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5 Ways to Commemorate Veteran’s Day in Your Class

5 Ways to Commemorate Veteran's Day in Your Class
Celebrating the contributions of veterans in your community is an easy way to thank those brave men and women for their service, while helping students understand the proper way to show gratitude for those who give their time, effort, and sadly, sometimes their lives for our country and values. Below are some great activities that show the proper respect for our soldiers and also help students learn about the history of Veteran’s Day.

Hold a Veteran’s Day Ceremony

There’s no better way to show the importance of this day than to devote 30 minutes to a whole school ceremony highlighting the special place that veterans hold in our country. The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs has created a handy step by step guide to hold an assembly in your school, including instructions on how to post the colors and suggestions for remarks and speakers.

If you can’t host vets in person, consider a video call or a pre-recorded video featuring interviews.

Take a Vet to School Day

The History Channel has a Take a Vet to School Day program, complete with How To Guides and Planning Guides by grade. Of course, you don’t have to involve a national program to invite veterans into your classroom. Invite your students’ relatives to sit in on class for a celebration of their service. Have the children read letters of thanks and ask the vets to say a few words. It’s a day your students and the servicemen and women will not forget.

Make Crafts and Care Packages to Commemorate Veteran’s Day

Thank a solderYounger students will love to use their creativity to show their thanks and respect for veterans. Celebrate the social studies themes of Election and Veteran’s Days with a display that encompasses both events. Ask your students to write thank you cards expressing gratitude to our service members. Contact the local VFW or Veteran’s Hospital to act as an intermediary and deliver the cards. You can use this thank you card template or download free thank you cards from Operation We Are Here to get started. Or maybe your class can send items to military personnel stationed overseas. Many organizations will assist in sending care packages to soldiers, such as Any Soldier, Operation Gratitude,  and Adopt a Soldier.

Teach Your Students About the Contribution of Women in the Military

Too often we are saddled with stereotypes of the past that are unfortunately passed on to our children. There has always been a vibrant and vital role of women in our military, but it’s important to emphasize the history and facts of those contributions. The Pennsylvania Veterans Museum has a terrific lesson plan about the role of women in the military. The Veteran’s History Project has a mini unit on the role of women in World War II.

Take a Virtual Field Trip to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans

5 Ways to Celebrate Veteran's Day (Nov. 11)This museum offers numerous opportunities for distance learning, including as many as 15 virtual field trips on topics that include Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Iwo Jima, African Americans, and Science and Technology. They also offer Skype programs that provide a lesson plan and Skype session with a museum expert who will guide your students through the content.

It’s so important to ingrain a sense of respect for our service members. There is no better way to do that than to use appropriate, creative resources to show young people how special our soldiers really are. This is another great opportunity to discuss citizenship and patriotism. For more on that topic, check out 10 Activities to Celebrate Constitution and Citizenship Day.

Do you have any lessons/activities you use to help students understand Veteran’s Day or show gratitude to those who serve our country? If so, we would love to hear them.

Non-Spooky Halloween Activities

Non-Spooky Halloween ActivitiesFor kids who dislike ghosts, ghouls, and skeletons, Halloween can be a rough season. It’s hard to know what’s lurking around the corner at pumpkin patches, corn mazes, trunk or treats, and even the local grocery store. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to skip Halloween altogether. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Halloween without bringing in the darker side of the season.

1. Paint pumpkins

For some kids, carving pumpkins can be too spooky, especially with their crazy faces, but what’s stopping you from painting a pumpkin? Choose some bright colors and focus on funny faces or cute patterns, such as dots and stripes.

2. Bob for apples

If you’re having a Halloween party, throw in a traditional bobbing for apples game. While it may not be the most hygienic, kids will have fun trying to capture the apples with their mouths.

3. Watch a pet parade

Check your local newspaper or activity guide for a pet costume parade. These parades are usually free from spooky costumes and, instead, focus on adorable animals in silly costumes.

4. Head to a fall festival

Many fall festivals are held during the day and focus on the fun side of the season. To ensure the festival will be free from spookiness, consider attending one sponsored by a church where it’s less likely that ghosts, skeletons, guts, and gore will make an appearance.

5. Read a cute Halloween story

Read a story such as The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin which focuses more on accepting your differences and fitting in than trying to scare kids on Halloween. Another cute Halloween book is Pumpkin Cat by Anne Mortimer. Elementary Librarian has a great list of Halloween read-alouds for more ideas.

6. Hold a non-spooky costume party

Invite some friends over for a costume party where only fun, happy costumes are allowed. Consider coming up with a theme, such as favorite cartoon characters or storybook characters.

7. Trick or treat with friends and family

Rather than going trick or treating around your neighborhood, set up a time where you can trick or treat at the homes of different friends and family members. Do it during the day so you won’t see any scary masks or other costumed people out and about.

8. Have Halloween craft time

Rather than making a spooky bat, Frankenstein, or other scary craft, just pull out some orange and black paint and construction paper, along with some glue and googly eyes, and let kids come up with their own creations.

9. Make silly monsters

Monsters don’t have to be scary. Focus on crafting monsters with silly faces rather than scary ones. You can give them cute names too.

10. Create leaf art

Go outside and gather some leaves. Make leaf creatures by adding eyes, noses, arms, and legs or use the leaves to make collages and other fun pictures.

11. Paint with a pumpkin

Cut out different shapes from a pumpkin and use those shapes as stamps. Dip them in paint and press them on paper to create unique works of art.

12. Make slime

Slime is often associated with Halloween, but that doesn’t mean it has to be spooky. Make or buy some slime and have fun getting your hands messy.

13. Play in a sensory bin

Slowly introduce kids to some of the spookier aspects of Halloween through a themed sensory bin. You can throw in a few small plastic bats, ghosts, or spiders if your child can handle them in small doses. You may also want to add plastic pumpkins, some dirt, or black beans. For extra texture, add some orange or black water beads.

14. Go on a candy hunt

One of the best parts of Halloween is getting to trick or treat, but you don’t have to find candy in traditional ways. Hide candy around your house or in your yard and send kids on a fun scavenger hunt to find it or set up different trick or treat stations in each room of your house.

15. Focus on educational activities

Try Help Teaching’s 100 Educational Pumpkin Activities to bring math, science, and literacy practice to the holiday.

If you do decide to head out to some more traditional Halloween events, be sure to call beforehand to see if there will be any spooky elements there and walk ahead of your child in any corn mazes or on any paths so you can be prepared to turn around if any scary elements appear. You may also want to bring along some head phones or a pair of sunglasses to help your child tune out the spooky sights and sounds.

Do you have any favorite non-spooky activities for Halloween? If so, share them for others to enjoy!

15 Summer Learning Activities for All Ages

15 Summer Learning Activities for All Ages

Summer’s here! It’s time for fun in the sun, family vacations, and… learning. While you want to give your kids a chance to relax, you don’t want them to lose all they learned during the school year. To help keep their minds sharp, incorporate some learning into their summer activities. Not sure where to start? We’ve got plenty of ideas to help your kids learn during the summer while still having fun!

Elementary School

Give your elementary student a chance to have some hands-on fun this summer.

Head Outside

Summer ActivitiesStart by getting out of the house and observing the world around you. Set up a scavenger hunt and have your kids scour the neighborhood in search of certain colors, sights, or sounds. Draw a map and see if they can navigate their way from point A to point B.

Explore Science

While you’re outside, take some time to explore the world of science. Talk about how the flowers boom and the animals that you see. Discuss the weather and notice changes in nature when it rains. For more ideas, try some of these science exploration ideas.

Visit the Library

Movies and BooksStop by your local library and give your kids a chance to look for some new books to read. Look for books by favorite authors or head to the non-fiction section and check out books on your child’s current favorite topic. Need some book suggestions? Our Black History Month Reading List offers a few titles to get kids started. Once they’ve found their books, encourage them to read on rainy days or take along a book when you head to the beach or the park.

Play Online Games

When you’re taking a break from laying in the sun or playing at the park, let your kids sit down at the computer and play some games. For both math and reading games, check out Funbrain.com or head to Math Game Time for some math-based play. The websites for your child’s favorite TV shows also often have fun, educational games for them to play. For more games, check out the sites found on our list of free education websites also offer plenty of free games and other fun learning activities for kids to enjoy.

Build their Character

Who says all learning has to be academic? During the school year, your child’s teacher and friends have a big influence on her life. Use the summer to build some key character values. These values will help them when they face conflicting viewpoints and character trials during the school year. You can work on building manners by having a dinner party, helping out others by volunteering, and asking “what would you do?” questions that incorporate scenarios related to honesty, respect, and other character traits. For older elementary and middle school students, you can incorporate some of the resources found in this blog post on character education.

Middle School

Pull your middle schooler away from the video games and phone and have some educational fun.

Read a Book

Social Studies Summer Reading ListYour middle schooler isn’t immune from reading a book either. While he may not want to be caught dead at the library, you can still pick up a few books and make him set aside some time to read every day. If your middle schooler doesn’t like reading, choose a few graphic novels or look for non-fiction books that focus on his current interests. Check out our social studies summer reading suggestions to get him started and let him learn a bit about history while he reads.

Conduct a Science Experiment

Have some fun with science experiments this summer too. The kitchen offers a great place to start and gives your pre-teens and teens a chance to learn how to cook at the same time. Science Buddies offers a large selection of cooking & food science fair activities. These free science websites offer plenty of experiments to last the entire summer. If you’re ambitious, organize a neighborhood science fair and get all of the other kids on the block involved in conducting experiments too.

Get Online

Top 100 FREE Education WebsitesChances are your middle schooler will want to spend most of the summer on the computer or her phone talking to her friends. Let her go online, but encourage activities beyond socializing, such as visiting some of the top Free education sites. Encourage your middle schooler to build a new skill, such as learning how to code at Code.org or donate to charity while building vocabulary skills through websites like Free Rice.

Work on Executive Functioning Skills

Building Executive Functioning SkillsThe summer offers a great chance to build some skills that will help your middle schooler succeed when school starts back up again. Work on some of the same executive functioning skills that teachers work on during the school year, such as setting up a routine and using a planner to help keep your middle schooler organized.

Take a Trip

Using Maps as a Learning ToolFor your family vacation, let your middle schooler do the navigating and build map-reading skills at the same time. Can’t afford a vacation? Bring some maps into your home and plan a dream vacation anyway.

High School

Don’t let your teen sleep all day this summer.

Watch a Movie

Hollywood Movies in the Social Studies ClassroomGetting your teen out of bed can be enough a challenge during the summer. Give in and let him spend time on the couch watching educational movies. Try out some of these movies about historical events or some educational YouTube channels.

Conduct Research

Use the summer as a chance to get your teen to explore some of his or her interests through mini research projects. Explore a specific period of history, look further into a concept they discovered in a movie, or just encourage them to find the answers to the questions they have on their own.

Enlighten their Devices

If you can’t pull your teen away from his phone this summer, make the phone more educational. Add educational apps or even force your teen to learn before texting or using Instagram and Snapchat with an app such as StudyLock, which requires teens to answer academic questions before using their devices. You can also encourage learning through silly apps.

Volunteer

Get your teen out of the house and do something to help others. The summer is full of volunteer opportunities. Your teen can work with a summer camp, help out at a food pantry, go on a mission trip, or even just do some yard work for elderly neighbors.

Make Some Money

10 Money-Making Ideas for Teachers and ParentsOf course, summer is also a great time for your teen to make some money. Getting a job will teach your teen about managing money, working with others, and building real-world skills. If a traditional job, such as working at a grocery store or fast food restaurant, doesn’t appeal to your teen, encourage her to get creative. Have a yard sale, sell a craft, or start your own family business. If you’re home with your teen all summer, use your free time to make some extra money too with these money-making ideas.

Have more ideas for keeping kids learning during the summer? Share them in the comments.

For more ideas, we suggest 100 Fitness Activities for Families and 100 Summer Activities for Kids.

Social Studies Summer Reading Suggestions

Social Studies Summer Reading List

The summer months bring relief and joy for students, but also lots of free time to be filled. There is no better way to spend these hours and days than with a book, especially one that educates. Below are book recommendations based on age and genre that will help keep your child or student busy and engaged throughout the summer.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and we may earn a small commission off any books purchased. However, all recommendations are our own.

Kids

The Complete Book of U.S. History

Activity Book: “The Complete Book of U.S. History”
This book clocks in at over 350 pages and is chock full of exercises and activities to keep young minds sharp. (Ages 8 and up)

African-American Studies: “What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes of obscure African – American inventors in this well-illustrated story. (Ages 8 and up)

Presidential: “So You Want to Be President?” by Judith St. George
Does your little one ever wonder what it takes to become president? St. George chronicles every president in an interesting and humorous manner, accompanied by wonderful illustrations. (Ages 6–8)

Biography: “The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles
The story of the first African American child to integrate Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. (Ages 4-8)

Culture: “Homes Around the World” by Max Moore
Learn about different and unusual residences around the world. (Ages 5–7)

Teens

Historical Fiction: “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne.
This acclaimed book introduces the Holocaust in a gentle manner and opens the door to discussion about such a sensitive topic.

Mystery: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson.
This is a young adult version of “manhunt”, the same author’s account of the search for President Lincoln’s assassin. “Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” uses trial manuscripts and interviews to build a compelling and completely true thriller.

US History: “Don’t Know Much About History” by Kenneth C. Davis
This updated edition of the bestseller that answers all of your questions about American history in a very entertaining way.

I am a SEAL Team Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier

Current Events: “I am a SEAL Team Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier” by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
Learn the grueling training involved in joining the unit who found Osama bin Laden in this firsthand account from former Team Six member and author, Howard Wasdin.

World History Compilation: “A Little History of the World” by E.H. Gombrich
With illustrations on every page, Gombrich brings history to life for young adults.

The summer allows students to learn at their own pace and explore topics that interest them. Interesting and educational books are just the recipe to feed a hungry mind. You can also get kids interested in Social Studies websites and movies to help keep them learning throughout the summer.Got other suggestions for this list? Share them with others by commenting below.

How to Teach Kids to Be Kind

How to Teach Kids to Be Kind
Every day, stories about bad guys fill the news, but it’s the stories of kindness that really stand out. Whether it’s a fast food employee helping a customer or a group of students checking on a Grandma in the Window, these stories show the importance of being kind. Unfortunately, especially when people are stressed or tensions are high, showing kindness isn’t the norm. Harvard’s Making Caring Common project found that 80 percent of middle and high school students thought achievement and happiness were more important than caring for others. Teachers and parents can help turn those numbers around by teaching kids to be kind. Kindness might not solve all of the world’s problems, but it’s a good place to start.

Modeling Kindness

The first step in teaching kids to be kind is to model kindness. That means it’s time to end the “Mommy Wars”, set aside the political differences, stop pointing out what everyone else is doing wrong, and start focusing on what they’re doing right. You can model kindness by:How to Teach Kids to Be Kind

  • Saying please and thank you
  • Regularly telling others what you appreciate about them
  • Speaking to others in a pleasant tone, even if they upset you
  • Treating others, including children, with respect
  • Pitching in when you see a need (without complaining)
  • Giving random compliments to others
  • Keeping your negative thoughts to yourself
  • Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you

Kids tend to model the behaviors of the adults around them. If they see you regularly being kind, they will begin to exhibit kindness in their own lives. Of course, no one’s perfect. There will be moments when you tell someone off, hurt someone’s feelings, or fail to help someone in need. Taking the time to apologize when you were less than kind can also help kids learn a lesson about the importance of kindness.

Offering Positive Praise

Just like adults, kids need validation. They want to know that they’re appreciated and that they’re doing the right things. According to Greater Good in Action, kids actually have a propensity towards being kind. Parents and teachers can encourage kids to act on that propensity. Instead of focusing on what kids are always doing wrong, take some time to focus on what they’re doing right, particularly when it comes to kindness. Say things like:

  • “You are a very helpful person.”
  • “I appreciated it when you said ‘Please’ before you asked me for…”
  • “It was a great idea to…”
  • “Thanks. That was very kind of you.”
  • “I like the way that you thought about others.”

Don’t praise kids every time they act kindly, otherwise they are likely to act a certain way just to receive the praise. Instead, try to point out a few positive moments every week to let kids know you appreciate how kind and helpful they are.

When kids decide not to act kindly, focus more on how it made the other person feel rather than criticizing or punishing the kids. For example, “Did you notice that James looked sad when you called him a name?” or “When you ask me for something without saying please, it makes me feel unimportant.”

Thinking about Kindness

While many kids are born with an innate desire to be kind, parents and teachers still need to plant seeds of kindness in their minds. Talk to kids about what they think it means to be kind. Ask them to share memories of acts of kindness. You can open the conversation with these writing prompts, which also make great discussion questions.

Providing Opportunities to Be Kind

Of course the greatest way to teach kids to be kind is to give them plenty of opportunities to show kindness. These can be big acts of kindness, such as collecting money for charity or taking bags of food to a food pantry, or smaller acts of kindness, such as picking up trash on the playground or giving a friend a hug when they are sad.

Some ways kids can show kindness every day include:

  • Holding the door open for others
  • Smiling at people who make eye contact with them
  • Keeping a gratitude journal and regularly writing what they are thankful for
  • Writing thank you notes to others
  • Complimenting others
  • Waving hello when they see someone they know
  • Calling family members they do not see often
  • Writing notes or drawing pictures for family and friends
  • Asking if they can help when they see someone tackling a big job
  • Offering to let a classmate go first
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Doing their chores without being asked
  • Doing things they see that need done without being asked
  • Throwing away trash they find on the ground
  • Saying “I love you”
  • Taking some time to pet and talk to their pets
  • Check on elderly neighbors

Some big ways to encourage kids to be kind include:

  • Donating some of their clothes or toys to charity
  • Serving a meal at a homeless shelter
  • Visiting a nursing home or sending cards and flowers to the residents
  • Using allowance money to buy something for someone in need
  • Paying for someone’s meal at a restaurant (with allowance money or your help)
  • Offering to do chores or yard work for an elderly or disabled neighbor
  • Donating books to a preschool or library
  • Cleaning up litter in the park or around the school
  • Sending cards and care packages to deployed servicemen and women
  • Collecting money for a favorite charity
  • Donating food or toys to a local animal shelter
  • Participating in a 5K run or walk for charity
  • Speaking out against bullying as part of an anti-bullying campaign
  • Volunteering to tutor another student
  • Making your neighbors gifts for the holidays or on their birthdays

If you encourage kids to show kindness when they are young, they are more likely to grow up to be kind adults. If you want to take the conversation on kindness a step further, check out Edutopia’s Eight Steps Toward a Kinder World. Remember, kindness matters.

10 Activities to Celebrate World Oceans Day


World Oceans Day is June 8th! Put on a blue shirt and forge ahead with these ten fun ways to celebrate World Oceans Day with your class or family.

1.
Skipper your crew to a World Oceans Day event in your area. From art contests to film festivals to hands-on exhibits, there are ocean activities taking place around the world.

2. Navigate your way to the World Oceans Day website and check out their last minute celebration ideas. Find ways to help keep plastic out of oceans and landfills with your students or family.

3. Google is charting new territory with its Oceans Street View images. Allow students to explore this stunning collection.

4. Set course to Adrift.org and challenge students to predict the path of floating pollution before they try this engaging interactive.

5. The Smithsonian has made great headway in compiling this diverse collection of ocean-related lesson plans for educators.

6. For landlubbers who can’t venture out to sea, dive into an ocean-themed book for a reading adventure worthy of the high seas. Get started with one of these nautical tales.

Nautical Novels and Seaworthy Stories
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Flotsam by David Wiesner
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater (Worksheet)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Worksheet)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Billy Budd by Herman Melville
The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Worksheet)
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Odyssey by Homer (Worksheet)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

7. Ahoy! Teachers, students, and families can join an Ocean Guardian Program and plan a school or community conservation project, submit ocean-themed artwork, stories, or poetry, and even become involved in diving!

8. If you are swamped with lesson planning, check out Help Teaching’s collection of pre-made, ocean-themed worksheets. Or, have your students try our online lessons on Ocean Vocabulary WordsOcean Zones, Tsunamis, or Tides.

9. Set your bearings to your local aquarium. Students of all ages will enjoy viewing and interacting with the amazing variety of sea life on display.

10. Head to the beach! What better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than by digging in the sand, discovering tide pools, and surfing the waves?

Have other suggestions for celebrating World Oceans Day with students and children? Share them in the comments! Read The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science for more ways to invigorate your science curriculum and teaching.

5 Summer Science Exploration Ideas for Kids

Science surrounds us and summer offers the perfect time for families to explore science in action. Avoid the summer slump and try some of these suggestions for summer science adventures with your child. Most of these activities are low-cost or free, but be sure to check with your local library before heading out to learn about free and discount passes to museums and other local attractions.

1. Participate in a Citizen Science Project

Science is collaborate by nature, so join in and lend a hand by participating in a citizen science project. Project participants support scientific research by:

These are just a few of citizen science projects looking for volunteers and many welcome help from children working with the guidance of an adult. Search for other citizen science projects at Zooniverse and SciStarter.

2. Become a National Park Service Junior Ranger

With parks from Maine to California and everywhere in-between, the National Park Service offers an affordable option for hands-on summer science fun. Fourth grade students qualify for free annual park passes through the Every Kid in a Park program. The Junior Rangers Program gives kids the opportunity to explore nature, attend ranger guided programs, and complete activities for each park. If your budding park ranger completes a Junior Ranger Program, each park offers a patch or badge and a certificate of completion. Can’t visit a particular park? Visit the NPS’s on-line WebRangers page.

3. Visit a Science Center

There are many fabulous science museums that offer kids access to interactive learning opportunities. For those fortunate enough to be within driving distance to a NASA center, consider a visit. Learn about space exploration, aeronautics, and ongoing missions and discoveries. Many of the centers, including Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, welcome visitors and offer tours. If you can’t travel to a visitor center, then be sure to visit NASA Wavelength and explore the vast collection of educational resources NASA has to offer.

With centers across the nation, the Audubon Society provides outdoor adventure for all ages. Visit a sanctuary, go on a hike, and explore the local lands and wildlife. Many centers offer nature themed programs designed exclusively for children and families as well as summer camps. Centers are open to the public, but those with memberships may visit for free and receive discounts on programs and camps. Find an Audubon Center near you.

4. Try Hands-On Science Activities

Hands-on science activities at home are a great way to have some summer fun, spend family time together, and even learn a little something new. Science at home is affordable and typically can be conducted with household objects and resources. Follow your child’s lead and try experiments related to his or her interests. Get started with these science activities for kids or browse this collection of home science activities from Scientific American.

5. Star Watch

Grab a blanket and the bug spray and head outside for some star gazing. If possible, get away from light pollution, you will be amazed at what you can see once your eyes adjust to the dark on a clear night. Bring a star chart and try to locate a few stars, planets, constellations, and galaxies. Use binoculars to identify surface features of the moon. If that isn’t spectacular enough for your aspiring astronomer, try counting the number of “shooting stars” during a meteor shower. August’s Perseids meteor shower is a great one to enjoy on a warm summer evening. Check out this year’s not-to-miss celestial events to watch with kids.

Above all, be sure to get your kids outside to get some fresh air and soak up some vitamin D!

Looking for more ideas for summer fun with your children? Be sure to read 100 Summer Activities for Kids!

6 Activities to Promote Computer Science Education

Activities to Promote Computer Science Education
Did you know that experts estimate there will be 1.4 million computing jobs open in 2020 and only 400,000 students to fill them? Since 2013, Computer Science Education Week has been held during the second week of December. This week is designed to make students and teachers more aware of computer science and the importance of building computing skills at early age. While enrolling all students in regular coding and other computer science classes may be the ideal solution, you can still take small steps to encourage students to take notice of computer science and help them discover how much fun it can be.

Participate in an Hour of Code

In 2014, the Hour of Code gained a lot of publicity when President Obama sat down to join students as part of the event. This year, and all year long, you can also participate in an hour of code. Organize your own Hour of Code event at your school or join up with an existing group. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, search for local volunteers to come work with your students during the event. For a less formal option, simply have your students complete one of the coding tutorials available through Code.org where they code with popular characters from Star Wars, Minecraft, or even Anna and Elsa from Frozen.

Don’t be afraid to go beyond an Hour of Code either. Many different apps and websites offer a series of lessons designed to teach students how to code or to think in ways that are related to the language of coding. A few of them to try in your classroom include:

Elementary

  • Kodable – a fun app that comes with an extensive coding curriculum
  • ScratchJr – a free app that teaches kids to think like a coder while completing fun tasks
  • Tynker – another provider of an Hour of Code resources featuring brands and characters kids love

Secondary

  • Hopscotch – an app that allows kids to make and publish their own games
  • CodeCombat – an online, multiplayer game that requires kids to write code to play
  • Kodu Game Lab – a visual programming tool that kids can download to create games

Hold a Computer Science Career Day

Students often hear that there are tons of job in the tech industry, but do they know what those jobs look like? Invite parents and other community members to your school for a Computer Science Career Day. Your speakers can rotate among classes to share what their jobs are like or they can set up tables in booths and talk to students as they approach them. If you can’t find individuals to come to school, then have students research different tech jobs or companies and share their findings with the class.

Show a Video

Take some time to show kids a video related to computer science. There are tons of Ted Talks related to technology that could inspire kids to consider a career in computer science. A few videos you might want to use include:

Have Fun with a MaKey MaKey Kit

While a MaKey MaKey kit does not involve a lot of coding, it does encourage kids to think outside of the box and imagine the cool things they can do when they combine computers with everyday objects. You can turn students’ experiments with the kit into writing assignments, science experiments, marketing proposals, and other educational activities.

Connect Computer Science to Students’ Interests

Your students may not be interested in computer science, but they may be interested in playing football, playing with their toys, or drawing and coloring. Chances are they don’t realize how much computer science can play a role in these activities. For example, it takes a lot of technology to take video of a football game, freeze it, and move it around on the screen. Give students the task of researching how technology plays a role in their favorite hobbies. They may discover that coders help create 3D models of their favorite toys or that they can create some amazing art with lines of code.

Get Away from the Computer

While learning how to code can benefit students, thinking in the language of coding is even more important. By promoting logic and creative thinking skills, you can give students the mental skills they’ll need to be successful in a computer science field.  CS Unplugged offers a large selection of activities designed to help kids develop these critical thinking skills. These include tasks such as learning about The Turing Test and discovering how difficult it is for computers to draw lines and circles.

For more resources to help you bring Computer Science into the classroom, check out Code.org and the Computer Science Education Week website. If you use some of these activities in your classroom, share them to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtags #CSEdWeek and #HourOfCode.

 

Fun Daily Activities for Earth Science Week

Fun Daily Activities for Earth Science Week (Oct. 13-19). Some contests deadlines are coming up!
Earth Science Week is October 13-19, and it is the perfect time to show our appreciation for our home planet! Each day of the week focuses on specific geoscience-themed celebrations. To help you and your students partake in this year’s events, we have put together a list of activities for each day of Earth Science Week.

Contests

STEM contests and competitions are a fun way to engage students in learning. The American Geosciences Institute offers several contests as part of Earth Science Week. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade may enter a visual arts contest, while an essay contest is open to students in sixth through ninth grade, and a photography contest and a video contest are open to all ages.

International EarthCache Day – Sunday

What better way to kick of Earth Science Week than with a scavenger hunt? EarthCaching is geocaching with a geoscience twist. Gather the kids, their phones or any portable devise with GPS technology, and head outdoors to find some educational treasures.

EarthCaching – An Educator’s Guide
The EarthCaching Educator’s Guide, put out by the Geological Society of America, provides all the background information, tips, and lesson plans required for parents and teachers to get their students started with earthcaching.

EarthCache Listings
Ready to find an earthcache? Consult this searchable list to locate a nearby earthcache.

Earth Science Literacy Day – Monday

Earth Science Literacy Day focuses on the “Big Ideas” that we should all understand about earth science. Start by watching the Big Idea videos by the American Geosciences Institute. Then, why not take the opportunity to hook children on learning about our planet through reading? Below are a few of our favorite fiction books that feature geoscience themes. Most of these books complement Big Idea 6: Life Evolves on Earth and Big Idea 8: Natural Hazards Affect Humans!

Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields
Young children will enjoy the creative rhyming and variety of dinosaurs dancing it up at the dinosaur stomp. Adults will enjoy the way geologic time is interwoven throughout this rollicking story.

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
The beloved Magic Tree House series begins in the prehistoric past with Dinosaurs Before Dark. Early readers that have already started the series can skip the later geo-themed books, Vacation Under the Volcano or Earthquake in the Early Morning.

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 by Lauren Tarshis
Older elementary students who are fans of adventure and historical fiction will flip through the pages of this story about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Related books in this series include, I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 and I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
What better way to appreciate what the earth’s surface offers us than to take it away? Middle school readers will want to keep the lights on and find out what happens when the power goes out in the underground city of Ember.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
High school students who enjoy disaster fiction will be drawn into the post-apocalyptic world of Ashfall. However, in this novel, the force that destroys the earth as we know isn’t aliens or governments, it’s our very own Yellowstone supervolcano.

No Child Left Inside Day – Tuesday

Time to go outside! Geoscience happens outdoors, so take advantage of this day and get your students and children outside with these activities.

Outdoor Education Stations
Coordinate an outdoor geoscience activity with a local earth science organization or setup education stations in your own backyard or school grounds.

Every Kid in a Park
If you teach or know any fourth grade students, take this day to get them signed up for the Every Kid in a Park program. The pass allows all U.S. fourth grade and home-school equivalent students and their families to visit hundreds of national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges for free. Bonus, the pass is good through the end of August, making it the perfect motivational tool for getting outside all year long!

Earth Observation Day – Tuesday

Take advantage of Earth Observation Day by engaging your students in practical applications of Earth Science data. Introduce your students to remote sensing with one of these lessons or activities or connect with a remote sensing scientist. Visit the Earth Observation Day website to get started!

National Fossil Day – Wednesday

If you are fortunate enough to have fossils on-hand for students to examine, then today is the day to do so! If not, don’t worry, students can still participate in National Fossil Day with these activities.

Online Fossil Activities
Take students on an interactive adventure to the past without leaving the classroom with the Fossil Mysteries interactive. View fossils on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History with the NMNH virtual tour. Explore online paleontology games and activities from the American Museum of Natural History. Try our free Fossils online lesson too.

Art and Photography Contest
Get creative by entering the National Fossil Day Art Content. The winning submission for each age group will be featured on the official National Fossil Day website.

Geoscience for Everyone Day – Thursday

How do we manage our mineral resources? Can we predict natural hazards? Could we survive on Mars? These are all issues geoscientists grapple with on a daily basis. Geoscience for Everyone Day is set aside for students to learn about geoscience careers.

Career Exploration
Allow your student to explore future career paths today. Science Buddies offers a great collection of job overviews and education and training information for those interested in Earth and Environmental Science careers.  PBS’ Dragonfly TV features videos about Real Scientists, including an ocean scientist, meteorologist, marine geologist, and paleontologist.

Geologic Map Day – Friday

Geologic Map Day is dedicated to the important role geologic mapping plays in society. Geologic maps tell us much more than the location of roads and landmarks. Instead, they tell us about the history of the earth below our feet – the types of rocks and their ages, fault lines, and folds, all essential information for land-use planning.

Learn About Geologic Maps
For those unfamiliar with geologic maps, a primer is in order. Start by reading the Geologic Maps site by the US Geological Survey and the National Parks Service, then, explore the One Geology Portal.

Interpret a Geologic Map
Get hands-on and try interpreting a geologic map. Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but there are some excellent tools and lessons available. Start with the Visible Geology interactive, What’s Under My Feet, Geologic Maps and Groundwater, or Geologic Maps & Earthquakes.

International Archaeology Day – Saturday

Earth Science Week wraps up with International Archaeology Day, the perfect opportunity for families to experience the real-world intersection of geoscience and history.

Attend an Archaeology Day Event
The Archaeological Institute of America’s website has an interactive map and searchable database of Archaeology Day events happening around the world. Chances are there is a family-friendly tour, open house, fair, or exhibit near you.

Join a Dig!
Some archaeological sites allow volunteers to join in the dig free of charge. Search for potential volunteer opportunities here. If you and your students can’t participate in a dig, then go virtual with InteractiveDigs.com.

Looking for more ways to learn about planet Earth? Visit HelpTeaching.com and try our free Earth Science printables and lessons.

15 Engaging and Educational Activities for Fall

The words “fall” or “autumn” may bring visions of colorful leaves, falling temperatures, and apple picking, but many students are still lamenting the loss of summer and the beginning of the school year. The fall season is perfect for getting students out of the back-to-school slump and engaging them in themed learning activities that span the curriculum. Whether you are a teacher looking to enliven your fall curriculum or a parent wanting to spend quality time with your children, these activities will help you and your students celebrate the season and hopefully learn something new along the way.

Language Arts Activities

1. Write about Fall. Writing about fall is a great way for students to get back in the habit of writing every day while developing sensory writing skills. Take your students outside and encourage them to write about the sounds and sights of fall. Challenge them to describe the tastes and smells of their favorite fall foods. Use our fall writing prompts, fall haiku, or autumn acrostic to get started.

2. Fall into Reading. Summer reading has passed, but that doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t continue to read throughout fall! Younger students will enjoy autumn-themed picture books like Fall is Not Easy, Leaf Man, and The Little Yellow Leaf. Students of all ages should read at least one piece of literature honoring Hispanic Heritage Month which begins on September 15. Help Teaching offers fall reading resources including this rebus story and fall reading comprehension passages. Our friends at Elementary Librarian have a great list of Halloween read-alouds as well.

Social Studies Activities

3. Recognize Constitution and Citizen Day. The United States Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. Use this important date in history to discuss civics and citizenship with your students. Get started with these activities for Constitution and Citizen Day.

4. Contemplate Columbus Day. Columbus Day is a federal holiday that doesn’t come without controversy. Take the opportunity to broaden your students’ knowledge of the holiday beyond the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria with one of these Columbus Day activities.

5. Be a Historical Detective. Autumn is harvest time. What better way to celebrate the harvest, than to step back in time and learn about what happened during the first Thanksgiving with this historical interactive by Plimoth Plantation.

Math Activities

6. Measure Earth’s Tilt. The Earth’s 23.5o tilt is largely responsible for the changing seasons and offers a perfect opportunity to connect geometry and measurement concepts with real-world learning.  Elementary students can first learn about measuring angles with protractors then use their new skills to measure shadows on the fall equinox with this lesson. Middle and high school students can further investigate the impacts of Earth’s angular tilt on the seasons with the PBS LearningMedia lesson, Seasons on Earth.

7. Tell a Math Story. Once upon a time there was a lonely even prime number named Two. Math Storytelling Day falls each fall on September 25 and is a great way to combine math and literacy skills. Read a math-themed story to your students or have them write and share their own stories. Find more ideas for Math Storytelling Day in this article on celebrating math holidays.

8. Collect Fall Data. From kindergarten on, today’s math students must learn how to collect, represent, and interpret data. Take advantage the autumn’s offerings and have your students work with real data that comes with the season. Count and graph the number of acorns that fall off an oak tree each week. Plot and track hurricane paths. Measure morning air temperature at the same time each day and calculated changes in temperature over the season. Estimate then measure pumpkin weights. Ask your students to brainstorm ideas of fall data they would like to collect, represent, and interpret!

Science Activities

9. Dispel Student Misconceptions. The seasons are caused by the changing distance of the Earth from the sun. It is the same season everywhere on Earth. These are a couple common misconceptions about the seasons. Take a few minutes to watch ‘Tis the Season for a Reason by the Smithsonian Science Education Center to learn more on student misconceptions about the changing seasons and tips on improving instruction.

10. Learn about the Autumnal Equinox. The official first day of any season is an astronomical event. The autumnal equinox falls around September 22-23 each year and is one of two days a year with almost equal amounts of daylight and darkness. Assign students this self-paced lesson on Solstices and Equinoxes so they can explore the astronomical science behind the changing seasons.

11. Keep a Weather Journal. Recognizing patterns in the natural world is an essential skill for today’s science student. Young students can keep a daily weather journal by drawing pictures of the weather they see each day. Have elementary students make qualitative observations in weather patterns during the fall and draw connections between daily and seasonal changes in temperature. Try our printable on investigating daily temperature changes. Middle school students can take quantitative weather measurements and analyze patterns in data.

12. Observe the Night Sky.  Clear, cool fall nights are ideal for getting children outside to observe the sky. Folklore names each full moon, so make an effort to get out and see the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to fall equinox. Students can learn about the moon’s surface features before going out, then try to locate maria, highlands, and craters. Be sure to also encourage students to watch one of the fall meteor showers.

General Activities

13. Compose a Fall Song. What sounds do you associate with fall? Maybe you think of rustling leaves, rumbling harvesting machinery, or honking geese migrating. Challenge your students to work in groups to compose original songs featuring the sounds of fall. Encourage them to use not only instruments, but also leaves, acorns, and other natural materials of the season. Use this lesson on parts of a song to help get students started.

14. Go to a Fair. Each fall, farmers and artisans gather at traditional fairs to display their best produce, animals, and creations and to participate in good-natured competition. Take your children and see how large a pumpkin really can grow, watch a livestock show, and see modern and antique agricultural machinery in action. Kick off your trip by having your child complete this lesson on fair vocabulary words.

15. Get Crafty with Nature. Mother nature supplies an abundance of nature materials to create with in the fall. Try one of these nature crafts using pinecones, apples, leaves and other fall finds. Explore our Ultimate Guide to Crafts for Kids for more crafty ideas.

What are your favorite fall learning activities enjoyed by your students and children? Share them in the comments! Be sure to visit Help Teaching and check our library of seasons worksheets.

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