The Making of a First-Grade Data Hound

My son’s first-grade teacher recently held an open house to tell the parents what their kids will be learning this year, and how they’ll be going about it. I have to say, it was pretty impressive. My favorite part had to do with turning the kids into first-grade (if not first-rate) empiricists.

The teacher, a wonderful veteran from Texas named Barbara, described an upcoming project: collecting data on some or all of the 22 playgrounds in Central Park.

First, the kids will vote on their favorite and least favorite playgrounds in the park. Then they will collect data on a variety of metrics: number of swings, amount of open space, shady vs. sunny areas, etc. Then they will try to figure out the factors that make a good playground good and a bad playground bad. They will also consider the safety of each playground, and other measures.

We did not do this kind of project when I was in first grade; frankly, I am envious.

I recently played a game with my kids in Central Park that is along these same lines. We sat on one of our favorite rocks overlooking the Loop, a six-mile road that runs through the park, and I asked if they thought there were more runners or cyclists going past. Both kids were certain that there were more cyclists — perhaps because, since the cyclists are so much faster than the runners, they make more of an impression. So we made a little bet (I took runners, they took cyclists), and started counting to see which would pass us first: 100 runners or 100 cyclists. I won, but not by much: 100-87.

That was early on a weekday evening. But a few days later, we played the same game on a weekend morning. The kids stuck to their guns and picked cyclists. This time they were right: the cyclists blew away the runners. I guess there are a lot of people who aren’t willing to unpack their bikes for a weekday evening ride, especially as the days are getting shorter, but are willing to go to the trouble on a weekend morning. It was a good lesson for all of us, and it has us on the lookout for other things to measure.

What fun and games do you all employ to help make your kids reality-aware?

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  1. Toni says:

    We play a lovely game called “Don’t Expect Me to Buy You Stuff because You Blew Your Chore Money on Chocolate.” There are, of course, many variations.

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  2. Toni says:

    We play a lovely game called “Don’t Expect Me to Buy You Stuff because You Blew Your Chore Money on Chocolate.” There are, of course, many variations.

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  3. Mani says:

    “Reality-aware” – I like it. It’s a rosier alternative to “science-illiterate” – which most of our nation, nevermind their children, is. Kudos.

    I don’t have suggestions for games to play with children that young, but when I was in the third or fourth grade, a visiting school official played a game that drove me nuts with excitement:

    He first had me describe concepts I’d learned in science class (atoms, molecules, etc.) using none of the terms I was fed in class (“atoms,” “molecules,” etc.), and using descriptive terminology (i.e. no “stuff,” “sort of,” etc.). In other words, to quantitatively and qualitatively describe a concept, rather than repeat a lesson.

    Granted, I was infamously the school geek back then – but nonetheless. Stuck with me.

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  4. Mani says:

    “Reality-aware” – I like it. It’s a rosier alternative to “science-illiterate” – which most of our nation, nevermind their children, is. Kudos.

    I don’t have suggestions for games to play with children that young, but when I was in the third or fourth grade, a visiting school official played a game that drove me nuts with excitement:

    He first had me describe concepts I’d learned in science class (atoms, molecules, etc.) using none of the terms I was fed in class (“atoms,” “molecules,” etc.), and using descriptive terminology (i.e. no “stuff,” “sort of,” etc.). In other words, to quantitatively and qualitatively describe a concept, rather than repeat a lesson.

    Granted, I was infamously the school geek back then – but nonetheless. Stuck with me.

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  5. coolrepublica says:

    My child is 2 years old. When I go shopping I make her pay. When I buy ice cream I make her tell me how much it the board says it cost. Since it is 1 dollar it is easy. (money doesn’t grow on trees lesson)

    If she wants something from target that is a want not a need, she has to read the name on the label so we can get it.(she knows her alphabet lower and upper case)

    I make her go and turn on the TV for me and put in the DVD and push play. She brings me the remote and gets me yogurt from the fridge.( Adults are too lazy to get their own remotes lesson)

    Whenever I lose TiVo remote, I have her find it. (Things get lost and they must be found lesson)

    When she wants to read I ask her the name of the book and the name of the author that wrote it. (I am trying to teach her that books don’t write themselves)

    I have a lot of more games we play together. She knows all her colors and shades of. She can count to 27 and can add up to 7. She can spell 5 words I guess I must do something right or tramautizing her for life. I haven’t decided which one yet.

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  6. coolrepublica says:

    My child is 2 years old. When I go shopping I make her pay. When I buy ice cream I make her tell me how much it the board says it cost. Since it is 1 dollar it is easy. (money doesn’t grow on trees lesson)

    If she wants something from target that is a want not a need, she has to read the name on the label so we can get it.(she knows her alphabet lower and upper case)

    I make her go and turn on the TV for me and put in the DVD and push play. She brings me the remote and gets me yogurt from the fridge.( Adults are too lazy to get their own remotes lesson)

    Whenever I lose TiVo remote, I have her find it. (Things get lost and they must be found lesson)

    When she wants to read I ask her the name of the book and the name of the author that wrote it. (I am trying to teach her that books don’t write themselves)

    I have a lot of more games we play together. She knows all her colors and shades of. She can count to 27 and can add up to 7. She can spell 5 words I guess I must do something right or tramautizing her for life. I haven’t decided which one yet.

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  7. Sarah says:

    I would guess that those things which you do not consciously teach your children are much greater than the ones that you can consciously teach them. The Greeks called it ‘doxa,’ or that which goes unsaid and is implicit in culture, in norms, in institutionalized values.

    Then again, am I just being cynical or ignorant because I’m not a parent?

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  8. Sarah says:

    I would guess that those things which you do not consciously teach your children are much greater than the ones that you can consciously teach them. The Greeks called it ‘doxa,’ or that which goes unsaid and is implicit in culture, in norms, in institutionalized values.

    Then again, am I just being cynical or ignorant because I’m not a parent?

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