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Archive / October, 2014

Host a Family STEM Night

Family game nights are popular.  But, have you ever thought about changing your family game night to a Family STEM Night? Host a Family STEM Night

There are plenty of activities that require participants to think like an engineer or a scientist to identify and solve problems.  Families can work together to use the engineering design process just as STEMists do with their Groovy Lab in a Box.  There is no better way to learn than to learn while having fun!  Invite the whole family—grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles!

Check out these five family fun STEM activities you can do at home.

Build a Card Tower

Each family member, or family team, will design and construct a tower on a flat surface like a table or a floor, using only index cards, masking tape and scissors. Building can go on for a long time, so it is best to agree on a set period of time for building your tower.  Once the time starts, grab your index cards and masking tape and get to work.  Your STEMists may experience frustration as their initial attempts may collapse and cause them to start all over.  This STEM challenge will have your STEMists problem solving and revising to accomplish the task in no time!

Stacking Cups

Stacking Cups

Another fabulous team-based STEM activity for any age is cup stacking with rubber bands.  You will need six plastic disposable Solo cups, rubber bands and string.  Each team will get one rubber band that has four strings tied to it with enough string left to grab on to.   The teams will be instructed to build a 6-cup pyramid by only touching the strings attached to the rubber bands.  This STEM challenge is an excellent team building exercise and promotes siblings work together to be successful.  It also can be extremely competitive as each team tries to be the first to complete their pyramid.

Sock Walk

Have each family member grab a sock and place it over one shoe.  Then, head to the park or your local nature trail for a family outing. When you return home, remove your sock and spray it with water.  Then, place the dirty, wet sock in a plastic Ziploc bag and seal.  Next, tape the bag to a window.  For the next two weeks, watch what grows in your bag. Remember to write your name on your bag so you know which one is yours.

Paper in Flight

Your STEMists will love this activity.  Provide three sizes of paper and one paper clip.  Ask each family member, or team, to create three paper airplanes.    Ask them to explore the different ways to make wings, the nose tip and the tail.  Tell them to try the paper clip in different areas of the plane to see how the added weight affects the flight.  When each person or team experiments with their planes and chooses the best of the three, hold a competition to see which plane takes the longest flight, or the farthest flight.

DIY Jenga

DIY Jenga

Adrianne Meldrum, private tutor and author of The Tutor House blog , uses Jenga, a classic game of physical and mental skill, to teach her students in a unique way.   Jenga can be customized for any subject – from spelling, addition, subtraction and more complex equations.  Jenga can be used to inspire team building or an entertaining learning opportunity for STEMists to learn more about their family members. Check out Meldrum’s resources to create your own DIY Jenga game for family fun.

Your Family STEM Night can be as simple or elaborate as you make it.  The best part about Family STEM Night will be the quality time parents and children spend with each other.  Creating, exploring, designing, and building while playing games is a groovy way to learn!

For more groovy learning try Groovy Lab in a Box today!  Each box contains everything you need to learn about and do hands on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

4 Groovy Activities to Teach about Vibration and Sound Energy

Most STEMists learn to appreciate vibrations as an infant when they hear their first lullaby.  And, many learn to love singing children’s songs with the accompaniment of maracas, drums and triangles in preschool and elementary school. But, do STEMists completely understand the energy of sound vibration— how we are able to hear and feel sound?
4 Groovy Activities to Teach about Vibration and Sound Energy
Sound is more than noise; it is energy.  A groovy way to teach your STEMists about sound is by listening and seeing sound waves through simple activities that demonstrate the three characteristics of sound: pitch, volume and frequency.

Here are four activities you can do with your STEMists to learn about the energy of sound vibration, and how it can be seen and heard.

Humming a Tune

Have your STEMists place their fingers on their throat and hum their favorite song. Or, ask your STEMists to hum a tune through a kazoo. Ask them to discuss what they feel. Then explain they are feeling the vibrations of their vocal chords, which vibrate to make sound. The vibrations you feel when you hum are how we make and hear sound.

Fun with a Tuning Fork

Fun with a Tuning Fork

You will need a tuning fork (available from any musical instrument store) and ping pong ball. Strike a tuning fork and place one of its tines against ping pong ball. Discuss sound waves and what happened to the ping pong ball. Why did it move? Talk with your STEMists about the changes in vibration in relation to the changes in sound.

Sounding Off with a Spatula

All you need for this activity is a metal spatula.  Lay the spatula on a table or student’s desk with its handle extended over the side.  Ask your STEMists to pull the handle down. Then, discuss what happens when they let it go.  Do they see or hear anything?  Talk about the characteristics of sound, and the similarity between the vibrations of the spatula and the vibrations of your vocal chords when you talk.

Boom Box

This activity requires a boom box, paper plate, small pieces of paper and balloons.  Blow up a balloon and hold it in front of a boom box speaker.  Then, turn up the volume and observe.  Next, place a paper plate that holds small pieces of paper on top and place it on top of the boom box.  Discuss sound energy and what happens when you turn up the volume.

Note: Remind students that loud noises can damage their ears, especially when playing loud music – whether it’s through a boom box or earphones from your iPhone!

Below are some definitions for STEMists to learn as they go through the above sound energy activities:

  • Vibration – The back and forth movement of an object; Sound is made by vibrations that are usually too fast to see.
  • Sound Energy – Audible energy that is released when playing music, talking or a clap of thunder. As explained by Exploresound.org, “Sound is produced when an object vibrates. Near the vibrating surface, air follows that surface and the air molecules begin to vibrate, or oscillate. These oscillations spread from one molecule to the next, and a sound wave moves outward from the vibrating surface.”
  • Sound Wave – A longitudinal pressure wave of audible or inaudible sound.
  • Wave – A disturbance that travels through a medium, such as air or water.

Three Properties of Sound:

  1. Volume – how loud a sound is, a measure of amplitude
  2. Pitch – how high or low a sound is in relation to wavelength and frequency
  3. Frequency– how fast a sound wave is moving (high frequency = short wavelength = high pitch)

Let your STEMists join in the fun of more learning about sound and vibrations with this month’s music-themedGood Vibrations” Groovy Lab in a Box.  Order yours today!

8 Groovy Music Apps

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.  Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.” 
― Ludwig van Beethoven

8 Groovy Music Apps

An integration of music in the classroom can create a multisensory learning environment that is proven to improve retention and memory, increase concentration and enhance focus.

“Music stabilizes mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned. Baroque music, such as that composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, that is 50 to 80 beats per minute creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state,” says Chris Brewer, MA, FAMI, author of Music and Learning (1995).

We couldn’t agree more! In addition to stimulating and motivating, music complements STEM subjects and is great for the STEMists’ souls!

Below are eight music -themed apps that will provide fun learning while motivating your STEMists in their quest for knowledge:

Sound Uncovered – Free by Exploratorium

Sound Uncovered

Sound Uncovered, an interactive book for the iPad, demonstrates the basic principles of sound in an interactive and playful way.  STEMists will discover the world of acoustics, with features of various aspects of sound and music in ‘magazine’ style that make you realize just how much goes into hearing and producing sounds. Sound Uncovered teaches you all about the space between your ears and how our brain deciphers sound.  The app is a must-have for any age to experience fun auditory illusions, unique voice recordings and the creation of sound waves.

Music Theory – Free by Bold Learning Solutions, Inc.

Music Theory by Brandscape

This app offers an excellent review of music theory with flashcards to help STEMists focus on studying large amounts of information.  The app features music symbols and key signatures to composer trivia. STEMists can design their own flashcards where progress is recorded, stored and listed with each round of note cards they review. Plus, you can create flashcards in any study subject organized in the fashion you choose and tailored to a specific test. STEMists will truly excel in their studies with this app. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. 

Pickup Tunes – Free by RunFly Studios, LLC

Pickup Tunes

Many STEMists can play a song just by hearing it, whereas others need to read the music notes, or practice over and over again to develop the right sound.  Pickup Tunes is an app that will engage STEMists as they learn sound patterns in association to the music notes that represent that pattern.  STEMists will learn to recognize notes by repeating their sounds in this interactive game.  They will progress to various levels as their skills increase, and the program automatically saves your scores and progress.  Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Note: The free version provides an introduction to the app, but the paid version ($4.99) will be needed to continue to progress.

Kids Ear Training – Free by Ariel Ramos

Recommended for the younger crowd (children 9-11 years old,) Kids Ear Training is best suited for STEMists who have received prior musical education. The app features two learning modes with many levels that increase in difficulty as you progress and offers some customization features. STEMists will learn instrument families such as brass, woodwinds and strings, in addition to gaining a better understanding of sound concepts such as pitch and intervals.  Compatible for iPad.

Note: Kids Ear Training is safe for all ages; it does not contain social media or external links, ads or in-app purchases.

Ultimate-Guitar Tab– $2.99 by Ultimate Guitar

Get interactive lessons or learn guitar from scratch! The Ultimate-Guitar Tab  app can be accessed online or offline, and complements practice sessions for students learning how to play acoustic or electric guitar or ukulele.  With favorite tabs and chords available, and easy to use search a library of 400,000 songs, students can play along with their favorites helping them build their playing skills. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Pandora Radio – Free by Pandora Media

Pandora Radio can provide a venue for your STEMists to investigate and discover different types of music. Pure enjoyment and opens minds to the endless possibilities of song!  Available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire.

MSOLearn – Free by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra


MSOLearn provides STEMists an interactive audio-visual exploration of an orchestra, featuring the different instrumental families, individual instruments and the musicians who play them. The App encourages appreciation for all parts of an orchestra and provides stunning graphics and uncompressed audio.

Jam – Free by DreamWalk


What STEMist doesn’t secretly want to be a rock star?  Jam is the ultimate in groovy music fun!  Your STEMists will rock out with their own virtual band.  The user can sing into a digital device, and Jam will miraculously turn the song into a Masterpiece—regardless of your musical ability. Easy to use, Jam will detect pitch, key and song structure before producing original backup music to accompany song.  Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Do your STEMists love music and sound?

Be sure to check out “Good Vibrations” Groovy Lab in a Box where STEMists will investigate sound, pitch, vibration, sound waves, and an Engineering Design Challenge:  Using only the materials from your Groovy Lab in a Box, can you design and build a new musical instrument that plays at least three different pitches?

Enter to Win a Groovy One-Year Subscription!

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A Groovy Approach To Project-Based Learning


A Groovy Approach To Project-Based LearningToday’s students need groovy new ways to learn.  Many students are disengaged, bored, uninterested and unchallenged.

In fact, research places the percentage of disengaged middle and high school students between 25 percent and 66 percent (Taylor, Parsons 2011).  That’s where project-based learning comes in.

What is project-based learning?

To increase student engagement and learning, many educators are turning toward project-based learning. According to Buck Institute for Education (BIE), “project-based learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem or challenge.” It engages students in active, not passive learning, through projects that engage their hearts and minds, and provide real-world relevance for learning.

With project-based learning, students remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with project-based learning are better able to apply what they know to new situations. Education standards, such as Common Core, emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of 21st century competencies: critical thinking, communication in a variety of media and collaboration. Project-based learning provides an effective way to address such standards.

Assigning a project versus project-based learning

What is the difference between project-based learning and the typical assignment of a project in today’s classroom?

In most classrooms, an instructor may assign a project that is designed for students to show what they learned in a particular unit of study.  This may include a term paper or book project.

In project-based learning for a science classroom, for example, students learn through the project. It engages students through lab-based experiments, hands-on participation, and student and/or team-led inquiry.

Project-based learning and Groovy Lab in a Box

Project-based learning is at the heart of Groovy Lab in a Box because our investigations and engineering design challenge drive students to learn through inquiry, and work collaboratively to research and create projects that reflect their knowledge.  Each Groovy Lab in a Box includes the written materials and supplies necessary to complete the investigations and engineering design challenge outlined in a retro-style custom, subject-specific lab notebook.

Groovy Lab in a Box and Project-Based Learning

The monthly-themed engineering design challenge is the culmination of what the STEMists have learned from their investigations. It helps STEMists engage their imaginations and apply critical thinking to supply their desired outcomes through the six steps of the Engineering Design Process:

  • Ask a question or fix a problem
  • 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

Engineering Design Process

“Our Engineering Design Challenges harness the natural inquisitive nature and learning ability in children, which is generally lost in typical lecture-style classroom set up, and it’s the perfect example of project-based learning,” says Elaine Hansen, President of Groovy Lab in a Box.

“STEMists who use Groovy Lab in a Box become better problem solvers and more proficient in their communication and technology skills,” added Jennifer Pack, Communications and Art Director of Groovy Lab in a Box.  In addition to science, engineering and math, Groovy Lab in a Box incorporates technology, encouraging research and other interactive activities and videos through its Beyond… In A Box online portal exclusive to Groovy Lab in a Box subscribers.

STEMist using technology with Groovy Lab in a Box

Taking the next (groovy) step

Are you ready to implement project-based learning in your teaching environment to help your STEMists rediscover the excitement of learning?  Order a Groovy Lab in a Box today to incorporate project-based learning with your STEMists!

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