Saturday, May 31, 2014

How Languages Evolve - Alex Gendler

Over the course of human history, thousands of languages have developed from what was once a much smaller number. How did we end up with so many? And how do we keep track of them all? Alex Gendler explains how linguists group languages into language families, demonstrating how these linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past.

Lesson by Alex Gendler, animation by Igor Coric.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jodie H., Mom of a Reading Student

Jodie's son, Wyatt, struggled to read before he came to The Academy of 21st Century Learning.

He can now confidently read stories from his favorite books to his mom and dad!

If this sounds like your child, call The Academy to schedule an assessment at 707.474.4710. We are located in The Nut Tree Plaza across from the carousel and train.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How The Heart Actually Pumps Blood - Edmond Hui

For most of history, scientists weren't quite sure why our hearts were beating or even what purpose they served. Eventually, we realized that these thumping organs serve the vital task of pumping clean blood throughout the body. But how? Edmond Hui investigates how it all works by taking a closer look at the heart's highly efficient ventricle system.

Lesson by Edmond Hui, animation by Anton Bogaty.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summer Learning Loss

Learn some tips on how to prevent summer learning loss in this video.

Worried about Summer Learning Loss? Try one of our Summer Camps at The Academy of 21st Century Learning! 

Here are some facts:
  • Most students lose about two months of what they learned in math over the summer months.
  • Low-income students lose more than two months in reading achievement.
  • Parents consistently say that summer is the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.
  • Our children’s’ need to learn does not end in May when the school doors close. They need to stay active and engaged, which also helps them stay on track academically when they return to school in August. 

The Academy to the rescue!

Yes, it’s time to plan ahead and secure a spot for your child in a program that will support growth and learning during the summer months. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell the kids they are avoiding summer learning-loss. If they are having fun with engaging, well-run pro-grams, trust me, they will be learning.

The Specialty Classes are taught by credentialed teachers or University graduating student-teachers. Small groups and classes keep your child focused and challenged. There will be days when The Academy is transformed into Mars, a rain forest, or an ocean scene.

For more information, please visit

Monday, May 19, 2014

How Big Is The Ocean? - Scott Gass

While the Earth's oceans are known as five separate entities, there is really only one ocean. So, how big is it? As of 2013, it takes up 71% of the Earth, houses 99% of the biosphere, and contains some of Earth's grandest geological features. Scott Gass reminds us of the influence humans have on the ocean and the influence it has on us.

Lesson by Scott Gass, animation by Sandro Katamashvili.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Finding a Tutor - How a Tutor Can Help Your Child Improve Their Grades

A typical day in a classroom encompasses the needs of a particular cohort of students. However each member of the cohort brings different home life experience, different learning experiences their own strengths/weaknesses and likes/dislikes to the classroom environment. While teachers are compelled to program their learning in a way that meets the needs of all students in their care, it is unrealistic to believe this can be accomplished for all students. This is where tutoring begins to bridge the gap between home and school.

A good tutor assesses the student's most pressing needs and focuses their teaching plan in that area. Programs that attempt to cover a broad amount of material, defeat the benefits of one on one tutoring. However, an intuitive tutor, who has determined the ability level of the student, will be able to target specific areas of learning until the student shows progress. For example a student might be able to use interesting vocabulary and demonstrate mastery with spelling, but may have no idea how to use grammar correctly. A tutor can assist a student to improve their own writing by instructing them how to proof read and edit for punctuation in a written composition. Thus, the intensity of focus between tutor and student allows for a high level of progress and improvement of grades.

A child who is struggling with phonemic awareness will experience substantial improvement with one on one tutoring. Here, the tutor is able to target the sounds and blends a student has not acquired in previous learning. The opportunity for such specific and explicit teaching is self directed by the student's needs. It allows the tutor to encourage the student in their learning as they very quickly begin to read using the sounds and blends that had not been retained previously.

This type of work is an intensive focus on the needs of one student rather than a larger group. It allows the student to take risks they would otherwise be embarrassed to in a larger group. Very quickly a shift in confidence is evident as the student begins to conquer previously difficult concepts.

Similarly with Mathematics, a student may find difficulty with particular strands or concepts. A tutor can hone in on these problems and provide intensive one on one support for an extended lesson. The opportunity to model these concepts directly to the student's needs and ability level, is a powerful way to encourage confidence and independence as students learn each new topic more thoroughly at their own pace. Difficulties can be discerned by the tutor, who in turn assesses when the student is ready to take the next step. The problem with the formal school setting is that students often need to move on before they have understood the previous lessons on the topic. This is where gaps occur and where tutors can support the aims of the student's formal teacher.

A "switched on" tutor would also focus on building a trust relationship with the student. This allows the student to share the challenges and difficulties they are experiencing at school with their tutor. This type of dialogue allows the tutor to best understand the unique learning styles and preferences of the student and to therefore plan accordingly. It also allows for a relationship of trust to develop which assists the students level of engagement in their learning.

My experience as a one on one tutor in the United Kingdom proved the power of one on one tutoring to me. Students who didn't know basic sounds, were unable to read simple consonant/vowel/consonant words and had difficulty writing legibly, demonstrated significant improvement in a four week, one hour a day program.

In conclusion, while the formal school provides a stimulating environment for students to learn, there is a very important place for one on one tutoring. A child's learning is like a jigsaw puzzle. If there are pieces missing, the end product will be incomplete and gaps in their learning will be evident. The benefits of one on one tutoring are many. A good tutor will diagnose the gaps in learning, fill them in with one on one explicit teaching and assist the student to work confidently and independently.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Science of Symmetry - Colm Kelleher

When you hear the word symmetry, you might think generally of triangles, butterflies, or even ballerinas. But defined scientifically, symmetry is "a transformation that leaves an object unchanged." Huh? Colm Kelleher unpacks this abstract term and explains how animal's distinct symmetries can tell us more about them -- and ourselves.

Lesson by Colm Kelleher, animation by Andrew Foerster.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cell vs. Virus: A Battle For Health - Shannon Stiles

All living things are made of cells. In the human body, these highly efficient units are protected by layer upon layer of defense against icky invaders like the cold virus. Shannon Stiles takes a journey into the cell, introducing the microscopic arsenal of weapons and warriors that play a role in the battle for your health.

Lesson by Shannon Stiles, animation by Igor Coric.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Secrets from the Classroom - Avoiding Summer Learning Loss

In June, elementary school children across North America will cheer as they pack up their bags for the final time, and began a much awaited summer vacation. For many this two-month academic hiatus is cause for celebration. However, it can also be a factor in a long standing, yet little publicized, childhood affliction: Summer Learning Loss (SLL).

In 1996, in a synthesis of 39 separate studies, researchers found that the average student, returning to school in September has lost the equivalent of 1.0 to 2.6 months of previous learning-in effect, erasing this amount of learning from their mind. According to the report, the biggest losses occur in the areas of spelling and computational math (multiplication, addition, etc.).

The good news for both parents and students is that this "academic atrophy" can be reduced and even eliminated. While traditional workbooks and review methods work well, why not look for natural opportunities in your day for your children to grow as learners. Here are a few for your consideration:

Kids in the Kitchen. Cooking touches on so many academic skills for kids. The kitchen provides a fun hands-on environment to learn about fractions, measurement, multiplication, division, nutrition, hygiene, and artistic presentation of food. As well, reading cookbooks not only develops literacy skills but can entice reluctant readers to dive in. Get kids involved in measuring and doubling recipes. Learning never tasted so good!

Shopping. Clothes? Food? Tools? It doesn't matter. Younger children can count or add the number of items in your cart, while older ones can keep a running total of the cost. In the store or using fliers at your house, have your kids estimate the differences in prices. Which brands are better deals? Use a calculator, or do "mental math". Shopping in any store also is also a great time to practice handling money skills such as counting change.

Family Trips. Going on a vacation? Have your kids read brochures or go online to learn about things to see or do (reading). Using pen and paper or even a spreadsheet, give them a budget and see if they can plan meals, activities and lodgings for one of the days (math & problem solving). Designate one of your children the trip mapmaker (art, math) or map reader (math). Still others could be in charge of creating a family journal or scrapbook (writing, art). The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Have a Family Games Night. Traditional board games give so many opportunities to reinforcing academic skills-reading cards, adding dice together, counting spaces, and using money. Games such as Scrabble, Spill & Spell, Scattergories, and Balderdash are not only fun but also strengthen reading skills.

Start with a Hobby. Use your child's current hobby or interest as a starting point. Sports abound with numbers and statistics. Track personal or family stats, or those of famous players. Pick up books or magazines from the library on a favourite topic. Consider a family field trip to a park or museum. He/she doesn't have a hobby? Pick a topic that interests both of you and learn something together.

Combating Summer Learning Loss doesn't have to be complicated or boring-all it takes is a focused effort to find the educational opportunities in what you are already doing. Not only will they be keeping their brains active, they will likely be having so much fun, they won't even know that they are learning!

Rob Stringer, BA, BEd, CPC is an award-winning Educator and Parenting & Personal Success Coach who is passionate about helping people live lives they LOVE! In addition to coaching kids, young adults, parents & families, Rob also appears regularly in magazines across North America, offers workshops & keynotes, and is the host of The Parenting with Intention Radio Hour. To find out more and subscribe to his free monthly newsletter, visit []
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

How Tsunamis Work - Alex Gendler

The immense swell of a tsunami can grow up to 100 feet, hitting speeds over 500 mph -- a treacherous combination for anyone or anything in its path. Alex Gendler details the causes of these towering terrors and explains how scientists are seeking to reduce their destruction in the future.

Lesson by Alex Gendler, animation by Augenblick Studios.