What’s Going On? Summer Edition, Part 1

Sorry that the posts have been a bit few and far between these days, but I have been unusually busy with the actual business of parenting. My children are settling into their summer routine, which seems thus far to involve a lot of road trips with me behind the wheel. Here is a hodgepodge of items I’ve been meaning to post:

1. Terra Cotta Warriors: If you are in or near New York City, make a date to go with your sons to see the “Terra Cotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” exhibition at the Discovery Times Square Museum. The history of these soldiers is fascinating: before the 3rd century B.C., at age 13 Ying Zheng became the ruler of the Qin state in China. He spent the next few decades on an ambitious, ruthless and ultimately successful mission to dominate all of the other feuding states in north central China. Once in command of all of the states, he renamed himself “Qin Shihuangdi”, or First Emperor of Qin, which actually meant first emperor of China. To ensure that he would never be forgotten, he was buried in a vast tomb complex which included more than 8,000 life sized terra cotta soldiers designed to guard him in his tomb. He and his terra cotta army were discovered and unearthed in 1974 by a group of Chinese farmers as they tried to dig wells on their farmland. Thousands of these warriors have been reassembled and are on view in a museum at the site in China. Nine warriors, along with a host of other artifacts, are currently on display at Discovery Times Square.

The exhibition is dramatic, exciting, expensive ($68 for one adult and one child ticket with an audio guide–pricey, but much less than a trip to China), and a lot of fun. The warriors are clearly the stars of the exhibition and they do not disappoint, as they are remarkably intact and fierce looking. My soon-to-be 13-year-old son and I were fascinated by the story and thrilled to see the soldiers. Much younger children might not be as interested, but middle schoolers and up may love it. “Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” runs through Aug. 26 at Discovery Times Square, 226 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (866) 987-9692, discoverytsx.com.

2. Hello Maroon Tiger!: And now for something completely different, Hello Maroon Tiger! is a book for the youngest of readers about Maroon Tiger, Morehouse College’s mascot. This is the story of Maroon Tiger’s journey around campus and over to the stadium to root for the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers football team. It is published by Mascot Books, a company which specializes in books featuring mascots of many colleges and universities as well as professional sports teams. Significantly, this is the first time an Historically Black College has been invited to publish such a book. Written by recent Morehouse grad Earl Anthony Cooper (Class of 2011) and illustrated by Morehouse rising senior Chase McKesson, it is an adorable introduction to the campus. If you know any Morehouse grads with little ones, this is the perfect gift. Or if you are a Morehouse grad who wants to give your toddler son (or daughter) a taste of the Morehouse magic asap, this book is for you!

3. Khan Academy Video Parody: Since GCP has been following Khan Academy for some time now cheering on its efforts to offer students free on line tutorials in math, science and other topics, we’ve decided to allow its critics their say, especially when they offer constructive criticism. Two math teachers posted a video on You Tube of themselves watching a Khan Academy math video, pointing out a few mistakes and generally critiquing the way in which several points are taught. While apparently this has launched a fierce and fairly snarky debate in cyberspace about the pros, cons and value of Khan Academy (some teachers believe it is much ado about nothing), the more significant result is that days after this video was posted, Khan Academy took down the original video, posted two videos on the topic which incorporated some of their critiques, and sent a message to an education blogger Justin Reich (who linked to the parody) saying he appreciated the feedback. Inspired by this series of events, Reich and fellow blogger Dan Mayer are sponsoring, with the help of a few other contributors, a contest offering a total of $750 in prizes to the educators who can create the best (“fun and enriching”) video critiques of Khan Academy Videos. Not only may this contest provide valuable peer review for Khan Academy (and they are clearly paying attention), but it will give contest participants the valuable perspective of what it actually takes to create and post a thoughtful and informative video. Perhaps the sharpest critics will spend less time critiquing and more time creating videos of their own! The Huffington Post article about this can be found here.

4. Fun in the Summer Sun: Early Childhood News, an online resource for teachers and parents of young children (infants to age 8) features lots of good articles on its site, including Fun in the Summer Sun, found here, featuring weekly thematic summer activities for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children.

Hope you and your children are enjoying summer thus far. Let us know what interesting summertime projects you are up to!

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