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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What Does The Ice Say?

Ever wonder what that cracking sound is when you are out on the lake? Many of us hear the ice crack and fear we will break through the ice. The ice actually makes a cracking sound when it is forming. Check out the video below to hear what ice forming sounds like. There is no editing done to the video. It's all natural. Who needs music when you have nature?

Friday, January 6, 2017

STEM: Teaching the Engineering Process

So far this year I've been integrating at least one STEM Activity into every unit in my 6th grade classroom. I should have been doing this eight years ago when I started teaching. This keeps them practicing the engineering process throughout the year. In our health unit we designed stretchers to rescue someone from a mountain. In our matter unit we designed canoes and analyzed the physical properties of materials. In our energy unit we are building catapults, paddle boats, and roller coasters.

It would be fun to design and test the structures outdoors. We will be building our paddle boats this year in below zero weather so I set up a testing pond in my classroom by using an old steam table.

For each activity I recommend setting up a general store in your classroom where students can buy supplies with fake money that you supply them. This teaches students to analyze trade-offs such as cost and durability. It also makes students conserve the resources they buy and encourages them to plan before building.

Testing and redesigning is important. First students research, plan, build, and then test and redesign before the final test. After students do their first test I reopen the store for exchanges, refunds, and additional purchases. This process is an important learning step.

Whether you are a teacher or parent these activities are beneficial to kids of all ages. The best part is you could have fun testing the structure outdoors. Below are some activities I use and would like to share with you.

Paddle Boat Engineering

Paddle Boat Engineering is a complete STEM Activity ready to handout to your students. Students go through each step of the engineering process and construct paddle boats. It uses cheap supplies probably already in your classroom. This activity is available in word format so it can be adapted to any grade level.

Catapult Engineering

Catapult Engineering is a complete STEM Activity ready to handout to your students. You can test using marshmallows. Students go through each step of the engineering process and construct catapults. It uses cheap supplies probably already in your classroom. This activity is available in word format so it can be adapted to any grade level.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Promoting Engineering in K-12

Getting kids engaged in engineering has many benefits. There are many ways to integrate engineering with science, technology, and math. Here are some helpful tips for teachers, parents, schools, and cooperations. 

Benefits of Promoting Engineering in K-12

Engineering promotes critical thinking and problem solving. During each unit my 6th graders compete in an engineering competition. I pose a question for them to solve, and they research, design, test, redesign, test, and communicate results. This teaches them to think creatively.

STEM activities teach collaboration. Students learn how to work together as a team to solve a problem. They learn that they must make compromises and give and receive input from group members.

At the end of each competition students communicate results whether it be in writing, online, or verbally. This teaches students how to present their findings and analyze tradeoffs.

Integrating Engineering in the Classroom

Group engineering competitions help students actively participate in the engineering process by giving students motivation to design and build the best prototype. Competition sparks creativity by motivating many students.

Teachers can incorporate an engineering activity into each unit. I've had students design rafts, canoes, towers, bridges, and compete in many engineering competitions. We use any items I can find. Students discuss tradeoffs and select the best material for the prototype.

Parents and teachers can seek help from cooperations. I'm looking into grants to help fund supplies for engineering activities in K-12. Many places also offer outreach programs to get students interested in engineering.  The science museum and amusement parks like Valley Fair offer programs for schools. I'm taking 180 6th graders to the Science Museum to build Super Structures this winter.

If you have any resources you'd like to share to help promote engineering at the K-12 level please share them. I'd love to hear your ideas on inspiring students to use the engineering design process.
(Minnesota 6th Grade Science Teacher)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Disney World With Kids

I've been going to Disney since I was a kid, and each time it keeps getting better. I've stayed at many Disney Resorts and offsite.  Here are some of my tips for traveling to Disney.

Disney World
Stay Onsite

Staying onsite is far more magical, and has many extra perks. Staying onsite is an all around better deal. You can make your fast past selections 30 days earlier. Staying onsite is well worth it, and sometimes staying offsite can actually be more expensive. Look for onsite deals and take advantage of onsite perks. Many Disney Resorts have fun events right at the resort. When we stayed at Coronado Springs we enjoyed character experiences right at our resort. There were many Easter events right at the hotel.  When we stayed at Port Orleans Riverside we Trick or Treated at the resort and enjoyed character experiences. These all are included in your room price. If you come during a holiday check out special events at Disney's Parks. Check out The Not So Scary Halloween Party if you come around Halloween. We enjoyed trick or treating at Magic Kingdom, The Not So Scary Parade, and much more.

Take The Magical Express

There's nothing more relaxing than not driving and finding parking spots on vacation. Hope on the Magical Express at the airport and it wil bring you to your Disney Resort. The Magical Express also goes from each Disney Resort to each park and back. You don't have to wait long to get on. It's very convient and stress free. Some resorts also offer boat rides. For example Port Orleans Fremch Quarter and Riverside offer boat rides to and from Disney Springs. Again there are many boats so you don't have to wait long.

Leave the Carseats at Home

If you take the Magic Express there is no need for a car seat. This makes for a hassle free trip. You don't need to carry car seats and kids through the airport and install them in rental cars.

Get the Rapid Fill Mug

When you get to the resort stop at the food court or gift shop and get a Rapid Refill Mug. You can get unlimited refills for up to two weeks. You can fill it at any Disney resort, but not at the parks so make sure you refill before you leave the resort.  This includes coffee, tea, and soft drinks. You get to keep the mug too. It's a $17.49 well spent, and saves a lot on drinks.

Fast Passes

Get the Disney Expericence App and make your fast pas selections. This allows you to skip the line. You can make up to 3 fast pass reservations a day. After you use them you can find a kiosk at the park and make more fast pass selections. You can make fast passes for character experiences, rides, and shows. With some rides and attractions you will find that lines are short with or without a fast pass so they aren't always needed. For popular attractions and during peak tunes Fastpasses are a must.
Visit During a Holiday

Watch for Deals

Check Disney Worlds website for specials. I kept checking until their fall deals came out and was able to get a trip in the fall that was longer than our last spring break Disney Trip but much cheaper.

Disney also offers cruises. I have not been on one but have it on my list to check out. What are your favorite Disney experiences?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Christmas Gifts For Outdoor Kids

Ideas for Under Your Tree

The holiday season is here and Black Friday is just around the corner. If you're struggling to find the perfect gift don't forget about outdoor gifts.

1) Kids Cross Country Skis

I've been nordic skiing since I started walking and my kids are following in my footsteps.  There's nothing more nostalgic than skiing through the woods as a family. We love the toddler skis that strap onto the boot for the kids.  This is on my daughter's Christmas list.

2) Mad Bomber Hat

These hats are not only cute they keep the little ones warm.  My son just outgrew his second hat.  A third one is on my son's list this year.

3) Pull Sled

A pull sled is perfect for winter walks.  My kids use the one I had growing up and love it.  It's a sled with a comfy backrest so when they get tired on a walk they will enjoy riding in it. My son also loves to run behind and push my daughter. It also is a perfect decorative piece for the porch during the holiday season. It looks quite festive garnished with boughs.

4) Hockey Skates

I can't wait to get my kids out skating. We live in the land of ten thousand lakes. Nothing is more peaceful than skating out on the lake. It's a perfect family outing.

5) Snowshoes

Snowshoeing is another fun family winter activity! With a lot of snow projected for this winter snowshoeing might be a fitting hobby. Whether you snowshoe as a family or get the kids a pair to try out in the yard it's a fun outdoor activity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Flying Alone With Kids Under 5

Flying alone with kids seems overwhelming, but there are many things you can do to survive a flight solo with preschoolers or younger. Today I survived my first flight with just my two and four year old. Besides from losing my license, bag, spilling milk at security, and hitting a guy with my luggage I'd say it went well. I learned many things along the way too.

1) Check in the Day Before

The last thing anyone wants to do with small children is wait in line. You can check in 24 hours before your flight online and get your boarding passes. No printer? No problem! You can use your airline's app to get your boarding pass on your phone. If you're at your hotel you can ask the front desk to check in for you and your little ones and print your boarding passes. When you get to the airport you can go straight to security and skip the check in line!

2) Pack Light

No bags to check in means less lines to survive in.  We could pack everything and the kitchen sink, but checking in and carrying on stuff you might not need adds unnecessary stress.  I rolled an outfit for each day for everyone, plus two extras for the kids. We each packed two pairs of shoes (sandals for the pool and running shoes) and wore dress shoes.  For the kids clothes it works great to roll an entire outfit together and wrap a hair binder around.  Most airlines provide entertainment players complimentary or for a small fee so you don't have to cart around DVD players.  On our last flight we rented one for $8, and it kept my son busy the entire flight.  He loved playing games on it, and watching movies and cartoons.  I also packed a flap book which kept my 2 year old busy most of the flight.  

3) Stroller

No one wants to be carrying luggage and chasing little kids.  I fly with a stroller for my 2 year old and my four year old helps me push it.  Having him help me keeps him happy as we travel through the airport.  You can check your stroller on at the gate and it will be outside the plane door when you arrive at your destination.

4) Use Family Line

So far I make this sound easy, but it really is not.  While traveling through security my daughter refused to stand and walk through on her own until I walked through and she had no choice.  Then on the other side I knocked over my bag and hit a man with it who was screaming at his kid for losing his shoe.  I then dropped my license and found it on the ground at security.  Then I dropped the sippy cup full of milk.  After we picked up the milk, we bolted for the tram to get to our gate.  While on the tram I realized I forgot a bag so i stuck my foot in the door and ran with the stroller back to security.  I found the bag and bolted back to the tram.  After that it was fairly smooth sailing.  If you travel with a stroller you can use the handicap/family lane.  This lane goes much quicker than the other lane.  TSA are very helpful and understanding and make the security process easy.  Kids under twelve don't need to take off their shoes.  Just have your little ones help put the bags on the conveyor belt and follow you through the detector one at a time.

5) Say Yes to Help

When you are traveling with kids most people understand and want to help.  When you are outnumbered at an airport it's okay to say yes to help.  The flight attendant helped me with my bags as I carried my daughter and coaxed my son to move to our seats.  People behind me picked up the toys my son dropped.  Many people offered to help take a bag or push the stroller on both sides of our flight.

Bottom line is that it is hard to travel alone with kids and it is definitely a learning experience.  What tips do you have for flying with kids.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall Moose Madness

One of my favorite times of year I look forward to is fall break. School is in full swing, and the students and myself have settled in. The fall colors are in force, and there's nothing like the cool fall air. This year we headed up to the North Shore in the evening because my son had his sports activities in the morning. We had a long but enjoyable cruise up north through the evening. 

Each fall break consists of chasing partridge and bringing the kids to town. We get to go to America's coolest small town! Grand marais! Full of awesome shops and restaurants. 

Many of my favorite restaurants happen to be in Grand Marais, MN.  We have been going to Sven and Ole's and Angry Trout for years.  They both have amazing food.  See my blog posts North Shore Stops and Traveling the North Shore.  Today I added a new favorite restaurant to my list.  We have been coming up to Grand Marais for over 25 years, and we came to this restaurant 10 years two late.  My Sister's Place had it's 10th anniversary, and I wish I started eating their 10 years ago.

The menu has a spectacular selection.  Today I ate my favorite wild rice burger.  I wish I took a picture, but it looked so amazing that I devoured it as soon as I saw it.  The wild wild rice burger is made of wild rice, and tastes better than any burger I have had.  They also have the best sweet potato fries.  They also have a wild rice hot dog, which was delicious.  If you are a wild rice fan like me, you 'll love this place.

After we ate we went to all the local shops and enjoyed Grand Marais Moose Madness Festival.  We met Murray the moose and enjoyed many moose activities.  The kids earned moose bucks and cashed them out at the visitor center for a t-shirt, hats, and moose.  Check out many moose activities around town this weekend.