Category: Blog

National Chemistry Week 2018

Next week is National Chemistry Week 2018! National Chemistry Week is an annual event hosted by the American Chemistry Society across the nation in order to get kids interested in the field. Each year has a new theme: last year’s was Chemistry Rocks and focused on geochemistry. This year, Chemistry is Out of the This World!

To get you started celebrating this event, we collected resources and pulled out a few highlights to get you started on planning the week. Check it out!

National Chemistry Week Events

National Chemistry Week 2018

The ACS has plenty of tips when it comes to organizing events in your area for NCW. From recruiting volunteers to getting access to local venues, and more, the resources on the website are meant to help teachers and interested parties prepare for the week!

The community event for this year is planning a trip to a planetarium or science museum. Find one nearby and bring your kids or students there to learn about outer space! It fits into the year’s theme of Out of This World. Use an established tour, make one yourself, or see if its possible to customize the experience to the age group you’re targeting. You could even scale it down to a visit to the local library to check out books about outer space.

Chemistry Experiments and Activities

If you don’t want to organize a field trip for the event, try out some suggested activities and experiments instead. In honor of National Chemistry Week, the ACS holds an illustrated poem competition. Consider inviting students to join for a full on STEAM activity. There’s even a prize for the first and second place winner. Check out all the requirements here.

If you would rather stick with an experiment, the ACS has you covered on that regard too. Their Celebrating Chemistry packet is full of themed experiments. Students could make their own UV wristband or even create oxygen. They’re all relatively easy to set up, so see what might work for you.

Out of This World with ExoTrex!

Of course, we can’t get through an event about space travel without throwing our own space exploration learning game into the mix. ExoTrex casts players as an astronaut trying to find a new home for humanity in outer space. Chemistry, physics, and more are all included in the experience, so try it out for yourself to see how the game can enhance STEM education in the classroom!

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Easy Autumn Science Experiments

Autumn is the perfect season for science. The leaves change color, fall fruits and vegetables are harvested, and everybody gets a little spooky for Halloween. Using all these characteristics of fall, we’ve compiled several ideas for science experiments to carry out with your students or your kids.

Not every experiment will work for every age group, but we hope you find something to bring some seasonal STEM into education!

Easy Experiments with Leaves

Leaves and science experiments

Leaves are plentiful and often beautiful during the autumn season. As for why that is, use a science experiment to help your students understand why the leaves change color during the fall. There’s nothing quite like seeing something in practice.

If you’ve got kids or students who are more creative types, set them to making leaf people. They learn about how to preserve leaves at the same time. Instead of the beautiful colors fading to brown and the leaf itself getting crunchy, you’ll get fun leaves to stick up on the walls of the classroom or a fridge at home.

Glow in the Dark Science

Glow in the dark science experiments for fall

Get a little spooky in honor of Halloween and make some glow-in-the-dark projects with students. Make glow-in-the-dark pumpkins for an afternoon of fun and your scary decorations out of the way. It also gets rid of the mess of carving pumpkins, meaning that there’s less set-up and clean-up to take care of ahead of time.

If you’d rather have the traditional jack-o-lantern experience, there are still ways to get into glow-in-the-dark science experiments too. Make art with glowing exploding paint bags or glowing bathwater for the little ones (especially on one of the remaining warm days of the season).

Apple Science Experiments

Science experiments with apples

Apples are the fruit of autumn. Apple picking alone can be a fun time to have with the family, but adding some simple science on top can be even better. Make an exploding apple-cano for some excitement, or use toffee apples to examine changes of state and get a delicious treat.

For something even simpler, ask your students to conduct science experiments to see why apples float or why they turn brown

Head for Space with ExoTrex

exotrex 2 game space ship

If it’s too cold to go out and do science, stay in and explore the outer reaches of the solar system in our ExoTrex series. ExoTrex teaches players what makes a planet hospitable for humans. As you’re experiencing the changing of the seasons, appreciate what makes our Earth so special.

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World Teachers’ Day – Take Time to Thank Your Teachers!

Tomorrow, October 5th is World Teachers’ Day, also known as International Teachers’ Day. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendations concerning the status of teachers which addresses the status and situations of teachers around the world. It focuses on appreciating, assessing, and improving educators the world over.

You can spend World Teachers’ Day making your teachers feel appreciated. We’ve listed a few simple suggestions for how you might show your teachers that you care about them.

Say Thank You

say thanks to teachers on world teachers' day

Little words can go a long way. Sometimes, saying thank you is enough! Go see your teachers, current or past, and tell them clearly how much you appreciate what they do. If you can, be specific! Recall a particularly moment where they helped you grow and recount that story. Teachers don’t get to hear praise from their students enough!

If you’re too nervous to do it face to face, or the teacher you want to thank is at a different school or retired, do it through email! Just make sure your appreciation reaches them somehow.

A Small Gift

Presents , even simple ones can help your teachers see how much you appreciate them. Don’t go too overboard- a small token is enough to communicate how grateful you are. Think about a small gift card or a trinket you know they’ll appreciate. 

Nominate Them

World Teachers' Day nominate your teachers

If there’s a teacher that you have found to be particularly impactful on your education, nominate them for an award! Most school countries have a Teacher of the Year, and many schools do this process on that smaller level as well. Ask at your school office about the process of nominating a teacher for that award.

Honored’s teacher honoree program stresses that studies have shown that teachers who se a tangible positive impact of their work stay in the classrooms longer. Make sure your teachers know they make a difference.

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Find out more about World Teachers’ Day on the UNESCO website.


Stress Relief Games to Play

It’s that time of year. The temperature is dropping, leaves are changing color, and stress is racketing up. Even if you like the fall and winter, the lack of sun and cold weather can make days seem drearier and your work seem bigger. For those stressful times, you need to have a good strategy to calm yourself down. Meditation, calming teas, or even some time spent with your pet all work to help you deal with any stress in your life. 

However, we love games. So, when we’re stressed, we often turn to some soothing games that can help us focus and relax. Here are a few recommendations you can take when you need some stress relief on the go!

Flow

Flow a game for stress relief and relaxation

Flow is a soothing indie game available on PlayStation platforms and online. The player navigates a 2D plane, trying to evolve their organism while consuming other microorganisms. The whole premise comes from the idea of mental immersion or flow. Let yourself get lost in the soothing routine of growing and shrinking and growing again. The pattern and calming colors will help you with stress relief.

Two Dots

Play 2 dots for stress relief

Two Dots is a puzzle game where you take on the role of two brave dots travelling through the world. It’s got a soothing soundtrack, beautiful designs, and challenging puzzles. Give yourself the satisfaction of solving these challenges on the go. Two Dots can be played on both iOS and Android, so everybody can get into this unique and entertaining puzzle game.

Prune

Prune game as stress relief

Prune is a game where you “cultivate what matters [and] cut away the rest.” That’s a great technique to keep in mind when it comes to stress relief as well. Help the tree grow by cutting away what’s weighing on it and helping it thrive. Play the game on iOS on Android for when you need a burst of calm in your day-to-day life.

Silk Road Match 3

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our very own Matthias and his game Silk Road Match 3! Take your camel friend on the go on your phone and make progress in the game as you make progress on your commute. The match 3 puzzles both challenge and distract you, giving your mind and reflexes a workout while making the train time go faster.

Matthias is the best stress relief, offering fun trivia and funny comments as you get ever closer to becoming the most famous trader on the Silk Road. Download it from your chosen app store today.

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Resources for Teachers

What Is Hispanic Heritage Month?

Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of Americans whose ancestry can be traced to Spain, Mexico, or other Hispanic countries. The festival lasts from September 15 to October 15, starting in the middle of a month since September 15 marks the independence day of five seperate Hispanic countries. Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate on that date.

The month particularly focuses on the arts and culture of Hispanic Americans, highlighting important figures from history, hosting music festivals, and even working with the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and more organizations in DC. You can find out more about it and the events that comprise its duration in the DC area by looking at the official website. If you’re not from the DC area, don’t worry. This calendar features events from all over the country. So you can put something on your schedule no matter where you are!

Hispanic Heritage Month Resources

National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Smithsonian

Photo credit: Detail of Maíz Flor Serpiente/ Flower Maize Serpent commissioned digital art work by the Indigenous Design Collection, 2015.

While homeschools could consider scheduling a field trip to one of the events you can find above, teachers in the classroom might not be able to find time to bring their students out and about to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. However, thanks to how long the festival has been an established part of the calendar, there are already plenty of resources for bringing Hispanic Heritage Month into the classroom. Both the websites linked above bring you to plenty of helpful classroom resources.

The government site has links to resources from the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Archives, National Park Service, and the Smithsonian Institution. Check them all out. On the other one, you can find many articles about Hispanic culture, scholarships, social impact, and more. While not all of them may be great for all classrooms, the resources can expand your knowledge as well.

For more traditional lesson plans, you can also find resources on the National Education Association site and on Scholastic. See how to bring in multi-cultural education into your classroom in celebration.

Excavate! MesoAmerica

Excavate! games MesoAmerican screenshot

While Excavate! MesoAmerica doesn’t cover every Hispanic ancestry, it’s a great, fun way to get students interested in the history and cultures of ancient MesoAmerica. Explore the Aztec, Inca, and Maya civilizations through interactive archaeology. Students can discover more about these MesoAmerican sites by deeply examining artifacts and stretching their critical thinking skills. Excavate! MesoAmerican also includes a Spanish language option!

Until September 30, all our Excavate! games are 30% off with the code BACKTOSCHOOL18, so snag yourself a copy during Hispanic Heritage Month to bring Hispanic history to your classroom.

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Educational Conference Calendar Highlights

Conferences can be a great way to meet new peers and keep up with the latest in educational trends. Here, we highlight just a few educational conferences from this school year that you might consider paying attention to or even attending. Also, we provide links to more complete calendars for even more options to choose from

iNACOL

educational conference Inacol for transforming learning

The Symposium is an annual conference and a leading event for “K-12 competency based, blended and online learning.” By attending the conference, you will gain access to expertise in these areas, along with many networking opportunities. Within the symposium’s programming, attendees choose a specific track to help guide them through the more than 200 available sessions to what they need. It’s a great educational conference to pick up new ways to teach material!

This year, iNACOL takes place in Nashville from October 21-24. You can still register for this year’s conference, although the early bird deadline passed in July. Find out more on the website.

FETC

FETC educational conference logo

FETC tailors itself to the needs of “an increasingly technology-drive education community.” While attendees may come from different backgrounds and possess different skills, they all come to the educational conference to meet with others interested in ed tech. Like other conferences, FETC offers specialized tracks to get you to sessions that align with your professional goals.

Registration is open for the January 27-30, 2019 conference in Orlando, FL. Find out more on the website

SXSW EDU

SXSW educational conference poster

While SXSW might be better known for its film or music festivals, they do also hold a conference for educators. It features presentations and programming with educational thought leaders, traditional sessions, films and more. Some of the sample thematic tracks include language learning, accessibility & inclusion, emerging tech, and student agency. No matter your own educational goal, SXSW EDU is an educational conference that can provide you with resources to get there.

This school year’s program is being held in Austin TX from March 4-7, 2019. Registration rates increase on September 14, 2018, so think about reserving your place ASAP! Find out more details on the website.

More Educational Conferences

While these lists provide dates mostly for 2018, the conferences listed are yearly events, and you can find more information by going to the linked websites for each one. 

Check out these lists from The Edvocate, Getting Smart, and Where Learning Clicks.

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National Read A Book Day: What to Read

September 6th is National Read a Book Day! However, with so many books, finding something to read can be hard. So, we put together a list of book suggestions! Even though we’re a game-based learning company, we know the importance of reading regularly as part of continuing education. Make reading a part of your daily routine. 

Get Motivated

When: a suggestion for Read a Book Day

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing teaches you all about how motivation levels rise and fall throughout the day. Pink helps you identify your “chronotype” in order to best predict when you’ll be most ready to work and when you’ll get nothing done. Knowing this makes getting things done in a timely fashion much easier.

Learn how to get the most out of your day by finding the motivation to read this book. If you need more convincing, read this review from The Guardian.

Creative Teaching

Wild Card: suggestion for national read a book day

Whether you think that you’re a naturally creative person, The Wild Card guides you through the process of reaching that creative breakthrough as a teacher. Draw on yourself and your strengths to offer engaging lessons that draw in students to the course work in a more personal manner.

If you’re getting started as a teacher, or you just want a new perspective, this gives a lot of useful advice! If you need to know more about it first, check out this review from The Inspired Apple.

Game-Based Learning

Play to Learn: a suggestion for Read a Book Day

Play to Learn bridges the gap between instructional and game design to give insight into what makes a good game-based learning product. While it focuses itself towards designers like us, knowing the process helps when using these products in the classroom as well. Also, it provides a good starting point for anyone interested in game-based learning.

Learn more about what this book has to offer with this review from eLearning Industry.

What Are You Reading for Read a Book Day?

Let us know what books you’ve been loving recently! What we shared here makes up only a small sample of the plethora of amazing resources out there for all topics. Do you have a reading goal for the year? Let us know by leaving a comment or replying to us on any of our social media channels.

Literacy is incredibly important, so make sure you keep reading whether you’re a teacher, student or neither.

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Game-Based Learning in the Classroom: How to Use Our Excavate! Games

As the new school year begins, think about adding something new to the curriculum. Game-based learning can be intimidating if you’ve never used it before, but it can also be extremely effective. Our biggest game-based learning product, the Excavate! games, offer detailed of archaeological explorations into several different ancient cultures. 

If you’re interested in our Excavate! series, but you aren’t sure how to go about incorporating them into your classroom, we understand! Read on for a summary of how the games work, how to teach them, and why you should use them.

Six Excavate! Games, Six Civilizations

Excavate! games Rome screenshot at baths

Excavate! comes in six civilizations, all covered within world history curriculum, meaning that the series can be used throughout the year. Each game focuses in on 3-4 important spots for students to engage in virtual archaeology. Each of these locations reveals something new about the culture and practices of that civilization.

After choosing a location to start, students use a variety of archaeologist’s tools to uncover the artifacts from beneath the ground. They must be careful not to break artifacts by using the wrong tool; otherwise, they will need to start the dig again. When a stratum (or layer) is completely excavated, students examine their discovered artifacts. Through a series of questions, they determine what each artifact must have been used for and what the artifacts say about that society. With this done, students submit a fill-in-the-blanks report, summarizing their findings.

The process repeats for each stratum, uncovering artifacts deeper in the ground. When a location is finished, the students make a final report on the location as a whole and what they learned. From there, they move on to the next location.

Not only do these games allow students to have fun pretending to be archaeologists, they also reinforce learning through multiple methods. This ensures students understand the key points from each location. By the end of the game, students have gained a basic understanding of a culture as a whole. 

All six civilizations- Rome, Egypt, Greece, the Byzantine Empire, MesoAmerica, and Mesopotamia– can be bought separately or together in a bundle. Excavate! MesoAmerica can also be played in Spanish.

Complete Lesson Plans

Excavate! games Egypt city screenshot

Each Excavate! game comes with complementary guides and lesson plans to use in conjunction with the game. Game-based learning offers the greatest benefit when paired with a knowledgeable and capable teacher and more traditional lessons. 

The basic Excavate! guide walks you through how the game works while the game specific guide provides answers and explanations for the questions asked in the game. This makes sure that teachers are prepared to answer any question that students may have while they play through the game. Along with the guide, we also offer two accompanying resources.

The Inquiry Analysis and Artifact Based questions offer supplementary learning to the digital games. The products work with or without the digital game. Incorporate them, before, duing or after playing the game based on recommendations in the Teacher Guide and what works for you. With these lesson plans, you won’t have to come up with your own. At most, you’ll simply be adjusting what already exists.

Links to all of these can be found on each game’s download page.

For Rome and Egypt, the Excavate! Card Game is also available to help test student knowledge retention. Students find connections between people, places, and artifacts of the ancient civilization, using what they learned during playing the Excavate! digital game. 

Not Just for Social Studies

Excavate! games MesoAMerican screenshot

While the obvious place for the Excavate! games would be in a social studies classroom, that’s not the only place that they’ve been used in schools. Teachers from gifted and special ed classrooms have also used our games and given us positive feedback.

Susan Honsinger (a teacher from Florida) used Excavate! in her gifted classroom to pair with their explorations of ancient cultures. The students engaged with the lessons and dived deep into exploring the artifacts.

“I see that the Excavate! games are embedded in student memory, and the facts and images they found there are being referred to in subsequent classes.” 

Samantha McClusky (a special education teacher from Arkansas) used the Excavate! games with her class as well. She found that the interactive learning experience helped her students get engaged in the class and work together as a group.

“Learning through the game based format really connects learners of the 21st century to education, and helps them discover things that they may not have been interested in…”

Even if your curriculum doesn’t directly relate to learning about ancient cultures, Excavate! helps teach critical thinking and analysis skills that are useful in any class.

Back to School Special

Screenshot Excavate! games

If you’re considering using Excavate! in your classroom, there’s no better time to grab yourself a copy. Use the discount code BACKTOSCHOOL18 on our online store to receive 30% off any and all Excavate! products. If you’re looking to buy in bulk for a whole set of classes or a whole school, feel free to contact us at info@dig-itgames.com so we can help set up bundle pricing that works for you.

The Excavate! games also are available to purchase on Apple, Android, and Amazon products in addition to working on the computer. Check out the official page for all options, and contact us for any information you need.

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Finish Off the Summer Right!

Summer vacation is officially drawing to a close (if it hasn’t already), and back to school season is in full swing. But, if your kids are feeling down from returning to the rigid schedule of classes, homework, and clubs, help them make the most of the last bits of summer feeling. For that matter, parents should take advantage of it too!

While our recent blogs have focused on preparing teachers and parents for the beginning of the school year, this one focuses on making the most of the end of the summer. Even if your school district has already started up again, take some weekend time while the warm weather still lingers. Here’s some ideas to smooth the transition into the school year.

Plan a Get-Together

Summer barbecue get together

Whether in celebration of back to school or the end of summer, think about arranging a get-together for parents and kids alike. Those with a yard could choose to host a barbecue and pull out the water guns for the kids. As the school year continues, big gatherings start becoming more difficult to arrange for students and their parents.

Talking with fellow parents also gives you the chance to make sure everything is prepared for the new year. Kids, meanwhile, return to socializing with their school friends a little early. It never hurts to help them prepare for the sudden influx of social contact. 

Even if you’re not the hosting type, think about arranging something out in the neighborhood. Send the kids to the pool or even head to a restaurant. Just make sure you all get the chance to spend some quality time with people you enjoy while there’s more time to do it.

Have a Pajama Day

Pajama day in the summer

Take a day to simply relax! Don’t get dressed and don’t go out. Lounge about in the AC and take 24 hours to stop worrying about the work you need to do. Instead, think about ways you can arrange family time together. Watch some TV, put together a puzzle, or play some board games.

Once school starts, your kids won’t have as much time to simply hang out. Likely, neither will parents. An indulgent pajama day is the perfect way to say goodbye to summer without any kind of pressure.

At the same time, it offers a good way to convince your kids to spend some time with you, particularly if they’re older. It’s even possible to keep them away from screens for the day, if any parents get worried about the amount of time kids spend on computers during the school year. Take advantage of the summer heat to create some valuable personal time together.

Make a Photo Album

photo album of summer memories

One thing you can do on a pajama day is go through your memories of the summer with your kids. Pick out the best pictures from time spent together on adventures or vacations and print them out from your computer or phone. Make your own photo album from construction paper if your kids are the craftier type, or buy one that’s pre-made.

While you reminisce, talk with your kids about their favorite part the summer. As they arrange the photos, parents can learn the best parts of the summer honestly. As an added benefit, talking about the summer will also allow them to practice for the inevitable back to school icebreakers they’ll receive.

Hang Out Together with Games

Our Excavate! series is currently 30% off with the code BACKTOSCHOOL18 on our online store. Reintroduce your kids to education in a fun way, allowing them to discover all about six unique ancient cultures through archaeology. The games can be bought separately or in a bundle, but all of them are 30% off. Learn more about Excavate or go to the online store now to buy your license.

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First Day of School: Ideas & Activities

The first day of school can be scary…for both students and teachers! You meet new people, assess which classes might cause trouble or might be easy to manage, and get used to waking up early again. So, how can teachers make the first day of school clear and manageable for both themselves and their students? 

Learn Names

first day of school learning

For younger students, seating plans definitely help with learning names. Choose an order that works for name memorization at the beginning, then switch up the seats as problems arise or just as the year continues. Alphabetical by either first or last name can be a huge help when trying to remember. When calling attendance, make sure to look up and notice the student that answers after each name. 

For older students, you may choose to have a seating plan as suggested for younger students, but it can be good to let them have a bit more freedom within the classroom. If you choose to forgo seating plans, consider letting the students make their own nametags for the first few weeks of school.

Spend some time letting the students decorate their nametag. As long as the name is legible, their decorations may also help you learn about each student’s personality. Letting them personalize it also gives them a sense of ownership over it. They can leave it in the classroom at the end of the period and pick it up when they return. 

Whatever you teach, learning student names is essential. Student surveys have indicated that knowing an instructor knows them is very important. Additionally, studies have shown that knowing names increases community, accountability, and trust.

Get to Know Each Other

first day of school icebreakers

Break the ice! Not only can ice breakers help you learn names from the first day of school, it also lets members of your class get to know each other. Ice breakers can also help you recognize personality types among your students, allowing you to get a basic understanding of how to treat each of them to facilitate their learning.

For younger kids, it may help to get their nervous energy out through an ice breaker that involves physical activity. Here’s a list of ice breakers that involve some moving around on the part of the students.

For older students, particularly ones who have begun having many teachers, try to come up with something unique! They’ve probably spent all day playing classics like Two Truths and a Lie. Check out these two lists for some ideas that can serve as bouncing off points for discussion.

Lay Out the Rules

first day of school rules

It seems like this would be the most boring part, but it’s also important. Students who know expectations from the beginning won’t violate them accidentally. Making sure there’s a clear place where rules are laid out can be helpful for those who need reminders.

For older classrooms, particularly in discussion-heavy classrooms, have your students express their expectations. How do they want a discussion to be run in the classroom? If a student feels comfortable within rules, they may share their opinion more often. Consider taking some time to discuss a code of conduct for the classroom that works for everyone. If they need a jumping off point, here’s a list of basic rules.

Game Based Learning

While Excavate! might not be the ideal way to start the school year (although, why not?), now is the best time to buy the series. Using the code BACKTOSCHOOL18, get 30% off on all the Excavate! games in our online store. These can be used on Chromebooks or other school issued laptops to teach critical thinking, analysis skills, and facts about six unique ancient civilizations. Dig into the series today!