Archive for: June 2014

Learn Something New: New Nonfiction Titles

 By Erin Nguyen, Children’s Department, Knox County Public Library






Music Everywhere! 

by Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon


Children all over the world make music, and this book shows the wide variety of instruments and styles they play through bright, colorful photographs and simple text.



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Bridging Nature, Music and Technology: Smokies Storytelling

by Caleb Carlton, Teacher Naturalist at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont



Have you heard? There are 18,200 known species of life in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Estimations put the actual number of species in the national park between 80,000-100,000! Do you know that there are more than 1,600 black bears currently living the park? Do you realize that in the 1960’s, the black bear population almost went extinct in the Smokies? Can you believe that the monarch butterflies you see in Cades Cove in September are on their way to central Mexico for the winter? Read more →

Hallmark Moments

By Kathryn Rea Smith, PH.D.


Like many people, I enjoy giving cards. I especially like the challenge of finding the perfect card for the intended recipient, one that accurately captures the essence of the person while also conveying the feelings I have for them. In anticipation of my sister’s birthday last month, I perused dozens of cards, sorting them into a group of potential winners. Ultimately, I chose a very sweet card for her, one that expressed how grateful I am to have a sister as wonderful as she. When my sister read the card, she hugged me, remarking how happy she was to have a relationship in which we can give and receive beautiful cards which have warm, loving messages. Read more →

What’s Around Me?

Technology to help you find what you’re looking for this summer

by Lieutenant Aaron Yarnell, Knox County Sheriff’s Office



Hopefully, you are you excited about the summer vacation months that are finally approaching, or perhaps you just want to get out and enjoy something different right now, something that you may not yet be aware of. If thoughts like these have entered your mind, then do I have a great app just for you! Read more →

Popcorn Joints

by Marcin Gornsiewicz, M.D.


Entwine your fingers together and then bend them back. Do you hear the popping sound? Chances are you do. We have all done and heard it before, and some kids do it all the time just for fun or to make their parents crazy. Knuckle cracking is a common habit. Where is the noise coming from? To understand it, you need to know a bit about joint anatomy. Read more →

What You Need To Know About Asthma

by Connie Meredith, CRT-NPS, and Bob Ypost, RRT-NPS



Asthma affects people of all ages. While it often starts during childhood, it can occur later in life from exposure to irritants. Asthma is a long-term lung problem. It causes lungs to react in an extreme way when irritated. Irritants of the lung are called triggers. A trigger can cause the muscles of the lungs to tighten, swell and create excess mucus. As a result, breathing becomes difficult, resulting in a shortness of breath and coughing. Read more →

Dear Knox County Schools’ Families

By Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools

I hope everyone has a great summer break!

For many, the summer months mean plenty of time to relax, but these weeks may also offer learning time.  What better time to learn something new than during the relaxing months of summer?  Students can learn new things as they explore the great outdoors, try new activities or hobbies, play sports and by taking time to read. Read more →

Learn Something New and Have Fun:

DIY (Do It Yourself) Backyard Summer Camp Ideas

By Tracey Matthews, Supervisor, Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Contributing Writers: Kiera S. Alston, Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement, University of Tennessee Graduate Intern and Zachary Seay, Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement, University of Tennessee Intern


Traditional summer camps are great, but how about trying out some of our fun 2014 Backyard DIY (Do It Yourself) Summer “Camp” ideas while learning something new at the same time?  We have created two themed DIY Summer Camp experiences that, if explored in four- to six-week intervals, can carry you through the entire summer!  They are not only educational but also adventurous and exciting!  These camp activities can be carried out in your own backyard, house or neighborhood.

1.  Camp “Green”

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! While summer should not be a time for learning to cease, the type of learning can be less formal.  For example, let the environmentalists in your family see what first steps they can take to help preserve Mother Earth: 

  • Begin an at-home recycling project.  City residents can get on the waiting list for City of Knoxville’s Household Curbside Recycling Program by visiting  County residents can take advantage of a multitude of waste and recycling centers located in Knox County.  Visit for more information.
  • Go to a local park or other frequented area in your community and pick up trash and recyclable items in separate containers.  This initiative can become a year-round project for your family or your community.
  • Create posters that focus on methods of “going green” and post them in neighborhood businesses (with permission).
  • Create a list of “green” ideas to share with neighbors, and try to begin a “Green Neighborhood Project.”
  • Visit to learn how material recovery facilities use gravity, magnets and air to sort, bundle and process recyclable materials.

2.  Summer Olympics Camp

The 2014 Winter Olympics ended earlier this year, but the Backyard Summer Olympics can begin this summer!  Warm weather provides a perfect opportunity to begin taking physical activities to a new and creative level.  You can add to the fun by purchasing a bag of toy medals in the party section of most stores.  This “camp” involves exploring less-traditional activities—not often experienced at school—to see if new interests can be nurtured and developed.  You never know if you have a future gold medalist right in your living room!

The 2016 Summer Olympics will likely feature 28 sports, 41 disciplines and 306 events.   Take advantage of many ways to explore them and learn about less-traditional activities: 

  • View them on DVDs, YouTube and sports channels.
  • Seek locations in which the sports are practiced to see them performed live (soccer fields, tracks, pools, etc.).
  • Visit your local library to research games from yesteryear (i.e., Marbles, Kick the Can, Red Rover, etc.) that are not traditionally practiced today but could be fun and interesting.
  • Create opportunities to research and practice fun Olympic and traditional sports and games of yesteryear in your own backyard:
  • Triathlon:  Set up an obstacle course in your backyard using lawn furniture, old tires and anything else you can find that your Olympians have to maneuver around, climb under or over, push, pull, and/or go through.
  • Relay Race:  How about a relay race around the house?  Use any safe object as the passing baton.
  • Archery:  Search on the Internet for “making a bow and arrow” and “an introduction to archery” to explore the sport of archery (
  • Bowling:  Create a bowling center in your backyard using a basketball or soccer ball and two-liter bottles filled with water.
  • Hopscotch:  Use sidewalk chalk to create boxes on the driveway/sidewalk.
  • Tug of War:  Tie a knot in the center of a rope and create a “crossing line” on the ground with tape. The first person (or team) to cross the line loses.  How about pitting siblings against some of the adults in the family?  Go, kids!
  • Other Olympic experiences that could be new to your child include cycling, equestrian activities, curling (a winter sport), the pentathlon, etc.

These ideas can be enjoyed by all family members and implemented by adults, older siblings and even babysitters.  You might even share a few of these ideas with your daycare providers.  Even if your children participate in a formal summer camp experience, we hope that you will try some of these ideas to create treasured summer memories for the whole family.  Don’t be afraid to get creative!  You, too, can come up with great experiences for some super, summer family fun! 


Tracey Matthews currently serves as Knox County Schools’ District-wide Family and Community Engagement Supervisor. In this position, Tracey has been entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate the district’s course toward building stronger and lasting partnerships between families, schools, and the community. For more information, please visit the Family and Community Engagement at