Order Now and Print a Gift Announcement

Tag Archives: Maker Education

3 Groovy Snow Activities

There is nothing better than the first snowfall of the season — crystal sparkles float down3 Groovy Snow Activities from the sky often blanketing the ground.

Winter is the perfect time to learn all about the wonders of snow.

Snow is a frozen form of precipitation that falls as ice crystals that form into flakes.  Snowflakes form when the atmospheric temperature is at or below freezing (0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit), and there is a minimum amount of moisture in the air, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  If the ground temperature is at or below freezing, the snow will reach the ground.  Weather conditions, such as presence and strength of wind, moisture in the air, and cold temperatures, all play a role in determining whether snow sticks to the ground and how dense it will be.

From the physics of snow to the structure of snowflakes, your STEMists can have fun and keep groovy with these snow science activities.

Crystallized Snowflakes

Crystallized Snowflakes

For STEMists who don’t enjoy the cold winter weather, or live in warmer climates, try making crystallized snowflakes with Borax and chenille stems (pipe cleaners).

Materials list:

  • Borax
  • Chenille stems
  • Empty glass jars
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • String

Shape a white chenille stem into a “snowflake” shape, then tie one end of a string to a pencil and the other end to one of the arms of the snowflake, and suspended it from the pencil into a jar.

Boil enough water to fill the jar(s).  Once the water starts to boil, add borax (2 parts borax to 1 part water) and stir until dissolved.  Pour the water into the jar(s), fully covering your snowflake. Leave the jars overnight.  Crystals will have formed up the sides of the glass.  Pull out your chenille stem snowflakes to reveal a beautiful one-of-a-kind borax snow crystal.

Homemade Snow

Homemade Snow

STEMists of all ages will have fun playing with this homemade version of snow that contains only two ingredients: one can of shaving cream and one box of baking soda.  Pour the box of baking soda into a large aluminum pan or a plastic dishpan. Slowly mix in shaving cream to create moldable snow that feels like it’s just fallen from the sky.

Make Snow Ice Cream

Make Snow Ice Cream

This recipe from Allrecipes.com is sure to tickle the tongues of your STEMists!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 gallon fresh snow
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk
  • Fresh berries (optional)

Place a clean gallon-size bowl outside to catch falling snow.  Stir in sugar and vanilla to taste. Add milk to achieve your preferred texture.  Scoop into individual bowls and top with fresh berries for an added bonus.  Snow ice cream should be served immediately.

Whether your STEMists are learning about snowflakes or making snow for play or a special treat to eat, they will certainly have a winter to remember.  Another way to create great winter memories for your STEMists with the “What’s the Matter?” Groovy Lab in a Box. Each monthly-themed Groovy box has everything you need to learn about and do hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) investigations that enhance critical problem solving skills while having fun!

Groovy Ways To Attract Backyard Birds

More than 50 million Americans are considered backyard birders, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.  After gardening, it’s the second-most popular hobby in the country.  What many birders may not realize is that there is a science to feeding birds.

Groovy Ways To Attract Backyard Birds

Bird Metabolism

STEMists may be shocked to learn that birds need at least 10,000 calories each day.  Comparatively, an appropriate daily calorie intake for an active 9-13 year old STEMist is 1,800-2,200.  Birds need a massive amount of calories because their metabolism rate runs extremely high, specifically in flight, in extreme cold weather and during breeding season.

Birds are skilled at determining which food items are the most efficient and the best nutritional choice.  Some birds will test the seed’s weight and taste with their beak before making their choice – one reason you find birdseed on the ground instead of in the bird feeder. Generally, low-quality food is discarded.  Birds also look for seeds that are easily digested and don’t take a lot of work to eat.  Because of the amount of food a bird needs to consume (remember, food is fuel/energy), its choices are foods that are fast and easy to manage.

Birds and their Food Preferences

Birds and their Food Preferences

  • Nyjer (thistle seed) attracts American gold and lesser gold finches and pine siskins. Nyjer is considered gourmet for a bird.
  • Millet (white-proso) will attract towhees, sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, quail and mourning doves. This seed is best scattered on the ground because perch feeding birds won’t eat it.
  • Milo or Sorghum is birdseed for ground feeding. It attracts Curve-billed Thrashers, Gambel’s Quails, towhees, sparrows and juncos. According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology seed preference tests, these birds prefer milo to sunflower. In another study, they found that House Sparrows did not like Milo, but cowbirds did.
  • Black oil sunflower seeds attract the most perching birds including Purple finches, Oat titmice, Scrub jays, Blackheaded grosbeaks and more.
  • Safflower, an elongated white seed, can help birders attract cardinals found mainly in the eastern United States, and chickadees whose home is generally along the coast or in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
  • Suet is a popular choice among nuthatches and woodpeckers.
  • Mealworm (live) acts like a magnet for bluebirds!
  • Fruit such as oranges, grapes, apples and berries are a perfect menu item for the tanager and orioles. Placing a small dish of jelly in your feeding area will almost definitely attract your bird friends; however, be cautious about putting fruits and jellies out in warmer weather.  This delicacy is best used in cold winter weather.
  • Baked, or dried, melon seeds and pumpkin seeds are a popular choice for birds; however, smaller species will be grateful for crushed seeds for easier digestion.

Designing the Perfect Bird Food for your Backyard Tree

Build A Bird Seed Ornament

  • 1 package of plain gelatin
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups mixture of  black sunflower, millet & thistle seeds
  • 3 T. rice syrup
  • A dab of butter
  • Star-shaped cookie cutter or small Bundt pan for wreath shape

Dissolve gelatin in 1/2 cup warm water; whisk rice syrup and flour to create a paste; add bird seed and stir well.  Grease the inside of the star-shaped cookie cutter with a dab of butter (Bundt pan, or other mold), place on cookie sheet and press seed mixture with a spoon to fill the shape. Use a pointed object to make a hole in the star to make room for stringing a piece of rope or ribbon. In 24 hours, flip onto a plate or wax paper and let dry for another 24-48 hours. Birds will flock to your groovy stars!

Make a Sunflower Butter Pinecone Feeder

Make a Sunflower Butter Pinecone OrnamentBirds love sunflower butter!  A great choice for winter months, birds love homemade pinecone feeders. Use a spoon or butter knife to apply sunflower butter into the crevices of a pinecone and roll the cone in a mixture of black sunflower, millet and thistle seeds. Then, hang on a tree or set the cone in a feeding dish.

For the Birds” Groovy Lab in a Box

You and your STEMists can learn more bird science with the educational activities found in “For the Birds” groovy box—all about birds in your local area, their drinking and feeding habits, and what types of bird feeder structures best suit them. Join Now! and challenge your STEMists to a monthly Groovy Lab in a Box, full of everything a child needs to learn about and do hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) investigations. Our monthly box activates thinking, questioning, inquiring and original creation as we guide children through scientific inquiry and engineering design process.

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!

12 Ways to Recycle a Groovy Box

What do you do with your Groovy Lab in a Box once your STEMists have completed the monthly themed activity?  Teach your STEMists about the importance of recycling and reusing materials by finding new ways to use the Groovy box.

12 Ways to Recycle a Groovy Box

Below are 12 fun and groovy ways to repurpose your cool retro-style Groovy Lab in a Box

1. Make a Diorama.  Use your box as a creative STEMist summer project by making a diorama using the theme, “My Summer Vacation.” Or, save your box for an upcoming school diorama project.

2. Use as a Shoebox.  Our Groovy Lab in a Box packaging is an excellent way to keep your STEMists’ shoes in tip-top shape and an awesome way to organize your closet!

3. Make Wall Shelves. Paint or decorate our packaging to create unique and inexpensive wall shelving that you can use to store light weight knick knacks such as a small picture frame or flower vase.

4. Create a Memory Box.  Cover the box with decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or masking tape.  Then, when your STEMists experience something cool or unusual, ask them to write that event on a piece of paper.  The STEMist should then fold the paper and place it in the box.  At the end of the month, at the end of the year, or anytime your STEMists are in need of cheering up, recommend they pull out their memory box to read some of their favorite memories.

5. Make a Sailboat. Cut off the front flap of your groovy box, and then cut into thirds.  Take one of the third pieces and fold into the shape of a number 2. Tape the bottom edges of the 2 shape together, and then crinkle to make a C shape. Place a piece of tape down the back to hold. Place your groovy sailboat and let the wind blow.  Groovy Sailboat VIDEO: Groovy Sail Boat.  

12 Ways to Recycle a Groovy Box

 6. Gift Box.   Our boxes are great for packaging a gift.  Just place your gift in the box, and wrap it with wrapping paper or make it more fun and colorful with the Sunday comic strip section.

7. Covered Map Box.  Use an old map to cover the Groovy box to use as storage for your folded maps, or to store office supplies and other items.  This project is great for an office and a fun way to display a practical-use storage box.

8. Charging Station.  Cut several holes large enough to pull a charger cord through to connect with your mobile devices. Wrap the box with decorative paper or fabric for a more sophisticated look.

9. Photo Storage.  Decorate to your liking and use the box for storing and organizing your photo prints. Remember to label the box for easy identification!

10. Ribbon Dispenser.  Similar to the charging station (above), a ribbon dispenser is ideal for crafters or holiday gift wrapping.  Cut one or two holes, depending on the size of ribbon spools you have, on each short side of the box.  Starting outside of the box, insert the wooden skewers through the ribbon spools inside the box.  Then, cut holes and use grommets for decoration; thread your ribbons through the grommets for easy ribbon measuring and cutting.  Again, decorate the box to fit your room decor.

11. Sock Drawer Organizer. Use a straight-edge blade to cut the top off the Groovy box.  Then cut pieces to use as dividers inside the remaining box piece.  Insert the dividers and place pairs of socks in the box for easy access!  Save one divider space to add a favorite sachet or dryer sheet to keep your clothing freshly scented.

12. Store your Groovy Lab Notebook. Finally, for prosperity— keep one Groovy box to store all of your Groovy Lab in a Box custom designed lab notebooks that has all your STEMists’ engineering design challenges!

To encourage your STEMists’ engineering minds, become a Groovy Lab in a Box subscriber and receive your Groovy box that you can use to complete all the DIY projects mentioned above!

Copyright © 2018 Academics in a Box Inc. All Rights Reserved.