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



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.

Keep the Learning Going this Summer

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

“School’s out for the summer!”

It’s the triumphant cry heard from millions of children as they flee the school building for the last time in the school year and look forward to glorious vacation. And who can blame them? After 9-10 months of school, children get tired of the grind of getting up early, sitting in hard seats while trying to absorb seven or eight hours of information overload, then going home and doing homework at night nearly every day for 9 months.  Summertime is a wonderful time to refresh and reset, to sleep late, watch TV, go to the beach, go fishing, and just be kids.

Unfortunately, it’s also a time when children can take several steps backward in their learning. On average, students lose the equivalent of two months of math and reading skills during the summer, says the US Department of Education. For higher income families, summer camps and other learning opportunities can make up for some of those losses, but lower- income youth often start off the next school year behind. As years go by, the achievement gap between rich and poor grows wider and wider.

This summer, let’s work to change that. Together, we can help give children the best foundation for the upcoming school year. Here are a few ideas:

green eggs and hamEncourage Reading

*    Parents can encourage reading all summer long with free visits to the library.

*    Teachers can send home Summer Reading Lists.

*    Local libraries have summer reading programs that encourage children to read and earn prizes.

*    Curriki has a Pinterest Board jammed with great reading suggestions for all ages, from Green Eggs and Ham for early readers to Pride and Prejudice for teens – perhaps mix in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to make it even more fun. Follow us!

Nurture Creativity

*    Summer is the perfect time for children’s imaginations to run wild. provides resources for arts and crafts projects that will keep children engaged and their minds active while having fun.

*    Online, Scratch is a fantastic tool from M.I.T. that teaches upper elementary, middle and high school fun coding as they create digital projects. (And they’ll think they are just having fun!)

New_Discovery_Kids_Logo_2013-11-18_17-14Use Media

Can’t get the kids away from the screen? Use TV and your child’s computer to sneak in some learning.

*   Discovery Kids has wonderful programs that will captivate young learners, and its website has games and activities that will fill their minds with wonder.

*   The History Channel  and of course PBS also educate while entertaining young minds.

So enjoy the summer – and keep learning!

Computational Thinking: Part 2 – Additional Resources from the CSTA

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

In a blog titled “Computational Thinking: Free Professional Development Resources” posted last month, we discussed the concept of computational thinking, its definition and the benefits of teaching computational thinking to students. In essence, Computational Thinking (CT) means solving problems and designing systems by drawing on concepts developed in the field of computer  science. Importantly, CT can be used to solve problems in any subject area.

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) have created a Computational Thinking Task Force and have produced materials to support computational thinking in K-12 education.


You can find their operational definition of CT hereYou can download their document “Computational Thinking Teacher Resources” here. These illustrate CT methods in conjunction with material for other subject areas.  And their Leadership Toolkit for CT is located here.


Free professional development training

And from Curriki, the Open Educational Resources Library and Community, we offer a self-paced professional development course for K-12 teachers interested in learning how to infuse Computational Thinking into their classes. The course was developed with support from AT&T.

• The CT professional development course is free and available on the Curriki website:

• The course has been created primarily for teachers at the middle school and high school levels, all K-12 educators will benefit from taking the course.

• Any teacher can take the course, including homeschool teachers.

• The self-paced online course provides teachers with a comprehension of CT and with the tools they need to get started right away.

• The course provides flexible professional development opportunities for educators who can work at their own pace and time frame.

• Teachers will examine the components of CT and explore how to introduce CT skills to their students.

• The concepts of CT may be applied to current curricula, project-based learning (PBL) projects, and STEM classes.

• CT can be used to solve problems in any area or field.

• Problem solving through CT is such a critically important skill it is directly or indirectly addressed by several sets of educational standards including:

o Computer Science Teachers Association K-12 Computer Science Standards

o Next Generation Science Standards

  AT&T generously funded the development of this course.

We encourage you to take benefit of this free professional development course in Computational Thinking from Curriki

Extension Projects for the Middle School Math

LaniBy Guest Blogger and Curriki Member Lani deGuia

The months before summer break often fall into the similar pattern of finishing up the year’s curriculum, preparing for standardized testing, and trying to keep students engaged through to the last day of school. These may appear as three separate feats, but it can be effective to develop activities that address all three at once. Here are several lessons and projects that involve collaborative learning and critical thinking. They can help with reviewing past material, applying curriculum to real-world problems, and maintaining student interest.

Capitalize on What Students Are Focused On

Why not start with what students may already be thinking about? Summer vacation. Planning a family road trip–Ratios-and-Proportions-in-Real-Life/ can be an effective scenario to practice applications of ratios and proportions. A weekend vacation project can teach students about the finance concerns of a small trip and teach about staying within a budget.

Provide Activities Tied to the Real WorldHas the economy had an impact on your classroom?

Sometimes students will understand the applications and purpose of math concepts when they are connected to real world experiences. The Museum Exhibit Project–A-3-Dimensional-Outcome-to-Research-Activitites-41917/ gives students the opportunity for alternative research in curating inclusions for a museum exhibit. They’ll further use Google Sketchup to create a 3 dimensional representation of the exhibit based off of their understanding of geometry. Architectural Planning with Pythagoras will have students utilize their knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem to help design a shelter for survival on a deserted island. In Real World Percentages: How Much Will It Take?, students will get to examine the reality of having an income in the future and how it will influence the purchase of a car, the cost of a home, furnishing a home, etc. In Farmer’s Market’s-Market, students will relate business costs to algebraic expressions.

fractionsTurn Abstract Concepts into Creative Endeavors

The Cereal Project Lesson Plan allows students to use their creativity to custom “design” their own cereal while applying fractions, ratios, and percentages. The Four Fours Project teaches students the order of operations through art design. Divide and Conquer—Warm Up, Searching for the token—Warm-Up-Searching-for-the-token engages students in a ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy to solve the mystery of “stolen crystals” using decomposition to break the problem into smaller problems and algorithmic design to plan a solution strategy.

Don’t Forget About the Olympics This Summer

Proportional Reasoning: Lesson on Your Mark will get students thinking about whether Olympic distant runners should run distances based on their personal heights. Unit 4 Project: Olympics gets students to apply algebraic expressions, inequalities, and systems of equations to sports.

However you need to close out the school year, remember it is possible to ensure you still provide valuable, interesting, and worthwhile instruction for all.