Susan Cumberland

Susan is the owner of School is Easy - Greater Vancouver and School is Easy California. She has a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Counselling and has won many entrepreneurial awards including 'Entrepreneur of the Year' by the Douglas College Self Employment Program and the Better Business Bureau Marketplace Excellence and 2nd place for People’s Pick. Her company, School is Easy, provides tutors in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver, Surrey and the rest of the Lower Mainland (Greater Vancouver region). School is Easy has Math tutors, Science tutors, English tutors, French tutors and Special Education tutors.

3 Key strategies for supporting kids’ academic language skills

words on chalkboard - academic language support article image

If your child is learning another language, it usually takes time for them to go from participating in simple conversations to utilizing academic language in a meaningful way. However, providing extra support for language is not only helpful for English language learners and other second language learners. All learners can benefit from purposeful language activities. Here are 3 significant language teaching strategies to use in the classroom or at home: [Read more…]

What is the theory of multiple intelligences and why is it important when teaching?

camera, images, candle on table - picture for article on theory of multiple intelligences

In the past, we’ve written about the different types of learning styles. That is one theory which posits we should be teaching based on how our students like to learn, or how they learn best.

But there is another theory that, while sounding similar, is not. It brings about another opinion on how we should view our human ‘smart-ness.’ It says we should be viewing many forms of aptitude as ‘intelligent’ and thus, teach by recognizing a person’s core strengths. We’ll unpack that in a bit. [Read more…]

Benefits and methods of interdisciplinary learning for kids

collaboration on project paper - image on article about interdisciplinary benefits for kids

Whether you are a parent, a tutor, or a classroom teacher, you have most likely wondered at some point or another how to give your kids a fun, exciting project that furthers their learning at the same time. A theory floating around in the education world known as ‘interdisciplinary learning’ can be a great way to engage your kids in a meaningful way. Keep reading to decode this educational buzzword and see what it actually looks like in reality.

What is interdisciplinary learning?

Myra Strober explains this term by thinking about a meal: if you have peas on a plate, this can be likened to a discipline of learning. If you add carrots onto the plate, you now have two disciplines, which can be labeled ‘multidisciplinary.’ But ‘interdisciplinary’ in this analogy would be if you then mixed the peas and carrots together to make a salad. Rather than being isolated, these two ‘disciplines’ have been integrated together to make something new. Through this lens, we can view interdisciplinary learning as an approach that integrates multiple disciplines to solve a problem.

Why is interdisciplinary learning important?

Real-world problems are interdisciplinary

Think about any big problem in the world. Chances are, the entire problem is not ‘I need to solve this specific type of math equation.’ Rather, a problem could potentially be related to poverty, sustainability, or transporting goods to a remote community (perhaps even all three). These types of problems require many different disciplines to come together in order to form a solution.

Interdisciplinary learning gets kids to focus on learning life skills

Interdisciplinary learning focuses learning on life skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. This leads to what Carleton College calls “significant learning.” It can be very valuable, since the skills acquired are found in various subjects or streams of study, and are designed to get students to apply what they’ve learned in new contexts.

How to approach an interdisciplinary learning project

  1. Know your students and pick a topic, or set of topics, that intrigue them.
  2. Choose a big question to get your kids thinking critically, and with the view to solving a problem. They should have to bring in skills and knowledge from various subjects and experiences to solve this problem.
  3. Have your kids develop essential questions – what do they wonder about this topic? How can THEY form their own project to be able to understand this problem better? (Check out prodigy game for plenty of examples on this)
  4. Design your project. According to the Galileo Network, students must know 3 things: why are we doing this? What should I know before we begin to tackle this problem? What is the one big thing I should know at the end of this? Everything in between is open for innovation and creativity, but these three main points should be planned for before the project starts.

The internet is full of great ideas for interdisciplinary projects, so definitely check out Google or Pinterest for inspiration. Here is an example from High Tech High to get you going, and another from Amy Singh (which is great to view if you are working with an individual learner). Enjoy exploring different problems with your kids and see where their creativity takes them!

Interdisciplinary projects are versatile enough to apply in almost any teaching setting

Whether you are looking for an interdisciplinary project to do with your kids over the holidays, searching for a way to engage your tutoring group, or trying to plan a unit for your class at school, using an interdisciplinary approach is highly beneficial. Since they are designed to be based on real-life problems, they can fit in with any age group, given the project matches their current contexts.

Benefits of extracurricular activities for students

kids swimming with goggles - photo for article about benefits of extra curricular activities

There are seemingly endless options for after-school activities that your children can get involved in, from soccer to swimming to piano lessons. But what do your children really get out of these activities? Here are some reasons why your kids should participate in extracurricular activities, beyond the standard ‘it looks good on a resume.’

Extracurricular activities can foster an open mind

Extracurriculars will give your children a chance to explore environments they may not encounter in school or at home. This may expose them to new ideas, interests, and opportunities, which is a great way to encourage their curiosity. specifically suggests volunteering and community service opportunities for students to “broaden their perspective of the world.”

The benefits of extracurricular activities include building relationships and connections for their future

After-school activities provide an opportunity for children and teens to spend time in a non-academic environment with people in their age group. This will allow them to build positive relationships in a fun and safe space with others who share a common interest. Some extracurricular activities for teens may even open the door later on to an employment opportunity, if they form positive connections and relationships with the organization.

Kids can strengthen interpersonal and work skills outside their familiar ‘zones’

Extracurricular activities for children not only allow them to experience new and fun things, they also help them build important life skills. For example, the relationships they build during these activities will teach them how to work with new people and how to work in a team. Eduflow also mentions time management, self-esteem, and organization as skills fostered in extracurricular activities that will be beneficial to kids in school and later in life in the workforce.

Outside-school activities teach kids to stay committed

Another important part of extracurricular activities for children and teens is the ability to keep a long-term commitment. If your 12-year-old is on a field hockey or rugby team, they will quickly learn that the rest of the team is depending on them to be there for practices and games throughout the season. As More 4 Kids says, “They commit themselves to that activity for a period of time. If they don’t hold up to their end of the deal, no doubt they’ll hear about it from their peers and perhaps even teachers.” An activity that requires this type of commitment will provide kids with a great learning experience to be responsible for the activities they have signed up for.

Need ideas for extracurricular activities? Here is a list to start you off!

If you need something new and exciting for your children to participate in, try looking into programs at your local recreation centre. You may be able to find an introductory program to a unique sport or activity you never would have encountered otherwise. Here are some ideas of activities to get you started:

  • Rock climbing
  • Rhythmic gymnastics
  • Robotics club
  • Irish dancing (or other cultural dancing)
  • Cello lessons
  • Water polo
  • Volunteering at a local animal shelter

Extracurricular activities are a great way to bring balance to your child’s academic life and teach them many important skills during their formative years. Just make sure to not overdo it; one or two extracurriculars is plenty!

Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (10): citizen journalism

hand taking photo with smartphone - article image for teaching kids citizen journalism

See our other articles on this series below:

The importance of teaching kids about citizen journalism

In this series on teaching kids how to start a newspaper, we realize the goal of these lessons is not to produce career journalists out of our students. Instead, it is to help them become media literate.

It is important, as kids mature into adults, that they understand they are being given curated and selective messages in the media. This can affect what they believe to be true, or the biases they maintain. And, this is not just about understanding propaganda like the North Korean government-controlled media. Or war propaganda, which they may learn about in history class. Media messaging can be subtly biased, without being out-right propaganda.

Today, with the advent of mobile phones and easy-to-publish tools (like online blogs), it is the citizens who can do much of the reporting of what happens. This has brought about debate; there are pros and cons to citizen journalism.

In a way, though, some of the responsibility of making information accessible now lies on us – citizens – as opposed to editors, journalists and media conglomerates.

And so, are our children aware of these issues? Are they able to discern stories that need to be told to a wider audience? Do they know when to turn the camera on, and when to leave it off? And, can they identify the difference between quality journalism, and unprofessional reporting?

Showing kids examples of citizen journalism, and how it has made a difference so far

One of the best ways to learn is by example. In your class, group tutoring session or homeschooling lesson, you can show kids how citizen journalism has affected media coverage until today.

While not citizen journalism per se, the recent 2017 solar eclipse that travelled across North America brought about a citizen science project. People everywhere could record images of the solar eclipse, and its effects, thus helping scientists gather more data. This is the type of thing you can get your students to participate in, and teach them a science lesson about it too!

This article on gives several examples of citizen journalism, and some may resonate with kids too. And this article, about the citizen reporting of the Ferguson riots, can get kids thinking about the way in which our cameras and mobile devices play a part in democracy and civil rights.

Although, we would advise that you use caution when presenting cases to certain age groups or personalities, as they can bring about some other serious talks, which parents may want to have with their kids.

Teach kids about the limits of citizen journalism

As this article explains, our kids of today need to understand how to be citizen journalists in a responsible way. The role of journalists in the recent past was to report on events with training, and an understanding of the laws and moral implications of doing so.

For instance, kids should be taught about the difference between citizen journalism and an invasion of privacy. They also need to know the potential downfalls of publishing hearsay and rumour, as opposed to hard facts and research. They also need to understand how context changes the meaning and interpretation of a video or photo – the things that happened before and after can tell a new story. And, as we discussed in earlier lessons of this series, kids need to be taught the difference between opinion and fact – and that means recognizing their own bias too (the ones we all think we don’t have, included!).

This page of Wikipedia also explains how citizen journalism differs from other types of efforts, with similar naming. It gives a rundown of the history of citizen journalism, its uses, and its outlets too.

Finding online lesson plans to teach citizen journalism to students

We found a couple of lessons you can use when teaching kids about citizen journalism:

To conclude: students may not turn journalism into a career, but they can still participate in media coverage as citizens

After learning the ins and outs of responsible reporting, we hope that kids can learn the importance of citizen journalism, its dangers, and its role within a democratic society. They may not turn reporting into their career of choice. But that hasn’t stopped many who contribute to society’s storytelling today, still making a difference through mass media.


Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (9): photojournalism

camera, laptop and computer - article image for teaching kids photojournalism

See our other articles on this series below:

In follow up to our series on teaching kids how to start a newspaper, this lesson will focus on photojournalism.

While we are now entering into the more creative aspects of the news media industry, we can’t forget that these are not just ‘fun’ topics (but they are, so enjoy them!). Creative parts of media publication and broadcasting still affect the consumption of news by the masses, and how we perceive the importance of certain news topics. Our exposure to imagery, or lack thereof, can shape our world perception.

For example, this article explains how strong imagery of a drowned boy escaping Syria began to change political policies around the world (despite that issue occurring for several months, if not years earlier). But when Boko Haram massacres 2000 people, we know little of it, and thus the world is not as outraged. Why is that?

And, society abounds with examples of celebrity photos and their influence on our buying decisions. Think: Sophie the Giraffe, an over-priced teething toy that got popular because celebrities started using it, and were seen with it.

And so, do our young students of today understand the way media imagery can influence their bias? We talked about bias on past resources in this series, which we encourage you to read up on (see links above). Today, we will learn how to  teach kids about photojournalism, so they can understand the process that creates influence.

Learning outcomes of teaching photojournalism to students can be:

  • Understanding the basics of good photography: composition, lighting, framing, cropping and so on.
  • The difference between other types of photography and photojournalism.
  • Knowing how to reveal emotion and induce empathy through photographic moments.
  • Recognizing sensationalism, why it is used, and how to avoid it.
  • Knowing the limits of photography, due to access, legalities and moral boundaries (such as taking public photos without consent, even if it’s legal).
  • How photos and photo essays tell stories in themselves.
  • How photos attract readership, and their ripple effects (see commentary and links above).
  • How photojournalists turn photography into careers. Also, who are they?
  • The technical tools used in photojournalism, and how to use them (types of cameras, lenses, software, etc. – this can also delve into a history lesson of photography technologies).
  • Copyright laws and photography usage.
  • The rights of photojournalists to take pictures, and how it affects democracy.
  • Citizen photojournalism.

And possibly more…

See related posts on our blog:

Finding lesson plans to teach photojournalism to kids:

Below are some lesson plans we’ve found to help you teach photojournalism to kids. You can adapt these, and also find ways to incorporate integrated topics or discussions.

Beginner’s Photojournalism

Composition and Photojournalism and Composition for Elementary Students

Photojournalism: A New York Times Learning Network Lesson Plan Unit

Photojournalism Scope & Sequence 18 Week Class

Documentary Photography and Photojournalism: Still Images of a World in Motion (MIT Open Courseware)

Teaching Digital Photography to Students

Photojournalism: Lesson for Kids

Restrictions on Photographing Sports Events (while this is a USA-based article, principles can apply to Canadians too, and in different contexts, not just sports).

Transforming Students into Citizen Journalists

How Photojournalism Connects Kids and Community

A note about using tragic news photography in the classroom

To conclude, we want to let you know that some of the prime examples of photojournalism can be shocking – most especially because they depict the brutality of war victims. Above we mentioned the photo of a drowned Syrian boy that sparked public policy on the refugee crisis. To be frank, parents may not want their children exposed to the world’s perils in the classroom. These are extremely sad situations, and not all kids – regardless of age group – may be ready to see those realities. And so, before you use those types of examples in your classroom, make sure the parents know, and can speak up about it beforehand. Otherwise, use photo examples that won’t require an explanation on why the world is such a terrible place.