Canva: A Fun Way to Assess Student Achievement

Projects and presentations ultimately assess student learning. There are many good resources out there for presentations in history. As I mentioned in 10 Elements for Teaching History, resources like Prezi and Youtube are fun and stimulating for students.

The free design tool Canva provides another great resource for a classroom, not only for history projects, but for all your classes.

What is Canva?

Simple answer: It is a FREE (!) point-and-click graphic design program. Easy to use and intuitive for the new user. Kids 8 and above can figure this out.

Probably one of the hardest things for someone who has not studied design is making something look beautiful: balanced in color, shape and picture.

This program has the design aspect already taken care of. You provide the content. That content demonstrates mastery of the material.

How it works:

After selecting the type of project, kids (and adults) scroll down to select the layout style they like. Then they choose from drop down elements.

Even though the free account “slightly” limits the images they can use, there is an upload feature (see bottom left of picture below). Students can search online for free-use pictures and graphics and simply upload them into the project. (This makes for a good lesson on copyright and royalties.)

–>Take a look at Pixabay for free-use photographs and Vecteezy for free-use graphics.

Long and short, Canva is simple and quick to learn.


If you feel you need to walk students through using Canva, here is a good introduction.

In my opinion, the best part of Canva is that students who use the program are learning elements of graphic design.

As they swap out this for that word, or this for that picture, they are sticking with a design that already works. And they are functioning as graphic artists as they do it!

Their final projects have a professionalism to them, which prepares them in a special way for the business world they will soon be a part of.

I have used Canva in my (homeschool) classroom and have been very pleased with the resulting projects. My students have also been happy with their projects.

Last year, my daughter used Canva to make a book cover for her serial novel. And my son is currently using Canva to experiment with logos and graphics for his Youtube channel, which is a part of his curriculum. It’s a great resource for large or small projects!

What kinds of school projects can be done on Canva?


Book reports: Make a new book cover for Tom Sawyer. Create a logo Katniss Everdeen could use to promote and explain her side of the rebellion. Design a Story board about the Giver, but change the story halfway through to create a different ending.

Blogging: Create an instructive 5-part blog series on common grammar mistakes 5th grade students make.

Newsletter: With your group, create a newsletter with articles summarizing the novels we have studied. Include sections with puns (plays on words), language-based riddles, memes, vocabulary puzzles or crossword puzzles.

Social Studies/History:

Compare/contrast: Create a menu for a restaurant in ancient Pompeii. Show foods they ate that are the same or are different from foods we eat.

Different perspectives: Create two certificates to be awarded to President Abraham Lincoln: one from a Union supporter of his policies and one from a Confederate opponent to his policies.

Cause and Effect: Make an infographic showing three main causes for the American revolution. Then show the effects the American Revolution had on both the American Colonies and on England.

(See this list of ways to analyze history)


Resume: Create a resume (C.V.) for Marie Curie, showing her education, accomplishments, and other vital aspects of her scientific career.

Comic Strip: Research how Louis Pasteur discovered pasturization. Design a comic strip illustrating a significant moment of his discovery.


Photo Collage: Gather photos of things with angles, intersecting, and parallel lines, then illustrate each the photo an angle rule we have studied in this chapter.

Teacher projects: Seating charts, lesson plans, worksheets, slides

Executive Skills: Calendar, Scheduler, graphic organizer

As you see, the sky’s the limit.

Wise men know that DOING proves comprehension much more than mindless worksheets and bookwork:

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
– Confucius

“Not hearing is not as good as hearing, hearing is not as good as seeing,
seeing is not as good as knowing, knowing is not as good as acting;
true learning continues until it is put into action.”
– Xunzi

 Other Ideas

Below is a list of Canva’s pre-design categories you can choose from.

Survey the list below to be inspired for more ways your students can apply what they have learned.

Blogging & ebooks album covers, banners, book covers, comic strips, infographics, magazine covers, photo collages, wallpapers

Documents: certificates, letterheads, newsletters, presentations, resumes

Education: graphic organizers, lesson plans, yearbook maker

Events: cards, event programs, ID cards, invitation cards

Inspirations: mood boards, scrapbooks, storyboards, postcards, seating charts, tickets wedding invitations

Marketing materials: brochures, business cards, flyers, gift certificates, labels, logos, posters, restaurant menus

Planners and Schedules: calendars weekly schedules

Headers: for Etsy, Facebook, Youtube, email

Social media: Meme generator, Social media graphics

Have fun!

Do me a favor–>Please comment below with suggestions for other ways Canva can be used to demonstrate mastery of the material, or describing success you have had with using this program in class.


disclaimer: These opinions are my own, I am not compensated by Canva for these opinions or for this recommendation. 

What Would Einstein Do?


What Did Einstein Say About God?

Einstein thought it was unreasonable to think of an Eternal Being who would judge.

The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events – provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.

You can see more of his thoughts in the following.

1932 My Creed, by Einstein,  Einstein and GodAlbert Einstein: God, Religion and Theology, and two articles he wrote on the topic at Einstein’s Ideas and Thoughts.

Excusing away fear of judgment is circular reasoning. Yes, we make decisions out of necessity (“satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain”). But we also make many decisions out of simply self-priority, which he otherwise claims is something that should be overcome.  He says we should do all we can to be others-centered (“free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind)”. It sounds ideal, like communism is. But the reality is we will still pursue our deepest desire, even if that is not to the benefit of mankind. And that requires an “overcoming” that (we realize that) we can never attain.

Being others-centered is self-contradictory in a system where necessity is the standard. I’m sorry, Einstein, I don’t claim to be smarter than you, but the claim that “morality charged upon us by a conscience must be overcome” seems counter-intuitive. Reasoning away the fear of eternal judgment may be setting oneself up for worse.

Is Conscience Wrong?

I put this on Pascal, and will use his famous WAGER.

Question: Is Conscience Wrong, how do I respond?

Option 1: Wrong and Right

If my conscience (fear of eternal judgment) is something telling lies that I have to be overcome, and I choose to overcome it and live for the benefit of society, when I die I get nothing out of that except leaving a mark on the world. Insignificant gain.

Option 2: Wrong and Wrong

If my conscience is something telling lies that I have to overcome, and I choose to not overcome them and live for my own wants without regard for society, when I die I leave a negative or null slash on the world. Insignificant loss.

Option 3: Right and Wrong

If my conscience is something telling truth, but I disregard and attempt to overcome that conscience, when I die I get that which I feared. Infinite loss.

Option 4: Right and Right

If my conscience is something telling truth that I regard and can submit to, when I die I escape that which I feared and get that for which I hoped. Infinite gain.

Options 1 and 4 are the best options, both having gain. Of them, one has far-reaching benefits, one not as far-reaching.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot


Yes, as Stanford’s Pascal link above says, there are many assumptions that need to be addressed. This Wager does not stand by itself, but stands at the end of the argument for all of those presupposed facts–like eternality of the soul, definition of that God, role of logic in speaking to metaphysical realities.  Still, after you sludge through those big thoughts, and you must, you will be left with a gamble.

The Gamble

Christians gamble this LIFE OF SORROW and pain and an aspired-for happiness for that ETERNITY together with the Source of all goodness, kindness, justice, love, relationship, honesty, and grace we hope for and never acquire in this life. We look at the clues He left (in us and around us) regarding His character. And we make a judgment call as to whether our conscience is speaking true.

Everyone needs to make the judgment call. Look at the evidence, look inside you, look around you. Count the cost for your choice. Make your gamble.  Einstein made his. I’ve made mine.  I’ve chosen to do what Jesus told me I should do.

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. For I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:28-29

As amazing as Einstein’s life was, as amazing as his mind to grasp the makeup of the universe, he still could not keep himself from dying, or bring himself back up from the dead.

My representatives saw it happen to Jesus, checked it out FOR ME.  I think I’d better listen to their eyewitness account.

Pi: Meaning or Message?

What is Pi? Is there a pattern?

I came across this interesting page where the author tried to turn Pi into an image using binary. Here is the 2D version.

And the 3D version:

(download here: pi_turn_movie)

Is it a Fractal of sorts?

It looks amazingly like a 9th itineration fractal…

(Elementary School Champions! Third grade students in Ms. Renner’s class at Alief ISD’s Chambers Elementary in Houston, TX made this this 9th iteration Jurassic Park Fractal.)

Is it a Message?

The connection to 9th iteration begs the question, what about the 99 Sequences in Pi and the other patterns it holds?Some people have been trying to decipher pi, as if it is a cypher from God.

  1. The Pi Code
  2. Cracking the Pi Code
  3. Flying Spaghetti Monster (from Binary Pi)

Not only do people look for meaning in English, because of COURSE God would make his cypher in English–but Hebrew scholars look for meaning in Mathematical constants.

  1. Pi in Hebrew
  2. In another search for meaning, here is Phi (the Golden Ratio) in the Tetragrammaton

Why do we search for meaning in Pi? For the simple reason that we expect intelligence at the base level of life. In a way, the hope that Pi contains a message or a pattern comes from our understanding that God is the author of Reason and Math. Galileo Galilei said that the Universe is written in the language of Mathematics.

Most likely, the future holds some more secrets about Pi. Meanwhile, continue to pursue Math and Meaning in your pursuit of Truth.


Healthy For Life: News Report

My high school daughters produced this amazing video for their Nutrition Class. I hope you enjoy it, and learn some healthy-living facts along the way. With much appreciation to Dr. David Perlmutter, whose work was a significant part of their research.

Amazing Ancient Technology! Making of a Silver Bowl in the Roman Era

In Trunk of Scrolls, the family of Gaius Justus owns an exquisite silver relief fruit bowl. Watch the process the Romans used to make this type of bowl.

Amazing technology! While the “cup” in this video was made a century or so earlier than the Late Roman/Early Byzantine time of Justinian, the process used in making the Antioch fruit bowl (and the 6th century Antioch Chalice, which some think was the Holy Grail!) would have been very similar.

Now, for more time travel, take a look at the Getty Museum’s Ancient Luxury and the Roman Silver Collection from Berthouville artifacts!

COMMENTS: What was your favorite part of the process? Any favorite pieces from the Getty Museum?

John Gerstner and the Reasoning Mind

When I get to heaven, one of the big things on my list is to find John Gerstner. What a jewel. I just want to meet him.

I was introduced to him last year through a Ligonier video series he did in the 90’s called Handout Apologetics.

The kids and I just finished watching the series again as part of this year’s Apologetics course, and again I remember my plans to find his mansion when I get there.

I want to thank him. You might have noticed that the Sola series I have on my blog has a broken link for the Sola Fides section. This is due to John Gerstner. The picture I have on there is from Indiana Jones stepping out over the chasm in The Last Crusade. After the Apologetics course last year I rethought everything I believed about faith. So consequently until I redo that webpage I have taken it offline.

[update 1/5/16- Sola Fides ONLINE now!]

Faith is not what I thought it was.

So I would like to recommend the same
Handout Apologetics that changed my life.

You can watch the series for free on (click the picture below).

More on Apologetics later. Meanwhile, enjoy your visit with my (someday) friend, John Gerstner:

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 5.04.00 PM

The first four lessons are REASONS AGAINST REASON that Christians tend to use. Wow! God bless you in your pursuit of FAITH.

COMMENTS:  What about you? Do you think faith requires reasons? OR is faith an end in itself?

Update July 2017: In their discussion on Natural Theology, or evidence of God through the natural world and philosophy, White Horse Inn Podcast gave a significant hat-tip to dear John Gerstner. Please listen to this episode:


Earthquakes and Agnosticism

1. The Accusation
2. The “Self-evident” Premises
3. The Y factor
4. Objectively Verifiable Truths

The accusation

Neil deGrasse Tyson: It is not good for earthquakes to happen. It proves that there is no “good” God who made this system.

Facts: Lisbon, Portugal.  Date 1755.  An earthquake happens on All Saints Day.  80,000 people die in church. MORE INFO

Six premises, all tied up into one conclusion:


A:  Good is defined as interested in mankind’s health and longevity.

B. Either God is not all powerful or God is not all good.

C: A powerful God could have kept the earthquake from happening.

D: It is not good for people to die in church.

E. A good God would have wanted an earthquake to not happen.

F: The earthquake was not stopped and people died in a church.

Written in simplified logic form this would be:


  1. If x is q, then p is q and if x is ~q then p is ~q.
  2. Either p is q or p is ~q
  3. q is r
  4. therefore either p is r or p is ~r


  1. Either p is r or p is ~r
  2. ~r is ~q
  3. therefore either p is r or p is ~q


  1. Either p is r or p is ~q
  2. r is ~s
  3. therefore either p is ~s or p is ~q


  1. Either p is ~s or p is ~q
  2. Not ~s, therefore s
  3. Therefore p is ~q
  4. Therefore x is ~q


p-God’s will

q-to be good

r-to be concerned about health and life of man

s- an earthquake happening

I.So with the premises filled in, it looks like this:

  1. If God is good, his will is good and if God is not good, his will is not good.
  2. Either God’s will is good, or God’s will is not good.
  3. It is good to be concerned about health and life of man
  4. Therefore either God’s will is to be concerned about health and life of man, or Gods will is not to be concerned about the health and life of man.


  1. Either God’s will is to be concerned about health and life of man, or God’s will is not to be concerned about the health and life of man.
  2. To be not concerned about health and life of man is not good.
  3. Therefore either God’s will is to be concerned about health and life of man, or God’s will is not good.


  1. Either God’s will is to be concerned about health and life of man, or God is not good.
  2. To be concerned about health and life of man means there will be no earthquake.
  3. Therefore God’s will is that there will be no earthquake, or God’s will is not good.


  1. Either God’s will is that there will be no earthquake, or God is not good.
  2. It is not the case that there was not an earthquake and there was an earthquake.
  3. Therefore God’s will is not good.
  4. Therefore God is not good.


Therefore, there is no all-powerful, all-good God.

The “Self-evident” Premises

  1. q is r
  2. ~r is ~q
  3. r is ~s

These were never proven. Let us look at them briefly.

p-God’s will //  q-to be good  // r-to be concerned about health and life of man // s- an earthquake happening

  1. To be good means to be concerned about health and life of man.
  2. To be not concerned about health and life of man is not good.
  3. To be concerned about health and life of man requires an earthquake not happening.
Is it true, though?

If God’s goodness requires his only consideration to be the health and life of man, that would require him to pause every other consideration to enable man to continue in the way he is going.  To be an “air bag” so to speak, or a slave to the cause of mankind’s health and life.  Is that true? Must there be a being whose only definition is the welfare of man?  No.

Of course we’d like him to be only concerned about that, but maybe his consideration for man is higher and greater than just health and life that can be stopped with an earthquake.  If there is some greater truth to consider, say perhaps a bigger benefit for man, then he would be ‘required’ by that same goodness to not stop the earthquake.

So our new self-evident premise would have to be

y-a bigger concern is good

q is r unless y is q 

If we put that into the equation, the conclusion would be:

  1. Therefore p is ~q unless y is q
  2. Therefore x is ~q unless y is q

Without taking into consideration what “y” could be, we might be led to the conclusion Neil deGrasse Tyson comes to.  But what could the “y” be?

Can we make a self-evident premise that says ~y?  That he “has no bigger concern.” We cannot. If God is that Being we are considering, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good.

We can only either suppose he must conform to our human-centered view of what his goodness requires, or delve into that y.

My Response

The Bible does claim, in God’s words,

“I do not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they would turn from their ways and live.” Ezekiel 33:11

Even if those in church were “wicked,” it would not have pleased God for them to die.

So how could something happen that does not please God? Because of the “y-factor.”

The Y Factor:

Y is a BROKEN SYSTEM That is Being Fixed.

The only way to reconcile this is to see that something that is Good was broken, and goodness requires that the method of fixing it does not save those people from the earthquake.

The world strikes us as a place that SHOULD be good. The fact that we want good (no death, no earthquakes, no tsunamis, no disease) tells us that it fits the system for things to move in a positive way.

If something is broken, we would hope it would be the duty of an all-powerful, all-good God to fix it.

Complicating factor: He is also all-just, and put in us an alarm that stuns us when we cross the line. Namely, conscience.

God did do something to fix it, namely send Christ and a way for us to enter into a new and fixed system. Through death.  I think that welcoming his faithful, who will die anyway, into a new system that is wholly GOOD is much better than letting them stay in a broken, sad, heartbreaking system.

Especially if those people are already aware of his ‘secret passage’ to this new dimension, namely through the bond of faith in Christ.

Objectively Verifiable Truths

Neil deGrasse Tyson says,

“Objectively verifiable truths are needed.”

Which is only difficult for us because we no longer have the sample available to prove the claims of research done in the past. But we have four verified research reports by four different researchers finding the same conclusion regarding the sample.  We had skeptics test the hypothesis and change their theories after testing.

The problem is, the sample is no longer available for direct test.  If it were, perhaps DNA testing and video recording would have been used to verify what eye-witnesses attested to.

What we do not have is counter-examples, or proofs from the time against the test. Certainly there were people who did not like the conclusions. And yet the only writer/researcher who attempted to stop the theory, converted to the theory himself.

How can we test?

There are four dimensions in this five-sense testable world

  1. Height
  2. Depth
  3. Width
  4. Time

There are also several other dimensions that I am aware of, which we sense without our eyes and ears, without this four dimensional world.

  1. The world of mind. (calculates, figures, reasons)
  2. The world of passion. (feels, hates, loves)
  3. The world of dreams. (imagines while I’m awake and asleep)
  4. The world of soul. (senses the holy, feels guilt, understands contact with the Creator)
  5. The world of memory. (recalls in often vivid detail the moments I have lived)
  6. The world of angels and demons. (often it can be breached, especially by those who call upon it)
  7. The world of heaven. (I am aware that those who have died have moved on, a dimension NDE’ers speak of)

Today we can test the validity of the sample (Jesus of Nazareth), from the evidence we have before us, as historians.  If we objectively approach the testimony of Dr Luke, Matthew, Mark and John we find that something happened that changed their lives. And they wrote down what happened to them.

What does it mean to be OBJECTIVE?

Objective. adj.  (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts: “Historians try to be objective and impartial.”  • not dependent on the mind for existence; actual (Apple Dictionary).

NO ONE can be objective about anything they observed. The fact that the ‘gospel writers’ are not objective, but that their testimonies corroborate as to the miracles and claims and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, speaks into the dynamic experience they had.

Denying the testimony of these eye-witnesses, because we do not like what they say, would be like some leader denying that anything happened to the Armenian Orthodox people of Turkey in the early 1900, because he does not like what they say.  Something happened, in both cases, and the non-objective testimony of eye-witnesses speaks loudly.

It was hard to believe, during WWII, that such a thing as a place like Auschwitz could exist. People who heard, immediately denied it could be true.  But history has shown that things that go against reason have in fact happened. For their own reasons.

Dr. Tyson is correct in saying that there is an aspect of this that leans on evidence not visible equally to everyone. This awareness is not attained through speculation, logic, and reason.  As in the quantum-world, things are not universally observed.  Unfortunately for some, this plain-view “Atlantis” is hidden from eyes of some.

2 Kings 6:17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Novel Connection

In Trunk of Scrolls, the problem of suffering is delved into as Christians face the God of the Earthquake, asking the same questions Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson asked, of how a good God could allow evil to happen to his followers.



God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be Light.” Gen 1:1

Was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was Life and that Life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  John 1:1

This is a beginning of a new phase in my life, a time when a dream of mine is close to fulfillment. Becoming an author of historical fiction books.  I have always had a love relationship with history, most particular ancient history. I know the exact moment I fell in love.

Second grade.  Teacher’s name escapes me (I’m sorry!) but she used to call me “darling Darlene” on my papers.  We learned Ben Franklin’s proverbs that year, we kept a daily diary and there was a boy named Dustin and a boy named Brian in the class. We had a class bunny, and I loved playing with Playschool people outside after school with my neighbor named Kirk.  The feelings of freedom, of play, of innocence, of joy at life.  I was in America again, after growing up in Japan. I could understand people and was finally learning to read.

Then the teacher read to us the story of Pompeii.  It was my first time time-traveling.

She read to us of the daily life of the people of Heraculum and Pompeii.  Of the earthquakes and the steaming volcano. Of the eruption of smoke, and the overflow of lava. Of the people running to the sea.  Of the ash that covered the people.  Then, she read of the archaeologists and anthropologists who uncovered those people.  Of how the ash had solidified around the poor people who could not escape Nature.  Of how they used plaster to fill in the cavities, and the faces of those people came to light again.

The awe at science, at history, at new knowledge started in me that day and has continued without ceasing.

Saint Augustine saidCredo ut intelligam.  This means, “I believe in order that I may understand.”  Knowledge is inextricably tied to faith.  Faith is the recognition that our senses do not completely tell us everything there is to know about the world.


First of all, the whole question of consciousness is a mystery that no one has yet explained.  It is simply jumped to in explanations of how the mind works.


(Consciousness from Neurons)

Reason can explain to us three things related to this.

1) Creation  We look at creation, and common sense shows us that such an amazing variety and complexity had to originate from laws and rules. In our world, we would not think an iPad could appear out of nothing without reasons for its existence, so it takes less faith to believe in Creator than a random assemblage of molecules creating trees and planets and bacteria and DNA.

2) The Cause  The second thing reason explains to us is that either the Cause is personal or impersonal. If the Cause is personal, and we matter, it would communicate with us, since we have a consciousness of that dilemma in the first place.

3) Perfection  Reason also leads us to recognize that if there is a Cause and Creator, “IT” would have to be the SOURCE of perfection.  Logically “IT” could not be both good and evil, both truth and falsehood, both powerful and weak.  So is “IT” all evil, all falsehood, all weak?  Or is “IT” all good, all truth, all powerful?  We have in us the ideal that strives for the good, the value written into our human consciousness, REGARDLESS OF OUR CULTURE OR RELIGION, is that there is such a thing as PERFECT GOOD.  Of course, we strive for it with different standards and rules, but it is a commonly shared part of human consciousness.  We commend those who are “good” and shun those who are “evil.”

Without creation, we would see no cause, without the cause we could consider no perfection.

Big Questions:  So do we matter?  Has the Cause communicated?  Is the Cause personal? Is “IT” a “HE”?


The second question to consider, is: can our senses be trusted to guide us into all knowledge?

Watch this video, which shows us just how amazingly accurate our senses are (not)

Back to St. Augustine’s saying, “I believe in order that I may understand.”  If we limit ourselves to our own perception of the world, we limit our ability to understand the world of unseen things.


If this CAUSE is personal, if mankind MATTERS, the Creator Cause would communicate to us in a way that defines Himself with all the perfection that Reason proves he must be.  So, is there such a communication?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  In the beginning was the Word.  The Word became flesh.


By what name does HE call Himself?  This in itself shows us that He encompasses all of what reason says He must be.

I AM.    Exodus 3:14

So complete, so thorough, so infinite, any other attributive would diminish him.

This is my philosophy of reason, knowledge and faith. This is my philosophy behind all of my books and stories.  May the words I write strengthen your belief and your understanding.  Soli Deo Gloria.