10 Things I Wish I Knew as a College Freshman

College graduatesBy Guest Blogger Amanda Nardozzi, recent Utica College graduate

When you first set foot on your college campus, you will begin the most wonderful four years of your life. You will make memories and friends that last a lifetime. There will definitely be moments where things get stressful and you feel like quittin’, but hang in there — it is so worth it in the end. As a new graduate looking back, I’d like to share things I have learned along the way that I wish I had known as an incoming freshman.

  1. How to figure out your schedule. This was one of my main concerns coming into my first year. I wasn’t sure what to take or how many classes I needed for my major. Usually during your first couple of years you need to complete general education courses such as English, math, and science. I know it seems like high school all over again, but once you get through those, it gets a lot better. To find the right classes, I recommend you research the courses on your school’s website, and ask your advisor for guidance.
  2. College is a whole new level of independence. No more having to ask permission to leave the classroom to use the bathroom. Professors will treat you like an adult, which means if you don’t show up for class it’s your responsibility to find out what you missed. Living in a dorm is honestly like living on your own– you don’t have to report back to anyone but yourself, although I do not recommend staying out all night when you have an 8 a.m. class the next morning. It is the greatest feeling to finally be independent and be considered an adult. Now you have to act like one!
  3. Renting textbooks can save your life… and your wallet. Who wants to spend $200 on a book you will only open a couple of times? Renting textbooks works just the same and will save you so much money. Places like Amazon and Chegg are my top picks for cheap textbook rentals.
  4. Orientation is an opportunity. Coming into a place where you don’t know anyone can be intimidating, but you will find everyone so welcoming and friendly that your nerves will fade away. During orientation, you will meet many people, some of whom you will stay friends with and some you won’t, and that is okay. It is a time for you to get comfortable with your campus and the people who will be with you for the next four years. Orientation is designed to push you out of your comfort zone, because that is what college does. You won’t be able to grow unless you push your boundaries.
  5. Greek life is not like what you see in the movies. If your school has an active Greek life, I highly encourage getting involved. It is not at all like the stereotypes you see in the movies — it is so much more than that. Not only do you meet people who share your values, but you also learn so much about yourself and get more involved in the community. Greek life is a lot of responsibility and a commitment, but it is well worth it for all that you will take away.College Building
  6. Professors really do care. Sometimes you may think that your professors don’t care about you as a student, especially if you attend a school where classes are held in huge lecture halls, but that is not the case. Professors have office hours for a reason, so they can help you succeed and do your best. Take advantage of them, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  7. Changing your major is not the end of the world. I started off with a major in physical therapy, but when I started taking courses related to it, I soon realized I hated every single class and knew I needed to do something about it. If you ever start to experience these feelings, it’s okay — it happens to almost everyone. Once I researched other majors, I discovered public relations, which was the perfect fit for me. If you’re not sure what you want to do, you have plenty of time to figure it out, and trust me, you will.
  8. Avoid procrastinating. If, like me you usually waited until the night before the due date in high school to complete assignments, be aware that this strategy is not going to work in college. You may think you can get away with it in some of the easier courses, but it will seriously start to affect you in the long run. Try to start assignments at least a week ahead of time, outline what you need to do, and plan your time so that it is not all saved until the last minute. This goes for studying for exams as well — it’s impossible to remember a semester’s worth of material in one night!
  9. Rely on your advisor. Each student is assigned an academic advisor to help along the way. Advisors are crucial in guiding your academic journey and making sure that each semester runs as smoothly as possible. They will encourage you to challenge yourself and help keep you on track with the correct classes according to your major; they will never let you slip behind. If you find your advisor is not as helpful as you hoped, you can request to change.
  10. College is about your education, of course, but it’s also about the experience. In those four years you learn so much about yourself, largely because of the people you spend your time with. You are going to make friends and memories that will last a lifetime. They will show you that it is okay to be yourself and that they are along for this journey with you. Cherish every moment because it goes by in a blink of an eye.

If you consider these few tips when starting your college journey, you will be more prepared than most freshmen. Be confident in your ability to succeed and you will have a great college experience!

AmandaAmanda Nardozzi recently received her Bachelor of Science in Public Relations from Utica College in Utica, NY.

Follow the Tour de France and LEARN!

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Curriki

Tour de France map

Tour de France map

Close to 200 elite cyclists from around the world are pedaling almost 2,000 miles around France this month in the world’s biggest and most revered cycling race, the Tour de France. Nine riders on each of 20 professional teams are riding 21 stages over 23 days, culminating in perhaps one of the most awesome finishes on the planet when the final stage circles the Champs Elysees in Paris and ends at the Arc de Triomphe.

The Tour presents a great opportunity to use cycling to teach all sorts of things – math, culture, food, science, foreign languages  – even colors, as the overall leader wears a yellow race jersey, and others wear jerseys color coded to their area of specialty — to kids at every level.

Tour Trivia

Did you know …

  • The Tour de France has been held annually since 1903 (apart from during the two World Wars)
  • The race is held primarily in France, but every so often it passes through neighboring countries – for example, in 2014 it came to England
  • The first day of the race is known as “Le Grand Depart”
  • The average speed of the modern Tour de France is 25 mph

Elementary School

Middle and High School

BBC offers card games, English and French quizzes, even Petanque!

And for the Grown-Ups

Check out more resources on Curriki’s website. And then, get outside and go for a bike ride!

Photo of Janet Pinto



Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, leads and manages all of Curriki’s content development, user experience, and academic direction. Learn more at Curriki.org.


Enter Curriki’s SummerSPARK! Competition

Summer SPARK!By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

This summer, we’re looking for the best lessons plans Curriki’s members have created to educate, inform and inspire students in Math/ELA. How do you spark your students’ interest and fuel their passion for learning math?

Enter Curriki’s SummerSPARK! lesson plan competition – the Top 5 contributions get a $25 Amazon gift card.

To enter, contribute your CCSS-aligned lesson plans for Math/ELA to THIS GROUP by Aug. 31. You must join the group before you can upload.

Contest Rules

  • Lesson Plans may be for any grade level within K-12.
  • Lesson Plans must include Instructional Goals and Objectives, Procedure (Instructional Sequence) and Assessment of Learning. Members must upload all resources connected to the lesson (any videos, quizzes/worksheets WITH answer keys).
  • Lesson Plans must also include meaningful integration of technology.
  • Members must enter alignments to at least three (3) Common Core State Standards for Mathematics or English Language Arts.
  • Accurate metadata must be entered (grade level, subjects, resource type)

Learn more.


Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki. Kim is active in driving policy initiatives and is regularly featured as an honorary speaker on the impact of technology in education at influential meetings around the world.

Night and Elie Wiesel’s Legacy

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel

By Janet Pinto
Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Curriki

The recent death of Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel at age 87 presents an opportunity for us to study and reflect upon the brutal genocide that killed six million Jews in the 1930s and 40s.

Wiesel, who lost his father, mother and a sister in the Holocaust, managed to survive the Auschwitz and Buchenwald death camps. After the war he moved to the United States, and at the age of 27 wrote his internationally acclaimed memoir Night.

The activist and author made Holocaust education his mission in life and became a voice for victims, eventually writing more than 50 books. His death leaves a huge void.

Wiesel’s Legacy

U.S. President Barack Obama called Wiesel “one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world.”

“By bearing witness, he revealed evil many avoided facing,” wrote Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “By never giving up, he made this world better.”

Learning Resources

I have created a collection of resources about Wiesel’s book Night, and urge teachers and parents to use these in explaining why Wiesel’s death still reverberates so strongly throughout the world today.

Photo of Janet Pinto

Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, leads and manages all of Curriki’s content development, user experience and academic direction. Learn more at Curriki.org.



Gap Year: Is it a Good Idea?

By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki.

Kim Jones

First daughter Malia Obama’s recent decision to take a year off before entering college has brought the concept of a gap year to the educational forefront. Is a year off between high school and college a good idea or not? Does it make a student more ready for college and life beyond, or does it take a student away from the momentum of studying and learning and make it harder to get on the treadmill?

I decided to take a little dive into the topic, and learned that taking a gap year  is extremely common all over the world, although less so in the United States. But even in the US, colleges and universities work with students to let their gap year happen, and Harvard’s acceptance letters even suggest a student do so.

Everything I’ve read suggests that taking a gap year between high school and college can be tremendously beneficial to one’s personal growth. It can launch a young person’s journey of self-discovery.

Gap Year Benefits

Backpacker on a mountain topHere are some benefits:

  • You’ll perform better in college. Gap year students have higher GPAs and are more involved on campus, colleges report.
  • You’ll realize what you love before you start studying, rather than changing majors several times.
  • You’ll get to have adventures in your prime, while you have no job, no mortgage payments, no burdens.
  • You’ll know what’s important in life before most people do. Gap years lend perspective.
  • You’ll become an expert at adapting to new places.
  • You’ll have something to talk about, with unique, life-changing experiences under your belt.
  • You’ll have a shinier resume, especially if you travel somewhere and work during your gap year.
  • Life goes by fast and frenzied in high school, and college promises more of the same. A gap year provides time to stop and think and breathe.
  • You’ll make new friends from all over the world.

College will still be there when you’re done with all these new experiences, and will probably mean more. Still not sure? Here’s an interesting US News article with  questions  to ask when considering a gap year.

I’d love to hear your experiences.

Emotions, Learning and the Brain

Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki.By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Although Curriki is all about providing high-quality curriculum materials to those who need them, we recognize that learning is about so much more than curricula. Students bring to the table what’s going on in their hearts, not just their heads, and teachers need to understand how that affects their ability to learn. This is called affective neuroscience, and understanding it is crucial for educators to be truly successful

Emotions, Learning, and the Brain

In her new book, Emotions,Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience (The Norton Series on the Social Neuroscience of Education) 1st Edition, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang attempts to enrich our understanding about the connection between emotions and learning.

Immordino-Yang―an affective neuroscientist, human development psychologist, and former public school teacher―presents a decade of work with the potential to revolutionize educational theory and practice.

Emotions, Learning and the brainSimple Ideas

She offers two simple ideas:

  • Emotions motivate learning because they activate brain mechanisms that evolved to manage our very survival
  • Learning is inherently emotional, because we only think deeply about things we care about

So if we want to motivate students to deeply understand a subject and then take what they learned out of the classroom and into the world, we need to tap into their emotions.

According to the publisher, these are the basic concepts covered in the book:
What are feelings, and how does the brain support them? What role do feelings play in the brain’s learning process? This book unpacks these crucial questions and many more, including the neurobiological, developmental, and evolutionary origins of creativity, facts and myths about mirror neurons, and how the perspective of social and affective neuroscience can inform the design of learning technologies.

I think this sounds fascinating, and I’m adding Emotions, Learning, and the Brain to my summer reading list. How about you?

What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

Photo of Janet Pinto

Janet Pinto

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Curriki

Ah, summer. Without the grind of having to get up early and get ready for school, stay up to grade papers, and plan lessons, glorious empty hours stretch out to catch up on reading.

But what to read? The possibilities are endless. One place to start is Goodreads’ list of summer reading favorites!
It’s a little heavy on John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns), but also includes classics (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Catch-22), thrillers (Gone Girl), contemporary hits (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, All the Light We Cannot See) and, of course, a delicious sprinkling of Harry Potter throughout.

beach readingWhat’s on your reading list this summer? Whether it’s for professional development, inspiration, or just the mindless escape of a good beach read, please share and let’s build a list together. Happy reading!

New Google Art Camera Can Bring Great Works of Art to Students in Breathtaking Detail

Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki.

By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Of course, art teachers can’t their students to the Louvre to see the famous Mona Lisa, or to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, or to the Sistine Chapel to see the awe-inspiring ceiling painted by Michelangelo.

But now they can get awfully close.

The Google Cultural Institute has unveiled a tool called new Art Camera that has the potential to reveal in high resolution the most minute details in the works of some of the world’s greatest artists. This means art professors will be able to bring great art to their students, virtually, in breathtaking detail.

How Do They Do It?

The images are created by the Art Camera, which Google Cultural Institute says “is a robotic camera, custom-built to create gigapixel images faster and more easily. A robotic system steers the camera automatically from detail to detail, taking hundreds of high-resolution close-ups of the painting. To make sure the focus is right on each brush stroke, it’s equipped with a laser and a sonar that—much like a bat—uses high-frequency sound to measure the distance of the artwork. Once each detail is captured, our software takes the thousands of close-up shots and, like a jigsaw, stitches the pieces together into one single image.”

Google logo1,000 Masterpieces

Google has sent the Art Camera around the world and already captured more than 1,000 masterpieces by many of the masters, including Pisarro, Van Gogh and Rembrandt, in super high resolution. It’s the ultimate OER!

Get details here. It’s truly amazing.

Avoiding Summer Slide and Keeping Summer Learning Fun

Lani deGuia

By Guest Blogger and Curriki Member Lani deGuia

Summertime is the perfect time for students to relax, hit the reset button, and enjoy long days of fun. That doesn’t mean that learning has to stop or that learning can’t be fun during the summer.  Some children may crave continued learning and some may not. However, it is for certain that children do not like to be bored. There may be downtime on road trips, plane rides, at the sitter, or during a heavy thunderstorm. Opportune chances can fill summer days for both experiential and academic learning, keeping students’ skills sharp and ready for school in the fall!  Here are some great resources for capitalizing on summer free time!

Preparing for Kindergarten

Summer is a great time for preschool students to solidify their skills before they enter the kindergarten classroom. Curriki member Sandy Gade has a collection of games from Duckie Deck that covers every pre-kindergarten topic including numbers, seasons, animals, ecology, and crafts.

Parents can also help young students through guided activities.  The following are from ReadWriteLearn and help students develop literacy and numeracy skills.

You can also help your child with communication with Family Learning Phonics Games. The site includes various activities to improve speech, pronunciation, articulation, and more.

Get Children Reading!

The International Reading Association Children’s Book Choice provides a reading list each year for K-12 students. WeAreTeachers also provides a great list echoing what children in grades 9-12 may be reading during the school year.

Learn Math Through Gaming

ABC MouseFor elementary school students, ABC Mouse Math Games  has a Pinterest board of activities to do at home.  These activities use simple materials found around the house and cover a wide range of concepts including shape sorting, number sense, money, arithmetic, and patterns. 56 Great Math Websites offers great resources for online math activities and games.  It even includes Manga Math, for those kids especially interested in Japanese animation.  The Money Games collection  includes links to online activities for practicing knowledge of currency and counting money.

Some additional math game websites include:

For students interested in interactive math and a more complex challenge, MathBreakers is a Common Core aligned role-playing. Students will investigate math concepts through a 3D virtual world. Scratch from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a free online platform where students can apply coding to create interactive games.

Make Time to Explore STEM

Code Fred: Survival Mode is an educational game that teaches about the human body systems.  It actually gives users the opportunity to jump inside a human body system to see how basic physiological processes work and help the body to survive.

See Social Studies in a Different Way

Mission US provides an interactive experience in learning history.  Users are engaged in transformational moments in American history through role-playing, all to encourage understanding of multiple perspectives, problem-solving, and judging evidence.

Meet me at the cornerMeet Me at the Corner is a series of video podcasts that provide virtual field trips on fun topics such as juggling, homing pidgeons, and puppeteering. Each episode includes a questions and activities.

Encourage the Use of Educational Apps

Just because your child has a mobile device doesn’t mean their apps can’t be a source of learning.  Curriki has several vast collections of apps that can keep skills sharp and help students explore their favorite concepts. Use these resources to help filter out amazing apps from those that don’t provide much of a quality learning experience.

  • Educational Apps collection:  This collection is categorized by both grade level and subject area (including Home Economics and Band/Choir).
  • iPad Apps for ELLs: If your child is learning English as a second language, don’t let the summer be a setback for all that was learned in the previous school year. Curriki Member Lisa Buccigrosse shares a detailed list of iOS apps effective in boosting language skills for ELL students.

Make summer a time for experiences, fun, and continued learning. Keep your child’s thinking skills sharp and ready for the fall!

The Secret to Why Finland’s Schools Are So Fantastic

Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki.By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Finland’s schools used to rank very low, but now they are the highest-ranking country in the world when it comes to quality of education, while the United States is #29. Why? Michael Moore asked the country’s education chief, what was Finland’s secret to success.

Her answer was simple: “They do not do homework.”

Krista Kiuru, Finland’s Minister of Education, says, “They should have more time to be kids, to enjoy life.”

In addition to having no homework, younger Finnish children don’t go to school more than 20 hours a week – including lunch.

“Your brain has to relax now and then,” explains Leena Liusvarra, a school principal. “If you just constantly work, work, work, then you stop learning.”

Interesting concept – it’s pretty much the reverse of what we are doing in the United States, where children are being assigned homework as young as first grade and there’s a huge push for full-day kindergarten.

The teachers also say their mission is to teach children to be happy, because “there’s so much more to life than school.” Here’s the trailer for Michael Moore’s film.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.