Brookes Coffee Chat

Hi. I hope everyone is hanging in there in these difficult times. I know from my friends with young kids that entertaining them when they need to work is a difficult task. In my recent Brookes Coffee Chat “STEM Experiences for All Children at Home” I discussed ways to engage children with everyday activities and materials. This was for Brookes Publishing who published our book Engaging Young Engineers: Teaching Problem Solving Skills Through STEM. 

Here are some resources for educators and families on this topic:

Texas Activity Sheets

Additional Resources for Engineering Challenges

Brookes Coffee Chat Presentation

I also made a video with some ideas (cats are in the video):

Other resources:

STEM stuff for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers —

Home Safari at the Cincinnati Zoo (3 18-22 minute episodes) you can watch on youtube through your smart TV:

Georgia aquarium live cams:

Pipe cleaners and beads – sometimes we add a colander into the mix too. Adding different sized beads can add another level of interest.

Build a marble or ball run:

Examples of different ways to create marble runs

DEC Conference International Session Resources

Thank you to everyone who attended our session today, Rights-based Approaches in the Field of Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education. Here are the some of the resources we discussed.

The documentary- Voices of Children

  • A 24-minutes long documentary on the actions of young children in four languages in eight diverse sites 
    • Brazil, India, Kenya, Singapore, and the US 
  • The documentary follows the themes embedded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by advocating for inclusive practices in early childhood education 

International Frameworks

Other Resources

  • Murray, J.  (2019). Hearing young children’s voices, International Journal of Early Years Education, 27(1), 1-5, DOI: 10.1080/09669760.2018.1563352
  • Khoja, N. (2016). Situating children’s voices: Considering the context when conducting research with young children. Children & Society, 30(4), 314-323.
  • Video on creation of principled framework to incorporate children’s voices in Australia —
  • Johnson, V., & West, A. (2018). Children’s Participation in Global Contexts: Going Beyond Voice. New York: Routledge.

Our contact info:

Serra Acar,

Angi Stone-MacDonald,

DADD Mini-Conference Presentation Materials

Please click below for PPT for Using Assistive Technology to Increase Literacy Skills for Children PreK-3 with Developmental Disabilities presentation.

DADD Presentation-2019ATLit

ATLiteracy Tables

Please click here for PPT for Teaching Problem-Solving Skills through STEM: Engineering Experiences for Children with Developmental Disabilities presentation.


As always, please leave comments or email me for more information.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Early Childhood UDL Planning Sheet-Blank

Resources on Engineering and Robotics:

Writing with Symbols

Dycem Sticky Mats

Bristle Blocks

Time Timer

Wiki Stix

Intellikeys and Intellitools

If you want more information about the ideas problem solving skills and engineering design for children birth to five, please our book Engaging Young Engineers: Teaching Problem Solving Skills through STEM.

Additional Resources for Engineering Challenges

Preschool planning template

OSEP Poster

OSEP Poster 2018

Please click on link to access poster presented at the 2018 OSEP Project Directors Meeting for the EI Scholars Program

Angi Stone-MacDonald, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston,

Lianna Pizzo, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston,

Zachary Price, MA, University of Massachusetts Boston,

Amanda Wiehe Lopes, MSEd, University of Massachusetts Boston,

Masika wanted to finish strong!

“Masika” is the Kiswahili word for the long rainy season that runs approximately from late March until mid-May or the end of May. Last weekend it didn’t rain Friday through Sunday and we thought it might be the end of the rainy season. But, then it rained on Monday and several other days this week. Saturday (yesterday) was sunny and dry, but overnight we had intense rain. It has rained all day today. Masika seems to want us to know it is not over yet.

After my workout (indoors), I went out on the balcony to look at the river running through the streets by our apartment. The water is currently at least ankle deep. My brave husband has ventured out to go lead his book club this afternoon. Teaching and learning is always happening.

Watch the rice bag float down the road.


Keep watching for the red bag.


Here is a final video taken from the staff bus on the way home from the university last week. The sound is just people on the bus talking.

How did I end up in a movie?

I have been so busy with lots of things, but mostly research and teaching so I haven’t been blogging. We are doing exams this week and next week and then we will have a short three-week vacation before the next semester starts.

A couple of months ago, my friend Peter asked if I would help out with a movie.  He is an actor  and a tour guide, and now a student. He said they needed a “mzungu” woman who could speak Swahili. Mzungu is the word that generally means “white,” but is also used for foreigners from Europe and North America. One of the actors, who does a lot of short films and commercials as a character, Mau Mpemba, came to talk to me about the film and what I needed to do in the film. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but I figured it would be fun and a new cultural experience. The character of Mau Mpemba is a trickster and the shorts he is in are all comedy and some include animation.

On the afternoon we were going to shoot the film, Peter met us in town to take a daladala (small public mini-bus) to the area where we were going to make the movie. As usual, people looked at us suspiciously because the tourists don’t often ride daladalas. It was tight and full and hot inside. When we got off the daladala at our destination, Mau came to the road and met us and guided us on a dirt road to a house off the main road. It was a very large, beautiful house with three stories and nice balconies on the side. The finishings were very nice. Throughout the afternoon and evening, we met the family who lived there as they wandered through the house. We learned the house belonged to a relative of one of the filming crew.

We sat around for a little bit while they set up lights and fixed a few things in the living room that would be where the first scene took place. Then we started filming. Keith was there and gave advice as we filmed to improve lighting and he also talked about ways to make it more realistic. He had some good insights about what would really happen in a mzungu house in Zanzibar or Tanzania and the relationship between the woman of the household and the staff.

We did many takes and because there was no set script, I had to remember what I said each time and be consistent, especially when they were shooting the other characters, but still collecting my sound for the take. This was especially hard for me in Swahili. I am a visual person and would have remembered it better if I had written it down. But, I think it turned out okay.

I enjoyed my dinner of fish and muffa (a puffy Zanzibari bread) at the very end and then we walked back to the road and got a daladala to return to town.

Even if you don’t speak Swahili, you can understand the gist of the story from the acting. It is a  trickster story where Mau Mpemba tricks me into eating the fish I said I didn’t want and I liked it.

Now that it is on YouTube, people who are familiar with the Mau Mpemba character are watching it and the page views are increasing rapidly (much to my surprise). The other day, I was walking home from work and a security guard stopped me and asked it I could step to the side. I was a little startled and concerned about what I might have done wrong. He said “please wait one minute. I need to show you something on my phone.” This made me suspicious. It took him a few minutes, but he then pulled up the movie on YouTube and asked it that was me. I said yes. He then asked me if I was a famous actress. Of course, I said no, I am a professor, but a friend had asked me if I would help with the film. He then told me that if I needed anything, to just ask. I have walked that way a few times and there has been a different guard, but I was quite shocked that someone recognized me so quickly.


Here is the short, if you haven’t seen it based on the link on my Facebook page. Yeye kwa yeye Short Movie

Christmas Decorations in Zanzibar

While the population of Zanzibar is mostly Muslim, (we have read up to 99%, but statistics vary) there are still Christians living on the island and many tourists come to celebrate Christmas here for a nice vacation. Many of the hotels put up Christmas trees and decorations. Here is a sampling of some of the decorations that we saw over the last few weeks.


Fun things to do in Zanzibar

I have been negligent in posting recently and haven’t even put up the pictures and information from when our friends, the Powers, came to visit for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the New Year have already past.

This was the first day when we drove around the island to see the beaches and then went to see monkeys in Jozani Forest. On Tuesday, when we both went to work, they went on a spice tour and relaxed in the afternoon. On Wednesday, we went to Prison Island, snorkeled and had lunch on the sand bar. On Thursday, we did a city tour. Friday, they saw a little more of the island and I went to the university. Here are a few pictures of the things we did with them.

A beach view for lunch on the east coast of the island.

A beach view for lunch on the east coast of the island.


Jozani Forest

Mangrove trees in Jozani Forest


My juice and coconut drink.

My juice and coconut drink.


On Tuesday evening, we showed them the beautiful sunsets we get in Stone Town.

On Tuesday evening, we showed them the beautiful sunsets we get in Stone Town.


Feeding the aldabra tortoises on Prison Island

Feeding the aldabra tortoises on Prison Island


A view of Stone Town from the Sand bar where we relaxed and had lunch after snorkeling.

A view of Stone Town from the Sand bar where we relaxed and had lunch after snorkeling.


Freshly cooked seafood and fresh fruits for lunch made for us and caught and brought to the island.

Freshly cooked seafood and fresh fruits for lunch made for us and caught and brought to the island.


The Anglican Church where the slave market used to be in Stone Town.

The Anglican Church where the slave market used to be in Stone Town.

A sculpture created to memorialize the events at the slave market in the 1800s.

A sculpture created to memorialize the events at the slave market in the 1800s.

We finished the trip with drinks before a casual Thanksgiving dinner and a lovely sunset.

The sunset behind me from the rooftop restaurant at their hotel.

The sunset behind me from the rooftop restaurant at their hotel.

A little stone excitement….

For the past few days, we have watched workers poking away at stone and coral walls on a house adjacent from house and working to take it down. We hear little bits fall from time to time. One day we came home to a blockage on the path to our house because they were taking down a wall and didn’t want people to walk nearby so they would not be hit by falling rubble. This morning we woke to the usual sounds of them working on the house. A little while later, we heard a loud crash. I had been drinking my coffee in the living room and Keith was on the internet in the bedroom, but we both rushed to the balcony to see what had happened and noticed that one of the floors in the adjacent house had fallen in on itself, but it was not the wall closest to the path or our building. We went back to our various activities and a little while later we heard a much louder and longer crash. We again rushed out to the balcony to see what had happened and this is what we found.



The house that fell.

The house that fell.

Quickly a crowd formed to see what had happened and assess the damage. We saw our landlord and his son-in-law, who are the leaders of this area, come to talk to people and to start to figure out a solution. Water lines and power lines were knocked off the side of the building and so there was a rush to shut the water off to those lines. Some of our neighbors don’t have electricity now. Most importantly, we are thankful that they reported that no one was injured in the collapse, and we still have both water and electricity for now.

The path is unpassable, but they are now working on that. In the video, you can hear the water flowing immediately after the collapse.


We are glad people are okay. A little excitement in our neighborhood and we have a bird’s eye view from our balcony.

Our trip to Nairobi

It has been a few weeks since I have posted, but it has been a busy few weeks. Most importantly for us, we went to Nairobi, Kenya for the weekend on Friday November 18 to meet our friends, who were visiting us from the US. Together, we returned to Zanzibar on Sunday November 20 with our friends and hosted them for the week here during their Thanksgiving vacation.  We had a fantastic time with them and did some of the tourist things that we don’t normally do, but saved some touristy opportunities for other visitors.


We visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to see elephants.

Here are a few highlights from our trip to Nairobi.


This is Esampu, the elephant that I adopted. She is greedy and likes to eat a lot. They also said she was naughty.


It was a very rainy day, but the elephants and us still had fun.

We went to the Giraffe Center.




This one likes me a lot.

We also did a safari in Nairobi National Park.


It is rare to see the rhinos up close. There are fewer than 10 left in this park.


Zebras seen from the restaurant we ate at next to the park.

I will share the highlights from the time in Zanzibar later in the week.