Friday, December 21, 2012

Break from School, not from Learning

     Happy Holidays to all the educators out there.  We just had our first snowfall here in Reynoldsburg, OH, very timely on this last day of school before winter break.  Kids are singing Christmas songs in the halls, Teachers are smiling as if they don't have to work for a week...ohhh that's right they don't.  However, the learning doesn't have to stop.  One thing as an educator I have always thought was important was to get students to enjoy learning.  In fact if you can get students to learn without them realizing it, you show them that learning takes place everyday, in every facet of life.  It is not just something that happens in a classroom. So over break get your students to learn!

Norad has been tracking Santa since 1958.  Why you might ask well it is actually because Sears Roebuck & Co. printed the wrong number in their advertisement in 1955 & a good natured Colonel Harry Shoup had his staff check their radar for children who called in to the Continental Air Defense Command instead.  A tradition was born & in 1958 the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) took over & has been doing it ever since.

     Where does the learning come in?  Well as they track Santa they have animated videos from all over the world showing culture, explaining traditions, & mapping the flight showing kids where all of the countries are.  My three children & I track Santa from wherever we are every Christmas Eve and follow along.  Questions come up about different countries and how time zones work.  Other Santa type questions come up as well, which is why it is nice that NORAD includes a FAQ on their site addressing all of those types of questions if your kids still 9 year old is starting to doubt, but knows the presents stop when the belief does.  That's why I believed in Santa until I was 18!

     In 2010 they also started excepting & posting videos from students all over the world.  Videos range from explaining traditions, showing locations, to just fun songs or silliness (showing students creativity).  These videos have taken the site from just an informational learning opportunity to an interactive hands-on expression of teaching & learning.  By actively participating in this project, students can take ownership in teaching or the sharing of their neck of the woods with the rest of the world. As well as explaining their tradition or the ways their culture celebrates the holidays.

     There are also games & activities to do on the site as well as videos.  On area called Santa's Countdown Calendar has a building for each day leading up to the 25th & each building is actually an interactive game.  Most games are very simple, but creative & usually have a puzzle type solving theme to them.  For instance one such game is the located in the North Pole Clock Tower and is called Christmas Tree Light Up.  Choose the Hard setting for a fun strategic puzzle of lighting up the tree.  I am sure a creative science teacher could even connect it to a lesson about closed or open circuits, but either way it present a puzzle students will have to work through.  Anything to encourage problem solving in unique ways is always good.

     So if you have not checked out Norad give it a try this Holiday Season with your students or just with your own kids.  I'll leave you with the trailer video below for 2012.  Happy Holidays & I'll see you on the flipside of long as the world doesn't end today!