Learning Resources

At-Home STEM: Escape Rooms

I got locked in an Escape Room with my kids…and we all lived to tell about it!

Escape rooms are all the rage right now, and I participated in one a couple of years ago with my mom and my siblings (and a man and his son that we didn’t know). Doing escape rooms with family members has its pros and cons, but for the most part we worked well together and escaped the room (although I’m pretty sure we needed a few extra minutes, which the owners kindly gave us).While normally I would do anything and everything to avoid getting locked up with my pubescent boys (who are under 11 months apart in age), this was actually an incredible experience for all of us. Escape rooms are a fantastic way to teach STEM concepts and critical thinking skills under the guise of a game. I was able to watch my boys work together, problem solve, and deal with “failure” by trying new tactics.

I ordered this one on Amazon, and it was definitely a good beginner game for us. Once I knew they enjoyed it, I proceeded to order another couple online that I could print from home. We haven’t done those yet, but we plan to do them this weekend.

We started out by opening the box and investigating the contents. There was a sheet with instructions, a large “note card”, a wheel that included dials and symbols, and several sealed envelopes. As instructed, we read the first note card with the instructions and the back story. And don’t worry: clues and even the solutions are provided online if you get stuck.

The first card basically had instructions on how to use the enclosed wheel to “solve” each puzzle and move on to the next envelope.

Just like a “destination” escape room, we had to use every piece of the game we had access to in order to search for clues. So we might find clues on the outside of the last envelope that we needed to solve the second puzzle.

We actually had to look up a clue one time because my boys were getting frustrated. The way the clues are provided is nice because you have to click to uncover it. That way you don’t accidentally see a clue or solution you don’t want to.

 

And because I know you’re dying to know whether or not we made it out…

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At-Home STEM Activities

Outdoor STEMJust because school’s out, it doesn’t mean the learning should stop. As health and safety concerns have more people opting to stay home, we’ve curated a guide of fun-filled, educational activities that don’t require leaving the house. Check out these hands-on activities that will keep your students engaged and entertained with science, technology, engineering and math.

 Creative STEM activities

Learning to think outside the box and use deductive reasoning are just a few key problem-solving skills students learn from STEM. Exploring trial and error techniques teaches students to overcome challenges and provides the opportunity to celebrate little victories. These activities from Little Bins for Little Hands use household items to bring learning home.

  • Catapult Challenge: Using rubber bands, pencils, marshmallows, LEGO, popsicle sticks and more, kids can learn about physics while creating a catapult that will double as an educational toy.
  • Balloon Rocket: Race to the finish using a balloon, a straw and string while exploring Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion (or here for a simpler explanation).
  • 100 Cup Tower Challenge: Learn the fundamentals of engineering as kids see what it takes to strategically balance and stack 100 cups.
  • Build Structures: Using toothpicks and candy or other supplies, kids will become junior architects building towers and bridges.

Energized STEM activities

Just because you’re staying home doesn’t mean you can’t be active. These motion-powered projects are the perfect way for kids to release some energy while learning about sports science. The best part is that these activities from the Science Buddies Hands-on Project Survival Guide don’t require too much space and can be done inside a large room or in the backyard.

Slime STEM activities

Learning about polymers is a sticky science but these recipes from STEM Powered Family make it easy and memorable. From potions that change color with heat to learning about magnetism with “troll bogeys” to edible marshmallow play dough, each concoction teaches a different lesson. For easy, ready-to-use slime kits and other STEM toys, check out KiwiCo’s spring break sale.

Computer Coding for kids

As technology becomes an increasingly important part of everyday life, coding is no longer a skill just used by computer scientists. Basic computer coding is used in a wide variety of careers and according to Tech News World, “coding is a necessary literacy in the technological age.” Take advantage of this time to help your student get ahead with Tynker Coding for Kids. You can also find “unplugged” coding activities (as well as many others) on our Energy Day site.

STEM movie marathon

Turn your living room into a mini movie theater, complete with popcorn and other snacks, before breaking out the STEM-inspired cinemas. From astronauts to science fiction to inspired female heroes, here are a few favorites:

  • “Flubber”
  • “Back to the Future”
  • “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”
  • “Tomorrowland”
  • “Big Hero 6” – Check out these science activities, like making oobleck, inspired by the movie.
  • “The LEGO Movie”
  • “Wreck It Ralph”
  • Hidden Figures”
  • “Apollo 13”
  • “Spare Parts”
  • “The Martian”
  • “Interstellar”

Make your own hand sanitizer

If you’re concerned about hand sanitizer shortages, here’s an easy scientific solution; make your own! Simply whisk together 2/3 cup rubbing alcohol and 1/3 cup aloe vera. An optional step is to add vitamin E to make it softer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has official instructions for making your own sanitizer, so just be aware that anything short of this may not actually work well to fight COVID-19. The CDC actually recommends washing hands over using hand sanitizer, but this is helpful for the times when you can’t wash your hands.

Apply for a STEM scholarship

The Energy Day Academic Program provides opportunities for students and teachers to earn a number of STEM scholarships and awards. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Energy Day, we’ve kicked off our Energy Day 2020 Media Contest. Teachers and students can win up to $300 for producing a short video and/or designing an Energy Day mascot. All entries must be submitted by May 31.

Our friends at Texas Girls Collaborative Project have an ongoing list of resources  Mommy Poppins and Science Bob also have fantastic ideas for activities for all ages.

Check out additional opportunities in Houston and Colorado.

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Keep Students STEM Challenged

Posted by Paige Barnes (Director of Education, CEEF)

How do you keep your kids entertained and engaged over the summer with educational activities? This may be an easy task for some, but most of us get at least a little bit stressed about the idea of having our children around for an extra 8-9 hours each day during summer. But there’s good news! You can reinforce their school lessons and have fun this summer with these STEM activities!

There are so many ways to teach STEM beyond the classroom, and summer offers the freedom to do all of them! Kids love to learn when they don’t know they’re learning, so keep things light and fun during the summer, and they’ll never know what hit ’em.

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Colorado Energy Day is Just Around the Corner

Energy Day is Saturday, September 22 from 11 to 4 at East High School in Denver!!!

But wait, what the heck is Energy Day?

Well, this free family event started in 2011 in Houston to show students just what it meant to have a job in the energy industry. Instead of the book work that students typically think of, we wanted to showcase fun experiments, neat exhibits, and fun ways to look at science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) subjects, much of which is shown through the lens of the latest tech. Since then, Energy Day has become one of the premiere energy-focused family festivals in the nation.

Energy Day offers free fun for the whole family. Featuring interactive lessons and activities that are particularly valuable for K-12 students, families, and educators. Additionally, the festival has music, food, contests, and opportunities to interact with industry experts.

Consumer Energy Education Foundation (CEEF) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) serve as the principal organizers of the Energy Day Festival.

If you’ve never been a part of Energy Day – check out last year’s event here:

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Educational Apps and Games

Since the kids will be out of school before we know it, it’s a good idea to have a list of educational games and apps for you to pepper in their screen time. In my house, we have a list of about 15 things that must be done before my kiddos can have screen time (playing outside, reading, and building something are just a few of those things). WARNING to adults: some of these apps may be addictive for you also (I play several from the bottom group daily). Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

With that in mind, here is a working list that will continue to be updated:

Math

Arithmetic Invaders Express: Grade K-2 Math Facts – Defend the solar system by solving counting, addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems.

Mathical – Mathical was developed by teachers for practice of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts; fractions of shapes and place value. The games within the app have adjustable difficulty to suit differing abilities for ages 5 – 10.

Math vs Zombies – The world is overrun with zombies. You are a part of a squad of highly trained scientists who can save us. Use your math skills and special powers to treat infected zombies.

Mystery Math Town –  It’s part math drills, part seek and find game and totally engaging. Kids ages five and up should find this both fun and challenging.

Mathmateer – While your rocket is floating weightlessly in space, the real fun begins! Play one of the many fun math missions. Each mission has touchable objects floating in space, including stars, coins, 3D shapes and more! Earn a bronze, silver or gold medal and also try to beat your high score. Missions range in difficulty from even/odd numbers all the way to square roots, so kids and their parents will enjoy hours of fun while learning math.

Math Ninja – Use your math skills to defend your treehouse against a hungry tomato and his robotic army in this fun action packed game! Choose between ninja stars, smoke bombs, or ninja magic – and choose your upgrades wisely!

NumberStax – Number Stax is a puzzle game to test your number skills! Drop numbers and operators in the correct places to match the number or expression shown at the top of the screen to score. You can’t remove tiles but you can swap them around. You can freeze the game at any time, but remember to watch the clock!

Coding

The Foos (iPad) and The Foos (Android) – codeSpark Academy teaches the basics of computer programming through a variety of interactive learning activities including puzzles, games, step-by-step creative projects, game design and offline printables – all of which can be monitored by parents.

LightBot (iPad) and LightBot (Android) – Lightbot is a programming puzzle game: a puzzle game that uses game mechanics that are firmly rooted in programming concepts.

Kodable (iPad) – Award-winning coding curriculum for kids! Kodable is designed to teach computer science to elementary students grades K-5 (Ages 4-11).

Scratch Jr. (iPad) and Scratch Jr. (Android) – By snapping together graphical programming blocks, children can make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. In the process, children learn to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer. They also use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.

Bee-Bot (iPad) – The Bee-Bot App from TTS Group has been developed based on our well-loved, award-winning Bee-Bot floor robot. The app makes use of Bee-Bot’s keypad functionality and enables children to improve their skills in directional language and programming through sequences of forwards, backwards, left and right 90 degree turns. The app has been developed with 12 levels encouraging progression. Each level is timed and the faster it is completed the more stars you get! The levels are set in an engaging garden scenario and will appeal from age 4 upwards.

Critical Thinking and Exploration

Brain Training (Android) – Brain Trainer app that exercises to your brain using different strategies: short term memory, concentration, focus, speed, and accuracy; it has 15 different types of brain training games.

River Crossing (Android) (the App Store has similar games, but not this exact one at this time) – In this fun and challenging game, you will find a complete collection of all known river crossing logic problems, plus some completely new riddles that you will not find anywhere else. If you want brain teasers to improve your IQ while you have fun, you’ve come to the right place.

Infinity Loop (Android) and Infinity Loop (iPad) – Simple, relaxing, endless game. People love it! It can be considered a puzzle game about creating intricate looping patterns or just the application of using a simple concept: “connecting multiple things” and make fun out of it.

Rube’s Lab (Android) and Rube’s Lab (iPad) – Rube’s Lab is a physics puzzle game with an amazing interactive world. Venture into the world where you`ll need to save Rube’s Lab from the wiles of Dr. Evil using logic and imagination. Items, objects, mechanisms, chain reactions… Solve puzzles through available tools in limited time frame.

Brain It On! – Physics Puzzles (Android) and Brain It On! – Physics Puzzles (iPad) – Deceptively challenging physics puzzles for your brain! Draw shapes to solve challenging physics puzzles. They’re not as easy as they look.

Logic Master 1 (Android) and Logic Master 1 (iPad) – The game contains brilliant questions that incorporate use of memory, logic, attention, and the ability to think in unconventional ways.

Logic Master 2 (Android) and Logic Master 2 (iPad) – The second version of a brilliant and unusual puzzle game that tests your attention and ability to think outside the box.

If you know of any great ones that I’m missing, please email me and let me know.

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