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
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
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!
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
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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Odyssey- A Science Puzzle Game
Recently, our fellow educational gaming company TeacherGaming provided us access to one of the many games they support through their Desk (more on that later). Odyssey, a science puzzle adventure game from the Young Socratics, teaches scientific reasoning in astronomy, physics, and more. However, lessons take the shape of puzzles as players embark on a journey through the “Wretched Islands” to rescue a girl and her family. By reading engaging journal entries and solving challenging puzzles, the player reconstructs, proves, and disproves the ideas and arguments of history’s most famous scientists and philosophers.
The game leads players across the several islands through a series of puzzles. As more advanced concepts are introduced, puzzles escalate in difficulty. Hints appear in journal entries left behind by the family in need of rescue. Puzzles range from demonstrating that the Earth is a sphere to proving a heliocentric model of the universe. However, the game balances demanding puzzles with the immediate satisfaction of being able to smash boxes, ride on ziplines, and knock down walls.
Fun, Motivational, and Educational
The game remains enjoyable throughout the 2-4 hour experience, despite a large amount of reading and high demand for careful thinking. Even though I played most of it in one long stretch, I never felt burnt out. For students who would likely play the game over a series of classes, it shouldn’t be a concern.
Reading the journals in Odyssey never got tedious simply because it felt like someone had actually written them. Thirteen-year-old Kai, a clumsy but precocious girl, with a deep interest in her father’s work and a desire to understand the world around her, held the game together. Even the most technical parts of the journal are imbued with a clear, charming voice. The player gets a purpose through these journals. They aren’t learning just because- they must learn all this in order to help Kai escape. That motivation provides a drive to get through the more difficult puzzles. I can imagine that Kai could provide a point of inspiration for young students, as well. Her enthusiasm for learning can be contagious.
Students want educational games because they’re fun and motivational, not just because they’re games. At the same time, teachers want educational games because they serve as good reinforcement. Odyssey sits among that good group of learning games that delivers an experience that teaches while it entertains.
The game is available with our without the TeacherGaming desk option. Educators looking to include this in their lesson planning will want to consider using lesson options from eight lesson plans available from the TeacherGaming Desk (more information below)
In 2011, two university students from Finland founded TeacherGaming. Initially, the project focused on working Minecraft into an educational game with clear direction for classroom use. Their MinecraftEdu project formed the basis for Microsoft’s Minecraft: Education Edition. Since then, they grew and expanded their range but, as they say on their website, their focus remains on enabling educators to use games for learning with their students, “no matter the skill level.”
This drive manifested the TeacherGaming Desk. The Desk can be accessed through subscription to a catalog of 30+ games or through the purchase of just one of these wide array of learning games. Also, it offers a way to keep track of student progress for teachers. With a team of educators at the helm, TeacherGaming helps easily connect its catalog to curriculum, with the help of lesson plans and analytics.
Teacher Scaffolding through the Desk
To really bring an educational game into the classroom, however, the teacher needs to know how to use it effectively. There needs to be some measure of scaffolding. TeacherGaming provides this with an interface that makes it easy to see how far students have progressed in the game. Additionally, each game comes with lesson plans written by their team of teachers. Lesson plans split the games up based on their content, and the teacher is provided with ways to integrate the game into their curriculum.
The lessons walk students through the required theory as well as actual gameplay. Additionally, they suggest topics to guide discussion at the end of each session. By providing this reinforcement, students gain more from their time playing the game. Additionally, teachers see just how much their students were able to gain from playing the game.
We look forward to seeing what TeacherGaming works on next (hint: it’s Cities: Skylines). Find out more about their games and mission on their website. If you’re all caught up on this blog, make sure to check out theirs! Plenty of awesome content is up there.
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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
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
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
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
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! Egypt, students 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 GamesDiscover Excavate!
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Archaeologists discover new findings every day across the world. Here, we take a moment to highlight discoveries and opportunities for those interested in archaeology around the DC Metro area. Based in Bethesda, MD, we at Dig-It! Games always try to keep up with what’s happening in archaeology around us. Bigger finds often overshadow local archaeology. However, archaeologists find tons of interesting things around Maryland, Virginia, and DC.
Alexandria’s Big New Discovery
On the historic waterfront of Alexandria, archaeologists discovered the remains of two ships from the late 1700s or early 1800s. Just two blocks away, archaeologists found a similar ship at the Hotel Indigo site in late 2015. At the beginning of March, the City of Alexandria won a grant to preserve that ship from the Virginia Association of Museums. For these two new ships, examination and analysis still needs to take place. It has yet to be announced if these ships will be preserved.
Archaeologist discovered the ships on a site where developers JBG Smith and EYA are turning a former warehouse into townhouses and condos. The law of Maryland requires that developers have archaeologists on site whenever ground is disturbed.
“It wasn’t an unexpected discovery, especially since what we knew from the Hotel Indigo site,” Eleanor Breen, the city’s acting archaeologist, said. “I think there’s a high possibility of additional archaeological treasures to be found.”
We look forward to hearing about what those archaeological treasures might be! If you want, read the full story on the Washington Post for all the details about the excavation.
Local Archaeology Programs for Kids & Students
Do you know an aspiring archaeologist or just a kid who loves to dig? Around the DC area, you can find many opportunities for young excavators to learn the tools of the trade- literally! Check out these programs first to see if there’s a good fit for your student, child, or the whole family!
Archaeology in the Community, a Washington, DC, organization, aims to promote the study and understanding of archaeological heritage. In pursuit of this goal, they host public events, enrichment programs, and professional development. Additionally they offer a ton of regular youth activities as well as camps.
Also, the National Park Service offers regional archaeology programs in and around DC. They offer cool archaeology programs for youth, teachers, professionals, and others in a variety of locations around the metro area.
Finally, of course, check out the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and learn more about the newly discovered ships.
While we don’t have an Excavate! DC, our series of social studies archaeology games serve as a great way to get students interested in world history and the process behind excavation. Through C-3 aligned gameplay, Excavate! fits into both the classroom and homeschooling curriculum.
Choose from a variety of civilizations with six currently available: MesoAmerica, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Byzantine Empire. Additionally, bundles of civilizations release on the Apple App Store tomorrow for greater convenience. However, the games can also be purchased from Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and on our website.
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A Byzantine Empire Game for the Social Studies Classroom
Our latest expansion to our long-running Excavate! social studies and archaeology game series arrives today! Play Excavate! Byzantine on the web, Android devices, or iOS devices for $3.99. If you want more than one civilization, contact us to request bundle pricing.
Byzantine brings out total number of games up to six. Previously, the Excavate! series included Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, MesoAmerica, and Greece. Like its predecessors, Excavate! Byzantine includes C3-aligned gameplay and companion teacher resources. For specifics, you can find out more on the main page for the game.
Analyze Artifacts and Discover the Byzantine Empire
Dig-It! Games CEO Suzi Wilczynski, a former middle school teacher, designs the Excavate! games. Through engaging gameplay and challenging analysis, the series aims to take students on entertaining and educational archaeological adventures through time and around the world. By using archaeologists’ tools, players uncover real artifacts from ancient cultures.
First, the game gets players immediately in the dirt, evaluating the proper tool to use while learning about the scientific process of excavation. Through this, players learn concepts such as stratigraphy, context and the importance of proper recording. Next, analysis takes center stage as players learn about the significance of the artifacts they collect and gain a deeper understanding of ancient people through what they left behind. Each civilization includes 3D artifacts and detailed illustrations of ancient life to immerse the user in each unique culture.
“We are pleased to be adding this new world history civilizations to the popular series after recently updating our previous content to align to C3 standards to make a more effective teaching tool” says Wilczynski. “Through its expansive content and flexible applications, Excavate!™ provides a high-quality resource for educators across their full World History Curriculum.”
Explore and Experience Byzantine Life
Excavate! Byzantine takes students to the Hagia Sophia, the Imperial Palace, an oikos (or house), and a market to discover how the people of this civilization lived. While they analyze artifacts, students learn about the role of religion, family, military, and trade in the empire. In this way, students not only learn about life in the Byzantine Empire but also stretch their critical thinking skills.
Teachers, we also provide several helpful resources for creating lesson plans around Excavate! Byzantine. Look through the Teachers Guide, focus on Inquiry Analysis, and quiz your students with these Artifact Based Questions. Because we want to make the use of these games as easy as possible, we have similar resources for each of the games in the Excavate! series.
If you want more information, read the full press release here.
Play Excavate! Byzantine Today!get it now
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World History and Women’s History Month
As we begin Women’s History Month 2018, we take a look back through world history to discover the powerful female rulers of ancient civilizations. In Egypt, Byzantium, and Maya, women served as pharaohs, empresses, and queens. Some made extremely important accomplishments for their respective civilizations.
Hatshepsut: The Female Pharoah
Hatshepsut’s reign as pharoah began in 1479 B.C. and lasted over two decades until 1458 B.C. She ruled for the longest out of any of Egypt’s female rulers. Egyptologists consider her to be the most successful female ruler in ancient Egypt. In fact, many consider her one of Egypt’s most successful rulers overall. However, after her death, others tried to erase most evidence of her reign. This fascinating Ted Ed talk goes in to how her time as pharaoh was erased by those who succeeded her on the throne. Details about her life didn’t begin to arise until the 19th and 20th century and evolved over time to recognize her accomplishments. Our modern understanding of Hatshepsut is far different than it used to be.
The only portrayals of Hatshepsut as a woman come from her early years on the throne. Later on, statues and likenesses portrayed her as a man, complete with the traditional fake beard that many pharaohs wore. Ambitious building projects and a trading expedition to the land of Punt that brought back exotic goods like ivory and incense mark notable points of her reign.
Teach your students about Hatshepsut with this lesson plan comparing her rule to Ramses II from the UCI History Project. Alternatively, go through all of Egypt’s greatest rulers, including Hatshepsut with a lesson from PBS.
Theodora: Empress of Byzantine
Theodora rose to power after being born into the lowest class of Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) society. She began her life on the outskirts of the empire with her father, an animal trainer. After her father’s death, Theodora became an actress to support the family. However, this scandalous profession made it so Theodora had to scramble and seize every chance to move up in society. Her future husband Justinian began his life from similarly humble roots and changed a law forbidding his marriage to a former actress in order to marry her. Their origins are explained in this great Extra History video which also includes many more videos on parts of their reign.
The husband and wife ruled as equals. Theodora guided Justinian through religious unrest during his rule and passed laws to expand the rights of women. Even after her death, her influence remained evident in Justinian’s later rule where he continued to strive to help women and other persecuted groups.
Get your students to learn more about Theodora with a large amount of resources from Teachers Pay Teachers.
The Powerful Queens of Maya
We learn more and more about the queens of Maya as time goes on, and much of their lives remain undiscovered. Lady Yohl Ik’nal is the first recorded female ruler in Maya history and one of a few to bear a full royal title. Also, Lady Six Sky oversaw the city of Naranjo, commissioning several monuments and engaging in conquest during her reign. Finally, Lady K’abel, whose likely tomb was discovered in 2012, served as queen and military governer of the Wak kingdom.
Whether or not the queens of Maya were sometimes “warrior queens” is still a subject of archaeological study. In 2014, sculptures discovered in Naachtun showed both kings and queens as conquering heroes. Either way, they likely wielded considerable power at points in the history of Maya
Discovering the Role of Women through Archaeology in our Excavate! Series
While our Excavate! games don’t focus on specific rulers, each one explores the role of women in ancient societies. Learn more by playing Excavate! Egypt, Excavate! Byzantine, Excavate! Mesoamerica, or any of our other three civilizations! If we missed one of your favorite examples of female rulers from history in this Women’s History Month post, let us know!
Learn about women through history and more!Play Excavate!
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Ancient Rome has fascinated and intrigued people for centuries. It’s easy to understand why: tyrannical leaders, wars, gladiators, and the rise of a vast empire. Hollywood has helped to fuel this fascination with interpretations of stories and people from this time period. However, many times movies and TV shows stretch the truth a bit to make things even more interesting. Here are a few great facts you can bet on to be true:
Gladiator Recovery Shake
Gladiators might have had a special “recovery” drink. According to this article from NPR, the bones of gladiators were found to have a higher level of calcium. While the cause isn’t totally known, Pliny the Elder was quoted as writing, “Your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this.” Many believe that the ashes of charred plants were mixed into a drink that helped to boost their calcium to build stronger bones.
Baths Are for More than Bathing
The baths were for more than just bathing. Public bath houses were a large part of ancient Roman daily life. Romans would progress through a ritual of dipping in pools of differing temperatures. In place of soap, they (or their slaves) would rub oil on their bodies and scrape the dirt away with a tool called a strigil. Other than a way to get clean, the baths offered an opportunity for people to network with each other and relax. This article from LiveScience discusses some of the items found in the drains of Roman Baths. Jewelry, plates and cups, animal bones, and even scalpels have been recovered showing evidence of more than just bathing.
Second Floor with a View
Who doesn’t love a penthouse view? In modern apartment buildings, the higher the floor you live, the more expensive it becomes. The top floor is supposed to have the best view and the largest space. Take this idea and flip it around when it comes to Roman apartments. These buildings, called Insulae, were built quickly and cheaply to house the ever-growing population of Rome. Though most contained only five levels, some reached up to nine. The fear of collapse and fire was real since it happened often. The top floors were usually the most cramped and did not have running water!
For the Birds
Wealthy Romans lived in individual houses called Domus. One interesting aspect of daily life of wealthy Romans was that they had pets! Dogs were very popular with Romans. The Greyhound and Maltese were two very popular breeds. Birds were also prized – many Romans domesticated nightingales, magpies, and ravens because they could be taught to speak. However, many exotic species were imported such as peacocks and parrots and kept is beautifully decorated cages.
These facts can all be discovered in Dig-iT! Games’ new Excavate! Rome game, along with many more that reveal the complexities of Roman society. Players take on the role of archaeologist and choose which location to dig in (the Colosseum, Baths, Domus, or Insula). At each site, they will uncover and analyze precious artifacts that tell the interesting and intriguing story of ancient Rome. In addition, we have our Excavate! Card Game for ancient Rome that allows students to put their knowledge of ancient Rome to the test. What facts do your students love to learn about the Romans?
Teaching about ancient Egypt has never been easier – a quick Google search for Ancient Egypt lesson plans yields millions of results. A teacher can also look at TeachersPayTeachers and find over 3,200 resources to buy and use. It’s easy to understand why – ancient Egypt is a fascinating topic that is taught in every World History curriculum. What person (both student and adult) doesn’t like to learn about mummification and pulling brains through the nose? Therefore, while ANOTHER list of Egypt resources might not be necessary, let’s talk about how to use the amazing technology we have to bring this ancient civilization to life.
One of the leaders in educational VR lesson plans is Nearpod. They have their own VR headsets included with a purchase of class sets of their produce. The virtual field trips they offer include the Washington Monument, Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza. In the Egyptian lesson, students explore the Tomb of Ramesses VI and learn about hieroglyphics.
Another great option is the British Museum as they hold the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt. The museum has done a great job of putting their entire collection online where you can search the artifacts, and they recently made their entire Egyptian Exhibit a 360 experience! Students are able to walk through the exhibit and explore the artifacts. Check out vr.britishmuseum.org for more information.
Describing Egypt is a wonderful website that is being developed to tell the story of Egypt’s long and interesting past. Right now, they have seven different tours focusing on the tombs of the 30 Dynasties era – making it possible to walk through the tombs and temples of some of the most important sites in ancient Egypt.
Discovering Egypt is a website by Mark Millmore who is an artist with an intense interest in Egyptology. He has developed incredible 3D renderings of the temples of Egypt. They are also available as an iPad app. He even has an Egyptian hieroglyphic typewriter that students will love to play around with.
If you are looking for an interactive experience where your student becomes the archaeologist, look no further than our Excavate! Egypt. Students have the option to travel to four important locations along the Nile.
- In Alexandria players will learn about the importance of education and trade in the Great Library.
- In Karnak players explore the great Temple of Karnak and understand the power of the Pharaoh.
- In Giza players gain an understanding of the people who built the Pyramids by exploring the worker’s village.
- In Valley of the Kings players discover tools and items used in mummification and the tombs of the Pharaohs.
In each site, players use virtual archaeology tools to dig for artifacts. Once uncovered, players move to the analysis tent where they answer multiple choice questions that force them to look closely at the artifact. Finally, players are asked to gather their new information together in a field report to summarize what they’ve found.
In addition to the video game, we have created the Excavate! Card Game. Players must use their knowledge of the people, artifacts, and locations of Egypt to make connections. It’s a fun way to let students use their creativity and show what they really know. Check it out here!
We hope this list provided some fresh inspiration for your unit on Ancient Egypt. We’d love to hear about any other cool tools your use!