Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Blue Star Museums 2016

I've been checking the site for weeks, but there was no sign of the 2016 program, just information about 2015. When I looked late Monday, I noticed this year's program had been posted.

Blue Star Museums offers free admission to active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2016. You can locate the participating venues around the country on the map provided here.

It is always best to research the venue you are attending prior to making your plans. In Massachusetts for instance avoiding a Free Fun Friday will provide you with fewer crowds and better access to the venue. Some venues also have additional costs for special programs offered.

People often use these discounts when traveling to visit family during the summer months or when family comes to visit.  Since the military discounts only cover immediate family, consider checking out other discounts for your guests. 

There are lots of ways to save money when visiting local venues.  For your guests who don't qualify for the Blue Star Museum discount, check out library passes, AAA, AARP, senior discounts, and local coupons to make the trip affordable for everyone who is going.  If you check out the venue's website it will sometimes list the types of discounts offered and you can check to see what options that provides for your party.  We've been known to combine library passes, with AAA, and a senior discount to cover a large family outing so everyone has an affordable day.  It takes research, but it can be done.

These are the venues participating in MA this year:

The Discovery Museums

Lowell's Boat Shop

Beneski Museum of Natural History, Amherst College

Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy

Attleboro Arts Museum
Mass Audubon at Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary

Mass Audubon - Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary

Mass Audubon - Habitat Education Center

Beverly Historical Society and Museum

Bostonian Society
Historic New England
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, Inc.
Nichols House Museum
Old North Historic Site
Old South Meeting House
Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation
Russell Museum at Massachusetts General Hospital
Shirley-Eustis House
The Bostonian Society
The Mary Baker Eddy Library

Harvard Museum of Natural History
MIT Museum
Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology

Mass Audubon - Museum of American Bird Art

Museum of Russian Icons

Dedham Historical Society & Museum

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association & Memorial Hall Museum

Duxbury Rural & Historical Society

East Sandwich:
Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum

Mass Audubon at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary

Martha's Vineyard Museum
Mass Audubon Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

Cogswell's Grant

Fitchburg Art Museum

Danforth Art Museum\School

Cape Ann Museum
Sargent House Museum

Fruitlands Museum

Buttonwoods Museum
Haverhill Firefighting Museum
Whittier Birthplace

John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum

Ipswich Museum

Mass Audubon at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Historic New England- Gropius House
Mass Audubon - Drumlin Farm

Lynn Museum/LynnArts

Historic Winslow House Association
Mass Audubon at North River Wildlife Sanctuary

Mass Audubon at Boston Nature Center

Blue Hills Trailside Museum

Nantucket Historical Association
Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association
Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum

Mass Audubon - Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

New Bedford:
New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks!
New Bedford Whaling Museum

Mass Audubon at Joppa Flats Education Center

Mass Audubon at Stony Brook

North Andover:
North Andover Historical Society

Smith College Museum of Art

Berkshire Museum

Mass Audubon - Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

Quincy Homestead

Carpenter Museum

Peabody Essex Museum

Mass Audubon Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

South Wellfleet:
Mass Audubon - Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay

Springfield Museums

Norman Rockwell Museum

Old Sturbridge Village

Old Colony History Museum (OCHM)

Mass Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History

Clark Art Institute

Mass Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
Worcester Historical Museum

Yarmouth Port:
Edward Gorey House

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle

I've been a huge of Cindy Neuschwander's Sir Cumference series for quite some time. Sir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle does not disappoint. It provides a fun tale, while demonstrating an important math concept rounding.

In this episode we find Sir Cumference's steward, Edward Rounds working with his son, of the same name on the accounts. To avoid confusion the two are known as Rounds 1 and Rounds 2. While the younger, Rounds 2 enjoys counting, double digit adding is not his strength and he struggles with how to quickly add the columns of numbers to provide accurate counts that Sir Cumference and his men rely on in doing their daily tasks. His father emphasizes that while it is important to be an accurate counter to be steward, the ultimate purpose in counting is to supply an inventory that will be useful to those needing to use it in the castle. Accurate data from counting is essential for the inventory to be correct, but without finishing the final step in adding up the numbers the inventory is not very practical for those who come to ask for information.

Rounds 1 and 2 discuss how much easier it is to count with round numbers, but his father does emphasize the need for an accurate count. As the story continues, Rounds 2 stumbles upon an invasion force and now the inventory is more important than ever, for Sir Cumference needs to know how many bows and arrows he has available to fight off the incoming forces. Rounds 2 panics because he has not had the chance to finish adding all the columns. Rounds 2 lacks the time to add all the columns so he grabs a tape measure to help him figure the closest friendly 10 for each entry. Once he has his estimates, the columns are much easier to add. He is then able to present a rounded count just as the invasion force is arriving. It is looking scary for Sir Cumference's forces, but help arrives from an unexpected resource and all is resolved in favor of the heroes.

This was a great way to demonstrate a practical use for rounding. It also used larger numbers that demonstrated a need for rounding. One issue I struggled with as a child is we started rounding with problems I could answer without rounding. Why do the extra work of rounding when I know the "real" answer. This presents both Round 2 and the children with real practical reasons to round numbers.

Science Books for Kids

I've been searching for science books that provide content at a range of levels. I'm starting with picture books, but I'll be looking for other books to add as I'm searching. My goal is quality content. There are plenty of people publishing books, but not all manage to provide accurate useful content. I am including picture books that combine fantasy characters with non-fiction content. For my purposes if the content is accurate, I'm fine with some entertainment value engaging the learner with the material. However, as I stated the accuracy and amount of information covered is important to me.


Vampires and Cells (Monster Science)Review here


Werewolves and States of Matter (Monster Science) Review here





Storms (Reading Rainbow Book)




Zombies and Electricity Review here

Human Body:

Bones: Our Skeletal System

Eyes and Ears Review here

Inside Your Outside: All About the Human Body (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)

The Brain: All about Our Nervous System and More!

The Heart: All about Our Circulatory System and More!

Muscles: Our Muscular System


On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)


Ghosts and Atoms (Monster Science)Review here

Vampires and Light (Monster Science)Review here

Thud!: Wile E. Coyote Experiments with Forces and Motion (Wile E. Coyote, Physical Science Genius) Review here

Zap!: Wile E. Coyote Experiments with Energy (Wile E. Coyote, Physical Science Genius)Review here

Zombies and Forces and Motion (Monster Science) Review here


From Seed to Plant

Oh Say Can You Seed?: All About Flowering Plants (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)

Rocks and Minerals:

Yogi Bear's Guide to Rocks (Yogi Bear's Guide to the Great Outdoors) Review here

Simple Machines:

Smash!: Wile E. Coyote Experiments with Simple Machines (Wile E. Coyote, Physical Science Genius)Review here

The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story About the Six Simple Machines Review here


Mummies and Sound (Monster Science) Review here


Freddy the Frogcaster Review here


Raindrops on a Roller Coaster: Hail (Bel the Weather Girl)Review here

Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today?: All About Weather (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)Review here


Weather Forecasting

Weather Words and What They Mean

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Free Fun Fridays 2016 in Massachusetts

I checked last week and Highland Street Foundation had not posted the list for 2016 yet. Today I decided to do another scan and sure enough the list is available here. For those of you not familiar with the program, every Friday several venues offer free entrance to different museums, zoos, theater, music events, and other attractions to residents and visitors in Massachusetts.

Some venues include all activities available at the venue, others include basic admission with other programs coming at additional costs. The first Friday is June 24, the last August 26. These Friday events can draw large crowds, so if you have access to library passes or other discounts you might want to consider all your options when planning your trip. You don't want to pick up a library pass for the same day as a Free Friday event. Some do offer special events to attract people to come on the special day, so that can be a reason to face the crowds.

Magic School Bus A Science Fact Finder: Bats

I was surprised to locate a non-fiction series of Magic School Bus Chapter books. I knew they had used the characters from the original picture books to bridge to a chapter book series, but I was not aware they made a brief attempt at a non-fiction series similar to the Magic Tree House series. In fact when I picked up Magic School Bus Fact Finder Bats I thought it part of the Magic Treehouse Fact Finder series. It was only as I got it home and examined it more closely I realized it was a series I hadn't encountered before.

It is part of a 4 book series, sadly all out of print. Your library may have some of them to borrow. If you wish to purchase, with some searching of online book sites and at library sales you may come across them. I found the first of the series at a library sale.

The rest of the series consists of:

Skeletons (The Magic School Bus, A Science Fact Finder)

Space and the Planets (The Magic School Bus, Fact Finder)

Whales: The Magic School Bus Fact Finder

This series is kind of a bridge series between the Magic School Bus and Tree House and I wish they'd written more. The font is a little larger, the length of the book shorter. The language is structured more for readers who are interested in non-fiction, but needing information spread out into chunks that are more easily digested. There are lots of pictures and informational charts with highlighted information the author wants the reader to walk away from the book understanding. Words are clearly defined and the author does a great job of trying to break down a complicated subject into understandable language in a fairly short format. I hope to find the rest of this series as I think it would be interesting to see if the rest of the series is equally as informative.

It can be hard to find good non-fiction for kids that is also engaging. This book I believe accomplishes that goal.