Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Criss, Cross Mangosauce

Criss, Cross Mangosauce is an education company founded by two Latina moms whose mission is to foster children's love of language, culture, and arts through bilingual programs and products. Ana Lucia Divins and Irania Macías Patterson are enthusiastic and passionate teachers who bring bilingualism and biculturalism to life for their students and audience. Originally from Venezuela, Irania is the Artistic and Educational Director of the company. She's also the Bilingual Children's Coordinator at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Ana Lucia is originally from Colombia and is the Managing Director of Criss, Cross Mangosauce. 

Both women are wonderfully talented. Their interactive programs are lively and engaging, and they even have their own band! They are the only bilingual children's band in the Carolinas. You can watch a snippet of their performance on their website.

And in case you're interested, they do have their own bilingual album, which you can buy or download on The music is great and the lyrics are designed to teach children Spanish. A great resource for Spanish learners!

Recently, Ana Lucia sent me a copy of the two books that her partner, Irania, has written. What a treat! I want to start with Wings and Dreams: The Legend of Angel Falls, Alas y sueños: La leyenda del Salto Angel. For those of you who aren't familiar with them, Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in the world. It's located in Venezuela, but was named after the American aviator, Jimmy Angel who flew over them for the first time in 1933. (They had, however, already been "discovered" by the retired Venezuelan naval officer, Ernesto Sánchez, in 1910. But that's a story for another day.)

In Wings and Dreams, Irania shares the Pemones Indian legend of how the falls were created. Full of magical realism, the story follows the courageous journey of Takupí, a young Pemones Indian who goes in search of a new land for his people. My children thoroughly enjoyed this story, which we read at bedtime. It satisfied my daughter's adventurous spirit, while igniting my son's imagination. I especially liked how a short history of the Falls is included in the back of the book. (We read it first.) And the entire book includes full text in both English and Spanish. I highly recommend using this book in a study of South America, waterfalls, native studies, geography, history, and literature. (Teachers, you'll get a lot of milage out of this story.)

The second story is very timely, I think, given that Father's Day is only a few weeks away. (Is the year really almost half over?!?) Chipi Chipis: Small Shells of the Sea, Chipi Chipis: Caracolitos del mar is the sweet and simple story of a young girl and her father enjoying a special moment as they head to the beach in search of chipi chipis - a small clam found in Venezuela - to use in a family soup recipe. The joy and love each one has for the other is felt throughout the story. And at the end of the story, Irania includes her recipe! And, yes, this book also includes full text in both English and Spanish. Parents and teachers can use this story when studying relationships, geography, culture, Venezuela, the beach, recipes, and more.

I also want to add that the illustrations in both book are remarkable. Even though they are both illustrated by Catherine Courtlandt-McElvane, each one is very distinctive and beautiful. To purchase a copy, click on the titles above to go to their website for ordering information.

Con much cariño...

Disclosure: Both books were sent to me by Criss, Cross Mangosauce for review, as was a free download of their album. All opinions expressed above are strictly my own.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rubber Shoes: A Lesson in Gratitude

I love books that are educational, but I am especially fond of books that help develop character and values. So when I received a copy of Rubber Shoes: A lesson in gratitude, Los zapatos de goma...una lección de gratitud by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri, I was delighted with the message found inside the pages of this book.

Rubber Shoes is a bilingual book about a little girl named Gladys Elizabeth, who is terribly excited one day to learn that her mami is taking her to buy new shoes. But that excitement quickly turns to disappointment when her mother buys the dull, brown, rubber shoes on sale in the shop instead of the pink ballerina slippers of Gladys's dreams. Embarrassed at having to wear them to school, Gladys gets in a lot of trouble over the following days as she (unsuccessfully) plots ways to ruin the shoes. But once she outgrows the shoes, her mami teaches her a lesson in gratitude she won't ever forget.

Written in first person, this story immediately captured my children's attention because the feelings expressed by the main character are ones to which they can relate. I like that my kids can see their own emotions reflected within the story line, in a situation not unlike many they have experienced themselves.

This is a delightful picture book that is beautifully written and illustrated. Lina Safar's watercolor drawings are warm and inviting, and very expressive. The book is written with full text in both English and Spanish.

Parents and teachers will appreciate this book as a tool for teaching appreciation, gratitude, and thoughtfulness.

To purchase your own copy of Rubber Shoes, please visit my online shop. Both new and gently used copies are available.

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, May 28, 2012

El loro Tico Tango/The Parrot Tico Tango AUDIOBOOK

So in order to try and clean off my desk which is suffering under the weight of the many books that I have been wanting to share with you, I've decided to just dedicate this week to exactly that: BOOKS!

You'll probably remember how I feel about audio books, and the fact that I think they are an excellent tool for developing literacy skills. So I'm starting off with a couple from some of my favorite voice-over actors, The Amador Family (remember them from this feature?).

Published by Barefoot Books, The Parrot Tico Tango is written and illustrated by Anna Witte (who also wrote Lola's Fandango). But Barefoot offers the book with an accompanying CD featuring the book as sung by Brian Amador - with a little help from his family.

I LOVE this book. The story line follows a day in the life of el loro (the parrot) Tico Tango, as he flies about the rain forest stealing all the fruits from the other animals. BUT his pilfering ways don't last for long and soon he has to work his way back into the good graces of his forest friends. The story is predictable for children helping them to develop critical thinking skills as they anticipate what will happen next, all the while building to a climax that relieved my children who were worried that he'd get away with it all. :)

But the best part of this book is the CD and the fun and lively song that is sung by Brian Amador. Before I knew it, my toe was tapping and I was humming along with the song, as were my children. Learning is just so much better when you can do it to music, no?

The book is perfect for children in Pre-K and Kindergarten as it teaches the different colors and various animals found in the jungle, fruits, and sequence. But my 2nd grader enjoyed it just as much thanks to the music, the engaging story line, and the beautiful illustrations.

And you know what else? This book is also available in Spanish with the song perfectly done and using Witte's beautiful translation that is not word for word, but rather conveys the message and the emotion in a well-written manner.

You can hear an audio sample here on the Sol y Canto website. (Sol y Canto is the Amador's band.)

If you click on the titles (links) above, they will take you to our sister site, the Latin Baby Book Club, and my online store.

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: The books mentioned above were sent to me at the request of the Amador family. All thoughts and opinions expressed are strictly and fanatically my own. Ciao!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Latina Bloggers Policy Briefing: Let's Move! Initiative

This is the third article in a series relaying information obtained during a White House briefing on issues relating to Latinos in the U.S.

The History

Nutritionist Marissa Duswalt is the Associate Director for Policy and Events with the Let's Move! Initiative. At the briefing, she shared with us a brief history of the initiative which was launched two years ago by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, after a routine visit to the pediatrician with her own daughters. Ms. Duswalt said that the pediatrician's advice started the First Lady to thinking about the importance of making healthy meal choices and getting children active everyday.

Ms. Duswalt said that America is facing the most sedentary generation in history. On average, children spend 7 1/2 hours a day in front of a screen. And as I mentioned yesterday, Latino children are at highest risk of being overweight and developing diabetes.

The goals of the Let's Move! initiative are to improve the health of children through physical exercise and proper nutrition. They are working closely with the Department of Health to make nutrition information friendly and accessible.

In addition, there is a strong emphasis being placed on culture and sharing time as a family. On their site, parents can find ideas for family meals and even new guidelines for gardening. Families are being encouraged to start their own gardens and grow their own fruits and vegetables for their family meals. And another goal of the initiative is to see more salad bars available in schools.

In terms of getting kids more active, Ms. Obama understands that kids - especially those in inner cities - need more opportunities for sports.

Opportunities for Your Family

Ms. Duswalt alluded several times to more exciting announcements coming this summer by the Let's Move program. This may possibly be in refrence to the U.S. Olympic Committee's commitment to bring 1.7 million new opportunities to get kids into athletics through local programs. And most of them will be free.

She encouraged us to sign up for the LM newsletter for information about upcoming events and projects. (You know I did.)

I did a little digging on the Let's Move! website and discovered that the initiative has also partnered with hundreds of community organizations to create more opportunities for kids to get moving. A couple of examples include...

Let's Move Outside Junior Ranger - A program that promotes outdoor physical activity in 50 national parks across the nation.

Let's Move Museum & Gardens - A collaboration between more than 17,500 museums, gardens, public gardens, and other learning centers to teach kids about healthy food choices and the importance of physical activity through interactive exhibits. Ask your local museum for more information.

You might be especially interested in the section on the Let's Move website that shares 42 Healthy and Kid-Friendly Recipes to Try at Home.

**And finally, I discovered The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Between now and June 17th, parents of children ages 8 - 12 are invited to submit their favorite recipe for a healthy lunch. The recipes must meet the following criteria: healthy, creative, tasty and affordable. One parent/child will be chosen from each of the 50 states to attend a Kids' "State Dinner" hosted by the White House. I would really love to see some Latino families win with some of their own healthy, cultural dishes!

Disclosure: This information was obtained during a special White House policy briefing for Latina bloggers organized by LATISM. I was awarded a full scholarship to attend the retreat of which the briefing was one aspect, and appreciate the sponsors that made it possible.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Latina Bloggers Policy Briefing: Department of Agriculture

This is the second article in a series relaying information obtained during a White House briefing on issues relating to Latinos in the U.S.

Lisa Pino is the Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program under the Department of Agriculture. During Monday’s briefing, she shared some of the programs currently available to families and individuals.

Ms. Pino began by listing some of the nutrition assistance programs that the federal government offers such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meal programs, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Though they are funded by the federal government, these services are administered at state levels and Ms. Pino said these programs are the most effective mechanisms available to fight hunger and obesity, two seemingly opposing problems that our society faces. But the reality is that they are both intimately linked as poor families often do not make wise food consumption choices, preferring to purchase inexpensive products that are high in fats and sugars. Malnutrition leads to obesity.

Ms. Pino stated that 1 in 4 Latino children are nutritionally insecure. In fact, Latino children make up the largest share of American children living in food insecurity.

And 1 in 2 Latinos suffer from diabetes. That means HALF of the Latino babies born today will develop diabetes.

We are experiencing an epidemic among Latino children. (For more information about this, please watch this super informative video I posted back in March.)

Ms. Pino also said that the president is committed to ending hunger and obesity for children, and cited the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that the president signed into law in 2010. According to the USDA’s website, the legislation "authorizes funding and sets policy for USDA's core child nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program."

The act is designed to improve diets in schools and parents/children will begin to see changes starting this fall in terms of portion control, more fruits and vegetables, etc, in school lunches.

Special note: Listed above is the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), of special importance because it is during the summer months that children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. This program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow, throughout the summer months when they are out of school. Learn more here.

Ms. Pino also talked for a while about SNAP and said it was the country’s largest anti-hunger program. But unfortunately, it only serves about 56% of Latinos who are eligible to receive assistance.

So as a result, the USDA has launched an initiative called La Mesa Completa. It is designed to engage Latino families to improve their access and increase their participation in the programs that are available. The program tackles the main issues that prevent Latino families from using the services. For example, because low literacy rates may prevent Latinos from learning about the services, La Mesa Completa relies heavily on word-of-mouth information. Read more about the initiative here.

The USDA also chucked the food pyramid model and replaced it with the new My Plate/Mi Plato symbol and educational tool designed to help families make healthy meal choices. The guidance system is much more attractive and easier for families to incorporate into their daily routine. The English website is very well developed. It is a great source of information, printable materials, and even a SuperTracker that helps families plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity. A lot of the information is also available in Spanish. Anyone can order Mi Plato information for home or school use and receive it free of charge.

Personally, I think a great way to disseminate the information would be for teachers to use the coloring sheets in their classrooms, or assign them as homework so that the information travels home where parents might see it.

I hope you all take a moment to check out some of these resources and share them with those you know.

Up next...the Let's Move program!

Disclosure: This information was obtained during a special White House policy briefing for Latina bloggers organized by LATISM. I was awarded a full scholarship to attend the retreat of which the briefing was one aspect, and appreciate the sponsors that made it possible.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Latina Bloggers Policy Briefing: Department of Education

l to r: Alejandra Cejas, Lisa Pino, Marissa Duswalt
This is the first article in a series relaying information obtained during a White House briefing on issues relating to Latinos in the U.S.

On Monday, I had the most fantastic opportunity to visit the White House for a special policy briefing thanks to our national LATISM organization. For two hours, dozens of Latina bloggers and I had the opportunity to listen and ask questions to some of the highest ranking Latina officials in the government.

Today, I want to focus on some of the resources and programs that the Department of Education is working on as described by Ms. Alejandra Cejas, Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary, in the Department of Education.

Ms. Cejas began by saying that one of the goals of the administration is to make college affordable for families and students. Currently, many graduates are struggling with the amount of debt they incur to attend quality colleges. As a result, the Dept of Ed is looking into ways to make resources and information for (Latino) students more easily accessible. She said that they are trying to increase federal aid to these students to make repaying their loans easier, and to help them "compete and complete" a degree in higher education.

One of the initiatives that Ms. Cejas mentioned is the Educational Excellence for Hispanics initiative. I did a little research myself on the web and learned that the initiative was actually established in 1990 under the Bush Administration. The goal is to provide quality education while "increasing opportunities for Hispanic American participation in federal education programs."  In 2011, the Obama Administration appointed José Rico as executive director. You can read a fact sheet with more information here.

As part of the administration's program to increase access to federal aid to Latino and other under-served students, the Dept of Ed has created a Forecasting Funding tool on their website that provides a list of the grants that are available, a time frame for students/families, and the name of a staff member with a contact number. It is pretty simple and straight-forward. The site currently has funding listed for the 2012 fiscal year.

The White House is also working on creating a College Scorecard to help students and families compare colleges so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to choosing a college in terms of quality and affordability. The card will be be filled out by students with regards to topics like financial aid availability, graduation success rated, etc. The picture above is a sample scorecard for a four-year college. If you'd like to see more, you can download a PDF at their site, AND I would encourage all of you to evaluate the scorecard by letting them know what you think should be included or how you would change it by filling out their feedback form.

In addition, the administration has committed 2 billion dollars to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education to improve literacy among adults and attract adult learners to retrain them, strengthen their skills, or teach them a new set of skills so that they can begin a new career in a different, higher-paying field. She also said that the Dept of Ed is still fighting for Pell Grants, trying to make the dreams of all students a reality. However, on Sunday, various articles like this one in the Mercury News announced that Congress decided to reduce or eliminate Pell Grants for hundreds of thousands of the poorest college students (guess who makes up up the majority of them? Latinos.) The Pell Grants will now only be available for six year (instead of nine), and students without high school degrees will no longer eligible for the grant after July 1st unless they are already enrolled in college before that time. (However, according to the article, a 2008 federal study showed that students without high school diplomas who complete six college units are just as successful as their high school graduate counterparts.) These students can, however, continue to apply for state funding.

Ms. Cejas said that the administration was taking a "cradle to career" approach and trying to implement reforms across the entire education system through regulations. The way the system work is that the federal government provides funding and guidance policies (a suggestion of "best" practices). States and school districts are responsible for choosing curriculum, teaching strategies, class size, and implementing the specific teaching models.

Many of the Latina bloggers attending the briefing were provided with the opportunity to get up and ask questions. In terms of education, three bloggers in particular tackled the issue of Special Needs students. Lisa Quiñones-Fontanez from Autism Wonderland, Eliana Tardío Hurtado from Emir y Ayelén, and Laurita Tellado Calderón from Holdin' Out for Hero, all shared some of the difficulties they have encountered within the school districts and in society. Ms. Cejas responded by saying that the Department of Education is working very hard towards inclusion and emphasized that this issue is our modern day "Civil Rights Movement."

Roxana Soto from Spanglish Baby asked about the chances of dual-language schools becoming more prevalent for families wanting to raise bilingual children. Ms. Cejas said that the administration was definitely working on improving and even expanding school programs for Spanish-speaking children (ESL learners). So I think Roxana was bit frustrated, and I agree that learning or maintaining a second language should be a top priority the norm for early education programs nationwide. Personally, I think the government should offer incentives for dual language immersion, as well as foreign language and after-school programs that promote bilingualism.

Silvia Martinez from Mama Latina Tips shared her concerns about the increasing class sizes, her disapproval of intensive testing, and her opposition to losing extracurricular subjects/activities such as art and sports. Ms. Cejas replied that class sizes and curriculum (such as art, music, etc) are regulated at a state level, and sometimes even school districts made those decisions.

Ms. Cejas also stressed that the Dept of Education is working with the Departments of Nutrition and Physical Health with regards to how these issues all affect each other. I'll be sharing more about this the next two days!

If you'd like to join in or follow the conversation, follow the White House on Twitter at @WHLive or in Spanish @LaCasablanca.

Disclosure: This information was obtained during a special White House policy briefing for Latina bloggers organized by LATISM. I was awarded a full scholarship to attend the retreat of which the briefing was one aspect, and appreciate the sponsors that made it possible.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Latina Bloggers at the White House

Lots of information to share with all of you! Stay tuned this week to read about what I learned at the White House briefing from staff members like Alejandra Ceja (Dept of Education), Lisa Pino (Dept of Agriculture), Marissa Duswalt (Let's Move Initiative), and others...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A New Series from PBS KIDS: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

You may already know that I am a PBS Ambassador. That simply means that PBS allows me to share exciting opportunities and information with all of you on a regular basis. This thrills me because I am a proud supporter of educational public television, and PBS KIDS is pretty much the only channel I allow my kids to watch without supervision.

I grew up watching Sesame Street. In fact, my mami likes to laugh and say I watched it until I was 12 years old :/. And my favorite show ever was Reading Rainbow (I was crushed when they discontinued it), followed closely by Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and 321 Contact.

And you all may have figured out by my incessant shares on Facebook and Twitter that my kids and I are AVID WordGirl stalkers fans - isn't everyone? - and both my son and daughter love Wild Kratts.

Anyway, last week, I attended the PBS Annual Meeting in Denver. (You may have seen my picture on the MM Facebook page!) It was so much fun! I got to meet many of the characters my kids have fallen in love with, including the Cat in the Hat, Princess Presto, Hooper, and even Curious George.

But I think the highlight of the trip may have been meeting Joanne Byrd Rogers, wife of the famous Fred Rogers. She was there for the exciting announcement that PBS is launching a new series based on her late husband's show.

PBS is describing Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a show created specifically for preschoolers and focuses on their emotional development, as their next signature series. The show is a collaboration between PBS, the Fred Rogers Company, and Out of the Blue Enterprises (Blue's Clues, Super Why). And you can definitely see the influence of each organization on the final product. Take a look...


Many of the characters from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood are back in this new, animated series. But now they are all grown up with preschool-aged children of their own. The main character is the most adorable tiger cub, Daniel (son of Daniel Tiger from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe), who enjoys wearing a comfy, red sweater and sneakers.

Each episode is composed of two, 11-minute segments based on the same curriculum theme and weaves practical strategies into each lesson, teaching children how to deal with a changing world. It provides the children with the tools they need to manage their feelings. And it is done in an engaging manner. For every theme, a coping strategy is set to catchy music that can be easily remembered by parents and children alike.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood will premiere with a one-hour special right after Sesame Street on Monday, September 3rd. You can learn more on their new website.

As a parent who grew up loving Fred Rogers' show, I was moved by all the familiar elements that have been incorporated in this new series. Trolley, King Friday's castle, O the Owl's tree, even the song that little Daniel sings, take me back to my own childhood. And I'm SO thankful that my own children can now experience a similar show and create their own special memories.

Un abrazo...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, Science Evangelist

Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, a Science Evangelist with Yale University. For those of you who follow MommyMaestra on Facebook, you may remember a video clip I shared during the Super Bowl that explained the physics behind a football. Dr. Ramirez was the narrator of this short video from Yale’s Science Xplained series. With a little digging, I was delighted to discover that not only does Dr. Ramirez have a few other videos available, but she also hosts another series from her lab at the university titled Material Marvels (the example shown above has Spanish subtitles).

She is also the founder of the university’s popular weekend program, Science Saturdays, where she has conducted free lectures to local youth introducing them to science in a fun and interactive manner. But don't worry if you don't live near Yale. 

A first-generation African American, Dr. Ramirez is the daughter of West Indian parents. The name Ramirez comes from her step-dad who adopted her when she was two. She said that she has always known that she wanted to become a scientist. Her mother was a nurse who frequently left her biology books lying around the house and her father was a computer electrical engineer. The focus in her house was on education and encouraged her to pursue her dreams in engineering. Fascinated with Smart Materials, Dr. Ramirez focused on these in her lab at Yale, where she was an Associate Professor for many years. She currently holds 10 patents in micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS).

Passionate about teaching children and inspiring them to explore science, Dr. Ramirez recently left her position as Associate Professor at Yale and the director of the Science Saturdays program to assume a broader-reaching position as Science Evangelist. Confused, I asked her what that meant exactly and she told me her main responsibility now is lecturing. "Last week I talked to over 400 high school students in New York," Ramirez said. Her goal? To demystify science and make it more human and personal. Her moving and motivational lectures earned her the opportunity to give a
TED Talk this year, where she immediately captured the attention of the audience when she walked on the stage with a blow torch and a metal rod!

"We need to provide more role models for children," Ramirez said. "They need to see their faces reflected in these positions." Ramirez herself was inspired as a child by shows like 3-2-1 Contact on the Electric Company. And one of the most motivating moments for her was when she saw a black girl on the show doing science.

Dr. Ramirez also believes that STEM education needs a major overhaul. Too many students feel trepidation when it comes to science. "This is our Sputnik moment," she says. She wants to see a movement away from simply asking kids to memorize vast amounts of information, and instead see science teachers promote problem solving, experimentation, innovation, and learning. She thinks schools need to focus on the fundamentals then let the kids get their hands dirty and give them permission to be wrong as long as they are learning, even though she recognizes the difficulty in evaluating student learning. But she thinks that just memorizing facts in order to pass a test isn’t the right way to go, either. "This is how you innovate," Dr. Ramirez said. "You fail your way to discovery!"

As technology continues to advance and become available in the general market, she knows a big shift is coming in the realm of STEM. "Change comes from non-conventional sources," she said. "I expect to see a rise in citizen scientists."

Some of Dr. Ramirez's favorite science resources for kids are after-school programs, museums, and libraries. She'd really like to see more scientists getting out of the lab and engaging students.

Dr. Ramirez has written a downloadable guide for teachers and parents with 60 pages of of over 43 materials science demonstrations called Demoworks. Objectives, materials, procedures, explanations and references are provided with each demo. She also has a many more videos planned for the coming year. You can find them all by checking Yale's YouTube channel.

Other Posts You May Enjoy


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Field Guides from Silver Dolphin Books

Last year I stumbled upon a series of field guides by Silver Dolphin Books at my local Sams Club. They have turned out to be one of the best series I've bought for my kids. I haven't actually gotten ALL the books yet, but the ones we have include:

• The Field Guide to Ocean Animals by Phyllis Perry

• The Field Guide to Polar Animals by Nancy Honovich

• The Field Guide to Rain Forest Animals by Nancy Honovich

• The Field Guide to Dinosaurs by Nancy Honovich

The dinosaur puzzles show the dinosaur on one side and the skeleton on the other!
 My son LOVES these books. Each one is a grand adventure that not only teaches your child about the different species, but also comes with small 3D puzzles and a diorama for them to assemble. Each book is presented as a real field journal written by a scientist. At the beginning is a letter to the reader from the scientist describing their "expedition." The readers can then follow along with the expedition tracking the route on a map and learning about the different species.

I really love how these books engage my kids and teach not only biology, but geography, too. You can find the entire series in my online shop.

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Engineering, Go For It!

Welcome back to Day 3 of STEM Week here on MommyMaestra!

Interactive Engineering Website for Kids

Engineering, Go For It! is an interactive site for students, who can choose from 15 different areas of interest all related to engineering. For example, if a student selects "Oceans" they will learn how engineers are making a difference in oceanography. From robotic vehicles for exploring the deep to coastal and environmental protection, your child discover different ways that they can have a career in oceanography with an engineering degree.

Students can also "engineer" their own path to college. Students may explore the types of jobs engineers fill and learn 10 essential steps for getting into the engineering program of their choice.

Your kids can also subscribe to their newsletter or follow their blog to learn about other students studying for an engineering degree.

Engineering Resources and Materials

Parents and teachers will love their online store which offers cards, posters, a children's book, eGFI magazine (shown above - see a sample here), and other materials for introducing or encouraging your children/students to explore engineering. You can even purchase an Introductory Kit which includes one of each of their products for family use, and includes a free teacher's guide.

Engineering Toys for Kids

Books about Engineering for Kids

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teacher's Resource Guide for Design & Technology

Welcome back to Day 2 of STEM week here on MommyMaestra!

Yesterday, I talked about Math. Today, I want to share with you a great resource for Technology and Engineering. 

The Virginia Department of Education has made available as a free download their Teacher's Resource Guide for Design & Technology. The guide contains 24 engineering actitivites for students in kindergarten through 5th grade.

I love this program! Not only does the guide present a challenge to the students, but it also helps to walk them through the process of designing and building the project, helping the student to think like an engineer.

For each activity, the guide provides a page for the student to state/write out the problem, another worksheet for brainstorming solutions, another work page for taking notes on the final design, a page with questions for the student to answer that test their design, an evaluation page, and a final sheet where the kids can attach photos of their design. 

At the beginning of each activity is information for the teacher so that he or she can understand the goals of the activity (what the student should learn), as well as a Design Brief that states the background information, the design challenge, the criteria, and the materials. At the end of each lesson there is a rubric for the teacher to evaluate the student.

So if you're looking for hands-on activities that inspire the engineer hiding inside your child, visit the Virginia Dept of Ed's website to download this excellent guide. It would make a really great learning project for the summer.

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, May 14, 2012

MommyMaestra's Math Marathon

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend! My mami flew into town on Saturday and is spending the week with us. My kids are over the moon that their 'Buelita is here and refuse to give her a moment's rest.

I have so many exciting things going on here and can't wait to share them all with you on MommyMaestra. To start off, I am dedicating this week to STEM resources for families. Summer is just a few weeks away and although I know your kids are looking forward to the break from school, I know a lot of parents are already thinking about ways to keep them occupied.

More importantly, like a lot of parents, I've been thinking of ways to prevent "Summer Brain Drain," otherwise known as summer learning loss. During the summer, students can forget much of what they've already learned in areas like math, reading, and science. But parents can prevent this from happening by providing them with opportunities to practice their skills over the summer months with fun and educational activities. 

As a homeschooling mom, I don't completely stop teaching during the summer, but our schedule certainly becomes a lot less structured and we don't necessarily follow a curriculum. We do a lot of reading and I like to pick one or two subjects that my kids are interested in really learn about them.

This summer, I'm excited to say that I'm launching the MommyMaestra Math Marathon! Every Monday, I'll be sharing ideas, photos, or activities revolving around math. If your family is interested in joining us along the way, then you'll probably need to pick yourself up a copy of this book: The Secret Life of Math: Discover how (and why) numbers have survived from the cave dwellers to us! by Ann McCallum. If you click on the link it will take you to my online bookstore where you can purchase it for only $5.18 - that's 60% off the cover price!

The Secret Life of Math is the the ultimate math book. In it, McCallum explains how math has been developed and used around the world. From the Inca in South America to the Japanese in Asia, kids (and their parents) learn that communication, counting, and keeping track were powerful motivators. The best part of this book is how it uses hands-on crafts to supplement the history. We'll be making different types of math tools - such as tally sticks, an Inca quipu, counting balls, an Egyptian amulet, Mayan number cookies, and even our own abacus! - to help us understand each section. Part of what I love about this book is that it is a history lesson, geography lesson, art/craft lesson, and reading lesson all rolled into one.

I really hope your familia will join mine this summer learning all about math in a fun, very hands-on way! The first MM Math Marathon activity will be posted Monday, June 4th!

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Celebrando Día de la Madre, Celebrating Mother's Day

According to my statistics, MommyMaestra readers are 99.99999999999% female. Lol! Aside from that you are a very diverse group. Some of you are Latina, and some of you are not. Some of you are teachers, while others are homeschoolers, and many of you are moms who are involved in your children's education. Some of you don't even have kids. But one thing we all have in common is that we care about children. So in honor of your love, I celebrate you this weekend. (Maybe you have already celebrated today (the 10th) as they do in Mexico and other places?)

Wishing you all the happiest of Mother's Days. Feliz Día de la Madre.

And in honor of the occassion, a few videos.

Sara Quintanar from Music with Sara, sent me this video. I don't know if you've already seen it, but even if you have, it is so beautiful, it is worth seeing over and over again...

And if you are looking for a little craft for your children, there are so many to choose from online.

ModernMami has a sweet tutorial for a handmade card for abuelita.

And Ruby on SpanglishBaby has a lovely tutorial for making a bouquet of paper flowers.

And CraftinGeek has 26 crafts for Mother's Day gifts.

But I really love this homemade scrapbook for mamá, or abuelita, or even tía from CraftinGeek. Even if you don't speak Spanish, this tutorial is easy enough to follow along with. And if you check her site, you'll discover so many more wonderful tutorials!

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bilingual Books Celebrating Mothers

Mother's Day is coming up this weekend. And we are excited because my mom is coming to visit. Anyway, one of my kids' favorite things is for me or 'Buelita to read to them. Our casa is crammed full of books. (Really. It's ridiculous!)

So in honor of Día de las Madres, I thought I'd share this little list of great books to read with your children...or grandchildren. Clicking on the link will take you to my online bookshop.

Happy Mother's Day!


Mama Goose: A Latino Nursery Treasury by Alma Flor Ada, Isabel Campoy and Maribel Suarez

Floating on Mama's Song by Laura Lacamara and Yuyi Morales  (Bilingual)

Little Night by Yuyi Morales

Tortillitas Para Mamá and Other Nursery Rhymes edited by Margot C. Griego.

Cuando Mi Mama Me Lee/When My Mama Reads To Me by Julie Elkus, Jose Luis Nunez and Cristina Fagin (Bilingual edition)

Love to Mama: A Tribute to Mothers by Pat Mora and Paula Barragan


¿Tu mamá es una llama? by Steven Kellogg and Aida Marcuse

Quiero a mi Mamá Porque by Laurel Porter-Gaylord and Ashley Wolff

¿Cómo es tu mamá? by Álvarez Rosanela

Mamas a porrillo / Abundantly Moms (Spanish Edition) by Teresa Duran and Quelot

Mi mamá es preciosa / My Mom Is Beautiful by Isabel Carmen Garcia

Mamá maravilla / Marvelous Mom (Spanish Edition) by Elen Lescoat and Orianne Lallemand

Un abrazo!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Quizlet: For Teachers, Parents, and Students

Quizlet is a free, online flash card maker. The possiblities here are endless. I can see using this to create cards of my kids' latest spelling words, science terms, new vocabulary, foreign language words, math sentences, geography landforms, continents & oceans, countries in South America/Europe/etc., important figures in history, names of the presidents, the 50 states, bones in the body, verbs, sight get the picture. 

It's fast. It's easy. And it's fun. 

If you watched the video above, then I you also know that this is a perfect tool regardless of what language you speak!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Novela Educativa on STEM - Soldando Mi Futuro

Bien hecho to Novelas Educativas for one of their latest videos promoting STEM education for Latinos...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Oh Noah! Offers Free Spanish Vocabulary Learning Games

Welcome back to Day 5 of Spanish Language Learning Week on MommyMaestra!

As I wind down this week of Spanish learning programs, I wanted to remind parents that there are many online opportunities to expand your child’s Spanish vocabulary or maintain their Spanish-speaking skills.

One of my favorite companies to turn to for educational and fun games is PBS. And it just so happens that this week, the PBS KIDS GO! web series Oh Noah! launched new animated interactive videos and games to introduce kids to Spanish.

As I’ve mentioned, the idea of transmedia – using popular characters over a variety of media to reinforce concepts or vocabulary – is proving to be especially effective at helping kids internalize and retain knowledge. PBS KIDS has perfected this approach with its FREE online games that focus on various subjects.

Their series Oh Noah! (formerly known as Noah Comprende) is launching an incredible number of new interactive videos and games between now and next fall. This week they started with games like "Curtain Up!" a clever interactive that allows children to create their own "play" by choosing backgrounds, props, characters, and even the title and music to accompany it. My kids spent a good bit of an afternoon giggling at their theatrical masterpieces.

Typically, my daughter does not enjoy activities where she is competing against the clock, but she certainly enjoyed playing the "You Catch It" game where she races to catch the correct object she hears/reads as it falls from the sky...

My son, on the other hand, prefers the "Word Race" where he is the driver of a car who must get in the right lane to capture the image that goes with the word he hears, or reads.

Other new games include "Match It" where my kids had to match the written word with the image it matches (sort of like Memory, but the cards are facing up). And "How Do You Say…?" is a game that helps kids learn common expressions in Spanish by matching illustrations to the appropriate phrase. My kids didn’t have time to try this one out yet, because they were having so much fun with the others, and I only allow around 30 – 45 minutes of computer time. But I’ve got it on the list for tomorrow.

It amazes me how quickly my kids learn the meaning of new vocabulary when they play games like these. Learning has to be fun. And PBS has pretty much perfected the art of fun learning.

And as a parent who homeschools, I really appreciate how PBS also offers printables/activities to extend my children’s learning AND lesson plans for teachers. These will be great for keeping the kids busy this summer.

Now, I find games like these to be really beneficial not just for Spanish-language learners, but also for Spanish-speaking children who are learning to read. Parents can easily turn off their speakers and require their children to play the games by reading the words on the screen. It’s a great way to strengthen literacy skills.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, click on any of the links above and let your kids play the games on their own…for free!  

Con mucho cariño…

Friday, May 4, 2012

Calico Spanish

UPDATE: This curriculum has been completely updated and modernized. You can read about Calico's new program here

Welcome back to Day Four of Spanish Language Learning Week on MommyMaestra!

If you are looking for a full-immersion program then let me introduce you to Calico Spanish.

Opening the box that contained Calico’s Teach at Home curriculum was a very pleasant surprise! I was immediately struck by how thorough it is. It is designed to teach children in Kindergarten through 5th grade.

The curriculum includes:

Teacher’s Manual – A comprehensive guide containing a welcome section that explains about the program; an introductory lesson to help the teacher prepare and become comfortable; and then 15 lessons. Calico offers two sample schedules for varying length of class time. In a 30 minute class, the lesson can be taught over a period of up to 10 days. For 60 minutes, parents might prefer a 5-day schedule. But of course, I can modify it all to work for my family’s schedule.

Each lesson contains songs, calendar time, a specific number, letter, and color, games, "zoo" time/animal introduction, activities and a final closing. Not all of these are taught in one day, but rather spread out over the one- or two-week period. I really like how flexible the lessons are; I can choose to use the scripts provided, or simply teach it on my own focusing on the subject. The lesson scripts are provided in Spanish and English, though they encourage you to use only Spanish.

Student Activity Book – This books mostly contains the words to the songs the children are learning – which provides them with a wonderful opportunity to learn how to read in Spanish. But there are also a few worksheets and coloring pages, including a blank calendar that they can fill in each month. The book is spiral bound, which I really like because since I have two kids, I can easily make copies of each page without wrestling with the binding.

Spanish Songs for Kids CD – Very fun and easy for kids to learn. You can listen to a sample here and watch the accompanying video.

A set of Calico Spanish Flash Cards – A custom set of 149 flash cards showing the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc. We love the illustrations! My kids are very visual and if the illustrations are not appealing, then they get bored. That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about with this curriculum.

Verbos Flash Cards – 93 action verbs depicted with Spanish words, plus a suggested activity card. These can be displayed on your class board, or used in the lesson.

First Thousand Words in Spanish – A Usborne fully-illustrated dictionary that immediately captivates children. (Don’t all Usborne books?) My kids love looking through this book and calling out the words.

¡Corre, perro, corre! By P.D. Eastman – A super funny book about dogs engaged in all sorts of activities.

Homeschool Poster Set – This set of posters can be posted on the wall or board in your classroom. It includes lables (months, headers), mini-posters (emotions, colors, numbers by tens), and posters (the alphabet, the parts of the body).

What has impressed me the most about this curriculum is that so much thought and effort has gone into creating each piece. And I SO appreciate that Calico provides me with everything I need, including the classroom posters and bulletin board labels.

As an added bonus, I discovered Calico’s YouTube channel. I’m not sure if these videos are incorporated into the lesson plans (I haven’t run across one yet), but they would certainly go very well with the curriculum.

The curriculum is pretty pricey, though, and costs $349.00. You can purchase it here.  This is the most expensive curriculum I had the chance to review, but I want to remind you that you get a high-quality product that includes all the tools you need to teach the lessons effectively. They are so sure you’ll love their product that they offer a 30-day money back guarantee.

Calico is currently working on an online version that will be $49 for the first month and then $9/month thereafter. And parents will receive physical copies of select materials with their initial purchase.

Again, if you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Con mucho cariño…


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