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Tag Archives: homeschooling

Capture Summertime Fun with Catapults

Catapulting is fun and provides a frame of reference for physics concepts your STEMists are learning in school.  Why not plan to build a catapult this summer?  Kids love to watch objects fly through the air, across the room or in the yard. It’s easy, and you can do so with items found around the house and in your STEMists’ toy closet.

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Build a LEGO Catapult

Anytime your STEMists build with LEGO blocks is time well spent and a sure way to improve the creator, explorer, and inventor in them!

Young STEMists can easily build a catapult with LEGO building blocks.  All you need to do is build a catapult platform with an arm and snap it onto a set of LEGO wheels attached to a LEGO axel.  And, voila, you are ready to launch!

Older STEMists can create a more sophisticated catapult using LEGO building pieces and a rubber band to create the right amount of torque for firing projectiles. FrugalFun4boys.com offers an easy to follow pictorial on how to build this LEGO contraption.

No matter what materials are used to build your catapult, you will enjoy watching your STEMists use their design engineering skills to tweak their creations to launch their projectiles further and further from where they first landed.

If your STEMists love catapults, check out our “Out To Launch” single box today!

Making Math Fun with LEGOS

Are you looking for a fun way to teach math?  Try  LEGOS®!  Math can be fun to learn when you use LEGOS to reinforce key math concepts.  From grouping and multiplying; adding and subtracting; measuring, weighing, and estimating; LEGOS can make learning math fun for children of all ages. 

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Addition & Subtraction with LEGOS

Pre-school STEMists can begin to learn math through LEGO play.  One way to teach the basic concept of adding and subtracting is ask the child to group the Duplo LEGO bricks by color. Ask them to count the number of bricks in the color group. Then, add the groups together to come up with the total number.  Or, ask your STEMist to only count the number of yellow Duplo LEGO bricks and the green Duplo LEGO bricks, and then add them together to get a total.  Counting the bumps on a single LEGO brick is another way to teach your children addition.  These same methods also can be applied to teach subtraction.

Fancy up your Fraction Skills

LEGO bricks are an excellent way to teach your STEMist about fractions.  Connect LEGOS of the same color and stack them to create a tower.  Then, demonstrate fractions by removing bricks.  You also can stack several towers and ask the students to create a graph on paper to display the tower fractions.

Measure and Weigh with LEGOS

Young STEMists can learn to measure different objects such as a shoe, desktop or chair by connecting LEGO bricks and using this as a unit of measurement.  Ask your child to write down the measurements and then graph them.  LEGOS also can be created in different shapes and weighed against each other or other objects, such as if the LEGO airplane weighs more than a red corvette Hot Wheel car.

Estimation Station

Create several LEGO designs and ask your children to estimate the number of bricks used to create the design.  Then, use visual comparison to estimate which design has the most LEGO bricks, or which design has the least of one specific color LEGO brick.

A LEGO Challenge

LEGO challenges give children perspective and foster problem-solving skills.  First, start with this brain challenge for your enthusiastic STEMists—provide students with two eight studded (2×4) LEGO bricks and ask them how many different ways the two can be combined.  The answer? 24

STEMists in the upper grade levels will be more challenged to combine 3 eight studded (2×4) LEGO bricks to create 1,060 different combinations.

Another challenge uses spatial awareness; you create a LEGO design and have your child mimic the design, which will foster hand-eye coordination and introduce your STEMist to 3D engineering.

Most important is to allow them to create, play and build LEGO masterpieces when they finish their mathematical challenges.  You may notice in this free play with LEGOS that your STEMists will begin to apply the mathematical concepts they learned.

LEGO Fun Facts

According to LEGO.com, laid end to end, the number of LEGO bricks sold in 2012 would stretch round the world more than 18 times. And, to reach the moon you would need to build a column of around 40 billion LEGO bricks.

No matter how you use your LEGO collection to teach math, STEMists will be better equipped to grasp mathematical concepts, and spatial and proportional theory—even if they don’t realize it!

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If your child loves to have fun while learning math, check out Groovy Lab in a Box. Our monthly subscription service puts the “fun” in learning STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Start your subscription today!

3 Unique Ways to Teach STEMists the Phases of the Moon

STEMists are fascinated by the Moon.  Most likely you started wondering about the Moon in your childhood after hearing about the ‘man in the Moon’ and the ‘cow that jumped over the Moon’ in nursery rhymes.  Early childhood exposure to the Moon often brings questions, especially about the different shapes the Moon appears to STEMists on Earth.

3 Unique Ways to Teach STEMists the Phases of the Moon

Order of the Moon Phases

STEMists learn that the Moon itself does not change its shape and that the Moon phases are named to describe their appearance and place in the phase cycle. Plus, STEMists learn that “waxing” means growing, or increasing in illumination and “waning” means shrinking; “Gibbous” means “swollen on one side,” referring to the phases where the Moon is more than half illuminated or more than half dark.

3 Unique Ways to Teach STEMists the Phases of the Moon

There are many ways to teach STEMists about the phases of the Moon. Here are three groovy methods.

#1: The STEMist, the Sun, and the Moon

Materials: 

  • Styrofoam ball of a size similar to a tennis ball
  • Bamboo skewer
  • Lamp with removable shade or a desk lamp

Procedure:

Earth – STEMist (You!)
Sun – Lamp
Moon – Ball

  1. Poke the sharp end of a bamboo skewer halfway through the styrofoam ball.
  2. Darken a room by turning off all the lights.  It’s best to do this activity at night when it’s dark outside or you can cover the windows with a sheet or blanket. GROOVY SAFETY: Ask a groovy grown-up for help.
  3. Remove the lamp shade and place the lamp at eye level on a dresser or shelf.  Once you have the lamp positioned safely, stand about 3 feet in front of the lamp. Then hold the Moon in front of you so it’s between you and the Sun.
  4. To simulate the moon’s orbit around the Earth, stay in one spot while you slowly turn your body in a circle counterclockwise (to the left). Keep your arm perfectly straight in front of you and the Moon at eye level. GROOVY NOTE:  Pay attention to the shadows created on the Moon which mimic the phases of the moon we see here on Earth.
  5. Rotate all the way around until you have completed a full lunar cycle and are facing the Sun again.

To help you remember the order of the phases of the moon try this GROOVY MEMORY TRICK:

Leading to a Full Moon:
Waxing: When the Moon is on the right, getting bigger every night.

Leading to a New Moon:
Waning: When the Moon is waning, on the left it’s fading.

Order of Moon Phases

#2: Oreo cookies

Oreo cookies turn into Moon shadows easily by scraping off the middle crème with a Popsicle stick (eating the extra crème is optional, though we imagine not many STEMists will pass this up!) STEMists place their scraped Oreo on a plate or piece of construction paper to show the Moon phases. This method is always a favorite with STEMists and certainly the sweetest!

3 Unique Ways to Teach STEMists the Phases of the Moon

#3: Faces of the moon

Bob Crelin, author of “Faces of the Moon,” developed a lesson plan for teachers to download to teach their 4th – 8th grade students about the phases of the Moon.  Step-by-step instruction is provided that works alongside pages in his book.  For example, children will learn that “month” comes from “Moon.” And, in the past, a month represented the time it took to complete one cycle of the changing Moon phases, which is approximately 29.5 days, similar to our monthly calendar.

Another part of “Faces of the Moon” is to model the moon phases by hanging a “Moon” from a ceiling.  A Styrofoam ball painted half black and hung from the ceiling will provide a glimpse of shadowing when the children walk around the Moon— just like the phases of the Moon.

 If your STEMist is interested in the learning more about the moon and telescopes, be sure to check out the Moon Dance” Groovy Lab in a Box or sign up for a groovy subscription today!

STEMists do the “E” in STEM!  Engineering Design Challenge in every groovy box! 

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