Archives for posts with tag: teaching aids

This Christmas my family and I went to Canada. Along with the woolly jumpers and big mittens under the tree, we found some very special gifts this year. They came from Plan Canada and were not for us but for children and families in developing countries.

school essentials

My daughter’s gift was for one child to have school supplies, including textbooks and pencils, and funding for school meals and teacher training. These are things we take for granted in our well-equipped schools, but without them education is impossible.


My gift was funding for an anti-bullying project which provides training for children, parents and teachers about the rights of the child. It includes “Speak out boxes” into which children can post their concerns and experiences so that issues of bullying can be discussed and dealt with. This gift was chosen specially for me because of my anti-bullying story, Pink.

clean water

My husband’s gift was clean water for families. In many  parts of the world the water is not safe to drink, and this is the most essential gift of all. These three gifts all came from the same Plan Canada Gifts of Hope website, and there are lots more amazing gifts to choose from.

Apopo rat 2

The final gift for my son was a surprising one. It was a rat! Even better, a HeroRat who sniffs out landmines in fields and open spaces where war has ravaged crucial arable land. This is an initiative started by a Belgian organisation called Apopo which trains and uses rats to find land mines in former war zones in Mozambique, Cambodia, Thailand and Angola.  They can also be trained to detect tuberculosis in a lab setting, which speeds up diagnosis and saves lives.

Rats are very intelligent animals (I know because I had a pet rat as a child) and they are light enough to be able to find a land mine without setting it off. This helps prevent the terrible injuries people suffer when trying to cultivate land or collect water or herd cattle on mined fields. The Apopo rats have all got names (like Oprah, Pink and Jolie) and they look quite cute in their little harnesses. Maybe someone you know would like a HeroRat too!


Photo ©

Photo ©

Today is the 11th day of the 12th month, 2013. People are getting quite excited about it, as this sort of sequence won’t happen again in the calendar for another 89 years! (The next one will be 01/02/03 on the 1st of February, 2103). You can even add the time into the sequence. If I’d been a bit quicker I could have written this post at 09:10 on 11/12/13!

It’s fun looking at patterns like this in birthdays and other important dates. Maybe you have a good birthday with an interesting number. I know a little girl who was born on 11 August 2011, so her birth date is 11/8/11. My grandmother was born on 11 May 1905, which is 11/05/05. What if you were born on September 9th, 1999? Then your birth date would be 9/9/99. The 3rd of March 2003 would give you 03/03/03!

My own birthday isn’t one of those special ones, but I like looking for patterns in the numbers I come across (for example, when I look at the number of visitors to this blog). Recently I reached over 44,000 visits and I thought it would be great if I could catch the counter when it reached 44,444. Sadly, it happened in the middle of the night, so I missed it! Then I thought, I’ll just wait until it gets to 45,678. But somehow I missed that too. It’s now over 46,000, so it will be a long time until another interesting number comes along. What shall I try for? Maybe 54,321

Apparently lots of people will be getting married today for good luck. A retired science teacher in America called Ron Gordon is very interested in quirky dates, and he is offering a cash prize of $1112.13 for the best celebration today. Back in 1981 he invented “square root day” (on the 9th of September, since 9 x 9 = 81). There is another square root day coming up in a few years’ time: 4 April 2016. I wonder if he’ll be offering any more prizes! He is also looking forward to “trumpet day” on 2/2/22.

In honour of today’s date I thought it would be fun to share some number games. There is one called Kaprekar’s Sequence which goes like this: 1) think of a two-digit number (they must be different numbers); 2) reverse the digits for a new number; 3) subtract the smaller number from the larger one; 4) repeat several times with different numbers and see if you can spot a pattern emerging in the results. Here are a few examples:

85 – 58 = 27   32 – 23 = 9  62 – 26 = 36  91 – 19 = 72  53 – 35 = 18

(Hint: what are all the results a multiple of?)

Here’s a great website full of number patterns and games you can play. It’s called Maths is Fun! It will explain triangular, square and cube numbers. I didn’t know numbers came in so many shapes!

Do let me know if you have a quirky number for your birthday. There must be lots of you born in the first decade of this century (2001 to 2010 on the 1st of January, 2nd of February, 3rd of March and so on…) I want to hear from you!

Breaking news! I’ve finally caught a great number on my viewing statistics (and it only took until 9.10.14 to happen:

all sixes

The other day I got a fantastic message from a lady who signed her letter, “Jacob O’Reilly’s Nana.” You can imagine how pleased I was to learn that there is a REAL Jacob O’Reilly out there who loves my book!

Thanks, Jacob O’Reilly’s Nana!

Jacob O’Reilly Wants a Pet is all about a little boy who is desperate for a pet of his own – just any pet at all. He asks his parents for one thing after another but they are not very keen on the idea. They think Jacob should try looking after animals before he gets his own pet. When he discovers what hard work it is, he might have second thoughts…

Here is Jacob with his giant list of possible pets. Some of his suggestions are pretty wacky! Would you like a dragon for a pet? Or an ant nest? Hmmm…

Jacob agrees to his parents’ idea of looking after other people’s pets, and puts a big sign outside his house: “Pet Sitter Jake at your service.” Soon his house is swamped with dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, sheep, a horse, a zebra and a rather big snake called Morris! He has a tough time feeding, cleaning and exercising them all, and after two weeks he is very glad when the owners all come back to collect them.

I love the illustrations by Lee Wildish which are so colourful and fun! He’s come up with all sorts of great pets for the endpapers, too. Here you can see a turtle, a little yellow dog, some dancing frogs, a rabbit, and my personal favourite, a mouse in a cheesy racing car!

I thought the real Jacob O’Reilly (and my other readers) might like to try some of the fun activities I have put together to go with this book. If you click on the images below you should be able to print them out at home.

© Lynne Rickards 2010

© Lynne Rickards 2010

© Lynne Rickards 2010

I think the real Jacob O’Reilly may need a bit of help from his Nana to do some of these activities, since he is not quite three. Maybe his big brother Sammy can help too. Have fun!

I’ve been away from my desk for a whole month, and now I have lots of news to share! My family and I have been on a great adventure, exploring the wild and steamy-hot Amazon jungle in Brazil. We are very lucky to have some good friends who live there, so we were well looked after.

We travelled by air to the city of Belem, which is at the mouth of the Amazon River. As the airplane was landing I was amazed to see a huge city full of highrise buildings right in the middle of the jungle! The city spreads for miles and reaches right to the edge of the river.

We arrived in a shiny, modern airport and were met by our friend Diego who is a musician. He plays the cello and is full of fun. For the next four days, Diego took us on some very unexpected adventures!

The first thing we did was load up a little wooden boat with lots of boxes, bottles of water and some delicious cakes. We set off towards an island called Combu which is a 20-minute boat ride from the city. You can see the city behind us, and above our heads were lots of lifejackets stuffed into the roof. That made me feel a little bit safer as it was a bumpy ride!

When we got to the other side we climbed up a wooden dock to a special jungle school and community centre built on tall stilts. All the buildings in the jungle are built this way, with wooden walkways and thatched roofs.

Once we had unloaded all our boxes a small group of local people began to arrive. Diego explained that he and his friends run a charity called AmaZonArt which brings health care and education to the Amazon Indians. On this visit we were going to teach all the local children how to brush their teeth. Diego unpacked one of the boxes which was full of toothbrushes and little tubes of toothpaste. We also had a giant tiger puppet with realistic teeth so we could show them the correct method for brushing.

First everyone had a nice cool fruit drink and a lovely piece of cake. Then the children and their mums all sat on a long bench and learned all about tooth brushing.

This school and community centre was built with the help of AmaZonArt, and they visit regularly to help the local people and play music for them. If you look closely you can see a poster behind the children which shows a tortoise which has got a strangely deformed shell. The title of the poster is Pollution in the Rivers and it explains that the turtle got a plastic ring caught around its shell when it was young, and it had to grow around the ring into that horrible shape.

Diego’s charity is trying to educate people not to throw rubbish or motor oil into the river because of the harm they do to the environment. AmaZonArt also provides medicines, water filters and mosquito nets to help prevent malaria and other serious diseases.

We took a little walk around the centre, and Diego told us a funny story of how once, when the place was being built, he was leaning casually against a tree and suddenly noticed a giant tarantula spider crawling right next to his hand! EEEK!!

After this very interesting visit with the local children, we got into a little canoe and paddled along a smaller river. We could see lots of wooden huts where all the children had come from. Everyone travels by boat because there are no roads.

Diego asked my children if they wanted to swim in the river, and of course they said yes! We stopped at someone’s hut to get changed, and then in they went. The water was warm, brown and soupy, and no one could see the bottom. I was hoping they wouldn’t come across any piranhas or alligators!

What they enjoyed most of all was coating themselves in Amazonian mud. Doesn’t that look like fun?

You may not be surprised to learn that I stayed on the dock and took pictures. I wasn’t brave enough to get in the river with them, but we all had a fantastic day deep in the Amazon jungle!