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You CAN Use Resource Centers!

Regardless of whether you are a home educator or classroom teacher, Resource Centers are wonderful tools for raising curiosity and introducing themes from your lesson plans. You can make them as simple or as elaborate as you chose. You don't have to spend an arm and a leg to do it either. The overall purpose though should be to instill an interest in the child, so consider your target audience and their needs and their level of understanding.

Start out by picking a place for your Resource Center. A corner or piece of wall space that is out of the direct line of foot traffic is good. You don't want things being knocked over just because someone is casually walking passed.

I often set up my Resource Centers near my reading nook. I combine the two to create a high-interest, visual effect that really draws the child's eye, yet not so distracting as to be a "day-dream menace". If the child becomes over stimulated by the display and wants to "play" instead of follow directions, just have him or her turn their back to the display until you are ready to cover those activities.

An example of one of my reading nooks can be found at my article on the Oregon Trail. Another example would be the one I used for an American Civil War theme. I designed a set up that looked like a camp fire. This was the place where we debated the pros and cons of the Civil War, leaders, North vs. South, etc. This is also where the camp life of the soldiers of the Civil War would have taken place. On a backdrop made from an old refrigerator box I drew cannons, horses, and a munitions wagon. I added a tree with Spanish moss hanging down (for Southern troops) or you could have an under-construction Capitol building in the background (Northern troops stationed outside D.C.). You can also draw your backdrops on white bulletin board paper that you affix to the wall. I like using the boxes myself because they are easier to prop up, paint, and they also usually hold up better. When I'm finished, I either will pass them along to a friend or set them out for the recycling truck.

If you don't feel "artistic" enough to pull this off -- though most people don't give themselves enough credit -- most teaching supply stores have wonderful selections of bulletin board boarders and bulletin board decorations that would work as well. Check your local party supply store as well. You can even use stuff you already have around the house. For instance, for a recent display on archaeology/ancient Israel I used our camping supplies and a hanging palm decoration to design a "dig" and oasis backdrop. Went over pretty well if I do say so myself.

To hold the "resources" for my resource centers, I set a simple card table up and cover it with paper or a table cloth of an appropriate related theme. I also have a second-hand, two-shelf bookcase that I picked up that I've found to be very useful. Those cardboard display boards available from office supply stores (i.e., Staples, Office Warehouse, etc.) can make a cool, small back drops if space is a problem.

On the table and bookshelf I try and display items that the child(ren) will find interesting, fun, and useful to a study of whatever theme I am carrying out.

For instance, I usually have most of these items on hand:

1. Both fiction and non-fiction books
2. Videos
3. Travel books
4. maps
5. travel brochures
6. newspaper clippings (or reproduction copies)
7. Examples of arts and crafts that we can do during the unit
8. Audio tapes of music appropriate to the theme
9. Paper dolls

Frank Schaffer and Teacher Created Materials are two companies that publish interesting posters that make great resources as well. They are inexpenseive, theme specific, and impart useful knowledge in a visually appealing way.

I also keep a handy file of coloring pages and puzzles handy that is theme related. I don't mean your typical "busy work" stuff -- but things that encourage critical thinking skills or encourage their artistic side.

I try and make sure that I have resources that cover most of the learning styles that I'm aware of. Other items that I've used are rock and mineral displays, clothing and uniform displays, items that the child(ren) can touch and feel for tactile stimulation, smelling jars (baby food jars that have a cotton ball with essential oil drops on it), diagrams, food tasting (these activities are usually planned separately), etc.

Another method would be to start out with a very basic center and have it progress through the unit. You can display the current craft, hang a timeline that you complete as you go, photographs of activities you've participated in while studying the theme, etc.

Resource Centers are as varied as the topic and the designer. Again, your main point should always attempt to incite interest in the child(ren) so use whatever works, bearing in mind differences in learning style and grade level. Above all, try and have as much fun with it as the child(ren)!


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