Category Archives: Games

Theme Park Game

Adventure Claw
Adventure Claw

This summer, some other GT teachers and I got together to host some free online classes through Edmodo for our 3rd-5th graders.  My class is called, “Make a Theme Park.”  Each week, the students are invited to make something for a theme park that they have imagined. For the 1st week, the challenge was to build a model of a theme park ride, and the fantabulous Joey Hudy judged.  You can see the post I did on the winners here.  During the second week, the students created theme park mascots, and Braeden the Master of Puppetry was our judge.  Here is the link to that post.  For week #3, I invited Michael Medvinsky (@mwmedvinsky) to judge theme songs created by the students for their parks.  You can find the winner, as well as a link to the Padlet of their submissions, here.

The final week of our “Make a Theme Park” class was judged by Sylvia Todd.  For those of you who don’t know Sylvia, she is the delightful host of Sylvia’s Super Awesome Maker Show.  She also, along with Joey Hudy (our 1st week’s judge) appeared at the first White House Maker Faire this summer.  And, she has a book coming out – hopefully very soon!

Sylvia’s task was to judge the games that students to made to go along with their theme parks.  This project assignment was similar to the Global Cardboard Challenge in which some of my students participated last September and October.  Sylvia chose “Adventure Claw” to be the winner for the week.  The game, pictured at the top of this post, was described this way by its maker: “The alligator on top is the claw, and when you pull the string it moves! If you are lucky, you might even get a prize. I was able to pick up a dime.”

Some of the other entries were:

undertheseaUnder the Sea - You get five tries to throw the water balloon through the holes. The eyes are two points each and the mouth is three points (like basketball).

jellyfishdefenseJellyfish Defense – I made a pinball machine. You have 3 lives to try and get as many points as possible. I used magnets to get the double ball and multiball.

whackamouseWhack-a-Mouse - When someone underneath the box pushes up the cups you will have to whack the mice with the cat paw.

Catch Indiana Jones (sorry I don’t have a picture available as only a video was submitted) - Can you catch him? Or will he escape? You get three tries to roll the boulder and hit Indiana Jones. The first Indiana Jones you hit is the one you score points on.


Tried and True – Robot Turtles

On this blog, I tend to post about a lot of ideas that I find, and some readers don’t always get a chance to know if I ever tried them – or if they were complete flops.  This week, I want to feature a few past ideas that I did try and that were successful – and that I definitely want to do again.


For this week’s Phun Phriday post, I want to revisit a game that I’ve already mentioned a couple of times on this blog – Robot Turtles.  Robot Turtles was another Kickstarter project that I backed, but the product is now available through ThinkFun, Amazon, and Target.  I used it during Hour of Code last year with my younger students to introduce the whole concept of programming.  After that, my 1st graders loved having it in a center during the year.  When my Kindergartners started class in the spring, they also got to try it.  They thoroughly enjoyed it as well.

The great thing about Robot Turtles is that it can be used for various levels of play, and there is a lot of room for imagination and creativity.  Older students and families find it fun to play, too.  If you have some room in your budget for an educational classroom game that is a great value, then I highly recommend Robot Turtles.


For today’s Phun Phriday post, I have a couple of amazing videos created by people who have way more imagination, time, and dominoes than I do!  Both of these videos come courtesy of  Some dominoes sources are: Marbles, The Brain Store and Bulk Dominoes (recommended by Hevesh5, who created the 1st video).

Theme Park Ride Winners

This summer, some other GT teachers and I got together to host some free online classes through Edmodo for our 3rd-5th graders.  My class is called, “Make a Theme Park.”  Each week, the students are invited to make something for a theme park that they have imagined. Last week, the challenge was to build a model of a theme park ride.  With a great introduction video from the awesome Joey Hudy, our “celebrity judge” for the week, and some links I provided, the students were assigned to create projects that were: fun, creative, and had at least one moving part.  Their videos and/or pictures of their inventions were posted by Thursday evening on Padlets that I created for the purpose. On Friday, Joey Hudy announced the winners.  He admitted, and I completely agree, that choosing the winners was extremely difficult!  I was blown away by the intricacies of each one, and it was really fun to see how different they were.  Each week we have two categories – one for the family to enter together, or one that the individual student can enter.  Here are the winners:

  • Family Theme Park Ride – “The Sparking Spur” – I don’t have a good image of this one, as only video was provided.  However, as you may or may not know, we live in San Antonio – home of the 2014 World Champion Spurs basketball team. This ride celebrates our awesome team and city by starting at the AT&T Center, going past the Tower of the Americas and the Alamo, and ending at the River Walk.
  • Individual Theme Park Ride – “Kittyana Jones”
yarn bolder pushes the cart off  the ledge and into the box of rubber band  snakes!
Move the lever up, and the yarn boulder pushes the cart off the
ledge and into the box of rubber band

I want to give shout outs to the other amazing entries:

  • The BGW (Bubble Gum Water Blaster) – Ride down a slide as you are pelted by water balloons and splash into a pool.
  • The All-Star – Spun by a K’nex motor, this ride offers you a basketball hoop to sit in and features Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
  • Turning Tail Over Scale – I wish I could show you a picture of this one, but all I have is video and the screen shots are blurry.  This innovative inventor used a pencil sharpener to turn her ferris wheel!
  • Dolphin Ferris Wheel dolphin
  • Best Way to Hogwarts hogwarts

If you are interested in the idea of getting your students more involved with making, here are some other resources for you:



PixelPress Floors

PixelPress first came to my attention when I discovered its Kickstarter campaign last year.  Unfortunately, I came across it after it was too late for me to back it.  Then, a couple of months ago, Drew Minock (Two Guys and Some iPads) mentioned that the Floors app was available for a free download on the iPad.  I immediately went to the PixelPress site and found the free Sketch Guide and Blank Sketch Sheet.

PixelPress Floors
PixelPress Floors app (now available on iPhone, too!)

“What?” you may ask, “Why do you need a sheet of paper for an app?”

Well, my friends, that is the beauty of the PixelPress Floors app.  If you have an iPad 3 or above, then you can take advantage of the drawing option.  You can actually draw a video game on the piece of paper provided, scan it with the app, and then play the game.  No programming necessary.

Don’t fear if you do not have the iPad 3 or above.  PixelPress just released an iPhone version of Floors which, along with the earlier iPads, works with a “Draw In-App” feature.

I introduced Floors to my students a few weeks before the end of school.  It became the new go-to favorite app for creating in my class.  The students loved using the Sketch Guide to create their games, and were eager to play each other’s to give constructive feedback.  As they wrote their games and edited them, I could hear a lot of mumbling and discussion about why things weren’t working and how to solve the problem.

PixelPress is very interested in coordinating with the Education community.  They have several posts on their blog that show the use of Floors in classrooms.  Teachers and parents can sign up for an education mailing list, and can also visit the Education Portal.  You can view a recent interview that Drew Minock and Brad Waid from Two Guys and Some iPads did with Katie Burke from PixelPress here. One intriguing use of the game in a classroom setting is to create a graphic novel using ComicLife and screen shots of the game, as you can see on this blog post from Porchester Junior School.  (You can see the comic here.

Download Floors while it’s still free (there are some in-app purchases, but there are plenty of things you can do in the free version).  Playing video games can be fun – but making them is even more entertaining!

Don’t Leave it to the Goonies


I have been devoting this week to ways to engage young minds over the summer.  Here is the breakdown so far: Camp Wonderopolis, Maker Camp, Making Movies.  Last summer, I also did a series of posts on avoiding the “summer slide”, and you can access all of those links, including a ton of suggestions for using the ubiquitous pool noodle, here.

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite movies of all time is The Goonies.  I think it appeals to the inner child in all of us – the quest for adventure and the ability to figure out the answers to diabolical clues.  Of course, we don’t want to expose our children to the danger faced by the movie characters.  But we can still give them a taste of the fun – and even join in on it, too.  Here are some various levels of “hunts” that might get the entire family involved:

Make Your Own

  • Klikaklu – You can use this iOS app to create scavenger hunts that are triggered by images you choose.
  • QR Codes – You can use this easy QR Treasure Hunt Generator  to develop a fun mission for any child with access to a mobile device that has a QR code scanning app.
  • GeoSettr - You can create a fun geography challenge using this web-based site that utilizes Google Street View and GeoGssr.

Provided For You

  • Geocaching – If you have not tried this free adventure that is fun for the whole family, I highly encourage you to give it a try.  It will get you outside, and you will often learn more about the area that you are in than you ever realized you didn’t know!  For a great introduction to this sport, I recommend: “How to Have a Family Treasure Hunt: Geocaching with Kids.”
  • Brain Chase – This is not free ($199), but looks quite intriguing.  It’s an innovative concept from some parents based in Austin, Texas, but it is designed to be global.  According to the site, Brain Chase is “a 6-week summer learning challenge disguised as a massive global treasure hunt for 2nd−8th graders. A golden globe has been buried somewhere on earth – and it contains the key to a safe deposit box holding a $10,000 college scholarship fund.”  Because it’s new (and $199), I have no experience with it.  If you participate, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Remember, it doesn’t have to be up to the adults to create the fun.  Older children enjoy creating scavenger hunts just as much as participating in them!  Just make sure you go over internet safety as well as outdoor safety (particularly if you are geocaching – we were attacked by a turkey vulture guarding her eggs one time when we poked around in a hollow tree!) before the exploring commences!