Cat in the Hat Builds That is a mobile app that is based on the PBS series, “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That.” With a target audience of younger children (Pre-K and up), this free app (available on Android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire devices) is an entertaining introduction to STEM principles, such as the engineering design process, problem-solving, inquiry, and creativity. By solving different puzzles and demonstrating skills such as perseverance, players can unlock more features in the game – opening up more opportunities to explore and create. They can decorate the tree house that serves as the home base in the app as they collect new objects during their adventures.
For those parents and educators concerned about too much screen time, Cat in the Hat Builds That also gives suggestions for STEM activities that can be done at home with parental supervision. In addition, there is a section for “Grownups” within the app that summarizes the games included, and the STEM concepts being taught within each one.
Although children could certainly play this game independently, I would recommend some parental involvement in order to maximize the learning. Recognizing and verbalizing the vocabulary and concepts will help students to develop habits of thinking that they can apply outside of the game for a long time to come.
The TX Youth Code Jam is a virtual hackathon, and open to submissions from any student in the United States in grades K-12. Entries are due on April 24, 2020. Coding is not required for the projects, but any students who are registered can learn more about coding and other topics in the scheduled online workshops.(My wonderful friend, Michelle Amey, is presenting a workshop for parents to encourage creative thinking, and her son is doing an Advanced Scratch Workshop.) It is free to enter the Code Jam, and creativity is highly encouraged. The requirement for each submission is that it must be something the student (or team of students) created to solve a problem. You can view the challenges here.
The Code Jam is offering lots of cool prizes, but the hope is that children will have fun designing, problem solving, and learning as they participate. As our current quarantine situation has made us painfully aware, people who are solely consumers in our society find themselves to be far too dependent on others to provide sustenance and entertainment. If your child needs some inspiration, go to the Resources page of TX Youth Code Jam, and scroll down to the section, “Kids like you innovating during the pandemic.” It’s great to see what young people can do!
I’ve noticed that a popular activity during our COVID-19 pandemic right now is scavenger hunts. My favorite scavenger hunt app is Goosechase, which I wrote about in January of this year. Although I don’t currently have students, I immediately thought of this app when pondering how I would engage my students during online learning. I considered making a GooseChase for other teachers and families to use, but a few others have beat me to the punch – and done much better jobs than I would have done.
First of all, Goosechase itself has begun a “Community Cup 2020” that is open to all to participate. It runs from now until April 3rd, with new missions being added each day. (Apparently the first day included a mission for people to do their best Batman impression, and the video compilation of select submissions is super cute.) The page describing the contest also includes a how-to video in case you are new to Goosechase. Since this is an app that asks for photos and videos of people doing (usually) silly things, please be conscious of privacy issues, especially for minors.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta have also created their own special pandemic-inspired Goosechase. They tweeted that they have one called, “Quarantine Can’t Keep Us Down,” which ends tomorrow, March 26th. You can download the app and do a search for that game title to participate. It has so many missions that I couldn’t count them, and it would definitely be a fun activity for the whole family. According to @BGCMA_Clubs on Twitter, this is just the first of an educational series of scavenger hunts, so follow them on Twitter if you are interested in participating in future hunts.
The link to Barb’s Instructables post gives great directions on how you can use Scratch, pressure switches, and a Makey Makey to create an interactive display of book choices for students.
There are many potential students-centered uses for this idea, such as using student-created book blurbs or designing containers for the pressure switches and wires. Scratch has made it extremely easy in the last couple of years to program for use with Makey Makey, and Barb has a link to a video to help you out in her Instructables post.
While writing yesterday’s “Game of Phones” post, I started searching my archives and I was surprised to see that I hadn’t mentioned Goosechase Edu. So, let’s rectify that today.
Goosechase is a scavenger hunt app available on the App Store and on Google Play. Players need to download the free app. (If you are using district devices, be sure to verify ahead of time that the app has been approved for use.) Organizers need to create an account online. There is a special, educational version of Goosechase available that has different pricing tiers, so be sure to visit the Edu site rather than the one designed for corporate use.
The pricing can be a bit confusing when you are new to using Goosechase Edu. Suffice it to say that, as a classroom teacher, I found the free plan to work well for my class. This plan allows you to have 5 teams compete against each other during a game. This is in contrast to the next tier, which allows for 10 teams or 40 individuals to play at a time. You only need one device per team, although you can use more – allowing team members to separate to complete different missions.
When the organizer sets up a Goosechase game, he/she adds missions to the hunt. Each mission can be awarded points when completed, and the organizer can determine which missions are weighted more than others. An example of a mission would be the following, which I used in my Principles of Arts class when we were learning about different camera angles:
The organizer can make up missions, or use missions that have already been posted in the Goosechase Mission Bank. In fact, you can even browse the library of public Goosechases, and choose to copy an entire hunt for your own use. Each mission requires that a photo and/or video be submitted in order to complete it.
Like many online student interactives available these days, Goosechase creates a code, which participants will use to join the hunt. Teachers can determine the amount of time for the hunt, and even when missions or automatic messages will appear for participants. (When students first launch Goosechase, remind them to allow for notifications so you can get in touch with them during the hunt.)
I like to mix missions that require some, most, or all of the group to be in the pictures or videos as well as some images that are of things around campus. This way, the group has some accountability for staying together and on school property. I also go over behavior expectations before they leave the room, stressing that teams must: stay together, not disrupt any other classes going on, stay safe when taking pictures, and return on time. As students are off on the hunt, the organizer can pull up an activity feed to see the missions as they are being completed. I walk around the halls as I monitor the feed to help discourage any temptations for mischief.
With notifications enabled, you can send out a reminder to the teams when time is wrapping up. Give yourself some time to do a debrief at the end, when the class can look at the team submissions and decide as a group how to assess them before declaring the final winners. One of my favorite features of the game is that you can actually download all of the submissions to save for the future end-of-the-year slideshows or other reminders of silly learning experiences in class.
There are plenty of Goosechase games in the library related to core curriculum that you can use. Another great way to use Goosechase is in a unit on Growth Mindset. I worked with my 8th graders on this a lot last year. We talked about taking risks and solving problems, and then I sent them off to complete the following set of missions:
Here is what I like about Goosechase: students can get out of their seats, students can be creative, students can choose the missions they want to do, we can laugh together as we learn, we are making tangible memories, and even the students who are the least engaged will participate.
If you teach in a secondary classroom where phones are ubiquitous, this might be the resource for you. Amanda Sandoval (@historysandoval) recently tweeted out “Game of Phones“, an assignment created in Google Slides that she designed to help her students demonstrate their understanding of the causes of The Great Depression. You can see some of the submissions from her students on her Twitter feed under the tag #gameofphones. Of course, your class may not be studying The Great Depression, or you may just want to tweak some of the slides. In that case, you can always make a copy to suit your own classroom needs.
And here’s another amazing (and timely) resource from Amanda – a Hyperdoc on Impeachment. Be sure to follow Amanda on Twitter and/or visit her website for more digital wizardry to use in your classroom.
Stay tuned tomorrow for my post on Goosechase Edu, another way to capitalize on the power of phones and/or tablets during your lesson.