, just thinking about like, some people might like rockets, but they might not like airplanes and any of that is fine.

Sometimes it’s just the colorfulness of, you know, the planets that people like. So there’s lots of different ways in.

Jen: [00:26:11] Fantastic. Yeah. And also again, a timely webinar, because if you want kids to get engaged to current events. There’s theoretically Space-X should be launching this Saturday.

I don’t know if anybody missed at the beginning, but they were supposed to launch yesterday and there were some stormy seas and they wanted the escape capsule to have a safe landing if it needed to end its mission in an emergency. So that’s happening on Saturday. So that might be a fun way, to the question asker.

We can throw that on live it’s on YouTube and NASA and lots of other places. So feel free to check that out. Ann another question about early children, and then maybe we’ll move into a quick question about the website itself.

We had a question about, how you introduce the concept of flight to kids who are under six? Like how do you explain flying? Besides that it’s magical and wonderful. Like it’s real. How do you explain that concept?

Ann: [00:26:59] The idea of like why things, how things can fly and how these very heavy things can go up in the air is really tricky. And I think it’s usually when I try to talk about it, I sort of break it down into different, chunks.

So at the Air and Space Museum, we have a website, another website, called how things fly. It’s aimed at a slightly older audience more of like upper elementary. But I think it still has a lot of things in that website that give you ideas about the four forces of flight and that it’s these forces working against the air. And that in order to fly, you have to overcome these forces that help to make it work.

And I don’t know, I mean, in a way it’s still magical to me. So even though it’s science, it’s like, it’s it’s amazing that it actually works.

Jen: [00:27:55] Very cool. Thank you for that. Yeah. I feel the same way. Every time I like watch an airplane in the sky. Like, I understand the physics here, but it’s still boggles the mind.

Which also might be a good answer to that earlier question about how to get kids interested. There’s fewer planes flying, but you can still see them and say, how do you think that’s happening? That thing weighs tons and tons.

So switching over to the resources that you shared today. one participant, thank you for your question, wanting to know if there are discussion questions that go in tandem with the videos? Or if that’s something we might look forward to? And also just suggestions and how to use the stories with kids. So if you could discuss that a little bit.

Ann: [00:28:36] You know, I don’t think I did create discussion questions. That’s a great idea. So maybe I’ll have to go back into my learning labs and add some discussion questions.

They’re kind of a little bit included in, like I sort of model the discussion, in a way. But maybe it would be a great idea to pull those out a little bit more obviously, and include those in for parents. So thanks for that idea. [laughs] Giving me more work to do though, I don’t know. [

Jen: [00:29:03] laughs]

We’re all collaborating here, right?

We’re just inventing. We’re building the plane as we fly it, as you might say. Fantastic.

So we have somebody these asking, we have a plan to create an instrument activity. Could you suggest a good book or historical figure and were any instruments taken into space? I think this might be about musical instruments. Do you know anything about that Ann?

Ann: [00:29:27] Musical instruments, some astronauts have taken musical instruments with them, when they’ve gone into space. And I believe you can find some information about that on NASA. And you know, if you just look up on NASA website, they have a lot of information about astronauts. And what they’ve done, like smaller instruments, not a piano. But, you know, they like to take things up to engage their minds and to play with. And music is one of the things definitely that, that people have taken.

I mean, there’s also other things like the record that was put on the Voyager spacecraft and sent out into space. So that, you know, if there is life out there, they encounter it, they’ll see, they’ll have an experience of some of the different kinds of amazing things that humans have created. And music is definitely one of those things.

So, there’s lots of different ways to go with that idea. Which I think is a really neat idea to explore.

Jen: [00:30:27] That’s a super cool. Yeah. I’ve also seen videos of the International Space Station and they have like exercise equipment that has to get like, and I’ll also get Velcroed to the wall because there’s no gravity, but definitely something you don’t think about much that could also be interesting to explore with your kids, you know?

You’re out in space for a long time. People are living their lives out there for months on end. Right? What is it like up there? What would you do if you were in space? There’s also really cool websites where you can check out NASA and others. You can watch the international space station from inside.

You can track where it is. It was orbiting over Russia an hour ago. I’m not sure how far it’s gotten since then, but lots of really cool ways to just sort of, explore the universe from your home.

But speaking of great ways to explore from your home, Ann there was also one last question I want to ask before we wrap up here. Any pro tips for navigating the learning lab? Because it is very chalk full of resources. There’s like a lot, a lot to get into. So from somebody who spends a lot of time there, do you have any best practices for like, if you’re a parent, this is where you want to start. Or this is how the guide it or better to do X or Y to make your way through those activities and resources.

Ann: [00:31:36] Yeah. Now, the museums ourselves, are making landing pages. So a lot of us are trying to make these landing pages that are sort of, the Air and Space Museums, Learning Labs, the African American History and Culture museum has a great landing page. And, some of the other museums are also starting to put those together.

And I think that that’s are a great way to start because they are collections that were created by the museums. Anybody could create a collection. So if you’re interested, you can go in there and, sort of, look around in there and you can favorite different images. So you can make your own little collections. And they don’t have to be published to other people, you can keep them just for yourself.

So if you wanted to sort of say, Oh, I want to make a collection of all sorts of things that are related to the sun. For instance, I recently did that and I just collected artworks and, images, you know, solar panels and, you know, ways we use the sun and it just, you know, so you can search on it and then, favorite those different things and create your collection that way.

But it is a little overwhelming cause it’s, pretty much like everything from the Smithsonian. So that’s a lot of stuff.

Jen: [00:32:50] A blessing and a curse, right? Yeah. I think that favorite aspect is really important because could easily lose track.

You know, it’s like trying to remember which layer the museum your favorite thing was. Right. So I think having that favorite is a great idea. And also just to remember that children more than adults really enjoy repetition. So it might be that that’s the favorite thing that your child wants to watch every week, or on repeat, and that’s great.

That’s more learning. So thank you for that little, pro guide through the learning labs.

Ann: [00:33:20] yeah, there’s one more resource on the learning lab and that’s a talk with me toolkit. That is a group of collections that are specifically for parents of young children. And that do give some discussion questions and some ideas about ways to engage with your kids.

And I would highly recommend looking for those.

Jen: [00:33:41] Fantastic. All right. Well, I hope everybody has a really fun time with Flights of Fancy, and the Smithsonian’s learning labs. And everything else in the world of air and space. There’s just tons to explore. And again, it’s all out in the cosmos where COVID-19 is not happening. So it’s really, you are exploring it in very similar ways as you might in a normal time.

So do enjoy that. And I just have to give a shout out, Ann’s videos are super interactive. They ask kids to walk around in orbit. They walk you through really simple art activities. It’s really a fantastic set of resources and there’s a new one coming every week.

So you, is that right Ann, and so you can look forward to every week, which is something nice to be like having something exciting to look forward to is really important right now as well.

So thank you so much to Ann Caspari from Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. We loved having you here and thank you everyone for your great questions. We really appreciate it.

So at this point, we are going to pivot to our question corner. So as returning guests might know every week, we spend some time, with Dr. Seth Shaffer. I’m sorry Seth I can’t get your S H’s.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:34:48] No worries Jen. You might need your second cup of coffee today though.

Jen: [00:34:52] Yes. I might need my ice coffee cause it’s getting warm.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:34:55] No worries. Ah okay.

Jen: [00:34:55] And Mariela Puentes, the, education expert from MAEC. And so today’s featured topic is young, children’s learning and development. And so we have a specific question for both of you, around young children’s learning and development. But everybody please do send in questions. We do really want to engage those of you who are watching right now.

So any questions you have about your children’s education, mental health, mental wellness, please send them our way and we’ll do our best to answer them live. We’re going to start with a question that came in on a recent webinar. Which asks, how do I keep my three year old focused on learning basic numbers, shapes, et cetera?

He has a lot of energy and seems to get bored quickly with activities. I can imagine parents out there being like, yes, they get bored quickly. Right? So at the same time, you know, there’s a lot of learning not happening in school. And the basic shapes and numbers are really fundamental right now. Dr. Shaffer and Mariella, what suggestions do you have for this question?

Dr. Shaffer: [00:36:01] Thank you. Oh, I just saw in the chat. Camille just wrote number hopscotch. That’s a great idea. And I was gonna mention something along those lines, which is to try and make learning fun and weave it into things that children enjoy doing.

First I’ll say that for a three year old, the younger, they are the, the shorter the intention span, generally speaking. So what I would encourage you to do, like this number hopscotch idea is weave in learning in fun ways and things that are happening normally in the household. So for example, like through play, right?

When you’re playing with your three year old, if they’re playing with blocks, you can model counting by saying, Oh, I have three blocks and you hold the blocks there. Right. Or you have two blocks and then you could even take it one step further. I mean, for three year old edition, a little above their pay grade, so to speak, but you could there’s no, there’s no harm in exposing it.

To be like, Oh, I put my two blocks or my three blocks with your two blocks. That makes five blocks. So I think through play, that’s a really good medium for kids to learn. You can point out shapes, that, you know, in the blocks or in the toys like, Oh, that stuffed animal has a round face, right.

Or if you’re going to be drawing with your child, you can be like, I’m going to draw, you know, a building, in the shape of a rectangle. And then you model it by drawing on your paper and then if your child begins doing it, you can point it out to them in the form of words, you’re drawing a rectangle. Nice job drawing a rectangle.

There also is a link that’s going to be posted in the chat room for what’s called PRIDE skills play. It’s part of this therapy that I do called PCIT, but this is a really good model. There it is, Megan posted it, thank you. You can click that link and this is a good way to model certain play skills you can use with your kid. And you can weave in some of the language I just offered as far as, you know, you’re playing with a square block that can help with learning.

The other thing I wanted to add, it’s slightly related to the earlier question at the beginning of the family series today about saying connected. Something that my six year old has been doing with some of his friends virtually, as we drop off like little packages, if you will, it could be household items.

I know Carmen in the chat mentioned, she liked the idea of saving paper towel rolls. So those can even be dropped off or you can save them. And if your child and another child can have similar items, even again, safe, household items, even cooking materials or things like that and each kid has them in their apartment or their home. When you do like a FaceTime thing, the kids can be doing a similar thing. And so that can be a way that the kids can stay connected. They can both draw also as another idea.

But in terms of development, you know, the other idea would be like, if your kid is having a snack, I’m giving you three Cheerios. Right. And you count it that way. Or, you know, when you’re washing hands, right. We want to do good hygiene practices, especially now, I’m going to wash my hands for 20 seconds and a three year old is not going to know what that means. Right. You’re probably holding their hands and with doing the soap part, but you can say 20 seconds mean singing happy birthday two times. And you start singing it.

So then they’re going to start to associate even in their young minds. I know I’m a little bit all over the place, but you know, it’s that kind of a day and we’re all gonna roll with it here, but I just wanted to hold up this book because, Ann maybe think of it in her awesome presentation, Rocket Science for Babies.

I don’t know that I like the latter part of the title. But this actually gives some language, if you can see the visual I’m holding it up on my screen, of how to explain lifts to kids. So what I like is it’s very simple language. Like the first one is a ball. This is a ball and then each page just kind of goes forward and adding, you know, different explanations for young children, like six or younger, probably definitely, to explain lift. And you know, science is math, right?

So I’m a huge proponent of literacy for children. It’s so important. And kids really can absorb a lot of information that way. So for that question, and then I’m rambling. So I’m going to pass the mic to Mariela for her to chime in. But, read to your kid every day, something like that, one Rocket Science for Babies, if you have it. Something like this Count a Block book, which has a really nice visuals, I’m holding it up on my screen, Count a Block book.

Dr. Seuss books are fantastic. This classic Ten Apples on Top again, I’m holding up for those, for tuning and all, you know, with just audio, it’s just Ten Apples on Top, Dr. Seuss. This involves counting, another way to weave it in.

And then for slightly older kids, maybe kindergarten, K through maybe fourth, something like that, My wife actually bought this for our kid. Maybe a library, a near by library has that. If they’re doing the rentals right now, Bedtime Math. So this one tells a story, which you can kind of model for your kid. It tells a story on one side of the page, it’s something exciting, like playing catch up, you know, and there’s a story about it. And there are different questions that involve math for each kid. So I could go on and on, but sorry, Mariela, do you have anything to add to that? I’m sure you do. You’re full of knowledge.

Mariela: [00:41:14] Thank you Seth. Yeah, so I do. So I think when I first think of this question, right, I think of two things. I think one of how do young children learn? And two, how do you help young children develop early math skills? So if you could go to the next slide, Jen, please. So the first thing to know, right with how children, young children, learn is that they’re full of energy and learn through play just like Seth mentioned, and they have a very short attention span.

So three year old might spend three to eight minutes working alone, but might get bored really easily if you’re reading aloud with somebody in that age group. You might only be able to get through a few pages, right? Like that’s normal, that’s expected. And you can do things to keep their interest, right?

Like reading in dramatic voices, or doing actions as you read along with them, might help them maintain interest a little bit longer. The other thing too, is that you can follow your child’s lead and let their curiosity guide learning and exploring. Because kids at that age really learn by doing hands on activities. You could. Maybe consider exploring outdoors, your backyard, a neighborhood walk.

You can also consider whether it’s like safe to access the outdoor space right now. And when you do so you can try to find numbers and letters in nature. And you can just explore what you see, hear and touch.

And you can try and go on different times and see if that changes what you come across. The other thing too, that sets the foundation for mathematical thinking is when you help your child develop abstract thinking through a pretend play. So for example, if your child is pretending to grocery shop, right, and they use a block or like a Lego or something to stand in for a piece of fruit, they’re learning that that’s abstract thinking, right, and in practice. And they’re learning that that object is standing in for something else, just like a number of standing in for a quantity.

And even with this pretend play grocery activity, you can have children write a grocery list, right. And accept any scribble that they sort of give you. And ask questions about what they’re sort of showing you on that piece of paper. Because through that they’re teaching you that print and letters have meaning just like they are with this abstract thinking and math. Right.

The other thing to consider too, as a young child world, especially right now, because of COVID right, is really centered on their family, and whoever’s in that household with them. So you might consider capitalizing on this and taking some time to practice social, emotional skills, that they would learn by interacting with other children, whether it’s in preschool or daycare or wherever, wherever else, they may see other children.

You can do this by taking turns. Pretend or imaginative play with them. And practicing navigating conflict and modeling what that looks like or how you model disagreements. If you go to the next slide, this is very much in line with what Seth shared, a bit a go as well. Where you’re thinking through math and learning through daily activities that you and your child would do together.

So it’s not an add on, it’s not something that you’re doing, maybe stressing yourself out about including, but it’s really helping your child see that math and learning is everywhere and that their curiosity can take them many places. So for example, you can count the number of crackers, they will eat. The number of people at the dinner table, the steps as you go up and down, you can point out shapes, numbers, colors you see around you as a play that’s children play, as a snack, as they explore the outdoors.

You can help your child represent numbers with real items or objects or symbols or pictures. For example, if you set the table for a meal for all family members, or all stuffed animal friends during a pretend meal with the correct number of cups, right? So three members, three cups, you’re teaching them that there’s this like, correspondence of this item, right, that’s like real, with this number that you’re saying.

If you’re thinking about one-to-one correspondence, I’m also thinking about the activity that Seth you shared with the little dots and the number on the page. But you can also say something like we can read two books together and let’s choose two books.

And yeah, that one. So you’re showing them right that this one little dot means this one, number two dots mean two numbers. And you can do that with, with real objects too, right? Like books or snacks.

And then the other thing too, is that you want to, help them count, sort the things that they might come across outdoors.

If you’re around young children, enough, you notice that they put tons of things in their pockets. Whether it’s acorns, little rocks, little sticks. Help them sort, those things by size, by shape, by color. And then you can also help them estimate like the sizes of things, right? What’s bigger, what’s smaller.

You can take the bigger cookie, for example, if you’re having snacks, And then also helping them develop number sense by counting up from one to 10 or one to 20, depending on where that child is. And then finally, practicing the shape of numbers and letters. You can do this outside on the dirt, on the sand.

You can do this indoors. If you want it to be maybe a little bit less messy with like shaving cream on a flat surface, but it’s really about just getting them to explore at this age.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:46:36] Keeping it fun, is so important. And your level of energy, like Mariela said is really important. Excitability and letting that come out in fun ways.

And you know, a way to really promote kids and inspire them and reinforce their desire for learning. Like Mariela, said so important to underscore this, is to follow their lead. The more that your child enjoys learning and enjoys these moments of learning, they’re going to want more.

Jen: [00:47:05] I love that. Thank you guys.

And I think what you’re really getting at too, is that, I think a lot of parents have fallen into more official teacher roles right now. And so there can be pressure to have like formalized learning opportunities. And just to remember that as always, parents are their children’s first and forever teachers, 24/7.

Right. So that, those learning moments, like so many of these amazing activities you guys suggested, just come up in the course of daily life. And don’t have to feel like they have outcomes that I could grade them on this. Right. But rather, we’re just continuing to build that understanding and exploration.

Thank you.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:47:37] Yeah.

Jen: [00:47:37] Mariela, do you want me to show the resources slide? Do you wanna talk to any of these before I move onto the next question, we had a live one that just came in and you can move backwards.

Mariela: [00:47:46] Yeah, sure. so with these resources, right? It’s a variety of things. One’s on like the impact of physical distance on young children. Things that are developmentally sort of within the range of three to four year olds. Stuff about attention span. And then the one thing I wanted to really point your attention to, if you’re thinking about early learning, and math at home, is the at home early math learning kit for families. It has very practical ideas that are quick and easy to talk about math and everyday routines, and snack time, cleaning up, counting together. Or cooking together, I’m sorry. And bedtime.

Jen: [00:48:25] Fantastic. And these resources and everything that comes up during the webinars always get sent out afterwards. So maybe also Seth you can share the names of the books and we can include links to where parents might get their hands on those, to make sure we access all this great stuff.

Fantastic. So we did have a question come in from a participant here, and I think we’ve sort of been working through this question of how to communicate and message about COVID with kids and it keeps shifting. As the nature of the virus and the pandemic changes, as the seasons change. So a participant in the room today asks, and this might be a question for now or one that we want to address next week.

And I just wanna throw it out to you guys with the nice weather coming I’m sitting here with this breeze coming in through my window. She says my, or he says, my kid is antsy to be outside the friends. How do I tell him that it’s still isn’t safe without scaring him? And with restaurants opening, lots of different things being messaged, different states that are doing different things. How do we message to kids what is safe, what it isn’t safe? And ways that they can hear and understand? And Seth, maybe you could start with this one?

Dr. Shaffer: [00:49:30] Yeah. And in the interest of time, we have like, you know, about eight minutes left in today’s family series. So if there’s more, I want to, I like to think about questions too, if there’s more I think of.

Or Mariela, if you wanted to chime in on more like Jen, like you said, we can come back to this great question. So I’m going to answer, I’m going to choose to answer this part, because it is kind of a loaded question. Because one of the things you want to think about when you’re responding to your kid is how old are they.

Like what’s the language that’s going to be easily understandable. So like for, you know, a younger child, if you’re, you know, keeping them at home, doing social distancing and maybe going on walks. But you’re not letting them like play with their kids physically in person. One response. Well, first of all, if your child asks you the question, you want to be sure to give the answer to the question that makes sense.

So you need to go on and on or extrapolate, but if you kid’s like, why can’t I go outside and play with my friends? For a young child, it might be like, well, because the coronavirus, you know, which is kind of like, you know, a bad cold, it’s still out there and we have to keep our distance or give each other space, right now, so that we can give doctors and scientists time to be able to come up with the medicine.

But there are things we can do fun at home. We can go on walks together and be safe and you kind of then pivot to some alternatives. So for maybe like, you know, elementary school aged, you can come with more facts, right? So this might be a good learning opportunity, and a way to connect with your kid. In the moment when a fourth grade is like, I want to go play with so and so, or can I do that?

You probably gonna need to address the emotion that they might feel like. I know you can say this with younger kids too. But if emotion comes out in your child, like they’re frustrated or bothered that they can’t do it, normalize it. I know that you’re frustrated that you can’t see your friend right now. I’m frustrated I can’t see my friends.

And I’m here to help you with that frustration. We can do something fun together. Maybe we can do a FaceTime play date later. But we still need to give scientists time to be able to come up with medicine before it’s going to be safe to play. So that would be more for elementary.

And if they have specific questions, like what is the Corona virus? How did it start? Those really those open up the discussion for like some kind of a research, you know, it’s not an air quotes, it is research where you do research with your kid. You know, I would suggest that you do it first on your own and find some resources.

And if you need help, let us know. We can help you guide you with that, you know, MAEC, TTP. But then you, and here’s some resources on this page. Thanks, Jen. You know, be you answer those questions.

High school, you know, is probably going to be more tricky because developmentally high schoolers are usually in the process of forming their own independence. And they may not want anything to do with you as the caregiver. Right. They want their own space. They want their own privacy.

And so when they ask, Hey, can I go hang out with so and so you might need to be firm with them initially, like, No. Right. But I’m here to talk with you about what’s okay in our family. And you have a dialogue with them.

That should be, it’s important for that population, I think to feel, I mean, with every kid, but particularly teenagers to feel respected and feel heard. And so to sit down with them and be like, I’m here to talk about it with you, right. And come up with some kind of compromise that the caregiver ultimately gets to decide. Right. But you know, you have that conversation.

So I hope, that’s a really great question. I hope that those little kind of tidbits there that are offered there are helpful. Mariela, did you want to add something to that?

Mariela: [00:53:08] I think the only other thing I might add is if children are not understanding like how germs spread or like how contagious this could be, there are tons of activities online, show you, in a very interactive way. Like how quickly germs spread. I’ll make sure to link a resource in the webinar recording when that goes out to everyone. That can sort of help you model that with your child. If that’s appropriate.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:53:37] That’s a good one. Yeah. And then I think we’re probably Jen you’re the MC here, so you’ll take the lead. But one last thing, cause this came up last week during the family series and I wanted to address it. There was a question about what do I do with my kids during summer, right? Schools are now sometimes out or they’re going to be out very soon. And I showed an example. I gave an example of a link for Washington, DC, where there was a link.

I did a Google search. There was a link for like virtual summer camps, for example, that were offered for DC. So what I would suggest you do is do a Google search, or if your we’re working at a nonprofit or you’re out of school and tuned into this family series, you can maybe if you have time and that’s, or that’s what you do, you do some research yourself and then give that to the families.

But there are parenting websites, that are local to each city, or each state. And so I wanted to just mention that, that last thing.

Jen: [00:54:32] Absolutely. I’ve heard from lots of different partners who are beginning to develop their virtual camps and virtual summer offerings with an eye toward, you know, making this more summer oriented, not just, it’s not going to feel like school again, right.

Even though you might not be in person together. So thank you both so much for those questions. We are coming up on our time here. So we’ll wrap up question corner for today. But thank you to those of you who sent in your thoughtful questions. Please do keep them coming. We’re here every week to answer them.

And, of course, you’ve got the resources on the screen that we always pulled it for everybody. And I’ll just turn it over to Mariela to also share quickly ways to connect with us in between webinars.

Mariela: [00:55:11] Sure. Thank you, Jen. So there are a few ways that you can connect with us. One is to look at up to date COVID-19 information, that MAEC, we have compiled on our website.

You have very specific state resources around unemployment, access to food. Many other resources on our website that you can check out. The other way to connect with us is to sign up for our newsletter Learning at Home. it goes out every Tuesday and again, is a partnership between MAEC and Turning the Page.

And then related to our newsletter, one of the segments, in our newsletter is called Voices from the Community. And so the question for this week, is what kind of support and from whom could you use right now? And so we ask you to submit your words, artworks, scan letters to be included in our weekly newsletter answering this question.

Snd, I think for us, right, we really want to know what is it that you as a parent or family member or student, educator, whatever your role is and how you might identify in that role, need help with right now or support. And you can go ahead and respond to us using the link on the form or in the chat box as we’re wrapping up.

Jen: [00:56:29] Fantastic. Thanks, Mariela. So, just wanted to give a quick overview of The Family Room for those of you who this might be your first time here. I’m just wanting to let you know what to expect every week. Just like you experienced today. We’ll welcome and do some introductions, talk about our favorite planets or something similar.

And then we will have our featured guests for the week. And then the question corner, with Dr. Shaffer and Mariela about mental health and education during COVID. And, let me, we’ll wrap up and talk about what’s coming next. So please do join us every Thursday at three Eastern, two central.

Upcoming, ones to look forward to. So mark your calendar next week, Carla Easter is back. She shared an exploring our genes activity. And we’ll send that out again so that everybody can do the fun trait tree activity, and figure out which traits you all have in your family. Hitchhiker’s thumbs or not, are your earlobes attached or not. Right.

So feel free to do that activity with your family. It’s a great way to introduce them to genetics. And she’ll be back next week to discuss what we’ve learned. The week after Thursday, June 11th, Tiffany McGettigan from the Hirshhorn Museum, will be here to talk about art at home. Ann’s giving an enthusiastic thumbs up.

And with the specific lens on how to help the parents feel more confident. You’re leading art projects at home, sometimes that can feel a little intimidating if you’re like, I’m not an artist. And ways to use crafts to sooth and build mental health and cope. As well as just some really great activities in general.

So these are really wonderful programs we have coming up. Please do join us. We love having you all here. We love to have your questions> Please do take a picture, zoom in and take a picture, of the survey for today’s events. And, keep sending your questions via the newsletter or any other way. You can find us on our websites.

Thank you so much. Ann Caspari from the Air and Space Museum. We love those resources. Thank you, Dr. Shaffer and Mariela. And thank everybody for joining. Have a great rest of your Thursday and your weekend. We’ll see you next week.

Dr. Shaffer: [00:58:30] Bye everyone.

Mariela: [00:58:31] Bye, bye.



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