The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes– From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

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The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

 

Any time that parents and teachers can bring learning to life–really make it hands on and real–I think they should totally go for it.

And though years ago, the only way for students to step outside the classroom required an old yellow school bus, permission slips, and countless hours planning and organizing, things today are quite different.

Virtual field trips can happen with the click of a button.

Seriously? SO. Cool.

And this month, thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere, students can take a virtual field trip to learn how nature and water work with people.

April 8th. 12pm ET. (But if you missed it, NO WORRIES! The video is embedded below!)

You’re invited! You’re all invited.

Here’s the skinny. . .

The Nature Conservancy Virtual Field Trip and Learning Resources: Wild Biomes– From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert

For real.

Mark your calendars, share this post with your child’s teacher.

Forward this link to your school’s administration so that they can share the link with staff.

Wild Biomes–From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert is the latest in a series aimed to build students’ knowledge of and emotional connection to environmental issues that are at the heart of The Nature Conservancy’s mission.

Don’t remember what a ‘biome’ is? Don’t worry. It’s all good. A ‘biome’ is just an area of the planet that can be classified by the plants and animals that live there. Like for this virtual field trip, you’ll be looking at the rainy area of the Olympic Peninsula and the dry, desert landscape of Arizona.

Got it? Good!

Here are the details:

Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

Who:  teachers, students, parents, anyone

What:virtual field trip!  Wild Biomes: From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert   hosted by Tyler DeWitt and featuring Kari Vigerstol, senior hydrologist on The Nature Conservancy’s Global Water team

Two wildly different ecosystems, both dependent on the same precious resource: water.  On this virtual field trip, we’ll first travel to the lush, rain-soaked splendor of the Olympic Peninsula and explore the urban watershed of Seattle.  The abundant rainfall here provides plenty of water, but keeping it clean and safe can be a challenge.  Next, we’ll head to Arizona’s dry, desert landscape and take a tour down the Verde River, one source of water that nourishes this parched land. Here, people and other living things must adapt to a limited water supply, yet sudden and violent storms can dump seven inches of rain in a single night! Tune in for our live Google hangout at 12pm ET on April 8, 2015, to find out how geography, people, and water interact in two of America’s ‘wildly’ unique biomes. (40 minutes)

Why: to show students that nature and water work with people

Where: whatever works for you

When: April 8, 2015 at 12 pm ET

How: sign up to take part in the virtual field trip herehttp://ow.ly/K9hIi

UPDATE: Below is the Wild Biomes Virtual Field Trip. Enjoy!

And more: Check out these supplementary resources to really hit the ball out of the park!

The Nature Conservancy provides tons of resources that bring learning to life.

And we can experience so many cool things thanks to Nature Works Everywhere.

 

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

 

I have been in awe of the work that The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere has been doing to bring learning to life.

In fact, the kids and I did a lot of exploring and watched two whole past field trips this weekend. You can find two of the past Virtual Field Trips here.

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources:

Friends, we are so lucky.

Learning is so much different now, thanks to technology.

Learning is so much more fun now, thanks to technology.

Learning is so much cooler now, thanks to technology.

And thanks to great organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Nature Works Everywhere, we are doubly lucky because they make learning and resources hands-on, accessible, and meaningful.

Check it out!

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and We Are Teachers; as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

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Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

 

For the past two years, we’ve been invited to attend the Future City Competition here in DC.

Last year, only Maddy and I attended (It was the very same day our chicks hatched! Ahhhh, memories–), but this year, the whole family got in on the fun.

Future City is a middle school engineering competition; this year over 40,000 students from around the world competed. It’s really a super-cool event that I love attending with my kids.

And I’d love to see more families encouraging their schools to get involved because it’s easy for students of all backgrounds to participate in and the payoffs are huge.

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

We’re inspiring future engineers! Giving kids a chance to solve real-life engineering problems! Teamwork! Collaboration!

It’s all awesome.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Future City–Middle School Competition Inspires Future Engineers: 

My kids are not yet old enough to actually participate in the Future City Competiton, but that doesn’t matter.

I love bringing them to the event because they get to see first-hand what other kids, just a little bit older than they are, have worked so hard to create.

And they don’t only get to walk around passively; rather, spectators are encouraged to ask the groups questions, to interact with them, and to really learn a bit while there. I love it.

Check out a bit about Future City:

Here are some photos from our Future City adventure. Huge thanks to my three little photographers for taking such great pictures through the day!

 

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

Some Future City fun facts: 

  • More than 40,000 students from 1,350 middle schools are participating nationwide in the regional competitions.
  • Future City, a STEM program, is reaching girls and underserved students
    • 46% of participants are girls;
    • 33% of participating schools have 50% or more of their students enrolled in the reduced or free lunch program.
  • Future City is a program of DiscoverE, a consortium of professional and technical societies and major U.S. corporations.
  • Student teams, led by an educator and volunteer mentor, research and design a solution to a city-wide challenge that changes each year.

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

Each Future City team must do several things:

  1. design a virtual city using the latest SimCity software;
  2. write a 1,000 word essay outlining their solution to the given problem;
  3. create 500-word city narrative describing their city of the future;
  4. design a model of their city to scale with at least one-moving part, using mostly recycled materials and staying within a $100 budget,
  5. impress the judges in only 7 minutes by showcasing what they’ve learned and what their city is all about.

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers | teachmama.com

 

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers | teachmama.com

 

Everything you need is at your fingertips.

The Future City website has literally everything you need to start a project and a team right there.

If you’re a homeschooling family, a public school or private school family–it doesn’t matter.  If you’re a part of a nationally, regionally, or state-recognized youth-focused organization, like Boy or Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, or 4-H, you could form a team. I think it’d be a really cool focus for a group like this.

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers | teachmama.com

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers | teachmama.com

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers | teachmama.com

Future City: middle school competition inspires future engineers | teachmama.com

Guess what? This week is Engineers Week (February 22-28, 2015), so perhaps it’s a good time to explore the DiscoverE site.

And Girl Day is February 26th:

 

And if you miss these two events, no worries!

The DiscoverE site has Upcoming Events shared and updated regularly.  There’s probably something near you in the next few months.

 

Want a few at-home STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) ideas to try before you try Future City for yourself?  Check out: 

 

fyi: My friends at Blogalicious bLink and DiscoverE invited my family to attend Future City and share our experience. As always, my opinions and ideas are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

how to do a family fondue night: special occasion dinner

how to do a family fondue night: special occasion dinner

post contains affiliate links

 

 

family fondue night  teachmama.com 2

 

Our family has longtime been a fan of the fondue night.

It’s a tradition for us to make this dinner on New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day, and often the kids will choose to have fondue for their birthday dinner as well.

Fondue is a lot of fun, but I must be clear: it’s not just a dinner–it’s an event.

It takes time to shop for fondue, prep fondue, and slowly enjoy fondue. And one huge plus is that although it sounds fancy, it’s really pretty simple.

We often rock it out with a 3-course dinner: cheese fondue, broth fondue, and chocolate fondue.

Yum, yum, and yum.

Here’s the skinny. . .

How to Do a Family Fondue Night–Special Occasion Dinner:  

First things first.

You need a fondue set to make this happen. 

And you could go super simple and electric where the heating element is plugged in:

(Below is the Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker.)

how to do a family fondue night: special occasion dinner

Or you could go super simple and stay traditional, where the heating source is a fire gel or something similar:

(Like the ExcelSteel Fondue Set below.)

family fondue night  teachmama.com traditional pot

And depending on the size of your family, you may want to get two sets so that you all can cook simultaneously.

Because think about it: two fondue forks each, times a family of five, equals ten fondue forks. All in one pot. That’s a lot of forks.

family fondue night  teachmama.com many pots

Pictured above:

Anything you choose, you want to make sure that you have a decent fondue pot and fondue forks.  I got lucky one year and found a pot at our local thrift shop, so it’s worth checking out.

Once you have the proper equipment, then you can decide on the menu.

One thing I love about fondue is that everyone can help with just about every step in some way, shape or form. 

Get the kids involved! 

Have them:

  • help you plan the menu;
  • help create the shopping list;
  • set the table;

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.comhow to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

  • design table cards;
  • break the bread (can be hand torn if kids are too small to cut);
  • cut the vegetables, fruit, or bread;
  • decide on a fun sparkly drink (we like Shirley Temples in fancy glasses for the kids!);
  • organize the forks (everyone must be assigned a color!); or
  • design the layout of dipping sauces.

The possibilities are endless.

Then start cooking!

We usually go with a 3-course fondue event: cheese, broth, and chocolate.

There are a million ways to make fondue, but we’ve created super-super simple recipes with mild flavors that really suit our children’s increasingly adventurous palates.

The cool thing about fondue is that you can really kick up the flavors in simple ways.

Want a little more edgy cheese fondue? Choose sharper cheeses, add some cooking wine or hot sauce.

Want your meets to have more of a kick? Consider dipping the cooked pieces in fun and crazy sauces. Our standbys are barbecue, teriyaki, steak, and cocktail sauce.

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Course 1: cheese fondue

Ingredients

2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese

½ cup beer (really–the alcohol will cook off!) or white cooking wine

salt & pepper to taste

For dipping: French bread, apple slices, pre-cooked carrots or broccoli

Directions

1.     Start pot on stovetop. Mix ingredients over med-low heat until melted. Move to fondue stand.

2.     Dip the chosen dippers into the melted cheese.

3.     Enjoy!

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Course 2: broth fondue

Ingredients

4-8 cups of chicken broth (usually buy two 32oz packages)

1 T Tastefully Simple Spinach and Herb Mix or other seasoned mix

salt and pepper to taste

For dipping: raw shrimp (peeled, de-veined), chicken, beef, salmon, potatoes, veggies cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

Sauces for dipping: barbecue, teriyaki, steak, cocktail sauce, Ranch, etc.

Directions

1.     Start pot on stovetop. Mix broth and seasoning over medium heat until 375 degrees (just below boiling). Move to fondue stand.

2.     Put meat or veggie on skewer and dip into broth.  Meat and veggies will cook in this broth, so it’s imperative that you pay attention to cooking times.

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Some helpful fondue-making hints:

  • Keep all raw foods on the same plate;
  • Color coordinate fondue forks so that no one gets mixed up;
  • Move cooked food directly to your own plate, take it off of the fondue fork, and eat with your own regular fork;
  • If you have super-hungry kids, make a quick side dish for them to munch on while foods cook;
  • Be over cautious–over-cook vs under cook foods;
  • Pre-cook veggies to speed up cooking time.

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

family fondue night | teachmama.com cooking times

Want to check out the coolest fondue cooking timer ever? This is a riot: The Melting Pot Fondue Timer.

We’ll totally pull it out on our iPad next time we’re making fondue!

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Course 3: chocolate fondue

Ingredients

1 bag semi-sweet milk chocolate chips

1 bag milk chocolate chips

½ cup warm heavy cream

½ cup peanut butter

For dipping: strawberries, banana, marshmallows, pound cake, cheesecake cut into bite-sized pieces

Directions

1.     Start pot on stovetop. Mix ingredients over medium heat until melted. Move to fondue stand.

2.     Dip strawberries, banana, marshmallows, pound cake, cheesecake, cookies cut into bite-sized pieces into chocolate and enjoy!

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

 

Fondue is a super-fun, memory building event for families.

It’s one of our family traditions. It’s special.

There’s no reason to be fearful of fondue because you can really take it as small–or as large–as you’d like. If you don’t want to go nuts with three courses, cleaning up and washing the pots in between, then just do the cheese fondue as a side for a regular dinner.

Or do the broth fondue as your main course and rice or noodles as a side.

The chocolate fondue is always a super idea for a special dessert, for any occasion.

 

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

 

Do you want our recipes?

Know that they are not perfect, but they work for us. Season and adjust to your liking.

family fondue night | teachmama.com recipes

You can download our Family Fondue Night Recipes here as a pdf: fondue dinner recipe _ teachmama.com

(If you choose to share this post–and we hope you do!– please link to this post and not the attachment page! Thank you!)

 

Because there’s so much cutting involved in fondue prep, if you think you or your kids need a little refresher on proper knife techniques, try this: Complete Knife Skills, with Brendan McDermott (FREE mini-course!)

We’re giving it a go for Valentine’s Day, though we’re going for the Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott

It’s better than candy in our family!

And that’s it–a family favorite, for sure!

 

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate brands | craft, experiment, and thinking subscription gifts for kids that they will totally love | gift ideas for kids

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

monthly craft gift for kids  kiwi crate  teachmama.comOften people ask me for cool gift ideas for holidays and birthdays, and though I often immediately share with them my holiday gift guide (because really, it works for any time of the year!).

But when I’m away from the computer and someone asks for a quick idea for a birthday or holiday for a child, I often recommend Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription gift for kids. Crafts, making, and a whole lot of cool. 

And it’s not just for girls, and it’s not just for the teenies.

It’s for all kids.

Which is why it rocks.

And right now they have a pretty sweet Kiwi Crate Black Friday Sale going on that you totes want to jump on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Monthy Craft Gift for Kids–Kiwi Crate:

Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids.

 

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

 

Products include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years).

Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because not only do kids love getting mail, they love to have everything–every, single thing–they need to complete a project from start to finish in one happy little kit.

We’re shhhhhhhh ordering Kiwi Crate for our nephew this year, and I’m sure he will totally love it.

 

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

Though Cora is 7, she’ll turn 8 in March, so she could really love Kiwi Crate. If you’re not sure what to do, consider starting with a 6 month subscription and then re-evaluate after that time whether your child is a good fit for Kiwi Crate or wants to move up to the Doodle Crate or Tinker Crate.

I think we’ll end up going with Doodle Crate for Cora and Tinker Crate for Maddy and Owen. 

We’ve had several boxes to try out over the years from the good folks at Kiwi Crate, but we’ve never actually had it where one of my kids could actually, truly look forward to receiving it each month.

That? I think they’d love.

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

 

Especially during this time when all kids seem to want to do is be ‘plugged in’ to electronic devices, I think Doodle Crate or Tinker Crate would be great for kids Maddy and Owen’s ages, too.

These aren’t just quickie little junk projects that kids create; each set is full of hands-on, exciting, and engaging experiments or crafts. Cool things that kids will really enjoy. Several of my friends have kids who’ve used these sets, and they love them.

Check out the comparison of the Kiwi Crate Brands

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate | teachmama.com

 

Doodle Crate (9- 16+) is focused on more DIY art projects.  Maddy would totally go for this one.

Tinker Crate (9-14 +) is focused on providing hands-on experiments each month.  Owen would love this, but I know Maddy and Cora would, too.

In order to keep some level of sanity in our house this year, I’m going to go with Tinker Crate for Owen so that Maddy can have Doodle Crate and Cora can have Kiwi Crate.

I cannot wait to see how it goes. And really? I’m almost 99% positive it’ll be a serious win.

 

And? Check out some super-rockstar deals for you for this holiday season:

  • Exclusive Kiwi Crate Black Friday Sale!
    • Starting today until 12/1/14, save 60% on your 1st month subscription to Kiwi Crate PLUS free shipping with code HOLIDAY60 at checkout.

 

Koala Crate >>
 

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out: 

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

GoldieBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com for @goldibloxinc

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Yesterday, my girls were late for school.GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

And they were late for cheer practice last evening.

And they were late for school again today.

It wasn’t because they were sleeping in or taking too long to pick out their clothes.

It wasn’t because they were poking around or moving slowly.

They were building. They were reading; they were creating.

My smart girls were busy tinkering with their GoldieBlox sets, and this mama was fine with it.

Sure, we need to teach our kids to be punctual and to make it to school on time. But we have the rest of the week to work on that, don’t we?

We are totally impressed with GoldieBlox.

And I’m thrilled to have a GoldieBlox gift set to give away to one lucky teachmama.com reader.  Just in time for the holidays. Woo-hoooo.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • GoldieBlox for Smart Girls–Read, Create, and Learn:

GoldieBlox is one of those products that you’re happy to buy because it packs a crazy powerful punch. Your money goes far because our girls are reading, thinking, and creating.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

And along the way, they’re learning spacial skills, engineering skills, and confidence in problem-solving.

They’re learning about wheels and axles, hinges and levers, pulleys, gears, animation and more.

GoldieBlox gets girls building through the context of a narrative.  That is, each set comes with a book that girls read, and the pieces that they build somehow hinge on what happens in the text.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

Their research has shown that girls in particular connect with a story.

I wanted to know why GoldieBlox was only for girls.  What made GoldieBlox special? 

Straight from the FAQ page:

Our founder, Debbie, spent a year researching gender differences to develop a construction toy that went deeper than just “making it pink” to appeal to girls. She read countless articles on the female brain, cognitive development and children’s play patterns. She interviewed parents, educators, neuroscientists and STEM experts. Most importantly, she played with hundreds of kids. Her big “aha”? Girls have strong verbal skills. They love stories and characters. They aren’t as interested in building for the sake of building; they want to know why. GoldieBlox stories replace the 1-2-3 instruction manual and provide narrative-based building, centered around a role model character who solves problems by building machines. Goldie’s stories relate to girls’ lives, have a sense of humor and make engineering fun.  

Pretty cool.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

And though the sets are geared more for girls, I’m here to attest to the fact that boys dig ’em, too.

I got one. And he was wow’ed by Maddy and Cora’s creations. Big time.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

We tried two of the newer GoldieBlox sets:

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine: Teaches kids how to make movies. Not even kidding.  When I first saw it, I was totally skeptical. But I read the book alongside Cora, and together we read about the bad news: The film festival was going to be cancelled because the projector was broken.

Goldie, the mechanical engineer of the group, calls her friends for some help. Valentina (the electrical engineer), Li (the token guy and environmental scientist), Ruby (the coding expert), Nacho (the dog), and Benjamin Cranklin (the cat), all work together to build a zoetrope.

Right. You don’t know what a zoetrope is, do you?

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

It’s all good. I didn’t, either.

A ‘zoetrope’ (pronounced just how it looks: zoey-trope), is the world’s first moving picture machine, friends.  You’ll learn all of this when you get the set, but in 1834 the zoetrope was born. It’s basically a cylinder on a spinning platform.  The cylinder has slits cut into it, and it has long strips of paper on its inside.  When the cylinder moves, it looks like the objects on the papers are moving due to the Persistence of Vision principle.

Sounds crazy but you’ll get it.

And when the zoetrope is built and after your child tries each of the movies (she can even make one of her own!), she can check out the GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app (free from the iTunes store).

Cora and I haven’t even had a chance to scratch the surface of the app, but essentially, you can create short, animaged GIFs over there using their digital creation tools. You can save them and upload them to Bloxtown for others to see (coming soon!), or you can print them and put them into your brand, new zoetrope. So fun. So totally cool.

Check it out:

 **************************************

GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit: Maddy dove right into this set, which is bigger and geared more toward a slightly older age group.  Maddy loved this because of the freedom it afforded her.

She could basically flip through Goldie’s Diary of Inventions and build anything she wanted. The Diary seems just like a diary–scribbles, doodles, pictures, you name it. And information on her friends and family–just like a personal journal.

Who doesn’t like to have permission to read someone’s diary?

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

Instructions for building a Derby Racer, a drum set, a dog house, an ice-cream truck, and a tea cup ride (for real!) are followed by a few drawings of other inventions to create.

Maddy was quick to give me her official feedback which was:

She liked:

  • the many choices to build;
  • the diary to read;
  • that it was a really good pastime.

She wished:

  • that there was a little more detail in the pieces;
  • there was a little more detail in instructions.

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

However, it is worth noting that when Maddy stepped back, laid out all of the necessary pieces for the item she wanted to build, and took the time necessary to read and understand the given instructions, she was successful.

She had a tough time building the ice-cream truck at first, but when she started fresh with the tea cup ride, following all instructions and making sure to identify all of the necessary pieces before she began building, she met with success.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn

As a parent, overall, I really liked:

  • the combination of reading and creating–I totally see why girls especially would love this;
  • the quality of materials--the parts are sturdy, the book is solid, and you can just tell that these are high-quality pieces;
  • that there are little action figures with the sets–not like big, fighting guys–but little sweet animals that can fit in the creations;
  • the design and layout–I love the concept, I love the design, and I love the look of everything;
  • the music videos, the cartoons, and the graphics on the app;
  • the extensions: the Bloxtown site, the Movie Machine app, the games, and fun for kids;
  • the message--that girls are ‘more than just another princess’ and that it’s cool to use their brains;
  • that Goldie has a melting pot of pals--really, her pals look a lot like my girls’ groups of friends, and I love it.

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

I do wish that:

  • some of the teeny, cardboard, interlocking tabs were a little easier for my girls to manage;
  • ‘GoldieBlox’ was spelled correctly–because I have a hard time with ‘x’ instead of ‘cks’ or ‘ks’.

 

And that’s it. Really, truly my new favorite go-to for birthday gifts and something I do look forward to exploring as the line evolves and grows over the next few years.  Six sets now, but growing, growing!

 

And just for kicks–check out the coolest video ever. Show your kids. They’ll be totally hooked:

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GIVEAWAY: One GoldieBlox gift pack–valued at $100.

Do you want to win your own GoldieBlox gift pack just in time for the holidays??!  Yes, yes you do.  

——————————-

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, November 7, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 11/07/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

——————————-

 

fyi: This post is written as part of a paid partnership with GoldieBlox; however, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little classroom engineers.  Affiliate links are used above. 

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

Dream Car of the Day: A unique Vine campaign celebrating the 90 finalists of the 8th Toyota Dream Car Art Contest

This post is brought to you by Toyota.

 

It’s no secret that most kids are highly influenced by their peers. dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

Too often, parents forget that their children’s classmates can be a totally positive ‘push’ for our kids.  Sometimes, our children aren’t even aware of what they can do until they see one of their peers do it.

My Maddy had no clue what her body could do on the diving board until she watched a teammate flip and turn, and then she was determined to do the same.

Owen was pushed harder to excel in soccer by playing a year above his age group for the last two years.

Cora never believed she could glide smoothly across the ice until she decided to do the same as her classmates in ice-skating class last year.

So when I heard about Toyota’s Dream Car of the Day, a Vine campaign celebrating the 90 finalists of the 8th Toyota Dream Car Art Campaign, I was eager to share them with my own kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Dream Car of the Day–A Cool Look at the Car of the Future: Really, the creativity, thought, and innovation behind some of these designs is crazy.

For the last eight years, Toyota Sales & Marketing Corporation has hosted the Toyota Dream Car Art Contest which allows children from all regions and cultures to share ideas about the future of mobility and how cars can make the world a better place.

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

Hundreds of thousands of children from across the globe have submitted original artworks depicting their “dream car”, but the coolest part of this contest, in my opinion, is what they’ve done for the 90 finalists.

This  year, Toyota is highlighting the contest online through a first-of-its-kind Vine campaign, Dream Car of the Day.

Each of the 90 children who have been selected as finalists have been spotlighted as the hero for a day, and their dreams will be made into reality for all to see through animation: 

To bring the artists’ imaginations to life, Toyota has partnered with creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon Tokyo for the Dream Car of the Day campaign to transform 2D drawings into 2D and 3D animations, capturing each dream car in action with a 6 second Vine video.


These videos, like the one above, are incredibly cool. The 90 finalists seriously must feel like superstars.

What is amazing is the work that went into animating these dream car designs so that the integrity of the masterpiece wasn’t compromised.   Honestly one of the coolest things ever. 

 

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

But it gets even more cool: the 31 best finalists have been sent on a 5 day trip to Japan for the awards ceremony, where they also receive the opportunity to tour the Toyota factory and experience Japanese culture. (How crazy is that??!)

The kids and their families are in Tokyo now and will gather to hear the winners announced this Tuesday (Wednesday in Japan). Curious to find out the winner? Check the Dream Car Twitter page for the big reveal!

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

Maddy, Owen, and Cora each sat mesmerized at the screen as they scrolled through the entries.

They. Are. Incredible.

Here are some of our favorites, though they are all cool:  

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Personally, I’ll take the Multi-Tasking Fun Car, thankyouverymuch:

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And even though the contest is over, and they’re no longer accepting entries for this year’s contest, Maddy still felt the need to get her drawing and designing on.

She checked out dozens of cars on the Dream Car of the Day site, and then she grabbed some paper and some pencils. 

I’m pretty sure she’s counting down the days until the next Toyota Dream Car Art Contest. . .

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

I have a feeling that it’s something she’ll be working on for a while. . .

. . . Japan, here we come! (We can dream, right?)

Want to stay on top of next year’s Dream Car Art Contest?  Entries open soon! Stay updated at Toyota Dream Car Art Contest.

 

I’m curious. What would your dream car have or do?

Mine? It’d have to be able to self-clean.  Man, does Vanny McVannerson get dirty quickly with three kids in and out all of the time!

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post. I was asked by Toyota to share information about the Dream Car of the Day, and I gladly did. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three little dream-car designers.

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

let them play  importance of free time outdoors for kids  teachmama.com.png

It’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of thinking that summer means camps, amusement parks, pool trips, beach, camping, picnics, and activities nonstop.  Busy, busy, busy.

And when we’re not going, going, going, many of us feel guilty.

Like our kids always must be doing something.

And it’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of thinking that ‘downtime’ means ‘plugged in’ time: free play on an electronic device–a tablet, phone, iPod, computer, DS, Wii, or whatever.  Our kids are learning, right? And having fun? So it’s all good.

But what I am realizing more this summer than ever is that our kids need down time outdoors.

They need it for their mind, body, and spirit.

Like good, ole-fashioned nothing planned, nothing scheduled, just backyard, outdoor fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Let Kids Play–Remembering the Importance of Free Time Outdoors:  I think because my kids are getting older–10, 8, and 7–that it’s easy for me to forget that they still really need a whole lot of free play time outdoors.

Though it’s no secret that I am an advocate for parents doing what they can to sneak in some learning into their children’s days (it’s what I’ve been writing about for almost six years now–and boy, the tabletop surprises have really taken off!), I’ve also written many times about the importance of free play and time outdoors.

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

And I still often get emails and questions:

How can parents set kids up for free time outdoors? 

What do you say when you ‘unleash’ your kids in the wilds of your back yard and they mope around, complaining that they ‘don’t have anything to doooooooo’?

My kids don’t have neighbor friends like yours do. How do they play outside alone?

How do you ‘force’ your kids to play outdoors if the kids don’t really like being outside? 

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

I don’t know all of the answers, but I do know this: some kids need a little help. They need a little nudge. They need a little guidance in how to play and what to do when they’re handed free time on a silver platter, and here’s how parents can help:

  • Ask questions:Why do you think this bush has thorns? What do you see over there hiding in the grass? How many sounds do you hear? 
  • Make observations: I cannot believe how gorgeous that bird’s feathers are!  Look at those tiny toadstools!  Have you ever seen a leaf with so many colors?

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

  • Get dirty: Jump in the puddle at the end of your front staircase!  Splash in the muddy water under your swings!  Tear apart a flower that is on its last leg!
  • Be still: Lay on a blanket and look at the clouds. Just sit in the sunlight on a porch swing and enjoy the sun on your face.
  • Take risks: Put a few peanuts out on the porch and see if the squirrels come for a snack.  Buy a bag of birdseed and feed the birds. Look under a rock and see what’s there.

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

We’re pretty sure that Cora pulled apart a walnut here. . . we think.

 

  • Move out of your comfort zone: If your kids aren’t comfortable outside, could it be because you’re not 100% comfortable outdoors? Think about it. Try to spend a little bit more unstructured time outdoors if you can, and drag your kids along. See if it gets easier. See if it becomes more natural as time goes on.
  • Play together: Throw a baseball with your kiddo. Kick a soccer ball. Bounce a tennis ball. Jump rope. Blow bubbles. Dig in the dirt. Plant a garden. Do anything. Just do it together.

It doesn’t matter what you do; the goal is just to get kids outside and eventually to have them enjoy it. Really!

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

Psychology Today ran an article in April 2014 by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. which explained the how the benefits of playing outdoors far outweighed the benefits of indoor play. Narvaez says:

Outdoors, a child learns on multiple levels with each new adventure . . . With all of the imaginary castles, lands, creatures, the brain develops at a much faster rate than for those who play indoors. There are numerous effects. Not only do they become better learners, and do well in school, but they are more fun to be around (i.e. they make more friends)–everyone wants to play with the kid with the active imagination! Consequently, children will be much happier because, hey, they’re smart and they have a lot of friends. All of this comes from just playing outside; you can bake many loaves in the same oven.  (Psychology Today. “What’s Better: Indoor or Outdoor Play?” April 5, 2014)

Narvaez also goes on to explain the physical effects of outdoor play on children. She explains that starting outdoor play while kids are young will have long-lasting effects: Years down the road, the child will still be more active and less likely to be overweight. If you think about this, it makes perfect sense; teach a child when they’re young to love the outdoors and they will love it forever.  The article’s really worth reading, especially if your kiddos (or you!) need more convincing. 

And really, that’s it. Just a good reminder for everyone to give our kiddos the ‘go’ to play outdoors and to just be kids. Because really? They need it.  We all do.

 

fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Mosquito Squad.  May seem totally random, I know, but it’s because of Mosquito Squad that this year our family has really been able to enjoy our yard again.  Thank GOODNESS.  

Living in the hot, muggy DC Metro area means that we have our fair share of mosquitos. Up until this year, our yard was basically unusable, awful, and painful from mid-June through mid-September; we would literally be eaten alive by mosquitos at any time of the day. This year, it’s been incredible and a totally different experience. Mosquito Squad takes care of our yard, and we are  happy campers (except thank goodness we’re not really camping–).   

As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and a parent, and of course by my three little outdoor explorers. 

find out more about Mosquito Squad | find answers to FAQ about Mosquito Squad 

tweet with Mosquito Squad (find your local branch and connect from there!)

@MosquitoMDsquad   |  Facebook chat with Mosquito Squad 

MosquitoMDsquad on Pinterest  |  MD Mosquito Squad blog  |   MD Mosquito squad on g+

online virtual playground for animal and science fans

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Admittedly, we’re a little slow on the draw when it comes giving our kids the ‘go’ on most online activities.online virtual playground for animal and science fans cover.png

I’m over-cautious and because my living is made in the social media space, I know what’s out there. And I know there are way too many kids with way to much freedom online.

And sometimes that frightens me.

So when I find something that gives my kids a little sometimes-needed space, keeps them safe, engaged, and interested, and is fun? I’d say that ‘s a huge win for us.

I’ve recently found an online virtual playground of sorts for animal and science fans. For kids who dig the outdoors, for kids who love creating their own, customized spaces, for kids who love playing games and really love learning.

It’s called Animal Jam, and right now, my kids are loving it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Online Virtual Playground for Animal and Science Fans:

Thanks to the great people of National Geographic for creating this online space for our kids with the goal of providing a fun, exciting, and safe environment for kids to play online.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Really.

Apparently, it’s been around for a few years now, but we just discovered it.

It’s the only ‘online virtual playground’ I’ll let my kids hang out in, and here’s why I like it:

  • It’s fun.  It’s been the ‘go-to’ game for Owen and Cora for the last two months. They want to play because they enjoy the ever-changing platform and the challenges.
  • Kids have control. They can customize their characters, name and care for pets, complete missions, attend ‘parties’, buy things, and design anything from their hut to their outfit.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

 

  • Kids are learning.   They keep track of their adventures in their JourneyBooks, and they collect pictures for each place, a kind of chronicle of their history of the game.  When they click on a picture of an animal, plant, landform, you name it, a little bit of information comes up about that thing. It’s SO cool.
  • The Golden Rule is stressed often. Little reminders for kids about being nice and interacting kindly are prominent on the site and are shown regularly.  Nice Jammers trade, become ‘buddies’ and the idea of being a good ‘digital citizen’ is mentioned often.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

 

  • It’s safe.  I control the levels of ‘chat’ that my kids can engage in, and I have access to all account information. Safety tips are shared, just like the Golden Rule reminders.
  • There’s tons of follow-up and extension activities. I love the Animal Jam Academy, which offers free printables, experiments, activities, videos, and more.
  • It’s totally worth the money.  You can play free, but members have access to everything on the site–more than just anyone who drops in. I rarely buy these kinds of programs and platforms, but with the added bang for my buck in terms of science learning along the way, I think it’s a no-brainer.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Is it perfect? Probably not. But for us, it works–and especially during the long summer months when kids start getting antsy and need something new, this can be it.

Reading, learning, planning, and thinking. Designing, questioning, and collecting. It’s cool.

Our kids are also loving using the  Acer C720P Chromebook for the game–it’s a touchscreen meets laptop, and it’s totally fab for little hands. 

 

fyi: Though I am a new member of the National Geographic Kids Insiders group, this is an unsponsored post. All opinions are my own, as always, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

fyi: I am in a partnership with Intel AIO . Through this partnership I gain access to content, product, or other forms of value. Affiliate links are used in this post.

how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways

science ways to raise kids who love it teachmama.com.png

science ways to raise kids who love it teachmama.com

The following rockstar guest post is written by Christy a former physics teacher who is now home with her three kids.  Christy writes an amazing blog: Wisdom, Knowledge, Joy.  

Check it out for tons of ways you can incorporate science into your children’s lives. I especially love Christy’s Science Along the Way series

____________________

  • How to Help Your Kids Love Science–Simple, Everyday Ways, by Christy McGuire
Testing season is almost over, and summer break will soon be here.
Science is a great way to fill the last weeks of the school year or to occupy your own kids during the summer months.
Here are five ways to enjoy science with your elementary learners:
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways

 

Observe

Anyone can notice the physical world around them.  Spend time out doors, in the kitchen, or just take a few seconds to notice the physical world from right where you are.
Once you set the example, your elementary learners will soon be calling your attention to the world around them.
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Experiment
To experiment, set up two (or more) scenarios in order to observe how changing a single factor affects the outcome.
Turn your observations into an experiment by observing under different circumstances or recreating the same situation in two versions.  Ask your students to record their hypothesis about what the outcome will be.
Help them develop a procedure, and perform it, and take measurements.  Talk about the data they gathered, and maybe ask them to write about what they have learned.
You can do science without experimenting, but experimenting is loads of fun and a great way to practice math and writing skills.
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Engineer
Give your learners a problem and ask them to design a solution by drawing pictures and writing explanations. Then, let them try to implement it.
If their solution does not work, discuss and consider trying again!  The experience of creating a real world solution is exciting for elementary learners.
Read
There are so many great science books for kids!  Some of our favorite authors are Gail Gibbons, Joanna Cole, Jerry Palota, Jim Arnosky and Brenda Z. Guiberson.
While you are at the library, be sure to check out biographies of some famous scientists!
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Model
Recreating something you have studied either first hand or in a book is a great way to cement learning.
Make it an art project by giving freedom in materials or design.  Make it a math project by requiring scale replicas.  Like experimenting and engineering, modeling is work that professional scientists often do.
Children are naturally interested in the physical world.  As you enjoy science with your elementary learners you will spark their interest in other topics, and set them up for a lifetime of learning.

Thank you, Christy! I love all that you do and share!

christy of wisdom knowledge joy
Christy McGuire taught physics to students of all levels from advanced placement to special education in the public school system.  
She now works full time at home, watching over the learning of her own children ages five, four, and two months.  
You can read her thoughts about learning, science and otherwise, at WisdomKnowledgeJoy@blogspot.com.
connect with Christy: blog  |  pinterest
Looking for more ways to get kids into science? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

25+ playful preschool activities eBook

playful preschool activities ebook | teachmama.com

25+ playful preschool activities ebook | teachmama.com

For many families, preschool ends this week or next, which means that 3-5 year olds will be home, hanging around, and looking for some fun.

Preschool’s almost out.  Seriously.

And it means that moms and dads will need things to do with their kiddos.

Parents need activities that can keep those preschoolers’ brains moving, hands drawing, and creativity flowing. Activities that are easy and fun to prepare. Activities that count.

Parents need activities that will get those kiddos ready for the next year of preschool, maybe even kindergarten in the fall.

Woot. I have just the thing–and it totally won’t break the bank.

It’s an eBook filled with over 25 playful activities that your kids will love: The Playful Preschool Activities eBook, and it’s one thing that’s kept me busy this spring.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 25+ Playful Preschool Activities eBook: It’s awesome, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

It’s a super-amazing resource.

Tons of hands-on, play-based learning ideas all in one happy little place.

playful activities ebook

playful preschool activities ebook | buy now

The Playful Preschool Activities eBook features:

  • over 25 ideas for preschoolers;
  • great range of activities: hands-on, learning through play, math, language, literacy, science, art and play;
  • printable resources (including city scape play scene, My First Journal pages, recipe card, numbers game, weather chart printables, and more!);

25+ playful preschool activities eBook | teachmama.com

 

The Playful Preschool Activities eBook also features:

  • printable alphabet play mats, unique hand-drawn art pages, conversation cards, block building challenge cards;
  • reading comprehension bookmarks–so that you know how to make the most of your read-alouds!
  • additional links to over 50 more activities;
  • it’s only $8.99–so buy now!!

playful preschool activities ebook

playful preschool activities ebook | buy now

Some important bots o’ info for you: 

– You can buy the book anywhere in the world, and that Paypal will take care of the currency conversion.

– You can buy it now, on any device, and then download it when you are ready.

– Depending on the apps you have installed and your operating system you might be able to go ahead and download the book on your mobile device, but if you have any doubts or problems, I recommend you use a computer to download the book and then share it to your mobile devices.

– You. Will. Love. It.

The amazing Cathy James–who is the mastermind behind this eBook–even made a trailer for it:

 

Check it out.

And really, I’m betting you’ll be super-happy you did.

It’s yours for a cool $8.99 (the cost of just one coffee and scone!). . . okay, or close to it! Either way, it’s a great deal for all the awesome you’re getting. 

And that’s it–just a little something I’m thrilled about and think you will be too! 

Any questions? I’d love to hear ’em!

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge | teachmama.com

When I was teaching, I always had a bulletin board full of opportunities for my students to win contests, write essays, submit poems, and receive accolades outside the classroom.

It’s so important for kids–and parents!–to realize that there are hundreds of cool contests running all the time.

Hundreds of dollars waiting to be won. Fab prizes and cool travel opportunities if kids just take some time to share their smarts with the world around them.

And so many of our kids are crazy smart, devising solutions to age-old problems that burden many and even working hard now to design answers to issues that may arise down the road.

Do you have a young tinker–belle or beau–on your hands?

A smartypants middle-schooler who may need a little something to get him through spring break?

A creative, outside-the-box thinker who may have found the solution to an environmental issue in your neighborhood?

A kid who may find a good way to put $25,000 to use if he or she wins?

I’ve got just the thing:  Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge:

Here’s what you need to know. . .

Who:  Contest is open to middle school students

What:The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the nation’s premier science competition for middle school students.

Why: It targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to fade and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings.

Where:Young Scientist Challenge site

When:  Deadline for applications is April 22, 2014.

How:  Middle school students are create a 1-2 min video communicating the science behind a possible solution for an everyday problem. Based on the video entry, 10 finalists are chosen to work with a 3M scientist during a summer mentorship to create an innovation that will be presented to a panel of judges at the final competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota in October. WOW, right?

 

 

Check out the video for a bit more about the contest, and do pass this post on to friends, family, and schools. I know that so many kids would enter–if they only knew about it.

And how cool is this: past challenge winners have gone on to speak in front of members of Congress! Winners have also worked with the nation’s top scientists, participated in the White House Science Fair, met the President and pursued academic careers in the sciences. I love it.

Read through the complete rules and details on the competition website.

Chat with the competition folks over on their Facebook page or tweet with them on twitter:

And if your super-smart, totally cool middle schooler enters?  Let me know!! 

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post. Many thanks to my friends at Discovery Education for asking me to share news of this important and totally cool contest; as always, my opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and a parent.