Category Archives: 3-6

Gifts for the Gifted – Bare Conductive Touch Board

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

Last year, we were able to get a grant in our Maker Space for some Bare Conductive Touch Boards and paint (there are smaller tubes of paint if you prefer). One of the choices for students’ final engineering projects in my class was to create a work of art that integrated the touch board and paint. I just scoured my Google Photos archive and, for some reason, have no video of the final projects in action 😦 Here are pics of the artwork and the back of their canvases, though.

The black paint that you see in the mariachi and country pictures is conductive. The concept was to attach the sound board to the back and connect the black paint with copper tape to the sound board. But, as you can see in the bottom picture, the copper tape was not being cooperatively sticky enough so one of the students ended up soldering wires to it instead. (Soldering is not mandatory; we just wanted to make it more durable.) We made hinged frames for the canvases to enclose the speakers and touch board but allow us to turn them on/off and change batteries if needed. The mariachi instruments played music based on which instrument you touched, and the countries played their anthems. (That group was fascinated with countries of the Cold War.)

Don’t let the over-complexity of the project scare you off. I tend to imagine projects that leave out a few minor details in in my initial drafts. What’s cool about the Bare Conductive Touch Board is that it is actually easy to use. There is a little Micro SD card for you to add your sounds, and you probably want to attach a cheap speaker (I got these at Target for $3) that has a microphone jack so you can hear it. As you can see, we also gave it a battery, but you can alternatively just attach it to your laptop, depending on your project. Here is a step-by-step intro to the board that shows you how easy it is to get it working. There are also instructions for making a midi piano.

I was first inspired to look into doing a project like this when I saw this video. For those of you who have used or seen the Makey Makey (a past Gifts for the Gifted recommendation), you can see that this takes the potential just a bit further.

If you have a child/student who loves to create art and would be interested in attaching sound to it, this is a unique gift that they would definitely enjoy.

Smithsonian Summer Road Trip

The Smithsonian and USA Today have joined forces to produce a free, 40-page packet of activities, “Summer Road Trip.”  To read more about what is included, and to download the free PDF, visit this article by Darren Milligan for the Smithsonian Learning Lab. The Learning Lab is one of my favorite places to find quality educational materials, including lesson plans, videos, and professional development.  Click here to see some other posts that I’ve done on this blog about specific Smithsonian Learning Lab resources.

Map with Toy Car
Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

Feebo, Not Chee

Feebo, Not Chee is my latest attempt at doing a Digital Breakout.  Like the previous one, this one is designed for 4th grade students.  Ideally, they would work on it independently.  The pages are not in the same order as the clues, and there are a couple of links to external sites on this one.  If you are an educator who needs answers to this breakout, please e-mail me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com

feebo
Feebo, Not Chee! Digital Breakout Link

Pickle – An Ethics Podcast for Kids

Thanks to Sonya Terborg (@terSonya) sharing a tweet from @FriedEnglish101 this weekend, I discovered Pickle this weekend.  Pickle is an ethics podcast for kids produced by WNYC.  The episodes look to be an average of about 20 minutes, and cover topics like, “Would an Elephant Visit a People Zoo?” and “The Friendship Formula.”

Pickle is hosted by two adults – Shumita Basu and Carl Smith – but they consult the “BrainsTrust” of kids during each episode.  I would guesstimate the target age group for this podcast would be 8 years old and up based on the topics and episode lengths.  It seems ideal for family discussions and enrichment classes, and individual topics could be integrated into curriculum as well.

Pickle currently has only 6 episodes (from December 2017), so I’m not sure what the future holds for this podcast.  According to the website, the original series (wouldn’t that be  Cucumber?) was an Australian Broadcasting Corporation production, Short and Curly, which has a few more episodes to offer on its website.

For more resources on talking about ethics with students, check out Not Just Child’s Play, Kids Philosophy Slam Contest, Teaching Children Philosophy,  and 8-Bit Philosophy (appropriate for secondary students).  Also, I recently posted about using some of the thinkLaw curriculum with my students, which is another great way to bring in ethics and critical thinking into your classroom.ethics-2110589_1920.jpg

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – RollerCoaster Challenge

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

RollerCoaster Challenge is another fabulous product from ThinkFun.  I’m pretty sure the company doesn’t need any PR from me, as this game has won numerous awards in the last year, including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award and Toy of the Year Finalist.  I’ve seen it recommended on numerous gift guides – especially ones that are related to S.T.E.M. products. But all of those accolades may not have reached the audience who reads this blog, so I want to make sure RollerCoaster Challenge gets included in my list, too.

I’m going to start with getting one negative out of the way – pretty much the only negative about this game.  There are a lot of pieces in this game.  As a parent and a teacher, I get kind of nervous about games dependent on numerous parts.  Easy to lose, painful to step on, difficult to store.  However, the pieces are what make this game so entertaining.  It reminds me a bit of the game Mousetrap that I used to play as a kid.  The fun is in putting the pieces together just the right way. (I never actually played Mousetrap, just assembled the bazillion parts.)

RollerCoaster Challenge is a 1-player game that is suitable for ages 6 and up.  Of course, the number of players and the best age group varies in real life.  Most of ThinkFun’s solitaire games work well with 2 or 3 people collaborating to solve the challenges, and this one is no exception.  As for age range, I refer you to the above paragraph.  If your 6-year-old (or 10-year-old, for that matter) has a problem with leaving Legos all over your house, you may want to think twice about this purchase – or be proactive with a plan for keeping the pieces contained.

The game comes with Challenge cards, scaffolded perfectly to increase the difficulty slightly on each challenge.  The cards tell you which pieces to use to build your roller coaster: tracks, posts, and tunnels.  The diagram shows you certain locations, and then the player(s) must figure out where to place the rest in order to make a working roller coaster track.  When completed, you can put the small plastic coaster attached to a ball bearing (included) at the top of the track and let it go.  Watch it swiftly glide down the track to its end-point, and cheer!  (My students added the last instruction, and adhered to it faithfully at the conclusion of each challenge.)

Of course, there is no law against designing roller coaster tracks of your own imagination.  In fact, ThinkFun encourages this by offering a free online “Create Your Own RollerCoaster Challenge Card” link.  You start with a solution, then the challenge, and can share the whole thing on social media or print it when finished.

My 3rd grade students love this game.  If I had let them, they probably would have played it for hours.  Their spatial reasoning skills are far superior to mine, and they could identify where to place the posts and tracks with little effort on the Beginning challenges.  Once we reached the next level, it took them a bit longer to solve (which is exactly what I like to see), but they persevered happily.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that RollerCoaster Challenge is well worth the anxiety of keeping “track” of numerous pieces.  I definitely recommend it for budding engineers and problem solvers!

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Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Dog Pile

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

dogpile.jpg

Dog Pile might be a good stocking stuffer for kids 8 and up.  Though the box recommends it for 10+, there is no reading needed (except for the instructions).  It’s a good game to promote growth mindset and spatial reasoning. Responsibility is another attribute you may need to cultivate, so none of the small plastic dog pieces get lost 😉

The multi-colored dogs included are in a variety of shapes.  Challenge cards are included with scaffolded puzzles from Beginner to Expert.  Each card has a region that must be filled by the dogs suggested on the card.  When placed properly, the dogs will fill the area of the shape without going outside the lines.

Dog Pile is one of the games I like to say belongs in the, “Solitaire Games Best Played with a Partner.”  My daughter and I take turns on the challenges for games like this.  In my classroom, students usually work in pairs or small groups on games of this category (like Rover Control).  Conversing about the puzzles seems to help, and kids tend to persevere more.  It’s also important to keep them on the challenge “continuum.”  Children often try the first couple of puzzles, think those are too easy, and then skip to the Expert challenges.  When the Expert level frustrates them, they sometimes declare the game is “no fun.”  Encourage them not to skip levels, as each one slowly introduces new difficulties that will prepare them for more complex puzzles later on.  If playing this at home, you will find that games like this have a lot more “staying power” when adults join in and model good problem solving skills.

You can watch the video below for a quick explanation of the game.

Oh, and if your household prefers cats, there is a feline version of the game here!