Science Games to Teach Environmental Awareness

When you think science games, it is often physics games that come to mind. After all, any game that is built with a physics engine serves as a great physics game. They’re fun to play, and they help students understand concepts such as acceleration and conservation of energy. Angry Birds and Portal are great examples of fun games that are used to teach physics to students.

However, science games are about a lot more than physics. There are great science games that teach nearly every science topic, from how the body fights cancer to how pollution forms in the environment. That’s right, you can teach your child to look after nature without even sending them outdoors. Here are three great science games to teach environmental awareness to kids.

Sim City Zoningsim city 4 Zoning and Roads” by haljackey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  1. SimCity EDU: Pollution Challenge

In this game, kids take on the role of a mayor along with all the city-planning and decision-making that comes with the position. The focus is on keeping pollution levels to a minimum while also ensuring that all other aspects of city life function smoothly. While SimCity may not be a science game, kids who play it come to realize how various factors contribute to the pollution level of a city. They understand how pollution-control measures can be put to effect in a practical way to reduce negative impact on the population. This game is a great way to take environmental issues out of textbooks and show kids how they affect everyday life. Playing this game is likely to make kids more conscious about how simple decisions can make a difference to the health of the environment.

  1. Citizen Science

This science game was conceptualized by Kurt Squire when he realized that there were lakes in downtown Madison that people couldn’t swim in. In Citizen Science, players try to find out why the local lake is so polluted by traveling through time and collecting evidence. They meet various characters responsible for the pollution of the lake and build strong arguments to convince them to change their behaviour. They use various scientific tools to conduct research about the pollution in the lake, and learn a great deal about lake ecosystems. They also understand the long-term effects of pollution on the environment. Eventually players must change the course of history and prevent the lake from becoming as polluted as it was before the quest.

  1. Web Earth Online

This is a great science game that lets kids understand what life is like for animals living in the wild. Players choose what animal they would like to play as, and then go about their life trying to survive in the natural environment. They must deal with natural climatic conditions as well as the threat posed by predators. Web Earth Online is a multiplayer game – players interact with each other as friends or foes depending on which species they belong to. Players are sensitized to the struggles faced by animals and are likely to be more thoughtful towards animals in real life after playing this game.

Mathematician of the Month – Babbage

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To the humble PC that is displaying this text as I type it, Charles Babbage is its father. A British mathematician and engineer, Charles ‘Father of Computers’ Babbage was very picky about his Math. In fact, he even wrote to Lord Tennyson (apparently some sort of famous poet) and asked him to correct the lines of his poem ‘Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born’ to ‘Every minute one and a sixth is born’. Of course, he was refused.

Having come into a lot of riches courtesy his dad, he spent all his money inventing rather exciting gadgets including the speedometer and the cowcatcher, which kept cows with wander lust off the railway track. Indubitably, his greatest invention was the calculator. The first one he ever invented was called the ‘Difference Engine’.

The British Government, sold on the idea of this Difference Engine, gave him £1 million so he could build it. After 11 years of trying and trying, Babbage gave it up for a better idea. Furious that their money was wasted, the government refused to give him any more. Not to be deterred, he continued on as before because, well, he was rich!

The Difference Engine version 2.0 was going to be bigger and better. It could do more than just add and subtract. It would be able to do multiplication, division and also printing. Babbage envisioned that the new machine would use similar technology to that of carpet making looms. Unfortunately, he died before the machine could be built.

In 1890, an American guy by the name of Herman used Babbage’s ideas to build a much simpler machine. If his name sounds familiar, it is because he went on to found International Business machines aka IBM. However, it wasn’t till 1944 that the machine of Babbage’s dream was built. The first calculate needed 10sqms to house it and it weighed 30 tons! The Science Museum in London built a model of the original Difference Engine in 1992. That one was only 2 meters high and over 3 meters long. Can you imagine what owing a computer those days would look like? Yikes!

Sound of Language

Teaching phonetics and the right pronunciation is important in English language classes because English is a non-phonetic language. Words are not written the way they sound. Pronunciation also differs based on whether the words are nouns, verbs or adjectives. Think ‘photographer’, ‘photography’ and ‘photographic’ where the stress on syllables varies. Learning to pronounce words correctly and understanding the different ways in which words are pronounced can help kids communicate better. While children practice phonemes in an early age, it need not stop at that.

You can teach your child pronunciation with English games and various other methods. Here are a couple of ways that will help children learn this aspect of the language.

Phonetic Symbols

Create a board with your child with different phonetic symbols that are commonly used in dictionaries. These symbols represent the various sounds. Knowing these symbols will make it easy for kids when they are learning vocabulary and will help them to simultaneously pick up the right way to pronounce these new words. You can also refer to the International Phonetic Association Symbols.

Dictionary Focusdictionary focus” by Chris Dlugosz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Television

This is an old classic when it comes to teaching the correct pronunciation. Kids can learn standard pronunciation followed by any country by following the local news channel. These are free from local dialect and will train children to pick up different sounds and intonation.

Movies

Movies are a great way to train children in listening to different accents and understanding them easily. To make it more interesting, ask children to try and emulate the accents so that they become more aware of how the way they shape words changes. They can also try delivering the same dialogue using different emotions to see how it affects the way words are sounded.

Mime ArtistMime Artist” by Paul Hudson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tongue Twisters

Remember the scene from My Fair Lady where Professor Higgins works on improving Eliza Doolittle’s pronunciation with tongue twisters? Tongue twisters are an effective way to improve pronunciation and fluency. Kids enjoy tongue twisters and you can ask them to start slow by paying attention to the way each word is pronounced and once they get that right, they can increase the speed.

Here are a few tongue twisters that you can try –

“She sells seashells by the seashore.”

“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”

My Fair LadyMy Fair Lady poster, 1964” by Laura Loveday is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Betty Botter bought some butter but she said this butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter will surely make my batter b etter. So she bought a bit of butter better than her bitter butter and she put it in her batter and her batter was not bitter. So t’was better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.”

Apart from these, you can include exercises where kids have to read along with a recorded tape and try to match it as best as they can. You could silently say a word and looking at the shape of your mouth, kids have to figure out the word. These exercises will help your child become more comfortable with the sounds of the English language.

Easy Science Experiments for Primary School Students

Science experiments are the most fun when they are easy, require minimal adult assistance, and can be done without many supplies. Check out the following easy science experiments that may leave you stunned with their outcomes.

What makes a great penny cleaner?

Shiny PennyImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/4566262271/

We’ve most often heard taco sauce makes a great cleaning agent for old pennies. Is that true? Let’s find out what makes the bets penny cleaner.

Process

  • Place three coins on three plates.
  • Cover each penny with each of these mixtures: tomato paste + vinegar, salt + vinegar, and tomato paste + salt. Let the mix sit on the coins for five minutes.
  • Rinse the pennies under running water and you can find out who’s the clear winner! Is it the mix of vinegar and salt?

How hard and sturdy are egg shells?

Egg ShellsImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/phuthinhco/7787472496/

We’ve often observed egg shells cracking even when touched lightly. Conduct this easy science experiment to find out how fragile or hard egg shells really are.

Process

  • Spread a sheet of plastic before doing the experiment because it may turn messy; a couple of eggs are bound to crack!
  • Place two cartons of eggs next to each other. Make sure all the eggs are kept round side up (not the pointy side up) and there are no breaks or fractures in any of the eggshells. Replace the defective ones before you begin the experiment.
  • Remove your socks and shoes. Hold on to a friend and try to step up onto the first carton of eggs with a foot. The trick is to make your foot as flat as possible so that your weight is evenly distributed across the tops of the eggs.
  • When you’ve positioned your foot well, try to shift all your weight on the egg-leg and slowly bring on your other foot on the other carton of eggs. Don’t fret if you hear cracking sounds from the egg cartons. Instead concentrate on balancing on the cartons.
  • So aren’t egg shells stronger than we imagine?

What happens when vinegar and baking soda mix?

Apple Cider VinegarImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/16360770737/

Vinegar and baking soda are two commonly used ingredients in the kitchen. What happens when the two are mixed? Let’s find out.

Process

  • Fill up a bottle till half with vinegar.
  • Fold two tablespoons of baking soda in a tissue paper and dump it into the bottle. They key is to put all the baking soda together into the vinegar at a time. You can explore the idea of using a funnel to pour the baking soda too into the vinegar.
  • Stand back and watch what happens! Do you notice an erupting volcano? Baking soda and vinegar, two very easily available ingredients, reacted to form the volcano.

Science Backed Reasons to Get Out and Stay Out

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I have waxed ad nauseum about all the reasons why PLAY is so essential to your children. I don’t just mean the power of playing games on your phone or playing with Lego. I mean the actual physical act of going outside and letting the wind run through your hair. I know a friend who went to teach English abroad and how she was so shocked to see how the emphasis of education is only on the pure sciences and play time was seen as a waste of time. While play time gives you great life skills, there are a few scientific benefits to it that will make anyone change their mind about going out and playing. Apart from better physical fitness and co-ordination, here is a list of just a few of these great benefits.

Enhanced Resistance to Disease –

This New York Times article has mentioned the evolutionary reasons for kids putting dirt in their mouths or just a natural attraction for soaking their feet in sand. The otherwise “gross” things in the outdoors help improve your immunity.

Better Vision –

This study from the Ohio State University College of Optometry says that 14 hours of natural light every week promotes better vision.

Less Stress –

There have been over a 100 research studies on the role of play in reducing stress and the connection between physical activity and positive psychological responses to them.

More Vitamin D –

While there are food supplements that help you with this, there isn’t enough of this nutrient that can be derived from edibles. 80-90% of our vitamin D source is the sun. No points for guessing what happens if you’re indoors all the time.

Improved Attention Spans –

There are studies done by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that has suggested that even kids with ADHD show reduced symptoms due to outdoor activities. Some studies have shown that your attention span can improve by at least 20% by spending just an hour in nature.

Outdoor Science Experiments Perfect for Summer

Rainbows peeping between two baubles of clouds, bright, wild flowers adding a splash of colors to the backyard, slushy strawberry sauces dripping from tall glasses of vanilla ice cream – that pretty much sums up summers! It’s the ideal time to set up science work stations outdoors and experiment with the wonders of summers! Carry out these fun science experiments and amidst the warmth of summer, in your backyard, garden, community park, or elsewhere!

6807424348_d6916a33f3_zImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/6807424348/

Homemade water sprinkler

Summers are synonymous with cool drinks but it’s not very cool to dispose off the plastics in which the drinks come, so we’ve devised this fun science experiment with the not-so-cool plastic bottles.

You will need:

  • A plastic soda bottle
  • Pins
  • Water

Directions

  • Head out, it’s summer.
  • Fill the plastic bottle with water and screw on the cap.
  • Using a pin, make 5 evenly spaced holes on the side of the bottle, towards the bottom.
  • Run your finger along the streams of water that are gushing from the bottle.
  • Do you notice the five streams forming one wider stream? What forms when you run your fingers through the stream of water is called cohesion. The water molecules get stuck to each other and form one single stream while oozing out from the bottle.

DIY rock candy

How about spending the idle summer holidays doing something that you would not just like to see but eat too! Head out to make a rock candy because it may get messy indoors!

You will need:

  • Cane sugar
  • Drinking water
  • Mason jar
  • Pencil string

Directions

  • Fill the mason jar with water.
  • Add 3 cups of cane sugar to the water and stir well.
  • Place the sugar solution in the microwave and heat on high for two minutes.
  • Use oven gloves to remove the mason jar from the microwave and stir another time.
  • Place it back in the microwave and heat for another two minutes. Remove again and stir.
  • Tie a length of string to a chopstick and gently dip it into the mixture. Pull out the string gently again and allow it to dry.
  • Once dry, dip the string again into the mixture and then allow it a week’s time to dry.
  • Your rock candy will be ready in a week’s time!
  • You created a super saturated solution when you heated the water-sugar solution in the microwave. When you dipped a string into the solution, the sugar granules crystallized and formed a rock candy!

DIY vanilla ice cream

What’s summer without a scoop of our favorite vanilla ice cream? Make ice cream while you’re out running after the butterflies in your backyard and enjoying the summer!

You will need:

  • Two sandwich bags, one bigger than the other
  • A cup of full cream
  • Half a cup of milk
  • A teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • One fourth a cup of sugar
  • 3 cups full of ice cubes
  • 3 cups salt

Directions

  • Mix the cream, milk, vanilla essence, and sugar in the smaller sandwich bag. Seal it well.
  • Slip in the smaller bag into the larger and fill up the larger sandwich bag with the ice cubes and salt.
  • Seal the larger bag (with the smaller bag intact) and head out to enjoy the summers. Just make sure you keep shaking the bags for a good five minutes.
  • Come back in and carefully take out the small bag from the large one and pour its contents in a bowl.
  • Don’t you have a bowl gooey vanilla ice cream in front of you!

Mathematician of the Month – Descartes

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You know that quote “I think, therefore I am”? Yep, René Descartes said it – our beloved Mathematician of the month. The French philosopher had so many brilliant ideas, he had to stay in bed almost all day just to be able to wrap his mind around them (it might have to do with him being sickly, but we’ll ignore that for now)

His specialty is Geometry – you know, the math of beautiful shapes. One day while he was lying in bed, waiting for breakfast to be brought to him (philosophy seems a great career if you ask me), he observed a fly crawling around the ceiling. When his maid arrived with breakfast, he tried to tell her where the fly had been without pointing it out to her. This obsession led to him chancing upon his greatest idea – grids with axes.

While we give directions in relation to the most recognizable landmark, “along the corridor, second door to your left”, he created grids with numbers. So the fly started at 4,2 which means 4 along the grid and 2 up. The maid rolled her eyes and walked away slowly, refusing to acknowledge the importance of his discover. Within a few years, however, it started being used in Math, Physics and even Geography and is popularly called the Cartesian coordinates.

url Personally, thinking causes me a lot of confusion and so for now, it’s on hold! To be continued …

Before they grow up – Activities to enjoy today!

6-81142-14-1415057748Let’s face it – the parenting journey is chaotic to say the least. There are days when you’re dead on your feet and have to drag yourself in a slow zombie-like stupor. There are days when you have yelling matches with the kids because they want it their own way. There are days that come after long sleepless nights. There are pee stains on the bed, there are food stains all over the couch, there are crayon marks on your favorite purse, there are bald spots from where you have unconsciously pulled your hair out.

6-81134-7-1413244646And then there are days when you laugh so hard you feel like your lungs will burst, there are days when you smile from ear to ear at the sound of their giggle and their tiny footsteps running around the house, days when you wish you were as good a storyteller as they are. When you’re cuddling your little one as they are breathing softly in your arms you realize that you would have it no other way. Let’s face it – parenting is an amazing journey!

I love this phase of my life when the kids are still home and haven’t fled the nest yet. When we mark their heights on the wall, it’s a reminder of how quickly they grow and how deeply our time together needs to be savored. Enjoying your child in the ‘right now’ becomes a priority. Here are some simple things you can do with your little ones that don’t make you feel like you’re missing out on them.

Play their favorite game with them –

I’ve done everything from trying to beat their temple run scores to watching them raise virtual pets and playing MMOs where the whole family has raised dragons together, grown farms, built great architectural wonders, thrown down a block of Jenga bricks and played so many board games, I’ve lost track. There are adventures to be had online and offline. Bonding becomes deeper when you make the effort to be interested in something they love.

Hold hands and go for a walk –

My kids have a timeline of hands where they draw the outline of their own hand every month on a scrapbook and then compare it against the size of my hand. Their thrill at knowing they’re growing up and will soon be as big as mommy is astounding. They then insist on holding my hand and going for a walk, occasionally stopping to see if their hand has gotten any bigger. These memories are now safely stored away in a pensieve! :D

Get lost in a book together –

Speaking of pensieves (and I have play acted Harry Potter to them many times), pick any one of these kids’ books and practice your acting skills. One of my favorite memories of my dad is of him enacting the whole of Oliver’s Twist much to our delight – I can still picture the way he’d take a shirt lying around, turn it into a hat and pretend to be Fagin!

Have a Staring Contest –

Silly, simple, effective – don’t you just love making your kids laugh? Everytime I challenge them to a staring contest, they become serious. The urge to win drives them to play the game like it’s a matter of life and death. I use that as an opportunity to flare my nostrils, wiggle my ears, cross my eyes. As a bonus, go to the bathroom and practice making faces together in the mirror.

Dance, dance, dance –

Before school gets hectic, before they’re off doing their own thing with their friends, use as many opportunities as you can to dance. So what if you have two left feet? The kids love when we blast Macarena from the system and do our silly dance. I enjoy it more when they get to pick a song and they get to teach me their dance moves. The sillier the better!

Mathematician of the Month – Pascal

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Blaise Pascal was an extremely gifted Frenchman who spent a majority of his life devoted to God and the Christian faith. However, he was a genius mathematician who as a young boy and was saved from becoming just another obscure mathematician due to his remarkable contributions and discoveries.

When he was a kid, he was amazing at geometry and not having known about some mathematical discoveries, he rediscovered many of Euclid’s findings. At the age of 18, he invented an adding machine that seemed way ahead of its time. His invention was so well received that there is a computer language that is named after him.

Pascal and another top mathematician called Fermat invented probability in a bid to help a friend who had a gambling problem and was losing a lot of money. It turned out to be one of the most widely used branches of mathematics and perhaps the most important.

While working on the theory of probability, he did what he was slowly starting to get recognized for = rediscovering. He rediscovered an ancient Chinese triangle that is now popularly known as Pascal’s Triangle. I could go on about this triangle but it would give me you a headache so I won’t go there.

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At 23, Pascal unfortunately developed a condition called dyspepsia which along with his insomnia made his life extremely difficult. Descartes suggested he should stay in bed and live on a diet of beef tea. This didn’t help him. Shortly after, he had a freak accident where he dangled from a bridge and his horses drowned. He convinced himself that it was a sign from God, telling him to give up Math. Vowing to live a more spiritually oriented life, he lived with Math. 16 years later, he died from stomach cancer.

Apart from his mathematical contributions, he is known as the inventor of the one-wheel wheelbarrow, of hydraulics and of public transport. It is safe to say he lived a very full life – the effects of his great work are felt even to this day.

How to Teach Children to be Pragmatic

It’s very important for kids to learn the language of pragmatism from an early age. The pragmatic language involves specific ways of communication, sometimes also known as ‘social skills’. Kids must learn the use of language for different reasons such as greetings, farewells, asking questions, narrating anecdotes, etc. It’s important to change the language based on each type of communication, for example that with a teacher, a peer, a parent, et al. Pragmatic skills also involve turn-taking while talking and not interrupting, introducing new topics, correcting errors or altering something in a different way when a message is not understood the first time, maintaining eye contact and correct body distance while talking, and knowing how to talk to different groups of people (peers versus adults). So what’s the best way to introduce kids to the pragmatic language and help them master it? Check out the following.

Inside My ClassroomImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/knittymarie/4802941163

Day-to-day happenings at home contribute significantly in developing a child’s pragmatic language skills. Encourage your child to greet parents and siblings at the breakfast table, say goodbye to whoever is at home while leaving for school, and wish a ‘good night’ before retiring to bed every night. Praise your child if she exhibits good communication skills.

Have you ever thought that the scientific method may be useful in contributing significantly to a child’s pragmatic skills? The scientific method is more than just a way of approaching sciences; it’s a way we live. The scientific method of studying has been developed taking into account our day-to-day lives and therefore devising the best possible way to approach a solution. The approach of the scientific method includes five very pragmatic steps – hypothesis, formulation, experiment, and conclusion. The four steps will help any child even beyond her science lessons – to understand life with a pragmatic approach. So have your child solve such scientific method worksheets which explain each step in detail and inspire her to adopt the approach in her day-to-day life.

Role-playing with children is another great way to help them becomes pragmatic in their approach. Pretend to be a teacher, a peer, a parent, or a stranger and converse with your child. Talk about various problems that are specific to each role and try to elicit a reaction from the child. Here are a few questions for two of the roles mentioned on which you can base the role-play.

Teacher

  • How long does it take you to reach school? Is there a better way to commute?
  • If you forgot to get your stationery on a math project day, what would you do?
  • If there’s just one chalk in the classroom and your friend is using it to demonstrate a problem on the board but you need it urgently for a project that the teacher has assigned to you. How would you approach your friend or tackle the situation?

Peer

  • Your best friend is going for a movie with her neighbor-friends. She insists you accompany her even though you not comfortable with them. How would you react/what would you do?
  • You are appearing for an exam and you notice your neighbor has not got a single pen/pencil with her. You haven’t got any spare stationery either. What would you do?

Practice story telling with the kids. Provide kids with connecting clues and sequences and help them string them together to form a story. For example, to weave a story on a day out to an aquarium with family, supply her with clues such as ‘when did you wake up’, ‘how did you go’, ‘who went with you’, ‘where did you go’, how were the animals at the aquarium’, ‘have you bought any souvenir from there’, ‘would you like to go back to the aquarium on another day’. Give her the freedom to use her imagination to tell the story, so don’t interrupt her if she sneaks in unreal events!

It’s important to be pragmatic and give your child the opportunity to develop her pragmatic side of personality with these tips.