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 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
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
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.
Head for Space with ExoTrex
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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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 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 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 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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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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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
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 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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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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! 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.
Complete Lesson Plans
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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Back to school season is here in full force! There’s a lot that teachers need to get ready, even before students start entering the building. The checklist can include everything from setting up the classroom, to finalizing the year’s overall curriculum, to making sure that each student and their particular needs are accommodated. On this post, we’ve collected many resources that will help you start the school year right.
Preparing the Classroom
Making sure that the classroom provides both a welcoming space and is optimized to help students learn is a difficult balancing act. Of course, some teachers deal with keeping their class on a cart and going from room to room. But if you happen to be lucky enough to get your own space, there are plenty of tips for making sure it’s the best space it can be.
Edutopia recently published an article on flexible classrooms. While research on their impact on learning remains scarce, what research exists shows promising results. Flexibility and ownership of the room are important tools to help academic progress, right up there with basics like air quality and temperature.
If you can’t change the space itself, you can at least give the room a bit of decoration. Not only does it make the room more interesting for students, it makes the room a more welcoming environment for you too! You might consider posters with good inspirational quotes or famous historical figures from your subject. If you’re feeling crafty, decorate your classroom with some DIY tips to make the room all your own.
Getting Ready for Students
The best offense is a good defense. To put that another way, the best way to be prepared later down the line is to be ready to go from the start. Know what students you have coming in and prepare for any special accommodations they require. Know your general classroom policies ahead of time too and remember to communicate these rules to the students. How will you deal with absences, late work, or snow days? Have answers to these questions before they come up!
These may seem basic, particularly if you’ve taught before, but take some time to reflect on how your policies worked last year. If they seemed to work, great! However, if they could improve, give some thought on how to change them up to be best for you and the students. Taking the time to reflect on the previous year during the summer can be incredibly useful.
The First Day Back to School
The first day is a teacher’s chance to make a good first impression and also set students on the right path towards collaboration and respect. Icebreakers can be a great way to, well, break the ice! Depending on the age, students might respond differently to this strategy, but it’s all a matter of offering an icebreaker that fits their maturity level. Check out Icebreaker Ideas to find one that’s right for you.
If you have trouble learning names, making nametags can be an easy, relaxing activity for the first day back to school. Try to keep quizzing yourself to get the names down pat. No matter the age and no matter the size of the class, students appreciate it when instructors know their name.
Think About GBL
If you’ve yet to jump on the game-based learning train, there’s no better time to find out more about it than back to school time! We have a whole host of game-based learning products. Consider switching up your lesson plans to incorporate active learning and foster engagement in students.
Social studies teachers, take a look at our Excavate series and Roman Town 2. Science teachers, head over to the ExoTrex series. Even Spanish teachers can hop on board with our Spanish translation of Excavate! MesoAmerica.
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Here’s a very thorough checklist that goes over even more ways to be prepared for the school year and save yourself time down the line.
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 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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One of the perks of being a K-12 teacher is that long break over the summer! But it can also be a lot to handle at the same time. Not sure what to do with yourself over the summer? We’ve got some advice for teachers on what to do in terms of professional development and having fun over the break.
Summer is the best time for reading, whether at home, at the beach, or anywhere else. Also, reading is one of the easiest ways to keep learning over the summer whether you’re reading about new educational strategies or just curling up with a good novel. Summer learning is as important for teachers as it is for students! Maybe you picked up a book already, but the internet offers tons of teacher suggestions if you haven’t.
While it’s an older list, Teach for America suggests several books from classroom management tips (Like See Me After Class and Real Talk for Real Teachers) to simple beach reads. The Washington Post also offers a list based on teacher recommendations for books in many different categories. However, if you want to grab a few newer titles, join Education Closet’s 2018 summer reading challenge for teachers. They list a good variety of genres from the fictional drama of Little Fires Everywhere to the step-by-step guides of The Design Thinking Playbook.
Your reading doesn’t have to just come from books either. Educational blogs feature new ideas and research on a regular basis. Some of our personal favorites include Edutopia, Mindshift, and, of course, our own blog right here!
Learn from Others
Summer is full of small workshops and conferences with educational organizations and thought leaders in the community, both in-person and online. For instance, PBS TeacherLine hosts a lot of workshops for teachers at all grade-levels. Some have the added benefit of being self-paced, meaning you can break up your learning across the summer as it works for you.
Going out to learn from others can be as simple as a trip to a museum! Find an interesting museum in your area and make a day of it. This directory should be helpful when it comes to finding something interesting that’s within a reasonable distance.
Take a Break
After a long school year, you’ve earned it! Make sure to take a few days to spend time with family or enjoy some precious alone time. Plan a vacation or a staycation, if you’d rather stay at home. Try cooking more or exploring nearby cities. Summer gives you plenty of time to plan and do whatever you want. Take advantage of it!
If you happen to be a gamer, make sure to check out our summer gaming list for suggestions or just click over to our games page for tons of educational products to test out. Have fun and plan for next year- that’s two birds with one stone!
Mostly, however, our advice for teachers is this: make sure you’re doing stuff you enjoy while you’ve got the time! That’s the important thing.