What’s Better Than an Apple for the Teacher?

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and seriously, who deserves to be appreciated more than teachers? As the wife of a teacher, I can attest to the hours spent out of the classroom that contributes to the well-being of students in the classroom. On any given night, you’ll find my husband, a middle school math teacher, calling parents to let them know how their kids are doing in class, arranging extra tutoring sessions for students who are struggling, and grading papers. And then there is the time spent planning for Pi Day, preparing students for and attending the local Math Olympics, and taking kids on field trips. Yep, it’s a job that should be appreciated.


In my daughter’s elementary school, the PTA has planned a slate of activities that last the whole week, ranging from bringing in a flower for the teacher to sending a note about why the teacher is so awesome. Most people end the week by sending in a small gift. Again, as the wife of a teacher, I can safely say that the gift cards to Starbucks and Barnes & Noble are sincerely appreciated. But gifts such as coffee mugs and “apple for the teacher” figurines, not as much. It’s not that the teacher doesn’t appreciate the thought, it’s just that there are so many other things that the teacher could use to make every aspect of his/her classroom better.


One suggestion for those who are gift-card adverse is a subscription to a magazine for the teacher’s classroom. At Cricket Media we have 11 award-winning magazines including Cobblestone, which focuses exclusively on topics relating to American History (I find myself constantly looking to the age-appropriate and high-interest Cobblestone articles for my daughter as she studies the American Revolution and the Civil War) and Muse, which is chock-full of science-related content. Both of these mags, as well as Dig (our archeology and ancient history) and Faces (our geography) magazines would add so much value to your child’s classroom. It would be a resource that the teacher can turn to again and again. And since reading short articles are often less intimidating to reluctant readers than reading full books, they magazines could be a huge benefit to some of the teacher’s more reticent students. Check out our full range of magazines and I’m sure you’ll find one that your child’s teacher would love more than that plant you’ve been eyeing.


By the way, here’s a quick Teacher Appreciation Day story I have to share. One year my husband got a tote bag as a gift from the student who has probably been the biggest, um, let’s say, challenge of his career. The tote bag said: “Math Teachers Have Problems.” To this day my husband and I wonder if the kid was being ironic.


Anyway, to all you teachers out there: we appreciate you. And to all you parents: Let’s make our teachers feel appreciated today and every day.

Invent It Challenge Week 2: Explore It!

The2016 Spark!Lab Invent It Challengeis finally off and running. This year, kids ages 5 to 21 need to identify a real-world health problem and come up with a solution to the problem. Each entry must follow the seven step invention process spelled out by our partner, theSmithsonian’s Spark!Lab. For the next 7 weeks or so, we are going to be highlighting each step in the Spark!Lab’s seven-step process with the goal of helping parents help their children make the most of this learning opportunity and achieve optimum results.


Your child has finally narrowed down his or her options.  A great idea, one with the potential to effect change in the field of medicine, is starting to grow. And now your child wants to know: what’s next?


The next step in the Invent It Challenge is to do some research. An old saying proclaims, “there is nothing new under the sun,” and that goes for new inventions. Chances are someone else has identified the same problem and came up with a solution of their own. This “Explore It” phase of development is meant to help your young inventor capitalize on the work that has already been done.


2016 Invent It Challenge


Explore It


Finding out that someone else has tackled the same problem shouldn’t be discouraging for your child. It’s actually a great opportunity. It’s a chance to see other solutions, to evaluate things that can be changed, to improve on what came before. Your child might also find links to schematics and drawings, get advice or suggestions from experts in the field, or even discover some facet of the problem that they hadn’t considered before.


Your child should keep a record of their research. They will need to show this work as part of their entry for the Invent It Challenge. (No shortcuts here. Each entry must demonstrate all seven of Spark!Lab’s Key Steps of the Invention Process.) Your child’s research should identify specific features and benefits of their invention over what has been done previously and should show how their specific approach makes improvements to what is already available.


Start Your Research


If your child is working as part of a group, the group can choose to assign this step to one member who may be enthusiastic about this step. That team member can then present his or her findings to the group so they can all be aware of what else has been done. Or each team member can work on their own research, bringing their results back to the group so they can compare and contrast the information they discovered. Either way, it is important for each member of the group to be well versed in what has already been done, so they can work to improve upon, not duplicate, someone else’s work.


With a good idea in hand, it can be tempting to a young inventor to skip the research step and just get to work. For many people, the doing is the fun part. Research can seem like a waste of time. If you are getting push-back on this step in your house or from your team, keep in mind that doing research is a key part of the learning process. It will help you succeed in both the short and the long run as you work on this project and many others to come.


Want to learn about the first step? Invent It Challenge Week 1: Think It!