3 Sites That Get Kids Into STEM Learning

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is aimed to get kids excited and prepared to pursue one of these fields after high school and in college.

This great site lists over 200 resources to encourage kids grades K-12 to explore and develop an interest in STEM topics and hopefully careers. Some of the sources offer information about great summer camp opportunities, contests, and even scholarships. Some of the best information you can use today are:

1. This is a great site that can be used for any child K-12 who wants to learn the basics of coding and even expand on it and make their own app. This site is super user-friendly and has a ton of fun content. In addition, jt will really get any child hooking into coding and through creating visual stories and games.

2. This is a great site for any kid to use and get better with core math and literacy skills. As well, this site has many levels from beginner to advanced that has a gamification approach to learning necessary terms and solving problems.

3. Lastly, if you want a site that has more hands-on ideas and new science experiments to make. This one is chock full of great ideas. Furthermore, you can use their search tool to find something out of their 1100+ database of ideas and projects.

Go have fun exploring some of these great resources! Getting kids to enjoy and appreciate the fun that comes delving into these fields is the whole point of STEM  and can spark a lifelong interest in a topic they didn’t realize was so interesting.

How Does Candy Crush Work? 4 Ways to Explain Coding to Kids.

Now that the seasons are changing and kids everywhere are coming back inside, they will likely gravitate towards computer and video games. Whether you think this is a good thing or not, it happens anyways. In order to arm our kids with an understanding of how these games were built or how they work, it is important, then, to talk to them about coding:

Code is the language of the future.

Give your child a coding head start, inspire creativity, and have fun together all at the same time! There are so many coding resources available. Here are four ways to get your kids excited about coding.

1. Talk to Them About Creativity

As with anything involving kids, the first step is communication. Introduce coding vocabulary into your day to day conversation and equate it to any creative pursuit. How does a drawing become an animated movie? What’s the difference between their toy robot and the NASA Rover? How does Candy Crush work? Coding is a way to bring things to life and we see it all around us every day.

2. There’s an App for That

Hopscotch is an award winning Apple app that teaches the basic of coding to kids aged 9-11. It’s fun and super creative. Apple is set to launch a new platform called Swift Playground later this year. It’s played with an iPad and teaches serious code in a seriously fun way! These are just two of the many app options out there.

3. Keep it Social

Kids coding camps, workshops, events, and classes are popping up all over the place. Look for (usually free) activities with your local libraries, clubs, schools, and colleges. Even Apple has started hosting Coding Camps in their retail stores.

4. Build a Website Together

Are your kids passionate about cooking or dinosaurs, playing soccer or a particular TV show? Build a simple website together using a free platform like WIX, Weebly, or Squarespace that celebrates that passion. Post music, book, or movie reviews, scan and upload drawings, make gifs on simple sites like Imgur. As the website grows so will the need to research ways to accomplish her vision. This is also a great time to discuss privacy and rules about what to post on the internet.

We hope these ideas have inspired you to take advantage of all the amazing kids’ coding resources out there. Now get out there and code!

3 tips to get your kids learning in the kitchen.

I think we can all agree that STEM education is very important for the success of future generations. However, it’s hard to always find ways to give kids hands-on STEM experiences in order to help them apply their lessons to the real world. Enter: the kitchen.

If you are looking for some ideas for creative parenting that will help introduce your young child to the real-world application of their STEM skills (and get dinner on the table faster!), you need only to step into your kitchen.

The kitchen is a great place to give children the opportunity to explore science and math in a fun, exciting way.

Technology can be used in the searching for recipes, and opportunities for discussing engineering can happen every time you pull out a new appliance in the kitchen.

Here are 3 ways you can expand upon your child’s education in the kitchen:

  1. Measuring:

    From finding the correct measuring cup to weighing items on a food scale, there are so many opportunities to get measuring done in a kitchen. To grow this skill further, have older children convert measurements or double a recipe.

  2. Stirring:

    Stirring ingredients together and watching what happens is like a big science experiment.

    This is especially true if you are cooking from a recipe you have never used or if you are creating a new recipe of your own. Try adding ingredients one at a time to see what they do to the mixture individually. Try melting the butter before adding it. Does that do anything different? Encourage your child to experiment and make new discoveries!

  3. Chemistry:

    All cooking involves chemistry. While your soup is simmering or your cake is baking, discuss the ingredients you put in and throw around ideas to get kids talking about what they believe will happen based on their knowledge of the ingredients. Discuss the chemical reactions between certain ingredients in order to help your child come to their own conclusions.

    Of course, the kitchen is just one of the places you can help your child apply STEM education in their daily lives. By keeping them engaged and excited about learning, you can help improve the lives of the next generation of cooks!

5 ways to bring STEM to family game night.

Ah, game night. Setting aside some time one night a week (or month, or year – whatever works) to play games with the family. Putting the phones down, computers away and having some face-to-face interaction. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t involve STEM somehow, does it?

Bringing game night into the 21st century, without involving an app or a screen of some sort is a challenge all on it’s own.

If you don’t already know, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) is a hands on learning approach to these concepts that essentially used to just be called science or math class.

So here are some ideas on how to bring STEM concepts into your game night; low on screen-time, high on good-times.

  1. Make a boat.

    The only requirements are that it actually needs to float for a reasonable amount of time and that it has to be made from things you can find around the house. The best part of this game is the big bathtub test, of course! (main STEM concepts: Engineering and Art)

  2. Survivor! 

    Challenge your family to cooperate to make a structure you can all fit inside using only newspapers and masking tape (or whatever other miscellaneous materials you have lying around). Pretend you need it to survive. Make it even more challenging (for them, maybe not for you, ha!) by doing it without talking. Complete instructions can be found here(main STEM concepts: Engineering and Science)

  3. Invent your own game

    Create a whole new game or make up new rules for an existing game. This can be a board game, a card game or an active outdoor game. Some ideas for games and supplies you might need to make new games can be found here. (main STEM concepts: depends on what you choose, but either way you’re using your Imagination, so bonus *I!)

  4. Put a twist on games you already have.

    Play Candyland backwards. Or monopoly. Or Snakes and Ladders. Just start at the end and go to the beginning. Once you start doing this, you will be amazed at what kids can make up themselves. It also gets them thinking outside the box. (main STEM concepts: Math)

  5. Obstacle Course: 

    Create an outdoor obstacle course using pool noodles! They are wonderful to make all kinds of outdoor games. They can be cut and shaped and secured with tape to make all kinds of things. Your family will invent things, get exercise, and have a lot of laughs. Here are some more ideas for that. (main STEM concepts: Technology, Math and Art)

Game night is on!

The true meaning of STEAM: how I helped students dance their way through math

A note from Sarah

Our community is growing! Since I first started writing this blog , I have been working hard to bring together a group of passionate teachers, parents, educators and professionals to provide you, our readers, with quality content that informs, insights and excites. This is the first post from one of our new MakerBloksBlog Contributors, Sarisa who will talk about her definition of the true meaning of STEAM. You can read more about her in her bio (below), and get to know her in her many more posts to come. Welcome, Sarisa!

Teaching dance patterns

As a dance teacher for the past 24 years, I have taught so many different styles to various age groups, from professionals to toddlers, and in several different settings from school gymnasiums to classy dance studios.

One of my favourite teaching memories is of teaching a jazz class at a downtown elementary school. This particular class had some special needs students join in for the final portion of the class, which was when I was introducing a dance called the Jitterbug Stroll.  I taught the dance as I always do, teaching the rhythm orally at first, using a call and response method to rehearse the patterns before doing any physical steps.

I got to the end of the class, having taught the whole dance and dismissed the students, promising to review the dance next lesson. I had started packing up my things when one of the teacher aids that had come in with the special needs students tapped me on the shoulder. She had brought one of her students with Autism to the class who, she explained with tears in her eyes, wanted to show me the entire dance I had just taught.

A flawless performance

The student proceeded to flawlessly perform the entire Jitterbug Stroll, proudly doing the steps and saying the rhythm of the patterns at the same time. I was amazed at how much he had picked up so quickly and his aid was baffled because he was a challenging student in many ways but somehow this dance clicked for him. Most importantly for me though, was to see how proud he was, almost triumphant in his mastery of the dance.

This was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences of my life so far, it was one of those gems in the journey of a teacher that make you feel like you have actually made a difference in someone’s life.

The true meaning of STEAM

Fast- forward at least 15 years and now, while still a dance teacher, I am also a B.Ed. student and a mother of two. As I study STEAM concepts at university and also see my children notice patterns around them, I keep seeing the correlations and possibilities of combining math concepts and dance. I often think back fondly to my experience teaching this boy, whose aid later told me about his affinity for math, and,

I’m convinced that the Jitterbug Stroll worked for him because of its repeating patterns in multiples of 12- count phrases, and the oral call and response technique that itself highlights the repeating patterns.

I’m convinced that dance may be the way to individualize math lessons for some learners. The same way that math helped this boy learn this dance, I know dance can help other students, especially kinaesthetic learners with math.

Why not get our kids and students dancing, enjoying music, activity and math all at once? Isn’t it a step towards the true meaning of STEAM?

How to help your kids embrace their inner wiring.

What do you want to be when you grow up? We’ve all witnessed reactions from kids as they face that question over and over again. Some shrug shyly as they say they don’t know, others confidently declare that they will be a firefighter or a princess. [Personally, I had an ongoing rolodex that included owner of my own comedy club, architect and ninja turtle]. It’s an innocent question, one that has all the best intentions, but it can also be harmful for kids.

Here’s why.

As Emily Wapnick describes in her extremely popular TEDTalk, “This question inspires kids to dream about what they could be, it doesn’t inspire them to dream about all they could be.” In other words, why do we ask kids to choose? Why do they have to be just one thing. Not everyone is wired like that.

Rather than helping our kids narrow down their search, how can we encourage them to explore anything and everything that interests them? Wapnick identifies this as fostering “multipotentialites”, those who are interested in many different, seemingly unconnected things.

Perspective is more important than IQ

By encouraging innovation and originality through diversity of interests, we are helping our kids create the world they want to live in tomorrow. As Nicholas Negroponte of MIT has said: “many engineering deadlocks have been broken by people who are not engineers at all. This is because perspective is more important than IQ. The ability to make big leaps of thought is a common denominator among the originators of breakthrough ideas. Usually this ability resides in people with very wide backgrounds, multidisciplinary minds, and a broad spectrum of experiences.”

Will all kids who play with toys like MakerBloks become engineers? No, and that’s a good thing! We want all kids to be innovative thinkers, and to feel free to combine their creative instincts with the new concepts they are learning.

So next time your kid (inevitably) gets asked that question, and he or she says that they want to be a robot and a vet, or a painter and a truck driver, nod your head, smile, and see what happens next.

From STEM to STEAM

The Passion and History of STEM to STEAM

The STEM movement has roots that date back to the 1990’s. That’s when the National Science Foundation officially fused together the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math to create the now popular acronym S-T-E-M.

Yet some may say that the real roots of STEM go back further, to the 1950’s and 1960’s when our nation was engrossed in the Space Race. Before there was an acronym, we were fueled by the endless desire to innovate and surpass neighboring nations. Embodying the STEM spirit, our country dedicated itself to scientific education, technological advancement and space exploration.

Today the movement has a more tangible catalyst. Current and future jobs require STEM skills, but the pipeline of qualified workers is limited. We must rekindle the appetite for innovation in our youth.

K-12 schools have always taught math and science, right? Yes, but STEM education programs push the envelope on traditional curriculums.

Rather than sitting through lectures, students work collaboratively and dynamically on real-world problems and projects while leveraging technological tools. Strong STEM schools and teachers help students to learn by doing, rather than focusing on fact memorization. This approach better prepares youth for in-demand jobs and lets them get down and dirty with practical applications.

STEM to STEAM

Championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the STEM movement has evolved to STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math. The school teaches that in order to truly inspire the next generation, we must place art and design at the center of STEM education, connecting it with science and technology.

When the creative and limitless mind of an artist is married with the analytical and actionable brain of a scientist or technologist, that is when we achieve monumental advancements.

Tech alone doesn’t help us problem-solve, the secret sauce is creative thinking paired with technical know-how. We must universally weave art education into curriculums in order to effectively teach the coveted skills of flexible thinking, risk-taking and creative problem solving.

This doesn’t mean blown-out art classes, but rather science classes that incorporate the arts. This could be the creation of unique models and sculptures to more expressively teach a concept, or perhaps courses that encourage play, conceptualization and engagement of the senses.

When I think about STEAM, MythBusters comes to mind. The show’s host Adam Savage is the epitome of STEAM. His career is rich with art and design and science.

Starting as an actor, Savage progressed to fields such as graphic design, animation and film special effects. Pairing extreme creativity and deep technical understanding, he is able to effectively teach and inflict his passions and knowledge onto others. I believe he could be described as the walking vision of STEAM — teaching science, tech and math in ways that make them intoxicating, endlessly interesting, inspiring and forever open to possibility.

So, the critical mission tasked to us all, is that we embrace the STEAM mentality in order to help our kids learn while they play. With no perceived barriers between the worlds of art and science, they can become the influential makers of tomorrow.

With the heart of a maker, Bethany Cramer describes herself as ‘forever curious’ and is always looking for new ways to engage with art and technology. She is a marketer by profession and an advocate for youth’s early access to technical education. You can find her at @heybethanyrae on both Twitter and Instagram.