Mad Libs Poetry Session This Saturday, May 18

What is a Mad Libs Poetry Session?

How about writing poetry with a host of professional poets currently on tour throughout the state? Here are the details:

Sat. May 18 | 11:30am – 1pm | Ann Arbor

“Mad Libs” Poetry Session

with the Made In Michigan Writers Series poets & 826Michigan

Ann Arbor District Library Downtown

343 S 5th Ave

·       Attendees will team up with their favorite authors to create a one-of-a-kind poem, incorporating random elements at certain points along the way.  Like a Mad Lib, but in reverse!

·       Great for groups of adults and families

·       Featuring poets Chris Dombrowski, Francine harris, M.L. Liebler, Jack Ridl, and Keith Taylor


In Praise of Visual Memory

child Head.Children Learn to think

We complain quite a bit about our ability to remember. With this in mind, it is astonishing to reflect on how powerful our memory really is. Let’s consider visual memory. In one recent study, people were shown 2,500 different images, then later asked to identify the original images when placed beside very similar images. For example, they may have seen an image of a backpack. then had to identify which of two similar backpacks they saw. The survey participants correctly picked out  88% of the original images. (Brady, Konkle, Alvarez, and Oliva (2008))

That is amazing.

We are amazing.

Have any questions about human memory? Let me know.


Winter Woody Plant Experiment

It is winter, but there is no snow. What is a kid to do? Well, you can go outside and learn a thing or two about woody plants.  Just around the yard you might find maple branches, green elm branches, Rose of Sharon branches, lilac bush branches, to name a few. On a typical branch you will find lots of knicks and bumps. Some of these are scars that formed when a leaf dropped off the twig. The scars that completely encircle the twig and are rough and bumpy are called terminal bud scale scars. The distance between two terminal bud scale scars equals one year’s growth for the plant. The longer the distance between two bud scars, the more growth occurred in that year.

Most woody plants in northern climates need a certain number of weeks of deep-chill time. If the weather is too warm over the winter, they may not be able to bloom in spring. If you take a cutting of one of the younger twigs on a plant, put it in a mason jar with water, then stick it on a south-facing window, you will be able to test-out whether it has had enough cold weather or not.

Try this  experiment with a few cuttings of different plants.  Do they all bloom? Do any of them bloom? How long does it take?

Write back to me and let me know.

For more information, take a look at the following website. It is easy to understand and very educational.

Cool Science Project Using A Milk Jug and Water

According to Stephen Hawking, around 450 B.C. the Greek thinker  Empedocles made the first step towards the discovery of air.  Empedocles observed people using an odd ladle-like device. The device was round like a ball, but had holes in the bottom and a straw-like neck at the top. If the device was dunked in water, the ball portion would fill with water. More importantly, he noted that if the opening on the neck was clamped shut, then dunked in water, no water entered through the holes in the bottom of the device.

This was a fairly stunning observation. Empedocles guessed that there must be an invisible mass trapped in the device that prevented water from entering. This invisible mass was later to be identified as air.

To better understand this concept, you can try duplicating Empedocles experiment yourself. Take an empty gallon milk jug with the cap firmly in place. Cut a small hole near the top of the jug, make sure it is no bigger than the tip of your finger. Now cut or poke holes in the bottom of the jug.  Then, while firmly holding your thumb over the hole near the top of the jug, dunk the jug in a sink or bowl of water.  What happens?

Let me know how your experiment fares. Do you agree with Empedocles?

Helping Students with Dyscalculia Thrive As Mathematicians

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that mirrors dyslexia. Students with dyscalculia struggle to learn basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems via rote memory and traditional teaching methods. Dyscalculia does not mean “dumb at math”.  In fact, I am thinking of one recent student who now enjoys math and consistently earns A’s.

What can help these students make the big leap?

One solution is to teach elementary math equations with narrative and visual aids. To do this, develop a cartoon character with a unique personality for each number, 1 through 10, then develop stories for each of the challenging equations. Make sure that each number’s personality remains consistent  throughout the  equation stories.  Simplify each written story into an illustrated story picture on an index card.  Create a deck and use these with your student. Watch how quickly they learn the troublesome equations and speed up their answer time.


Explore one of the Math The Fun Way kits at .

City Creek is an excellent vendor of math education tools made fun!

If you have questions or comments, please email me to let me know how useful or educational this blog was for you and your family.  Happy Holidays!