Category Archives: Science

The Serious Business of Play

At the intersection of art and science, you will find 3M’s recent Rube Goldberg Machine video.

It is a masterpiece that proves that logic and creativity are not mutually exclusive.

Play-is-serious-business

 

I Never Thought that What I Did Was a Gift

As many teachers and administrators start trickling back to school this month, and we sigh at the alarm clock’s ridiculous early hour intrusion, it may do us all some good to be reminded of why we do what we do.

Albert Siedelecki working with his students
Albert Siedlecki working with his students

In this video from 2009, Albert Siedlecki receives a surprise phone call from one of his former students from the 1980’s, Lee Buono.  Siedlecki’s reaction to Buono’s words of gratitude was to say, “I never thought that what I did was a gift. Teach.  But that’s what it is.” Teachers rarely get the chance to learn of their long-reaching impact, and this video is a wonderful tribute to those men and women who make a positive difference.

For more Inspirational Videos for Teachers, check out my top faves here.

Teachers’ Day Out at HSM

If you are a teacher who happens to be in the vicinity of the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City, Texas, this week, a great opportunity awaits!  The Mill is offering free admission to teachers from August 5th to August 7th and the chance to win $100 credit to spend in their Science Store.  I’ve mentioned this wonderful spot before on my blog, and I highly recommend you make a visit.  There are activities that the entire family can enjoy!  Click here to learn more.

hillcountrysciencemill

iBesties and Jewelbots

I am constantly prowling Kickstarter for new products that I think might be good for my students.  Lately, two STEM-related toys aimed particularly at girls have been on my radar.

The first, “iBesties,” only has 3 days left in its campaign as of today. They are very close to reaching their fundraising goal of $50,000. iBesties are dolls accompanied by books.  The purpose of iBesties is to raise awareness of careers that currently employ very few women – especially those related to science and technology.  Not every child likes to play with dolls, but iBesties look like a great alternative to Barbie for those who do.  If you back iBesties on Kickstarter for $40, you  will receive a doll and a book around April of 2016.  Check out their Kickstarter site for more info here – but do it soon!

iBesties dolls - McKenna and Jada are being offered in the Kickstarter campaign
iBesties dolls – Mckenna and Jada are being offered in the Kickstarter campaign which ends 7/31/15

The second Kickstarter product that recently caught my attention is “Jewelbots.”  Jewelbots are basically friendship bracelets, but they are wearables (short for wearable technology).  The bracelets can be programmed using an app to do such things as light up when another person wearing the Jewelbot nears you, send Morse code messages to each other, or notify you when you receive a text message.

One characteristic of Jewelbots that intrigues me is the potential to program the jewelry using Arduino IDE.  This opens up many more possibilities for the use of these deceptively simple bracelets – and might be an attractive way to motivate tweens and middle schoolers to learn more about programming.

With over $100,000 raised already, Jewelbots don’t need our backing to reach their $30,000 goal.  However, you might want to pledge $59 just because you know someone who would be excited to receive one in March of 2016.  The funding deadline is 8/7/15, but don’t wait too long!

Jewelbots - Friendship Bracelets with a Techie Twist
Jewelbots – Friendship Bracelets with a Techie Twist

littleBits Educator Resources

I have mentioned before that, if you are going to spend money on a Makerspace, littleBits are a worthwhile investment.  The company has added to their Educator Resources since my last post, and I want to point out a few links that you may find useful, especially if you are new to using this product.

image from Flickr user Lisa George pour Ultra-lab
image from Flickr user Lisa George pour Ultra-lab

 

littleBits now offers an Educator’s Guide.  It includes some of its older resources, but nicely bundles them into one document.  In addition to the Challenge Cards that I’ve posted about before, the Guide also includes specific curriculum references and justifies their use in the classroom.  This could be very helpful to those of you applying for grants.  I also like the “Reverse Engineering” suggestions on page 21, the “Example Lessons” on page 23, and the “Troubleshooting Tips” on page 25.

Another item that I noticed on the littleBits Educator Resources page is the “Project Booklets.” This PDF gives project suggestions based on the type of littleBits kits you have.  This way you will not challenge your students to a project that includes pieces you may not have.

Don’t forget that littleBits offers Educator Discounts, and that some of the kits can also be purchased from other vendors, such as Amazon.com.

For more information on littleBits, check out my previous post.  And, for more Makerspace resources in general, I have a “Make” Pinterest Board that might interest you.

 

Brainspace Interactive Magazine

Brainspace is a quarterly magazine for kids aged 8-14 that is published in Canada.  U.S. Subscriptions are also available (about $30 for 4 issues).

image from video in Brainspace Magazine's "School of Rap" article
image from video in Brainspace Magazine’s “School of Rap” article

The magazine topics in the issue sent to me for review ranged from dinosaurs to speaking French to whether or not you can get sucked out of an airplane toilet (not likely, it turns out).

What sets Brainspace apart from other magazines you might find in your elementary school library is that it also includes augmented reality.  For example, if you download the free Blippar app, you can see the dinosaur on the magazine cover move and roar.  The majority of the pages inside also have “Blipp This” tags, allowing you to scan an image and watch videos related to some of the articles.

The videos are educational and often include students.  Some of them definitely give this magazine an advantage over print-only magazines because the articles alone would not be as effective.  It’s helpful, for instance, to learn French phrases by seeing other students using them in context.

If you have a child who does not like to read, I wouldn’t count on this magazine changing their attitude.  More likely, they will scan for all of the “Blipp This” tags and close the magazine after they’ve watched each video.

But, if your child is eager to learn, and is especially interested in scientific topics, a Brainspace subscription could make a great gift.

If you are a teacher or librarian, Brainspace might be popular with your students.  I would caution you to try one edition first to make sure access to the videos is not blocked in your school.  I found at least two videos in the Summer 2015 issue that were hosted on YouTube and wouldn’t have been accessible with a student device if I was on school grounds.

Parents’ Choice recently gave Brainspace a “Gold Award.” (National Geographic earned a silver, just to put that in context.) You can read the Parents’ Choice Award review here.

I would like to see the magazine make things even more interactive by including polls or quizzes that could be accessed with a scan. They could also engage their readers by asking them to submit videos (with parent permission) for future issues.

Overall, this magazine has a lot to offer, and I look forward to seeing its evolution.

For more augmented reality resources, including lesson plans and free apps, check out my Augmented Reality page here.

“Make” a Father’s Day Card That Lights Up His Day

As this is a “National Week of Making” in the U.S., it seems only appropriate that makers around the country should spend some time on making cool gifts and cards for Fathers’ Day on June 21st.

I saw a tweet earlier today from @Makerspaces_com that shared a link to this Instructables page with gift ideas.  As not all of the projects are appropriate for elementary-aged kids, I  sought out something that would be a bit less labor intensive than building your own barbecue barrel.

I saw these instructions for a Light Up LED Card, which reminded me of the ones our Maker Club did in May.  I didn’t get a chance on that post to show some of the variations that the students did after learning the basics of the “Everything is Awesome” card.  Here are a couple of student originated versions:

Clown Circuit Fathers Day Card Minecraft Fathers Day Card

Hopefully the students remembered to keep the circuits open so their batteries don’t run out before Fathers’ Day!

You can find more fun projects and resources for any time of the year here.