DIY: Your Own Crossword Puzzle

Need something fun and engaging for your children during those hot days of summer?  Have them create an “all about me” crossword! Not only will you be able to catch up on work, but you can have fun trying to complete their puzzles. You might even learn something new about them.  Who knows, when you get your big work project completed, your beach towels washed, and the mowing caught up, you might want to create one yourself.  

There are a number of cool sites where your children can go to create their puzzles electronically:

Crossword Hobbiest
Puzzle-Maker.com
Tools for Educators
Crossword Maker

If you want it to be a more authentic (and time-consuming process) and more of a puzzle to create a puzzle, you can print out a free crossword template, and then give your kids these directions:

  1. Make a list of clues/hints
  2. Create the list of answers
  3. Using the answers, start placing them in pencil on the crossword grid and give them a number (don’t forget to number the clue as well) interlocking them with previous words if you can. Try to make a somewhat even number of across and down.
  4. Outline the words with a dark box.
  5. Now create a carbon copy on an empty template, and of course, don’t write in the words. 
  6. Optional: Shade in any boxes that are unused.
  7. Make copies so everyone in the family can solve your puzzle.

Here is a list of possible clues that you and your children can use to get started.  They are sure to get your creative juices flowing.  

  • Nickname
  • Favorite food
  • Favorite holiday
  • Last book read
  • Favorite invention
  • Movie favorite
  • Famous idol
  • Game I most like to play
  • Where I want to go most
  • Favorite beach activity
  • What I love most about summer
  • My least favorite chore
  • Best friend
  • Worst enemy
  • Favorite subject
  • Hardest subject
  • Dream job
  • Job I would hate
  • Favorite soda
  • Favorite pizza topping
  • Favorite candy
  • Favorite ice cream
  • What makes me cry
  • What makes me laugh
  • Fave mode of transportation
  • Fave musician
  • Fave sci-fi movie

Enjoy this ‘stay at home’ activity, and if you get a crossword craze going on in your household, they can have a go at some of the fun science crosswords at whenwecrosswords.com!

Nine Must See Colorado Museums

Museums are an amazing opportunity to have family time, to learn and to have a blast all at the same time. You know about the big well-knowns like the Denver Museum of Nature and History and the Denver Art Museum, but have you tried some of the other amazing museums around Colorado?

Museum of Boulder at Tebo Center offers a lot of hands on exhibits that are just perfect for the curious child.  It has a lot of everything for the inventor, scientist, naturalist and artist! They have an extensive display of old equipment, machinery, Olympic sports gear, x-ray machines, etc… where kids can see and experience the evolution of innovation.  Not to mention, there is an artsy side for budding painters and sculptors. And, if your child wants to participate in some fun summer camps like Comic Book Camp, this museum has those in spades, too. They are open every day except Tuesday, and a day full of fun and adventure is just $10 for adults and $8 for children.  

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Arts is another local treasure.  Children can get their creative and imaginative juices flowing when they see and discuss the interesting and unique exhibits available.  A great discussion of what is art and how it is interpreted in many different ways can blossom when you visit this museum. Best part? It’s only $2 for adults and seniors and free for your youngsters that aren’t yet teens!  And, if your youngsters are feeling compelled to make some art, the museum has a “Young Artists at Work Summer Camp” as well.

Wings over the Rockies is a fantastically cool air and space museum located in Denver, Colorado.  This science, history, and technology filled museum is fun for all ages and was named one of the 20 best aviation museums around the world.  It has a Harrison Ford Theater where kids and adults alike can experience fighter pilots in training; how cool! It is open seven days a week for you to check out some of the coolest aviation technology ever created.  So, all you Amelia Earhart’s and Wright Brother wannabes, head on out! *STEAM FEST VENDOR*

After you’ve had your fill of aviation, take your next museum adventure at the Center for Colorado Women’s History, also known as the Byers-Evans House.  This museum is more geared towards an older crowd, so plan to take your teens to learn the history of women in Colorado and how those women’s stories connect to the history of women worldwide.  The museum is open five days a week.

If you have already made your rounds to these museums, there is the oldie but goodie Denver Children’s Museum with activities galore for your younger children or try something new with the Wow! World of Wonder Children’s Museum in Lafayette, Colorado.  The Forest of Light exhibit will have you and your children in sensory euphoria, and when you are done, your children can discover the properties of wind and air, create art projects from recycled materials, surround yourselves in a giant bubble, examine the physics of pulleys, and even dance and do yoga. *STEAM FEST VENDOR*

I have a soft spot for the mining industry (the best company I ever worked for was in the mining and metals industry) and I love the Western Museum of Mining & Industry in Colorado Springs. During your visit, see and learn about fully operational steam engines that powered the mining industry during the late 1800s, including a working hoist, “widow maker” pneumatic drill, and a 37 ton Corliss engine. Try your hand at panning for REAL gold with “Keep What you Find Gold Panning”, enjoy interactive hands-on displays, view exquisite and rare mineral samples and venture through a mock mine drift built exclusively for WMMI by Colorado School of Mines. They also have a STEAM Summer Camp in June (I think it’s next week).

If you get the chance, also try out the Colorado Railroad Museum and for sure, make time this summer for the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery with its 40,000 square foot space filled with interactive exhibits that allow visitors to explore the history of science. Oh, and the Colorado Model Railroad Museum in Greeley is completely amazing too – SciFi Day with Star Wars character meet and greets is in July.

Four Ways to Nurture the Love of Nature

Warmer weather is here, so no more excuses from your children on why they can’t get outside. Not only is the weather to be enjoyed but so are the budding trees, flowers, influx of birds, and the arrival of insects are all there to be observed and studied.  

Kids by nature are curious. Unfortunately, in today’s world, kids fill a lot of their natural curiosity with the use of technological devices rather than real experiences.  Likewise, they spend a majority of the time spent on devices inside rooms with recycled (hopefully) air, artificial light, and nothing organic (including experiences).

Most of us who spend time in nature understand the positive effects that it can have on our well-being. Researcher at the University of Utah, David Strayer states, “Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally healthier when we are interacting with nature.”  And now, we have the science to go along with the emotion. In Japan, a recent study was conducted with individuals who spent time walking in a forest as well as individuals who were assigned to walk in an urban area. The participants who walked in nature had significantly lower heart rates and a “higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress).”  Stanford University actually used fMRI technology to watch participants brains and after a walk in nature they found an increase in activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (SPC) which contributes to calm and optimism.  On the flipside, inactivity in the SPC contributes to depression, mood swings, and negative thoughts.

So what do you do?  Well, here are a few activities to get those kids outside and moving this summer:

Scavenger Hunt

One of the best ways to get them moving and enjoying all nature has to offer is by creating a scavenger hunt.  Create a list of items for students to collect out in nature along with some tasks (students might even be able to use their technology outside for identification, but books could be found and checked out prior to the scavenger hunt), for example:

  1. An insect –  identify the different parts
  2. A flowing plant –  Identify the parts of the flower
  3. Birds – Identify 3 different kinds.
  4. Bird sounds – Identify the sounds of three different birds
  5. Trees – Identify three different types
  6. Scat – (go somewhere you can find some?)

There are a number of other items you could have children look for.  They can even look for different types of the same items on subsequent hikes.  Encourage students to draw pictures or make their own identification book. ***And, if your kids are like mine, where competition is the order of every day, have your children race and the neighbor kids race to see who can find the items the fastest.

Obstacle Courses

Kids love obstacle courses. You can build one with them out of things in nature and boxes, buckets, 2×4’s, logs, rope, hammocks; you name it.  Have the kids take turns practicing and then timing one another. Have children determine what they could do in order to complete the course at a faster speed.  Next, allow the children to create their own course with their own clever obstacles (and sorry, their course will probably be way cooler than your’s). Another fun challenge would be for them to create obstacles that allow them to cross the area without touching the ground.  Encourage them to try and get across it without touching ground.

Like Ms. Frizzle Advises-Get Messy

Have your kids get in and get dirty. Go to the gardening center and allow the kids to pick out their own seeds, seedlings, or plants to contribute to the family’s yard.  Have them identify what type of climate they live in (region) as well as growing conditions that are needed for the plants they are interested in growing. Then have children plant their finds in your green space. If you don’t have an area, look into the cooperative gardens that are prevalent in a number of areas.  Have them help you garden and get them excited about creating their own green space.

***Go ahead and teach them about pollinators and their importance to the food chain.  Have them pick out some plants that will invite pollinators into your garden.

Research in Action

Have you children start a nature journal before you go outside for a walk.  Ask about their mood, thoughts and feelings and have them write down their answers.  Show them how to take their pulse then have them write it down. Go sit outside for ten minutes and lie under a tree and look at the sky, talk about the clouds, relax in nature.  Then go inside and take their pulse again. Have the kids write about their mood, thoughts, and feelings now. Discuss the results and whether they agree with the research. Do they feel more relaxed?  Is their heart rate slower? Do they feel more at peace?

Take a hike, get dirty, play hide-n-go-seek in a confined safe area of the woods, go for a bike ride on a trail; in other words, get out with your kids and exercise in nature!  Train them to utilize the best medicine out there for their well-being–NATURE!

Kitchen Science – Easy Indoor Fun!

water, conservation, child, activities, science

A little water, ice cubes and some rock salt, and you can watch “instant ice” develop!

Turn Winter Couch Potatoes into Kitchen Wizards

Getting your kids off the couch and into the lab will be the hardest part of these fun and amazing kitchen projects. With some simple ingredients you can turn your child into a mad scientist whose amazement and wonder will make the mess a small price to pay. (FYI: these aren’t even that messy.)  

Instant Ice Experiment

Ask your child if they ever wondered how Frozone was able to make ice instantly.  When he or she yells a resounding, “YES!” Break out a little rock salt (you probably have that handy), ice cubes and a bottle of water.  Check out the video here for directions.

A simple butter sculpture – fun and easy.

 

Everything is Better with Butter

Put some sticks of butter in the freezer and then allow your child to carve fun shapes into them with a butter knife.  Google and Pinterest have a number of easy and more complex ideas that will get your children’s creative juices flowing! You can even have kids make their own butter and show how matter can change states from a liquid to a solid!  And once you have made butter, you might as well make some ice cream.  All it takes are a few ingredients, a couple coffee cans, ice and rock salt combined with some elbow grease and a little patience.

kitchen science, honey, bees

This experiment from Experimental Express will WOW your kitchen science team!

Kitchen Science Question: Is it Really Honey?

This experiment is pretty darn cool.  Take your child on a Bee research project – if the weather is OK, head to a local bee farm and let them see the bees in actions.  Crummy weather? Do a stay-at-home field trip and research on the internet to provide background for this kitchen experiment.  Once children understand how bees turn nectar into honey and where they store the honey, try this supertastic honey experiment from Experimental Express that is cooler than Hollywood special effects!  Can you tell which “honey” is real honey?

Color Explosion

Don’t worry, it isn’t as bad as it sounds!  Fill a cookie sheet with a shallow amount of milk.  Then have kids paint the milk by putting drops of food color into the milk (don’t stir).  Now take a q-tip and dip it in dish soap and then touch the milk then observe the fireworks (no actual fire, just color explosions).

Bounce off the Walls

When you kids are bouncing off the walls, why not make some bouncy balls.  This cool project will have your kids wild about science and kitchen creations as they watch a chemical reaction where liquids turn to solids.

Slime

It’s likely that you and your kids have made slime before, but if you haven’t, you absolutely need to.  If you have, there are so many different kinds to make that you should do it again.  A few ingredients create a mesmerizing substance that will have your kids playing for hours.

You Survived the Bomb Cylone – Wanna Build a Snowman?

Turn that Plain Jane Snowman into a Traffic Stopper!

“Do you want to build a snowman?”

“NO!” Your children exclaim.

snowman, creative, activities, winter

Photo from Andrea_molnarova29 on Instagram

Building snowpeople can lose their charm quickly, especially when you have to spend an hour getting dressed and you’re entertaining children whose boredom meters jump off the charts with the slightest repetition.  So, now what?  It’s time to think outside the box and get rid of Frosty’s 1960’s Burl Ives attire and persona and actually make him (or her) come to life!  Instagram is, of course, a great place to find ideas.

This is one of those slap yourself in the head moments where you think “why didn’t I think of that.” Why not make an actual snow person!  Your children can make one that has human parts and dress them up with items that define their likes and personalities.

Snowman, winter activities, familyUpside Down, Girl You Turn Me… Old Classic Snowman, Made New!

 

This clever snowperson from Mommy Shorts has things all upside down.  Visit Mommyshorts.com for other inventive spins on ole’ Frosty that will h

snowman, winter activities

Another creative idea from Mommy Shorts at Mommyshorts.com

ave your kids flying out the door in no time.

 

Use Props for your Snowman!

Snowmen like to play too!  Photos and ideas from Topbuzz.com. Click the link to see more highly imaginative ideas. Spoiler alert, some of them are darn right cute, and some might be better suited for a snowy Halloween.

dinosaur, snowman, winter activities, outdoors, family

Photo from BlotTO on Pinterest

Get Artsy!

Think snow sculpture like those on blogTO and who knows where you and your child’s imagination will go!  And, why not give your kids squirt bottles and/or spray bottles filled with water and food coloring or tempera paint. They will have a ton of fun turning your snowy yard into a winter masterpiece.  Check out Resourceful Mama for more ideas.

dog, snowman, winter activities, family

Photo by Jill Yarberry-Laybourn

 

Or check out this snow dog that is sure to get your kids excited about heading out the door!

Better Yet, Drink Your Snowman!

 Once your kids are happy and exhausted come inside for some good ol’ fashioned hot chocolate. Only this time, think outside the box and make one that is not only delicious, but adorable. Check out these whipped cuties!

winter activities, snowman, hot cocoa, hot chocolate, whipped cream, family fun

Photo from carolinaepicurean and @janturally.jo on Instagram

Five Top MakerEd / EdTech Tools to Boost STEAM Education at Home!

MakerBolder wins EdTech Grant from Eduporium

MakerBolder was honored to receive Eduporium’s EdTech Grant to support our upcoming Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest.  You can read more about the Grant HERE.  We love the way Eduporium is supporting in-home and in-classroom STEAM Education (and you will, too!).  Below is an article from the Eduporium team that shines a light on awesome tools and toys that are both fun and educational.  Enjoy!

By Andy Larmand, Eduporium

 

The Eduporium team is on a mission to provide educators and innovative community leaders with technology that helps students develop crucial STEM skills through active learning and hands-on experiences. Eduporium also offers a monthly grant program, through which they award $500 worth of EdTech to deserving educational institutions and organizations.

MakerBolder was chosen as Eduporium’s January grant recipient and selected Ozobot robots to give out at their annual Rocky Mountain STEAM event! Ozobot’s are fantastic STEAM tools that allow children to take part in hands-on learning and help build a strong foundation of 21st century skills, including coding.

Check out some of the most popular MakerEd tools for enhancing STEAM education.

  • 3Doodler: This 3D printing pen combines some of the most exciting and important elements of STEAM education in engineering and 3D design. It is both a 3D printer and a pen meaning that kids can use it to draw objects in three dimensions! One of their pens is designed for students as young as 6 years old and the other is suitable for students in middle school and up. They are both completely safe for children and include various fun filaments for printing.
  • littleBits: These electronic modules snap together easily via their individual magnetic connection and each has a color-coded function.

    LittleBits tools can be pieced together in thousands of ways to give people of all ages the opportunity to “iterate” their EdTech creations!

    The different Bits include inputs, outputs, wires, power supplies, and more. As students build inventions with them, they learn that it’s not possible to have a functioning output without an input and it’s not possible to activate their circuits without power, eventually progressing to building circuits they can control with code.

  • MaKey MaKey: The MaKey MaKey uses the conductivity found within everyday objects and inside the human body to turn any conductive object into an interactive touchpad. Students can attach a conductive object to the MaKey MaKey board, “ground” themselves by holding one of the kit’s jumper wires in their hand, and activate the conductive object by touching it while holding the wire in their hand since they too are conductors of electricity!
  • MakeDo Packs: These maker-focused tools allow kids to invent and build with cardboard! Students can optimize their inventions with easy-to-use pieces, like reusable screws, tools, and saws, which are all plastic and enab

    MakeDo EdTech kits expand creative problem solving.

    le students to anchor cardboard construction projects. Each of MakeDo’s kits promote creative thinking and inventive problem solving in a fun way.
    KEVA Planks are small, rectangular wooden blocks kids can strategically use to build all sorts of structures. Not only are they able to be creative and design buildings and bridges, they also learn the fundamentals of engineering along the way. With KEVA, students are challenged to create sound structures that can support themselves, teaching them important design and engineering principles in the process.

To discover more MakerEd tools for enhancing engagement and inspiring learning by making, check out the Eduporium website or reach out to info@eduporium.com. And, be sure to encourage kids to use hands-on learning to unlock new levels of inventiveness, creativity, and ingenuity as they build future-ready skills!

Putting a Hammer to the Glass STEM Ceiling – Current Research on Girls in Science

explore the galaxy of hands-on science

Broadening Girls’ perspectives on STEM Careers helps them consider all options from an early age.

The glass ceiling is an invisible, but real barrier in many industries and especially in STEM related fields.  While more and more women are entering science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields, they still only make up a little over a fourth of the workforce.

According to the National Girls Collaborative, only 11% of physicists and astronomers are women while 17% of the civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers are female.  Female chemists make up 35% of the field. The most notable gap in the gender workforce is in the computer and high tech industries. According to Catalyst

Dr. Cathy Olkin from the Southwest Research Institute, is a leading Planetary Scientist and an advocate for girls in STEM Careers.

.org whose mission it is to accelerate growth for women in the workplace, women make up only one-fifth of the job force in that industry.  Also concerning, the women who do work in these fields make 20% less on average in the same role as men. But as a whole, women who work in STEM industries receive a much higher wage than working in other areas.

What does it all mean for Girls in Science?

It means that a growth mindset needs to be embraced by all parties: parents of girls, educators, employers and industries.  More women in the STEM workforce allows companies and industries to develop in ways that don’t just help 50% of the population and increases their relevance to a much larger market.

In a ForbesWoman article, Moira Forbes asks female professionals prolific in their STEM fields of biomolecular and computer engineering, how to narrow the gap. Solutions include educating girls that they don’t have to be Einstein mathematically in order to be successful in a number of STEM fields; likewise, they suggested inspiring and fostering curiosity (in other words, let your daughter take apart that old cracked iPhone).  Brittany Kendrick who has a Master’s of Science in Urban Infrastructure Systems, shared that societal paradigms need to change. “As a Black Woman, a Civil Engineer, bred by the public schools on the southside of Chicago, it is my personal mission to resist the social, economic, and political structures that are in place to discourage my ability and pursuit.” Other girls deserve the same, and so advocacy and enlightenment need to continue.

Dr. Temple Grandin, internationally acclaimed scientist and advocate for hands-on learning suggests that girls need early exposure to STEM subjects in order to develop a passion for them.

Kids will seldom see themselves in careers and fields where they don’t see themselves represented (whether it be gender or race).  The more exposure girls can get to see women in STEM industries will help ignite girls interest and plant the seeds they need to see themselves growing in STEM industries.  Likewise, a girl won’t know her options until she is exposed to them.  The more activities, camps, events where girls can get messy and explore the varied degrees and career opportunities in STEM, the better!

 

lemons, decision making, brainstorm, family, discussion

Turn Lemons into Lemonade – Unusual Inspiration for Family Problem Solving

brainstorm, family, decision making, lemons, lemonade, worst ideasFamily Problem Solving – Upside Down!

Guest post created by Sara Heintzelman from Createdu.org

CreatEdu worked with a high-performing charter school to explore how to foster more independence in their students as they prepared for college. Sometimes we tackle a challenge and we just hit a wall. Good ideas seem to be unattainable and it’s time to try something new. We jumped into a ‘worst-possible idea’ brainstorm to shake things up.

With this new criteria, people worried less about coming up with “good” ideas, and without this pressure, the ideas started flowing. One educator suggested that we have Oprah give every student a car. Another said “Let’s throw kids out of a plane with a parachute to see if they are independent!” Logistically (and from a liability standpoint), taking high school students skydiving was a terrible idea- but then, we dug into this concept further. What training takes place before skydiving? What scaffold for independence is built before you let someone jump out of a plane? (For more about how this program was developed, read the full story here). This “worst-possible idea” ended up inspiring the program that was eventually implemented, and would never have made it onto the table if we’d only focused on coming up with good ideas.

When you shift the way you think and make the process more playful, great ideas can spring from bad ideas. This technique is not about forcing a bad idea to work, rather about using your brain differently and either flipping bad ideas upside down or identifying valuable components in the bad ideas that act as inspiration for great ideas.

Bring it home – Creative Family Problem Solving

At CreatEdu we sometimes bring design thinking into our homes. We can’t help it. The following is a story about how Sara, CreatEdu’s Director of Operations, used the Lemons-to-Lemonade concept to problem solve with her own family:

The Problem

“Despite my own minimalist tendencies, with two grade-school kids, our house is messy and has lots of stuff. So. Many. Toys. After one too many ‘lego vs. barefoot’ incidents, we called a family meeting.”

Me: The toys are a disaster, it looks like a toy bomb went off and we can’t even walk through the house without injury! How can we keep the toys and house cleaner?

All I got was a mumble about mom cleaning them up every day and diverted eyes, but otherwise it was silent. It was time to try something new. It was time for a worst-solution idea brainstorm. Ideas quickly started flowing:

The Worst-Possible Ideas

Kid 1: Lets dump every single toy on the floor and make a toy carpet!

Kid 2: Yeah, and let’s just break all of the toys as we walk over them every day!lemonade, innovation, creativity, brainstorming

Kid 1: Let’s put every toy we own in a garbage bag and throw them out.

Kid 2: Let’s give all of our toys away.

After the ideas slowed down, we looked at all of the crazy, bad, no good, terrible ideas we’d come up with and you know what we saw? Gems, lots of little gems hidden in these bad ideas.

The Creative Family Problem Solving Gems

These worst-possible ideas helped us identify some of the underlying problems with our toys in the first place: we couldn’t find them easily so they get dumped out frequently, they don’t have designated homes so clean up is harder, and there were too many of them (many of which had been outgrown). Once these worst-possible ideas were mined for gems, actual solutions began to evolve and ‘The Toy Capsule System’ was born.

We dumped every toy we owned on the floor (not joking!). Each kid picked 15 toys to keep in the house (art supplies and books were exempt and sets of toys, like legos, counted as 1), everything else went into a donate or storage pile. The storage pile went in clear plastic bins in the garage where toys could be traded (1 toy out, 1 toy in). Toys had homes and were easy to find. There were less of them so clean-up was quick and “shopping” for toys became fun and kept things fresh. This idea would never have been born without a bad case of ‘lego-foot-itis’ that prompted a worst-possible idea brainstorm!”

Try this now!

The next time your family hits a roadblock around a common issue, whether it be:

  • The use of electronics
  • How to get homework done
  • Collaborative decisions about what activities to do together for fun
  • How to get chores done, or something else entirely

Try a worst-possible idea brainstorm. For ideas, download CreatEdu’s ‘CreateEDU’s Lemons to Lemonade Brainstorm Guide’. See if your brainstorm leads to anything exciting. It won’t always, but you might be surprised and it might help diffuse an otherwise challenging family topic (who knows, it could also be fun!).

Still Curious?

Build on your Brainstorm with a Yes, and…

Why Go For the Worst Possible Idea?

Turn Your Ideation Session Upside-down