* Science Wiz: Inventions

Looking for the perfect gift for kiddos who enjoy science and gadgets that spin and whir?  Want to jumpstart your young inventor?  Penny Norman’s Science Wiz kit, Inventions, is sure to please.  This kit is a highly acclaimed book-manual-kit for kids 8 and up, although young hands will need a bit of support from adults.

What makes this kit so special?  It has fabulous illustrations to support the creation of devices from simple to complex, helps kids understand why and how these inventions work, and is loaded with everything you need to complete the projects (except for one D battery).

I used this kit with a budding, special needs inventor and we completed all the inventions, including a working radio.  OK, the radio only picked up static, but that was pretty impressive for a paper towel tube and a myriad of wires.


As I’ve mentioned before, providing opportunities to excel in science can add social credit to kids who are on the fringes of a classroom.  Taking a radio like this to school would likely be fascinating to peers (and teachers!).


* Impact Jack

This post is for Cee’s Black and White photography challenge and for my evaluation of a science kit for kids.  Impact Jack is a SmartLab Toys “Crash Test Lab,” featuring a virtually indestructible Jack.

Impact Jack 2

The premise and design of the kit is well done.  Kids aged 8+ can (fairly) easily assemble the crash test vehicle and then experiment with the effect of a seat belt, roll bars, bumpers, etc.  The kit comes with a colorful fold-out of directions, experiments related to Newton’s Laws of Motion, and other suggestions for Jack as a crash test dummy.  It’s a bit hard to see in the photo above, but Jack has a glowing “I’m alive!” button on his chest which will turn red if he doesn’t survive the impact.

My primary concern is that Jack is virtually immortal.  A student and I rammed the car numerous times with a force that should have had led to hospitalization, if not a coffin.  I took Impact Jack back to the toy store where the sales clerk dropped/slammed him on the counter and Jack glowed red.  I was offered a refund since I had trouble replicating that force, but decided to give it another try in his vehicle.  Jack ALWAYS survived his car crashes but finally passed away when I body-slammed him into a wall.

I would purchase this kit again but not for use with students who startle easily at the loud sounds which accompany the only way to make a true impact on Jack.  Impact Jack is a terrific toy for kids who are extremely rough with their playthings.

* Virtual field trips this Thanksgiving!

Virtual field trips are an excellent online resource for visiting sites that would otherwise be out of reach.  To celebrate Thanksgiving with your students or kiddos at home, take advantage of Scholastic’s terrific resources for Thanksgiving.  Here’s a snip of their virtual field trips, enhanced with reenactments.  I appreciate the relatively uncluttered look and ease of access.

Virtual field trip

And that’s not all!  To promote a better understanding of the lives of the native peoples and colonists, use Scholastic’s comparison pages.  Students can listen independently and research housing, clothes, chores, school. and games in order to compare and contrast theses two lifestyles.  For students with reading disabilities or those who learn best by seeing what they hear, these resources-and more- are an excellent tool for exploring our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Virtual field trip 2

Check out Scholastic for more super resources!

* “Skywalkers”

Skywalkers: Mohawk Ironworkers Build the City” is not about Luke or other sci fi characters.  It’s a terrific nonfiction read on the role of the Mohawk people in building our country’s skyscrapers- and much more.  Written for middle to high school plus, this book is a surprising page-turner.  The author, David Weitzman, takes us from the early culture of the Mohawk people to their present day role as ironworkers and bridge builders.


This book is fascinating, with marvelous photographs dating back to the 1800s.  Weitzman’s use of primary source info, such as interviews and written commentaries, bring each chapter to life.  For kiddos who are curious about construction, native peoples, bridge disasters, and more, this book is riveting (pun intended)!  The author explores myths and legends about the famous Mohawk ironworkers, including the sobering realities of building our cities.  You will be amazed at the skills, the sacrifices, and the grit of these people.  While this book has a social studies emphasis, it also presents the complex math of construction and the role of engineers and architects.  “Skywalkers” will forever change the way you view our city skylines.

In case you’re wondering how I found this gem, it was recommended reading for Camp Wonderopolis 2017.  You can check out that site for other books with a STEM focus.

* Camp Wonderopolis 2017- WOW!

Camp Wonderopolis 2017 is the BEST ever!   This STEM-based set of activities is divided into six tracks, with 7 excellent lessons for each.  New this year: Each track also includes a Maker Activity, a hands-on, fun way to extend the primary concept of each track.  A helpful video also accompanies each Activity.  The creators of this Wonderful camp have added a slew of additional resources for each lesson, access to a Wonder Wall for posting comments, and a cool representation of progress (such as completion of a graphic power plant) in addition to the previous representations of completion.  Kids still earn those awesome Wonder Cards by taking a 6-question quiz related to the basic concepts and vocabulary of the lesson.

Camp Wonderopolis 2017

Kids with reading struggles are not neglected.  Each lesson features an audio track, so those smart kids who can’t wade through paragraphs of unfamiliar words won’t have to!  Kids on the autism spectrum or those with language/ auditory processing problems may also benefit from the audio and video features, as well as time spent on “Spin a Wonder Wheel,” which reviews key vocabulary.

So here’s my Wonder question:  How do they keep making Camp Wonderopolis better each year?  

* Past and Present

Check out this terrific book by Group by Group on past and present ways to play, travel, and more.  This blog features great free materials for kids with special needs.  Here’s a snippet of a page from Past and Present.


“In keeping with the Unique theme for this month, we are talking about things from the past and things from the present.  Our book features several of our students and staff showing how things have changed from the past to the present.

It was really neat to compare the older pictures with the recent ones.  Check it out to see how much things have changed!”

via Past and Present — Group by Group

Dash and Dot


Sounds like Morse code, right?  These two robots are waaaaay beyond that (in the photo, Dash is hogging the camera and Dot is waiting for a turn).   Created by Wonder Workshop, these programmable robots are fun for play and teaching kids coding.  Dot is a stationary robot with a multitude of expressions and lights.  One spontaneous phrase of hers is, “I love it when you hold me,” spoken like she really means it.  Dash is a wild one with enough moves to star in a TV talent show.  Both robots interact with their owners (and each other) right off the bat, but they were created to help kids learn programming.  They’re spunky toys, very durable and personable.  Hey, they almost seem ALIVE.

Where do you begin with these fascinating characters?  First, be prepared to fork out serious cash for Dash.  Dash is the more complex of the two robots, with its ability to move around.  Wonder Workshop also sells Dash with an array of accessories, including launchers, Legos, and xylophones.  I think the robots are worth every penny because they are not a one-and-done type of toy.  Kids will continue to enjoy the endless possibilities long after the holiday season or birthday party.

The next step is to load the Wonder Workshop free apps on your  iOS or Android device.  There’s an app for all ages and abilities.  Dot and Dash are toys that will “grow up” along with your kids.  My favorite app is Wonder, for ages 8+.  Here’s a screenshot of all the goodies available (yes, parents may be fighting with their kids to play).  A cool feature is sharing and downloading codes from the Wonder Cloud which the robots will remember after you turn off the app.  The Scroll Quest teaches kids coding with all kinds of advanced techniques/conditions.

Wonder screenshot.PNG

These robots may be the first step of a child’s future career in technology.  They are designed for kids, but you can enjoy the fun together.  In fact, your kiddo will probably drive Dash into your ankles if you don’t pay attention to their latest trick!

* And the president is….

Well, I have no idea.  But if you and your students are unhappy with the election results, you might consider a cool book I am using: How to Build Your Own Country.  Written by Valerie Wyatt and illustrated by Fred Rix, this book is a one-of-a-kind interactive tool for helping kids (and adults) create their own country.  It’s too late to offer your candidacy for this election cycle, but in two years, you’d be good to go.  In your own country, of course.


From staking a claim on land to designing your government, this book has it all.  You can create a national anthem, determine citizen’s rights, and learn some very interesting facts about rogue leaders and bizarre laws.  Did you know that Canada and Denmark have split Hans Island, with an area of about 1.3 km.2?  I’m sure some kiddos would want to conquer others’ lands as well, while many may focus on improving their GNP (i.e., $$$ or £££).  Students could create their country online using a site such as Glogster.

This book would work well with grades 4th and up, although you might want to white-out or tone down one illustration of a beheaded ruler.  For kids and adults who “know it all,” this book could be a humbling experience.  Hey, that would make it just like the real world!

* Tiny Tap’s terrific online courses

Tiny Tap takes online learning to a new level with curated Tiny Tap Courses!  Now teachers and parents can combine lessons to create seamless learning units!  Competency can be determined by requiring students to reach a certain score before advancing to the next lesson or continuous practice is available without requiring a minimum score.  Students also earn certificates as they complete courses.  Here’s a look at how phonics instruction can be personalized by grouping skills for particular students.  With over 80 thousand available lessons, comprehensive instruction is a tap away!

Tiny Tap 6.gif

Tiny Tap’s lessons and units are available in 30 languages and offer personalized instruction on a wide range of topics.  In case you’d forgotten, Tiny Tap offers parents and teachers insights on individual and class performance while providing differentiated learning experiences for students.  Tiny Tap is a terrific resource for special needs students with a wide range of needs.

If all that isn’t enough, what about making money while you individualize instruction?  Here’s the Tiny Tap teacher-driven economy.  You gotta love it!


I could easily imagine a social skills unit for my dear Christopher.  I think it’s time for me to start tapping!


* Three Polyhedra with Only Pentagonal Faces — RobertLovesPi’s Blog

If you haven’t visited Dr. Pi’s blog, you are missing some AMAZING creations.  Yes, he creates all of these using Stella 4d, a program I’d probably detonate.  Don’t you wish you had this (and so many others) hanging in your windows or on your Christmas tree?  They are spectacular.   

The polyhedron above has 72 pentagonal faces of two types. The next one below has three different types of pentagon for its 132 faces. After that is a polyhedron with sixty faces, all of which are non-convex pentagons. All three of these all-pentagon polyhedra were created using Stella 4d: Polyhedron Navigator. This program is available […]

via Three Polyhedra with Only Pentagonal Faces — RobertLovesPi’s Blog