Tech Ed 4 Kids Partners with Parents, Students, and Teachers to Measurably Propel Student Achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
About the author:
Linda Liukas, author of Hello Ruby, is a programmer, storyteller, and illustrator from Helsinki, Finland. She is a central figure in the world of programming who worked on edutech before it was even called that. Linda is the founder of Rails Girls, a global phenomenon teaching the basics of programming to young women all over the world. She has studied in business, design, and engineering at Aalto University and product engineering at Stanford University. She was selected as the 2013 Ruby Hero (the most notable prize within the Ruby programming community) and she’s the Digital Champion of Finland, appointed by EU commissioner Neelie Kroes.
With the release of the movie Hidden Figures, a little more focus has been on the women in programming. I just received a message that the University of Illinois has received an award for increasing the number of women in engineering over the last few years! Yeah! I still remember one of my programming classes in college, taught in the math department. Five people in the class (Pascal), and I was the only women. Another class was a full classroom (Fortan), I always sat near the front and it wasn’t until the professor mentioned it, that I realized I was the only women. Most of my classes were like that.
It’s hard to imagine that most of the original computer programmers at places like NASA were women. It was considered a women’s job since typing was involved. It wasn’t until later that it became a man’s field. Interestingly enough one of the things that U of I mentioned was their changed in recruiting and removing gender bias. My husband and I had a discussion about how bias is included… It’s interesting that it’s so ingrained that we don’t even realize it’s there… Like the fact that women are usually called girls whereas boys are called men.
I loved the movie Hidden Figures! I really loved the statement where the black women computer was asked if she would want to be an engineer if she was a man and she replied, No, she would BE an engineer. The sad thing was that it was true. The movie showed the battles that not only women faced, but also blacks. If we don’t remember history, we are bound to repeat it. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is definitely worth watching! I’ve seen it twice so far!
Women (and Girls) should be able to be anything they want to – whether it’s a computer programmer, a scientist, or a pageant queen…or even a pageant queen that is a nuclear scientist. We have famous actresses that hold degrees in STEM that are setting wonderful examples. Look at Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory that holds a PhD in NeuroScience and Danica McKellar from the Wonder Years that has a degree in Mathematics – including a theorem named after her! And McKellar has some Kick Butt math books that she has written!
Hello Ruby is a book that works through some adventures on learning creative thinking. It isn’t really a book on how to program – there is a workbook though. It will work through the concept of programming, not programming itself. I was originally a little confused by the fact that Ruby is actually a computer language also. Ruby is actually a free language, downloadable. Ruby the language isn’t really a beginner language in my opinion though.
In this book, Ruby is a girl that is followed through the book as she solves puzzles. The book works through the puzzle solving process. There are activities and exercises. I do recommend this book – but not if you are wanting a book to be a tutorial to walk you through programming.
Meet Ruby a small girl with a huge imagination, and the determination to solve any puzzle. As Ruby stomps around her world making new friends, including the Wise Snow Leopard, the Friendly Foxes, and the Messy Robots, kids will be introduced to the fundamentals of computational thinking, like how to break big problems into small ones, create step-by-step plans, look for patterns and think outside the box through storytelling. Then, these basic concepts at the core of coding and programming will be reinforced through fun playful exercises and activities that encourage exploration and creativity.
In Ruby’s world anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
*Balloon (12″-or larger diameter when blown up)
Strips of newspaper, packaging paper, or art paper cut into strips
*Maps of the 7 continents
*Markers or paint
1. Blow up the balloon to desired diameter. Tie a string around the knot (making sure it is secure), then hang the balloon.
2. Mix your own paper mache mix. Mix Glue – 2 parts to 1 part water. So for every 1 cup white glue use 1/2 cup water and mix it well.
3. Put the glue mixture on the paper. – Dip it or paint it on.
4. Start wrapping the balloon like making a cast.
5. Hang the covered balloon in a place it won’t be disturbed Until the paper is hard and dry.
6. Cut the continents out (you can find great maps to print for free – http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/na.htm / http://www.mapsofworld.com/north-america/ / http://www.geographicguide.com/world-image.htm / http://www.geographicguide.com/maps.htm
7. Print continents on sticker paper (or use a cricut to cut them out)
Solar panels are just one of the many types of renewable energy that are available now. There are wind turbines, water mills, solar, and new technologies are being developed every year. This picture is a solar panel near our house. There are even new builders developing roof tiles that incorporate solar panels in the tiles! Tesla, the developer of the famous electric car of the same name, has developed a set of roof tiles to compete. Some areas even allow for homes with renewable energy sources to be reimbursed for overflow energy that is fed into the system.
The sun can be used for a lot of cool experiments (and even art projects)! Online experiments show how powerful solar energy can be. Here’s just a few:
- 1. Make a simple solar oven – cover a box in aluminum foil. The aluminum foil will reflect the sun. Now put your food – ex. to see how well it works put in something that will melt like an ice cube and see how quickly it will melt out in the sun in your solar oven. How quickly did it ‘cook’?
2. Build a chimney out of metal cans taped together and put the cylinder in the sun. If you put a pinwheel above it you many see the pinwheel spin slowly. The sun will heat the air in the cans and cause the air to rise. The air will then blow the pinwheel.
3. Build a still to distill water. Put an empty small container within a larger container filled with salt water. Cover the container tightly with saran wrap and weight down the portion of the cover over the small container. Now leave in the sun. – The sun will heat the water causing it to rise and condense on the saran wrap. Water will run to the lowest point – where the cover is weighted down, and drop into the small container. The small container will then contain pure water without the salt.
4. Crayon Board: My favorite for this, includes gluing crayons across a canvas to make a rainbow. You can add peel off stickers to be removed after the crayons melt if you would like to add some designs. Now put the canvas out in the sun – In the front window of your car is a great spot that will quickly melt the crayons! The canvas needs to be slanted down. As the crayons heat up the melted crayon will run down the canvas.
Make Your Own Globe
We don’t leave home often, but we have traveled a few places. I also really enjoy exploring my family history. To tie everything to our life we decided to add maps to our house.
Our Family In the World Now
We have a world map made of corkboard that we have marked with push pins for each place someone in our family currently is. Two years ago our family included an exchange student and as far as we are concerned she is also part of the family – so if you look closely you can see a tab by her family in Tokyo Japan also.
We also have tabs side by side for our house and for my two older sons that are about 2.5 hours away from us. The tabs give us a little bit of an idea of how far away everything is compared to where we are. We’ve been to such a small part of the world that it’s really interesting to see how everything relates to where we are. I would love to include it on a globe, but haven’t figured out how to put a globe on the wall!
Where We have Been
Our next framed map includes just the US and includes magnetic pins for what states we have visited. We have been using different colors to mark ones that my youngest remembers visiting as opposed to the states that we have visiting during the time before his ‘recorded memory’. It has made it interesting to add a state to the map and we’ve had a few stories to go with to go through the don’t you remember when we visited…..
My Aunt years ago would get a postcard from each location that she visited, but this is a prettier, much more visual way to see the states in a quick way. – Though I have to admit, I have started my own postcard collection. I do still have her collection, which includes cards from all of the 48 states (what was the whole US at the time she was traveling) I actually just looked it up to double check. After double checking I was surprised to learn that Hawaii wasn’t a state when my husband was born. There were actually one 48 states when my husband was born!
Our Family History
We don’t currently have a map to show our family history map, but I’ve seen something similar on ancestry.com with their new gen communities. The map shows my mom’s gen community map. The right ties to her DNA results and what we had previously noticed and the left represents where her family had immigrated to. I’d love to get a world map like the US map we have and put some magnetic markers in spots that we know our direct ancestors lived. It’s amazing to see all the locations that our family has ties to from history. Linking the map with a timeline and key points in history would be ahistory lesson. Questions come up – Did my family leave Germany before WWI? Did they leave Italy before WWII? Did they leave Ireland before the Potato Famine? I already know some of my ancestors were here for the revolutionary war…. what states were they in? I do know the answers to these questions because I have researched family history, but it’s amazing the things you find when you can link everything to places, and even local events that were going on. For example, my grandmother’s brothers were in a cave in at a coal mine, they survived, but it was a pretty bad coal mine accident. Knowing about the area and the accident provides some information about our family that will become missing over time.
Do you have an interesting way to keep track of where your family has been?
The Domestic Musician!
Research has shown that music, art, and math are all linked skills. Jessica Peresta from The Domestic Musician believes that music is one of the fundamental classes for students. She has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a strong commitment to music education. The site includes videos and resources all online and catered toward parents, teachers, and students. Catering toward school children, the site really can be used for any age though. Not having piano during his grade school years, my husband has decided it would be a fun activity. My middle took piano years ago (violin didn’t sound like the words), and we still have the old heavy piano taking up space.
We have a few pianos around our house, both electric and our large old wood piano. The piano in our entryway is a hand me down from cousins that we have threatened to sell with our house ever time we moved. The piano itself was a large upright that was originally cut down to make it shorter. If you lift the top cover you can see the marks where each string was shortened. By shortening the string and adjusting the tension, the piano can be tuned to make the same sound. We now have a few keys that don’t work, but the piano has followed us as we have moved from location to location. With peeling paint and using the old bench from an organ that I learned to play in grade school, it has survived and is now being used by my husband.
The Domestic Musician Lesson 1
Lessons on the Domestic Musician are set up as videos with a work at your own pace layout. The first lesson worked through proper posture, having the right bend to the fingers, and playing a short song first using basic finger moves. My husband has been trying to learn piano as part of his slowing down and moving toward retirement. He has been working at teaching himself through piano books and youtube videos found online. The Domestic Musician site is geared toward teaching children for homeschool and classroom environments for many of the offerings but her piano classes do translate well for any age.
We started working through the lessons with the first lesson in the beginner classes and didn’t feel that they were geared to be too young for an adult to work through them. I think my eight year old might also be able to use them if he were interested in piano. For a younger child using them at home, I think a parent would need to be very involved. As the child became older and more interested in learning for their own safe, I think the parental involvement would decrease. (I’ve been on the phone when my friend’s children are practicing and heard them trying to head off to other things before practice time has ended!)
I don’t think any children regret as adults having taken piano, but I do think many kid’s bemoan lesson and practice time while doing it as a child. I suspect my husband was out riding a bike whereas I was in taking lessons. Personally I had asked for piano lessons as a tween – ending up with organ lessons taught by cousin. A cousin who probably had lots of stories and bemoaned teaching me through the whole period of time she taught me. But I can’t say I regret taking lessons at all.
Online lessons lack the ability of the teacher to interact and ‘react’ to the student’s flaws and actions, but on the other hand the flexibility that opens up of anytime, anyplace is wonderful. It also frees mom up to do whatever is needed while lessons go on as opposed to sitting in the other room trying to get things done while lessons occur. Or like me while my older children took lessons, sitting in a car while lessons occurred after our one hour drive to lessons and sending one child in at a time while others did homework. My oldest took harp, and finding a teacher nearby had been impossible!
Music and Science
Most universities teach a class on the science of sound. The class is usually taught through the physics department and filled with both physics majors and music majors. Sound is everywhere around us! Everywhere from a hum to the loud noises of a jet plane. Sound can even be harmful at high enough levels.
If you have ever tried a dog whistle you have noticed that some sound can’t be heard by human ears. I’ve also got an app for testing hearing that allows me to see what levels of sound I can no longer hear. As kids the old CRT monitors would make an almost painful noise that parents can’t hear. – I’ve actually heard of ringtones in the level that kids can hear but adults can’t. I haven’t heard them though….
Sound is actually a wave. It behaves similar to the waves in water, only our ears pick it up. The Explorium website has a cool website on the science of sound. Information about Acoustics and the science of sound can also be found on many sites. The physics classroom is one I like!
While visiting home we decided to check out the drive through safari. I’ve done one with my middle son before, and we have driven through a park with Buffalo by Murray here in Kentucky also – but this one has taken over a park our family visited many times years ago.
Rockhome Gardens (What was there)
Rockhome Gardens was a park that existed when my older two children were young. The park was run by the Amish and would have activities on some weekends. Our family usually had a season pass each summer. One of the fun things to do included an area to sit and eat lunch in the center of a train track that ran outside. The kids would run and watch the trains as they ran around while we all ate.
Other things to do included seeing a chicken play tic tac toe, taking carriage rides, riding a horse that would cut a small piece off of log, and a small petting zoo. The park would have kids activities, quilt shows and lots of other great activities! The boys and I would head up and have lunch anytime activities were going on, sometimes riding the ‘train’ around the park also.
Texas Drive Through
While on a trip to Texas, my middle son, my mother, and I found a drive through safari. We LOVED it! We arrived early and the animals were still awake. I do have to admit to one issue trying to push a zebra back out of the car, when it stuck it’s head in for more food and decided it could eat from my lap. The Texas Safari allowed animals to be fed from the car. – Just don’t get out of the car. We had a great time, actually taking two trips through! The animals were less active as the day went on, but the earlier drive through had really made it worth it.
Arcola Drive Through – Aikman Wildlife Safari
The Arcola Drive Through has been put in place where Rockhome Gardens was. For the standard fee, you are allowed to drive through the park with your windows up and see all the animals. Visitors can pay extra for a trip through the park in a gator type ‘golf cart’ and feed the animals. My youngest didn’t want to touch the animals, but seeing them through the windows was fun for him. This was the perfect trip for him! The Texas safari I had a zebra reach in and had to push it’s head back out of the car. We also had driven through a park Land Between the Lakes with Buffalo, but there were limited animals there. This park had a selection of animals – deer, zebras, emus, and even buffalo. There is a part that is walk through, and a petting zoo. We may work our way up to that.
Drive-thru Adventure (includes Walk-thru)
$10.00 ~ 13 years and up
$7.00 ~ 4 – 12 years old
Free ~ 2 years and younger
Wagon Tour Adventure (includes Walk-thru)
$15.00 ~ 13 years and up
$12.00 ~ 3 – 12 years old
Free ~ 2 years and younger
Behind-the-Scenes Adventure (includes Walk-thru)
$30.00 ~ 13 years and up
$25.00 ~ 3 – 12 years old
$6.00 ~ 13 years and up
$4.00 ~ 3 – 12 years old
Free ~ 2 years and younger
$20 per standard vehicle
$50 per small bus / 12 passenger van or bigger
Spring Hours (beginning April 1)
Saturday 10am – 4pm
Sunday 12pm – 4pm
Thursday: (By appointment only, tour groups and field trips)
Tying In Tech
Once in a while it’s great to get out into the sun and see things out in real life. For us that involved driving through in our car… I actually think there was an ipad and of course our phones for taking pictures were included (and video). We did make it out of the house for a little bit though. We actually met a friend for ice cream on the same trip, and had a great time out for a little while. We stopped for lunch at an Amish market and then went past an outlet mall to walk around after finishing.
After getting home though we had to get online and get answers to the questions that we had made while driving through the safari.
- How big can a buffalo get?
- What do buffalo eat?
- What are fallow deer?
- How are Emus and Ostriches different?
- How high can a deer jump?
- Why do only male Peacocks have big plumes?
- Why do some of the animals need salt licks?
We had a long list with many more questions we could check out online. We could have googled each thing while driving through on our mobile device, but that would have taken a long time and would have cut down on seeing some of the cool things the animals did. We should have added a step of looking up what animals the park had ahead of the visit and learned something about each animal first… then watched for the behaviors during the drive. Before going it would be good to know what animals are nocturnal, what animals interact well, and if any are carnivores?
I plan to go back this summer my little one (and take friends if I can convince them)!