A few years ago, I wrote a post about a site called, “Puzzle Your Kids.” Hosted by the author of the Puzzling World of Winston Breen series, Eric Berlin (@puzzlereric), “Puzzle Your Kids” provided a free puzzle each week, as well as a $5 monthly subscription for more puzzles. It looks like there have been a few changes, and the site has a new name and new home, along with a new price. It is now called, “Puzzlesnacks.” You can still get a subscription, but it is at the bargain price of $3 per month. Weekly puzzles continue to be free downloads, and there are other puzzle packs you can purchase in the online shop.This page describes the approximate independence level of puzzle solvers, from the age of 8 and up. I highly recommend adults working on these with children, as that type of modeling from my own parents is how I grew up to love logic and problem solving as well as develop a certain amount of perseverance. In fact, my dad and I still semi-compete in solving a weekly mega-Sudoku puzzle that keeps my skills sharpened and my ego humble.
And no, I’m not exactly sure what language the crossword puzzle in the image below is (Greek, maybe?), but I thank the person on Pixabay who shared it.
“Old people shouldn’t be forced to learn chess, but if they want to learn chess surely they can! They’re allowed to,” a young girl assures the interviewer in The Magic of Chess.
“Even though they could be doing something else – like playing Legos,” the young boy next to her adds.
This adorable short film featured on Vimeo will inspire any young student (and maybe some old people) to try the game of chess. The filmmaker, Jenny Schweitzer Bell, captured the many positive aspects of playing chess by interviewing boys and girls at the 2019 Elementary Chess Championship. The children tout the problem solving skills they have learned, and growth mindset is a constant theme. Their passion for the game is truly inspiring!
I asked a couple of people on Twitter if I could share their projects today. I have been fascinated watching them post pictures of their 3d printed lithophanes. In the past, lithophanes were traditionally etched in thin, translucent porcelain that revealed the artwork when backlit. 3d printing technology, however, allows for lithophanes to be created using filament with very similar results.
Julia Dweck (@GiftedTawk) has been working on 3d printing lithophanes with her students to showcase their individuality. As you can see in the first picture below, the lithophanes are not truly visible without light. The second photo displays her amazing student photos once the lamp has been turned on. Follow Julia if you aren’t already – she is always doing incredibly creative projects!
Rob Morrill (@morill_rob) has also been working with lithophanes. His designs are in honor of Black History Month. You can see his Rosa Parks example below. I also suggest you take a look at his Nina Simone and Shirley Chisholm lithophanes available on Thingiverse.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was arrested in 1955 for refusing to yield her bus seat to a white passenger. Her subsequent arrest sparked the successful year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott. 3rd in series of 3d printed lithophanes honoring women in Black History Month. @tinkercad Codeblocks pic.twitter.com/xaw0U4ERvd
Rob has provided step-by-step instructions for creating lithophanes with Tinkercad here.
Most of the lithophane DYI articles, including Rob’s, recommend using this free online lithophane generator to make your photos into an .stl file. Once you have this file, you can use any slicing program, such as Cura, to prepare the file for 3d printing. This Sparkfun article has basic instructions. For more complex “tweaks” that you may want to make in your preferred slicing program, such as setting the layer height and infill, this Instructable may help you out. Most of the sources I looked at recommend using white PLA filament. Other colors may work, but the translucency will not be as consistent.
Let me know if you’ve done a lithophane project! I’d love to see the many applications of these unique form of art.
SlidesMania caught my eye the other day on Twitter when this cute Harry Potter template was shared:
I typically go to Slides Carnival or Canva when I am looking for a new presentation theme for Google Slides, but I’m excited to find another resource.
Paula, the woman behind the SlidesMania site, likes to design slide templates as a hobby. Fortunately, she is kind enough to share her projects online. Just like the Slides Carnival presentations, the ones on SlidesMania can also be downloaded for Google Slides or Powerpoint.
The next time you need a great theme for a slide show, you should definitely check out SlidesMania!
One of the many things I didn’t know anything about when I first started teaching at Advanced Learning Academy was working with textiles. My skills were limited to hand-sewing buttons. Even though my in-laws had given me a sewing machine a decade ago, I still didn’t know how to thread it or why in the world I needed a bobbin.
I had seen the Turtlestitch Kickstarter page, and was intrigued by the idea of using coding to design for textiles, specifically for embroidery machines. My colleague and I decided to order a combo sewing/embroidery machine (Brother SE600) for Zorro Astuto, and it arrived about a month before I retired. I took it home for the Thanksgiving Break to try it out and, with the help of a lot of YouTube videos, figured out how to use the machine. Although I was by no means an expert, I begged my family to buy me one for Christmas. I knew I would suffer from fabrication withdrawal once I was no longer teaching in Zorro Astuto, and the Brother SE600 seemed far more practical than adding a 3d printer or laser cutter to my personal collection – though I’m certainly not ruling those out for the future 😉
I’ve made a lot of mistakes with this machine, which makes sense since I knew zero about it when I started. For example, I didn’t know that you need to put a stabilizer behind your fabric (sometimes even on top of it, depending on the fabric), and that there are many, many different types of stabilizers. The type of fabric, or other medium, and the types of stitches will determine your stabilizer and needle types. This blog post was really helpful. I have also learned quite a bit about how to service my machine as pieces of thread and fabric have gotten caught inside when I didn’t stabilize correctly or a needle broke.
You can download embroidery designs, but most of them will cost you money. Finding just the right software for creating your own designs can be overwhelming. That’s why Turtlestitch is such a genius idea. Using block coding, you can create your own design and export it to a USB – for free.
To start, I decided to choose from one of the many free designs already available on the Turtlestitch site. The project is called, “Twisty.” Because I wanted my design to be in different colors, I decided to remix the original by randomizing the RGB colors. Each time I run the code, the colors will come out different. However, once I like the colors, I can export the file as a .dst, and those colors will be the set used for the embroidery file. The machine lists each corresponding Brother Thread color number as it is needed, and I was fortunate in this case, as almost every single thread color was part of my original package of threads.
My machine will stop for each color change, which turned out to be a bit demanding on this project, but I’m thankful for the automatic needle threader!
I love using coding with math, and there are lots of possibilities here. There are a few fractals projects already on the site, as well as tessellations. If you follow the @turtlestitch Twitter account, you will see examples of student projects, including jewelry (my next personal challenge).
I have posted before about The New York Times Learning Network, which offers wonderful free educational materials for students over the age of 13. For the first time this year, the NYT is sponsoring a STEM Writing Contest for this age group. Students are asked to submit a 500 word piece of informational writing about a STEM topic which interests them. Submissions are due on March 3, 2020 with the prize of contest winners being published in the New York Times. To access the supporting materials, learn more about the contest, and get a link to their year-long writing curriculum, click here.
Sometimes I notice recurrent themes in my Twitter feed and start bookmarking them. This morning, I saw a few tweets related to using board games for learning, and thought I would share them with you. The first one is from Maria Copete (@copeteworld), who uses Monopoly to teach her students about American Capitalism. Just in case you are unable to view the tweet I’ve embedded below, she shared a great Google Slide show to go along with the lesson here.
For those of you who want to encourage families to spend more time playing games together, I like this idea from Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd), where he mentions that his school partnered with a toy store to donate games to be played that evening, and sold them at the event.
Whether focused on specific topics, such as economic systems, or to develop skills such as strategic thinking and problem solving, board games can serve as opportunities for engaging students and bringing communities together.