Kindergarden Science Fair Project: Quilt About Hedgehogs

In January 2006, Sarah (then age 5) created a quilt with Shelly about hedgehogs for the science fair at Murfee Elementary School in Lubbock, Texas. Sarah was in Shay Troutman’s kindergarten class that year. This six minute video was originally recorded and created with Apple’s GarageBand software as an “enhanced podcast,” which is a media format that has since gone the way of the dinosaur. Fortunately, the website supports free conversation of small .m4A audio files like this into standard MOV formatted videos, which can be uploaded and shared on YouTube.

This weekend I was looking through the contents of an old hard drive backup from 2011 and ran across this enhanced podcast, which I don’t think was ever shared here on our family learning blog or as a video on YouTube. I’m excited to be able to “digitally resurrect” this media file which Sarah and I co-created, especially to preserve and share her wonderful 5 year old voice!

If you are interested in creating different kinds of media files like this, check out my website, “Show with Media: What Do You Want to Create Today?” Of the 14 different kinds of media projects featured on the site currently, I think this Hedgehog media project would fit best in the “Digital Story” category.

HedgeHog Science Fair Project” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

The Family of Twilight (French 2 Project)

Rachel, who is now a 9th grader, created this poster over the weekend for a geneology project assigned in her French 2 class at Casady.

She wrote and typed the script she will share in class tomorrow, and agreed to audio record it for me with English translations tonight. (And she agreed to let me publish it here on our family learning blog!) Here’s the recording as a narrated image, it’s 2 minutes and 12 seconds long:

This project was recorded with a quick app smash on my iPhone. I used:

  1. The free app PhotoScan by Google Photos (to scan the poster)
  2. The free app Squaready (to save the rectangular photo as a square image)
  3. The free app Voice Record Pro (to record the audio and export the narrated image as a video to the iPhone camera roll)
  4. The free app YouTube (to upload the video to my YouTube channel)

Check out more of Rachel’s projects and work on We still have that WordPress instance set to cross-post from Learning Signs, when her “category” on the blog is selected. At some point in the not-too-distance future I’m betting she’ll want to do a redesign of the site and rebrand it. (She’s recently changed both her Twitter and Instagram channel names, for example.) When she does hopefully I’ll persuade her to maintain / keep / archive all her old work and media projects.

Learn more about creating narrated image / narrated art projects like this on

9th Grade Posters for French 2 and English

Here are a couple posters Rachel created recently for her first week back at school, and first week as a high school freshman.

Here’s a poster she created for French class about her summer holidays / vacation / break. That’s a great looking skyline of Seattle, Washington!

Here is another poster she created, this time for 9th grade English class. Students were ask to sketch a scene from “The Alchemist,” which was one of their summer reading books.

We definitely have a talented artist in our home!

Eliminating the Television

Do you remember when you used to go outside and play until dark? In the twenty-first century many children’s lives are centered around the television. They watch it when they wake up in the morning until they go to sleep at night. At houses for sale in las vegas there will be a great ambiance and a peaceful surroundings that your kids might enjoy and not just stay at home watching television. If I had the power to eliminate any invention in the world it would be the television, because TV causes kids to go outside less, TV advertisements encourage bad eating habits, and TV causes kids to have body image problems.

The first reason why we should eliminate the television is because TV causes kids to go outside less. In Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, he states something very interesting. He says, “Today, average eight-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community.” What does that say about how are kids are growing up in this world? Kids need to get outside and play. They need to use their imagination and play games with other children.

In addition to keeping kids inside more, television ads encourage bad eating habits. Picture this: The season finale of your favorite show just took a commercial break, so you’re sitting on the edge of your seat. All of a sudden, a food advertisement is played on your screen.

The detailed, mouthwatering pictures of huge burgers and fries are now on your screen. Your mouth is beginning to water and your stomach is growling. This was just a scenario of what happens in many households. The television plays ads that make you want to eat food that is unhealthy. It’s just too hard to resist this roaring urge inside of you to go out and buy fast food.

The final reason why we should eliminate the television is because TV causes kids to have bad body image problems. Have you ever noticed that on television most characters are usually thin, fit, and flawless? Watching these type of characters on the television can cause some regular, ordinary, flawed people to get self-conscious. That is one reason why so many teenagers have body image problems. They think that there is something wrong with them. Body image problems can not only lead to depression but also eating disorders like anorexia. One of the main reasons young, teen girls are unhappy with their body image is because television shows and advertisements promote dissatisfaction.

Overall the television is just a bad invention. It causes kids to go outside less, the television encourages bad eating habits, and it causes kids to have body image problems. When Philo Taylor Farnsworth invented the television, I doubt he thought his invention would lead to so many horrible things. On other blog, if you need legal help for accident, checkout motorcycle accident law firm.


Sarah as Chargee at Chisholm Elementary in Edmond, Oklahoma

Flashback to May 2010 when Sarah was a 5th grader at Chisholm Elementary in Edmond, Oklahoma. Sarah was chosen to be “Chargee” (the school mascot) at a PTSA pep rally after an all-school fundraiser. I shot some video clips on a camera that we FINALLY (3.5 years later) took the media off the memory card! I combined these clips together with iMovie and exported it as a single video. Flashback!

Howard Zinn Book Review

Here is a book review I did for my AP US History class on Howards Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States.

Zinn Book Review

Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, tells a story of United States history not often heard in textbooks. While a very interesting read, you must read it objectively as many of Zinn’s views are extremely liberal. The book provides many troubling topics that make you think and consider the truth about what we have always heard in school.

From my reading, it seemed Zinn mainly wanted to focus on the struggles between capitalism, the United States people and the world. He states his purpose is to inform people of the untold, and often unwanted, history of oppression, racism and class struggles. This being said, the book is less a history of the United States and more about “A People’s Struggle Against the United States.” I think the book does not include a full history, but it includes the history that Zinn wanted told. He wanted this history told because it was not the history he learned while in school and is still not in many textbooks today (Zinn 687).

I do not believe Zinn states an explicit thesis, but he does state that the purpose of the book and what he wants to accomplish with it. That is, as I previously stated, to provide a full story of the United States told by the people who were oppressed by capitalism and the government. He says he wanted to do this because it is the history he never know about but may be more than that. Zinn grew up in an Irish-American, working-class family in New York. Later he worked in a shipyard for three years. Growing up in the northeast part of the United States, as well as being an immigrant, gave him a predisposition to tell of the oppression there more than in other places. Zinn states this and how he ignored struggles of the large number of Latinos in California for justice and the fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States (Zinn 687).

This book presents a more extreme view of history than what I have grown up hearing. My father graduated from the Air Force Academy and enjoys discussing the history of the US and the world. From him I have acquired a distaste of oil companies and imperialist wars as in Iraq and Afghanistan. This book supported much of what I have heard before, but looking at it critically I believe the book has portrays things out of balance. Zinn criticizes how Samuel Morison, who wrote a biography of Columbus, focuses briefly on the bad aspects like genocide but then goes on to talk a lot more about the good side of Columbus’s endeavors (Zinn 8). Ironically, Zinn points out this fault in Morison’s text, but writes in the same style about capitalism in his own book. Overall, this book has helped me in understanding better the history of the United States but at times it seemed too subjective and out of balance.

The book, for the most part, includes secondary sources that are other historians’ collections of facts. However, it does include an occasional primary source (Wineburg 2). In addition, Zinn includes many statistics of people who were involved in strikes, riots or other protests. It is hard to accept some of what Zinn writes because in some cases he does not always use multiple sources. For example, when supporting chapter 16, about views of distaste among African Americans for WWII, he only cites three pieces of evidence that all came from a single secondary source (Wineburg 3). That being said, there are a lot of other examples of good documents being used. Zinn not only shares the facts but his interpretation of them and makes you question them. This is good although Zinn tries to instill in you a viewpoint that is anti-capitalist by doing this and seems to cherry pick the facts.

This way of asking questions first then giving you the facts later is used often by Zinn. In this way it is almost more of a narrative of the story with facts thrown in to make it seem more like a history. While working well to make his points, this practice of using either-or questions deviates from standard “professional historical writing” (Wineburg 3). When Zinn was writing on how Roosevelt lied during WWII, he accused him but did not explain specifically what Roosevelt said (Zinn 411). Zinn’s tone throughout this chapter more ambiguous and less definitive. This is different from when a history book will interpret the facts clearly and tell them to you. Zinn tries to lead you to a conclusion but its like he doesn’t want to commit himself to that conclusion in the book. Overall, Zinn writes in a way that advocates his points well but you have to be careful to still read it objectively because Zinn is very subjective.

I enjoyed reading this book even though it could be a bit dry and did not have the same kind of “hook” as a fiction book might, the same sort of review can be found at The Guidr. From previously being in debate it was fun to read because in most debates we would be arguing something that encompassed capitalism or over militarization of our government. It was funny because I even recognized some of the authors Zinn referenced from reading their evidence in debate rounds. The main difference was that in a debate round everyone knows you can find an author that says exactly what you want, hence many arguments ends in global nuclear war even though most debaters really do not believe that would ever happen. When reading some of these same authors in Zinn’s history book, it makes me realize that Zinn can do this same thing that we did in debate and that he is presenting the best sources that support his positions. Even though he presents this information as if it is the only true explanation of what happened, that is not the case. His desire to persuade you gets in the way of objectively portraying the facts. Throughout the book he gives the view that the United States has no redeeming qualities. I know that while we certainly have some big problems that we have a lot of good things happening in our country.

Starting from Columbus to the 21st century, A People’s History of the United States gives an account of the struggles many people faced at the hands of the government and capitalists. It does not tell, however, of the hardships people faced going west. It instead focuses on their troubles with income and rights. In chapter 11, Zinn goes more into the strikes of the Industrial Age and even implies that we were close to another revolution with as many protests among the low-income population. Zinn goes on to tell about how the US entering the World Wars had more to do with large corporations and politicians figuring out that getting behind a war effort was a good way to increase imperialism and to avoid economic trouble and class struggles at home. So as the US came into WWI we came out of the Great Depression. After the war however more strikes were continuing to take place. Large unions as well as the communist political party were causing trouble for the US government to deal with. Even though the large corporations and politicians knew how war could help the country, it could not last forever as seen in Vietnam when due to anti-war efforts they had to end the war. Overall the book gives a good picture of what is not often included in most history books.

I am glad to have read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It has led me to become more enlightened about many more things, like the darker side of Columbus and the amount of strikes that took place before WWII. While some parts may have been stretched, in most cases I believe it proved to be true to its point: To tell of the suffering and hard times people have had at the hands of capitalists and the government. This book provides many questions but also a different outlook upon our history worth reading.

Works Cited

1. Zinn, Howard A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003. Print.

2. Wineburg, Sam “Undue Certainty: Where Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Falls Short.” Rev. of A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. American Educator Summer 2013. Online.

2nd Grade Celebrates Spanish Music

Cleaning up my laptop hard drive tonight I found this video my wife told me about last year but I’d never seen… I’m so glad it wasn’t deleted!

This video shows my 2nd grade daughter’s class celebrating Spanish music listening to Juan Luis Guerra (from the Dominican Republic) while donning sombreros and dancing the conga. A very memorable party… yes, that is Rachel leading the conga line!

Alexander’s Cake Model of the Cell (narrated food)

Alexander made a model of an animal cell for his 9th grade biology class this weekend. I asked him to take a photo of it, and (although he protested) he recorded a short AudioBoo describing his project and some of the cell parts. This media reflection is therefore an example of “narrated food,” as opposed to “narrated art.” 🙂

Alexander's Cake Model of the Cell

3rd Grade Back to School Night

Here are some photos from “Back to School Night” this evening at Quail Creek Elementary School in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Rachel recorded a short “Narrated Art” message with AudioBoo on my iPhone and described the first piece of artwork shown below.

Rachel's "Name Art"

Letter to Dad

Work Samples

Class Schedule

Cursive Practice

Timed Addition Test

Sentence Completion

Sentence Fragment Worksheet

More cursive practice

1st day of journaling

Writing Journal

2nd day journal

Journal entry about the Nile River

Sports Camp Learning this summer

If I Was a River Pilot

I volunteerted tonight to be the “class historian / photographer.” I’m thinking we might buy an older iPod Touch at a local pawn shop which can take photos, and then set it up to both post photos to a class blog as well as use it for narrated art recordings like Rachel made tonight.

Volunteer to be the Class Historian / Photographer

Alexander Answers Questions About His Simple Machine Project with AudioBoo

In March and April this year Alexander worked on a simple machine project for his 8th grade science class. His design process and the results of his project are documented in the posts, “Draft Design for a Complex Machine to Generate Electricity from Water Power” (26 March 2012) and “Good Things Can Come From Science and Engineering Projects in School” (30 April 2012). After sharing those results, I received some feedback via Twitter from Arizona 5th grade teacher Michael Buist. His students looked at the design photos and videos Alexander created, and wrote an extensive series of questions for him about his project, design process, and lessons learned.

This evening Alexander answered a few of the questions using AudioBoo on an iPad. He actually asked to answer with just audio, since he didn’t need to show anything on his actual project in a video to answer the questions. Here are the student questions written by some of Mr. Buist’s students and Alexander’s recorded answers. There were many more questions shared by students, but these were the ones Alexander was able to answer tonight. Thanks Mr. Buist and students for your interest in Alexander’s project and his learning journey as a designer and engineer! I hope the information we share is helpful to you in your own engineering design projects.

Questions from Jonah C:

Did you have fun doing this project, or did you just do this for a good grade? If you did have fun with this project, what were the most fun parts of the project that you had?

If you did not like this and just did this project for a grade, then what did you not like about the project? What kind of help did your dad give you, or did you just do the project by yourself?

Question from Braxton B:

One of the questions that I have about the second design is why even use the pulley when you still have to use your hand to help it along I hope you can answer my questions a thank you for listening.

Answers for Jonah C. & Braxton B.about Simple Machine Project

Question from Lejon D:

If you were to take away one thing from your design what would it be?

Answers for Lejon D. about Simple Machine Project

Questions (1 of 2) from Eric B:

Question 1: Did you think about recycling the water by making a tube back into the bottle or something like that?

Question 2: Where did the water go after it went through once?

Question 3: How long did it take to make your project?

Question 4: How much did it cost to make your project?

Question 5: Did you find this project particularly challenging?

Question 6: Have you faced a project like this before?

Question 7: What inspired the idea?

Question 8: Did you enjoy this project?

Answers 1 of 2 for Eric B. about Simple Machine Project

Questions (2 of 2) from Eric B:

Question 9: The first time you ran your water wheel it failed, why?

Question 10: Could you upgrade your machine in any way?

Question 11: Was your dad very beneficial do you work and the way your machine ran?

Question 12: Did the light turn on?

Question 13: Why do you think the pulley did not work?

Question 14: Was your dad excited when your project was a success?

Question 15: Did you dad embarrass you at the end of the video?

Question 16: Witch design did you think worked the best?

Answers (2 of 2) for Eric B. about Simple Machine Project

Question from Katie:

In your first design you had the water from the wheel turn on a light bulb. Why did you decide not to do that design?

Answers for Katie about Simple Machine Project

Question from Malaya G:

I want to know what grade you got on your project and did you have fun making it?

Answers for Malaya G. about Simple Machine Project

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