Vacation Vibes!

With most schools out, and many states opened up after a year of pandemic lockdown, I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures on social media of people enjoying vacations, especially outdoors. We were fortunate enough to visit Colorado in early May and spent some time in The Garden of the Gods and Rocky Mountain National Park. After that break, I wrote about our fabulous visit to part makerspace/part game store, PlayForge, in Littleton, Colorado. While we were there, we purchased a couple of things, and one of them was National Parks Scrabble. My daughter and I are Scrabble fiends, and we were curious to see how this could converge with our adoration of National Parks. I did not expect how much we would enjoy the game! It includes cards that name different national parks (many that I had never heard of!) and a little bit about each one. The fun part is that you can use the cards to do previously prohibited actions in Scrabble, such as spell a word backwards or make any tile on your rack into a blank. It really makes the game far less predictable, and way more fun. If you are anywhere near Littleton, Colorado, head over to PlayForge and get this game. (Also, check out their Maker Camps!) If you are not near PlayForge, find an independent store near you to see if they carry it. As a last resort, you can get it online, but do your best to support an indie store if you can.

Think you know something about the United States National Parks? Try this quiz to see how much you really know!

While we’re talking about vacations, remember the Virtual Vacation website I mentioned back in March? I focused on the City Guesser game (btw, Esther Park has a free template you can use for this game — go to this link and look for the “Travel Around the World” template), but there are several other virtual vacation activities on there, including VidEarth, where you can click on a blue dot anywhere in the world and watch a video that was uploaded, and my personal favorite, Virtual Window, where you can get a “window” view of places.

For some ways to enjoy the great outdoors while learning, scroll down a bit on this page for the 4-Week Summer Camp Guide from Nature Lab. It includes hands-on activities for families. While you’re outside, encourage children to take amazing nature photos with these tips from National Geographic. Or, adapt some of these ideas from their Planet Possible Challenge.

No matter what you decide to do during vacation, don’t forget this wonderful message from Kid President way back in 2015!

Rocky Mountain National Park, May, 2021

Reimagine, Recreate, Restore

The beautiful poem, “Reimagine, Recreate, Restore” was written and performed by Jordan Sanchez for World Environment Day this month. You can’t help but feel inspired to get up each day and do something positive to preserve our beautiful world. I will be adding this to my poetry Wakelet, which also includes this blog post on Spoken Word poetry. To learn more about Jordan Sanchez, visit her website where you can also find other examples of her incredible work.

Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay
camping tent on grass lawn

Camp WeWow

I recently authored an article for NEO about using podcasts in the classroom, but that certainly isn’t the only place educational podcasts can be enjoyed. One podcast for kids and adults to listen to together, Wow in the World, is embarking on a special summer edition beginning next week. On June 14th, the podcast will begin streaming daily through the end of July. Each week will have a theme and the episodes will encourage interactivity with STEM projects and “bonkerball antics galore!” Click here to find out more about Camp WeWow, and mark your calendars for this summer (or winter – depending on which part of the world you live in!) activity the entire family can enjoy.

family of four walking at the street
Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

Spintronics

Way back in 2017, I blogged about a new project I had backed on Kickstarter called Turing Tumble. The game is a mechanical version of a computer, and includes a book with stories and challenges that slowly scaffold the working parts of computers. My students and I liked it so much that I reviewed it on the blog and recommended for my Gifts for the Gifted list in 2018.

Paul Boswell, inventor of Turing Tumble, has a new venture on Kickstarter. The project is called Spintronics, and it is designed to help children (and adults) to learn how electronics work by building mechanical circuits. Like Turing Tumble, Spintronics includes a book of stories and challenges. Without having to risk hot soldering irons or engage in complicated mathematical equations, students can learn the basics and vocabulary of electronics as they build, experiment, and play.

I literally received the e-mail announcing the beginning of the Kickstarter today, and Spintronics is already fully funded – more than 5 times over! So, the good news is that you should be able to receive a kit if you back it. The downside is that you will need to wait until January, 2022, to start playing the game. However, as I learned with Turing Tumble, it is sure to be worth the wait!

photo of young girls looking through microscope

Skype a Scientist

With Earth Day just around the corner (April 22, 2021), one idea you may want to consider is to “Skype a Scientist.” Using this website, you can browse through a list of hundreds of scientists, or search for them based on keywords such as their specialties. Once you find one you would like your class to converse with, follow the instructions for getting in touch with the scientist through the organization so you can arrange your meeting. (Though I haven’t used the site, I am guessing you can use the video conference tool of your choice, and are not limited to Skype.) Another way to use this resource is to take a look at scheduled events hosted by scientists, and register for free through EventBrite.

person holding container with seaweed
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels.com

To connect with more scientists for Earth Day, register for NASA’s free virtual Earth Day Event. (Of course, NASA is on my mind after yesterday’s review of Astronauts Zoom!) For even more ideas on how to spend Earth Day – and the days leading up to it – be sure to check out my brand new Wakelet of resources curated just for the occasion.

positive diverse children in astronaut costumes in studio

Astronauts Zoom!

I’m excited to announce a new nonfiction book by Deborah Lee Rose, author of Scientists Get Dressed and co-author of Beauty and the Beak. The latter will always be near and dear to my heart because Rose first contacted me when she saw the connection between the story of Beauty, an eagle who received a 3d-printed prosthetic beak, and articles I had posted about my students’ adventures with 3d printing back in 2016. With her new book, Astronauts Zoom!, Deborah Lee Rose continues along her path of providing first class STEM materials for young children.

Persnickety Press/WunderMill Books is publishing ASTRONAUTS ZOOM! in celebration of 20 years of astronauts living and working on the International Space Station (ISS). This “Astronaut Alphabet” features high-quality photographs of male and female astronauts from several countries so that children of any gender and race can see someone reflective of them representing this incredible career. One unique aspect of these pictures, as Rose pointed out to me, is that “you can rotate the book fully, and the photos taken in space will still be correct because there is no true “upside down.”

public domain photo from NASA

With age-appropriate – yet challenging – vocabulary as well as inclusion of both the technical and entertaining aspects of spending time in microgravity, Astronauts Zoom! will be an excellent addition to any classroom library or child’s reading collection. Though it is a picture book, there are many levels to approach it from, so re-reading it is definitely a pleasure.

There are informational pages in the book that expand on the simple sentences used for each letter, list the vocabulary, give additional facts, and name the astronauts who are pictured along with their countries of origin. In addition, you can download this free Educational Guide to accompany the book:

In the past couple of years, we have watched the first all-female spacewalk and the first African American astronaut to spend an extended period (longer than a few weeks) in space. On April 9, 2021, the station is scheduled to have 10 people aboard as crews rotate in and out. With all of these historical events, as well as excitement over Perseverance and its implications for humans to make trips to Mars in the future, Astronauts Zoom! is the perfect book to share with students to garner enthusiasm for STEM and reaching for the stars.

Click here for more information!