Online Learning

COnlineheck out this article in Forbes last year about the myths of online learning.  Everything can be done online these days; shopping, banking, communicating, booking holidays, reading and watching TV so why not learning or even tutoring?  What do you think about online learning?

I am personally studying my Master’s program online and I love it.  I can work at my own pace with a plethora of resources and information available at my fingertips.  I can still communicate with my professor and fellow classmates during my class about questions I have or problems I am experiencing.  So, all in all, the forum works very well for me.

Could you learn that way?

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnebersole/2012/08/24/the-myths-of-online-learning/

Will I Ever Get the Chance to Read You!!!

BooksI spend so much time reading the text-books I need for my classes, reading the news on the internet, reading my friend’s updates on Facebook that I never seem to find the time to read the stack of books sitting on my night stand.

I love reading books.  In my opinion there is no better feeling than sitting and reading a great book, a page turner, a plot that keeps you awake at night or on a 24-hour train journey through China.  Of course, the greatness of any book is subjective.  You like what you like.  But on a day like today, when it’s cold and gloomy outside and warm and cosy inside, there is something so romantic about being curled up with a good book.

What do you enjoy reading? Do you have a stack of books waiting to be read?  Do you still even read physical books, or unlike me have you moved over to the new ebook format?  I am too old and too much of a romantic for this new technology; I will forever remain an avid purchaser and reader of BOOKS!

A Fresh Start

Fresh StartWe are firmly into 2013 now and I thought this was a great time to see how everyone’s New Year’s resolutions were coming along!!  What promises did you make yourself on January 1st 2013.  After 6 weeks are you still holding strong or do you need to consider a ‘FRESH START’?

I made a number of promises at the beginning of the year;  to work hard on my new Master’s program and complete at least six classes this year, loose 30lbs  and get a job.  How am I doing? Well I have a wonderful new job – Stepping Stone Tutors – “Hello everyone!’ – and I am doing well with my Masters BUT I am yet to loose even a single pound!!!  Am I trying to achieve too much at once?  I am very happy with my success so far, but disappointed that the pounds seem hell bent on sticking to me!!!

In order to feel a real sense of success and positive about how well you have done; it is important to set achievable goals.  If you aim too high or expect too much of yourself you often get disappointed with your outcomes. LIKE ME!!!

What were your targets for the year and how do you think you are doing? Is it time for a Fresh Start?

7 Bad Study Habits to Nip in the Bud

Developing good study habits will help you succeed in class and achieve your educational goals. Knowing how to study hard and smart could result in the difference between acing a class and just passing. Those who have bad study habits or poor organizational skills could end up flunking a class or getting behind in school. If you want to turn your grades around and find new, more effective ways to study, then check out these seven bad study habits you should change immediately.

Studying at home

Studying at home might be convenient and easy, but there are way too many distractions lurking in your dorm, apartment, or house. No matter what room you study in, you’re always going to be faced with some type of distraction. Maybe it’s your talkative roommate, your TV, or the growing pile of clothes that are just asking to be washed. The smallest of things can break your concentration and make studying less effective. Instead of locking yourself in the bedroom and risking a wasted study session, go to the library and find a quiet room or desk to do your studying.

Listening to music while you study

The benefits of listening to music while studying has been argued time after time. Although classical music was once believed to increase spatial abilities and improve learning, subsequent research was not able to support this theory. Recent studies show that music may actually impair cognitive abilities and hinder memorization because of the changing words and notes in songs. Studying in silence or a little white noise will allow you to hear your thoughts and concentrate without the distraction of lyrics and changing tempos.

Studying with friends:

No matter how much you tell yourself it helps to study with friends, it’s probably not doing much good. First of all, anytime you meet up with friends to study, there’s always a delay in the actual studying or reviewing and you’re bound to take several breaks to goof off and chit chat about non-class related things. Although this kind of study session can reduce stress and increase your energy level, it may not be as effective as you’d like. Even if you’re going to study with your “serious” friends, you still need to review the material on your own.

Pulling an all-nighter:

We’re all guilty of it, but staying up all night cramming for an exam has been shown to do very little good for test preparation or performance. Not only does sleep deprivation make you look and feel like a zombie, but it also can take a serious toll on your happiness and overall well-being. The best way to avoid pulling all-nighters is to study ahead of time. It’s easier said than done, but the only way to avoid pulling an all-nighter besides not studying at all. Dedicate a few days a week (or more) to study and review the material so that you aren’t trying to cram everything into your head in one night.

Procrastination:

Procrastination is something we’ve all done in school, but just because it’s common behavior doesn’t mean it’s OK to do. When you procrastinate studying, you run the risk of doing things halfway and not retaining as much information as you need to ace the exam. If you have to pull frequent all-nighters or find yourself rushing to finish every essay or project, then you need to work on your time management skills and start studying earlier.

Not creating an outline:

If you aren’t making outlines while studying or writing a paper, then you aren’t being as efficient as you could be. There are many reasons to make an outline. It helps you keep track of large amounts of information, organize your ideas, and present your class material in a logical way. Instead of trying to reread your textbook or write an essay from scratch, make an outline to organize your thoughts and study more effectively.

Highlighting your textbook:

You might think that reading a textbook and marking the pages with a neon highlighter is the best way to study for an upcoming exam, but, in all actuality, this is one of the least effective ways for students to remember content. Instead of coloring entire pages with highlighters and trying to reread the text, you should quiz yourself over the material you just read. This will help you retain more information and score higher on exams.

Republished from http://onlineclasses.org

Tutoring vs. Self-Study

This article was written by one of the Stepping Stone Tutors Study Skills Tutors. If you know of anyone who might be interested in study skills tuition, please do get in contact.

 

Even though you may be aware of the benefits of tutoring versus self-studying, you may have still found yourself thinking, “I’ll just extend my study hours to better understand the material” or “I’ll understand the material better if I just focus harder when I study”. While you may be able to create a bit more success from these tricks, the efficiency and understanding you will gain from hiring a tutor is incomparable to self-study.  Personal attention, individualized study schedules, and an efficient work environment are just three big reasons why tutoring is beneficial.

The most common reason people tend to consider tutoring is because of the personal attention. For example, say fifth-grader, Bobby, consistently struggles with his math homework. Bobby is fairly able to follow along in class. Unfortunately there are ten other students in Bobby’s class who are struggling to understand algebra as well. With only one teacher and ten students, Bobby’s chances of having all his questions answered are pretty low. With an algebra tutor, Bobby would have the complete attention of his algebra tutor for hours at a time. As he works through his math problems he would be able to ask specific questions right when the issue arises. If Bobby were studying alone, he would have to wait until the following school day to ask his math question. At that point, Bobby might not be able to finish the rest of the math problem and possibly his subsequent problems.

Another valuable aspect of hiring a tutor is their ability to develop an individualized study plan for the student. Tutors can identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses and then create a study strategy that allows the student to develop their skills. In the case of Bobby, his algebra tutor would be able to recognize where his math troubles linger and then choose a study plan that focuses on improving those specific skills. The algebra tutor could recommend worksheets or suggest study problems that will reinforce his strengths while refining his math weaknesses. If a student chose to study by themselves, they may struggle with identifying their own weaknesses. Consequently, the student would have difficulty figuring out what and how to study.

Finally, a tutoring environment is extremely efficient compared to self-studying. As most of us probably know, when someone is observing you as you work, there is a much higher chance that you become more focused and finish the task quicker. Fortunately, tutoring is a relaxed learning environment, meaning the student doesn’t feel like they’re in class. Therefore, the tutor acts as an aide to keep the student focused. Without any distractions, the student can stay focused on the work, helping them understand more and complete their studying in a shorter time span.

Family Activities in Seattle

Seattle has some of the most diverse and intriguing activities for the whole family. Starting with the Seattle Aquarium, you and your family can explore its five major exhibits. This aquarium is so large that it is the seventh largest aquarium in the nation. One of the coolest exhibits is the 120,000-gallon aquarium that’s filled with more than 800 fish! Watch the daily dives that occur at 10am, 11:30am, and 12:15pm. Divers wearing specialized masks are able to talk to the audience standing outside the 20×40 foot window as they interact with the fish. And of course, everyone should check out the 360-degree undersea dome that consists of a 400,000-gallon tank filled with hundreds of Puget Sound fish. Daily feedings occur at 1:30pm!

Next, the Experience Music Project Museum, founded by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, is a newer museum focused on the history and progression of popular music, science fiction, and pop culture. The museum has mainly rock memorabilia and multimedia displays that are highly sophisticated. Some exhibits feature Bing Crosby, Heart, and Nirvana. This museum is also extremely interactive. Visit the sound labs and learn what it’s like to rehearse and play in a soundproof room. Or visit the stage and bring out your inner-rock star as you play for screaming fans.

Finally, at Seattle’s Bug Safari, families can guide themselves through a bug zoo and interact with some of the most interesting bugs on the planet. Spiders, scorpions, millipedes, and centipedes make up the fifty different species found in this bug zoo. In addition, the zoo offers plenty of educational programs. Invite your child’s Scout group and they can experience an educational guided tour that brings them even closer to the bugs. The admission rates are low and is open all year round.

Family Activities in San Jose

If you live near San Jose, then you are fortunate to have plenty of outdoor activities available to you and your family. Alum Rock Park, one of California’s oldest parks, located in Alum Rock Canyon at the Diablo Mountain Range, has 740 acres of park available to visitors. If you’re lucky, you might get the chance to see some wild animals due to park’s rural surrounding. Activities include jogging, biking, and of course, hiking. The park has 13 miles of hiking trails and several springs and grottos that contribute to the park’s natural beauty. If you plan on staying a while, there are plenty of picnic tables and barbeques so you and your family can enjoy a nice meal.

Second, the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, is another wonderful outdoor activity that the kids can get excited about. This zoo is known for its calming atmosphere and un-urbanized set up. While the zoo is a popular destination for San Jose families, it is rarely too busy and waiting in line hardly ever happens. There are vending machines that allow visitors to buy food pellets for goats at just twenty-five cents. The petting zoo has plenty of animals for the kids to enjoy interacting with. With the Fall season in full swing the zoo is hosting Fall-friendly activities that include a corn maze and a pumpkin patch.

Lastly, if the weather doesn’t permit your family to do any of the other activities, the Children’s Discovery Museum is always a great choice. There are plenty of interactive activities that allow parents to relax as their children take part in staff-supervised fun. One of the coolest exhibits is the Water Wonderland located on the bottom floor of the museum. Here, children can splash around in fountains for hours and make new friends!

Family Fun in San Francisco

One of the best family activities in San Francisco is found at the Ghirardelli Square. Located at Fisherman’s Wharf, next to Aquatic Park, you and your family can enjoy a wonderful trip to a former chocolate factory. You can taste a variety of chocolates and enjoy breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay. If you’re looking for a more educational experience- there are free guided walking history tours of Ghirardelli Square every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. If you’re planning on staying for a while, there are several restaurants and places to hang out. Beautiful views and a plethora of chocolate? This place could be perfect for the whole family.

If you get too full of chocolate, you can take the children to the Aquarium of the Bay. With plenty exhibits and a 3-D movie theater, you and your family will find it easy to spend all day here. You can start your tour in “Discover The Bay” where you can learn about the different ecosystems and wide variety of marine life. The next part, Under the Bay, allows visitors to walk through a 300-foot long crystal clear tunnel and watch animals from the San Francisco Bay swim over and around you. Finally, in Touch the Bay, you and the kids can visit the touch pools and play with sharks, stingrays, and sea stars. The Aquarium of the Bay combines education and fun in the most interactive, intriguing way.

Another family-fun day would be a trip to the California Academy of Sciences, located at Golden Gate Park. There are eight exhibits and each one is completely different from the next. There is an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and more. In the aquarium you can get up close with an African penguin, in the planetarium you can learn about the properties of earthquakes, and in the natural history museum you can observe the process of evolution. The amount your children can learn in this one single facility is massive and the best part is that they’ll probably be having too much fun to notice.

 

Family Activities in San Antonio

San Antonio is fortunate to be home to one of the most popular SeaWorld’s in the country. SeaWorld San Antonio has five, fun exhibits such as Alligator Alley, Dolphin Cove, and Penguin Encounter. In Alligator Alley, you can watch the gators chow down during their feeding times or get the unique opportunity to pet an alligator. Or you can head over to Dolphin Cove and watch dolphins play in a huge lagoon. These Atlantic bottlenose dolphins will jump and flip for you. You might even get the chance to feed and pet them! If you’re hoping for a more educational experience for your children, SeaWorld offers plenty of opportunities. They host resident camps, sleepovers, and Discovery Tours that allow your children to get up close and personal with the animals.

You and your family can also visit the famous Witte Museum. Located on the banks of the San Antonio River, it is a museum focused on natural history, science, and South Texas heritage. There are several must-see exhibits, such as Texas Performers Under the Big Top. This exhibit features some of the oldest circus materials from the famous Hertzberg Circus. As a guest exhibit, the museum is hosting Mummies Of The World Exhibition. You can have the rare opportunity to see the largest collection of mummies and artifacts in the world. The exhibit includes interactive activities that teach visitors about the mummification process and the secrets behind every body.

Finally, you can never go wrong with bringing your children to the children’s museum. The San Antonio Children’s Museum has too many exhibits to count. One of the new exhibits, Science City, is completely interactive, and is an excellent place for children to learn about the properties of circuits, conductivity, and stability. Another new exhibit, Frost Good Cents Bank, is another interactive exhibit that teaches children all about financial responsibility. They can add their savings, donate to charities, and learn how to interact with bank representatives. The museum is open daily and has inexpensive admission costs.

Activities for You and Your Family in Sacramento

Like most cities, Sacramento has an awesome children’s museum that is well worth a day visit. With eight exhibits featuring hands-on activities, your children will be exploring for hours. At Waterways, your kids can discover the properties of water by building their own boat or creating whirlpools.  You can also paint on the glass wall at the Studio of Arts! Teach your children about the characteristics of color as they express themselves by throwing a bunch of colors together. The best part is that other art materials found in the exhibit are recycled, reusable, and donated materials! Finally, Solar Car Racers teach kids the importance of solar energy by allowing users to move solar-powered cars around a raceway using four large halogen lights. They can see learn hands-on just how much energy the sun is capable of providing for us.

If anyone in your family has any interest in locomotives then the California State Railroad Museum, located in Old Sacramento, is a great place to visit. The museum has twenty-one restored trains and cars, some of which date back to 1862. Located inside the museum is a bridge, representing a 1860s construction site in Sierra Nevada, which stands twenty-four feet above ground. The museum is open daily and admission is quite inexpensive.

The coolest site for families in Sacramento has to be Fairytale Town. This real-life recreation of famous fairytales includes a Storybook Park, a petting zoo, as well as several other exhibits. This huge park allows kids to crawl on the tortoise and the hare, sit at King Arthur’s table, or explore Captain Hook’s pirate ship. The petting zoo has sheep and donkeys as well as plenty other furry friends for your kids to have fun with. In addition to all the exhibits, there are educational camps, concerts, and plays. Don’t miss Safe & Super Halloween from October 26-28!

Family Activities in Portland

The Portland Children’s Museum is one of the oldest museums in the country. The museum has a large collection of interactive sites for little ones to play around in. Some of the popular exhibits include Play It Again Theater, the Twilight Trail, and the Pet Hospital. At the Play It Again Theater, kids can act as their favorite character as they show off their acting skills in front of an audience. There are plenty of costumes for them to try on! Next, travel to the Twilight Trail, which teaches children about the properties of lights and shadows. The site is dark enough to be mysterious but light enough to not be scary! Finally, at the Pet Hospital, kids can do checkups on “pets” using the kid-sized clinic. The clinic comes with hospital tools and even a lab coat so the kids can feel especially professional. Also, from 4-8pm on the first Friday of every month, admission is free!

Your next day trip could also be to the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum. Just like Portland’s Children Museum, this Discovery Museum is interactive and fun for everyone. You can see the forest from a bird’s-eye view or climb under the forest to see it from below. How about taking a raft ride down some Call IV rapids (you won’t get wet! )? You can also test out your smoke jumping skills. Open from 10am-5pm daily, this day-trip is an inexpensive option for any family with little ones!

If someone in your family loves to read, then you and your family must visit Powell’s City of Books. This bookstore stretches through nine rooms, reaches up three stories, and houses more than 1.5 million books, making Powell’s City of Books the largest independent bookseller in the world. This bookstore has so many books that it covers an entire city block! Your children could spend hours upon hours here and still not be able to get through a large portion of available readings. There’s something here for everyone!

Tutoring has Exploded as an Emerging Industry in China

This article was written by one of the Stepping Stone Tutors Reading Tutors. If you know of anyone who might be interested in reading tuition, please do get in contact.
 

China’s test-focused, achievement-driven education system has spawned an educational phenomenon in the country: tutoring. Tutoring has seen an explosion of interest, with companies specializing in it bringing in record revenues, top tutors attaining rock star-like status, and students feeling peer pressure to sign up for after-school sessions. And tutoring isn’t just limited to students who are lagging behind, as even top performers are getting extra help to ace college entrance exams and stand out from their peers.

As America continues to look to other nations for ways to improve education at home and remain globally competitive, this newfound national obsession with tutoring in China brings up the question of what lessons American students and educators can learn from the situation. While most Americans won’t be jumping on the tutoring bandwagon just yet, there are some valuable lessons that the tutoring culture in China and surrounding nations can teach us about our own educational goals, beliefs, and systems that are worth considering more closely.

life needs balance.

Students who spend their evenings and weekends in tutoring sessions could be missing out, something that even parents, educators, and tutors in China are keenly aware could be a problem. There is little balance in a student’s life when schoolwork is the center of all activities, neglecting the importance of spending time with friends, playing an instrument, participating in sports, or just having time to oneself. Chinese students already spend far longer in school each day and working on homework each weekend, and the addition of more school-focused activities might not be a positive thing for students who don’t truly need the help. Many American schools are moving toward a similar model, however. Expanded school days, loads of homework, increased importance of standardized testing, and hyper-intensive charter schools are pushing kids to spend more time studying and less time being kids. While it might improve grades and help some students, it’s yet to be seen what the long-term effects of such an imbalanced way of pushing students will be.

equality should be key in education.

While tutoring in China has helped some students to excel, it’s having another, less positive effect as well by broadening the already substantial gap between rich and poor. The best tutors and the greatest amount of educational resources are available to students from wealthy families, just as it is here in the United States, leaving some students from poorer families unable to catch up. In Pakistan, where tutoring is also popular, researchers found that tutoring could worsen social inequalities, cause stress for families, and reduce the time students spent on other activities. In Singapore, parents have expressed concern that social mobility may be limited by an education system that requires tutoring to do well. In America, educators are keenly aware of the pitfalls that come with unequal access to education, with students in poor schools lacking high-quality teachers, resources, and the tools to allow them to move on to college and out of poverty. The tutoring craze in Asia is just another reminder of the importance of providing equal access to education for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, something top-performing nations like Finland are already doing with great success.

peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing.

While there are undoubtedly some Chinese students pressuring their friends into doing things they really shouldn’t, the tutoring craze has proven that not all peer pressure is of the negative variety. After-school tutoring is trendy, and like most things trendy, there’s peer pressure to take part. A 2005 survey by the University of Hong Kong found that 70% of high school students and 50% of elementary students had hired tutors, leaving students who can’t afford or don’t want to be tutored feeling like they’re missing out. Yet this kind of peer pressure, provided that it doesn’t single out those without the resources to buy tutoring time, isn’t really a bad thing. It creates a culture where school, education, and success are cool. American educators and policymakers could learn a thing or two, as this kind of adoration of a school-related activity is almost unheard of stateside.

not everyone needs to be a top student.

China may be using its tutoring system to boost test scores and get students access to some of the best colleges and training facilities in the world, but that may not be enough. A report published this year shows that Chinese students are struggling just as much as American ones to find jobs. A quarter of recent college graduates in China are unemployed and many end up working in jobs unrelated to their undergraduate degrees. For many, attaining elite status means giving up social activities, personal interests, and the fun of just being young, yet all that hard work may not be paying off in the way that parents and students had hoped, with students faring little better in the long run than their much more lax American counterparts. A highly competitive school system has created legions of engineers, programmers, and doctors who can’t find work in their home country because there are simply too many for the available jobs. Even worse, uneducated workers often have an easier time finding work and get paid on par with college graduates. China’s drive to produce a country full of intelligent, white-collar workers doesn’t reflect the reality of its economy, something that American schools are slowly learning as well, as community colleges and vocational programs grow in popularity in the wake of high unemployment in a variety of college-related fields.

education can require sacrifice.

Parents all over the world want their children to have the best, and the Chinese are no exception. Many parents, even those with little disposable income, are spending big bucks on tutoring as a way of giving their children an edge in school and hopefully later in college. In some cases, parents are spending almost as much as the government does on education every year, a hefty investment that not every family can match. Education is a valuable resource to many in China and provides the only path out of poverty for many. Sadly, the same is true in the U.S., and for many low-income families, education is the only chance they have to beat the odds and make a better future for the next generation. To get there, however, many families will have to skimp and save, forego other necessities, and make do with less. The striking dedication of families in Asia to spend generously on education is a reminder of how important and respected education should be in our own country, regardless of income.

even world-class education systems need support.

China’s students consistently rank among the best in reading, math, and science scores on global tests, and their school system seems to have largely been successful in teaching a wide range of students the essentials they’ll need to move on to college and successful careers. Yet something must be lacking if so many students are driven to pursue additional tutoring and educational support in their off hours. The prevalence of tutoring in China is a reminder than even in world-class education systems, students may not always get the help or focused attention they need to truly succeed. Some may need more one-on-one interaction, others a little additional explanation of difficult concepts. It’s a helpful reminder that there is room for improvement and reform no matter what level of success you’re achieving.

standardized tests may not be the best educational tool.

When asked about their prospects, Chinese tutoring gurus say they feel they have little to worry about so long as there’s even one required standardized test out there. Students will be driven to excel on the test to get into the best schools and win top positions when they graduate. Yet this focus on test-taking hasn’t been shown to be the best educational tool thus far. China’s infamous gaokao test determines almost every aspect of a student’ future life, a heavy mantle for any teen to wear. Poor performance on the test can result in students not getting into college, and as a result schools have become nearly entirely focused on helping students learn things that will help them do well on these tests, to the exclusion of everything else. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a more extreme version of the standardized-testing fanaticism that has become the norm in many American schools. In order to perform well and score more funding, many schools downplay the importance of creativity, problem solving, and the arts in favor of lessons centered on topics that will find their way onto state tests. If we raise our eyebrows at China’s test-taking culture, we also have to take a hard look at our own.

not everything that sounds good for education is necessary.

Chinese students and parents may be clamoring to sign up for tutoring and other after-school educational opportunities, but many have asked whether or not these kinds of programs are really necessary. Not all students who sign up for tutoring are doing so because they’re struggling to keep up with their classmates; many top students also make use of tutors. Do they really need it? Some would argue that time and money could better be spent elsewhere. The tutoring culture in China is just one example of many around the world that showcase attention on education being focused on things that may not be key to the success of students. Throwing more money at educational problems isn’t a fix all, nor is simply supplying schools with more technology, but many have lauded these as ways to fix educational shortfalls. It’s a global issue and one that’s not likely to go away anytime soon.

being the best isn’t everything.

Are top scores and achievement really all that matter when it comes to producing students who are ready to take on the working world? Some would argue that that isn’t the case. Replacing activities outside of school with more school in the form of tutoring may not necessarily be a positive thing, and could result in students who aren’t well rounded and who may not know how to interact with those outside of their success-driven culture. A drive for perfection is a double-edged sword, helping students succeed on one hand but holding them back in others. For example, in a team environment, being the best and vying to stand out may even be counterproductive to success. While top scores are great, it’s important to remember that other values, traits, and skills are necessary to be successful in the world.

creativity is also an essential part of education.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Chinese education system, however successful it may or may not be, is that it stifles independent thought and doesn’t value creativity. While Chinese students may excel at memorization and learning academic concepts, many feel they aren’t ready to enter a global marketplace that in recent years has begun to value innovation and creativity over many other attributes. Many economists caution that if China wants to remain competitive, it needs to offer more than just a strong work ethic and well-trained employees. It also needs to foster entrepreneurship and creativity, something the school system isn’t currently doing. While American education systems are freer, the same criticisms have been made. It’s something to seriously consider as we make the transition into a knowledge-based economy, as our willingness to value creativity over conformity will mark the dividing line between success and decline.

 

Article republished from Online Colleges

8 Ways Not to Take a Test

This article was written by one of the Stepping Stone Tutors ACT Tutors. If you know of anyone who might be interested in ACT tuition, please do get in contact.

There are lots of study tips out there, and even more college lifehacks. But now’s the time to learn what they don’t teach you in school: how not to take a test. Avoid these eight test day mistakes, and earn yourself that A. Here are eight ways to never take a test.

Inebriated

Drunk, stoned, or hungover is not the way to take a test. If you have any pride whatsoever, you’ll both study and show up sober. Consider this a warning from your future self: Partying is cool, but getting good grades is cooler. Lots cooler.

Starving

Have a good breakfast or lunch before you take an important test. If your stomach is growling, you won’t be able to think as clearly as you should. Brain foods include salmon, nuts, and flax.

Cold

Read: Unprepared. If you haven’t read a lick and have studied even less, you’re probably going to bomb your test. No matter how easy you think your exam might be, don’t take it cold. Know the material, the format, and the expectations before you sit for the test.

In The Nude

For starters, you’ll probably get arrested. And you’re bound to be distracting to your fellow students. Do everyone a favor and wear some clothes. There’s a time and place for everything. It’s called the shower.

In The Bell Jar

If you’ve recently suffered and are grieving a loss, talk with someone at your school to reschedule your test. Pro Tip: This does not include breakups. An appropriate amount of time to attend a funeral and be with family is a necessary courtesy most professors will extend. Don’t take advantage of the graciousness, though — it’s much easier to get your work out of the way, as the material should be fresh on your mind.

Strung Out

Burning the candle at both ends? Don’t do that. If your mind isn’t rested and relaxed, you’re bound to perform poorly on your exams. Pulling an all-nighter sometimes can’t be helped, but try to avoid living a life of fatigue. Drink water, eat life-giving foods, and get some restful sleep. Your body, brain, and GPA will thank you.

With Your Eyes Closed

Even if you’re going to bomb, you might want to read the questions. If you’re really that tired (see above), you should plan your life around your studies next time, not the other way around.

Stressed Out

Find a way, if you can, to cultivate some zen. Even if you’re worried about your grade, once you enter the room, it’s your job to do your best. Good stress is good, but bad stress is debilitating, and it can reflect poorly on your test performance. Try to find some calm before the storm (your test). It will all be over soon enough.

Article re-posted from Online Degree Programs

Is the SAT a Good Tool to Predict Student Performance in College?

This article was written by one of the Stepping Stone Tutors SAT Tutors. If you know of anyone who might be interested in SAT tuition, please do get in contact.

We spend a lot of time and money helping students study for the SAT because since 1926 it has been their meal tickets to college and a better life.  Americans spend $2.5 billion a year to help two million students score better on the SATs and they pay companies like Stepping Stone Tutors to do it.

The question should be posed then, is the SAT still an accurate predictor of student performance in college?  According to Jennifer Karan, Executive Director of the SAT Program at the College BoardThe College Board, the company behind the SAT, PSAT, CLEP, and Advanced Placement Exams, the answer is “yes.”  You can read more from Jennifer’s article entitled “Having Confidence in Predictive Measures” below:

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that only one quarter of Illinois’ high school Class of 2012 had met the college-ready standards across all subjects on a college entrance exam.  While many educators were understandably distressed by these findings, Steve Cordogan, a statistician and the director of research and evaluation for Township High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, maintains in the article that certain measures or indicators are not always as predictive of student performance as they could – or should – be.  Cordogan is suggesting that the benchmark of interest is based on a methodology that may not make the most sense as there are many students who are not deemed “college ready” in the recent report that are indeed entering college without any need for remedial coursework.

SAT Test Dates and Locations

As a former teacher and dean of students responsible for keeping my charges on course for college, indicators of college readiness were essential to our collective success.  But what if I had been using information that didn’t effectively support my curriculum and instructional decisions on behalf of my students?  It reminds us all to look “underneath the hood” of these measures to be sure we understand the assumptions they are making and are familiar with what they truly indicate.  The SAT Benchmark is based on the most thoroughly researched college entrance exam in the United States.  There is a great deal of national research showing that the SAT is a valid measure for predicting important college outcomes such as GPA and retention – and the SAT is equally as predictive as high school GPA in determining college readiness; while the combined use of these measures provides the best indicator of a student’s likelihood for success at a particular institution.

Additionally, The Tribune article cites the president of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy as “troubled” by the science and math scores, fearing that students will lose out on the science and technology jobs of the future.  In a national study released in June 2011, the National Bureau of Economic Research, distinguished a science assessment as more of a test of reading comprehension than actual science knowledge.  In contrast, SAT Subject Tests allow students to demonstrate their mastery of Biology, Chemistry and Physics and are based on current, national trends in high school course work.  We also know that the SAT is highly predictive of cumulative GPA for science majors at four-year institutions.

It’s the job of every educator to ensure that students find themselves in an appropriately challenging college and armed with the tools for success.  The attention of the Illinois educators to the college readiness of their students is well-placed and admirable.  It also reminds us how important it is to utilize the most effective and reliable tools available to make critical educational decisions and inform related policies.

Family Fun in Phoenix

As it begins to cool off in Phoenix, the weather is becoming perfect for a day at the zoo. The Phoenix Zoo was voted on of the nation’s top five zoos for kids. On top of the wonderful exhibits, the zoo is constantly hosting family oriented programs, especially for the little ones.  Your children can learn what it’s like to work at a zoo for the day by assisting with feeding the animals and watching animal training sessions. Or you could take the little princess in your life on the Princess Explorer program. Have your daughter dress up in her favorite princess dress and go on this special tour of the zoo. She’ll learn about all the awesome girls who changed the world of science. If you’re just interested in shorter visit to the zoo, be sure to ride on the Safari Train or take the opportunity to feed some giraffes. If you’re feeling a bit more daring, take part in one of the zoo’s more popular activities, and ride a camel!

If the weather is a bit too warm for anything outside, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is a great choice for an all-day activity with the family. There are many, many exhibits, one of which includes an art studio, a market, and a noodle forest! In the art studio, your kids can grab handfuls of glue and paint and go to work on a group project, such as painting an eleven-foot tall rocketship. At the market, children can play make believe in a real-life replica of a grocery store. They can practice measuring produce and learn about grocery shopping. And don’t forget about the noodle forest! Try navigating your way through oodles of noodles that hang from the ceiling. Your child will definitely come out of the noodle forest giggling.

Finally, if you live near Phoenix, you and your family should check out the LEGO Travel Adventure exhibit at the Arizona Science Center. The exhibit is open through January 2013. Every visitor gets the opportunity to actually build a vehicle using large LEGO bricks.  These vehicles are capable of flying, driving, and floating! If LEGOs aren’t really for you, there are plenty of other permanent exhibits that will interest you. The Evans Family SkyCycle exhibit allows kids to learn about the properties of physics. Suspended fifteen feet in the air, kids can ride on a ninety-foot cable and learn about the principles of gravity. Or check out The W.O.N.D.E.R. Center where kids can learn about the brain and neuroscience. Lastly, you can visit Solarville and learn about renewable energy around the world.

 

Los Angeles Activities for You and the Family

The Getty Center, located in Brentwood, Los Angeles is known for its architecture, gardens, and beautiful location. With 1.3 million visitors a year, the museum showcases pre-20th-century works including paintings, sculptures, and other decorative arts. The 134,000 sq. foot Central Garden is considered one of the museum’s grandest art pieces. You could sit there for hours and enjoy the beautiful views of Los Angeles. The Getty puts on several family activities throughout the seasons. For instance, the Art Odyssey for Families, which runs through the end of November, is a thirty-minute adventure through the galleries, specifically aimed at children 5 and up. Or you can participate in a Family Art Stop, which is geared at children 5 and up who want to get a hands-on gallery experience with a single work of art. Also, on December 2, the Getty is hosting a daylong Family Festival consisting of crafts, performances, and other activities.

The Griffith Observatory is another wonderful idea for a day trip with the family. The observatory is located on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. The location gives visitors beautiful views of the Los Angeles Basin, Hollywood, and the Pacific Ocean. The Observatory has many exhibits, sure to please everyone’s interests. The Ahmanson Hall of the Sky shows each person how they are connected to the main objects in the sky, such as the Moon and the Sun. Be sure to check out one of the largest public solar telescopes that is located at the end of this hall. The Edge of Space Mezzanine is another must-see exhibit, which features some of the most sophisticated astronomical instruments ever built. Some samples of the universe collected through space missions are also showcased. And don’t forget about the exterior of the Observatory! There are plenty of monuments and terraces to enjoy. The best part is that admission to the Observatory building and grounds is absolutely free!

Finally, if you’re looking for some outdoor fun for you and your family, the Topanga Sate Park is a great option. Covering 11,000 acres, it is the largest state park within Los Angeles. There are many, many trails available for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. The popular Backbone Trail System, a long-distance trail that runs for about seventy miles through the Santa Monica Mountains, weaves it’s way through Santa Monica Mountains as well. Some popular sites in the park include Eagle Rock, a boulder that sticks out from the trail and offers beautiful views of the park, and Hub Junction as well as Temescal Fire Road. If you and your family are feeling adventurous, this park is open to campers!

Family Fun in Las Vegas

Las Vegas may not be the first destination that comes to mind when considering a family-fun destination, but wait! Don’t abandon the idea too quickly. Much to many people’s surprise, there is plenty more to do with the little ones than you may initially expect. First, you and the family could visit Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat located in the Mirage hotel. They’re open daily from 10:00am-7:00pm with low admission cost (children under 3 are free!). You can get face-to-face with a white lions, white tigers, panthers, leopards, and a family of Bottlenose Dolphins. The three exhibits include a volcano, aquarium, and atrium. The volcano erupts nightly with fireballs and big bangs; the aquarium is home to nearly 1000 specimens, and the atrium houses exotic plants under a 100-foot dome.

Second, a trip to “Bodies…The Exhibition” at the Luxor hotel is highly recommended. While this exhibit may not be ideal for the squeamish, any child who dreams of a career in the health field will love the possibility of seeing 13 whole-body specimens. At this unique exhibit, there are over 260 organs and partial body specimens for visitors to get a more detailed, 3-D view of what really is going on in our own bodies. This type of exclusive viewing of the human body is rarely seen outside of an anatomy lab and truly is a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

Finally, a visit to the “CSI: The Experience” exhibit at the MGM hotel is a great recommendation for any family with young adults who aspire to be a detective. The exhibit is recommended for children 12+. In this interactive challenge, every visitor gets the opportunity to be a crime scene investigator. The challenge includes three murders, fifteen lab stations, fifteen suspects, three killers, and it’s up to you to solve the mystery! As you move through the investigation, you will have the chance to examine bullet casings, match DNA to the potential suspects, and decipher where a single piece of hair came from. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to walk away for your very own CSI:Diploma!

Irvine Activities

Irvine offers a Pretend City Children’s Museum where children can participate in seventeen interactive exhibits and activities. Children can learn basic math, reading, and science skills all from these exhibits. The Pretend City includes exhibits featuring an art studio, a bank & ATMs, a beach, a grocery store, and much more. Learning how to handle money at the bank & ATMs exhibit is a lifelong skill that your kids will benefit from at a young age. They learn how to deposit a Pretend City paycheck, withdraw cash, and how to make wise purchases. At the Beach, the kids learn how to preserve the environment by picking up trash and properly placing it in the trash bin. And at the Grocery Store, the children learn about the threat of obesity. They’re taught good eating habits as they shop for their five fruit and vegetables of the day. There is not an easier system for children to learn basic life skills then in this fun, interactive environment.

Tanaka Farm is another wonderful, outdoor activity that offers pumpkin patch and strawberry field tours. The pumpkin tours start September 28th and run until October 31st. They have a beautiful produce stand open seven days a week so each customer is able to bring home the freshest produce. You can take a wagon ride through the 30-acre farm, find your way through the corn maze, or visit the petting zoo. The farm also offers educational tours!

Along the same lines as Tanaka Farms, a trip to the Irvine Park Railroad would be a great family-filled day. You can ride on the train, rent bikes, rent paddleboats, or rent horses! You can pick pumpkins or cut down your Christmas tree when the holiday season comes around. The one-third-scale train takes riders on a scenic ride though the historic Irvine Regional Park. There are so many activities offered at the park, you won’t know where to begin!

Houston Activities for the Family

If you live near Houston or are planning on visiting soon, then you have the amazing chance to take your family to the Children’s Museum of Houston. Located in the Museum District, the museum welcomes more than 1,100,000 people per year. With over twelve exhibits, there is plenty of fun for your whole family. One of the most popular exhibits, FlowWorks, allows kids to understand the properties of water. In order to interact with the exhibit, the kids have to dip their hands into the water. As they continue to play, the 18-ft Cauldron in the middle of the site continues to fill up with water until all the water comes crashing down as a huge wave! Your children can experience the force of water through a simulated Flood Plain or an Aqueduct Maze. Another popular exhibit, PowerPlay, teaches your kids the importance of physical activity. In this three-story exhibit, kids can jump up and down from one level to the next as they discover the many ways to be active. They can test their strength at Grip It or make a superhero fly at Blast Off. They can track their progress as they go and take their results home. The museum has received a number of awards including “America’s No.1 Children’s Museum” by Parents magazine.

Do you have a child who is obsessed with space or aeronautics? The Space Center of Houston is an awesome attraction for space lovers and very interesting for all other curious learners. They have a giant-screen theater (the largest in Texas!) that plays space documentaries all year long. Or you can go on the new NASA Tram Tour that shows how astronauts train for the International Space Station. This tram tour also gives you a sneak peek at the Historic Apollo Mission Control Center. And you can’t forget about the Kids Space Place. Kids get the opportunity to experiment commanding a space shuttle or learn what it’s like to live on the space station. The whole Place is interactive to make the learning process that much better.

Another idea that you can always fall back on is the zoo. The Houston Zoo has plenty of exhibits, such as Dinosaurs! and the Kipp Aquarium. Because of popular demand, the Dinosaurs! exhibit has been extended to October 28th. You and your kids can get face-to-face with huge dinosaur replicas that roar and even spit water. Some of these dinosaurs were even once found in Texas!  The Kipp Aquarium allows visitors to see animals from around the world, from the Pacific to the Amazon Basin, to the Rift Valley Lakes of Africa. This aquarium has 23 exhibits alone! Be sure to check out the jellyfish and huge sea turtles!

8 Ways to Study Better This Year

This article was written by one of the Stepping Stone Tutors Study Skills Tutors. If you know of anyone who might be interested in study skills tuition, please do get in contact.

Thwart the “curve of forgetting”:

Scientists have known about this brain event since 1885, yet somehow students never seem to pay it any mind. The first time you hear a lecture or study something new, if you review the material that same day within 24 hours, you prevent yourself from forgetting up to 80% of what you learned. After a week it takes only 5 minutes to retain 100% of the info.

Ditch cramming:

So now you know interval studying is best, but what if you don’t have time to study every day? UC–San Diego psychologists found that it’s still better to study closer to the day you learned the material than to the day of the test. They put the optimal time at 10% of the time between learning and testing. So if you learn something on Monday and the quiz is the following Monday, study no later than Wednesday…

Read More (excerpt from thebestcolleges.org)

 

Family Activities in Fort Worth

The Fort Worth Science and History museum is a fun-filled haven from any mundane or rainy day. The permanent exhibits include the Children’s Museum, DinoLabs & DinoDig, Cattle Raisers Museum, and Energy Blast. The current special exhibit is Air Park, where kids can learn how kites are designed, watch real hang gliders in action, design their own paper airplane, or create their own twirling pinwheel. The Children’s Museum welcomes children ages birth-8 years and is designed around the concept that children learn through hands-on activities and play. This exhibit will be sure to leave your children engaged for hours. One of the popular exhibits, DinoDig, is a 3,700-square-foot gallery where you and your family can discover the impact of the State Dinosaur of Texas. Walk around the outdoor, sandy exhibit and become a paleontologist. The museum does a wonderful job of including hands on activities for the children (and even you too) such as experimenting with fossils and measuring dinosaur bones. Also, the museum hosts group trips such as your child’s school class or your daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

Or you and your family can take a step back in time and travel along the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. The Cotton Belt route travels between the Grapevine and Fort Worth stockyards. Your children can take this unique opportunity to learn about trains and what it was like to travel in a Victorian-style coach during the 1920s and 1930s while the west was expanding. You’ll have the chance to ride in “Puffy”, an 1896 steam locomotive or a 1953 GP-7 diesel locomotive.

For those days when the weather is too hot and you’re just looking for some relaxing family time, Burger’s Lake is the perfect destination. Open from 9AM-7PM, with only a small admissions fee, you and your family can have some fun in the sun. The Lake has a thirty-acre park with a spring-fed lake for swimming. There are two sandy beaches for lying out. And you can feel safe with your kids in the water as you take time to relax with the plenty of lifeguards on duty. There are also six diving boards, a 20-foot water slide, and a 25-foot trapeze. With all this fun, your kids will most likely want to stay for the whole day. There are plenty of trees, tables, and grills for your family to enjoy a picnic so you can hangout as long as you like.

Activities for You and Your Family in Denver

The Denver Library, located in Downtown Denver, could be one of the most impressive libraries in the country. With multiple floors and 540,000 square feet of space, the Denver library is known for it’s extensive collection of items. In 2010, the library had over two million items in it’s database. The library has a very large Western History collection that includes photographs, manuscript archives, and cataloged books. Besides for it’s downtown location, the library also has twenty-three branches and a bookmobile program. The library is perfect for children of all ages. There’s a section for children and teens. Also, there is a separate section including books written in Spanish as well as an African American Research Library. The resourcefulness of the library doesn’t stop at the library itself though! The library’s website also offers homework help as well as information for parents and teachers.

If you live in Denver or plan on visiting soon, a unique and fun activity to do with young children is to take a visit to the Denver Firefighters Museum. Located in downtown Denver, this nonprofit institution greets more than 20,000 visitors each year. The museum is a dream for any young child hoping to one day fight fires! In the Main Floor Gallery, kids will get to look at all the big gear firefighters have to wear everyday and learn about the history of firefighters. The boot prints on the floor will lead you to hands-on activities that include sliding down a firefighter pole, climbing in a fire truck, and touching real firefighting tools. As you venture to the Second Floor Gallery, you will learn what it’s like to actually live like a firefighter in a fire station. Finally, the Children’s Gallery, designed especially for families, is an educational experience for children as they learn how to prevent fires through performances and activities put on by the museum.

A great outdoor activity for you and the kids is a day trip to the Denver Zoo. The Denver Zoo is a 80-acre zoo in City Park of Denver. Bear Mountain, the zoo’s most historic exhibit, is home to grizzly bears, Asiatic black bears, and coati. The next exhibit, Primate Panorama is a 7 acre home to apes and other large primates. At Predator Ridge, you and your family will find a representation of an African savanna. You can watch lions, hyenas, and African wild dogs roam the exhibit. And finally, the most popular exhibit, the Toyota Elephant Passage, was once the largest elephant habitat in the world. It houses up to 12 elephants and has more than 2 miles of trails for the animals. The coolest part is that the exhibit is powered by a biomass gasification system, meaning all the animal waste and human trash in the park is converted into usable combustible gas. This has reduced the zoo’s landfill contribution by more than 90 percent! So not only will you be spending a great day with the family but you will also be helping the Earth!

5 Reasons Why We Need to Help More People Read In the US

This article was written by one of the Stepping Stone Tutors Reading Tutors. If you know of anyone who might be interested in reading tuition, please do get in contact.

Many of our readers probably know, but we’re pretty heavily into helping people learn to read. In fact, we’ve even got a whole campaign running to make more people aware of the problem of illiteracy in the US.

Illiteracy in the USA is a massively controversial topic that’s often debated heatedly, even though most of us are accutely aware of the effects that illiteracy has on the lives of adults and children alike – the social and emotional issues that this can lead to.

So why, unbelievably are some people still not getting the additional help and support they need so they can at last learn to read?
This blog is going to cover some of the keys reasons as to why literacy is so important.

1. Literate Parents Make For Literate Children

If we want to raise children who have strong literacy skills, we ourselves need to have strong literacy skills.  Of the 93 million adults in the U.S. functioning at or below basic levels of literacy, 30 million are the parents or primary caregivers of children ages 0-8 (National Center for Family Literacy Fact Sheet).  Parents need to start the process of teaching their child to read before their child starts school.  Parents need to read to their children, buy their children books, and encourage their children to read.  Parents who are unable to read, or are not strong readers, will o course read to their children less than parents who enjoy reading.  Reading in and of itself in this scenario, is fundamental.

 

2. Being Literate Makes You Top Dog For Employment

If you have the ability to read, you will be a better employee, and have many more opportunities open to you (as well as being able to make more money from your job!).  Illiteracy and unemployment go hand in hand, with 50% of the chronically unemployed American’s not being functionally literate. (U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Presentation: Dr. Susan Sclafani, April 2005).  Employees who can read work better in a team, and are better at communicating with others around them, thereby making them more successful in their roles.  A rise in of 1% in literacy scores leads to a 2.5% rise in labor productivity and a 1.5% rise in GDP per person.  (The Economist, August 28, 2004). Not only this, but workers must be able to read safety regulations and warnings so they and their co-workers can stay safe on the job.

On a separate point, if you’re job hunting, you’re far more likely to land the job if you have at least a 2 year college degree. Most positions these days require at least this level of education.  As if it’s not hard enough as it is to get a job already!

To put this into a bit more perspective…The U.S. Census Bureau reports that “adults 18 and older with a master’s, professional or doctoral degree earned an average of $79,946, while those with less than a high school diploma earned about $19,915.”  That’s a $60,013 pay difference

3. For the health of you and your family (AKA ‘Health Literacy)

It sounds simple, but for those American’s who can’t read it is very difficult to understand what the doctor is telling you.  It can be impossible to work out how much medicine to take, or read information on your own health and your families.  This includes oral information given by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and insurers.  Medication errors in the USA—many result from a misreading or misunderstood prescription labels—are the most common medical mistakes causing up to 7,000 deaths each year. (2005 White House Conference on Aging).

Low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $238 billion each year in the U.S. — 7 to 17 per cent of all annual personal health care spending.

 

4. Literate Voters Make For a Better Political System

The Elections are rolling around again, and we all hear about the need for more American’s to be ‘informed Voters’.  But without the ability to read and write, these American’s will not be able to follow the campaign properly and will then be forced make an UNeducated discision as to whom they want to run their country.

One in seven adults in the US cannot read this sentence.(National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003).  So how can they be expected to participate in Democratic Government Elections with the same advantages as someone who can read?

 

5.Problem Youths and Illiteracy

We are all aware of the statistics connecting crime and illiteracy.  85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003)

Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment. (ProLiteracy).

American’s need to join forces to overcome this issue!  The most common reason for illiteracy in youths is lack of access to books.

This is something we can easily change together.  

If you know someone who’s struggling with reading and writing, as part of our ‘Help to Read: Help to Empower’ campaign, we’re offering FREE READING TUITION to as many people as we can, with the resources we have available. Find out more about this opportunity on the left hand bar on this page.

Family Fun Activities in Dallas

The aquarium, much like the zoo, is one of the best family activities because it ends up not only being fun for the kids but for the adults as well. If you’re looking for a great day trip, The Dallas World Aquarium, located in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, is an excellent choice. The aquarium houses many endangered creatures in an effort to conserve Amazonian and Antillean manatees. If you travel upstairs, you can check out a reproduction of the Orinoco Rainforest. You’ll see toucans flying around or three-toed sloths hanging from trees. There are also poison dart frogs, Orinoco crocodiles, Giant river otters, and vampire bats. If you venture on the main floor, you will see aquariums filled with fish, sea anemones, coral, and jellyfish. The most exciting part of the exhibit is the 40-foot tunnel visitors can walk through. Watch fish of the continental shelf swim around you and over you too! On top of all this, the aquarium puts on daily performances.

Another great choice is the Dallas Children’s Theater, which is focused on creating theater for young children and families. The theater has nine main stage productions annually, a national touring company, and educational programs. The next upcoming play is, Pinkalicious: The Musical, which is running from September 21-October 21. Take your family to sing and dance with your favorite characters from the book Pinkalicious. And who can forget the infamous series Junie B. Jones by Barbara Parks? This holiday season, Junie B. will be taking the stage in Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells. It’s going to be pure mayhem with this spunky first grader! Tickets start at $12.00. This couldn’t be any more perfect if you’re looking for a night on the town with the family.

If the other two options don’t appeal to you, maybe you and your family should consider a trip to the Dallas Arboretum. With 66-acres of gardens, the Arboretum is known for being one of the most beautiful outdoor attractions in Dallas. The gardens have seasonal flowers, shrubs, and trees that look beautiful on White Rock Lake. The Arboretum also has outdoor festivals, concerts, and art shows as well as indoor and outdoor dining. If you’re looking for more of an educational experience for your kids, the Arboretum offers classroom and outdoor labs that focus on nature while integrating hands-on activities. Adults can take part in the educational fun too! The Arboretum has year-round adult educational classes in horticulture, landscape design, floral design, and much more.

Colorado Springs Activities

Colorado Springs is known for it’s enormous amount of natural beauty. One instance is the Garden of Gods. Garden of Gods is a public park that offers hiking, rock-climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding. With 15 miles of trails there is a suitable path for any visitor. The rock formations can be steep, attracting many rock-climbers. And don’t forget about the van and jeep tours available! The van is best fit for those just wanting to observe the beautiful views while the jeep tours are for those with a more adventurous side, willing to scale the rock formations. The park is also a great location for taking the little ones. There is plenty of space to have a wonderful picnic and there are several paths appropriate for young kids. There are also a couple guided tours your child’s school could schedule with the park. For older children in grades 3-6, the geology tour of the park is the best option. The kids will get to learn about the formation of giant red rock in a two-hour walking tour. For the younger kids, in grades K-3, your children could go on a wildlife tour and “meet the park”. They can discover the different plants and wildlife found around the park. The best part is that admission to the park is free!

If you live near Colorado Springs or are thinking of visiting, then the Starsmore Discovery Center would be a great place to spend the day at. The Discovery Center welcomes visitors to the Cheyenne Canon, which is home to waterfalls, rock formations, wildflowers, and wildlife. In addition there is a bird-watching window and other hands-on exhibits. Some of the programs offered include Tipi Raising & Ute Heritage Workshop, Junior Ranger Program, and Cheyenne Canon Camp.

Lastly, every family should consider taking a day-trip to the wonderful Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It’s a perfect activity for children of all ages and is a great family activity.  The zoo is home to over 800 animals of all different varieties and has many different exhibits. Start your day in the African Rift Valley where you can have close encounters with animals such as giraffes and meerkats. Get a chance to feed crackers to the giraffes and watch morning and evening giraffe stampedes. Next you could visit the Budgie Buddies exhibit, which houses more than 100 free-flight Australian birds. Watch your kids’ faces light up while they feed the birds with zoo grass! Finally you could take a ride on the Mountaineer Sky Ride. Take the chair-lift style Sky Ride and experience the zoo and its beautiful surroundings from the air. If you’re at the zoo late, take the Sky Ride to experience a beautiful Colorado sunset.