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Fourth of July Education for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Most American families are familiar with the festivities of Independence Day. In fact, 63% of people attend a fireworks display and 76% get together with family. With the busyness of the day, it's easy to forget to discuss the symbolism behind the day, especially with young children who don't yet understand.

This time of year is perfect for a history lesson teaching kids the meaning behind July 4th and why we celebrate the day. The information in this blog post should help get you started. As an added bonus, view the instructographic below for a fun activity you can use during your Independence Day celebrations.

The Declaration of Independence

Before the first Fourth of July, five men (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson) were tasked with writing a document explaining why America was declaring its independence from the British. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft, and the first version was officially signed and adopted on July 4, 1776.

In the document, which still exists today, the 13 original colonies explained why they wanted to be free from the British. The document listed all of the bad acts the British king had committed against the colonies and made clear what the colonies felt their rights were, including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It was with this document that the United States officially became free.

The Liberty Bell

After the Declaration of Independence was signed ...

Celebrating Virtual School Student Volunteers

By: Beth Werrell
Celebrating Online Student Volunteers
"Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
—Dr. Seuss

They've rescued aging greyhounds, restored local ecosystems, supported our veterans, comforted the homeless, and fed the hungry. From Ohio to California, Connections Academy student volunteers spent countless hours this year supporting causes that touched their hearts and communities.

In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 10–16), we are sharing a few of their stories using #CheersforCAVolunteers and are inviting you to raise a collective cheer for all our student volunteers.

Protecting the Powerless

For many Connections Academy students, loving animals simply isn't enough. With creativity, kindness, and even construction skills, they're also protecting animals from neglect and abuse.

  • When allergies prevented her from volunteering at a local dog shelter, Ohio Connections Academy (OCA) eighth-grader volunteer Jessica Nichols found another way to help. Launching Madison Pride for Pups, she sold bracelets with local school colors every weekend during football season to raise funds for the shelter.

  • Katherine Withington, another OCA eighth-grader, exercised and cared for abused horses at the Angel Haven Horse Rescue. She also shared her skills and caring spirit with younger children as a volunteer counselor at horse camps.

  • Arizona Connections Academy (ACA) student Thomas Szczepaniak wanted to help shelter animals stay cool during hot Arizona summers. So he spent six months gathering materials, equipment, and skilled volunteers to construct a new shade structure at the Town of Parker/La Paz County Animal Shelter. His hard work helped him attain the ...

Online School Connections: 4 Ways Students Collaborate

By: Stephanie Osorno
Students Collaborate in Online School

Just as students in a traditional bricks-and-mortar school do, online school students have many opportunities to interact, share ideas, and develop friendships with classmates. Even though online school does not take place in a physical classroom, students are often encouraged to collaborate and communicate through engaging virtual platforms—and even some in-person events.

Online school can be a great way for your student to connect with peers from all over the state! If you would like to learn more about virtual learning, take a look at some of the ways that online students regularly work together.

  1. Real-time online classrooms
  2. Many online teachers use real-time online classrooms for interactive lessons and projects. At Connections Academy® online public schools, they are known as LiveLesson® sessions. During the session, students can have group discussions through chat pods, ask questions, hear—and sometimes even see—the teacher and other students through a webcam, and view presentations. Not only is it educational and informative, but it is also a fun way for students to get to know each other!

  1. Online clubs and activities
  2. A high-quality virtual school will usually offer a wide range of online clubs and activities such as a book club, music club, and sports club. By participating, students get the chance to interact with peers who have the same interests and hobbies. These clubs often help students form a community, and also help to strengthen their leadership and collaborative skills.

  1. Specialized online programs
  2. Aside from online clubs and activities, Connections Academy offers specialized academic programs ...

Life Lessons: Teaching Kids to Manage a Bank Account

By: Beth Werrell

Is your child ready for his or her own bank account? A savings account can offer your child a little extra savings in interest as well as added responsibility, so if you hadn't considered opening one with your child yet, this may be a good time to start researching your options.

Before opening a bank account, consider teaching your child about financial responsibility and trying some exercises that can measure how well your child understands budgeting. To kick off this lesson, take a look at the budgeting and financial responsibility worksheet below.

Once your child has completed the activities and has a good grasp of financial literacy, you may want to start considering his or her bank account options.

What to Look for in an Account

You're going to want to do your research before opening a bank account for your child. But do you know what to look for?

Consider a savings account. When your child is in his or her late teens and is making bigger purchases, a checking account may be appropriate. But until then, why not think about opening an account that compounds a little interest and teaches the value of saving?

Accounts with no minimum balance or maintenance fees can be a favorable option, whether your child can make the minimum balance or not. The goal is to teach your child that saving money is a good thing, so having fees and ...

A Lesson in Observation with Animal Tracking

By: Beth Werrell

Do your children ever play spy or detective, or maybe veterinarian? Whether your kids have an interest in detective work or animals, or if they just love any excuse to get outside, animal tracking can be a great lesson in observation.

Before you head off on your tracking adventure, download the animal tracking guide below for animal tracking tips, as well as pictures and descriptions of common animal prints across the United States.

Where to Start

Tracks made in softer earth are typically more distinct and easy to identify, so look for spots with:

  • New snow
  • Mud
  • Wet sand

However, if you don't have any land in your area that fits the ideal terrain for animal tracking, remember that there are other signs of animal activity, such as fur and feathers, broken or gnawed branches and tree trunks, scat, and more. Encourage your child to be aware of his or her surroundings and to look for signs of life beyond prints.

When to Start

It's typically easiest to track prints in the early morning or late afternoon, as the sun will cast a shadow inside of the grooves of each print and make them easier to see.

The time of year for print tracking does not matter as much as the weather and environment you and your child will be tracking in. As mentioned above, tracks made in new snow or mud are easier to see and identify, so winter ...

Show Your Support for Computer Science in Schools

By: Beth Werrell
Support Computer Science Education

In honor of the Maryland campaign #GivingCodeDay, which helps fund a quality computer science education, we've put together some resources to help parents across the nation support computing in schools.

Why Computer Science?

By 2020, there will be 1 million more computer-science-related jobs. This is more jobs than graduating students will be qualified to fill. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, only 58 percent of students in grades K–12 attend schools that have classes solely dedicated to computer science.

Computer science helps students develop critical-thinking skills alongside creativity. Teaching students computer fundamentals can create a solid foundation for future education and career paths.

About 91 percent of parents in the same Gallup survey said they would like to see their children learning more computer science in the future. If you consider yourself part of that group of parents, you can help! Take a look at the ideas below to get started in your active support for more computer science learning.

Become a Computer Science Education Advocate
  1. Join an Hour of Code, which offers basic computer science tutorials around the world, during Computer Science Education Week in December. Raise awareness for coding education by organizing an event at your child's school or in your community, signing up to teach a one-hour introduction to computer science, or encouraging your child to participate in an Hour of Code event.

  2. Volunteer for Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), which pairs high school teachers with professionals to build a viable ...

Gratitude Journal Prompts and Writing Worksheets for Thanksgiving

By: Beth Werrell

Expressing thankfulness can be hard for young children, but having them write down their thoughts and emotions can allow them time to process and organize ideas. Journaling is a simple way to encourage your child to think about what is important to him or her and what he or she is grateful for. Today we will provide you with some simple tools, namely writing prompts and a printable writing worksheet, to get your kids past the blank page.

First, download and print out our worksheet with simple writing activities, and then use the journal prompts we’ve provided below to get your child thinking about what he or she is thankful for.

Quick Writing Tips for Kids

Now your child can get journaling! Don’t have a journal? If you are feeling crafty, make your own homemade journal together in just a few simple steps. Here are some quick tips for writing journals:

Don’t be afraid to break the rules while journaling. This is your child’s time to learn and express him- or herself.

Write what’s on your mind and don’t silence yourself. Journaling should encourage students to reflect on their feelings without reserve.

Be creative. If your child feels like drawing a picture or writing a poem to accompany his or her journal entry, that’s great!

Accept that you will make mistakes. Have your child focus on expressing his or her feelings. If he or she makes grammar or spelling mistakes, these can ...

7 Quick Astronomy Questions and Answers for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Astronomy is the study of celestial objects outside of our planet's atmosphere. It can be a great subject to explore with your child and help pique his or her interest in space exploration and science. To help you get the discussion started, ask your child a few questions about our galaxy. We've provided the answers below!

You can use our constellation projector craft as a fun way to illustrate the astronomy lesson.

Download and print the constellation templates, and then click the link below to create your own star projector with your child.

A Constellation Question-and-Answer Session
  1. What is a star?
    Stars are formed from clusters of gas and dust, which give off heat and light.

  2. Why are some stars different colors?
    The different colors of stars indicate how much heat a star gives off.
    • Red stars are the coolest of the stars.
    • Yellow stars, like our sun, are medium-heat stars.
    • White and blue stars are the hottest.
  3. How large is our sun?
    Our sun is referred to as a "dwarf star," which, in comparison to "giants" and "supergiants," is a very small star. It appears larger than the rest because it is so close to our planet.

  4. How many stars can we see?
    On a clear night, and with very good eyesight, a person may only be able to see 2,000 to 2,500 stars at one time, even though it may look like more.

  5. What is a ...

20 Technology Trivia Questions for Tech-Savvy Students

By: Beth Werrell

Growing up in the era of tablets, smartphones, GPS's, and self-parking cars, today's students seem to grasp technology intuitively. In fact, when it comes to technology, many kids are more advanced than their parents! But although they may master the latest gaming device with ease, how much do they know about the origins of modern technology? To find out, challenge your student with this week's Quiz Bowl trivia contest!

Seeing parents join in a spirited trivia competition will reinforce to your student that learning can be fun—and a lifelong pastime. Why not get the whole family involved and make it a team challenge? While your kids are showing off their knowledge of technology and having a blast, they'll also be absorbing new information. Or save the quiz to break up the boredom of a long car trip.

To add trivia to your next journey or family fun night, download the printable version of the Technology Quiz Bowl now.

Quiz Bowl is just one of the wide variety of online clubs and activities that Connections Academy students can enjoy. By participating, students gain opportunities to explore their personal interests and to connect with other students across the country who share those interests. Choices include something for everyone, with clubs for students who are interested in theater, arts, sports, robotics, science, college planning, and much more.

Integrating trivia quizzes and friendly competition into your family activities not only reinforces what your child has learned, ...

Staycation and DIY Summer Camp Ideas

By: Beth Werrell
Staycation and at-Home Summer Camp Ideas

Sending your child to summer camp can be expensive and may cut into his or her summer schedule. Find the right balance with the summer learning pyramid and gather ideas from the list below to create your own "staycation" and at-home summer camp experiences, which can be shaped around your family's agenda.

Summer Camp Activities at Home

It's summer! Take advantage of the weather and get active with outdoor games and activities, like water balloon tosses, tug-of-war competitions, and scavenger hunts. You can also encourage your child to find a sport he or she likes and practice with you in the backyard. Set up a volleyball net, grab a soccer ball, or throw a baseball back and forth.

Get creative with movie nights by hosting a backyard theater. Set up a "drive-in" movie by situating your car to face the garage and projecting a movie on the garage door or on a white sheet on the side of your house. Host a sleepover with your child and his or her friends and have them select a movie. Provide snack ideas, such as "ants on a log" or caramel popcorn, or have each child create his or her own trail mix snack bags.

Keep learning alive this summer with learning activities your child can have fun with. Create a tree guide or an animal guide and take your child to the park so he or she can observe nature. You can also sign the family up for a ...

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