Category: Culture

What to Do Over Thanksgiving Break?

Thanksgiving is next week, and we’re looking forward to stuffing our faces full of turkey and mashed potatoes. What else can you do during the Thanksgiving holiday?

Spend Time With Family

Thanksgiving break with the family

This one is a no-brainer. If your family is already together for the Thanksgiving meal and Thanksgiving break, see what else you can do together. Sign up to volunteer as a group, brave the cold for some outdoor time, or catch a new movie. For families with kids, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a great option or the Fantastic Beast sequel. For older families, Creed 2 and Widows offer some exciting action-drama.

Offer a few options and figure out what would work for everyone! What’s most important is that everyone has fun.

All About Football

Thanksgiving football games

Watch three full games of football on Thanksgiving! But, if you’re getting bored of just watching, pick up a ball yourself and make it a casual game with the family. It’s particularly good to do if you’ve got some kids who need to get their energy out! After that’s done, you can return to the couch to keep watching the games.

Of course, you’ve got to practice your tackle anyway for Black Friday sales. Just kidding. Please be safe and polite during shopping on Black Friday. Tackling is a foul for sure in that case.

Set Up the Tree

Thanksgiving break to winter break

Finally, it’s socially acceptable to put up that tree! Thanksgiving break, get your tree early and put on your decorations. It’s a nice way to transition from one holiday to the other. You might consider setting up outside decorations too, before it gets too cold to do so! Just pace yourself on holiday songs. Don’t burn yourself out too early on those.

If you don’t celebrate a holiday with a tree, it’s still a good time for decorating or cleaning! Rope your family into helping while you’ve got them there.

Learn Some History!

Of course, it’s important to know the context of Thanksgiving and be aware of our history as we celebrate. Make a small lesson for your kids about the First Thanksgiving or do some research for yourself. 

After that, if you want more check out what Early America was like with Loot Pursuit! Or research another culture with Excavate!

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Moments from History in the Month of November

November 2: First Long Duration Stay on ISS Begins

Expedition 1 was the first long duration stay upon the International Space Station. The 3-person crew lived in space from November 2000 to March 2001, a total of 136 days. The crew consisted of American commander Bill Shepard and two Russians named Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev. To this day, the ISS remains an important part of space research.

November 4: King Tut Day

On King Tut Day, we celebrate the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. King Tut became ruler of Egypt at the age of ten and died in his teens. Before the discovery of the tomb, nobody knew much about the boy pharaoh as there weren’t many records. Therefore, the discovery was a monumental event in Egyptian history.

November 8: Theodosius Buried

In 395, the Romans bury Emperor Theodosius in Constantinope. During his tenure, he officially declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire, Unfortunately, he was not particularly tolerant of those practicing other religions. While he was first only emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, he conquered the other half to become sole ruler for the last few years of his reign. He died of disease.

November 12: First Selfie in Space

In 1966, Buzz Aldrin takes the first space selfie in history. This was, of course, before selfie was a commonly used word. He used the camera using EVA (extra-vehicular activity) equipment to take a picture of himself. While Buzz Aldrin may be known for his trip to the moon, he took many more expeditions into space than that.

Learn More History!

To get into more history, check out our catalog of educational games! There’s stuff there for STEM and social studies, so, no matter your interest, we’ve got a game for you to try!


The History of Halloween and Other Spooky Holidays

Halloween is just around the corner now! We hope your costumes are prepared and your trick-or-treating routes have been decided. But, if you’d like to know the history of Halloween, we’re here to let you know. And not just about Halloween- find out all about several spooky holidays.

Halloween History

Halloween ghosts

You might be surprised to learn, Halloween was not always a time for dressing up and stuffing your face with candy. Halloween began with the ancient celebration of Samhain among the Celts, during which they believed ghosts returned to the Earth. Later, the holiday was combined with Roman traditions as the empire conquered Celtic land.

Finally, Christian leaders decided to combine Samhain with their All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day celebrations. It was common practice to try and overwrite pagan traditions with Christian traditions: the same strategy was used for Christmas! When it moved over to the Americas, however, Halloween slowly lost its religious connection. Many traditions melded together, and the day eventually became the spooky holiday we enjoy in the United States and elsewhere today!

Find out more about its history here!

All Saints’ & All Souls’ Day

All Saints Day Halloween holiday

However, just because Halloween moved away from religion, doesn’t mean the holiday it emerged from went away. Many countries in Europe and South America still celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. All Saints’ falls on November 1, while All Souls’ takes place the day after, and they remain a part of Catholic tradition to this day.

All Saints’ Day is meant to commemorate all the saints of the Catholic Church, including those who are “only known to God.” Meanwhile, All Souls’ Day commemorates those who have died and sit in Purgatory. The living pray in order to help them leave. Places such as Germany, Hungary, Austria,and others have specific traditions during this time.

Find out more here!

Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead Halloween holiday skull

Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead stems from Aztec ceremonies of around 3,000 years ago. When Spaniards came to Mexico to colonize, the tradition took on some elements of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, just like Halloween did. Before that point, it was celebrated in summer but moved to align with these celebrations in late October and early November.

The Day of the Dead is a very festive occasion. Families decorate altars to their deceased relatives, offer them food, and clean up the area around their grave. Rather than the scary times of Halloween, the Day of the Dead offers families time to reminisce and celebrate their loved ones who are gone.

Find out more about the Day of the Dead and its history here

Do you celebrate any of these holidays? How are you planning to celebrate this year? Let us know in the comments for this post. If you’re interested in history, don’t forget to check out our deep line of educational games including the Excavate! series, where you can become an archaeologist and discover more about the traditions of ancient cultures.

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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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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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Fractured Fairytales: Twisting Up Familiar Stories

We all love fairy tales. The sheer number of beloved Disney movies based off these ancient stories can attest to that. We love to see the heroic prince slaying dragons or the plucky princess pursuing true love. Sometimes though, we wonder what if. What if Cinderella had been more rebellious or Red Riding Hood more observant? Because of that curiousity, we make fractured fairytales.

What is a Fractured Fairytale?

At its most basic, it’s a rewritten fairytale. Simply put, a fractured fairytale takes an existing story and, literally, fractures it. Instead of following the plot to the letter, the rewritten story changes point of view, certain events, time period, or even the ending. Fracturing the fairytale provides new perspectives on the story through considering how else the story could have gone.

Examples of Fractured Fairytales

The video above comes from a segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (19959-1964) dedicated to fractured fairytales. On the show, everything from Rapunzel to Little “Fred” Riding Hood to every pun on Sleeping Beauty you can think of is covered. Despite its age, the charm and comedy remain timeless. Collections can still be found online or single episodes can be found on YouTube.

For more literary examples, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs transforms the Big Bad Wolf’s story into a true crime drama (for kids). However, all it takes is a quick web search to find a copious amount of other delightful examples.

Fractured fairy tales fit well into many language arts curriculums, particularly in elementary school. Read Write Think has several great ones, including this resource which walks groups through analyzing the common elements of a fairytale. Then, groups use that information to make their own fractured stories. Education World and Teachers Pay Teachers also offer a selection of different ideas for teaching these offbeat stories. These include both reading and writing exercises.

Roterra: A Fractured Fairytale Puzzle

Roterra is inspired by fractured fairytales among other influences

Roterra eschews the traditional structure of the fairytale. Princess Angelica takes destiny into her own hands instead of waiting for a huntsman or fairy godmother to give her a hand. While it’s not a true fractured fairytale, since it doesn’t retell any particular story, it retains the ethos of giving more agency to the heroine. A better term might be “flipped” or “upside-down” fairytale. It gives Princess Angelica a role she might not usually fill in other fairytale stories.

You’ll be able to step into the role of Princess Angelica this year when Roterra releases. Until then, keep yourself up to date with the development by signing up to the newsletter on the game page or giving the teaser trailer a watch. We’re very excited to be giving you an awesome female protagonist in a fairytale setting. If you want to know more about the development of Roterra, keep an eye on the blog! We’ve got some inside looks into the world, characters, and development process coming up!

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Stop Summer Learning Loss…While Having Fun!

As the school year rolls into the summer, we are all looking forward to warm weather and vacations. However, just because school is out doesn’t mean learning should come to a stop. Without any sort of academic practice, kids can experience summer learning loss which puts them at a disadvantage when the school year starts again. To combat this summer learning loss, fun activities, games, and events centered around learning are hugely necessary. On this post, we feature several ways to keep kids thinking hard during the long summer months.

Summer Learning Activities

summertime learning to stop summer learning loss

Summer learning doesn’t necessarily need to be traditional classroom learning. Activities that kids might not have had time for during the year can keep their minds active while providing something fun and different. Teach kids how to cook or set them to learning new arts and crafts that keep them creative.

Bringing them outside for science experiments or adventures can keep them active and soaking up the good weather while learning. After a good day outside, make your own ice cream to cool down or chill out in the AC for some reading time.

Essentially, it’s not neccesary to concoct whole lesson plans to stop summer learning loss. Simply make sure that activities get planned and resources are available to keep kids’ minds working and thinking creatively. For a full list of suggestions, We Are Teachers and Education World have specific resources for families in the summer. All of these are easy plans for a weekend excursion depending on parents’ work schedules.

Educational Shows & Videos

educational shows and programs can help stop summer learning loss

One of the benefits of modern technology is the sheer amount of educational programming you can find out there. However, not every source teaches effectively or impartially. Finding the right sources can be hard, especially if you rely on streaming services. We recommend a few unconventional services for various ages below. 

CrashCourse offers a literal “crash course” on almost every topic you could imagine. It began with a focus on history but expanded into science, literature, and more. The lessons are presented in comic form with cute figures and animations providing context for the actual facts being presented.

Khan Academy is a pretty well-known resource now, but it is still worth mentioning. The free service has everything you could possibly need, taught by experts in the field. It even includes test prep for students who want to start getting ready for SAT and other big tests over the summer.

As we’re a game company, we have a fondness for Extra Credits, a channel that not only covers topics in game design but also in history and science fiction. Like CrashCourse, they offer their lessons in animated form, but their videos focus on more specific topics rather than providing wider overviews. For kids who are fond of games, their main Extra Credits series offers a great way to learn about the industry and the inner workings of their favorite games. Speaking of which, games themselves offer ways to learn during the summer!

Game-Based Learning

Our educational games work well in classrooms, but they also can be used to keep learning going outside of it. Not only are educational games fun, they sneak learning in almost before you can realize it. Excavate! offers a fun way to delve into ancient cultures while ExoTrex literally rockets you into the future of space. 

Our games aren’t the only educational games out there and a quick web search will open up a whole host of games for kids of different ages to play. From TeacherGaming (whose Odyssey game we reviewed) to iCivics, our fellow game-based learning companies offer great products for combating summer learning loss.

Learn More About Summer Learning Loss

combat summer learning loss

The organization Summer Learning dedicates itself to combating summer learning loss in communities across America. Their website includes information on why summer learning matters and how summer learning loss can be harmful. For a summary of what exactly summer learning loss can entail, check out the statistics from Oxford Learning.

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Puzzles and Their Positive Effect on the Brain

Do you start each day with the newspaper’s crossword puzzle? Or do you prefer putting together jigsaw puzzles with your kids or with family members on vacation? Have you ever thought about why you enjoy challenging yourself in that way or how it might be helping you? Puzzles serve a very important purpose when it comes to brain health. Due to our love of problem-solving, it’s no wonder that puzzles have been around for so long.

History of Puzzles

Puzzles and puzzle games

 

Logic puzzles likely stretch back thousands and thousands of years through human history. Certainly, humans have always been figuring new things out- from how to make fire to how to shoot a rocket into space. However, the first jigsaw puzzles appeared in the 1760s as mapmakers cut up maps and pasted them on to wood. This history of puzzles takes you through the growth of the jigsaw puzzle industry.

Recently, puzzle games have grown popular, from escape rooms to video games. In a poll conducted September 2017, over 60% of frequent video game players stated that they regularly played puzzle video games. Strategy video games followed close behind with the next genre being adventure at below 50% of players. Escape rooms have also begun cropping up all over the United States. Compared to only 22 companies at the end of 2014, now enthusiasts can find nearly 2,000 according to Room Escape Artist.  In fact, educators even use escape room-style lessons to help engage their students in a variety of material in different subjects.

Why do we love puzzles so much? Also, why are they so helpful in education for both kids and adults? Keep reading to discover the appeal of puzzles and how they can help our brains grow.

Challenge and Satisfaction

puzzles and puzzle games

 

Humans have always been problem-solvers, so it would be fair to say that the desire to put together “puzzles” has always been inherent to humanity. In fact, engaging in puzzle solving may even be good for long-term cognitive health.

Studies show that completing crosswords could delay the onset of early dementia by two years. Additionally, taking part in various kinds of cognitive activities, including puzzles, can lessen the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. It seems to be the combination of activities that is key. By providing our brains new challenges, we are able to keep our brains healthy and functioning for longer periods of time.

Of course, it is nearly impossible for studies to narrow down the sole cause to puzzle solving, but it can’t be denied that it can’t hurt!

Puzzles can also help young children with physical, cognitive, and emotional skills. With a jigsaw puzzle, kids practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Also, puzzles help kids with memory, problem-solving, and shape recognition. Finally, emotional skills include patience and setting goals. All of these are vital skills for kids to practice early in life. Puzzles help a lot with that!

The Puzzling World of Roterra

Roterra: A Puzzling Fairytale

 

Our upcoming game Roterra makes use of manipulable cubes and rejects the laws of gravity to craft a challenging experience for puzzle lovers. The versatility of the world and the puzzles it presents makes sure that players never grow bored. We only recently announced Roterra to the world, and we’re incredibly excited it.

With satisfyingly tough games in such high demand and showing such great benefits, we hope that our game finds a home among puzzle lovers. Stay tuned for updates coming soon on the iOS title right here or on our social media. We’ve been using our background in educational games to make a satisfying experience for all players. If you’d like to get behind-the-scenes access, make sure you sign up to be a possible beta tester on the main page at http://playroterra.com

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World History Explored Through Video Games

It makes sense that real world events have served as inspiration for many books, movies, and shows. After all, history is a story itself. Video games are no exception to using history as setting or plot, and they can be incredible ways to give detailed looks at ancient civilizations from Egypt to Mesoamerica. Check out this list of video games inspired by the history of the world!

Explore Ancient Egypt

Ancient world history is brought to life in Assassin's Creed Origins Discovery Tour Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed Origins is the latest entry in the long-running Assassin’s Creed series from developer Ubisoft. However, it differs from previous installments thanks to the recent edition of the Discovery Tour. This mode allows the player to simply explore its Ancient Egyptian setting as either a character from the game or as a historical figure like Julius Caeser or Cleopatra.

The mode includes 75 guided tours that were crafted by Egyptologists and covers everything from the Great Pyramids to the daily lives of the citizens of Alexandria. Your character can even participate in the activities of the locals to truly understand how the people lived.

Discovery Tour launched on February 20, as a free update for owners of Assassin’s Creed Origins. You can purchase it as a standalone title for $20 as well.

Discover Mesoamerican Ruins

World history is fictionalized in Lost Ember from Mooneye Studios Mooneye Studios

While heavily fictionalized, Lost Ember is an upcoming game that will allow players to explore Mesoamerican ruins. The developer based the world on the history of the Inca and Maya civilizations. The player takes the form of a wolf who can inhabit other animals. This game emphasizes the diverse wildlife of Mesoamerica.

As players discover new ruins, they also learn more about this ancient civilization. While it will feature its own fictional civilization, the idea of archaeology giving insight into ancient life is very real. Comparing and contrasting the civilization of Machu Kila with the real Mayan and Incan civilizations could also be an interesting activity.

Lost Ember is yet to be released, but you can find out more about it on the Mooneye Studios website.

Understand Greek Myths

World history and myths are featured heavily in Age of Mythology Microsoft Studios

Greek mythology inspires many stories in books, movies, and games. Even Rome and Byzantium based their own myths on the Greek gods. Age of Mythology from Microsoft Studios is one such game which covers Greek myths as well as Egyptian and Norse myths.

Through its story, Age of Mythology lets players experience the fabled city of Atlantis, fight the Trojan War, and accompany Odysseus on his adventures. The gods and goddesses play an important role as well as different cities focus their worship on different gods, just as they did in ancient times. While the game is certainly not education-focused, it can get kids interested in the myths of Greece.

Age of Mythology is an older game, but it’s still available to buy through Steam. Find out more on its website.

Let Your Students Discover World History Through Educational Video Games

Excavate! Mesoamerica and the whole social studies series can help teach world history

These entertainment-focused video games aren’t the best for classroom learning. For that, look no further than our Excavate! series of games. Our six civilizations cover a wide variety of world history curriculum. Put your students in the shoes of archaeologists and let them enjoy C3-aligned gameplay.

In Excavate! Egyptstudents analyze artifacts from Giza, Alexandria, Karnak, and the Valley of Kings to understand the lives of ancient Egyptians. Excavate! Mesoamerica features sites from the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations and explores each unique culture. Meanwhile, Excavate! Greece compares and contrasts Athens and Sparta while also letting students learn religion at Delphi and sports at Olympia. Our other civilizations include Rome, Mesopotamia, and the Byzantine Empire.

Explore World History with Educational Video Games
Discover Excavate!

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