Education in the USA

The pie chart above shows the breakdown of elementary and secondary students in the USA. Data is for 2013, from the National Center for Education Statistics (with homeschooling numbers extrapolated from 2012 data). Educational options are a hot political issue right now, with changes to education policy likely under the Trump administration. What those changes will be is unclear.

Of course, the US educational system does need some improvement. In the 2015 PISA global education survey, the US ranked equal 23th in reading, 25th in science, and only equal 39th in mathematics. Canada did much better (2nd, 7th, and 10th), and Singapore came 1st in all three categories.

Chemical Compounds: the board game!

I have previously mentioned my strong interest in science / technology / engineering / mathematics education and in networks and in board games. This has prompted me to start designing educational games, such as the World Solar Challenge game. Joining the collection is my new Chemical Compounds game, which looks like this:

The online game store (faciliated by the wonderful people at The Game Crafter) has a free download link for the rules, should anyone wish to take a look. I also have a few other educational games there.

A scale model of the Solar System

The following images of the eight major planets and Pluto are to scale, with each image 500,000 km in width (the third image also includes the Moon). For comparison, the diameter of the Sun is 1,390,000 km, so you can team these planets up with a yellow circle 2.8 times the width of each image. Click on the images (which can also be found on the Homeschool Resources section of this blog) to zoom.


If you want distances from the Sun to each planet to be to scale as well (like this or this), they are shown below (in millions of km and multiples of the width of each image). If the images above are printed out 5 cm or 2 inches wide (i.e. at a scale of 1 cm = 100,000 km), then the sun would be 14 cm (5.5 inches) wide, and distances from the Sun to each planet would be as per the bottom two rows of the table.

58 108 150 228 779 1,434 2,872 4,495 5,906 million km
120 220 300 460 1,560 2,870 5,700 9,000 11,800 multiples
6 11 15 23 78 140 290 450 590 metres
19 35 49 75 260 470 940 1470 1940 feet

The image below (click to zoom) shows the complete solar system, but most planets are too small to see:

And So They Build by Bert Kitchen: a brief book review

And So They Build by Bert Kitchen

And So They Build by Bert Kitchen is a child’s introduction to construction by animals (also the subject of my previous review of a different book).

The story of the tailorbird

Kitchen provides 12 short descriptions of animal architects (mammals, birds, fish, and insects), along with 12 beautiful illustrations.

The harvest mouse

This short book is a good buy for parents of small children. I’m giving it the same rating as goodreads.

And So They Build by Bert Kitchen: 3.5 stars

Blogroll: John Muir Laws / Drawing Frogs

Author and nature artist John Muir Laws blogs many interesting things at One interesting recent post explains how to draw a frog step-by-step (the image below shows steps 4 and 17). He has also written about drawing insects, plants, and birds. Anyone interested in nature should take a look!

Laws also helped develop the CNPS Nature Journaling curriculum, which may be of interest to parents of young biologists.

Amphibian for the day: Salamandra infraimmaculata

Continuing the amphibian theme from the last post, here is one of the cards from my geographical educational card game, showing a public domain image of the beautifully coloured Near Eastern fire salamander, Salamandra infraimmaculata: