Category: Blog

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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Ways to Celebrate Veteran’s Day 2018

History of Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day was first called Armistice Day. It started on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I, hence the name. It became an annual observance in 1926 and a national holiday in 1938. Under Eisenhower in 1954, Armistice Day finally became Veteran’s Day. We in the United States now celebrate this every year on November 11 (although, as is the case this year, we sometimes observe it on different days).

Unlike Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day mostly focuses on honoring our living former soldiers who serve the United States in war or peace. Other countries observe similar holidays on November 11: Canada, for instance, has Remembrance Day for the soliders of World War I and World War II. 

The long weekend offers the perfect opportunity to serve and celebrate our veterans. We’ve come up with a few ideas to help you celebrate the holiday!

Ways to Celebrate Veteran’s Day

There are many ways to give back on Veteran’s Day. Operation Shoebox offers many suggestions for giving back to veterans and soldiers on their website. This includes care packages, donating, or even making crafts. 

If you’d like to help out more directly, the United States Office of Veteran’s Affairs has an easy way to find a VA service office as well as a form you can fill out to find a placement. Just being there to talk to residents and make conversation can help out a lot.

Finally, if you don’t have the time, it’s possible to simply write a letter of appreciation. Operation Gratitude accepts letters year round which they include in care packages of their own. Take a few small moments to let servicemen know you appreciate them.

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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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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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