Monthly Archives: July 2019

Lawnmower Parents Are Setting Children Up for Failure.

We’ve all heard of helicopter parents. These moms and dads hover obsessively over their children, watch their every move, and intervene on behalf of the child whenever a problem arises. To a teacher, these are the adults that a teacher seems to interact with more so than the child who they spend 8 hours a day with. As exhausting as these headache-inducing parents are, I’m here to tell you that the real nightmare is a new breed of adults called lawnmower parents.

Lawnmower parents are, without a doubt, oppositional forces to everything educators are trying to teach their students. You see, dear reader, helicopter parents only intervene when they sniff out something wrong that has upset their amazing child. Lawnmower parents completely erase any and all obstacles for their child so that their precious pumpkin can navigate smooth waters instead of learning how to correct course on choppy seas. As a teacher, this is the absolute worst. I can deal with parents being upset about their child suffering. It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children from any and all harm. However, I cannot deal with parents bulldozing the ground so children have nothing to be upset about.

Any good teacher will tell you that their goals for their students have little to do with content matter. As a teacher, my biggest concern is not if my students can leave my class reciting Shakespeare. Rather, I care that they learn valuable skills like teamwork, resiliency, and discipline that they can carry over into whatever career they choose later in life. With lawnmower parents, these important skills become a wistful dream – not a tangible reality.

If all challenges are erased, how will these students gain the grit needed when things don’t go their way?

Lawnmower parents are creating a false land of delusion that is sure to set our students up for failure. The next generation will surely endure relationship woes, financial issues, and work troubles. If parents, our greatest assets (and, at times, our biggest nemesis), don’t teach their children valuable coping skills, how will our next generation deal when these problems befall them? Lawnmower parents are creating a crop of children who will be out of luck when life gives them lemons. And that, my friend, is a tough pill to swallow.

I have witnessed firsthand the effects of lawnmower parents and let me tell you… it is not pretty. I’ve had students cry over having to wait 5 minutes to eat lunch, having a ball lightly skim their knee, and seeing the playground with their eyes, but not being able to play on it yet. With each of these students, I have a long talk about resiliency and each time, they look up at me with large, terror-filled eyes. The concept of being a buoyant human being is lost on them, and it is clear that this is the first time they are hearing how to cope with something. And each time, I think the same thing: Thanks lawnmower parents. I need you to work with me, NOT against me.

While this epidemic may seem comical to some, I can assure you that it is very real and very frightening. We need to let our kids fall, fail, and figure out how to stand back up. We can give them the tools to get back up, but we also need to let them practice this important skill. As educators, it is our duty to equip our students with traits that will get them far in life. So stand aside, lawnmower parents. I’m not letting you raise a wave of children who will be paralyzed by insurmountable hurdles. You can try to knock us down, but us teachers are extremely used to trudging up mountains.


How parents can help 5th graders learn science through everyday play!

– Charity Ferreira

How does matter cycle through ecosystems? Where does the energy in food come from and what is it used for? How do the lengths of day and night change from day-to-day?

Fifth-grade science explores systems of all kinds. Your child will learn that matter changes, but no matter what change matter undergoes, its weight stays the same. How energy moves through food webs is another core concept this year. Some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Organisms such as fungi and bacteria break down the dead organisms, and some of that decomposed material goes back into the soil where it supplies nutrients for — you guessed it — plants!

Fifth graders also turn their attention skyward and learn how the orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, along with Earth’s rotation, cause day and night, daily changes in the length and direction of shadows, and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. It’s a spectacular year for science, and you can support what your child is learning at home. Try these activities and marvel at their discoveries along with them.

How you can help your child learn 5th-grade science

Food web mural

Food webs are big! So give your artist a big canvas — it could be a big sheet of paper taped to a wall, a painted chalkboard wall, an inexpensive canvas drop cloth (available at hardware stores), or cardboard spread outside on the ground. Ask your child to paint, draw, or sketch a food web, in as much detail as she likes, using pencil, chalk, markers, or paint. This is a fun project to do with a friend. If you have an app on your phone that lets you record a time-lapse video, film your child while she creates; then play it back and watch the web come to life.

Be your own sundial

Your fifth-grader may have learned about sundials this year. On a sunny day, find a flat spot on the sidewalk or playground without anything nearby that will cast a shadow. Mark a spot with an X, and then have one child stand there while another outlines her shadow in chalk and notes the time. Return to the same spot every hour and trace the shadow again. At the end of the day, ask your child what she observed about how her shadow changed throughout the day, and why she thinks it happened.

Tasty matter

The kitchen is a great place to explore the properties of matter. Freeze juice in ice pop molds to see if changing the juice’s state from liquid to solid changes its volume. Stir together oil and vinegar to make salad dressing, and milk and chocolate pudding mix to make pudding. Ask whether each is a solution or a mixture, and why? Making s’mores over the barbecue is a great way to explore the physical and chemical changes of matter, as marshmallows become molton and chocolate melts. Assemble a s’more and let it cool to see if it goes back to a solid-state. (And if you drop a marshmallow into the fire and it burns, you’re looking at a chemical change. Unfortunately irreversible!)


How parents can help 4th graders learn science through everyday play!

– Carol Lloyd

Get ready to feel the earth move! Fourth-grade science looks deeply at the hidden reasons behind how things work. Kids will learn about the patterns of waves and how they cause objects to move. Energy is a core idea this year — what it is and how it can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents, or from object to object through collisions. They’ll practice the process of designing and testing a device that converts energy from one form to another.

They’ll also learn about the history of planet Earth, and that the locations of mountain ranges, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. They’ll explore more deeply how plants and animals have internal and external structures that work to make them survive, grow, and reproduce. You can support this at home by asking open-ended questions about why things happen the way they do and offering opportunities for your child to play and experiment.

How parents can help with 4th-grade science

Collision course

Playing with how objects transfer energy to other objects is as simple and fun as flicking marbles or pennies. Spread pennies out on a table and flick one penny into the others and watch how it causes the other pennies to move. What happens if you flick it harder? Softer? What other objects can you use to transfer energy in this way?

Rubberband band

You can make a surprisingly effective instrument using just a small cardboard box, two pencils, and several rubber bands of different sizes. There are many tutorials online, but essentially your child cuts a hole in the top of the box, tapes the pencils parallel to each other on either side of the hole, and then stretch the rubber bands over the box so that they rest on the pencils, crossing the hole. Play by plucking each rubber band and noticing the different sounds each makes. Now experiment with pressing on the rubber band above the pencil and noticing how it changes the sound. Shorter, thinner, tighter bands create shorter sound waves and a higher-pitched sound. If your child is interested, encourage her to design and build her own instrument.

Find the right environment

Buy some inexpensive plant seeds at the store. Have your child plant the seeds in three containers and vary each one’s environment in one slightly different way. Say one is in direct sunlight, one is in indirect sunlight, and one gets no sunlight. Or say one is watered daily, one is watered every two days, and one is watered weekly. Have your child observe what happens to each plant. What is the best environment for this particular plant? How would your child conduct this experiment again to learn more?

Adapted and abridged

How parents can help 3rd graders learn science through everyday play!

– Carol Lloyd

Good news for dinosaur fans: third graders will learn about the types of organisms that lived long ago and also about their environments. They’ll learn that when the environment changes some organisms survive and reproduce, some move to new locations, and some die.

They’ll work on constructing an explanation using evidence and on understanding cause and effect. They’ll study the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object and the cause and effect relationships of electric or magnetic interactions between objects.

These are big concepts, but you can support them at home by playing some simple games. The key is to get your child talking about what’s happening and why it’s happening. And give evidence for their answers!


How parents can help with third-grade science

Design an organism

Two or more people can play this game. Players take turns drawing a piece of an organism, real or imagined. With each addition to the drawing, the player says how the new body part helps this organism survive in a particular type of environment and then passes the paper on to the next player to add another body part. You may end up with a scaled, horned, thick-furred, flippered beast that can thrive in the ocean, desert, and polar ice caps! Once the creature is finished, encourage your child to colour it in and give it a name.

Magnet play

Magnets are great toys for older children. What kinds of inventions can they think to make with them? How about a latch to keep a door shut or a handbag closed? Talk to your child about the way the magnets behave with each other. How does the distance between objects affect how strong the force is? How does the orientation of magnets affect the direction of the magnetic force?

Sticky balloons

Remember the rub-a-balloon-on-the-hair-and-stick-it-to-the-wall trick? Have your child charge up a balloon or two by rubbing it on his head or sweater. Now see what kinds of objects it attracts and repels. What happens to his hair when he holds the balloon next to his head? Why?

Adapted and abridged