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
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
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
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.
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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.
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
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
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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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
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.
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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Summer is a great time to get gaming. Libraries are always handing out summer reading lists, so we assume that you’re already covered when it comes to setting yourself and your family up with great books (but if you’re not, here are a few recommendations). But do you know what games to set yourself up with? Look no further than this list, where we give you a few recommendations for what to tackle when you’re trying to avoid the heat.
When picking games for younger players, it’s important to keep a few considerations in mind. Games must be appropriate for the age group in content and difficulty but they still have to be fun too. Check out our recommendations.
Grow Home is a short and sweet little adventure from Ubisoft. Play as B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid) as he attempts to grow a plant which will oxygenate its home planet. The open world offers many opportunities for exploration as B.U.D.’s actions and movements adapt to the environment. Controls can be a bit difficult, but that’s just a way for parents to play along. Overall, it tells a sweet story with an adorable art style and a fun sense of discovery.
Grow Home is available on Windows, Linux, and PlayStation 4.
Super Mario Odyssey
The Switch is the big new thing for good reason. While the amount of games remains small, the game available are stellar. Like Grow Home, Super Mario Odyssey offers a great sense of discovery. Take Mario and his friend Cappy on an adventure through the many lands the game has to offer. From urban to jungle, Mario explores all kinds of places in his journey. Controls, particularly the motion controls, can also be finicky, but they’re not bad.
Super Mario Odyssey is available on the Nintendo Switch.
As gamers get older, they want more complicated games to play. Fast-paced, thoughtful gameplay or narrative heft are both considerations when picking a gamer for bigger kids (or even for parents!) to play. Here’s a few suggestions.
Battle Royale is the big craze and Fortnite is the king among them. Like Overwatch, Fortnite offers player vs. player gameplay without an excess of gore. The game features a building mechanic where players can craft walls or ramps for themselves with material they collect in the environment. Just watch out for the online interactions to make sure your players are not harassing others or being harassed themselves. Best way to prevent this? Make sure they’re playing with known friends or keep the voice chat off.
Fortnite is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus is one of the classics of video games, and it’s more accessible than ever with the remake that came to PlayStation 4 this year. Experience a great example of storytelling through games. An added bonus- if you’re not quite caught up to the current generation of systems, a remaster of the original version of the game can be played on the PlayStation 3. For gamers who enjoy narrative, Shadow of the Colossus is definitely a can’t-miss.
Shadow of the Colossus is available on PlayStation 2, 3, and 4.
Summer Gaming for the Whole Family
Gaming doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Make a night of it and bring the whole family together to play games. While local co-op can be hard to find, we’ve got you covered with these two awesome possibilities.
Test your family’s ability to cooperate with Overcooked where your group of chefs must work together to save the world from a ravenous beast. First, however, you must train in an increasingly complex set of kitchens. Deal with cooking on top of two trucks, on a sailing ship, and in the middle of a busy crosswalk. Overcooked supports up to four players in both cooperative and competitive modes.
Overcooked is available for Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Human Fall Flat
Human Fall Flat challenges you to take control of the most awkward, clumsy humanoid creature there is and solve physics-based puzzles with nothing but your genius and a bit of nonsense. While Human Fall Flat only supports two players locally, it’s easy to pass the controllers back and forth if your family expands beyond that. The game offers a lot of fun and a lot of laughs as you try desperately to clear challenges in the most awkward way possible.
Human Fall Flat is available on Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Dig-It! Games’ Gaming Catalogue
Of course, we have our own catalog of games! While our focus has always been on education, we’ve been applying those experiences to puzzle games recently. For fans of match 3, there’s not a better fit than Silk Road! Head on down the famous trade route with Matthias, the friendly but sassy camel who serves as your companion. Also, coming this year is Roterra, our map traversal game where players take on the role of Angelica. Help guide Angelica home through the twisting, turning world of Roterra. Both of these games will challenge your mind in different ways.
If you’d like to beta test for Roterra or just stay up-to-date on the development, make sure to sign up for updates on the game page.
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Filament Games also has their own reading and gaming list for the summer with even more recommendations, once you get through these.
Make use of your free time and watch movies!
The holidays are a great time to get cozy and watch some movies! This year it looks to be a good year for some exciting new films like: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jumanji, The Greatest Showman, and Ferdinand, just to name a few! However, one of the most successful movies this holiday season has been Disney/Pixar’s Coco. The beautiful story of young Miguel who has dreams of being a musician despite his family’s mysterious ban on music! He finds himself able to cross into the “Land of the Dead” during Día de los Muertos to meet his musical idol.
One of the reasons the movie is so successful and plays to both Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences so well is because of a flub by Disney. The company tried to copyright the phrase “Día de los Muertos” in 2013 which resulted in such intense backlash they decided to rescind the permit a week later. One of the most outspoken critics of the copyright was Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American political cartoonist, who Disney then hired (along with two others) to be a cultural consultant. This assured that the film was portrayed in the most appropriate and authentic manner.
As a former Spanish teacher, I am thrilled to see movies like this and Reel FX’s Book of Life bring culturally sensitive and authentic portrayals to the mainstream. I have taught in predominantly suburban districts that did not have diverse populations. Every year I had to explain to teenagers that Día de los Muertos was not “Mexico’s Halloween” but a vibrant celebration of life and death. Sure, there are plenty of documentaries, crafts, and websites to research how Día de los Muertos is celebrated, but none of it got to the emotions and beliefs of the holiday like Coco. It’s a wonderful thing to know that children and adults can see this movie and experience the heritage, bright colors, music, language, and emotion of Día de los Muertos.
We obviously love any kind of entertainment that can combine learning and fun. Games and experiential learning have the power to make education effortless. We had this in mind when we designed our Excavate! Series. In Excavate! Mesoamerica you can have this experience. Players have the opportunity to travel to three different locations: Chichen Itza – the Mayan pyramid complex on the Yucatan Peninsula, Tenochtitlan – the Aztec capital in central Mexico, and Cusco – The capital of the Incan Empire. The game lets students analyze artifacts from these cultures to piece together an understanding of the people and how they lived. The beautiful illustrations in the journal will also provide many opportunities for discussion. We hope this game can also spark an interest into learning about these histories and people.
Ask a teacher what gifts they want for Christmas and they might smile and say any of the following:
- A snow day
- Longer prep period
- To use the restroom whenever they want
- To reach that one student that needs help
Obviously, none of these options can be bought or wrapped, so let’s discuss some viable options to show your appreciation for someone who does so much for your child.
- Gift Cards – I know a lot of people don’t like to give gift cards because it seems a little impersonal. However, gift cards to coffee shops, Target, or Amazon can be used to buy supplies for the classroom (or for themselves).
- Reusable water bottles or travel coffee mugs – Nice water bottles and travel mugs can get pricey very quickly. Find ones that are insulated and don’t leak so they can throw it in their bag without fear of soaking students’ papers!
- A Donation – Many teachers are turning to crowd-sourcing websites to fund projects and supplies. Check out donorschoose.org, adoptaclassroom.org, or classwish.org.
- A personal gift – It’s great to get to know the teacher and their interests. I once received a knot blanket from a student that had my university’s logo on it. It’s one of my favorite gifts to this day.
The holidays can be tough.
Parents have enough to stress about over the holidays and this shouldn’t add to it! Teachers sincerely appreciate any gesture no matter how big or small. If your budget or time doesn’t allow for a gift, IT’S OK! A nicely worded note or email is enough. Not to mention, those notes of thanks are great year-round!
There can also be a big difference between elementary teachers and high school teachers. It’s much easier when your child only has one teacher versus 7 or 8. Don’t feel pressured to buy a gift for EVERY teacher, but do try to be discreet about giving the gifts out.
The perfect gift for the history teacher!
Have a history teacher to buy for? Or have a child that loves history? Check out our Excavate! Card Game. It’s a great way for students to make connections with ancient artifacts. Buy a few decks to make sure the entire class can enjoy! Check them out here!
Are you giving a gift to your child’s teacher this year? What if you could give a gift to your child’s whole classroom and to a classroom of underserved students for the same price? With our Get One Give One Program you can give two classroom’s worth of games for less than $25. For a limited time, purchase 25 copies of Excavate!™, Excavate!™ Egypt, Loot Pursuit™ Maya, or Loot Pursuit™ Early America for a 67% discount off the individual price. You send the games to the teacher of your choice and we will donate a classroom’s worth of games to a teacher at an underserved school. Just add the game of your choice to your cart, apply the discount code TEACHER2016 and send the license keys you receive to your teacher. It’s the gift that truly keeps on giving and with your help we can eradicate summer learning loss. Offer expires 12/31/2016. For more information on our campaign to fight summer learning loss, visit our GOGO Learn page.