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Archive / August, 2014

Homeschooling is Groovier with Groovy Lab in a Box

Homeschooling has its challenges from developing curriculum to finding educational activities that will keep your students engaged. 
Monthly themed Groovy Lab in a Box is the ideal complement to your curricula, traditional textbooks and supplementary workbooks. Collaboration is key to learning and each groovy box can fit the needs of up to five STEMists – STEM Team titles are outlined in the extended learning portal Beyond…in a Box!

Homeschooling is Groovier with Groovy Lab in a Box

Groovy Lab in a Box will quickly turn your homeschoolers into true STEMists through hands-on experiments that teach science, technology, engineering, and math.

What is a STEMist?

STEM•ist /stĕmʹĭst/ n. Expert in applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Explorer, creator, inventor…STEMist!

Groovy Lab in a Box lab notebook

Groovy Lab in a Box fosters imaginative innovation and encourages problem solving through project-based learning. Each month’s box has a theme, such as Lunar Launch, Fly with Me, What’s the Matter, and Greenhouses.

Our Groovy Lab Notebook

Your homeschoolers will be delighted when they open their Groovy Lab in a Box to find all the supplies necessary to complete the investigations and engineering design challenge outlined in a retro-style custom, subject-specific lab notebook.  Full Steam Ahead homeschool educator Kristi Smith wrote in her blog titled, What I Learned About my Son,

While he was opening it, my son was beaming, exclaiming, ‘This is better than Christmas!’ (Note to self: Return dirt bike!) He wanted SO badly to just start tinkering, and I wanted SO badly for him to listen as I read through the included Lab Notebook, absorbing all the information on electricity, neutrons, circuits, etc.”

The custom Lab Notebook is where your STEMists will find easy-to-follow directions for each investigation, take notes, draw each project’s design plans and record their findings. “The lab notebook was set up to make it easy to record what we thought would happen, our actual results and what we thought of them.  My oldest loves building and doing experiments, but usually hates the writing/data portion. The question prompts and simple charts to record info made it more fun,” said Cheryl, the creator of Sew Can Do, and a self-taught crafter, designer and homeschooling mom of 3.

Cheryl recently tried our “Here Comes The Sun” solar energy-themed box. “It gave us everything we needed for 4 experiments AND a bonus item (solar paper) to use as we wished. I sometimes found projects like this kind of confusing back when I was a kid, but the lab notebook gave really clear, step-by-step instructions,” says Cheryl. “It was also nice to see the notebook reminding kids that failed results aren’t something negative, but rather an opportunity to learn more and redesign an even better solution.”

The Engineering Design Process for Project-Based Learning

Groovy Lab in a Box presents an engineering design challenge that takes great effort and requires STEMists to first identify the problem through investigative questioning, deduction and reasoning.  Unlike the investigations, the Lab Notebook does not have instructions on how to complete the Engineering Design Challenge, making it the most challenging to perform It’s true project-based learning where your homeschoolers will have to:

Engineering Design Process

  • Ask a question
  • Investigate to solve the problem
  • Brainstorm a possible solution
  • Plan and then build their solution
  • Experiment and run tests to see if the solution works
  • Redesign to improve the original solution (because almost no one designs it perfectly the first time!)

Even more benefits for homeschoolers

STEMists also have special access to our online learning portal, “Beyond…in a Box”.  Interactive activities, videos and other information are available on the portal to help homeschoolers learn about that month’s topic in addition to providing help to complete the engineering design challenge.

Cheryl says, “What I thought was most fantastic was that one box could be used just as easily with a single child or as a team – we tried it both ways.  Having several kids, at different levels, is sometimes a challenge for us in homeschooling, but Groovy Lab in a Box made it a lot easier.”

So, whether you are homeschooling one child or ten, Groovy Lab in a Box has you covered with our monthly subscription or our single box orders.  Visit Groovy Lab in a Box today to bring unique STEM-related, project-based learning to your homeschoolers.

9 Back-To-School Tips For Your STEMists

The end of summer break can cause back-to-school madness in many families.  Parents struggle with changes in their schedules, managing transportation, juggling before- and after-school activities, packing lunches and hours of homework help.  Children have other concerns, such as meeting new teachers, making new friends and managing homework. Unanswered questions and concerns can cause anxiety and sometimes panic in young STEMists.

Here are 9 back to school tips to help you and your STEMists have a successful stress-less school year.

9 Back-To-School Tips For Your STEMists

# 1. Routine Schedule

Start your school routine now for school success.  One week prior to the first day of classes,  you and your STEMists should transition from your summer routine to a school routine.  Gone are the days of late-night movies.  Re-set your alarm clocks to get up early and be sure to make time to eat a well-balanced breakfast. Recent studies show that eating a nutritional breakfast is important for successful performance in school.

#2. Map Your Classes

Most schools give students with a class schedule and school map before the first day of school.  Ask your STEMist to highlight his classes on the map and draw points from one class to the next as listed in his schedule.  Then, visit the campus with your STEMists and walk the map.  A campus and class tour will help ease first-day jitters.

#3. Create a Study Space

A quiet pre-determined homework space will help your STEMists to focus on their studies. If you don’t have a separate room for studying, create a space that provides a writing desk and a comfortable chair for reading assignments.  Be sure the space is away from tempting distractions, such as TVs, radios, the refrigerator and other siblings at play.

#4. Choose a Storage Space

Put all school books, binders, folders, notes and homework in one place for easy access. Siblings should each have their own storage space—parents too!  A drawer, storage cube, bin or a shelf on a bookcase in your predetermined study space or bedroom will do the trick.

#5. Get Organized

Color coding your folders, binders, notebooks and supplies by subject may help keep your STEMists organized.  Creating an organized system prior to the start of school, no matter what type of system you implement, will make it easier for your STEMists to stay focused.

#6. Use a Planner

Use of a planner is an excellent way to learn time management skills and can help prioritize deadlines, appointments and homework assignments.  Also, use your planner to map out project timelines.  A family whiteboard or chalkboard also is a way to keep every family member informed and prepared.

#7. Study Wisely

Use a timer to keep your STEMists on track—30-45 minutes is an effective amount of time to study.  Also, be sure to allow 5-10 minute breaks.  Be cautious of break times; extended breaks may cause your STEMists to lose focus.

#8. Develop Study Aids

Purchase plenty of index cards.  Use them to create study guides and flash cards for all of your STEMists’ school subjects.  Index cards are an effective study tool and easy to store, especially if you recycle a Groovy Lab in a Box. Decorate and label a Groovy box for each subject to achieve the ultimate study-aid organization!

#9. Communicate

Your STEMists should learn to communicate with their teachers.  Encourage them to ask questions when they don’t understand a concept or an assignment.  Also, when your STEMists are absent from class, they should email their teachers to ask about missed assignments. If they don’t have an email yet, it’s never too soon for STEMists to use communications technology. Consider setting up a Yahoo or Gmail email account for your STEMists so they can feel empowered to use email to communicate with their teachers.

Getting organized, setting a routine and being prepared will help you and your STEMists get on a path to a successful year.  If your STEMist wants to enhance his STEM learning this school year, check out our theme-based Groovy Lab in a Box monthly subscription. Subscribe to Groovy Lab in a Box today to help your STEMists continue to stimulate their science, technology, engineering, and mathematic abilities.


Backyard Roller Coasters Are Groovy Fun

How cool would it be to build a roller coaster in your own backyard?

Though it’s not common practice, recently there have been several people who were driven to meet the challenge of designing their own backyard coaster.  Not such a crazy idea—the project teaches physics emphasizing gravity, friction and speed while making fun for the entire family.

Backyard Roller Coasters Are Groovy Fun

The Oklahoma Land Run

Jeremy Reid, of Newcastle, Oklahoma, built a 444-foot wooden roller coaster track in his parent’s backyard – set on 10,000 acres of land.  The Oklahoma Land Run backyard roller coaster delights riders with its rickety-rack, click-clack sound as it reaches the top of a 20- foot drop, the first of four, and travels up to 20 mph.  Reid became interested in building a roller coaster after he took engineering, and materials and strength classes in college.  In Reid’s videos, he recalls the lack of information available on building roller coasters, and the extensive research it required to help him build the safe, solid 4.75 ton structure.

The Minotaur

A true STEMist, 19-year-old engineering student David Chesney built a coaster that he calls The Minotaur.  Chesney used 91 feet of steel-plated wooden track in his parent’s backyard in Toronto, Canada, to build his roller coaster that features two 12-foot drops and goes up to 12 miles per hour.  The coaster construction took nearly 4 years.  Chesney used scraps and other material from local hardware stores that totaled about $3,000.

The $50 Roller Coaster

Do you have a tight budget?  Teens, Austin Twede and Porter Harding, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, enlisted the help of two neighborhood friends to build a 50-foot wooden coaster in 1 1/2 days that cost under $50!  The thrill-seeking teens were bored and set out to make the coaster when challenged by Harding’s mother.  To find the track width, the coaster seat – made of wood, wheels and a stadium seat cushion – was constructed first. The coaster was mounted on the roof of a backyard play set, providing a 10-foot drop for riders.  Friends and neighbors spent many hours on the smooth-riding coaster decorated with Christmas lights for night-time runs.

The Caution Zone

Orinda, California, is home to The Caution Zone roller coaster and Coaster Dad Will Pemble, another backyard builder.  Pemble couldn’t see any reason to say no to his son Lyle when he asked if they could build a roller coaster in the backyard.  The 180-foot coaster project cost about $3,500, and it took less than one year to complete.  In his vlog, Pemble reminds backyard coaster-builder-wannabees about momentum—the heavier the cart, the faster the ride, and the more energy the cart will carry into the inclines, turns, and flats of the track.

Backyard roller coasters run the gamut when it comes to budget and size.  If roller coaster building on a large scale doesn’t fit into your schedule or backyard, be sure to check out our “What Goes Up” roller coaster-themed Groovy Lab in a Box where your STEMists will work on design challenges and become savvy roller coaster engineers.

Roller Coasters for Thrill-Seeking STEMists

Roller Coasters for Thrill-Seeking STEMists

Do you remember your first roller coaster ride? Did you stop breathing for that second when you felt your stomach drop as you rode down the first steep hill?

Many people love the sound of coaster wheels on the track and the exhilarating thrill of record-setting speed and acrobatic maneuvers as you reach zero gravity.  Others—not so much!  STEMists, however, whether thrill-seekers or not, find delight in the engineering and design of the roller coaster.

Check out these “best of the best” roller coasters in the U.S.

Goliath, Six Flags Great America

Goliath roller coaster

Goliath, a wooden coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois breaks three world records—tallest, steepest and fastest. Coined by The Lumberyard Legend by USA Today , Goliath hits speeds up to 72 miles per hour and has a 180-foot, 85-degree drop.  Coaster enthusiasts partial to wooden tracks will be surprised by the smooth ride Goliath delivers. And, this woody has three over-banked turns with two upside-down maneuvers, an inverted zero-gravity stall and a 180-degree zero-gravity roll to an inverted drop that will boggle your STEMist’s mind! (A Zero-G roll is an inversion where the center of gravity aligns with the rider’s heart line to stay in line with the center of the curve.)

Banshee, Kings Island


Banshee is the longest roller coaster in the U.S. with a track length of 4,124 feet.  Kings Island amusement park in Mason, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, is home to the screaming steel coaster in which riders experience seven inversions during the two-minute, 30-second roller coaster thrill ride that hits 68 mph. Two vertical loops and a weightless zero-gravity roll are also featured of this coaster. Riders should consider riding Banshee at night for a unique experience that includes fog, lights and lots of banshee screaming. Kings Island boasts 15 roller coasters making it a coaster enthusiast’s dream park.

Steel Hawg, Indiana Beach

Steel Hawg

Steel Hawg holds the record for the steepest roller coaster in the U.S. with a 111-degree angle of descent. And, although its speed gets to a mere 41 mph, the wild-mouse like ride packs a punch.  The 92-foot high Steel Hawg can be found at Indiana Beach in Monticello, Indiana.

Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure

Kingda Ka

Holding the record for tallest and fastest roller coaster, Kingda Ka can be found at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey.  Riders are launched from 0 -128 mph in 3.5 seconds at a 90-degree angle to reach the top of the 428 foot high track.  Then, riders plummet in a 270-degree spiral.  This heart-stopping thrill is over in 50.6 seconds—faster than a STEMist can explain G-force or inversion!

Not everyone can get to the parks mentioned above, but your STEMists don’t have to ride the coasters to experience the thrill.  Purchase our “What Goes Up” roller-coaster themed box for your STEMists today!

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