Inspiring Children to be the Best That They Can Be

For: Primary Educators, Parents, and Kids Inspiring Children To Love Learning And Be The Best They Can Be

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Time to Explore

                            Clever Sayings. . .

     What are your favorites?

                It's a piece of cake.

                He hightailed it out of there.

                You can catch more flies with
                         honey than vinegar.

                 Soups on.

Bird Riddles

         Since I am featuring bird feeders - and chickadees 'In My Backyard,' I thought it would be fun to include some riddles with bird names as answers.  The answers are at the end of the blog.
                 1. A bird named one letter.
             2.  It means 'easily fooled.'
             3.  Construction equipment with a projected arm.
             4.  There is a color in its name.
             5.  Its bill would be useful for eating soup.
             6.  The name of a small island.

The Odyssey Learning Game Connection

      Odyssey Learning Games was featured in three events this past week in Cincinnati.  It was great fun to watch parents and kids playing games and solving puzzles.
     Rive up your creative juices for the December contest - 'creating your 'best looking' gingerbread man in any media.
Two favorite strategy games:
              Cubulus for ages 8 and up (2 - 3 players)                               
Players take turns placing their colored balls in a
'flexible' cube.  The balls shift locations with each 
move.  The challenge is to make a square or a diamond 
of 4 to win  - continuous 3-dimensional tic tac toe.   ($24.95)

              Four in a Square is a 2 player game for
ages 7 and up. As the name suggests, you want to be 
the first player to form a square with four balls of your 
color. On your turn, place a ball of your color in an 
empty spot; then slide a tile (except the last one 
played) to try to get four of your color in a square.  
Play continues until there is a winner.   ($19.95)

Book Reviews for Kid's Books

             I'm on a mission to find great reads for 2nd - 4th grade readers - girls and boys!  I am pleased to find two to report on this month.  If you have a favorite - or want to write a review,  please help out!

       The Secret Agent Jack Stalwart series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt is a real find for boys - and girls, so if you aren't familiar with it, please seek it out.  There are 14 in the series with each featuring a different foreign country.  Jack is nine years old and works for the (GPF) Global Protection Force.  The mission is to battle evil villains and protect world treasures.  His brother, Max, is missing so he tries to collect clues in each country to find him.  I would recommend reading book one first, and then the others in no particular order. 
       In 2013, you will be able to download the 'Jack Stalwart App' and solve mysteries around the world using an Apple product.  

Secret Agent Jack Stalwart Book 1: The Escape of the Deadly Dinosaur
                                 by Elizabeth Singer Hunt

         Jack is led to New York City to solve the mystery of the
 missing Allosaurus toe in the Natural History Museum.  He 
discovers a science fair project in which a student crosses his 
own dog with DNA from the bone of a dangerous carnivorous
dinosaur.  The animals in Central Park zoo are in danger! 


     The Just Grace Series by Charise Mericle Harper features a 
curious, quirky 3rd grade girl responding to familiar school and 
family settings.  She is stuck with the name 'Just Grace' since 
there are three other Graces in her class.  Her amusing lists and
'teeny, tiny superpowers' will have you smiling.  There are nine
books in the series with a new one scheduled for 2013.

Just Grace, Star on Stage by Charise Mericle Harper  (2012)

Grace is determined to be a star in the school play.  Things don't 
work outas planned, and Marta gets the role.  She is jealous at first,
but eventuallydiscovers there is more than one way to shine on stage. 
It is a 'fun' readwith realistic, vibrant characters. 

In My Backyard

I'm going to try a new kind of bird feeder this winter.  I have been reading about how birds need more protein in the winter months.  You can find suet in blocks in stores that have bird food. This is one recipe I plan to try:

Snip holy berries and place in freezer bag; freeze, thaw, and refreeze, thaw; 
Break suet block into chunks – zap until most is melted; 
Pour holly berries in bowl, with suet – thicken in refrigerator. 
Stir; place on cookie sheet;  remove with spatula, 
Break into pieces;  place in freezer bag one layer thick. 
Store until you are ready to serve. 
A tray feeder will work best - away from squirrels.

I love watching the chickadees.  Did you know there are black capped chickadees in the northern part of USA and Carolina chickadees in the southern states? The bottom one is the black capped chickadee.

Ode to the Chickadee

A cute little bird with a perfect black 
Sports a white bib and a gray body 
Its inquisitive nature compels it to lead,
Its reward is discovering sunflower seed.

It's singing, oh, so cheerily,
Chickadee-dee!  Chickadee-dee!

When the skies are cold and gray,
His musical trills make a happier day.
As he flies through clouds, he seems 
          to see, 
Secret things hidden from you and me.

It's singing, oh, so cheerily,

Chickadee-dee!  Chickadee-dee!
                                              By Joan Bock, November, 2012

Answers to bird riddles:  1. Jay  2.  gull   3.  crane    4.  bluebird   5.  spoonbill   6.  Canary

Signing off until next time.
Be creative,
Inspire others,
Enjoy Life

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Canadian Geese, Kid's book reviews, Odyssey news, and more

Time to Explore

Here are more clever sayings - 
And. . . . I invite you to e-mail your own favorites.

Have you heard. . . Don't let the cat out of the bag.
     Or. . . .                It's like pulling a rabbit out of
                                     a hat.
     Or. . . .                He's as 'fit as a fiddle.'
     Or. . . .                A picture is worth a thousand  
And finally. . . .       Wakey, wakey, eggs, and 

Books, Books, and more books. . . . .

        Have you read one you want to share?   I welcome 'kid' reviews as well as those I find.

        This week I discovered Stella Battsstella batts This one is for the girls!  It is a new series featuring a 3rd grade girl in a typical elementary school classroom.  If you like Junie B Jones, this one if for you.  I will preview the newest in the series next month.  If you have read one of the two out there, please let me know what you think.

My love of animals - and true stories, brought me to . . . 
        Unlikely Friendships for Kids:  The Monkey and the Dove; And Four Other Stories of Animal Friendships
            by Jennifer Holland Jennifer Holland
       A chapter book for kids 7 and up, 
these charming stories focus on friendship, 
love, and the unusual ways that animals 
help one another.  
       2 others in the series are: The Dog and the Piglet; The Leopard and the Cow - and Four Other Stories of Animal Friendships.  Let me know what you think.

The Latest from Odyssey learning Games
Mark your calendars for . . . . 
Haunted Refrigerator Day
Send in your  'haunted refrigerator' picture or photo.
The winner will be chosen on October 30th.  
Click on the link to go to Odyssey and enter.
The winner receives Line Up - reviewed below. 

Line up is for 2-6 players.  
Find the suspect at 6 different crime scenes. 
Test your memory - pick the correct suspect
in your line up to win the card - they are very 
similar! A 'lucky break' could trip you up! The 
object is to collect 4 suspect cards.

In My Backyard

     It is the time of year for Canadian Geese to be on the move.  Although more geese are making permanent residences where they find plentiful food and don't feel threatened by predators - such as hunters, we still find ourselves looking overhead to watch for the 'v' formation when we hearing honking near by.  
     And so it is in my backyard pond.  I am watching four geese relaxing at the side as I write this.  I have not seen them eating grasses or berries as the literature indicates, but they do bob their heads down to eat off the bottom of the pond - could be seaweed or something in the silt.  
      Geese have particular designated areas where they stop as they migrate.  Fortunately, our pond is one of them.
      A book that will provide more insights
 on how geese live and their behaviors is: 
The Geese of Beaver Bog by Bernd Heinrich.
      After a lost gosling adopts him, Heinrich
becomes intrigued and gives a fascinating 
account of triumphs, battles, and surprises from
the point of view of biologist and 
award-winning author.   

     I would like to close with a poem I wrote in honor of Canadian Geese everywhere.

 A Tribute to Canadian Geese           

Ah, the mystic of Canadian geese.     
Each lifts high and flies in peace.
The leader seems to know the way       
Some may waver but do not stray.         

We hear their honking squawk,
Long before the ‘v’ shaped flock.
They swoop down on a rippling pond.        
To rest and find grasses of which they are fond.    

Rested and fed, with barely a sound,
They lift from the pond and then circle around.
The geese form their new ‘v’ with ease,
and glide out of sight on a breeze.
                                                    By Joan Bock

Signing off until next time.
Be creative,
Inspire others,
Enjoy life.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kid's Books, Games, Sayings . . .and In My Backyard

Time to Explore

Do we say what we mean???

 Don't let the cat out of the bag!

When it rains, it pours.

I want to be a fly on the wall.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Hold your horses.

     Don't know what they mean?  Ask an adult.  I would love to add your favorites!  Just put them in the comment section and I will post them next month.  

Reading suggestions for 6 - 8 year olds. . .

National Geographic Kids Chapter Books is the 'new kid on the block' featuring TRUE stories of wild animals.                                  
       Ape Escapes! And More Stories of Animals Behaving Badly
            Fu Manchu is an orangutan who lived at the Omaha Zoo and loved to escape from his habitat and explore the zoo.  Read it to discover his mystery.  Two other clever animals are featured in this book.
      Tiger in Trouble and more True Stories of Animal Rescues
            Nitro was sent to a Carolina Tiger rescue with his friend Apache.  When he developed a high fever, he lost his sight.  Apache and the team of rescuers helped give him a whole new way to "see."  Other fascinating animals included in the book are: Ethereal, an albino micro bat, and three 'monkeyteers.'
Crocodile Encounters and Other True Stories of     
Adventures with Animals
          A National Geographic explorer, Brady Barr, comes face to face with thirteen crocodiles when he crawls into a narrow muddy hole.  The adventure is exciting and humorous as he goes about catching a crocodile 'using shoe laces and underpants.'
Dog Finds Lost Dolphins and More True Stories of Amazing Animal Heroes
            When dolphins become stranded off 
of Florida Keys coastline, they need a friend like Cloud, a black lab with a nose geared to sniffing them out.  Other charming animals include a service monkey who helps a young man recovering from an accident, and a land-mine sniffing rat.

A Charming Picture Book Connecting Young Readers with the Planet They Live On  (5 and up)
                               You are Stardust            
                   by Elin Kelsy and Soyeon Kim           We are provided with a new ecological lens that focuses on parallels between humans and our earth - relationships and connections presented in a vivid format.  Effective photographed dioramas delight readers on every page.  

Poetry in Motion Thru Delightful Picture Books
                              Bug Off
                         by Jane Yolen 
      Photographs by her son, Jason Stemple
       We meet thirteen bugs, such as a fly, praying mantis, butterfly, ants, etc. in playful poems; provocative, revealing photographs; and accompanying factual narratives. 

           Honeybee Poems and Paintings
                       By Douglas Florian
         It is timely to highlight these busy, buzzy bees at a time when bee populations are dwindling.  Explore their lifestyles, families, and communities thru funny, fact-filled poems and paintings. 
                     A Butterfly is Patient
                    By Dianna Hutts Aston
          With over 30 species highlighted in clear vibrant watercolors, readers can compare the different stages of the same species.  Children will have an appreciation of the variety and complexity of butterflies. Poetic descriptions accompany factual information.

Ages: 3 - 6 years
          This unique game features three sturdy truck bases . . .  and for players beyond just piling pieces into the back of the trucks (4 and up), there are challenging puzzles using 20 transparent pieces to be placed vertically - and strategically - into the truck bases.  It is challenging and fun for a variety of ages. 

From My Backyard

         The increase in number of butterflies this time of year is noticeable - at least here in South Carolina.  Here, the eastern swallowtail seems to dominate the area. 
         The four black stripes on the wings resemble tiger stripes.  Sometimes, one can see swarms of yellow butterflies.  Each state has its own special species.  Look up which one is dominate in your state - they are all special.  
        For me, the best description of the butterfly life cycle is found in The Very Hungry Butterfly by Eric Carle.

In closing. . .     
From: A Butterfly is Patient
                                by Dianna Hutts Aston

"A butterfly is patient.
The egg hatches,
the caterpillar emerges,
feasting on leaves
before it wraps itself 
into its warm,
protective chrysalis,
patiently waiting. . . to soar!"

Signing off until next time.
Be creative,
Inspire others,
Enjoy Life


Monday, August 20, 2012

Disney, Opryland, and My Own Backyard

Time to Explore

        Young Disney explorers love Magic Kingdom, rides of all sorts, and the wonderful trek through the wild country at Animal Kingdom.  But what excites the more mature school age explorer?
      I asked this question a few weeks ago when traveling with my grandchildren.  I heard, "We have to go back to Epcot.  We didn't finish the countries." and . . . "I liked the food at Japan."

     They also loved the new mystery game.  There are clues in different countries to solve it.  I love the way the staff is making a Disney visit more interactive.  

      If you are planning a visit to Disney World, be sure to visit 'The World According to Jack.'  It is a great blog chucked full of photos and details of all the theme parks.

    Downtown Disney is the place to explore 'themed' restaurants.  We ate at T-Rex - A Prehistoric Family Adventure.  The highlight was a fossil dig in the sand.

    Another popular 'themed' restaurant is the Rainforest Cafe.  There are 32 in the USA, so one is bound to be near you.  I am in Nashville, TN this week and I was pleased to see one in the Opry Mills Mall.  

     The Aquarium restaurant in the same mall features a 200,000 gallon salt water tank.  Guests are welcome to follow the ocean life as it swims in a large circle - even if they aren't dining.  The fish - and sharks - were up close and personal. 

The Odyssey Game Connection

Visit the website any time for these featured games and many more.  the best games offered in the market place today.   

     Chocoly is the newest arrival.  (8 & up) Yes, it's all about chocolate - a "sweet" game.  It can be a 2 player, 3 player, or 2 teams for 4 players.  Play begins with each player taking 4 tiles.  Players each place a tile on the playing surface, announcing which type of chocolate (dark, milk, or white) they will be trying to get the largest area of (all touching at least one of the same tile). 
     Players take turns placing one tile on each turn with at least one of the chocolate squares touching the same color.  Tiles are replenished in the hand each time so there are 4 - until the draw pile is gone.  There are 3 markers for each player which are used to identify stacking tiles on top of those played.
     The game ends when all 36 tiles are played.  Players count the number of connected tiles of each color.  The winner has the largest area of his/her chocolate.  It reminds me a little of Blokus - and promises to be a lot of fun.

     You may be familiar with the Spot-it! games that I call 'round tin' games.  The company has recently added Speedeebee for ages 8 and up.  There are 150 creative cards and 4 alphabet dice.  Players race to find words containing or excluding letters on the dice.  

       Shrimp Cocktail is a new ‘round tin’ game.  It is similar to Spot it! You are checking out matching shrimp that may share any of 4 characteristics –color, origin, quantity, and size.  Also contains a starfish that squeaks when you ‘haul in your catch.’ 

 My Own Backyard

            I was certain we had a snake in our pond.  I would watch it swim along with its body above water and then it would disappear.  One day to my surprise, the ‘snake’ emerged from the water and walked up the bank of our pond.  Only then did I know it was a bird.  I described it to my brother-in-law, who is a forest ranger, and asked what it was.  He immediately said, “snakebird.”  Well that certainly made sense to me. 

           When it spreads its wings, it stays very still a long time – at least 30 – 40 minutes.  While doing research, I learned that it lacks oil glands that other water birds have so it takes much longer for it to dry its wings.  I also learned that they like low, level water areas, like ponds and will stay in one area for a long time.  I hope it does.  It is a pleasure to look out and see this large bird with wings spread out staring straight ahead.  – I just hope our fish supply lasts!

I wrote a short poem about the snakebird.  I hope you enjoy it.

A Snakebird Is Coming Your Way

It’s an anhinga, a snakebird, you say.

Wait! I can see one that’s flying this way.

Dropping so quietly into the pond.

Its long skinny neck stretches far out beyond.    

It looks like a snake that’s preparing to strike.     

It dives far down under for fish it will like.

The snakebird comes out of the pond to get dry.

It flies to a tree limb that’s up very high.         

Its large body wobbles.  Its sharp webbed claws cling.

Then it spreads out each beautiful long feathered wing.   

It dries its spread wings a long time in the sun.    

Finding a snakebird can truly be fun

                                         By Joan Bock

     Signing off until next time.
 Be creative. 
 Inspire others. 
 Enjoy Life



Monday, July 16, 2012

Time To Explore

  Greetings to young (and young at heart) readers and writers, 
            I encourage you all to take time to explore an exciting place in your community this summer.  
            This desire led me to the South Carolina Aquarium which "inspired" me to research sea turtles - and yes, "create" a poem about them.  I will also include other good stuff, so let's begin.     

Reading Rainbow Connection
         I have always loved the books featured on the televised Reading Rainbow program.  If you have an ipad, you can now download reading rainbow adventures free.  What a wonderful way to enjoy reading and tweak skills at the same time!

Odyssey Learning Games 

     I would like to highlight two games great for summer fun - and learning.  Please visit the website for the best in math, strategy, word games and more.  
(3 years old through adult)

Forbidden Island

     The first is Forbidden Island.  It is an award winning game (10 including Mensa) geared to older players (10 & up) although I have seen 8 year olds play successfully.  It is one of the few games where cooperation is an essential part of winning.  Collect sacred treasures and make your escape - before the island collapses. 

24 Add Subtract Primer
24 Double Digits       The second choice for this blog is "24".  This is the perfect way to practice those math facts over the summer.  There are four products in all that feature addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division.  
       Did I mention that they are all on special this month?  Turn practice into a game - in many parts of the USA, "24" is also a well known competition - maybe where you live.

I hope many of you visited: Stay Smart this summer with Bill Nye from my last blog - Summer interlude 
I want to encourage many ways to stay on top of learning during the fun-filled - but long - summer months.

Now on to my summer exploration
       One of my first surprises at South Carolina  Aquarium was a salt marsh display.  If you remember from my first blog, I love the water life on the pond I live on - recall the muscovy duck poem.  Well, imagine my thrill of having birds and turtles several feet away.  I was especially intrigued by the egrets and great blue herons. 

 Sea Turtle Rescue

       There is a sea turtle "hospital" in the basement of the South Carolina Aquarium with separate water tanks for each sea turtle.  Four major types are found on the Atlantic Ocean shores (all endangered). 
The most numerous are the loggerheads. There are several in the "hospital."  
       The most interesting is one that has part of its shell missing from a shark bite.  The smallest is the kemp ridley which gets caught up in fishing nets.  And then there is the green sea turtle which is pictured - and my personal favorite.  The leatherback is the largest - too large for the aquarium - and travels the furtherest.

     So, what do they eat?  A little girl next to me exclaimed, "Look, they like the broccoli ribs - just like me."  They were also eating lettuce. (This is a small turtle pictured - and difficult to see.)

     There are 2 books I would like suggest to look further at sea turtles.  
Go to "National Geographic Readers: Sea Turtles" page                                                                                           National Geographic Kids: Sea Turtles               
by Laura Marsh is a good introduction of the types of turtles and their life cycle.

I’ll Follow the Moon By Author Stephanie Lisa TaraI'll Follow the Moon 
       by Stephanie Lisa Tara is a charming picture book tracking the journey of a green sea turtle on his journey from his nest to the ocean.

I will close with my poetry - possible picture book???

A Tiny Surprise in the Sand

Buddy, just look at this long sandy beach,   
High crashing waves explode in our reach.

There’s Dad with a ball in his hand.   
He’s throwing it out in the sand.     

Buddy, run after the ball.
“Watch out for the waves,” I call.

A wave rushes in with a crash
Buddy leaps back with a splash.      

He finds something hard in the sand.
I scoop up the prize with my hand.

It’s a living sea turtle that’s tiny.       
It has a hard shell that is shiny.   
Its flippers are long and quite thick.     
I discover this turtle is quick.

It scoots off so fast through the sand,   
I must hurry to block with my hand.

Squawk!  A blue heron is hunting for prey.
It’s long stick-like legs are now strutting this way. 

Buddy barks at the heron and scares it away.
“Now what? Our turtle‘s in danger,” I say.

Dad says, “Let’s look for some seaweed.  
It’s just what this turtle will need.”

I say, “Buddy, let’s take a quick walk.
There’s seaweed that’s stuck on a rock.”

Turtle and seaweed go in my hat.
“I can’t wait until Mom checks out that!”   

“Look what we found in the sand. “
It’s long flippers are tickling my hand.

Mom looks at its body so tiny and wet.
“A sea turtle isn’t a pet!”

Babies must not leave their nests yet.
People and animals are a real threat.

They cross over the sand when its night.   
The moon and stars guide them with light.   

“Let’s enjoy and protect it today.  
Then, we’ll help him to get on his way. “

“We’ll walk him far out in the ocean.
The waves will then set him in motion.”    

Our turtle must swim very fast,  
And then he’ll find safety at last. 

By Joan Bock  
(No permission to copy)

         . . . . Until next time, Signing off,
                                                           Joan Bock