Monthly Archives: July 2012

They are here…DINOSAURS

I promised last week that I was going to put up a post about visiting the special dinosaur exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum of Science, and as then got sidetracked. However, a promise is a promise, so here goes! The exhibit touts itself as the first exhibit to focus exclusively on dinosaurs of the southern hemisphere, including South America, Africa, Antarctica, and Australia. The exhibit features 17 full-sized casts. Here, I think it’s important to note that when you go to a dinosaur exhibit, when you look at a full-sized mount, you aren’t actually seeing real fossils. Real fossils would be much too heavy to put on display, and so paleontologists (scientists who study dinosaurs) create casts of the real fossils and then paint the casts to look like the actual fossils. This doesn’t decrease the cool factor of actually seeing full-sized representations of these animals, though! At this exhibition, many of the dinosaurs had never been exhibited as full casts before. The dinosaurs on display are some of the largest and strangest dinosaurs that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The exhibition starts out by discussing continental drift and demonstrating how the geography of the Earth has changed significantly over time, and how this movement impacted evolution.  After a brief introductory video that shows the current theory of how the Earth’s continents formed from one land mass (Pangea), you turn a corner and are confronted with a plethora of dinosaur skeletons.

The displays are professionally done and the lighting is dramatic throughout the exhibition. The attention to details and how the dinosaurs were placed truly enhanced the experience. In addition to the visual stimulus, the exhibit features background sounds and low frequency “footsteps” that really set the tone for the exhibit.

Learning more about the Ouranosaurus at the ROM

The exhibit does a great job of presenting new theories and disclosing how much there still is to learn about dinosaurs. The dinosaur on the left (Ouranosaurus) was discovered in Niger in 1976, and there continue to be new theories on the exact function of the spiny protrusions on the dinosaur’s back.  As stated on Dinosaur Jungle,” It was thought that this fin was probably used for temperature regulation: the animal could face it towards or away from the sun, depending on whether it needed to heat up or cool down. Close examination of Ouranosaurus however suggests that whatever was on its back may have been quite different from the fin on Spinosaurus. In fact, many scientists now believe that the spines on Ouranosaurus back are more likely to have supported a hump (similar to a modern bison’s hump) than a sail. If this was the case, the hump may perhaps have been used to store food and water (like a camel’s hump).”

The Fossilized Skull of the odd Nigersaurus

The exhibit also reminds visitors how much there really is to learn about dinosaurs through presenting new and strange fossils. The real fossil to the left, the skull of a Nigersaurus, made my entire family stop to gawk (including my five-year-old sister). Who would have thought a dinosaur would have a flat row of teeth going across their face?  The Nigersaurus is one of the most recently found dinosaurs and theories about it are still being developed. As The New York Times reported in 2007:

“In contrast to other plant-eating dinosaurs, this one had more than 50 columns of teeth, all lined up along the jaws’ front edges, forming, in effect, foot-long scissors. The CT scans of the jawbones showed up to nine replacement teeth stacked behind each cutting tooth. When one wore out, another immediately took its place, at a rate, perhaps, of one a month in each column. ‘Among dinosaurs,’ Dr. Sereno said, ‘Nigersaurus sets the Guinness record for tooth replacement.”

Enjoying one of the kid-friendly stations! The ROM seems to have thought of everything in putting together this exhibition and the space. For example, bathrooms are placed halfway through the exhibit and the height of most written information is hip level, so even young children and individuals in wheelchairs can read the information. Even keeping a little one interested in the exhibition is easy with rubbing stations set up at strategic spots in the exhibit. The booklet for doing this is even FREE! We kept my little sister occupied by asking her if the dinosaur she was looking at was a plant-eater or a meat-eater and then asking her how she came up with her answer. (The answer ALWAYS has to do with the teeth!)

The use of iPads in the exhibit is also a great way to engage kids of all ages. We particularly enjoyed the program that allowed you to swivel an iPad over some of the fossils and see the flesh put over the bones to create a “living” dinosaur on your screen. The iPads also had a pronunciation application, so there was no guessing on how to say the dinosaur’s names!

We spent about an hour in the exhibit and probably could have spent another hour if we had read all the information, watched all the videos and accessed all the other reality technology.

My Brother ‘trying’ to learn something!


Leave a comment

Filed under Learning Events, My Experiences, Parenting

Preparing Your Child For The First Day Of School

Even if your child is accustomed to daycare, the first day at school can be very intimidating. Make sure that you are both prepared for the start of the school year. Getting off to a good start will help to foster positive attitudes towards school.

Basic skills
By now, children must be able to sit still, listen and follow instructions. If your child has trouble following instructions, you can practice during the summer vacation. Set up a little ‘classroom’ in your home with a chair and small table. Get your child to sit still while you outline instructions for a basic craft, then see if they can follow the instructions you gave them.
Following instructions can be fun and you can make up games in which they have to follow an increasingly complex list of instructions. You can also do things like bake cookies or decorate cupcakes with step-by-step instructions to follow.
Students must be able to change into their gym clothes and then back into their school clothes. If they have a uniform with unfamiliar additions like button down shirts or ties, get them to practice dressing themselves prior to their first day at school.

School supplies
Ensure that you have gathered all the stationary and other supplies the school requires. When purchasing a backpack, ensure that you choose one that offers good support. You can get a guide to buying a backpack here.

Talk to your child about what they can expect from school. Role-play with nervous students so that they know what to do in different situations. Knowing what they are supposed to do will reduce anxiety and help build confidence. Encourage your student to ask the teacher for help if they are feeling unhappy or if they are unsure what to do. Talk to your child regularly; ask lots of questions and get them to tell you who their friends are and what the other students are like. This is a great way to ascertain whether they are fitting in.
Talk to the teacher regularly so that any problems that do arise can be dealt with before they affect your child’s attitude towards school.

Contingency plans
Not all introductions to ‘big’ school go well. It’s very normal for most kids to decide that they have been to school now and don’t need to go back once the novelty of the first week has worn off. Other children will have more traumatic introductions to school life. Just remember that the teachers have seen it all and are experts at dealing with reluctant students. Take their advice and follow their suggestions on how to deal with the situation. Most schools allow students who are struggling some leeway. Perhaps your student can come for a couple of hours or a half day until they make friends and grow accustomed to the school environment.

Original Blog from July 9, 2012)

Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting

Lemonade Stand – 2012

We put out a popular post on Lemonade stands last year called Lessons Learned from a Lemonade Stand (7/7/11) and just came across this post on our home offices blog. We thought it was pretty well done and touches some points we didn’t. Hope you enjoy it and remember to work with your children for their safety and security as they gain this great experience!

The lemonade stand is the quintessential summer vacation experience. Lemonade stands represent the resourcefulness and moxie that helps young economists understand the basics of commerce. Through the creation of a lemonade stand, your kids get to partake in an activity that keeps them busy through the long summer vacation, reinforces the idea that hard work and effort is rewarded and instills the basics of good business.
When supervising a lemonade stand, it’s important to experiment with locations, stand decorations and the attitude of sales personal so that your child gets to learn valuable business lessons first hand. Donating proceeds to a charity of your choice will also instill good values and give your child a sense of community. Choose a charity which is interactive so that your child gets a letter or a photo from their recipient to reinforce the difference that they have made through their charitable work.

Take a stand
The table is the backbone of any lemonade stand, but decorations are both encouraged and can result in higher visibility and better sales. Use a cardboard box to cover the front of your lemonade stand and get your young entrepreneurs to color or pain the stand. Encourage them to add balloons, glitter or other handmade decorations. The key elements to display are the fare on sale and the prices of different goods. If the proceeds are going to a charity or school project, this should also be displayed on the lemonade stand.

Have a cooler and plenty of ice to keep your lemonade cool. Ensure that you use biodegradable cups so as not to have a negative environmental impact. Calculate the costs of the lemonade ingredients and the cups so that you can accurately calculate your profits (another valuable lesson!) Adding cookies and other baked goods will improve the quality of your lemonade stand.

Location, location, location
Decide on a safe place to put your lemonade stand where it will be visible to passing traffic, but will not cause an obstruction. Ensure that the stand is in the shade so that you, your children and your lemonade can stay cool.

Lemonade Recipe
There are tons of recipes! Here is a basic one that is fail-proof:

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 lemon, unpeeled, cut in slices
  • Ice cubes

Instructions: (Makes 6 servings)
In a large pitcher, combine the lemon juice and sugar; stir to dissolve the sugar.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

You can use honey instead of sugar for a healthier option. You can also add a few drops of food coloring to make different colors.

(Original Blog from July 23, 2012)

Leave a comment

Filed under Learning Events, Organization, Parenting

Sunday Morning Shout Out

As much as you try to pace yourself in the summer, summer seems to have it’s own distinct brand of busy. I guess that is what occurs when we Western New Yorkers try to cram many of our biggest social events into a three-month period. From vacations to festivals, family picnics to summertime sports, summer can be such a busy time. For children and parents alike, the aftermath can mean a family of rundown individuals and summer ailments.

This family is getting over summer ailments. We are typically healthy individuals. So I was a bit perplexed over this issue. The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease estimates that 30 to 50 percent of common colds are caused by rhinovirus.  Such symptoms include: sneezing, nasal discharge, sore throat, cough, low-grade fever, headaches, and malaise.  An article on the web site Everyday Health informs us that with the increase in activities in our lives, our immune systems take a hit.  This can be further complicated by dehydration issues and air conditioning.  We have many scorching days this summer that have made proper hydration a true challenge. Dehydration makes cold symptoms worse. Air conditioners extract moisture from the air and can dry out the protective mucous membrane of the nose, making us more susceptible to infections.

Like other times of the year, rest, extra fluids, frequent hand washing, and stress management can help prevent and treat the common cold.  A nice additional tool to fight the summer cold pointed out by is eating the fresh fruit that is more readily available this time of the year. All-in-all it is just so hard when there is so much fun to be had. Sigh, sniffle, sniffle…..

1 Comment

Filed under My Experiences

Watch Out for…DINOSAURS

I planned to put up a post about my trip to the Royal Ontario Museum tonight, but I’m finding the task beyond me. So stay tuned tomorrow for an in-depth look at the amazing new dinosaur exhibit that’s just across the border!

And in the meantime, enjoy this picture of a DINOSAUR.

Leave a comment

Filed under Learning Events, My Experiences, Parenting

Family Cooking: Margherita Pizza

My favorite time of year to cook is in the summer. Fresh ingredients and warmer weather make for some great, light dishes. One of my favorites is incredibly simple and fast to make.

Simple, flavorful ingredients are a great way to introduce young cooks to the kitchen! (Image Credit:

Tutor Doctor WNY’s Margherita Pizza

One of the things I love most about margherita pizza is that it’s lighter than traditional pizza, and each of the ingredients can be tasted.

What You’ll Need:

1 can Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough (our family likes to use a pre-made dough due to time constraints, but feel free to substitute whatever kind of dough you like)

2 fresh basil leaves (we use  leaves from the basil plant we keep on our patio, but you can find good basil in the produce section of grocery stores too)

4-5 small tomatoes, sliced thinly (we like smaller tomatoes, but any kind of tomato will work)

olive oil (I’m guessing that we probably use about 2 tbsp, but you’ll need enough to cover the entire crust with a very thin layer of oil)

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into medium-thick slices (our personal favorite is Liani Latticini, Inc mozzarella. It comes in a ball shape and offers the perfect slice size)


Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Spray a cookie sheet and unroll the dough. If you’re using the Pillsbury dough, pre-bake the dough for five minutes.

Spread olive oil over the entire crust. I use the back of a spoon to spread.

Place the mozzarella in rows over the crust. Don’t worry about covering the entire crust with cheese–the flavors are delicious enough that every bite doesn’t need to be super cheesy.

Put the tomato slices over the mozzarella. To balance out your pizza, try to put slices on some of the spots that aren’t covered by mozzarella.

Rip the basil leaves into enough pieces that they can be scattered over the pizza.

Bake the pizza for about 10-11 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown. Don’t worry if the mozzarella isn’t totally melted. In fact, you should still be able to see the general shape of the slices.

In our house, we pair our pizza with carrot sticks, but this pizza can easily stand on its own.


What are some of your favorite summertime recipes?

1 Comment

Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences, Nutrition Education, Parenting


My introduction to languages other than English was not particularly nuanced. There were some Spanish words on Sesame Street, some French words from a children’s language book I got for Christmas one year, and then a few weeks where the school librarian tried to teach fourth graders French. (To be fair, I still remember how to ask where the hospital is, so I think she can safely count the endeavor as a success). My first real introduction to a foreign language came in eighth grade, when you were able to choose between German or Spanish.

Learning a language can be difficult, but the benefits are impressive! (Image Credit:

Now, common sense might dictate that Spanish was the better choice. After all, there are more Spanish-speakers in the world than German-speakers. The United States, bordered as it is by a Spanish-speaking country and with a high Spanish-speaking population, is a place where knowledge of Spanish is particularly useful. At the age of thirteen, though, other considerations came into mind. My last name is German, the German teachers had an excellent reputation in our school district, and German just seemed like a different language choice than most people made and I wanted to be unique and cool.

So I chose German. I took German all the way through high school and then two additional courses in college until I ran out of space in my schedule and began to focus on my major rather than electives or potential minors. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the importance of languages until after I had graduated and started looking at the kinds of jobs I wanted. I painfully became aware that knowledge of foreign languages is a pre-requisite to many careers, and a boon in many others. It isn’t that I regret taking German–I still think it is a cool language and I rarely meet people who speak it–but more that I wish I had been able to take more languages.

Unfortunately for high school students who are interested in languages, scheduling makes it impossible to take more than two languages. This means that college is the best time to really delve into languages. What has your experience been with learning foreign languages?

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences