National Geographic is currently offering a series of livestreams called, “Explorer Classroom.” These are currently available on YouTube at 2 PM Eastern Time. You can easily join in viewing by just clicking the “Watch” link under the featured presenters at the appropriate time. (Choose the calendar icon for the full list of scheduled programs.) For those of you planning ahead of time, you can register for the program with a chance for your children and/or students to get one of the few on-camera spots. The “Family Guide” that you will find after each program description gives excellent suggestions for activities and research that can be done before the livestream in order to get the most out of your experience. From discovering new species of frogs to learning what we can do to protect sharks, children will certainly find at least one, if not all, of these topics to be of interest.
Radiolab for Kids – Tic Tac Toe
One of the many podcasts that I listen to is Radiolab, a program that makes science easy to understand for non-scientists. I was happy to find out from one of their Tweets that there is now a “Radiolab for Kids” site, where they have collected programs from their archives that would appeal especially to children. One of the many episodes is, “Mapping Tic Tac Toedom,” which I’ve embedded below. In this broadcast, the hosts try to figure out who in the world knows how to play Tic-Tac-Toe – a game that seems ubiquitous to Americans, but do people in other countries play it?
If your child listens to the podcast, and is interested in learning more about Tic-Tac-Toe, I recommend the Wikipedia entry on “Tic-Tac-Toe Variants,” which offers suggestions for different versions such as “Revenge in a Row” and “Random Turn Tic-Tac-Toe.”
My students enjoyed playing Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, and you can find directions for that here: “Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe” (as explained by “Math with Bad Drawings”)
They also really liked the video, Tic-Tac-Toe Game That Goes Horribly Wrong, which I would use whenever we were about to do a unit on inventing games so they could see what happens when people just assume you know the rules to a game.
Other great listens on Radiolab for Kids? Try learning about animal minds, super cool science, or zombie cockroaches among other things. Chances are, even the adults will learn something new!
I briefly mentioned Foldscope way back in 2017 after our Stanford tour guide pulled the amazing paper microscope out of her pocket to demonstrate the type of innovation you can find at Stanford. I always meant to do a separate post on this tool, but life got in the way and suddenly I am here, three years later, finally getting around to it.
Foldscope is an inexpensive, portable, durable microscope that you can carry around with you pretty much anywhere. It was invented at Stanford, and you can watch Manu Prakash speak about the evolution of this idea in the video below. (Linked here in case the embedded video doesn’t work.) Of particular note during our current coronavirus fears is the portion at 5:23 where a student declares how the Foldscope highlights how important it is to wash your hands to avoid dangerous diseases.
You can also view a TED talk with Prakash from 2014 here.
For $35, you can purchase 20 Foldscopes for your class to make, which is a steal, in my opinion. Imagine sending every student in your class home with one of these tools! Since I know how purchasing can be in some districts, I wanted to point out this link to their distributors in the hopes that you will find one who is on your approved vendor list.
And don’t forget to visit the Foldscope Community to see some of the awesome microscopic images that have been shared from around the world!
Engineering Design Process Lessons from Design Squad
I’ve been combing the internet for projects to do with my engineering students (grades 8-10), and ran across these lessons from Design Squad. They don’t quite fit my curriculum, but I thought I would share them since I know a lot of my colleagues are working on incorporating STEAM into the curriculum. If you look on the left side of the page, you will see other lessons and activities that you may be able to use in areas that range from electricity to structures.
I have included Design Squad in posts since 2013, but I don’t think I have mentioned this particular page before. Even if I have, it bears repeating! This site offers a lot of creative challenges and videos that are great for any STEAM classroom. And it’s not just for elementary students. I used one of their videos today with my secondary students on isometric drawing, and it was the perfect introduction to a brand new topic for them. After you browse the site, click here to visit their YouTube channel, chock full of videos on all sorts of design topics.
OK Go Sandbox
If you have ever seen a music video by “OK Go,” then you cannot fail to be in awe of the band’s incredible creativity. In every production, you can tell that they spent a lot of time on brainstorming, working hard, and having fun. Even more notable, though, is how much math and science must be used to create these complex feats of artistic expression.
In cooperation with the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas (seriously wish this had been a thing at my university!), OK Go has designed a new website, the OK Go Sandbox, that provides resources for educators to use with students for STEAM activities based on a few of their music videos.
Each of the music videos currently featured on the site has a link to educational materials that include free downloads, challenges for the students, additional videos, and suggested activities. From making flipbooks to experimenting with sounds made by different “found” instruments, this resource explores the astonishing potential of merging science with art. Some of the challenges can be used with the Google Science Journal (a free app available for both Android and iOS).
It looks like this is a dynamic project that is encouraging advice from educators, so be sure to visit this page for more information on how to get involved.
My 3rd grade gifted students decided to study volcanoes for their Genius Hour project this year. (Since I only have 3 of them, they do a project together.) When I was getting ready to print out some Planet Earth sheets for my 1st graders from QuiverVision, I noticed that there were also some volcano ones. These are both part of the free Education Starter Pack, which you can find here.
My students love these augmented reality sheets because they can make their own coloring into 3d images. The QuiverVision app also allows you to take video and pictures. The 3rd graders figured out that they could make the volcano erupt by repeatedly pressing one of the buttons, so they recorded some video of it in action.
While we searched for an online diagram that would help them to realistically color their volcanoes and identify the sections, I ran across another way to create a 3d model that will show the interior and exterior portions of a cone volcano. Mt. Fuji is one of the free PaperCraft projects available from Canon. You can download the file, print it on cardstock, and follow the instructions to make your own mini Fuji. There are some other interesting science papercrafts on there as well. My students haven’t tried the volcano one, yet, but are eager to attempt in next week’s class.
My next idea is to possibly incorporate the QuiverVision video into the DoInk Green Screen app so we can put the students in there narrating what is happening as the volcano erupts. Talk about being on the scene!